The 'Joint Statement on Climate, Nature and People', launching during Nature, Land-Use and Ocean Day at UNFCCC COP28, signifies a resounding call for accelerated implementation of climate and nature action.
Reds under your beds? On the contrary. Beijing, it seems, sees insidious forces bent on undermining it absolutely everywhere, according to a New York Times report spies are apparently embedded in multinational companies, infiltrating social media, and misleading ‘naïve’ students. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants citizens to see these spies too as part of what the country’s ministry of state security terms ‘whole of society mobilisation’ against espionage. For starters, the ministry has decreed that all university faculty members sign up for courses on protecting state secrets; even faculty of departments such as veterinary medicine.
In the bargain, the CCP may have conclusively proven that Animal Farm was not a work of fiction and George Orwell was a minor prophet at the very least. The media report quoted above goes on to add that as part of the ministry of state security campaign, a kindergarten in Tianjin city organised a meeting to teach its employees how to ‘understand and use’ China’s anti-espionage law. Four-year-olds, obviously, pose a clear and present danger to the partystate. One should not be surprised by this level of paranoia. After all, communist parties worldwide have a hoary tradition in this regard. But times have changed. So, it’s now agitprop by other means.
The ministry has opened its first social media account as an effort to increase ‘public engagement’ on the issue of widespread espionage efforts despite China being the most tightly-controlled major country in the world.
Those of a leftist persuasion may complain that we are being unfair; that spreading awareness among citizens about perceived threats to the country is a perfectly legitimate exercise by the authorities. But they would be omitting the caveat to that principle it holds true only when the state in question is a liberal democratic one and not an absolutist surveillance state like China. That the CCP campaign blurs the line between vigilance and paranoia is blindingly clear.
As is the deep trouble the Chinese economy is in, to deflect attention from which the state seems to have thought up this ‘foreign hand’ campaign. But then the Party takes its cue from its leader. President Xi Jinping, addressing the National Security Commission in May this year, was quoted as having told the faithful: “We must be prepared for worst-case and extreme scenarios… enhance real-time monitoring (of espionage).” Mr Xi is, in a sense, acting no differently from leaders of the former Soviet Union and erstwhile Warsaw Pact countries who tended to raise the bogey of national security whenever they feared their hold on power could be undermined by the economic challenges facing the country. The danger is that Mr Xi seems determined not to be administered the push even if it leads to social strife and economic turmoil. That is a recipe for disaster for the Chinese people.