The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission warns that a Ukraine-style anti-Party “color revolution” may erupt in Chinese cities at all time.
by Hu Zimo
With citizens in Shanghai and elsewhere increasingly hostile to the COVID-19 quarantine, the real estate crisis negatively affecting many Chinese, netizens openly ridiculing the official pro-Russian narrative of the war in Ukraine, and continuing protests against the government’s handling of the human trafficking case of the “chained mother of eight” in Jiangsu, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) starts being mightily scared that “color revolutions” may erupt in China as they once did in Eastern Europe. In fact, in the language of Xi Jinping, “color revolution” is a generic term for any popular uprising threatening Russian or Chinese interests in any country.
On March 31 the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the CCP, which oversees all public security and law enforcement in China, issued a document analyzing the current political and social situation. Chinese read these documents with some skepticism. The CCP likes to portray the dangers threatening its power as worse than they actually are, to justify more surveillance and repression. However, it cannot be denied that in this text the language indicates a genuine and somewhat new concern.
The document is about urban areas and borrows from Xi Jinping the expression “five types of risk” (五类风险), meaning threats to political security, social security, social conflicts, public security, and network security. Large urban areas, the text says, is where “major risks” are and “major large-scale mass incidents” may suddenly develop.
We are told that we are now in a situation where a “political and security risk” may manifest in large cities, threatening the very existence of the CCP. “Infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces” are already at work. The enemy is identified as “overseas anti-China forces” that “instigate color revolutions through ‘street politics.’” Conversely, for the CCP “the prevention of ‘color revolutions’ must always be the top priority.”
This is becoming difficult, the text says, because “at present, the situation around our country is becoming more and more complicated.” “Riots” are possible, and “stability is at risk.”
As Marxists, the CCP leaders know that the first battlefield is ideological. “Overseas hostile forces continue to hype social hot issues and stir up negative emotions. It is necessary to strengthen the management and construction of ideological positions in the cities, and effectively maintain ideological security.”
Security is also medicalized, and the document directs the cities to “timely detect people who are frustrated in life, mentally unbalanced, and behave abnormally, and intervene immediately and effectively.”
The second and third of the “five risks” threaten social stability. “Social conflicts may evolve into a major risk. It is necessary to further improve the ability to prevent and resolve various social conflicts.” City authorities should keep protests connected with the real estate crisis and the COVID-19 lockdowns in check. “It is necessary to prevent and resolve epidemic-related conflicts as an important task of current social governance in the cities.” If somebody is “spreading rumors” or rejecting the government’s instructions, “the crackdown should be resolute.”
The fourth risk concerns public security. Apart from major disasters such as the crash of a China Eastern Boeing last month, to which Xi Jinping devoted a meeting of the top leaders of the country, unrest is also caused by an alarming rise of traffic accidents, a serious concern for many citizens. “It is necessary, the document says, to systematically control the chaos of electric bicycles, the brutal driving of construction vehicles, and drunk driving. It is necessary to promote the construction of road traffic safety facilities, strengthen the investigation and removal of hidden dangers of roads and bridges, and improve the level of safety protection.”
The fifth risk, threatening network security, is something Xi Jinping continuously talk about. It is the problem of social media “full of fraudulent, fake, defamatory, and vulgar content,” sometimes openly criticizing the Party, as it happens with the official interpretation of the Ukraine crisis and the case of the “chained mother of eight.” It seems, the document says, that calls on “resolute crackdowns” by the President himself have not been answered by the quick and merciless action that was needed.
This situation, the document warns, is very serious. The “color revolutions” in other countries prove that online criticism eventually degenerates into offline revolt.
As mentioned earlier, it is well possible that this alarmist analysis of the situation in China exaggerates risks to justify current and future regulations introducing more repression. But it is also possible that intelligence and police reports tell the CCP leaders that the combination of different crises—real estate, COVID-19, human trafficking, Ukraine—is creating a volatile cocktail that may one day explode.