Steven Mosher, author of Bully of Asia — a book that contends that the Chinese Communist Party under President Xi Jinping seeks to “continuously expand its power to achieve [global] hegemony” — recently reached out to four of his friends in China to learn why they are protesting COVID lockdowns there. The answers he got are revealing. They show that, for at least some Chinese citizens, the protests are about more than the CCP’s draconian COVID restrictions — they are about freedom and ending the dictatorial rule of the CCP.
The protests and the brutal crackdown by Chinese authorities also show why the CCP is so intent on reunifying Taiwan with the mainland. Taiwan is an island of freedom-loving Chinese people. Taiwan shows that Chinese people can have both political freedom and economic well-being. The example of Taiwan puts the lie to the CCP’s narrative that their citizens are content to sacrifice freedom for a better standard of living. And it puts the lie to those Western observers, political leaders, and businessmen who continue to push “engagement” with the criminal regime that rules China in the hope that economic interdependence will result in political liberalization.
China’s COVID crackdown is made possible by what authors Josh Chin and Liza Lin call the “surveillance state” in their new book with that title.
They describe a high-tech surveillance apparatus that uses digital technology as a weapon of repression. The regime uses ubiquitous cameras, facial recognition software, biometric data collection, algorithmic controls, artificial intelligence, and internet filtering firewalls to observe, control, and, when needed, repress the Chinese people. And the authors note that the CCP obtained the tools of the surveillance state from Western companies who were encouraged by Western political leaders to economically engage with China. “The Western business world,” Chin and Lin write, “has midwifed the [CCP’s] surveillance state since its embryonic beginnings in the late 1990s.”
Back to Mosher’s friends. One of Mosher’s correspondents noted how the CCP “track[s] our movements” by mobile phone apps and a “tracking system” that authorities “installed in our house to monitor everyone in our family 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” This friend expressed his hope “to be able to speak freely, instead of anonymously, without fear of being imprisoned.”
A second Mosher friend, a retired bank employee in Hubei province, noted that the “endless lockdowns” are destroying the economy and people’s lives. This friend, too, expressed the desire to “live in freedom” and to “live in a normal society.”
Another Mosher friend, who lives in Beijing, lamented that “[f]or more than 70 years, three generations of Chinese people have been unable to speak freely in their own country.” This friend called the CCP a “terrorist organization” and China a “prison state” that wants to “destroy mankind.”
The fourth friend Mosher talked to is a software engineer in Beijing. After describing for Mosher “the hell that we are now living” and expressing fear not of COVID but of the CCP, this friend said: “End the one-party dictatorship. Give me liberty or give me death!”
“Give me liberty or give me death.” The phrase has a familiar ring to it. The words were spoken by Patrick Henry on March 23, 1775, at the Second Virginia Convention that met in St. John’s Church in Richmond. Henry was speaking to those who sought accommodation with the occupying forces of Great Britain. “There is no retreat but in submission and slavery,” he exclaimed. “Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston!… Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?… I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
If China reunifies Taiwan with the mainland, either “peacefully” or by force, the Chinese people in Taiwan will share the fate of the Chinese on the mainland and, now, in Hong Kong, where the CCP is gradually ending political freedom in violation of its pledge made to Britain of “one country, two systems.” Taiwan’s existence as a distinct political entity is a dagger pointed at the heart of CCP rule. Like West Berlin during the Cold War, Taiwan is a beacon of freedom and liberty — a glowing rebuke to the legitimacy of communist rule. China’s leaders understand this. Many in the West do not.