The publication of a critical opinion piece about Xi Jinping in a Singapore newspaper caught the attention of Weibo users, who secretly praised it.
“The article, titled ‘The Root Cause of China’s Economic Issues Lies in Politics,’ was written by businessman and writer Lew Mon-hung, a former member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference who was previously pro-China. In it, he blames Xi Jinping, the cult of personality surrounding him, and the Party’s failure to implement political reform, specifically democratization, for China’s current economic struggles. While this type of criticism may not have caused much of a stir if published in most overseas Chinese-language media outlets, it was particularly notable as it appeared in Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore’s main Chinese-language newspaper known for its pro-China stance. According to a recent investigation by The Washington Post and The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Lianhe Zaobao has been known to promote false claims from Beijing and regularly features opinion pieces from current Party officials without disclosing their affiliations. Although Lianhe Zaobao is one of the few foreign Chinese-language news sites accessible within China, its editors have acknowledged censoring content on their mainland-version site. The publication of this opinion piece marks a significant departure from the paper’s usual editorial stance. However, it is not the first time that Lianhe Zaobao has published essays by Lew Mon-hung criticizing China. In recent years, he has also written about his opposition to the now-abandoned zero-COVID policy and disillusionment with excessive politicization. By May 2022, he had become a vocal critic of China’s continued support for Russia despite the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Considering the fact that Moscow attacked Kyiv instead of the other way around, we must take a firm stance and recognize Russia as the aggressor. We must denounce their invasion and distance ourselves from them. Only then can we strive towards peace and progress, and avoid the consequences of being sanctioned and isolated by the global community. Failure to do so will render phrases such as “Reform and Opening,” “The Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation,” and “The Chinese Dream” meaningless. A nation that has lost its principles will undoubtedly be looked down upon and rejected by the international community – it is a nation without a future. [Chinese]
Lew’s recent article for Lianhe Zaobao is notable for its strong language and direct criticisms, which is unusual for both the author and the publication. The article includes headings such as “The Importance of Sino-American Friendship for Economic Growth” and “Absolute Power Without Checks Leads to Corruption,” and calls out Xi Jinping’s economic program for its “socialist fundamentalism.” Lew argues that the decision to pursue a zero-COVID approach was a major political mistake on par with the Cultural Revolution, and warns that more upheavals are likely unless the Chinese Communist Party takes immediate steps towards democratization and protecting freedom of speech. CDT has translated key excerpts from Lew’s essay.
A significant factor contributing to the recent economic decline is the violation of the Second Resolution on History, which prohibits any form of personality cult. This has been advocated by individuals who believe that absolute loyalty is the only acceptable form and have elevated one position to the highest authority, ultimately exacerbating the issue of a personality cult.
The past three years of the COVID-19 pandemic serve as a prime example. The issue became highly politicized, overshadowing scientific discussions about public health policies. The adoption of the unscientific motto “unswervingly persist in zero-COVID” and the subsequent lockdowns of cities, highways, and borders, along with the suspension of work and economic activity, had a greater impact than the actual virus. This also led to severe violations of people’s rights, personal freedoms, and dignity, including their right to residency and private property. The consequences were devastating for industrial production and supply chains in China, ranking as the third largest crisis in modern Chinese history after the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. The economic losses were significant, civil liberties were eroded, and the government’s credibility suffered greatly, with no clear end in sight for the disaster.
The current downturn of China’s previously thriving economy is a result of the government’s fragmented approach to economic change and inability to implement political reform.
Attempting to preserve the Chinese Communist Party’s control by reverting back to the pre-Reform and Opening era of socialist ideology, or even worse, the class struggle and cult of personality that characterized Mao’s Cultural Revolution, will only exacerbate the social conflicts caused by outdated Stalinist political systems. This has prompted cautious entrepreneurs to leave and discouraged foreign investors from engaging in risky business ventures, leading to a decline in China’s production, supply chains, and flow of capital. As a result, the Chinese economy has suffered structural collapse, weakening the Communist Party’s grip on power.
At his last media briefing before leaving office, ex-Premier Wen Jiabao delivered a serious message: “Without effective political reform, complete economic restructuring is not achievable and the progress we have achieved could be reversed … past calamities like the Cultural Revolution could occur once more.” Unchecked and unrestricted authority is the most extreme form of corruption. It is the underlying reason for corruption in various fields such as government bureaucracy, military, legal system, foreign aid, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, education, and engineering.
The prescription is simple: political reform, including the implementation of constitutional democracy, universal suffrage and elections, required financial disclosures for all government officials, judicial independence, and guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of the press to foster public oversight of the government. This is the only way to ensure rapid, high-quality economic growth. [Chinese]
The essay created a buzz in China. On Weibo, one user commented, “Lew Mon-hung’s essay against the Party is worth reading.” Another user said, “That Lew Mon-hung essay was very direct, haha.” Others hinted at the essay by saying, “I recommend a good essay from Lianhe Zaobao, August 21, 2023. Author: Lew Mon-hung” and “That Lianhe Zaobao essay 👍.” Another Weibo user stated, “The Lianhe Zaobao essay truly grasps the essence of China and its necessary solution.” All of these comments were censored, along with screenshots of Liu’s essay. Lianhe Zaobao was also blocked on Weibo. Searches for the publication only showed results from “Blue V” accounts affiliated with the Party-state.