One week since the U.K. defied global expectations and sought to split from the European Union. The Chinese Communist Party has been quick to hold Brexit up as an example for the pitfalls of democracy and populism.
While Chinese state officials have given relatively conservative public statements, emphasising the strategic significance of Sino-British relations. In light of Britain’s vote to leave, which continues to dominate headlines worldwide, ‘Brexit’ also made it to the number one spot of Sina Weibo’s trending topics list- a hybrid equivalent of a Chinese Twitter and Facebook, which is often a barometer for how the party at large really feels.
Although China’s economic woes should pose a direct threat to the stability of the one-party political system, as for years the party was able to point to its soaring economic growth to justify its success and continued suppression of civil liberties. As far as the CCP is concerned, Brexit is the latest example about the failings of democracy, following reports in Western media that some U.K. voters, who had supported to Leave, professed regret for their decision at the time.
A gift for China’s propagandists that’s better than anything they could produce on their own, Brexit is evidence that democratic decision-making can lead to less than favourable results. Furthermore, as part of their propaganda apparatus, Beijing has let the Brexit commentary on social media sites stand mostly uncensored. Allowing this web chatter to feed into the government narrative about the dangers of popular vote.
One post that received over 45,000 “likes” concluded, “Elite rule is superior to mass rule; ultimately, the wisdom of the crowds isn’t very stable.”
Another user, who garnered over 12,000 Weibo likes, also contended that the referendum showed why the “celestial dynasty,” slang for Beijing’s Communist government, “doesn’t allow the sunflower seed-eating masses to vote as they wish!”
Although the current discussion is enhancing the legitimacy of China’s one-party rule, it is of note that the issues raised in this controversial referendum are universal, and the aftermath of these major financial and political reforms as a result of this referendum will be felt for quite some time.