[Éditorial de Guy Taillefer] The sick dictatorship of Xi Jinping

“A spark can set the whole plain on fire. » Said Mao Zedong, taking up a Chinese proverb in a letter dated January 5, 1930, some twenty years before the communist revolution. The quote has spread like wildfire on Chinese social media, encapsulating what has happened in recent days in China with the multiplication in several cities of angry demonstrations against the “zero COVID” policy. of strict confinement applied by the Xi Jinping regime. An anger that expressed itself online, despite censorship, dared to take to the streets, suddenly taking on political meaning in proportions not seen since the events of Tian’anmen in 1989.

The spark of this anger? We knew she had been scolding for weeks, months, against the inhuman containment measures in Shanghai or Canton or among the workers of Foxconn, Apple’s subcontractor in Zhengzhou, Henan. Measures which, moreover, do enormous economic damage. However, last Thursday, the exasperation took on a national dimension in a disgusted reaction to the death of ten people in the fire of a building in the city of Urumqi (capital of Xinjiang and heart of the repressed Uighur community) to which firefighters were unable to gain access because the doors were locked due to COVID-19.

The expression of this fed up with political overtones, after nearly three years of massive isolation which does not come to the end of the pandemic, it is this man who, on Sunday in a Shanghai shopping center, brandished a sign simply saying, « You know what I mean. These are the thousands of demonstrators who were armed with a single sheet of white paper – a symbol of the absence of freedom of expression –, as were the Hong Kongers demonstrating against the government in 2000. And they are more audacious who, at their own risk and peril, dared to make demands that were no longer heard — Freedom! Democracy ! — or which we had almost never heard — « Xi Jinping, resignation ».

The tens of thousands of Chinese who have taken to the streets do not quantitatively represent a critical mass. It is nonetheless a move that directly underscores the responsibilities of President Xi, now trapped by an anti-COVID strategy that does little to stem the problem, but which he can hardly let go of without seeing the number of case explode. Never has the challenge been greater for Mr. Xi.

the China Dissent Monitor, from the NGO Freedom House, lists social conflicts in China: it calculates that prior to the protest movement of the last few days, nearly 40 have occurred across the country in connection with COVID since last June . Repression, which will inevitably do its work, will not exhaust the challenge.

Moreover, on the geopolitical level, the call for fresh air demanded by the demonstrators is to highlight this bad farce consisting for Xi, who has just installed himself in power as president for life, to claim that his regime constitutes a solution viable to our sick democracies. The Chinese dictatorship, like the Iranian theocracy, is closing in on itself.

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Promising to « act in the interests of Canada while defending our values », as Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said on Sunday in Vancouver, Ottawa could not have planned the presentation of its new Indo-Pacific strategy. The exceptional expression of popular discontent that is surfacing in China certainly provides grist for the Trudeau government’s mill in that it wishes, by diversifying its relations with Asian countries, to distance itself from Beijing and rise up, including militarily, against its « disruptive power » on an international scale.

Except that in the end, and for having waited three years for Ottawa to finally give birth, the result, if it brings a little clarity, seems rather general. China, disruptive power at the same time as essential. Until this — modest — $2.3 billion plan over five years becomes clearer, it will be said without being mistaken that Canada is essentially adopting the posture that its allies, starting with the United States, have already taken against Beijing – with an embarrassing delay.

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