Last week, Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) celebrated the 100th anniversary of the CCP’s founding. The date was marked by orchestrated parades through Tiananmen Square and a keynote address by the party’s chairman, President Xi, in which he enumerated China’s accomplishments under the CCP’s rule. Xi and the CCP, however, left out quite a few other noteworthy “accomplishments.” It would be worthwhile to discuss them here, and to soberly reflect on what Xi’s words mean for America’s foreign policy and future.
One such “achievement” which Xi left out of his remarks was that it is the CCP, not the Soviet Union or the Nazis, who can lay claim to the greatest mass murderer in human history. Over 70 million Chinese died under Mao Zedong’s rule – a shameful legacy not worthy of commemoration or emulation. From the “Great Leap Forward,” in which over 20 million died in the deadliest famine in human history, to Mao’s “Cultural Revolution,” in which millions of Chinese, largely the intellectual class, were publicly humiliated, jailed, or executed, the history of the Chinese Communist Party under Mao is something to be regarded with genuine horror, not celebration.
The horrors did not end with Mao’s death. Twenty-one years ago in Tiananmen Square, the very place these recent celebrations were held, the CCP massacred peaceful Chinese citizens advocating for a freer China and a more accountable government. This happened at the apex of widespread protests across the country, when millions of Chinese citizens were eager to move beyond the horror of Mao’s rule. Rather than listen to the Chinese people, the CCP brutally silenced them – we still do not know how many were killed in the crackdowns. And despite global condemnation for its actions, the CCP’s vicious and cruel treatment of the Chinese people has not ceased. Today, millions of Uyghur Muslims are being put into concentration camps – where the men are compelled to work hard labor and the women undergo forced sterilization treatments – because they are a religious and ethnic minority who do not comport with Xi and the CCP’s vision for China’s future.
The CCP’s rigid inability to confront its own failings, except through the forced, often violent suppression of criticism, does not just harm the Chinese people, though. The COVID-19 pandemic, which is now appearing to be nearing its end thanks to the development of vaccines by innovative and brilliant American companies in Operation Warp Speed, originated in China and spread to the rest of the world after the CCP silenced all reporting or mention of the outbreak before the virus had spread to international flights. Such honesty could have saved millions of lives and would have reflected a basic care for the safety of the world, but the CCP is concerned with only its own political safety.
All evidence now points to a high likelihood that the virus originated in a CCP-run lab in Wuhan, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where research on bat coronaviruses was routinely conducted in conditions that were dangerously insecure. Cables from our own Beijing Embassy in 2017 expressed concern over the safety and security of the lab. Investigating the highly probable theory that the virus originated in this lab is not only logical, but essential to ensuring such a pandemic does not happen again. But the CCP has no desire to work with the rest of the world if it means undermining its authority at home. But there is enough evidence of malicious behavior to act now to hold China accountable.
China also has no desire to honor its past agreements or its own people’s desire for reform. The Party’s crackdown in Hong Kong, which began with its passage of the Hong Kong National Security Law in June 2020, is instructive. The law destroyed the “one country, two systems” relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing, which had been in existence since the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which guaranteed Hong Kong’s autonomy under China’s rule until 2047. Since the law’s passing, China has only taken further steps to bring Hong Kong under its complete control, most recently by forcing the closure of the Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper which has long championed Hong Kong’s vital freedoms.
But we shouldn’t be surprised that the CCP betrayed its promises. China sits on the U.N. Human Rights Council yet commits genocide against its own people. China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 yet continues to engage in unfair, mercantilist trade policies that put foreign companies at a distinct disadvantage. Be it the Chinese people or the rest of the world, the CCP is concerned only with its own power and survival. And next, it has Taiwan in its sites.
Xi remarked in his speech that “[t]he people of China are not only good at destroying the old world, they have also created a new world.” But in truth, the CCP today reflects the worst of humanity’s harsh and barbaric past. The United States and our allies must ensure that it does not command humanity’s future.
Mike Pompeo is the former Secretary of State and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
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