Last week, China’s Shekou Museum of Reform and Opening was reopened to the public after closing for two months to undergo renovations. The state-run museum, which commemorates China’s vast economic reforms that transformed the country into a global economic powerhouse, originally greeted visitors at its entrance with a sculpture of the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Xiaoping, who led China through the ‘80s, is widely credited as overseeing China’s economic reforms nearly 40 years ago. However, upon the museum’s reopening, the Xiaoping sculpture had been replaced with a display of Xi Jinping, the current president of China. Nearby exhibits also touted President Xi’s economic background, falsely implying that Xi was responsible for the policies that propelled China to prosperity. Other state museums, such as the National Art Museum, have also begun work to incorporate President Xi into their exhibits to coincide with the reform’s 40th anniversary.
In George Orwell’s renowned dystopian novel “1984,” the ruling party’s slogan is “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” In light of the blatant attempt by President Xi to rewrite history for his own benefit, Orwell’s quote has never been more relevant than it is today. In an effort to boost his public approval and consolidate power, Xi has made the past relative and the state’s will absolute. Unfortunately, President Xi’s perversion of reality is just another step in his increasingly dictatorial presidency. Xi recently abolished presidential term limits, attempted to censor the internet and essentially outlawed criticism of his political party. Perhaps most concerning is China’s development of a “Social Credit Score” system, which uses surveillance cameras nationwide to score its citizens based on their behavior and loyalty to the state. Freedom of expression is basically nonexistent in China as well; the World Press Freedom Index ranks it 176th out of 180 countries in regards to press freedom and describes China as “the planet’s leading censor and press freedom predator.” The rights of Chinese citizens are being systematically dismantled before our very eyes while President Xi consolidates his power, eliminates political opposition and rewrites the past. It is clear and undeniable that China is on the pathway to authoritarianism.
This growing threat to human liberty should serve as a wake-up call to America and the rest of the civilized world. Western values are founded upon the belief of individual liberty, freedom and equality — none of which have a home in President Xi’s China. The actions of Xi’s administration endangers man’s God-given rights and everything we hold dear. Its attempt to censor, impose and control are inhumane and stand in sharp contrast to American principles. Americans should be concerned not only by China’s authoritarian tendencies but also about the spread of that same “big government” ideology here at home. Recently, there has been a sizable movement for increased governmental control in America. Federal officials have begun calling for government-run healthcare, censorship on social media and even a dismantling of capitalism. While some policies might sound appealing on a superficial level, it is important to remember what made America great and launched the world into unprecedented prosperity: Individual liberty, limited government and open markets. Whether it comes from China, the Middle East or even America, it is our moral duty to oppose the evil, anti-democratic and un-American ideology of big government.
Wright Ricketts is a senior banking and finance and managerial finance double major from Memphis.