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China’s War on Western Values

CLAREMONT – The news from China these days is mostly depressing, owing to the government’s escalating crackdown on its critics. But what few observers – particularly economic analysts – seem to understand is that the Chinese leadership’s fight against liberalism and “Western values” is directly undermining its efforts to root out official corruption, promote innovation and entrepreneurship, and deepen engagement with the outside world. The regime’s retrograde politics will have serious consequences for China’s continued economic development.

For starters, the government has intensified its censorship of the Internet, rendering popular portals and sites – including Google, Facebook, and the New York Times – all but inaccessible. Moreover, prominent human-rights lawyers have been jailed; the well-known free-speech advocate Pu Zhiqiang, for one, has already been held for over six months, while prosecutors attempt to build a case against him.

Meanwhile, senior Chinese officials have taken to enforcing political discipline within the Chinese Communist Party. Last June, Zhang Yingwei, Head of the CCP’s discipline inspection office at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said that the institution – China’s most prestigious government-run think tank – had been “infiltrated by foreign forces” and “was conducting illegal collusion at politically sensitive times.”

Zhao Shengxuan, Vice President and Deputy Party Chief of CASS, responded by pledging that the Academy would “treat political discipline as a criterion of the utmost importance in the assessment of academics.” Soon after, CASS President Wang Weiguang thundered in an essay that class struggle would never be extinguished in China.