Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on Tuesday held a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Redolent of Cold War-era mass parades, a tightly choreographed procession of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s latest hardware — including tanks, intercontinental ballistic missiles and deep-sea drones — rumbled through Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, followed by rank after rank of goose-stepping soldiers in immaculately pressed uniforms and a float with a gigantic portrait of China’s dear leader.
The man himself, accompanied by generals, surveyed the proceedings standing half in, half out of a fleet of jet-black vehicles with holes cut out of their roofs, onto which were bolted quadruplets of microphones. Xi’s matte black Mao suit and coiffed jet-black hair, perfectly coordinated with the color of his automobile, had the effect — perhaps deliberate — of creating a remarkably sinister, if faintly comic, image: he could be the next Bond villain.
Xi delivered a speech to mark the occasion, which was clearly aimed at a domestic audience. He made a number of contradictory statements, which, to an outside observer, perfectly encapsulated the tone-deaf nature of his leadership, in particular his policies toward Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Xi started out by praising the “epic progress” China has made during the past seven decades under the Chinese Communist Party, neatly sidestepping the appalling human calamity brought about by the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution — the policies of Mao Zedong (毛澤東), responsible for killing even more people than Joseph Stalin’s gulags.
Xi then extended “sincere greetings” to “fellow Chinese” in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, promising that China would “continue to fully and faithfully implement the principles of ‘one country, two systems,’ ‘Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong,’ ‘Macau people administering Macau’ and a high degree of autonomy.”
You would have to had been living under a rock for the past few months not to notice that promises made by Xi and his party are not worth the paper they are written on. As Hong Kongers are all too aware, Beijing has been doggedly working away behind the scenes to erode Hong Kong’s autonomy ever since the territory’s handover from Britain in 1997. His officials have even explicitly stated that the Sino-British Joint Declaration is a “historic document” and therefore void.
Turning directly to Taiwanese matters, Xi went on to pledge that China would uphold the “one China” principle and the so-called “1992 consensus,” and promote the peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait. Do these “peaceful developments” include China’s military regularly conducting encirclement drills in the skies and seas near Taiwan? Or perhaps Xi was referring to his regime’s militarization of the South China Sea, designed to prevent the US from coming to Taiwan’s aid in the event that China carries out an invasion.
Next, Xi dialed up the rhetoric, saying: “The complete reunification of the motherland is an inevitable trend; it is what the greater national interests entail and what all Chinese people aspire for. No one and no force can ever stop it.”
This overt threat to annex Taiwan was directly followed with a classic example of Orwellian doublespeak: “We will hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit, and keep firmly to the path of peaceful development.”