Cultural observers far wiser than I have long noted that the current decade feels like the 1930s. American society is becoming more polarized; nationalism is on the rise; an economic crisis has emerged; wars and rumors of wars loom on the horizon. America — and much of the world — is facing a political crisis best understood in generational terms. The left has pushed this fatuous idea that Donald Trump is the modern reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. This is, quite frankly, absurd. But a real would-be Hitler is actually on the rise, and he is threatening to start another World War.
When considering potential analogues to Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini, more than one candidate comes to mind.
Brutal North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un oppresses his own people, pushing a state religion worshiping the Kim family. After a period of dialogue with South Korea, North Korea blew up a joint liaison office last month. Although a nuclear North Korea could cause a serious and calamitous war on the Korean peninsula, North Korea does not have the kind of muscle Adolf Hitler did in 1939.
Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has also led a brutal crackdown on dissent in his own country. In fact, Iran appears to have suppressed information about the coronavirus in order to avoid a low turnout in an election. Satellite images from space showing mass graves appear to have confirmed the opposition’s claims that Tehran has vastly under-reported the death count from the coronavirus pandemic. Yet Iran’s regime appears to be teetering. Internal resentment is high and the opposition has organized an international effort against the regime. The death of Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani dealt a serious blow to Iran’s ability to exert terrorism in the Middle East.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be the closest analogue to Benito Mussolini. Mussolini aimed to restore the mighty Roman Empire, and Erdogan has declared his desire to reconquer the lands the Ottoman caliphate once ruled. His decision to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque may be a symbolic move toward Islamic empire. While Erdogan has fought a small civil war with Kurdish rebels, it does not seem like he is resurrecting the horrific Armenian Genocide, much less the Holocaust of Adolf Hitler.
The real Hitler analogue
Each of these modern leaders is dangerous and terrifying in his own way, but only one brutal tyrant comes close to Adolf Hitler, and that is the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping.
When it comes to Hitler comparisons, Xi has it all: territorial ambitions; use of the government to enforce propaganda; attacks on religious freedom; claims of returning to a grand past; and horrifying labor camps for religious and ethnic minorities. Indeed, the Chinese Communist Party also has an outsize impact on the global economy, which probably gives it more influence than Adolf Hitler had.
Heck, there’s even an appeasement movement in the United States, with the NBA caving to the Communist Party’s whims and silencing Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s message in support of the Hong Kong protests.
Let’s lay it out.
While China has aimed at modernization and a more capitalistic economy in recent decades, Xi Jinping has brought communism back with a flourish. In October 2017, Xi gave a terrifying speech calling for “national rejuvenation.” He pushed for a more explicitly communist constitution and advocated a more aggressive socialism. Xi also announced he would rebuild the military, aiming for “combat capability” and declaring, “A military is built to fight.”
Thanks in large part to the heinous one-child policy, China has a surplus of young men and a deficit of young women. This adds to a desire for foreign aggression.
Beijing has indeed been flexing its muscles. China built floating islands in the South China Sea in order to claim naval territory. In May, Xi sent soldiers into disputed lands between China and India, sparking more than a month of skirmishes in a border war. Late last month, Beijing imposed “direct authoritarian rule” over Hong Kong, arguably violating the treaty by which China gained limited control over Hong Kong from Britain.
Xi’s propaganda suggests he identifies with Mao Zedong, the brutal communist dictator who unleashed the Cultural Revolution. As the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged China’s economy, the Communist Party has forced Christians who receive government benefits to choose between their faith or their government aid. Local officials have even barged into Christians’ houses, taking down crosses and posters of Jesus and replacing them with portraits of Xi and Mao.
As for the coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party lied to cover it up early on, and waited until after 5 million people had already left Wuhan before locking down the city at the center of the outbreak. The party also reportedly destroyed early samples of the virus and silenced doctors who tried to warn the world about it. A University of Southampton study found that if the Communist Party had enacted quarantine measures three weeks earlier, the coronavirus spread would have been reduced by 95 percent.
When the World Health Organization (WHO) tweeted that the coronavirus might transmit from person to person, the Chinese government told the WHO to remove that statement, and the WHO complied. China requested personal protective equipment (PPE) from across the world, and received 2.4 billion pieces. Later, when other countries asked China for PPE, China extorted them — only sending valuable medical aid if political leaders agreed to publicly praise Beijing. Chinese companies also sent faulty medical gear to European countries and to the U.S. Meanwhile, the Communist Party also prevented U.S. companies from shipping their own medical gear back home, where it is sorely needed.
The State of Missouri has already filed a lawsuit to hold China accountable, and there is a growing chorus of voices demanding the U.S. sue the Chinese Communist Party in an international court. China has even threatened U.S. senators by name who dared to call Beijing to account for its malfeasance. Americans want to see China held accountable.
Yet arguably the worst aspect of China’s oppression — and the one that most resembles Hitler — involves its treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang. Beijing has allegedly imprisoned 1 million members of Muslim minority groups in what China defends as de-radicalization and retraining centers.
Human rights activists have compared the camps to prisons and worse, claiming that inmates are sentenced there with little due process. The Uyghurs (the largest Muslim minority targeted) and others are compelled to denounce their religion, language, and culture and to pledge allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party and President Xi Jinping. According to an Associated Press investigation, Uyghur women are forced to use birth control or undergo involuntary sterilizations.
It does not appear that these Uyghur camps are death camps exactly like the Holocaust, but they are the closest modern analog to that 20th-century horror.
While Democrats repeatedly defame Trump with ridiculous Hitler comparisons, they should stop their whining and take a long look over the Pacific Ocean. The real would-be Hitler is terrorizing China, muscling his way into India, seizing power in Hong Kong, tearing down Jesus and replacing him with Mao Zedong, running imprisonment camps, and abetting the spread of a global pandemic.
There’s not a lot the left and the right agree on these days, but both sides should be able to recognize the true would-be Hitler in Beijing.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.