OPINION: The CCP's Greatest Fear Is That Taiwan Does Not Fear Them

OPINION: The CCP's Greatest Fear Is That Taiwan Does Not Fear Them
Credit: REUTERS/Damir Sagol

What you need to know

The main purpose of Chinese censorship isn’t to keep the truth from being exposed, but to maintain an unquestioning attitude to authority.

Chinese-style censorship has always been seen as incredibly absurd in Taiwan.

During the period when Xi Jinping was pushing a constitutional amendment allowing him to stay in office past his expiration date, words such as “emperor,” “lifetime,” the letter “N” and even the name “Xi Jinping” were censored from search engines in China.

Even if Xi disappeared from Baidu search results, people knew he was still there. Citizens couldn’t search for emperors -- but they knew that a worrying constitutional amendment was being passed to applause at the National People's Congress in Beijing.

If the Chinese government were really worried about being overthrown, it obviously couldn’t prevent this with restrictions on speech.

One example: when a Taiwanese player encounters a Chinese player in an online video game, the subject of Xi will often get brought up. The Chinese player will inevitably respond, “We can’t talk about this online.”

The vast majority of Chinese now consume some foreign media, sneak their way onto Google to find pictures of Tian’anmen, and there are plenty of Chinese students in Western universities. Even elderly people in the countryside have a broad outline of the truths of Chinese history, but they aren’t rising up to overthrow the government.

The main purpose of Chinese censorship, then, isn’t to keep the truth from being exposed, but to maintain authority.

China struggles to defend its own revolution

Many middle-class Chinese citizens have a way of thinking: ignorant people shouldn’t participate in politics because they are prone to incitement and easily misled, causing turmoil in the state. This is a flawed idea for a number of reasons, and its origins trace back to the Soviet era.

In the so-called Western democratic system, politicians quarrel endlessly among themselves and with the public, and the ensuing theater provides endless entertainment and fodder for the 24-hour news cycle. Many Taiwanese feel a natural sense of confusion – economic equality may be decreasing in Taiwan, but at least when we curse each other out, we are all at the same level.

Under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the prevailing attitude has been to encourage people to remain loyal to the party. Leaders must establish authority, not only by banning derisive comments, but seeming to make the oppressed disappear.

Even in the face of such intimidation, people know that they should not remain ignorant of government affairs – when people don’t examine their officials, they will eventually come to feel that they do not make mistakes. Society will degrade into only having politicians fighting with politicians and people with people. In this context, the Leninist concept of “democratic centralism” can be maintained – the idea that the decisions of the central governing body are to be carried out unquestioned by lower bodies.

The CCP’s greatest fear is that we do not fear them

This is why the CCP was so fearful of the Falun Gong – they were the biggest public movement after Tian’anmen square and they seemed to appear without much prior warning.

A one-way central system of government is the end goal of the CCP. Because they insist on “possessing” their citizens, China has a strong taboo against the existence of “Taiwanese people.” People from Shanghai, Hunan or Guangzhou can freely call themselves Shanghainese, Hunanese or Cantonese, but this isn’t the same – they are already possessed by the CCP. The CCP cannot control Taiwan, so it must continue to project its authority.

What they are most afraid of is Taiwan’s lack of fear flowing back to China.

As Taiwanese citizens, we should bear in mind that the Chinese government is more afraid of us than we are of them. Not only are we not united with China, but we are able to shake the CCP’s political mandate. We need to show them that a government can be scolded.

It is our mockery of our own government that makes our chaotic system so powerful; this may be our contribution to global democracy.

Read next: Is Xi Following in Mao's Footsteps?

Translation: TNL Staff