Written by Ryan Mitchell.
Not long ago, in a coastal Chinese city, I encountered a sight that struck me as remarkable, and perhaps as a subtle marker of social change. Somewhere on the eastern seaboard, I passed by a middle-aged, apparently middle-class person on a boardwalk, in the full light of day, performing what were very clearly the gentle Tai Chi-like exercises of Falun Gong. Not far away, a police officer casually walked his rounds. Neither seemed to take much notice of the other – a situation that, just a few years ago, would have seemed highly unlikely (and just a few years before that, in the full heat of the anti-Falun Gong crackdown, more or less unthinkable).
Though popular religion, along with any form of non-Party sanctioned social movement, ideological discourse, or group affiliation, remain serious sources of paranoia for the Communist Party, what is targeted for repression is often not the mere expression of divergent views, but rather any forms of expression that seem to have the likelihood of sparking mass action and mobilization. Even more than in the pre-Xi era, the Party currently seems able to tolerate anything that seems sufficiently private – like doing one’s exercises alone by the seashore – or even just sufficiently ambiguous that it cannot be read as any kind of call to action. Continue reading “Individual Rights and Corporate Identity in Xi’s China”