The great Chinese experiment in communism known as The Great Leap Forward, occurred from 1958-1962 under the command of Mao Zedong. The ruthless dictator established an entire socio-political ideology, one which resulted in an estimated 30,000,000 deaths. Historian Frank Dikötter contends that this genocide may have been one of the worst in world history, and its lasting implications are still seen today. The sinister Laogai labor camps continue to exist to this day. The Laogai system is considered the largest network of forced labor camps in the world. There are at least 1,045 throughout China today, and untold numbers have fallen victim to these halls of horror.

“Laogai Laborers” Image Credit Philippe Poisson (2015)

Connecting Mao & Xi-Jinping

While Mao’s experiment killed countless lives, the evolution from Maoist China to modern China should concern every conscious observer. Chinese President Xi Jinping has ended term limits, and the government has banned words on social media related to the incidence. State-run media attempted to spin the story through political banter and made the public think this occurrence did not deserve a strong response. Further, the military wing of the Chinese media made it clear that Xi has the support of the nation’s armed forces, a not so subtle hint to those in disagreement. Government media focused on the fact that the Chinese constitution was changed four times since 1998; therefore, this move is nothing to fear.

Looking past the propaganda, the truth is Xi has made a major power grab as the global community stays preoccupied with the Trump news cycle. According to Maya Wang from Human Rights Watch, the current crackdown on “pro-democracy” sentiment in China is at its worst since the 1989 Tiananmen Square atrocity. Mao left the blueprints for Xi, and the continual shift to authoritarianism isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

So how has Xi done it? The answer could lie in the fact that a slow and subtle indoctrination has taken place. This indoctrination results in an apathetic youth. When the most fit generation has no interest in resistance, democracy’s future stands still. Millennials throughout China aren’t just ignorant to their history, they’ve unfortunately become victims to it.

The United States’ Role?

America’s role in the region grows clearer as we move towards a more self-sufficient economy. Our foreign policy must hinge on the expansion of freedom and an end to the human rights abuses committed by Xi and his communist regime. In the past, our country sought to pressure the regime with sanctions. On June 29th 1989, the most advanced sanctions to date were placed on the nation after the Tiananmen Square massacre. Unfortunately these forms of coercion have largely fallen to the wayside as China’s economy grows at an unprecedented rate. Without a vested interest in fighting tyranny, the United States could easily be seen as a bystander to one of the world’s most quietly oppressive regimes.