Friday open thread: What do you think of a possible US visa ban on CCP members and relatives?

I wanted to kickoff today’s discussion with a response from Matt Sheehan to my comments yesterday about the mooted US visa ban for CCP members and their relatives. Here are some of my comments Thursday:

I think a blanket US visa ban on CCP members is misguided, incendiary, self-defeating and counterproductive, but I have little patience for the argument that being a Party member is meaningless and most are always harmless non-believers. That is not how Xi's CCP works…

My point is that behind the individual is a system that has been vastly strengthened under Xi, by design, and so we can't just dismiss it as like a normal foreign political Party.

Matt is a fellow at the Macro Polo think tank and author of the recent book The Transpacific Experiment: How China and California Collaborate and Compete for Our Future, and this is what he wrote to me:

“Your comment on how things have changed under Xi, and how members can now be called to action, got me curious on the % of members who joined under Xi and some other demographic stuff. Currently, about 16% (15 of 92m) joined under Xi, with the remaining 77m (84%) joining pre-Xi. At this point, you've got more CCP members that are retired than Xi-era recruits, and about twice as many who joined under Hu as under Xi.

I fully get that for the 16% of new members there was a lot more political screening, and also that the remaining 84% can still be pushed to do things, especially when there's a once in a century pandemic. I listened to what Zhang Wenhong said, and I believe he meant it.

But I also think the background and sheer size of CCP membership means we are a long way from a world where because Xi is in charge, those 90 million people are now at the disposal of Xi and the ccp. I think if you look across the whole group -- 16m who joined pre-1978, 61m who joined 1978-2012, and 15m who joined under Xi -- the profile of that group is still predominantly normal people who don't have much, if anything, to do w/ executing CCP orders.

In terms of public communication on this stuff, nothing I say is going to account for all the nuances (or is really going to matter much). But I do think when we're talking about the public+USG understanding of what it means to be a "member of the Chinese Communist Party," that understanding is skewed way further in the direction "these are dangerous Chinese apparatchiks" than in the direction of "these are harmless non-believers."

Nothing I (or any of us) say about what CCP membership means is going to perfectly nail it, but I do think if I'm trying to move the needle of public/USG understanding in one direction, it's towards making a mental distinction b/w CCP members and real CCP officials.

So what do you think? Is a blanket ban a good or a bad idea? If you joined the Party purely for reasons of expediency and career advancement, can you resist being a disciplined Party member when called upon in Xi’s New Era, an Era in which we have seen the reinvigoration of ideological discipline work and the coercive and fear-inducing methods the Party can bring to bear? Might such a blanket ban cause widespread discontent among Party members about the direction of the country under Xi? Or as the US is seen to be more aggressively trying to keep China down, and as the pandemic continues to rampage through the US while it looks to be under control in the PRC, how many who joined for practical reasons may move towards more wholehearted support for the Party?

And of course please feel free to discuss anything else. I will be in and out of the thread today.