Officially it was called the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, but really, it was the Xi Jinping Show.
Not only was Xi re-confirmed as China’s President/Party Leader and military Commander-in-Chief, but the Constitutional limit holding him to just this second term was removed. The vote to change the Constitution was 2958 Party Delegates in favor to just 2 against. The vote to name Xi President without term limits was unanimous.
But that was just the pageant. The real deal was about consolidation of power. Xi and his puppet Congress restructured government, combining ministries to simplify the President’s chain of command. Fewer hand-picked allies will now control greater portions of government.
The President’s anti-corruption campaign, a force for eliminating enemies and coercing allies, saw its term extended and its budget increased.
And President Xi’s thought police have been on a 5 year roll. From the day he took office, Xi Jinping grabbed greater control over online communication and public education.
Chinese government policies restricted or tossed out most global providers of digital services or information and replaced them with home-grown mirror images. At the same time, they encouraged an explosion of internet-oriented consumer devices which have made China’s under-30 generation among the most digitally-dependent in the world.
Young China and its smartphones and their enablers have become inseparable. Think about that for a second and then think about the psychographic corruption of American politics by Cambridge Analytica.
The combined destructive powers of Robert and Rebekah Mercer’s billions, and Steve Bannon and Alexander Nix’s brilliant abuse of intimate data about 50 million users of Facebook to manipulate Presidential choices are dwarfed by the powers given Xi Jinping’s autocratic state by its even more complete, even more detailed datasets being kept by China’s digital media.
When it comes to education, President Xi’s direct control is enforced the old-fashioned way, by local party crackdowns on a school by school, elementary school to university basis. A Party goon squad just smacked a place I hold dear, Shantou University, where I was privileged to teach journalism for the fall semester in 2008.
Peter Herford describes himself as a recovering journalist. He spent 27 years at CBS News and has had faculty appointments at the University of Chicago and the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. He helped to found Shantou University’s School of Journalism and Communication and taught there for 10 years. He now lives in Seattle, WA.