Yes, the People’s Republic of China does indeed have elections. They are fairly meaningless however, as the Communist Party is not shy about maintaining control of the outcome. What really made me want to right about this today was this video posted by the BBC earlier today. It is striking. Independents are allowed to run for election in China, but clearly the odds are stacked against them. But this is not simply a case of biased state media ignoring or attacking opposition candidates, as is the case in other “democracies” (i.e. Russia, Egypt, Turkey). In China, when you run as an independent you are effectively (if not officially) placed under house arrest. You face obstacles at every step, your every movement is monitored, you are barred from speaking to journalists, barred from campaigning, and policemen actively instruct voters to not vote for you.
The Communist Party of China has long ruled the country with an iron fist, but relaxed a bit in the 90s and early 2000s. However, since Xi Jingping took control in 2012 there has been a dramatic and alarming tightening of both the Party’s control over the country and Xi’s control of the Party. Xi Jingping has been named the Party’s ‘Core Leader’ and has used an anti-corruption campaign to arrest thousands and “punish” up to a million officials. The Party has pushed so hard on the general populace that when Party officials are murdered it is often the murders who win public sympathy, not the victims. I cannot stress this enough: China is a deeply authoritarian country. While there are many countries that are arguably more oppressive than the PRC, the only country that is undeniably more repressive is North Korea.
As China’s position and stature on the global stage rise, it will (and already has) increasingly come into conflict with the nations around it. China will increasingly seek to support groups and nations that share its view of the world and its mistrust of democracy and freedom. With the rise of populist, democracy-skeptic parties and leaders across the world and especially in the US and Europe, China finds fertile ground to spread its message. A Second Cold War is beginning, and once again Democracy is on the front line.