“[Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is] now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” US President Donald Trump said. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”
This short statement — whether or not it was said in jest — demonstrates just how tone deaf Trump is when it comes to speaking about authoritarian strongmen.
There are two problematic parts to Trump’s statement, which was given at a fundraiser in Florida on March 3.
The first issue is Trump calling Xi “great.” While the US president is apparently tirelessly working to “Make America Great Again,” the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has already achieved that high level of praise.
This “great” man is leading one of the most egregious crackdowns on personal freedoms in the 21st century. Xi commands what can best be described as an Orwellian surveillance state.
This term gets thrown about loosely, but to contextualize the amount of surveillance in China, it is worth mentioning a story from December last year.
A BBC reporter wanted to highlight the all-seeing nature of Chinese surveillance; he was able to partner with Chinese authorities to see how long he could go before being “apprehended.” It took CCTV only seven minutes to locate the reporter.
The BBC report said: “170 million CCTV cameras are already in place and an estimated 400 million new ones will be installed in the next three years.”
This technology is used for public safety, but also to track and monitor dissidents across the country.