Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


March 27, 2016

Many people may not be aware of it, but - democracy-wise - things are heating up in China. At its recent plenary meeting, the National People's Congress (the "parliament" of the Communist Party), emphasized "national security" against "domestic subversion." The regime has furthered vowed to act against "infiltration, subversion and sabotage by hostile forces." President Xi Jinping was threatened in an open letter about the direction of the country's reform, and which included a demand for his resignation. Students in Hong Kong have launched a pro-independence party.

Into this mix, we offer the following article, and which has been published simultaneously in both the traditional and simplified Chinese character sets. We will be working to distribute the article into mainland China and Hong Kong.

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By Roland Watson
Dictator Watch
March 2016


Behind the scenes, the Communist Party of China is worried, if not in an actual panic. It has mismanaged both the economy and financial markets. And, it is involved in a never-ending, and escalating, war with the people of the country, who want human rights and democracy. The pressure the communist leaders face will never go away. While for the moment they may have extreme power and wealth, they can never relax.

For the economy, China became the world's factory, but now foreign consumers do not want so many goods. Even worse, the leaders blocked the formation of a middle class (which would normally follow a long period of economic expansion), and which would have created a new source of demand. Their fear: A middle class would insist on democratic change. They can't have that. Instead, they followed the dictator's playbook, and kept the bulk of the population impoverished. The people were able to work in the factories, certainly, but at the wages of a serf.

The principal beneficiaries of the economic activity were the apparatchiks. They were then encouraged to flock to the stock market, with the promise that the Party would keep the prices rising forever. Here, though, the top leaders made a mistake. They manipulated the market (and the broader economy - this is a common pattern in corrupt developing nations) so that, as the largest investors of all, they would pocket astronomical sums. But, in the process they ignored its underlying, and immutable, rules - that greater reward requires greater risk, and that what goes up will come down. Chinese stock prices bubbled up (along with housing prices), and then rapidly deflated. The lower-level apparatchiks lost a large part of the wealth they had accumulated from running the sweatshops, and were saddled with large loans. Now, there is no way to re-inflate the bubbles, or resume legitimate economic growth (the published economic data is dubious if not a complete fantasy); and, to top it off, the currency, the Yuan, is under pressure. A currency reflects a nation's economy. If the latter weakens, the former does as well, and which international speculators - hedge funds - do their best to accelerate. The one thing the communists had going for them, an economic machine, and which replaced the storied "iron rice bowl" and kept the masses pacified, is failing.

The Party fired its head securities regulator, a sacrificial victim - he just did what he was told to do, and is now trying to assure the world - and the Chinese people, that it can prevent a crisis in the economy, and stock market, and currency. We shall see.

All of this economic and financial turmoil provides an ideal opportunity for the people to throw off their oppression and to rise up. Nonetheless, the communists remains strong, and brutal, so - as everyone realizes - democratic change will be difficult to achieve. But, it is coming. The dictators cannot maintain control forever. And, with a bold approach, their day of reckoning can be brought forward, by years if not decades.

Hong Kong

One advantage the mainland people of China have is their co-citizenry, the residents of Hong Kong. Because of the one country-two systems structure, they are not so repressed - or pacified. The mainland can follow Hong Kong's lead, which in turn puts the onus on its residents. They must fight not only to maintain their own democracy, but to provide an example for all the people of China.

There was a pro-democracy revolution in Hong Kong in 2014, the Umbrella movement, to force the local government to back down from giving Beijing a say over who may run for office in the upcoming 2017 election. This was a large uprising, but ultimately it failed. The Hong Kong Administration did not back down. As I wrote in an article at the time, the protestors needed three things: fierce leaders; growing numbers; and international support. For the first, the movement took the form of a coalition, including Occupy Central, Scholarism, and other groups. Some of their leaders were fierce, but in the face of a government crackdown others wavered. For the second, the protests grew to the low hundreds of thousands. This number, while massive, proved to be insufficient. Finally, there was no real international support.

Of the three factors, I believe the second was the most important. Had the movement grown to a million or more, it would have succeeded. The question, then, is why it didn't. The government crackdown of course dissuaded more people from joining, as was its goal, and counter-protests were organized as well. But, while these were substantial barriers, the real issue was the movement's organization. Everyone was out protesting and the leaders were on stage and subject to arrest. While it was difficult if not impossible to anticipate what would happen, the movement should have created a separate, behind-the scenes, organizing team dedicated to increasing the turnout, day-by-day. This should have included media relations - public calls on both traditional and social media for more protestors, and also efforts to counter government lies.

Since the objective was not achieved, it's clear that Hong Kong needs another uprising. The people must force the government to yield. There must be a victory, most importantly, to show all the people of China that the Communist Party can be beaten. In this new uprising, Hong Kong organizers should further concentrate on increasing the size of the protest until it washes over the government like a tsunami, including by having a plan to get as many people as possible out when the protest is triggered, and then with a separate team, not on the streets and subject to arrest, to keep the demonstration growing.

Mainland China

Ideally, a new protest in Hong Kong would spread to the mainland. But, since Party agents there are so repressive - they are like predators, a number of additional steps will be required. To encourage large numbers of people to demonstrate in the mainland's cities, the public needs to be agitated such that they are so angry they lose their fear. And, the best way to lose one's fear is to believe that something is possible.

People on the mainland do protest, of course, and quite often: against poor working conditions, pollution, government corruption, and other grievances. Local conditions are often so bad that the people will fight back. Furthermore, for fear of igniting larger protests, the authorities regularly back down. The model, therefore, is in place. What is required is an underground movement to create widespread agitation for human rights and democracy. Then, with the people angry and the country unsettled, the stage is set for a real uprising, for example, in response to new events in Hong Kong.

The Communist Party is terrible: A monster. But, because of censorship most Chinese are poorly informed about this. Instead, they are fed lies that the Party is the savior. The people need an underground revolutionary movement to counter this. Once they know the truth, how they have been deceived, they will be angry enough to rise up.

Fortunately, this type of movement is straightforward to create. If done with care, it can further involve minimal risk: indeed, less that protesting. What I am referring to is an agitation-propaganda, or agit-prop, campaign.

Agitators, singly and in small groups, can pepper the walls of the mainland's cities with revolutionary graffiti and fliers. A call for this type of action could further easily be spread around the country, in defiance of the Party's censorship, using social media.

A propaganda movement often has a number of distinct elements, including revolutionary images, slogans, and fliers. For instance, for Hong Kong - the territory needs an agitation movement as well, the image could be a picture of an umbrella. Activists, using a stencil and spray paint, could put it everywhere, under the cover of darkness. Of course, it doesn't have to be an umbrella. The image could be anything. For example, for the mainland it could be the characters for June 4, 1989, referencing the Tiananmen Square democracy movement, or simply the word "democracy," etc. There could be a number of different images, and accompanying revolutionary slogans.

Fliers in turn fill in the story, providing substance to the demands of the slogans. Short descriptions of Party crimes and corruption should be taped to walls, or just left where people can find them. Indeed, Falun Gong's Nine Commentaries is an excellent source of information about the Party's historic atrocities and crimes, and which could be supplemented with information on more recent events.

Actually, the underground movement should not only focus on the job of removing the dictators. It is important to remember that a democratic transition has two stages: Overthrowing the regime; and installing a well-functioning democracy, tailored to the nation's history and conditions. The Chinese people need to have a wide-ranging discussion about the second stage, at the same time that they confront the Party. Through doing this, the movement will also develop a positive focus, on what a democratic China will look like, as well as give the people hope that such a future is achievable. (Note: this is a good reason to infiltrate the Chinese translation of my short guide, Lessons In Democracy. The Chinese people can have a better discussion about implementing the democratic system if they understand how it is meant to work.


Finally, the most effective structure for a revolutionary agit-prop campaign is one that is decentralized and non-hierarchical. This holds for protests as well. This reduces the common problem of disputes arising among the leaders, and it further keeps the movement alive in the event that activists are arrested. Even so, it is imperative that everything possible be done to avoid arrest. For protests, having huge numbers of people in the streets is a defense in and of itself. If regime agents do make arrests, the demonstrators can often be "un-arrested" as well, such as by swarming the police stations where they are held. For nighttime propagandists, though, precautions are essential. Actions should be rehearsed, in different clothes, before any graffiti is written or fliers placed. And, absolute secrecy should be maintained. Don't tell anyone what you have done.


In a popular movement there are many groups. The onstage leaders, and underground activists who do direct action, bear the greatest risk. Next are other organizers, both for protests and underground action. Then come the protestors, and finally the rest of the population. Opposed to the movement are the top dictators; their formal repression apparatus including the army and the police; and plain clothes agents and spies. The intermediate objectives of the movement are to get more members of the public to join the protest; to get more people to bear more risk (risk/reward holds here as well); and to get dictatorship members and agents to join the movement in secret. If these objectives are achieved, the regime can be overthrown.

The people of China deserve democracy, but it will take a popular revolution to achieve it. The people of Hong Kong also need to defend their rights under the one country, two systems principle. These two missions are linked. The indigenous of Hong Kong must demonstrate to preserve their rights, and through doing so help lead the people of the mainland to demand change, who in turn must engender a collection of underground activists, to create revolutionary propaganda and through it the conditions for widespread rebellion. Only through this can the people's aspirations be fulfilled, and the country reach a stable and tranquil equilibrium.