Following China’s banner week of soft-power diplomacy, it is easy to read too much into that shift away from Beijing’s usual confrontational approach. But China’s authoritarian government is very much continuing with business as usual.For one thing, President Xi Jinping is still keeping up with, if not accelerating, a massive party purge designed to thin the ranks of power at the top (and maximize his own). China’s leader is still hunting “tigers” (high-up corrupt officials) and “flies” (small fry). But to that list, we can now apparently add “foxes”—corrupt officials who take their ill-gotten gains abroad. Reuters reports:
China has arrested 288 fugitives suspected of committing economic crimes as part of an aggressive anti-corruption effort aimed at individuals who have fled abroad, the official government news agency Xinhua said.The campaign, dubbed Operation Fox Hunt, included the surrender of 126 suspects, Xinhua said, citing China’s Ministry of Public Security.China has conducted activities in 56 countries, including the United States, Canada, Spain, South Korea, and South Africa, it said, citing Vice Minister of Public Security Liu Jinguo. […]The Chinese government has given overseas graft suspects a deadline of December 1 to surrender, the report said, citing a Ministry of Public Security official. Those who surrender sooner may receive mitigated punishment.
On top of the party purge, China is still rough on dissenters. As the Hong Kong protests roll on and the city works to break them up, Beijing is cracking down hard on supporters of the protests in China proper. The Financial Times has the details:
China has intensified a crackdown on supporters of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations by charging an activist with “inciting subversion” after he posted messages of support for the protests on the internet.Wang Mo, a political activist and construction industry entrepreneur in southern China, could face up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted of the charges, which are regularly used to silence peaceful dissidents and critics of the ruling Communist party.
More than 100 activists across mainland China have been detained for showing support for the Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations since they began on September 26 and at least 33 are still being held, according to Amnesty International.
The news that came out of the APEC conference was heartening, and it signals the emergence of a less confrontational approach in China’s foreign policy. But it’s important to remember that it’s the strategy that changed, not the country.