New Internationalist


‘The ordinary people, farmers and workers, like Xi Jinping, even if he’s done nothing really to improve daily life, because they hate these corrupt officials’

A Ferrari – coloured a revolutionary red – prowled through downtown Toronto. The engine made a patriotic roar. In Vancouver, a black supercar sported the national flag of the People’s Republic on its hood. Aston Martins, McLarens and Porsches proceeded through the streets of both cities in an organized convoy. A Mercedes-Benz in a disabled parking space played the Chinese national anthem at full volume.

This protest, which took place in August, was a show of force from Canada’s Chinese expats. The cause? Supporting Beijing during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy street movement. The upper-class diaspora, many of whom moved to Canada as part of a now-shelved immigration programme to attract ‘immigrant investors’ in the 2000s, was demonstrating its commitment to the territorial integrity of ‘Greater China’: ‘Love China. Love Hong Kong. No Secession. No Riot/Violence’ adorned the placards outside the Chinese consulate in Vancouver.

The irony is that many of these wealthy expats settled in Canada to escape the Chinese government’s capital controls and park their money in lucrative property on the other side of the Pacific. But ironies and contradictions are everywhere you look in China at this moment in the early 21st century – or what one day might simply be called the Chinese century.

China in revolt

The violent clashes in Hong Kong between protesters, the police and pro-government goons provided some of the most arresting images of the year. In the Chinese-administered territory, the failure to make good on promises of universal suffrage or deal with economic inequality generated a potent and leaderless social movement: ‘7k for a house like a cell and you really think we out here scared of jail?’, went one spray-painted slogan. But the Hong Kong crisis is also just one of many social, political and economic fractures running through the People’s Republic as it settles into the role of world superpower.

There was what scholar Leta Hong Fincher calls the ‘feminist awakening’ of the mid-2010s, when five activists were arrested ahead of International Women’s Day for organizing against sexual harassment. Under the ‘hypermasculine personality cult’ of President Xi Jinping, Chinese feminists have been struggling against patriarchal attitudes in public and the workplace, as Fincher documents in her book Betraying Big Brother.

Then, in 2018, there was a clampdown on students from several

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