Over the past two weeks the CCP has reasserted its control over the military and public security apparatus; organized study sessions; strengthened Internet and social controls; promoted and rewarded members of the people’s armed police; called together leading cadres for public forums to emphasize the importance of “social management,” and strengthened Party organizations at all levels.
At the center of this blitz of activity is a secret meeting held by the Politburo on Feb. 12—the committee that sits atop the Chinese Communist Party—to discuss the threats posed by the “Jasmine Revolution” in the Middle East.
Longtime China analyst Perry Link obtained news about this meeting, which he publicized in the New York Review of Books.
The main purpose was to come up with strategies to make sure the wave of demands for democracy in the Middle East would not occur in China. The primary emphasis was on propaganda, and the Central Propaganda Department was called on to effect a rash of controls.
“For a few years now they have been afraid of ‘color revolutions,’ and their philosophy has been to stamp things out before they get started,” Mr. Link wrote in an e-mail to The Epoch Times.
The Epoch Times analyzed over a dozen speeches and announcements that preceded and followed that meeting. Without exception they talk of the Party’s need to strengthen its control over society, the armed forces, including the armed police, and importantly, the Internet.
Party head Hu Jintao and the top CCP leadership have felt the need to enforce cohesion and bring their message personally to leading officials.
Hu, with the full Polituburo Standing Committee in attendance, delivered an address on Feb. 19 at the Central Party School to provincial and ministerial level Party cadres. Titled “Hu Jintao: Firmly Upgrade the Scientification of Social Management,” and subtitled “Build a Social Management System of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” it emphasized the importance of maintaining comprehensive social and other control. Mr. Link believes this address was the public presentation of the secret Politburo discussion.
Having the politburo attend is unusual, according to democracy activist Wei Jingsheng. “The whole Politburo Standing Committee, that hasn’t really happened before. They're paying a lot of attention to resistant elements in the Party.”
“This Jasmine Revolution and related unrest has had quite an impact on the CCP,” Wei says.
The report on the event refers to the “grim challenges” to the Party posed by protesters, petitioners, unlicensed merchants, and those furious at having their houses demolished.
These are longstanding issues, and the Party is worried that they could swell into protests if the conditions were ripe, Mr. Link wrote in his analysis of the Politburo document.
Hu made seven points about the CCP’s social control strategy, in the hopes of “promoting a harmonious society.” The seventh item was to “Further strengthen and perfect management of information networks; upgrade the level of control over virtual society; [and] develop robust mechanisms for channeling online opinion.”
The latter refers in part to China’s vast army of Web censors and “50 Cent Party” propagandists, who are paid to steer online discussions in the direction desired by the authorities.
“They've slowly lost control of the whole society, so they want to increase their control. In this area they're a lot more nervous than they were,” Wei said. “Now they're very scared of the ordinary people—this is a new development over the last two years. I think the Egypt incident made them extremely scared.”
Since no major protest actions have taken place, and are unlikely at present—witness the recent abortive calls for protest—the CCP’s actions may be seen as partially preventative.
“The big question for the Chinese democracy movement is whether the elite-dissident level can hook up with the deep popular-level resentment over corruption, bullying, land seizures, environmental destruction, etc. If that connection ever gets made, the regime could flip,” Mr. Link wrote to The Epoch Times. “The bosses know this, and that's why they are so assiduous about keeping the lid on tight.”
“This is an ‘overreaction,’ yes, but one the CCP leaders very much intend,” he said.
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