By CLAUDE ARPI
Recently, the entire Chinese nation was given a homework — to learn about the ‘glorious’ history of the Communist Party, mostly through compulsory ‘history’ classes. Unfortunately, large portions of history were dropped — there was not a word about the Great Leap Forward, the Great Proletarian Revolution or the Tiananmen massacre.
In 1997, French scholar Stéphane Courtois published ‘The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression’. The author documented the history of political repression by Communist states, including genocides, extrajudicial executions, deportations, killing populations in labour camps as well as artificially-created famines, including 65 million casualties in Communist China.
To omit these dark episodes is certainly not a sign of maturity.
Even Buddhist monks didn’t escape studying the truncated history. A Chinese website announced: “We will guide the monks and nuns to review the glorious history of the party, carry forward the fine tradition of patriotism and love, and promote the adaptation of Tibetan Buddhism to the socialist society.”
This exercise, carried out in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province, was repeated all over the plateau. The Uyghur populations in Xinjiang too were the victims of the same policy. Again, is this a sign of a modern state?
That was not all. On the eve of the 100th anniversary, millions of party cadres had to take an oath: “…I support the party’ programmes, abide by the party’s constitution, fulfil my obligations as party’s member, implement the party’s decisions, strictly observe the party’s discipline …and never betray the party.”
The party has only been able to survive by using pervasive propaganda. The ‘party is above everything’ (‘Über Alles’ to paraphrase the Nazi slogan), and, the party is always right. The crux of the propaganda is to depict as white what is black and vice-versa.
When Communist China invaded Tibet in October 1950, the world was told that China had ‘liberated’ the Land of Snows. Even the invading army was (and is still) called the People’s Liberation Army. In December 1950, the naïve Prime Minister of India asked in the Indian Parliament: “liberated from what is not clear”.
So far, the massive state propaganda has been enough to control the ‘masses’ and those who did not fully adhere to Xi Jinping’s ‘Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’, like Alibaba’s chairman Jack Ma, have had to pay a heavy price for just questioning the system. For India, this and China’s hegemonic tendencies have serious implications — we saw it in Dokalam in 2017 and more recently in Ladakh.
An indication of what the Communist Party’s plans, was seen when President Xi Jinping distributed a number of ‘July 1 Medals’ to people “embodying a staunch faith in the CPC”. Apart from a soldier killed in Galwan in June 2020, another recipient was a Tibetan girl called Choekar, awarded for ‘defending the sacred border’.
She lives in Yume village, in Lhuntse county of Lhoka prefecture which is an important strategic location, north of Asaphila, one of the disputed places in Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh. Lhuntse is the site of a soon-to-be-built airport.
Longju, a new village built on Indian territory, which was in the news recently, is not far away. It was here, in August 1959, that the Chinese attacked an Assam Rifles’ platoon, making it the first clash between the two armies.
China is today slowly changing the status quo of the Indian northern borders by building hundreds of border villages like Yume. All this does not augur well for India.
The writer is the author of a recently published quadrilogy on India-Tibet Relations from 1947-62