Talking Points

What the CCP and CRT critics have in common

Chinese President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party have a political agenda for their country's history.

This week, the party is expected to adopt a resolution setting out the official, triumphalist version of "the party's 100-year history as a story of heroic sacrifice and success," The New York Times reports. "Traumatic times like famine and purges will fall further into a soft-focus background — acknowledged but not elaborated." 

Naysayers aren't welcome, because Xi "sees that competing narratives of history are dangerous," Joseph Torigian, an assistant professor at American University, told the Times. For example, Xi reportedly believes the Soviet Union fell because it allowed its history of purges, imprisonment, and exile to become public and undermine faith in the ruling party.

It all sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it? 

Granted, China isn't having battles over critical race theory, and there are substantial differences between the CCP's adoption of a happy-face historical narrative and American arguments over CRT. (I'm using "CRT" here not in its academic sense, but as a catchall term for the controversies over how race and history are taught in U.S. schools.) Crucially, dissenters in China are often imprisoned or hassled into silence, while the American debates remain fairly free and fierce.

But the CCP and the anti-CRT crowd do share a sense that "competing narratives of history are dangerous." To take just one example: The 1619 Project, which places slavery at the center of American founding, might have its historical flaws, but its real sin is that it recasts the country's history in a much less flattering light. "America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said last year in a rebuke of the project.

Cotton's conservative allies have openly worried about the ideological threats created by the alternative history. Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) last year described the project as part of a "power grab" intended to "entirely restructure the nation's economy, laws, and politics." Naturally, GOP-led states like Texas and Florida have banned it from public schools.

By now it's something of a cliche to note that "who controls the past controls the future," but it remains a salient point. Xi Jingping clearly agrees — and so, it seems, do America's anti-CRT conservatives.