BEIJING: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been curtailing the freedoms of its citizens and viciously clamping dissent. Chinese citizens have had their freedom of speech and right to protest taken away. Chinese state media has also kept the average Chinese citizen in the dark.
Any deviation from the CCP narrative is severely punished, such as the recent sentencing of citizen journalist Zhang Zhan. In previous years, the CCP tolerated slight criticism from Chinese scholars, but its patience towards all forms of dissent have dissipated, including for those emerging from the academic and civil sectors.
China’s anti-democratic stance finds its shadow in the occupied regions of Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Macao as well. This is especially true for Hong Kong, a city which in 2020 was gripped by popular pro-democracy protests against the overbearing influence of Beijing on the cities policies.
Beijing came down hard on the pro-democracy protesters, and despite popular opposition, passed the national security law that essentially stifled any form of meaningful dissent.
China has been highly criticized for its actions. However, CCP has erected a line of Chinese scholars to defend Beijing’s actions. The consistent, coordinated and clear arguments in legal jargon by the Chinese scholars defending China’s abhorrent actions in Hong Kong is one such recent example.
Chinese scholars have been using the writings of German legal theorist Carl Schmitt about the primacy of the state to defend China’s heavy-handed tactics in Hong Kong. Carl Schmitt is also known as Adolf Hitler’s “Crown Jurist”.
As per a report in The Atlantic titled ‘The Nazi inspiring China’s communists’, Schmitt through his writings used to defend Nazi Germany and justify Hitler’s extrajudicial killings of Jews and political opponents.
Schmitt also claimed through his writing that ‘the sovereign’ should always have the final say in value conflicts, instead of rule of law having the final say. This is what the Chinese scholars have been using to defend CCP’s unlawful and unethical actions.
According to Schmitt, a state’s commitment to the rule of law only diminishes the state’s decision-making power and renders it unable to protect its citizens from external threats.
These thoughts and ideas have been shared by many Chinese scholars. China’s obsession with the German Nazi thinker’s works began around the early-2000s when his major works were translated into Chinese by Liu Xiaofeng.
As per The New York Times, Chen Duanhong, a law professor at Peking University has served as an adviser to CCP in the past on the issue of Hong Kong and back in 2018 cited the Nazi thinker in his defence of China’s national security law.
Chen in his writings has stated that when the state is in peril (referring to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that were largely peaceful), it has the right to suspend civil liberties of the people and do away with constitutional norms and limitations.
A colleague of Chen’s, Jiang Shigong has made a similar case while trying to defend China’s actions in Hong Kong. Shigong, who is a law professor at Peking University has previously worked at Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong from 2004-2008. He is also credited with authoring China’s 2014 government white paper in which Schmitt’s ideas are widely used.
As per the paper, the preservation of the state and its sovereignty takes absolute precedence over the civil liberties enjoyed by the citizens. Chen and Jiang are the “vanguard” of a breed of Chinese scholars known as ‘statists’.
Academics like Chen and Jiang believe in an expansive idea of the state, they opine that ‘stability overrides all else’ and, therefore, justify the state to take away civil liberties like freedom of speech and protest from the people.
Chen and Jiang are not the only Chinese scholars to have adopted the teachings of Carl Schmitt. The Nazi thinker has in recent years become popular in China because Schmitt’s teachings serve the very purpose of the CCP for justifying its actions as well as reinforcing its legitimacy.
The forced occupation of Hong Kong is not the only place where the CCP has been accused of taking play-by-play help from an authoritarian regime of the past.
The CCP’s genocide in East Turkistan against minority ethnic Muslims has also been compared to the genocide undertaken by Nazi Germany against the Jewish community during World War-2. Reports surfaced last year with chilling accounts of systematic discrimination and repression of Uighur Muslims in occupied East Turkistan (Xinjiang in China).
The first report documented the forced sterilization of Uighur women while the second detailed the seizure of 13 tons of products made from human hair by US Customs and Border Protection. It is suspected that the products were made of unethically collected human hair from imprisoned Uighur Muslims.
Parallels for both these events can be found in the atrocities of the past German regime. As per a report in The Foreign Policy, both these events are reminiscent of the atrocities committed in Nazi detention camps such as Auschwitz.
The East Turkistan Government in exile has also likened the CCP’s atrocities against Uighur Muslims to the actions of Nazi Germany. East Turkistan’s government in exile’s Prime Minister Salin Hudayar stated that the CCP was committing a German Holocaust like genocide in the 21 century against Uighurs and other minorities in occupied East Turkistan.
Several other scholars have been able to find similarities between Xi’s China and Hitler’s Germany. One of these instances is how China seems to be in a hurry to achieve its global ambitions, in a way very similar way to Nazi Germany.
Before and during World War 2, Hitler believed that Germany had to move fast and conquer more lands before its adversaries became too powerful. Chinese strategists have also expressed similar tendencies, they seem to believe that China must act with haste before the Chinese population and economy go into decline/stagnation or the disarrayed western democracies clip it down.
They fear missing out on the opportunity to achieve their domestic and international goals. Given the fact that China’s scholars are borrowing teachings from Nazi scholars as well as other parallels between German Nazis and Chinese Communists, the comparison between Adolf Hitler and Xi Jinping has merit.
Xi Jinping’s ascension within the CCP has drastically changed the Party’s Modus-Operandi. China under his leadership has become more authoritarian and less open to criticism or even feedback. Any threat to CCP’s authority and primacy is now viewed as an irritant to be removed.
China’s actions in the past few years have marked the CCP’s U- turn from graduating to an open and liberal state under Hu Jintao to the authoritarian and expansionist regime of Mao Zedong. Some even claim that Xi has surpassed Mao and Hitler.