Will the Magic of ‘9’ Bring Real Changes to China in 2019?

January 15, 2019 Updated: June 4, 2019


The number “9” has always had special meaning for the Chinese. It’s the biggest single-digit number, and the Chinese have always believed that when something reaches the extreme, it will go in the opposite direction.

Perhaps that’s why long before 2019 arrived, people in China started to speculate what the year held in store for China, given the number of challenges that Communist China is facing.

A Series of Events in “XXX9”

First of all, they noticed that for several decades, during each year ending with a “9,” a historically significant event happened in China:

In 1949, the Kuomintang (or Nationalist Party) lost the Chinese Civil War and had to retreat to Taiwan. Mainland China was then taken over by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

In 1959, the Great Chinese Famine started, and tens of millions of people starved to death in the following years.

In 1969, the Sino–Soviet border conflict (or Zhenbao Island Incident) broke out. The seven-month undeclared military conflict between the Soviet Union and China brought the two communist-led countries to the brink of war.

In 1979, the Sino–Vietnamese War broke out. China launched an offensive in response to Vietnam’s invasion and occupation of Cambodia in 1978 (which ended the rule of the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge). Vietnamese sources claimed the People’s Liberation Army had suffered 62,500 total casualties, while China estimated that Vietnam had lost 57,000 soldiers and 70,000 militia members.

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A Chinese worker shouts pro-democracy slogans during a mass rally in Beijing’s streets in support of student hunger strikers gathered at Tiananmen Square, in Beijing on May 17, 1989. (CATHERINE HENRIETTE/AFP/Getty Images)

In 1989, the Tiananmen Square protests happened. They greatly rocked the regime, and ended with the CCP rolling tanks into Beijing, killing thousands—perhaps 10,000 students and civilians died.

In 1999, the persecution of Falun Gong started, targeting more than 100 million practitioners and their families. In order to launch and maintain this nearly 20-year-long campaign, an unimaginably large amount of social resources has been expended, and the consequences are hard to fathom at the moment. Human-rights activists have long since declared the repression the largest scale human-rights disaster in China.

In 2009, the “July 2009 Ürümqi riots” broke out, with at least 1,000 Uyghurs involved on just the first day. CCP officials claimed that a total of 197 people died during the series of riots over several days, with 1,721 others injured. Uyghur exile groups say the death toll is higher. Ten years later, an estimated 1 million to 2 million Uyghurs and other ethnic groups are being detained in prisons and re-education camps in Xinjiang.

So what will happen in 2019? Many Chinese people are holding their breath.

’69 Rule’

The “69 Rule,” attributed to British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell, is being widely circulated among Chinese netizens. It was said that Russell once said that no totalitarian rule could last longer than 70 years. And the examples being cited include:

• Saddam Hussein: Born in 1937 and died in 2006, when he was 69.

• Moammar Gadhafi: Born in 1942 and died in 2011, when he was 69.

• Kim Jong Il: Born in 1941 and died in 2011, when he was 70.

• Soviet Union: Founded in 1922 and dissolved in 1991, existing for 69 years.

And 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the CCP’s rule in China. Will it outlive the 69 Rule? People are eager to find out.

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An Uyghur woman protests in front of policemen at a street in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region of China, on July 7, 2009. (Guang Niu/Getty Images)

Some people in China have joked, “No wonder our Property Ownership Certificate is only valid for 70 years!” In China, if one buys property, one doesn’t actually own the land. Instead, the owner has the right to “use,” or “occupy,” the land for 70 years.

Intellectuals Call for CCP to ‘Fade From History’

In the first few days of 2019, an article by Zheng Yefu, a sociology professor from China’s prestigious Peking University, was widely reprinted by a variety of Chinese-language media outlets. In his article, Zheng called for the CCP to “peacefully fade from history.”

“This is the best way forward for the Chinese people, for the party, and for the leaders of the party,” Zheng said. “There is no better way.”

Political reform is necessary, Zheng said, because problems in Chinese society, such as the rampant abuse of power, a deficient legal system, and economic malaise, have reached the point of no return.

He also implored Chinese intellectuals to fulfill their duty to expose the truth about the CCP.

Zheng’s bold stance resounded with many Chinese intellectuals and ordinary citizens.

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Some Uyghur people (C) walk near police as they form a line across a street in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region, China on July 8, 2009. (Guang Niu/Getty Images)

More than 100 Chinese intellectuals published their takes about China’s 40 years of “reform and openness” on the internet. Although the contents were quickly blocked in China, some overseas Chinese-language websites had already posted them.

Bao Pengshan, a professor and author from Shanghai, said: “The core question for a nation is that we should know our direction. And it is more questionable if we go toward the wrong direction.”

Cai Shenkun, a commentator in Beijing, said: “Reform should not be limited to having everybody fed. It should ensure that everybody can speak out, and nobody should feel fearful for speaking out. Reform should have all the people sharing economic prosperity, instead of having only a few people robbing and plundering the wealth.”

Hong Zhenkuai, a scholar in Beijing, said, “The true reform should be returning power to the people.”

Cai Xia, a professor of the Party School of the CCP, said: “The historical role of a party is evaluated by what this party does. Whether it will be listed on the Honor Roll, or in the Hall of Shame, is up to the party itself.”

Chen Baocheng, a media professional in Shandong Province, said, “Without the freedom to think and speak, reform and openness are meaningless.”

Chen Tiannan, a former lawyer and judge in Zhejiang Province, said: “True reform should be beneficial to the protection of private property and a free market economy. The direction for reform should be increasing people’s freedom.”

Wang Juntao, an activist in the Tiananmen Square democracy movement and president of the Democracy Party of China, told The Epoch Times that many people in China hope that the CCP collapses as soon as possible. But the CCP won’t choose to “fade from history.”

He said just calling for an end to CCP rule isn’t good enough; people need to act and encourage others to fight back against it.

Xia Yeliang, a former professor at Peking University, said that although he didn’t know whether China would fall into chaos this year as some have “predicted,” 2019 may be a year when big things happen.

He said that people hope for bigger changes in China in 2019, and it’s possible that the CCP’s rule will start to shake and crumble. Xia hopes that the Chinese people can work toward that goal, and make 2019 a year when institutional changes can begin in China.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.