Nan Qiao: Xi Won’t Dare Celebrate With the People
Ahead of a massive military parade to commemorate the defeat of Japanese forces and the end of World War II in Beijing, a security crackdown was part of preparatory measures enacted in the capital city. As anonymous military insiders talk of Xi Jinping’s soon-to-be-unveiled military reform package that could turn the PLA into a modern military force with global reach, commentary published by EastNet (东网) compares Thursday’s military parade to a 1934 Nazi parade. CDT translates the appraisal, which highlights current domestic political tension and China’s ostentatious display of military might. The essay was originally posted under the pen name Nan Qiao (南桥):
Nan Qiao: He Won’t Dare Celebrate the Military Parade With the People
As the day of the military parade draws closer, a strange sort of anxiety thickens in the air. Neither the explosions in Tianjin nor the stock market crash have shaken the resolve of the highest authorities to go through with this parade. The official media has begun its propaganda. This propaganda is similar to the pageantry leading up to the 2008 Olympics, only this time I’m afraid it isn’t having the same effect. The people are already a little tired. They know their lives will go back to the old grind as soon as all the excitement is over. The nation’s banquet is not a joyous occasion for the common man.
Leading up to the parade, blue skies have finally appeared over Beijingers’ heads. Official media has outright called this “military parade blue.” This comes in exchange for the government forcing businesses to cease operations, limiting car journeys, and even sealing cookstoves in the countryside. For now, there’s no smog. All this is so that on that day, for the few dozen minutes of the parade, the sky over Tiananmen is blue. But you don’t need too much brains to imagine that this “military parade blue,” like “Olympic blue” and “APEC blue,” is rather disgraceful—yet another reminder to the international community and to the Chinese that China’s environmental pollution is the product of decades of development at any cost.
What concerns the authorities organizing the parade even more is stability maintenance. Isn’t China now the world’s largest economy? Isn’t it the strongest country? Perhaps there are other ways to measure it, but China does have the world’s largest stability maintenance police force, most extensive surveillance system, most complete censorship of the Internet, strongest control over public opinion, most expensive domestic security—and evidently there are no objections to all this. On one occasion, Xi Jinping gave us some puzzling pronouncements. He spoke on the one hand of “seven don’t mentions,” and he won’t touch constitutional governance or judicial independence; and on the other hand, he waxes poetic on rule of law and the constitution. This filled a lot of good people with hope. Who knows if Xi will gradually move towards more enlightened political calculations, but right now no one harbors hope for it. Secretary-General Xi is “headstrong.” He’s headstrong when he strikes tigers. He’s even more headstrong when he strikes down rights defense lawyers and petitioners. Of course he knows while doing this that underneath the shining veneer built by his propaganda department trouble runs rampant.
Before the parade, the emperor declared an amnesty. History dictates that this is the time for commoners to kowtow three times and cheer, “Long live the emperor!” But now, the commoners take in this news with indifference. Everyone knows that you won’t release the Nobel Peace Prize winner, and you won’t release the 70-year-old female journalist. You’re still tearing down crosses from churches. That very same night, you detained more rights defense lawyers.
And so, while no cost is spared to manufacture military parade blue, the pressure of stability maintenance and security makes a mess of the capital. There’s evidence posted online on the frontier ethnic minorities have to apply for approval to purchase a kitchen knife. At the same time, Xi gave a lengthy speech at the Sixth Tibet Work Forum, the highest-profile meeting of its kind, with the usual big words and empty talk. The speech once again proves the Chinese government has no choice but to acknowledge dissatisfaction and suffering in ethnic minority regions, while also driving home the government’s refusal to reform despite the tense political situation.
The story from Beijing is that there’s a big sweep going on before the parade. Dissidents are either being monitored, or sent away to “travel,” or monitored by police while they “travel.” Petitioners have been rounded up and sent back to their villages. The city is full of red armbands. At the slightest provocation, you’ll be asked to produce your identity card. They’re worried about imagined threats. Cars need a capital entry permit to drive into Beijing. Without one, you can’t even pump gas. Thus we see people on the highway pushing their cars step by step out of the city.
What China’s military parade has inherited is the aesthetic of Nazi Germany—that is to say, the aesthetic of fascism. The keywords of this aesthetic are power, victory, will of the leaders, collectivism, loyalty, staunchness, and indifference. The way this aesthetic is achieved is actually quite simple, yet clumsy: through repetition and order. Using a great mass of trivial, faceless individuals to replicate a simple time and space, using repetition to create the appearance of a grand space, this is how “the power to awe” is obtained. The fascist aesthetic is a collective aesthetic. It doesn’t acknowledge the individual, let alone the free will, the existence and life of the individual. The Chinese people passed the test of the fascist aesthetic with the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics. While creating that scene, director Zhang Yimou achieved the very core of this aesthetic, just as he did in the “Curse of the Golden Flower.”Repeat, repeat, repeat, until you turn a pile of garbage into a golden flower. In the future, people will see that the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics is in the same vein as the opening ceremony of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Chinese could not have learned the style of the opening ceremonies in London or Atlanta, with their spirit of celebration. Even if they wanted to learn it, they would learn it wrong.
Hitler came to power in 1933, and in 1934 held a military parade in the style of a coronation. Aesthetically, China’s military parade won’t surpass Hitler’s. But, when Hitler had his parade, when the troops marched in the streets of Berlin, Hitler was in the streets reviewing the troops, and each street side was crowded with people, while faces filled the windows of houses along the avenues. At least Hitler thought to bring the people together in celebration. It’s not that Xi Jinping doesn’t want to bring the people together, it’s just that he doesn’t dare to celebrate with them. Businesses and homes along the parade route in Beijing have already been notified to vacate the premises during the parade. Forget about watching from the windows.
China’s military parade will be the only one in the world without a live audience. Aside from Xi Jinping and other leaders gazing from inside Tiananmen several hundred meters away, and the pupils of Riefenstahl filming the whole thing, that majestic, immense, perfectly calibrated, overwhelming, unstoppable, robotic square of soldiers will have not a single person watching them.
China’s parade is a study of fascism, but it can’t beat a fascist parade. [Source]
Translation by Anne Henochowicz.