“In ways that may run deeper than even the attackers intended, the Kunming massacre is likely to harden Chinese leaders against critical opposition,” says a leading analyst.
“The pressure posed by ethnic unrest is the biggest story on the Chinese horizon, and that struggle—the pressure from below, and the response it will bring—just moved into the foreground,” the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos reports:
For a generation of senior Community Party members, the attack is a sensational confirmation of what has become the most neuralgic issue of their time: the sense that the greatest threat to the country as they know it is the loss of territory. Shortly after taking office, in November, 2012, Xi Jinping, in a speech to Party members, asked, “Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and convictions wavered. Eventually, all it took was a quiet word from Gorbachev to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Communist Party, and the great party was gone. In the end nobody was man enough to come out and resist.”
“Xi’s ‘man enough’ speech was regarded as a case against Western-style democratization, which, of course, it was. But that is a narrow reading,” Osnos notes:
For much of the past decade, an emerging argument in Chinese policy and scholarly circles has come to see the failure of the Soviet Union as a failure to manage ethnic unrest.
In 1986, when protesters in Kazakhstan took to the streets, declaring, “Kazakhstan belongs to Kazakhs,” Mikhail Gorbachev sent in troops, but he also made efforts to appease the rioters by appointing a Kazakh apparatchik and by relenting on unpopular laws about language. Other ethnic groups mounted their own rebellions. Ma Rong, a well-connected sociologist at Peking University, later wrote that this chain of events “reminded the P.R.C. leaders of the political risk in managing ethnic relations, and made them very cautious.” Writing in an academic journal, in 2007, Ma suggested that “the former Soviet Union took a great risk by handling its nationality/ethnicity issues the way it did.” The Soviets, he argued, wrongly assumed that Communism would bind their ethnicities together, but, in fact, the “nation was at risk of disintegrating if the ideological linkage among the ethnic groups collapsed.” When Chinese leaders say, as they often do, that “stability in Xinjiang” or “stability in Tibet” concerns the “stability of the country,” they mean it.
“In China today, the ties between ethnic groups are rooted not in Communism but, for lack of a better word, in ‘G.D.P.-ism’—faith in economic growth and the push for prosperity. But that is a fragile bargain, he concludes.
Official Chinese media have gone on the offensive condemning Western media and governments for failing to use the word “terrorism” when reporting on the Kunming attacks, China Digital Times reports:
A graphic produced by People’s Daily (above) and widely distributed online compared the terminology used by English-language media sources when reporting this weekend’s violence in China with the 2013 murder of British soldier Lee Rigby. But some observers pointed out factual errors in their analysis…RTWT
CDT is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.