The year 2020 was supposed to see the end of poverty in China, the year that concluded the 13th Five Year Social and Economic Development Initiative, and the year the country steps into the second phase of the “Three-Step Development of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” in economic, military and rural areas.
It was supposed to be a year for Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his comrades to laud their significance and success in China. The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, put both Xi and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in a serious crisis.
Xi and the CCP are indeed tied together in a shared destiny of facing power struggle within the Party, social unrest in the nation, and pressure from the international community.
Can we expect Xi and the CCP to change? No, they are still taking the same old path with the same mentality.
On the one hand, the CCP continues to proclaim that progress has been “better than expected” as reported by the Politburo on July 30.
On the other hand, the CCP continues to act tough.
The suppression of ethnic groups continues. The construction of concentration camps continues in Xinjiang, where at least one million Uyghurs are detained. Authorities in Inner Mongolia have recently mandated that schools teach in Mandarin Chinese by forcibly cancelling Mongolian language instruction. In the past, this policy was also used with ethnic Koreans and in Tibet.
High-tech surveillance and wide grid management are imposed on the general public in China. Grid management is a system recently adapted by Beijing to monitor and control individual residents.
Private enterprises must now submit to Party control through the United Front Work Department, a unit under the CCP that coordinates thousands of groups to carry out foreign political influence operations, suppress dissident movements, gather intelligence, and facilitate the transfer of technology to China.
Suppression of political dissidents continues, whether they be intellectuals, such as Xu Zhangrun, a professor of Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law at Tsinghua University in Beijing; or second generation “red princlings,” such as Ren Zhiqiang, a former real estate tycoon, and Cai Xia, a retired professor from the CCP’s Central Party School.
In the international arena, the CCP has adopted policies to threaten democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and an all-encompassing confrontation with the United States.
Fabricated Economic Numbers
While 2020 has been a year of unprecedented disasters in China—the deadly CCP virus (novel coronavirus) pandemic, massive flooding, a bad economy, and more—which have all had a direct negative impact on a politically important year for the regime, the CCP nevertheless continues to fabricate economic achievements and growth numbers.
Recently, Chinese netizens summarized the CCP’s three main lies of 2020:
- The second quarter GDP growth for 2020 was 3.2 percent;
- Summer grain output was at a historical high, up 0.9 percent from last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics;
- All rural residents will have been lifted out of poverty in 2020.
Here is my brief analysis of these three lies.
Lie About GDP Growth
China’s mouthpiece CGTN reported, “The world’s second-largest economy grew by 3.2 percent in April-June from a year earlier, reversing a 6.8 percent decline in the first quarter.”
It’s obvious that it’s hard for the CCP to not brag about its accomplishments and the superiority of the Chinese path. But is the regime’s official data trustworthy?
In 2019, Xiang Songzuo, an economist and professor at the School of Finance of Renmin University, argued that official statistics are not telling the truth about the health of China’s economy. According to Xiang, when he went to places to observe, investigate, and talk to people, the “local government officials are much more frank about the fact that their regions are experiencing negative growth.” Of course, his comment was immediately removed from the Chinese web.
The pandemic has so far resulted in more than 33 million confirmed cases and over a million deaths worldwide. Among them, the United States has counted more than 7.4 million people infected and over 210,000 deaths. China, on the other hand, being the epicenter and origin of the CCP virus, has officially announced a surprisingly small number of infections and deaths—a total of 90,993 infections and 4,746 deaths as of Sept. 28—the numbers indicate how much the CCP could have manipulated the data.
Given the devastating effect the pandemic has on the Chinese economy, the 3.2 percent growth in the second quarter can be considered a lie.
Lie About Bumper Grain Harvest
On Aug. 22, state-run People’s Daily reported that “China’s summer grain output reached a record high of 142.8 billion kg this year, 1.21 billion kg more than the previous year.” Pan Wenbo, head of the crop production department at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, said, “The floods in South China did not change the general trend of output increase.”
However, Pan is certainly aware of the fact that the autumn grain harvest accounts for three-quarters of the annual grain production in China. With the severe floods in the south and the Yellow River basin, and the locust infestations, how likely is it there will be a bumper grain harvest this year, as he claimed?
The 2020 Rural Development Report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, published on Aug. 17, says China is expected to have a food supply gap of 130 million tons by the end of 2025. And according to data released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics in December 2018, China’s food self-sufficiency rate had dropped to about 82.3 percent. That’s a gap of 17.7 percent.
What the 17.7 percent gap entails is food shortages for 250 million Chinese in the mainland.
In fact, China became a net importer of agricultural goods in 2008 according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Report. The regime’s mouthpiece CGTN also reported that China is the world’s largest grain importer, having imported 115 million tons of grain in 2018. And according to Chinese news portal Sina.com, China has become the largest importer of agricultural goods since 2011.
The United States is China’s main food exporter. Under the current U.S.-China cold war situation, the food supply issue has changed from being a weapon used by Beijing to attack Washington, to being the CCP’s weakness. The CCP’s souring relations with both Australia and Canada, also major food exporters, have further increased the risk of China not getting its food imports secured.
In addition, corruption inside China’s grain reserve system has led many to suspect that false grain reserve records could amount to a minimum of hundreds of millions of tons of grain.
The CCP knows this well. In March 2019, as the U.S.-China trade war was escalating, the CCP ordered a national inventory check of the quantity and quality of China’s grain reserves. In August of this year, Xi Jinping once again called attention to food security and food waste, and implemented the “clean plate” campaign. These all highlight the food crisis China is facing today.
Lie About Eradicating Poverty
In 2015, while visiting Seattle, Xi Jinping mentioned in a speech: “By China’s own standard, we still have over 70 million people living below the poverty line. If measured by the World Bank standard, the number would be more than 200 million.”
In November of the same year, the CCP’s Central Committee and the State Council adopted the decision of “Winning the Fight Against Poverty,” which charted the course for China’ s poverty alleviation campaign through 2020. However, the pandemic, floods, and various other disasters have doomed the “decision.”
Furthermore, in regard to lifting people out of poverty, diverging opinions are being heard. For instance, during a meeting of China’s rubber-stamp legislature on May 28, Premier Li Keqiang said that China still has 600 million people with a monthly income of barely 1,000 yuan ($140). This has widely been interpreted as being an attack on Xi’s poverty alleviation plan.
However, claiming “victory” in wiping out poverty is still foreseeable by applying the regime’s mentality.
It’s quite easy and convenient for the CCP to create an image of victory.
A WeChat message posted in Yulin of Guangxi Province, on Jan. 2, informed the locals: “You have been identified as an individual in severe poverty. To ensure the nation will reach the 2020 goal of eliminating poverty, surrender yourself tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock to the local public security bureau to be executed.”
Local officials in Yulin later said someone was “spreading rumors.” But this post is not that far removed from the absurd claims made by the CCP about “lifting all people out of poverty” in China today.
In conclusion, Xi Jinping and the CCP have become trapped in a crisis brought about by the Three-Step Development of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and by the three big lies. For the CCP, it means that it’s doomed to exit the stage of history.
Wang He has master’s degrees in law and history, with a focus on the international communist movement. He was a university lecturer and an executive of a large private company in China. He was imprisoned in China twice for his beliefs. Wang lives in North America now and has published commentaries on China’s current affairs and politics since 2017.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.