How a Blank Piece of Paper May Change the World

By Hunter Oswald

If all goes well, the future of China may be a blank sheet of paper.

In late 2022, Chinese protestors shocked the world when demonstrations opposing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) oppressive Covid-19 policies happened across the nation. The protests took place in cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Wuhan. Mass amounts of protesters waved blank pieces of paper to illustrate the CCP’s censorship of the situation; commentators proceeded to dub these movements as the “White Paper Revolution.” In response to the widespread protests, President Xi Jinping and the CCP ordered the Federal Agency (Chinese law enforcement) to “restore order” across the nation. The order led to forceful suppression of the peaceful demonstrations. The most recent protest happened as a response to President Xi prolonging the enforcement of China’s “Zero-Covid” policy which is the strictest lockdown policy in the world. China’s “Zero-Covid” policy has faced major criticism in recent months following a fire in a quarantined Urumqi apartment complex that killed 10 civilians who could not escape the burning building due to the lockdown.

Worldwide Response

The violent crackdowns garnered the attention of many nations across the world which led to a wide range of support for the protestors. World leaders have been quick to show their disapproval towards the actions taken by the Chinese officials. The Biden administration condemned the CCP’s crackdowns on its citizens along with Dr. Anthony Fauci who publicly stated that China’s handling of Covid has been terrible. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other prominent leaders publicly denounced China’s arrests of journalists; especially concerning the arrest of a BBC journalist covering the protests in China. The United Nations has expressed their support for these “White Paper Protests” protests and called on the CCP to respect their citizens’ right to protest. 

Totalitarianism under the CCP

         While pundits and leaders claim that China’s Covid policy is the main driving cause for the demonstrations, opposition to lockdowns is only part of the story. Since the CCP took power in 1949, China’s population has been subjected to the extensive effects of the nation’s totalitarian regime that continues to kill millions of its own people. From the genocide of the Uighur people in Xinjiang to the attempted revolt against the Chinese government at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the CCP is responsible for multitudes of deaths of Chinese citizens. In leveraging accusations against their government, the White Paper Protestors have continued the fight against the CCP’s many violations of human rights. According to the Council of Foreign Affairs, “The protests began with vigils for the victims [of the Urumqi fire] and calls for an end to COVID-19 testing and lockdowns, their criticism increasingly targeted the country’s leaders, including Xi, and included broad demands for more freedom.” These protests are not entirely about Covid, but they are pleas for freedom from oppression under the CCP.

American support for protestors

While the history of modern China is a story of mass repression, the future may be bright because recent developments have given American policymakers an opportunity to help support the Chinese people. Dalibor Rohac, Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has pointed out that China’s regime faces multiple weaknesses, particularly their economy. Rohac states, “Following the country’s disastrous COVID response, most observers agree that the economy is unlikely to grow much faster than at 3 percent in 2022—well below the official target.” 

Michael Cunningham, research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, points out that Xi’s gambit with his Covid policy could present a major problem to his regime’s stability. Cunningham states:

“[I]f Xi’s gambit doesn’t pay off—if his harsh measures ultimately bring the economy to a standstill yet still fail to contain the outbreaks—he will not emerge unscathed. For example, his loss of credibility could make it harder or even impossible for him to drive policy in areas that traditionally fall outside the General Secretary’s remit, such as the economy. Depending on how badly he is discredited, the party may nominate a successor-in-waiting at this Party Congress to prevent Xi from getting a fourth term in 2027—an accomplishment he is otherwise on track to achieve.”

If the United States and its allies hope for a brighter future, foreign policy experts need to take advantage of China’s internal problems by combining domestic pressure from the protests as well as external pressures from other nations to force Xi’s hand and discredit the CCP’s legitimacy.

As the world continues to show solidarity with the Chinese people, the future of China hangs in the balance. The United States and the free world have an extraordinary opportunity to aid in the Chinese people’s struggle for freedom. As the CCP’s regime appears destined to fall and become another failed attempt at totalitarianism, dreams of a free China now rests upon the courage and perseverance of the Chinese people. If all goes well, the future of China may be a blank sheet of paper.

Hunter Oswald is a junior student studying political science and minoring in economics as well as national security. Raised in Liberty township, Ohio, Hunter developed an interest in politics through his passion for history, particularly America’s founding and military experiences. Hunter is the Secretary for the Young American’s Foundation Chapter at Grove City College. Hunter is a staff writer for Cogitare Magazine and contributor for the Grove City College Collegian Newspaper. Hunter is a member of the Grove City Debate Team. He is interested in the fields of international affairs, national security, and economics.

This Past Summer, Hunter Oswald graduated from the Heritage Foundation Academy Program, where he studied numerous public policy issues and America’s foundational principles. He aspires to further use his research and analytical skills in helping to inform the public on policy issues that promote and advance America’s principles.