Foreign Policy Digital

The Chinese Communist Party Wants It All

China's use of sharp power could shatter East Asia.

In Hong Kong, protesters clash with police, but the real power behind the scenes is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The experiences of activists in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and even on the Chinese mainland show that the CCP is a ruthless opponent—but not an unbeatable one. The CCP’s sharp power approach should be considered an extension of its united front method, a vision of the political process as a zero-sum game and a worldview that distinguishes between friends and enemies. Since its founding in 1921, the CCP has invested considerable resources to isolate its perceived enemies and has lobbied waverers to support it.

The resulting party-state’s governing approach is thus a two-pronged process of simultaneous co-optation and coercion, where proverbial carrots and sticks are applied to suppress any political opposition to party-state rule. In the case of CCP rule in mainland China, the party-state has tried to win over waverers by adopting a “rule by bribery” approach. Those unwilling to align themselves with the party-state have been at the receiving end of a “rule by fear” approach.

In order to protect its monopoly on power, the CCP has gone to great lengths to suppress any potential challenges to system, the continued use of labor camps and camps, the use of mainland China’s to lock up dissidents, and the rise of alliances between local governments and organized crime, forming local mafia states and the resulting known as “thugs for hire.” It is highly concerning that on mainland China’s periphery, the CCP appears to have the rent-a-mob tactic to disrupt the democratic political process in Hong Kong and Taiwan, too.

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