Beijing is aiming at Religious Victory
About 20 days ago, I wrote a blog post about the hidden knowledge in Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, and I foreshadowed another post about its game mechanism. In this post, I will talk about the various winning conditions in Civilization VI (henceforth Civ6). In particular, I will try to argue that Beijing is aiming at Religious Victory.
Table of Contents
- Game mechanism
- Beijing is aiming at Religious Victory
- Religious Victory: turn 1–100
- Great Prophet: Karl Marx
- Beliefs of socialism with Chinese characteristics
- Religious pressure
- Theological combat
- The US’s defense
- Religious Victory: the ending
One of the features distinguishing Civ6 from other similar games, such as Koei’s Three Kingdoms franchise, is the multiple ways to win a game in Civ6. Apart from eliminating all other civilizations by force, namely Domination Victory, you can also win by Science Victory, Culture Victory, and Religious Victory. Whenever a player achieves one of these winning conditions, be it domination, science, culture, or religion, he wins the game.
- Domination Victory: conquer the capital of every other civilization.
- Science Victory: establish a Martian colony.
- Culture Victory: attract enough foreign tourists.
- Religious Victory: make your religion predominant in every civilization.
This game mechanism keeps the game in suspense from the beginning all the way to the end. If that was not the case and the game permitted only a single winning condition, the civilization having accumulated advantage in that dimension at the beginning of the game, either by skill or by luck, would snowball this advantage and eventually win the game. The strong will stay strong, and there would be no suspense.
The existence of multiple winning conditions gives the game a multidimensional shape. It is nearly impossible to excel in every dimension. A player putting equal weights on all dimensions will only be outpaced and achieve none of the winning conditions. Therefore, each player should focus on one, at most two, dimensions.
Different players excel in different dimensions, and they are all likely to win the game. It may happen that when you are one turn away from conquering the capital of the last civilization and achieving the Domination Victory, that civilization successfully establishes a Martian colony and thus achieves the Science Victory. The fierce competition stays all the way from the beginning to the end of the game.
Civ6 is, of course, not the first one coming with this brilliant idea. You can find, for example, similar ideas in Yugioh, one of the most popular trading card games. In Yugioh, there exist three distinct, independent winning conditions:
- Beat & Burn: Reduce your opponent’s life point to zero, either by attack or by effect damage.
- Deckout: Empty your opponent’s main deck pile so that he has no card to draw during the Draw Phase.
- Special: Exodia, Death Board, Final Countdown, etc.
Besides bringing suspense to the game, this multidimensional shape of the game mechanism sometimes also creates the Rock-paper-scissors effect. A player excelling at one dimension A can pull off decent defense against another player excelling at another dimension B but is weak against a third player excelling at another dimension C. I am not sure whether this is the case for Civ6, but, in general, the rock-paper-scissors effect is possible in a multidimensional game.
Beijing is aiming at Religious Victory
In Civ6, the Chinese civilization features two leaders. One is Qin Shi Huang, who excels at Culture Victory, and the other is Kublai Khan, who excels at Science Victory. (Ironically, Qin Shi Huang is an enemy of culture: He burned books and buried scholars.) Now, Civ6 can add a third leader, Xi Jinping, who excels at Religious Victory.
My description of Xi Jinping as a religious leader may seem counter-intuitive. One can raise numerous counterarguments:
- Communism is atheist.
- The Chinese government demolished churches and expelled Christian missionaries.
- The biggest religious threat nowadays comes from ISIS and other terrorist groups.
Let me reply to these arguments. First, ISIS is not aiming at Religious Victory; instead, they are aiming at Domination Victory. Religion is just a quick and dirty tool to recruit young men as soldiers and young women as sexual slaves for their soldiers. ISIS does not care about evangelizing their religion; they care only about enhancing their military power and conquering more territories and women.
Second, terrorists are not much of a threat. They may be troublesome, annoying, but they can never win a game. They are like the barbarians in Civ6, harassing your people and pillaging your cities. What makes them less of a threat is their lack of motive and ambition. They are like a crying baby, throwing a tantrum now and then, but do not have any long-term goal, let alone the roadmap to achieve that goal.
Third, the Chinese government’s adversarial attitude towards the other religions is self-evident proof of their religious ambition. Although the name of their adopted religion is difficult to identify, we can sense its existence by its resistance to the other religions. It is neither Communism, nor Confucianism, nor Taoism, nor any extant religion with a name. It is something cunningly designed.
The above analysis indicates the existence of a predominant religion currently controlling China. Now I will try to argue: Not only does this religion exist, but also Beijing is indeed aiming at Religious Victory.
Let us start from this axiom: Beijing wants to win. Some people explain this axiom by referring to the ultimate goal of communism. I believe, however, that the Chinese leaders’ frenzy for victory is in their DNA. This axiom is the only plausible explanation for all their incomprehensible conduct these recent years.
The most straightforward victory is, of course, the Domination Victory. Beijing made notable progress in this domain by building its first nuclear weapon in 1964, its first aircraft carrier in 2011, and its hypersonic missiles recently. Nonetheless, their military force is still weak compared to the US, and Beijing is aware of this weakness. Domination Victory can, therefore, only be a secondary or complementary plan.
As for Science Victory and Culture Victory, it is the US that is currently leading. The United States has no interest in Domination Victory (cf. the Atlantic Charter). Instead, they aim at Science Victory (with their scholars and entrepreneurs) and Culture Victory (with their artists). It is thus nearly impossible for Beijing to out-compete the US in these two dimensions.
Then, the only remaining victory is the religious one. Insofar as Beijing wants to win, they should aim at Religious Victory. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t say that Beijing forwent the science and culture dimension. Instead, the science and culture dimension also contribute to Religious Victory, just like how tech (e.g., Astrology) and civic (e.g., theocracy) help Religious Victory in Civ6.
So far, I have given the reason why Beijing is aiming at Religious Victory. In the remainder of this post, I will try to define this religion and explain how Beijing works towards Religious Victory. Since this post is also about Civ6, I will use Civ6 as an analogy to structure my discussion.
Religious Victory: turn 1–100
Great Prophet: Karl Marx
In Civ6, it requires a Great Prophet to found a religion. For Beijing, the Great Prophet they recruited was Karl Marx. I used the term “recruit,” as I doubt that the Chinese leaders have faith in communism. After all, Karl Marx is just a tool for them to found a religion.
This religion does not necessarily have anything to do with communism. Just like in Civ6, you can customize its name and symbol. Beijing adopted a long name, probably the longest name ever: socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Beliefs of socialism with Chinese characteristics
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. — William Shakespeare
Many scholars, western or eastern, tried to understand the so-called socialism with Chinese characteristics, but their research is useless, for they were trapped in the maze of words. In fact, socialism with Chinese characteristics has nothing to do with socialism, capitalism, communism, or even China.
The name of religion is merely a name. It is the underlying beliefs, or doctrines, that characterize the religion and lead to substantial consequences. In the following, I will try to describe some of these beliefs along with their associated benefits.
Mistrust: Don’t trust your fellow citizens because hell is other people. Beijing has been actively spreading mistrust among the people. On the one hand, Beijing encourages people to report their fellow citizens’ regulatory offenses, but the government ignores certain felonies, such as human trafficking and phone scams. On the other hand, Beijing punishes the behavior demonstrating humanity, such as helping a falling elder get up. The more people doubt each other, the more they’ll need a powerful government to protect them.
Hatred: Your poverty is due to western capitalists. Beijing has been describing western capitalists as the original sin. According to Beijing’s version of history, Chinese people’s suffering was due to the exploitation by western capitalists and the invasion by foreign countries in the last few centuries. The Chinese Communist Party came from nowhere and saved the Chinese people from their miserable lives. Nowadays, the Chinese people are still being abused under international inequality and racism, which is the reason for their ongoing poverty. This belief pushes people to work hard for the so-called Rise of China.
Amusement: Amuse yourself to death. Beijing exports cheap products made by slaves (e.g., cotton produced by the Uyghurs) to western countries and makes them indulge in material affluence. Western people and profit-seeking companies became accomplices of China’s low human rights advantage and forgot their social responsibilities. Came with the material satisfaction is moral corruption. They may think that they are righteous, but actually, it is just an illusion or hypocrisy by turning their eyes away from injustice happening far away.
With this Amusement follower belief, western countries indulge in the illusion of abundant Culture output, totally unaware of their dependence on China. Once Beijing stops exporting cheap goods to them, the lower class previously living a decent life will suddenly fall into poverty.
Meanwhile, the upper class, for instance, the owners of multinational companies or capitalists, accumulated huge fortunes during the trade. The polarization of society between rich and poor generates the Hatred belief, making the poor blame the capitalists for their misfortune. Beijing can then take this opportunity to play the savior role.
Once Beijing successfully puts its finger into a target country, it will spread the Mistrust belief among the citizens. The solidarity among people will break, and people will be reduced to slaves, fully dependent on a powerful, draconian government.
Hence, socialism with Chinese characteristics is fully adopted in a target country. The target country’s people will then join the boat and work their ass off for the Rise of Beijing by providing material affluence to the next victim. It becomes a self-amplified cycle, just like how the snowballing Pilgrimage belief works in Civ6.
It is worth noting that dictatorship or autocracy is not a core belief of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Beijing never acknowledges the western description of China as an authoritarian country. They don’t even deny the value of democracy. All they need is the legitimacy of their ruling. They justify their legitimacy by stating that China has never caused any trouble to the world, though this trick may not work anymore after the explosion of the COVID–19 pandemic.
To convert the other civilizations, Beijing needs to apply religious pressure. Beijing’s pressure takes the following modalities.
Trade Route. On the one hand, Beijing provides cheap labor to multinational corporations. On the other hand, China is a big market thanks to its large population. Besides the multinational corporations, Wall Street also wants to take advantage of this emerging market. Beijing has been nourishing a bunch of super-rich capitalists, which resulted in the polarization of western societies. Donald Trump and his Deep State theory are the best footnotes of Beijing’s achievement. Forty years ago, Nixon started to engage China economically, expecting that a growing middle class would establish democracy in China. Ironically, the US failed to change China; instead, Beijing changed the rest of the world.
One Belt, One Road (OBOR). OBOR is not a trade project; it is an investment initiative. Beijing exports its productivity surplus and builds infrastructure for under-developed countries. These countries are then indebted to Beijing and will have to repay it with the fiscal income in the coming years. It is not bad by itself. The tricky part is that most of these projects are of high investment but low return (just like China’s 5G over-investment). These projects are unlikely to generate enough fiscal income for the local governments to repay Beijing. Regardless of Beijing’s ultimate motive, the debt itself will ensure its influence on these countries.
Olympic Games. The Olympic Games are an excellent stage for Beijing to exert its religious pressure. Contrary to the other countries, where sportsmen are all amateurs, sportsmen in China are all professionals. They are financed by the taxpayers and trained for winning the gold medals only (even the silver medals are impermissible). They are more like soldiers than sportsmen. That was why Liu Xiang, the once 110-meter hurdles champion and record-breaker, had to apologize to Beijing and Chinese people for his withdrawal caused by injuries. Beijing needs these “soldiers” to demonstrate, in front of the audience all over the world, the superiority of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
There are many more activities with the same motive, such as the Confucius Institutes funded by Beijing. I’ll leave them to the imagination of the readers.
The above ways of exerting religious pressure are slow. For instance, the Olympic Games are held once every four years. Beijing needs more direct ways to convert the other civilizations. That is how religious units and theological combat come into play.
In Civ6, there are mainly three types of religious units: Missionary, Apostle, and Inquisitor. Gurus are underused, so I will not talk about them. For all these three units, we can find their counterparts in Beijing’s conduct.
- Missionary. Missionaries are cheap units and are cost-benefit efficient to convert civilizations with little or no religious defense.
This role is played by the numerous Chinese immigrants abroad.
They may be students, professors, software engineers, or home restaurant owners.
They may not like Beijing personally, but their beliefs mirror Beijing’s religion and inadvertently influence western civilizations.
Meanwhile, they also experience culture shock, which is actually a consequence of theological combat.
…That is not to say that missionaries don’t also do good works of a more practical sort: schools to teach, clinics to heal…and all the other benefits of civilization. — Civilopedia entry
- Apostle. Apostles are more powerful and also more expensive than missionaries.
They can create new beliefs for your civilization and initiate theological combat.
This role is played by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China, wolf-warrior diplomats, and celebrities such as Hu Xijin.
They skillfully use various logical fallacies, such as strawman and red herring, to mislead the enemy and win theological combat.
I guess that they all received the Debater promotion.
…is a messenger and ambassador for the chosen deity of a given religion in an attempt to convert the faithless. — Civilopedia entry
- Inquisitor. Inquisitors are defense units: they eliminate religious pressure from other civilizations.
This role is played by the police and the Cyberspace Administration of China.
Beijing has built the Great Firewall to filter religious pressure from western countries and uses censorship to kill any domestic voices longing for democracy.
Many human rights lawyers and activists are detained, and many citizens declaring nonconforming opinions are invited to “take tea” with the police.
Every faith has its inquisitors… find the non-believers, back-sliders, and evil influences among the flock…banned and burned books, and disposed of heretics, all in the name of Lord. — Civilopedia entry
The US’s defense
Beijing’s ferocious religious invasion met little or no resistance except in the US. Like Beijing, Washington also aims at winning the game (Science and Culture Victory), and they can by no means let Beijing snatch a Religious Victory.
Ex-President Trump identified TikTok as an ideal platform for Beijing’s Apostles to exert religious pressure, so he and Pompeo tried to cut TikTok off from Beijing. Furthermore, they wanted to ban WeChat and the like.
However, they failed. Religious units such as missionaries and apostle can ignore national borders. The only way to prevent them from entering the country is through engaging China in a war, which is not an option for the US.
Ironically, Beijing successfully keeps the foreign religious units at bay by building the Great Firewall. Probably, Civ6 should add this option into its next DLC.
Trump also worried about the Chinese students studying in the US. He did have a point since they all serve as missionaries, even though they are mostly unconscious of this role themselves.
However, Chinese students, especially those PhD candidates, also play a crucial role in scientific progression. Expelling them will significantly hurt the US’s agenda towards Science Victory.
In addition, preventing Beijing from achieving Religious Victory is not the only task. The US should prepare for military confrontation in case Beijing falls back on Domination Victory after their plan for Religious Victory is shattered.
Religious Victory: the ending
We have a basic need to believe in something greater than ourselves. We crave solace in the darkness, a light unto our path. Thanks to you, we’ve found the meaning amid the Cosmos. — Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
Xi staring at the Religious Victory ending, a faint smile floats on his face. Finally, the effort of a whole long night pays off. He sacrificed the economy and people’s lives and focused all resources on the religious invasion. That was a gamble, but he knew that he had only one chance. Just before the collapse of China’s economy and society, he finally finished the conversion of the US.
Xi turns his head, admiring the rising sun outside the window. He has achieved a feat greater than Qin Shi Huang, Genghis Khan, Mao Zedong, Attila the Hun, Jeanne d’Arc, and George Washington, a feat that no one in history has ever accomplished. His life value is fully realized, and he has no regret. Xi knows that he can rest in peace this time…
After Xi climbed onto his crystal bed and rested in peace, I clicked the “one more turn” button. What I see is an apocalypse-like scene with a collapsed economy and polarized society. The world is filled with hatred and mistrust. Crimes, racism, moral corruption can be seen everywhere. It is experiencing a Late Information Age collapse, which is on par with the Late Bronze Age collapse following the Trojan War. The world has entered the Dark Ages.