If Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons in Russia’s war on Ukraine isn’t worrisome enough, Communist Party-controlled China is entering what President Xi Jinping calls his ‘new era’. – one that promises to pose a direct threat to the values ​​and freedoms of the United States and the world, including the Holy See.

At the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China last week, Xi consolidated his power with an unprecedented third term as CCP leader and purged the party of its most moderate leaders. He announced his firm resolve for a “centralized and unified party leadership” of all sectors in China and the governance of the CCP as a competitive global model. Xi intends to replace the US-led world order established after World War II on the principles of state sovereignty, freedom and non-aggression. Experts report that Xi is preparing China for a confrontation with the West, which he says is increasingly likely.

In his two-hour keynote address to the congress, Xi pledged to redouble his efforts on “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” a term and political system he tirelessly champions culturally, as well as politically. and economical, for all areas in China. It is an ideology that combines communism and Chinese nationalism.

“Marxism is the fundamental guiding ideology on which our party and our country are founded and prosper,” Xi said at the congress, and, amply acknowledging that Marxism has been adapted to the needs of modern China, he added: “Marxism works. “In fact, it is a system that ruthlessly denies individual freedoms of speech and religion, as well as a long list of other basic human rights.

The US State Department first recognized the threat of the new era under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This has been underscored by China’s lack of transparency and brutality in its response to the pandemic.

China is now identified as the United States’ only real geopolitical rival in the Biden administration’s US National Security Strategy Report, released on October 12. The report makes the chilling conclusion that China is “the only contender intent on both reshaping the order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to advance that goal.

However, this report detailing the US determination to strengthen national security does not reflect the determination needed to counter Xi’s ideological war. It makes no mention of specific competition on the basis of freedom of speech and expression, religion and conscience. It is the fundamental rights that underpin our liberal democratic order, which clearly distinguish our system from the coercive dictatorship of the CCP.

How strong is the political commitment of the United States to defending these rights, whether domestically or internationally? Will these rights be eclipsed by interests in climate change, investment and trade, and a waning culture of national cancellation?

The Vatican also represents a moral voice on the world stage, but in the interest of advancing diplomacy, it did not want to use it against the CCP. It remains silent in the face of credible evidence of the CCP’s genocide against Uyghur Muslims, the crushing of civil society in Hong Kong, the practice of forced abortions, sterilizations and organ harvesting, and many other injustices. horrible. He censures himself on the ongoing persecution of eight Chinese bishops who hold papal office. These include Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, of Hong Kong, whose politically transparent trial is due to resume this week; Hebei Bishop Julius Jia, a resister against the CCP’s directive to prevent children from learning Christianity; Henan Bishop Joseph Zhang, who ran a Catholic seminary without CCP approval; and the Bishop of Zhejiang, Peter Shao, who resists CCP indoctrination (the last three are held incommunicado).

The Vatican is even tolerating the CCP’s misrepresentation of the still-secret content of the agreement, making the Catholic underground believe that the Pope wants them to join the “patriotic” associations controlled by the party’s united front and promise “the ‘independence’ from papal teaching.

On Saturday, the day of the closing session of the CCP Congress from which Xi emerged newly invested with power, the Vatican announced the second renewal of its agreement with Beijing on the appointment of Catholic bishops. He no longer announces it as “historic” as when he first signed in 2018 because he is abysmally disappointing.

A third of Chinese dioceses still lack bishops, while in four years only six bishops have received new appointments. Despite this, Pope Francis proceeded with the renewal because he sees it as the diplomatic “art of the possible” as he explained to Reuters last July.

Xi, on the other hand, no doubt sees the agreement as a tool for the party “to provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt to socialist society”, a goal he stated in his speech to the congress. It may advance the CCP’s repressive “Sinicization” policy against Chinese religious communities that began in earnest in 2018, removing church crosses, replacing church images of Jesus with Xi’s portrait, and demanding that all sermons focus on Xi’s thought. Children are now banned from churches and Bible texts are reinterpreted to suit CCP propaganda.

The Bishop of Mindong, Vincent Zhan Silu, whose excommunication was lifted by Pope Francis for the deal, demonstrated the required party fervor of the new era when he led dozens of diocesan priests to a “ training course” at the Central Institute of Socialism with the local CCP United Front, saying, “To carry out the sinicization of religion with determination, we will continue to follow a path consistent with socialist society.”

Last June, another, the bishop of Sichuan, Paul Lei, used the solemnity of the saints. Peter and Paul at his cathedral to celebrate CCP’s anniversary, urging Catholic community “to listen to the word of the party, to feel the grace of the party and to follow the party”.

High-profile Chinese figures can no longer speak freely, as Cardinal Zen did in Hong Kong two years ago. High-tech government surveillance is keeping a close eye on civil society. Dissent and expression against CCP propaganda is strictly prohibited. The whole world saw it at the start of the pandemic when Dr. Li Wenliang first revealed the existence of the COVID-19 virus and was quickly censured, punished and forced to apologize, despite having continued to give interviews from his hospital bed, before himself. dying of the disease.

Millions more people who express dissent or practice a religion outside of CCP controls are being punished in the dark, with no free media or internet, and no transparent detention system. These include national human rights reporters, defense lawyers, journalists, bloggers, religious and ethnic minorities, and ordinary critics of party politics.

More than 1,000 pro-democracy protesters are believed to be currently jailed in Hong Kong, including independent media tycoon Jimmy Lai. Some prominent dissidents are being preemptively clamped down on, such as religious freedom lawyer Xie Yang and free speech advocate Yang Maodong, who were arrested for ‘inciting subversion’ ahead of the Olympics from last winter.

Meanwhile, Chinese dissidents based outside of China are being kidnapped or forced back to China by the CCP to be punished or silenced. According to a September report by Spanish NGO Safeguard Defenders, Beijing ‘persuaded’ a staggering 230,000 Chinese nationals, between April 2021 and July 2022 – not all of whom are fugitive criminals and many of whom are undoubtedly critics of the regime – to return under government police operations Fox Hunt and Sky Net. Beijing is also issuing international arrest alerts through the international police agency Interpol to extradite Uyghurs fleeing the genocide.

The CCP’s crackdown on Chinese dissidents is happening even in the West. In mid-October, a Hong Kong protester in Manchester, England, was filmed being tackled and beaten by Chinese consular staff. On October 20, the US Department of Justice charged six people with conspiring to act as CCP agents in a “year-long harassment campaign to coerce a US resident to return to China.” (This is not the only such case.)

Last December, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels warned of an “atmosphere of intimidation” aimed at Chinese Purdue students who criticized Beijing and banned attempts to deny student rights or ” collusion with foreign governments to suppress them”. Academic centers infiltrated or established by the CCP, sometimes referred to as “Confucius Institutes,” have also been known to intimidate Chinese students in the United States.

Xi’s vision of a new era for the CCP involves an ideological war. Like a chapter of Orwell or Huxley, Beijing goes to great lengths to hide the dark side of its dystopian political system. The United States and the Vatican must lead the way in exposing the CCP’s atrocities, speak out for Chinese people who cannot, and resolutely uphold freedom of speech and religious freedom as essential principles for human rights. man and dignity. It is a competition that must be won for the good of humanity.

Nina Shea is the director of the Hudson Institute Center for Religious Liberty.