Why do people join the CCP?

36 min listen

At last count, the Chinese Communist Party has 98 million members, more people than the population of Germany. Its membership also continues to grow, making it one of the most successful and resilient political parties of the last a hundred years, perhaps with the exception of India’s BJP, which boasts 180 million members. And yet the CCP’s track record is strewn with bloody crackdowns and systematic persecution. So what would drive someone to join the CCP, and what accounts for its success? Do party members today all support the atrocities committed by their government? I think these are important questions to ask, because without understanding the answers to them, one

Taiwan can’t escape China’s shadow

The Taiwanese rock band Mayday – ‘the Beatles of the Chinese-speaking world’ – are being investigated by the Chinese Communist party for the crime of lip syncing. Local authorities are combing through recordings of Mayday’s Shanghai concerts from November looking for evidence of ‘deceptive fake-singing’, as the CCP calls it, which has been illegal in China since 2009 (although the law is rarely enforced). Last month, an anonymous Taiwan-ese government source told Reuters that the investigation had been cooked up because the pop stars refused a request from Beijing to say something nice about China in the run-up to Taiwan’s election this Saturday. The band found itself at the centre

What Beidaihe reveals about the changing nature of Communist leadership

26 min listen

178 miles to the east of Beijing, there’s a beach resort called Beidaihe. The water is shallow and the sand is yellow and fine. Luxurious holiday villas dot the coastline. Starting from the 1950s, leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have moved their families and work to Beidaihe in the summer, making the beach resort something of a summer capital. Secrecy clouds the gatherings, and though this tradition continues, today the resort seems to serve a much more leisurely purpose when the CCP visits. On this episode, I’m joined by the historian James Carter and Bill Bishop, editor of the very popular Sinocism newsletter, to discuss where Communist leaders go,

Where has Xi Jinping’s foreign minister gone?

This is the week that James Cleverly planned to be in Beijing to ‘engage, robustly and also constructively’ with China’s communist leaders. But the Foreign Secretary put his trip on hold because the man he planned to engage went missing. Since 25 June foreign minister Qin Gang has vanished without trace, leaving Cleverly twiddling his thumbs and the world wondering what on earth is going on at the top of the Chinese Communist party. The whole bizarre spectacle underlines the challenges of engaging with a system that is so deeply opaque. The mystery deepened on Tuesday when state media reported that Qin was being replaced by his predecessor Wang Yi

The secret life of China’s Banksy

The crypt of St John’s Waterloo feels serene and secure, a world away from the bustling city above. ‘I will spend the day here, because I feel safe here,’ Badiucao tells me. The dissident political cartoonist, who has been called ‘China’s Banksy’, is preparing to display his work on the crypt’s newly restored brick walls as part of an exhibition by exiled artists. ‘I don’t walk alone in any city. I don’t feel safe,’ he says. I meet him soon after he flies in from Warsaw, where the Chinese government tried to close down his solo show, ‘Tell China’s Story Well’. Chinese diplomats pressured the Polish government and the Ujazdowski

Is an anti-Xi resistance emerging?

From the 1980s to 2017, at least every five years, China’s National Party Congress would be a moment of intriguing flux in the usually staid public politics of the Chinese Communist party. Rising stars are promoted, the old retired and, every other Congress, a new Secretary General would be appointed. Beforehand, a flurry of papers and opinion editorials would be published as various factions jostled for influence. This year’s Congress wasn’t meant to be exciting. Having abolished term limits, this is the moment when Xi Jinping is meant to be affirmed in his third term. There are few viable successors on the horizon. Nevertheless, an opening salvo in the pre-Congress war of

The BBC’s mysterious missing Xinjiang evidence

Parliament has packed up for the holidays, with MPs and peers spending their final days in SW1 desperately dodging the omnipresent Omicron variant. But Mr S was intrigued to see an interesting intervention in the Lords on the day that recess was declared. Crossbench peer Baroness Finlay popped up to grill Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad about China’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, an unusual topic for the professor of palliative medicine to raise.  She told Ahmad that she understood the BBC ‘has film evidence of the atrocities’ that have been addressed in the Uyghur Tribunal, but that the Corporation has been ‘reluctant to show the programmes to date, having set the evidential test so unrealistically

China’s obsessive attempts to subvert the West

Most people who think themselves well informed know little or nothing about China. They – or I should say ‘we’ for I am just as ignorant – understand what the CIA and FSB are, and what they want. But what is the CPAFFC, and, if it arrives in your neighbourhood, should you worry? How about the United Front, the ‘magic weapon for strengthening the party’s ruling position,’ in the words of Xi Jinping? What does it do and why does China’s dictator praise it so? I am back from the last place I expected to learn about the Chinese Communist Party: the Budapest Forum, a conference of progressive European mayors

China tightens its grip on Cambridge

The revelations this week of the alarming influence of Huawei within the Cambridge Centre for Chinese Management provide the latest evidence of the tightening grip of China on Britain’s leading university. The Times reports that three out of four directors of the centre — part of the university’s Judge Business School — have ties to the telecoms giant, which has close links to the Chinese Communist party. The centre’s ‘chief representative’ is a former vice-president of the company who has been paid by the Chinese government. An honorary fellow of the centre wrote a book praising Huawei’s ‘ability to transform the intellectual elite into a band of soldiers with the

Who can take on China in the tech arms race?

The government’s decision to water down new foreign investment rules designed to protect national security casts serious doubt about its resolve to keep China out of the most sensitive parts of the British economy. Raising the threshold above which an overseas stake must be examined from 15 per cent to 25 per cent will sharply reduce the number of deals facing scrutiny. The amendment to the National Security and Investment Bill, now wending its way through parliament, was presented by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng as necessary to show Britain is still ‘open for business’. It follows intense lobbying by the Confederation of British Industry, which fears the new rules will

Why fear a society that’s tearing itself apart?

In my teens, rubbishing the implacable edifice of the United States felt like kicking a tank in trainers. Richard Nixon’s ‘silent majority’ was patriotic. Railing about my country’s disgraceful historical underbelly — slavery, the Native American genocide — seemed edgy. Fast-forward, and in the West trashing your own country has become a central preoccupation of the ruling class. University administrators, corporate board members and media pundits compete with one another over who can denounce their disgusting society with more fervour. Shame, or what passes for it, is the new ostentation. America’s own President decries his country’s ‘systemic racism’. Far more than singing along with ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at a football

Beijing revels in Washington’s chaos

The events on Capitol Hill were always going to be met with schadenfreude — perhaps even glee — amongst autocracies in one-party states. They suddenly had the best ammunition they could have hoped for. From Turkey and Zimbabwe to Russia and Iran, state media and spokespeople latched on, turning the language often thrown at them back at America — calling for ‘restraint’ and ‘dignity’. For the Chinese government, which has been no stranger to violent mass movements in recent years, the analogy was obvious. Hong Kong’s legislature had been stormed just last year, with pro-democracy activists forcing their way into the building and vandalising the walls with anti-Beijing slogans. Beijing