Whereas the West sees the emergence of an Asian superpower as something unprecedented and potentially destabilising, China views her rise as a return to the natural order of things – to a time when she’s, once again, the world’s leading economic, technological and intellectual power.
In March this year, on the eve of International Women’s Day, five Chinese feminist-activists were detained on suspicion of ‘picking quarrels and creating a disturbance’ after it was discovered that they were planning to distribute stickers and slogans highlighting sexual violence. Their plight caused outrage around the world and they were released from detention after thirty-seven days, but remain under investigation and may still faces charges.
In his new year’s speech, President Xi Jinping told the Chinese people that their nation was in the process of implementing something unprecedented. There would be challenges, he warned, but if China remained united the ultimate goal of creating ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ could be achieved.
It’s easy to dismiss this kind of rhetoric. After all, China’s economic reforms seem to be moving away from socialism towards capitalism at a rate never before seen. However, it’s important to understand what the country’s leaders mean when they talk about ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’. Moreover, it helps understand the Communist Party’s response to the recent stock market crash.
China’s one-child policy is frequently framed as an economic and social imperative, implemented not wilfully, but rather as a necessity. Those favoring this argument often fail to acknowledge that the supposed necessity of state-sanctioned birth control came after decades of Mao Zedong dictating that the population give birth to hordes of children, so they could prop up the numbers of the People’s Liberations Army (PLA) and contribute to the country’s labor drive. The wombs of Chinese women have thus been the property of the state from the time the Communist Party came to power.