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Don’t be taken in by Beijing’s bluster

What all this pomp and nonsense on Tiananmen Square shows, says Kent Ewing in Hong Kong Free Press, is not the Chinese Communist Party’s “awe-inspiring achievements”, but rather the “insecurity” of a party that is “bankrupt” of any ideology beyond “blatant mercantilism” and a determination to crush dissent. Such insecurity is on grand display here in “little Hong Kong, which apparently posed such a gargantuan threat” that its long-cherished personal freedoms had to be crushed under the red boot of draconian national security legislation.

Yet overall, says Lawrence Lau in the South China Morning Post, the Chinese people “have done very well” under communism. Between 1949 and 2020, GDP per person grew more than 120 times, from 585 yuan to 71,965 yuan. The CCP has solved the problem of feeding China’s giant population and keeping everyone “adequately clothed”. And all this, said Xi Jinping in a tub-thumping speech to 70,000 party members, having “never bullied, oppressed or enslaved” anyone, “not in the past, not now and not in the future”.

Rubbish, says Harald Maass in The Spectator. The Uighurs are openly oppressed and enslaved within China, and are being arrested abroad and deported in their hundreds, “if not thousands”. It’s mostly Muslim countries such as Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia that are sending them back. In Turkey, home to 50,000 Uighurs, President Erdogan used to defend their rights, but his rhetoric has “softened” since he became reliant on Chinese vaccine donations.

And it’s not just Uighurs being targeted. Chinese secret agents have kidnapped several high-profile dissidents in recent years. In 2017 the Canadian-Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua was drugged and rolled out of the Hong Kong Four Seasons in a wheelchair. In 2015 publisher Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, was kidnapped from his flat in Thailand and spirited away to China. These forced repatriations are a “frightening sign” of Beijing’s growing influence over foreign governments.

Good thing the Americans are warming up for a fight, says Janan Ganesh in the FT – and not just the armchair generals in Washington. This week the US and Japan have been conducting war games and joint military exercises in preparation for a full-scale conflict with China over Taiwan. As the US withdraws from Afghanistan and turns to China, it is playing to its strengths. It has never been good at fighting insurgents, partly because it never had many colonies. But it has a “knack for great-power politics”. It saw off the mighty British, then imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, and won a cold war of “immense craft and patience” against the Soviet Union. Now the US is turning from a vicious but containable adversary to a “historically awesome” one. For the American elite, a superpower tussle is a “beguiling return to the familiar”.