China’s model of development has delivered results, raising almost ninety percent of its people out of poverty. This has been done through a single-minded China-centric approach that has exacted an enormous cost in terms of human life, civil rights and social well-being. Every action has found justification in the nation’s good, interpreted as the interests of the Han majority. Economic empowerment has helped unleash the skills and ingenuity of the working class enough to make Chinese products hugely competitive in the world market.
Unfortunately, with all this development, China has not been able to afford Democracy. The concept of ‘Communism with Chinese Characteristics’ has ignored the rights of minorities such as the Tibetans, the Uyghur people, etc. Taiwan, which provided to the Chinese the model of innovative manufacturing on the back of western technology, remains a thorn in China’s side, with its freedom constantly under threat. The hegemonistic structure of China’s internal and external policies ensures tensions prevail in relations not only with neighbouring countries, but also its own people.
The incarceration of over a million people in Xinjiang to inculcate in them proper Chinese and Communist beliefs is described as one of the major human rights violations in the present day. The insecurity of the regime has extended to Hong Kong, which it recovered from the British in 1997 under certain conditionalities. Despite the fact that the special status of Hong Kong provides China many advantages economically, the Communist Party feels uncomfortable without absolute control of the kind it enjoys elsewhere. As such, it has been working on eroding the existing autonomy. The latest initiative to allow externment of people to mainland China on criminal and other charges is being opposed by the people of the island, with over a million coming out on the streets in protest.
The system in Hong Kong is more democratic, there is better protection for human rights. With China’s progress, these policies ought to have been extended to the rest of the country. Instead, the effort has been in the reverse direction. Democracy is considered a threat by the Communists and the increasing number of oligarchs. They remain unapologetic about even the known recent incidents like Tiananmen Square, and the continued rejection of human and democratic rights is creating a contradiction within that poses many threats for the future. Despite all the restrictions imposed on the internet and social media, the youth, a large number of them foreign educated, are rapidly acquiring a mind of their own. There is a limit to how much they will accept an outdated political philosophy whose only success has been in enforcing a totalitarian society. Even if it takes some time, change in China is inevitable.