Excerpt from We Have Been Harmonized by Kai Strittmatter, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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We Have Been Harmonized

Life in China's Surveillance State

by Kai Strittmatter

We Have Been Harmonized by Kai  Strittmatter X
We Have Been Harmonized by Kai  Strittmatter
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2020, 368 pages

    Oct 2021, 320 pages


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Xi Jinping has promised his people and the world a "new age"—and he is certainly building a new China. Both the Chinese people and the world at large have good reason to be nervous. Where Deng Xiaoping prescribed pragmatism, Xi Jinping has returned to revering ideology: he preaches Marx and practices Lenin with a force and dogmatism not seen for many years—and because he senses that Marx no longer speaks to many people, he has added Confucius and a fierce nationalism into the mix. Where Deng preached opening up and curiosity, Xi is sealing China off again.

Not that Xi is trying to force something on his party that goes against the grain. The opposite, in fact: he is fulfilling its most hidden desires with speed and precision. Until recently, more than a few Party cadres* were secretly asking themselves: what is it still good for, the Party—a vehicle for a long-dead ideology from a long-dead age, almost a hundred years old? But where the Party was starting to smell of decay, Xi gave it new strength and discipline; where it was stagnant and directionless, he breathed a new purpose into it. It thanked him by elevating him into the pantheon of its greatest thinkers during his own lifetime, and endowing him with almost unprecedented power.

Xi is now reminding everyone that this country was once conquered by the Party in a civil war. China itself was the Party's spoils of victory. In China, the army still belongs to the Party rather than the state. The state, too, belongs to the Party. And the Party—well, that seems to belong to him, now. It submits to the man who has given it a sense of purpose, and who is turning a one-party dictatorship back into a one-man dictatorship.

The Party calls Xi "the savior of socialism"—by which it really means "the savior of our power." The fate of the Soviet Union seems to trouble Xi deeply. He is quoted as saying that "what they lacked was a real man!" Not China, though. China has him now: Xi Jinping. For life. Today, hardly anyone is still prophesying the impending collapse of this system, and the Party can once again afford to think long-term. The year 2024 will be an epochal year for the Party. At that point, it will have overtaken the CPSU, its failed Soviet Union sister party, and the Chinese Communist Party will have become the longest-reigning Communist Party in history.

In Xi Jinping's China, this is no longer the case. He has brought unorthodox movements to a standstill. Xi the taskmaster is setting out to prove that an autocracy is better suited to making a country like China great and powerful; that the realization of his "China dream" requires a strong Party dictatorship. Xi is dispensing with the premises of Deng Xiaoping's policy of reform and opening-up; his China is no longer a state where everything is subordinate to economic success. Now, political control is at the heart of things. His Party is no longer one that devolves tasks to the state, to companies, to civil society, to the media, all of which have fought to carve out their own small freedoms. Xi has snuffed out those freedoms once again. During a single term in office, he has managed to get an iron grip on a nervous Communist Party stricken by a mood of crisis. He took on a diverse, lively, sometimes insubordinate society and did everything in his power to "harmonize" it, as they say in China, stifling the voices of those who think differently and subordinating every last corner of society to the command of the Party. Xi, who claims to be incorruptible, is cleansing the country and the Party, including its ideology. He wants every last speck of land in China to be under his watchful gaze. Under Xi, the Party is becoming more godlike than it has ever been before.

Events on the edges of the Chinese "empire" have accelerated the new intransigence and addiction to control. In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of residents, fearing the permanent loss of their liberties, have taken to the streets. In Xinjiang, the party's abduction and indoctrination of probably more than a million Muslim Uighurs in a network of re-education camps is the largest internment of an ethnic-religious minority since the Nazi era. In China itself, the planned reprogramming of a people is evoking memories of the Cultural Revolution.

Excerpted from We Have Been Harmonized by Kai Strittmatter. Copyright © 2020 by Kai Strittmatter. Excerpted by permission of Custom House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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