China’s regime has begun to spy spies everywhere. Students are being enlisted to root out snoops, and ordinary residents are being asked to question neighbours to ascertain their patriotism. Videos instructing college-goers to serve as a “defence line” against foreign forces were reportedly beamed at a university, while a national security-themed party was held at another. An interactive training game called ‘Who’s the Spy?’ has also been used for this purpose. The message seems clear—that there are potential traitors all around. Not surprisingly, social mistrust has grown, with instances on the rise of ordinary folk being reported to authorities on misplaced suspicion. While there’s no denying that espionage happens, and many countries are indeed keen to snoop on China, the so-called People’s Republic may soon reach a point where people are afraid of their own shadows. For its leader Xi Jinping, this may be part of a political ploy. By exaggerating a perceived national threat, Xi could be trying to divert attention from a faltering economy. But then again, the dictatorial attitudes on display border on paranoia. All this has eerie echoes of the Soviet Union before it came apart.
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Updated: 19 Sep 2023, 12:24 AM IST