Unsettling news has emerged from China. The country’s leader, Xi Jinping, changed China’s constitution. This will firm up his hold on near absolute power. It lets him stay in office for life. The country has also imposed some bizarre new forms of censorship on citizens. So The Stream decided to interview the leading American, Christian expert on China, Steven Mosher. He is author of the powerful new book on that country, Bully of Asia.
You’ve read the strange, alarming story about the latest changes in China. Before we get into the important stuff, what’s with banning the letter “n”?
Stephen Mosher: China’s internet censors are becoming more aggressive by the day. For example, the Winnie the Pooh meme is banned in China. Why? Because Xi Jinping’s stout figure bears a passing resemblance to the portly bear. It’s used to mock him.
But why in the world ban the letter “N”? The answer lies in Chinese algebra. The letter “N” represents an unknown variable. Where we in West use “X,” the Chinese use “N.” When the Chinese Communist Party secretly eliminated the two-term limit for president, the equation “N = ?” (N equals what?) became popular overnight. It meant, “How many terms is Xi Jinping going to serve?” The censors were not happy.
The Chinese people could not be allowed to directly criticize President Xi’s plan to stay in power forever. Not even indirectly by sending the letter “N” to each other. That subtly suggests that they oppose an indefinite number of five-year terms for Xi. The ever-alert censors quickly banned the letter “N” from all electronic communications.
No criticism of the new Red Emperor, however subtle, is allowed.
Dictator for Life
In your book, Bully of Asia, you talked about Xi Jinping. Especially his efforts to consolidate his one-man, strongman rule. Can you recount these latest developments in light of what they mean?
In today’s China, Xi Jinping is Mr. Everything. President is the least of his titles. He is also the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. And, most importantly, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission. He often puts on a military uniform. He struts around as Generalissimo Xi, directly overseeing military maneuvers.
Xi is now, I would argue, as powerful as the late Chairman Mao Zedong at his height. President Xi has even moved into Mao’s old palace in the Zhongnanhai leadership compound. This had been converted into a museum upon Mao’s death in 1976. The message is unmistakable.
Read more at The Stream.