The Corner

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The Tragedy, and Horror, of Communist China

Party boss Xi Jinping speaks at the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in the “Great Hall of the People,” October 18, 2017. (Aly Song / Reuters)

Today is a big day for the Chinese Communist Party: the 70th anniversary of the founding of their dictatorship. This dictatorship is one of the great tragedies and horrors of modern times.

Early this morning, President Trump tweeted, “Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!”

This is not really necessary for an American president to do — exclamation point and all. The Chinese people need sympathy more than congratulations. They live under a one-party dictatorship with a gulag (called laogai). Would we like that?

The Chinese dictatorship is the antithesis of everything that America stands for. It is murderous, enslaving, lawless — endlessly cruel. It is a boot stomping on the face of the individual.

President Trump has been effusive in praise of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator. (North Korea has the distinction of being the worst, least free place on earth.) “He is very talented,” said Trump. “Anybody who takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it, and run it tough . . .”

Yes, he has “run it tough,” though no one would have thought to put it that way.

“He loves his country very much,” said Trump of Kim. I wonder what North Koreans would say to that, if they could speak freely. “His country does love him,” said Trump. “His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.”

Go to the concentration camps — the North Korean gulag. Talk to defectors and escapees. Check out their fervor.

When people like me criticize Trump for his statements, his defenders say, “What’s the big deal? He’s just being diplomatic. What, do you want World War III?”

That is exactly what we heard in the late Cold War, from liberals and leftists. You would bring up human rights behind the Iron Curtain, and they’d say, “Why are you poisoning the atmosphere of détente?” (That was a big phrase of the day: “atmosphere of détente.”) “Do you want to start World War III?”

The more you know about North Korea, the more appalled you are by Trump’s statements. Some of us have sat with defectors and escapees — listened to them, recorded their stories. It is practically unbearable.

Also unbearable is the human testimony out of China. I have listened to a lot of that: from surviving victims of the Cultural Revolution; from Tibetans, Uyghurs, Falun Gong practitioners, and many others.

We are talking about a regime against which there are very credible — all too credible — charges of organ harvesting. Maybe you will forgive us, especially if we are American, for reacting to President Trump’s tweet this morning?

The Communist dictatorship in China has killed something like 70 million people. It is hard to focus on millions of people, as I was saying the other day. Let’s try one — one person.

A few months ago, Wang Meiyu held up a sign calling on Party boss Xi Jinping to step down and for free elections to be held. Wang was tortured to death. His wife could not recognize the body. Wang was 38 years old and had two young children.

Liu Xiaobo received some attention for a while. He was the leading democracy campaigner in China, and a political prisoner. He was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize (in absentia). Two summers ago, he finally succumbed to his torments.

On the day Liu died, President Trump was praising Xi, effusively:

“He’s a friend of mine. I have great respect for him. We’ve gotten to know each other very well. A great leader. He’s a very talented man. I think he’s a very good man. He loves China, I can tell you. He loves China. He wants to do what’s right for China.”

And so on.

As Jerome Cohen says — he’s the senior China scholar in America — today’s China, under Xi, is the most oppressive China since the Cultural Revolution.

Many eyes are on Hong Kong, understandably. There was a massacre in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago. Will there be another in that rebellious city on the southern coast? But what the Party is doing in Xinjiang Province, or East Turkestan, to the Uyghur people is horrific. Shocking. Or it would be, if more people knew about it.

Then, too, there is the everyday cruelty inflicted on countless Han Chinese.

I believe that Americans, and certainly the president, should remember these things. We have to deal with all sorts of bad actors in the world. But we don’t have to praise them, or perfume them, and we don’t have to forget their victims.

Speaking personally, I am grateful to work for a magazine founded in anti-Communism. (Many of our founding editors and writers were, in fact, ex-Communists: Whittaker Chambers, James Burnham, Frank Meyer, Willi Schlamm, Max Eastman, and more. WFB said they were absolutely crucial to the enterprise, and to a sound understanding of the world.) You can’t be pro-freedom and pro-humanity without being anti-Communist. If in doubt, talk to Chinese people, North Koreans, Cubans, Vietnamese — they have a lot to say.

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