John Naughton: How Xi Jinping became a networked authoritarian thanks to his little red app | John Naughton

The Chinese president has taken surveillance of his citizens to unprecedented and chilling levels

We need to update Marx’s famous aphorism that “history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”. Version 2.0 reads: history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as an app. Readers with long memories will remember Mao Zedong, the chairman (for life) of the Chinese Communist party who, in 1966, launched his Cultural Revolution to preserve Chinese communism by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society and reimposing his ideas (aka Maoism) as the dominant ideology within the party. One propaganda aid devised for this purpose was a little red book, printed in the hundreds of millions, entitled Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-tung.

The “revolution” unleashed chaos in China: millions of citizens were persecuted, suffering outrageous abuses including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, hard labour, sustained harassment, seizure of property and worse. A significant proportion of the population was forcibly displaced, especially young urban dwellers who were dispatched to the countryside to do manual labour and be “re-educated”.

Xi Jinping aspires, like Mao before him, to immerse citizens in his political philosophy

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