Think Tank Crackdown

A Beijing-based liberal think tank, Unirule Institute of Economics(天則經濟研究所)has been shut down by Chinese government censors. The organization frequently challenged China’s economic policies, embracing principles of a market economy and advocating for reforms of state-owned enterprises. 

Unirule’s demise comes months after the disbanding of prominent liberal magazine 炎火春秋 (Yanhuo Chunqiu). Both shutdowns are instances of President Xi Jinping’s increasing efforts to silence liberal academic voices. A movement to strengthen online censorship and preserve Mao’s Communist legacy under Xi’s leadership has been a great cause of concern for China’s liberal intellectuals, who fear that a revival of a militant, neo-Maoist ideology characterized by political violence and extreme xenophobia is underway. 

Mao Yushi, founder of the think tank, is a vehement critic of Chinese Communist Party Mao Zedong. He has been repeatedly lambasted by Party officials and government mouthpieces for his anti-establishment views. The Party-controlled Global Times most recently slammed Mao [Yushi] and his liberal contemporaries:

“Liberals absolutely must learn this lesson: openly opposing or denying will get you nowhere in China…Taking ideas from the West, and trying to pass them off as genuine, will eventually hit a wall.”

Their views threaten to challenge the country’s national identity, the editorial added.

Influential think tanks in China are largely government-controlled. Though, according to legal activists in China, the privately-owned Unirule has managed to mold public opinion and sustain operations considerably longer than most liberal organizations: another prominent think tank run run by human rights activist and scholar Guo Yushan, who expressed support for the Occupy Central/Umbrella Movement democracy protests in Hong Kong, was shut down three years ago by Beijing.

I continue to fear that persistent efforts to muffle the opposition in China will trickled down south to Hong Kong. While the fate of the two regions are inextricably linked, their ideologies needn’t be…at least for the time being. I hope that voices of resistance and defiance will continue to speak with reason and resolve.

Image Credit: The Cato Institute

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