This article originally appeared in The Dorchester Review.
By Charles Burton, October 20, 2023
CHINA’S SHAMELESS flouting of Canada’s national sovereignty, from Beijing’s network of “police service stations,” its hidden-in-plain-sight programs to transfer critical technologies from Canada to China through covert and grey zone operations, massive transfer of personal data through 5G technologies and spyware-laden social media such as TikTok, and election interference including Chinese diplomats scheming to get pro-China Canadians of Han ethnicity elected to Canadian legislatures at all levels, are the harbingers of a calculated agenda. That agenda was articulated by Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping as “the community of the common destiny of mankind.” For Canada, the ultimate end of this China-dominated “community” is nothing less than to be rendered a vassal state on the periphery of a Beijing-centred global order. If Xi has his way, we will all be second-class citizens in a great new Empire with the Han Chinese on top.
As for Canadians of Chinese origin, the Chinese Communist Party sees them as agents of the CCP’s ethnic nationalist purposes in this country. Regardless of whether they are Canadian citizens or not, ethnic Han Chinese are identified by the Chinese régime as eternally bonded by the sacredness of common blood referred to in China as “of the same womb” (tongbao). And they are expected to be unquestioningly “patriotic to the Motherland’s sacred continent.” This places Chinese Canadians in an impossible position as the too-often highly unwilling tools of an audacious Chinese nationalist agenda for global domination by the Han as a master race. This neo-fascist Han nationalism has grown out of the failure of China’s Communist Party to fulfil its founding agenda.
The Party under Chairman Mao Zedong came to power in 1949 imbued with the lofty ambition for China to lead the world revolutionary transformation to utopian Marxism. As the Party’s constitution still avers today, “the realization of communism is the highest ideal and ultimate goal of the Party.”1
After Stalin’s death his successor Khrushchev, in his 1956 “Secret Speech” to the 20th Party Congress, condemned Stalin’s personality cult and many atrocities, reversed some of the most repressive policies of Stalin’s régime, and proposed a policy of peaceful coexistence with the West. China lambasted Khrushchev as a heinous revisionist in his eschewing of Stalin’s aggressive stance towards capitalist countries in the revolutionary struggle against imperialism and capitalism. The CCP vehemently asserted that Khrushchev was a traitor to the revolutionary cause. Henceforth the world Marxist movement would be led by Mao Zedong. Workers of the world would only achieve true liberation under China’s guidance from Beijing, not Moscow. Marxist-Leninist China’s Mao Zedong Thought would lead the International to its historic destiny.
The enthusiasm for the ideological promise of a prosperous society based on equal distribution of wealth through public ownership and a harmonious society of the “new socialist man” captured the imaginations of Chinese people after decades of destructive warlord chaos, Japanese invasion, and civil war. But by the early 1960s, the promised paradise was mired in economic stagnation from failed industrial policies and the disaster of a famine engendered by the reorganization of the countryside into “people’s communes” that led to the loss of 40 million souls to starvation.
As the Chinese Communist Party was always “great, glorious and correct,” the failures could not be due to defects in the ideology or political implementation. The only possible cause must be the pernicious influence of anti-socialist revisionist, bourgeois, or feudal elements. Once these were cleansed from the body politic, clearing the grit from the socialist machine, revolutionary progress would continue its historically inevitable surge. To this end, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was launched in 1966, representing the disastrous culmination of political application of Mao Zedong Thought. The Cultural Revolution was intended to “turn great disorder under heaven into great order under heaven” and pave the way to transition from socialism to communism as the end of history. But destruction of China’s “feudal” antiquities by burning books and destroying Buddhist temples, persecuting and imprisoning “bourgeois” intellectuals, and requiring workers and peasants to stop production for relentless sessions of “political study” of Mao’s works, did not get China any closer to utopian harmony and plenty for all. Instead the results were harsh economic reverses and mass discontent. Just five years after the death of Mao in 1976, China’s Communist Party officially repudiated Mao’s Cultural Revolution as “ten years of disaster.”2
With the realization of “the lofty prospect of Communism” as the political raison d’être for Party rule now in abeyance, to sustain its political legitimacy, Communist rulers shifted their emphasis to less “Communist” and more “Chinese.”
However, the redefinition of the Party as a Han Chinese nationalist movement was not a full remaking of the founding identity of the Party. Much of its original mandate was couched in terms of redressing the humiliations Western and Japanese imperialism, starting with China’s defeat in the First Opium War of 1842, settled by the Treaty of Nanking and ratified the next year. Under its terms China ceded the Island of Hong Kong in perpetuity, allowed the establishment of foreign concessions in Canton, Amoy, Foochow-fu, Ningpo, and Shanghai, and removed all restrictions on foreign trade including lifting the ban on opium imports.3 Over the next 70 years, Western nations demanded commensurate territorial concessions from China. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles transferred the German colony in Shandong, along China’s east coast, to Japan instead of ordering its reversion to Chinese sovereignty. This despite China’s having served on the Allied side in the First World War. Popular outrage over that 1919 determination led to an explosion of Chinese nationalism and the first episode of mass public demonstrations in Peking’s Tiananmen Square on May 4 of that year. Chinese Communist historiography claims that the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 arose out of this nationalistic “May 4th Movement.”
At the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference after the Communist Party’s victory in the 1945-49 civil war against Chiang Kai-shek’s governing Kuomintang Party (KMT), Chairman Mao proclaimed,
The Chinese have always been a great, courageous and industrious nation; it is only in modern times that they have fallen behind. And that was due entirely to oppression and exploitation by foreign imperialism and domestic reactionary governments. Ours will no longer be a nation subject to insult and humiliation. Our work will go down in the history of mankind, demonstrating that the Chinese people, comprising one quarter of humanity, have now stood up. Our forefathers have enjoined us to carry out their unfulfilled will. The domestic and foreign reactionaries tremble before us! Our revolution has won the sympathy and acclaim of the people of all countries. By our own indomitable efforts, we the Chinese people will unswervingly reach our goal.4
Unfortunately the Chinese Communist Party’s definition of who exactly comprises “the Chinese people” is ambiguous. Much of the western regions of today’s People’s Republic of China encompass the traditional lands of the Uyghur and Tibetan nations. Inner Mongolia comprises traditional Mongolian territory. Until the 1950s, the Communist Party under Mao was sympathetic to the People’s Republic being a Marxist republic merging the peoples of four great nations: Han, Mongol, Tibetan, and Uyghur, with distinctive civilizational traditions of history, culture and language. Eventually, the Chinese regime recognized the legitimacy of 55 officially-identified national minorities, plus the dominant Han. The People’s Republic, respecting the principle of ethnic autonomy, created “autonomous regions” in which the language and culture and customs of indigenous peoples were to be protected under local governments led by their own people. Today, besides the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Tibet Autonomous Region, and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region there are the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (for the Zhuang with 18 million Tai-speaking members, making them China’s largest “ethnic minority”), and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region for the Hui (Chinese-speaking Han adherents of Islam who have some Central Asian and Middle Eastern ancestry from Silk Road immigrants of ancient times).
But the Chinese Communist Party’s program of revolutionary transformation to socialism was at odds with the traditional structures of authority and religion of the “ethnic minorities” living in the People’s Republic. Traditional structures of authority and religious “ideological” beliefs were seen as feudal impediments to implementing the universalizing norms of Marxist-Leninist ideology. Civilizational norms of non-Han religion and culture were vilified as retrograde “superstition” to be replaced by political campaigns to purge counter-revolutionaries, the study of Communist Party statements and the works of Mao Zedong, and vapid propaganda. “Socialist cultural products” in print form or plays and movies were strictly constrained by Marxist norms to two forms only: either “revolutionary romanticism” (which glamorized life under Communist rule), or “socialist realism” (which depicted how horrendous life was for the proletariat before the Communist Party assumed power). Eventually, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution brought mass destruction of the libraries and antiquities of non-Han peoples, designed to eliminate all vestiges of the spiritual bases of rich and meaningful ethnic identity. Cultural leaders were purged or co-opted into political sinecures to be trotted out, bedecked in colourful cultural garb on state occasions. Political power rested in humourless Han cadres in austere Mao jackets. The civilizations of the 55 non-Han peoples were reduced to folkloric status as simple happy, people who loved to sing and dance in traditional costume, their religions and philosophies scorned by Party hacks as backward and irrational sophistry.
Much of the western regions of the People’s Republic are the traditional lands of non-Han peoples. Tibetans not only claim the present-day Tibetan Autonomous Region as their own but also Qinghai Province and parts of Sichuan and Gansu. Similarly, Uyghur claims far exceed the territory of the Uyghur Autonomous Region on official Chinese maps. Aside from being rich sources of natural resources feeding China’s economic rise, China’s west is the route to Europe for China’s imperial Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure program. But China’s development policies in Tibet and Xinjiang, while raising living standards, have had the effect of feeding Uyghur and Tibetan nationalism. The Communist Party believed that economic benefits and affirmative action programming directed at Tibetans and Uyghurs would make them grateful to the Han and the Party’s national and international agenda. The intention was that Uyghurs would see the Chinese language and mainstream Han culture as the sole route to a modern technological future. But all this has instead very evidently engendered heightened resentment and fuelled irredentism, especially among Uyghurs who seek to become masters of their own fates in an independent Uyghur state dubbed East Turkestan.
In response, Chinese Communist Party have successively implemented more and more stringent policies to suppress Uyghur nationalism, including limiting access to worship in mosques, Mandarin displacing Uyghur language in education at all levels, encouraging mixed marriage with Han men, and programs to relocate Uyghurs to work in factories in Chinese coastal areas far from their homes. Eventually, extreme policies to “take the Uyghur out of the Uyghur” amounting to a systematic program of genocide were adopted. “Re-education camps” were built to imprison Uyghurs who were subjected to torturous ideological training in Mandarin and forbidden to practise Islam. The camps are alleged to be able to accommodate over a million at a time for unlimited terms. Uyghur and Tibetan children have been sent to boarding schools for education in Mandarin curricula in Han culture. They are taught a history that falsely claims that Xinjiang and Tibet have always been ruled by the Chinese emperor. Unconfirmed reports show that the Chinese Communist Party expects that full assimilation of all “national minorities” will take 45 years. Xi Jinping now refers to “Chinese ethnicity” instead of a Chinese nation of 56 constituent ethnic components. Xi’s ideology is that China is a single nation with a single culture, a civilizational state. This reframing has paved the way for a discourse of a Han master race presiding over the “Community of the Common Destiny of Mankind.”
Today, General Secretary Xi Jinping does not speak much of “the glorious prospect of Communism.” But he has fully taken on Mao’s imperative to achieve the “sympathy and acclaim of the people of all countries.” Xi’s domestic and foreign policy doctrine for China amounts to a modern ideological reversion to ancient Chinese traditional norms of political authority and worldview. Xi has removed all limits to his term in office and eliminated the previous senior Party “collective leadership” through successive political purges. He has thus consolidated the Party’s authority into his one-man rule. Having assumed the trifecta of Party General Secretary, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and President of China “for life,” Xi has remade himself into a charismatic emperor-like figure whose power scope exceeds even that of Chairman Mao and far exceeds that of Xi’s other predecessors. He thus fits with the traditional cosmology of the emperor as a unique figure, the “son of Heaven” sanctioned by the supernatural order as the sole legitimate supreme guardian of “all under Heaven.” All temporal authority ascribed to the great emperors of Chinese history now falls under the sway of Xi. Like the emperors before him, Xi assigns officials to carry out his political will in all civilized regions that respect Han political norms.
Traditionally the “tribal leaders” of the barbarian regions whose people are not worthy of the emperor’s divine attention pay tribute to the emperor by sending deferential missions with offerings of their crude products every three years — and received imperial benevolence from the Middle Kingdom in return. Later emperors were aware of red-headed, uncultured, hairy people living at the end of the earth in “Holland.” Their tribal chiefs were not worthy of bothering about and anyway were strictly forbidden to enter the “sacred continent” of imperial authority, because of their pitiful, barbarous incapacity to respect and abide by court etiquette. That sense of racial superiority remains prevalent today.
Xi anticipates that China will achieve universal prosperity by 2035 and then redress the humiliation of China’s subordination by Japan and the Western powers by 2050 through realization of the China-led “community of the common destiny of mankind.” Xi Jinping avers that China’s rise will be in sync with the fall of U.S. global hegemony. The liberal values informing the current multilateral institutions such as the UN, WTO, and NATO, and that buttress U.S. global domination, will follow the U.S. into eclipse as a new order informed by Chinese civilizational values makes a comprehensive rise to unassailable transnational power. Commensurate with this, the global economy is to be structured through the Belt and Road Initiative. This consists in the development of a massive worldwide network of Chinese-built roads, railways, and ports — with all the belts and roads terminating in China designed to make China the centre of global economic activity. So Xi’s vision is for all the nations of the world to be subordinate to China both politically and economically.
Xi’s vision of the great rejuvenation of China to global domination has been matched by the adoption of a modern ethnic nationalism. In Canada, China’s engagement to further its agenda strictly divides the population into “friends of China” and persons of Han ethnicity. Regardless of whether or not they are Canadian citizens, Han Chinese are not reduced to “friend” status but rather as noted above, placed in a “sacred” relationship with China’s civilizational state under the Party. The Han, even if they are Canadians, are sacredly bonded by common blood (“of the same womb”) and expected to be unquestioningly “patriotic to the Motherland’s sacred continent.”
Toward the Canadian mainstream, there is a discourse that all criticism of the Beijing regime’s behaviour by the media, NGOs or politicians is inherently racist against all persons of Han ethnicity. The messaging is that China is inherently peaceful and beneficent, the growth of Chinese power is inexorable, and China is vengeful and dangerous if provoked. Moreover, America is the past, China is the future, so Canada must get on the right track,5 because “if you can’t beat them, join them.”6 This messaging orchestra conditions Canadians into believing that the rewards of complying with China’s political agenda, including over Taiwan and military expansion in the East and South China Seas are great, resistance is futile, and even the slightest opposition would have disastrous consequences for the Canadian economy.
In contrast, the messaging toward people of Han ethnicity in Canada is a discourse that Canada is a racist, white supremacist society, so regardless of citizenship, all ethnic Chinese as descendants of the Yellow Emperor should be loyal to and seek refuge in the Motherland, which in the modern era is the Chinese Communist Party-state. Therefore, ethnic Chinese Canadians should serve their Chinese Motherland as agents of Beijing, be it for espionage or pressuring the Government of Canada to comply with the PRC’s political demands. This extends to the orphaned baby girls adopted from China to be raised as Canadians by Canadian families.
To Xi Jinping’s régime, Canada is simply a remote region “under Heaven” rather than an autonomous sovereign Westphalian nation state. Xi’s expectation is that inevitably Han people will subordinate the English and French and other ethnic groups currently in dominance over our Canadian land. His deeply-held ideology demands that in due time, there will be a new global co-prosperity sphere which will redress the historical humiliations of China by the liberal West and Japan and a new harmonious world order centred on Chinese civilizational culture and subject to the “great, glorious and correct” wisdom of the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
Submission to the Han as master race is the true meaning of Xi Jinping’s much-promoted doctrinal promise of a “common destiny for all mankind.”
Charles Burton is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, non-resident senior fellow of the European Values Center for Security Policy in Prague, and a former diplomat at Canada’s embassy in Beijing.