In less than two years, several extraordinary changes have happened in China, each concentrating power in the hands of President Xi Jinping and the party's apparatus.
Here is a list:
- Schoolchildren are now given lessons in Xi's thoughts, so the leader of the China, the first one since Mao Zedong that is leader-for-life, now has his ideas about the country codified in school curricula
- There is a social points system in which those who engage in behaviour thought badly of by the authorities (which includes saying the wrong things) are restricted in their movements and job opportunities, with even their children’s opportunities reduced. This is being enforced via the most advanced system of surveillance, AI, facial recognition, and data-bundling ever constructed
- The government has cracked down on the emerging super rich and the most powerful home-grown tech companies. This has included forcing top-executives to hand over billions in tax arrears, breaking up of some of the biggest companies, and regulating the entire tech sector, effectively making them subservient to the government. Jack Ma, who runs the huge Alibaba firm (rival to Amazon), was reportedly locked up for a month, forced to neuter his own company and cough up billions
- The emergence of unions has been encouraged within large companies that effectively bargain for more training, higher incomes, and more labour rights, particularly for the least well paid
- There has been a huge drive against the most visible forms of showing off wealth. This includes media celebrities' tax evasion, open speculation in the housing market, over-investment in private education for children, regulation against too-expensive medical equipment catering for the super rich, regulation against over medication, and a health investment drive towards diseases had by the poor
- There is a drive towards a positive Chinese self-image wherein wealthy families donate to the poor. This has included a crackdown on "anti-Chinese identity politics" and an ethos of "common prosperity" wherein the rich get praised for their works for the poor. A move against the distraction-based business model of the internet, with a decree that children under 18 can only play online games for fewer than three hours a week.
These moves are truly extraordinary in how much they impinge on social and private life. They include directions I am very much in favour of, such as bringing big tech into line, celebrating a noblesse oblige ethos among the rich, an empowered labour movement that champions the poorest, and moving against the excesses of internet distraction and of conspicuous consumption.