China after the Communist Party?

Something that has never, or at least seldom, been heard is currently echoing on China’s streets. “Down with Xi Jinping, down with the Communist Party,” chanted hundreds of demonstrators, perhaps more, openly and apparently without fear of the omnipresent surveillance and repression, in Shanghai and many other cities on the last weekend of November. The protests against the brutal zero-Covid policy of the CCP still seem manageable for the Communist Party. But they must ring the alarm for the autocratic leadership around Secretary General Xi Jinping. After all, what if the voices of the brave few multiply and Xi and the Communist Party can no longer hold on to power? An unlikely, even unreal, scenario given how accustomed we have become—or are meant to become—to the omnipotence of the Communist Party.

But as in the case of Russia, entrenched assumptions can be proven wrong, and as in the case of Russia—and many are already doing so—we must grapple with the question of what comes after the autocrat. Will a peaceful transformation of China be possible—and what role will the many peoples colonized by Beijing, the Tibetans, the Uyghurs, the Mongols, play in this? Are there blueprints, ideas, suggestions for a way out of a potentially explosive situation?

The current protests should give reason to think about this as well, they may even force one to do so. And one would get answers and leads right away. There is the Charter 08 by the late Liu Xiaobo, and there are the Tibetans who have made many constructive suggestions as to what peaceful coexistence could look like. The 1987 Five Point Peace Plan, the 2008 Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People and the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach. And these proposals do not only refer to Tibet but could be an inspiration for a fair balance of interests between all parties involved. China policy and strategy development should deal intensively with these scenarios. We have to think the unthinkable.

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Kai Mueller

Before joining the International Campaign for Tibet in 2005 as Executive Director in Germany, Kai Mueller served on the board of Amnesty International Germany and worked as research associate in the German parliament. He heads the Berlin office of ICT. Since 2015, he also coordinates ICT's United Nations initiatives.