CHINA: No place for trade unions, feminism
IT IS INTERESTING how ideologies that start out revolutionary become as conservative as a bunch of Christian fundies.
That is the story of communism. It followed that path in the Soviet Union and now follows it in China. Mao Tse Tung’s China is a distant memory paid only lip service by the Chinese Communist Party.
China’s creeping conservatism is accompanied by its territorial and military expansion and the use of debt-trap loans to ensnare Asian and Pacific Island states into its economic and political, and, perhaps in future, military orbit. Combined with Trump’s America First policy and the consequent doubts about the future of the US-Australia Alliance, this has Australian foreign and defence policy circles buzzing as they try to work out our new political and military disposition in an Asia-Pacific being transformed before our eyes.
Evidence that China is following the well-trod communist path from revolution to nationalistic conservatism and internal control of its people comes from researchers at Australia’s Lowy Institute, the Australian Security Policy Institute and others.
China: no place for unionists and Marxists
“Last week, self-proclaimed Marxist labour activists across China were rounded up by the authorities. Many were students or graduates of some of the country’s most prestigious universities.”, writes Simone van Niewenhuitzen in the Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter.
…the Chinese Communist Party “has become a party of governance and control…
“These are the latest developments in an ongoing crackdown on labour activism that began in July when attempts by employees of a Jasic Technology factory in Shenzhen to form a union were met with physical abuse and arrest“, she reports.
Marxism, in theory, is based on a growing consciousness by working class people of their political strength. Eventually, their unity and collective action topples the state. China today appears firmly set on not allowing that to happen. As Ms van Niewenhuitzen says, the core of Marxism is revolutionary ideology but the Chinese Communist Party “has become a party of governance and control.” Because the Chinese Communist Party forms the government of China, the two are one and the same.
A traditional role for women in China’s pseudo-Marxist state
Writing in The Interpreter, Jane Golley discusses a book about women in the new China — Leta Hong Fincher’s Betraying Big Brother: the Feminist Awakening in China.
“The book depicts a Communist Party that ‘aggressively perpetuates gender norms and reduces women to their roles as dutiful wives, mothers and baby breeders in the home, in order to minimise social unrest and give birth to future generations of skilled workers’ “, writes Ms Golley.
China’s all-male rulers have decided that the systematic subjugation of women is essential to maintaining Communist Party survival…
She reports that only this year the Chinese government “tightened its censorship of feminist ideas and activism. This includes its attempt to crush China’s #MeToo movement and the permanent termination of Weibo’s most prominent feminist account, Feminist Voices, on International Women’s Day (March 8).”
Weibo is a Chinese social media site closely monitored by the government’s censors. Facebook, Twitter and other Western social media are blocked by China’s Great Firewall of censorship and their use banned by the government.
Ms Golley quotes Leta Hong Fincher: “China’s all-male rulers have decided that the systematic subjugation of women is essential to maintaining Communist Party survival. As this battle for party survival becomes even more intense, the crackdown on feminism and women’s rights – indeed, on all of civil society — is likely to intensify.”
She cites a Human Rights Watch report, Only Men Need Apply, disclosing discrimination against women in the workplace. Australian women justifiably complain about less pay for the same work, however that situation is well-institutionalised in China. So much for the egalitarianism of communism.
Over recent weeks reports started to appear in Western media about China’s pushing women further into traditional roles in what are called ‘New Era Women’s Schools’. Here, the reports say, young women are taught how to wear make-up and, to quote from Ms Golley’s report, to sit “with bellies held in and legs together”.
Consolidating conservative power
To those of us no longer so young that we can recall the Cold War, this might sound a little familiar because we will remember how the old men’s (and the occasional woman) clique wielded its control of the Russian populace through inducement and terror. Yet, from what I recall, women had more opportunity in the Soviet Union than what The Interpreter and Leta Hong Fincher’s book suggests is happening in China.
In Australia, there is nothing we can do about these trends that appear to be suppressing China’s labour and women’s movements. All we can do is report them in our media, because unlike in China we are free to do that, discuss them and derive learning from them.
We could also participate in any global movement to support China’s working class and its women, however before doing that we should ascertain whether those demographics support what the Chinese government is doing. Official, national trade union and women’s organisations support the Communist Party’s moves, suggesting we should treat with great circumspection what they say because they appear to be mere mouthpieces for the Party.
The only conceivable way that China could be persuaded to lighten up on unionism and women’s roles would be for an international campaign to embarrass the Chinese government and pressure Western corporations to disinvest in China and develop manufacturing facilities in other counties. Whether this would work is debatable. The widespread international criticism of China’s blocking web and social media sites and suppressing internal bloggers has achieved nothing in stopping the practices. It has given China a bad reputation, however the Community Party’s control of internal media prevents news of this penetrating far into Chinese society. A campaign that aims to give workers and women greater freedom would probably go the same way.
With its pervasive censorship and lack of citizen freedom to participate in Western social media, it is going to be hard to hear dissident voices and news of what is happening.
A new place for Australia? Where?
Meanwhile, Australia has a few tasks in coming to terms with the new Asia-Pacific now emerging.
What is pressing for Australia is negotiating a new role in Asia-Pacific if America First continues to refocus the US on itself and disregard traditional alliances. The US-Australia Alliance, founded in the years of World War Two, is likely to retain some military and diplomatic components, however there is now a distinct air of untrustworthiness around the relationship. Even if the US government makes official noises agreeable to the continuity of the Alliance, like participation in the proposed Australian naval base on Manus Island in PNG, the distrust will continue to simmer below the surface while Trump occupies the White House.
“Every government has an interest in promoting itself abroad to extending its soft power, I guess what’s different about China is the way in which its run through these clandestine operations” — https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/power-and-influence-promo/8579844
Also pressing is the diplomatic work of ending Chinese government interference in Australia’s internal affairs and restoring China’s influence to the above-board means of any other country. China’s influence-wielding and subversion of community organisations and Chinese-language media in Australia was disclosed in an ABC TV report on 4 Corners earlier this year, and the book by Clive Hamilton, Silent Invasion.
Meanwhile, with China our biggest trading partner and the US still officially our military and diplomatic partner. We have a big job in developing new relationships with both.
Human Rights Watch:
What a coincidence: ABC news website blocked in China.
Silent Invasion,2018; Clive Hamilton; Hardie Grant Books, Australia.
China’s influence peddling in Australia’s institutions. http://www.hardiegrant.com/au/publishing/bookfinder/book/silent-invasion-by-clive-hamilton/9781743794807
Mapping Xinjiang’s ‘re-education’ camps. Australian Security Policy Institute.
CHINA’S OPERATION AUSTRALIA —The party line
The Chinese Communist Party is waging a covert campaign of influence in Australia – an aggressive form of “soft power” – and while loyalists are rewarded, dissidents live in fear …