Despite Beijing's efforts, #MeToo arrives in China

A tenista chinesa Peng Shuai
The case of tennis player Peng Shuai shows that China is far from being the “exemplary society” touted by the lifetime dictator Xi Jinping.| Photo: Francis Malasig/EFE/EPA

How sorry for the dictators . It is increasingly difficult for them to rule through terror, force people to believe in their legitimacy and impose their unique ideology. Despite all the technology they have at their disposal—virtual espionage, social media censorship, facial recognition programs—people no longer believe in them.

In places where it is too dangerous to protest, people resort to irony. Even in the Soviet Union, popular humor has always been the people’s way of laughing at their despots and their tyrannical pretensions. Whatever the obstacles, the truth comes out – whether in yesterday’s Iron Curtain or today’s Great Firewall. As proof, I present the fact that the #MeToo movement came to China from Xi Jinping, a country that should have been hermetically sealed to Western influences.

The big issue mobilizing Chinese public opinion these days, through parallel networks and word-of-mouth that bypass the official press, is not Xi declaring herself her own successor, but Peng Shuai’s denunciation that Zhang Gaoli raped her. Who they are Peng Shuai and

Zhang Gaoli? Peng is a world famous tennis player – the best and most popular Chinese tennis player. Zhang is a former high-ranking member of the Communist Party and former deputy prime minister.

Peng accused Zhang of having raped her several times, with the complicity of his wife, who locked the door for him. Such crimes were common in old China and also among the Communist Party elite: Xi himself expelled several Communist personalities for “corruption and debauchery”. And no one was more “debauched” than Mao Tse-tung: he deflowered young virgins and spent his days in bed.

What’s new in the Peng Shuai case is the fact that, for the first time, the victim speaks out openly and accuses one of the most powerful men in China. More than that, she asked all victims to expose the rapists and stalkers. The #MeToo movement has indeed arrived in China, despite the Communist Party’s efforts to prevent the country from being contaminated by Western ideas.

Remember that when the #MeToo movement emerged in the United States, after the escapades of Harvey Weinstein and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the official Chinese media said that this kind of debauchery could only happen in capitalist countries, as China remained pure, with women equal to men. But that claim was never credible in China; the sexual habits of Mao and his successors were known to the Chinese. It is also clear that there are no women in important political positions in China. But no one expected Peng to do what she dared to do. She was undoubtedly influenced by the #MeToo movement (like all of patriarchal Asia, from South Korea to Japan) and considered herself relatively protected as a national icon.

Seriously, a dictator doesn’t really have rest. Peng will likely be spared (although she hasn’t been seen in public for some time) and Zhang will end his days in prison or in a forced labor camp. Xi has no choice. But this case, which has undoubtedly set a precedent, will not help China in its effort to pass itself off as an exemplary society.

The image of the Communist Party is already frayed: in just two years, we have witnessed the worldwide disaster of Covid-19, which began in Wuhan; the conquest of Hong Kong; the threats to Taiwan; war games in the Pacific; the arrest and extermination of Uighurs; the increase in censorship; a president declaring himself dictator for life; aggressions against India; the resolute support for North Korean totalitarianism — and so on.

After nine years of absolute power, Xi destroyed the “Chinese model”. Maoism was an export ideology (regardless as it was), whereas today’s China has nothing to export other than material goods.

The century 21 will not be Chinese. What a pity for China and its people – as this was once a great civilization whose destruction began with Mao’s military conquest of the state. What was left of her is being destroyed by power-hungry men. Curious that the revolution started with a woman.

Guy Sorman is a French intellectual, editor of City Journal and author of several books.

© 21162205 City Journal. Published with permission. Original in English21162205

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