Thursday, October 01, 2009

60 years of Communist led China

Yet China could hardly be more different today than it was when Mao declared the “People’s Republic”. It is remarkable how the Communist Party of China (CPC) can even begin to claim that the China of today is a natural evolution of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse Tung Thought and is progressing towards communism. The truth is that it happens to be the centre of power, with the armed forces, for a burgeoning market economy. Even China's official media now celebrates the 30 years of opening up.

China one day, publicly, will be able to reflect with a bit more balance on the first 30 years of that period. It was a period when Mao directly through oppression and indirectly through shockingly insane economic policies was responsible for the deaths of around 60 million. Mao famously said that he didn’t fear nuclear war, because if half of China’s population were killed, there would still be over 300 million left to fight.

Today he bears the not widely recognised title of being the political leader with the most blood on his hands. Blood because the “People’s Republic” became a place where sacrifice to the common good became the guiding philosophy, the cult of Mao the national religion, the Great Leap Forward that proved to be the exact opposite, and an insane level of mass mobilisation during the Cultural Revolution that saw China stagnate and nearly break down into civil war. It is curious that Western academic and radical interest in China was primarily during that period.

China today is an astonishing contrast. With Mao gone, and the Gang of Four of totalitarian thugs arrested, China got on its feet in the 1970s, opened up to the world and Chinese people were allowed to enter business, and have private lives, again.

The results have been astonishing, China now approaches the economic output of Japan, which it is about to exceed to become the second largest economy. Instead of famine and virtually universal poverty, China has a burgeoning middle class. Instead of regimented socialist realism, Chinese citizens are part of the global community, with now the largest number of internet users of any country.

That isn’t a China under Maoist regimentation any more. For all of the symbols of Marxism-Leninism and statements about communism, the truth about China is that it is an authoritarian capitalist state, which happens to be run by the Communist Party. It is becoming more akin to the authoritarian capitalism of Taiwan in the 1960s and 1970s under the Kuomintang that it is to Mao’s China, although there is undoubtedly less freedom than there was in Taiwan, China is not the totalitarian state it once was.

Media is under tight state control, but debate and discussion and criticism of current events is vigorous, as the sphere for what can be criticised ever inches wider. Education still indoctrinates into a positive history of the last 60 years, but the facts speak for themselves. China changed direction in 1978 and has not looked back.

China’s phenomenal growth has happened in spite of Mao and in spite of the Communist Party. Hopefully it will be less than 60 years before the Chinese people can more openly discuss the rivers of blood of the era (error) of Mao. Until there is a genuine free press and freedom of speech, China cannot fully progress and hold its leaders accountable, and fight corruption.

Meantime, it is no wonder, that despite the brutal mistakes of Tiananmen Square, Chinese people laud Deng Xiaoping, who surveyed years of purges to be the architect of China's transformation for the better. China's celebrations are full of communist imagery, yet celebrating a largely capitalist led transformation. Although, the authoritarianism still remains as the Daily Telegraph notes:

"The people have been told to stay away from the celebration of the People's Republic today; those whose homes overlook the route have been instructed not to hold parties. The government has banned the flying of kites in Beijing, an innocent pastime enjoyed in the city's parks by old men with weary smiles."

Note also the irony of the country that most resembles China's first 30 years, hailing its paymaster now. Many Chinese who visit North Korea today say it reminds them of life before 1976.

My hope for China is that its leaders continue to tell the people less what to do, and trust them more, and to make the grand step to make themselves accountable to the people directly, by allowing free speech, criticism and separating party, state and judiciary. Most think democracy is the key to unlocking it. It may be a consequence, but what matters most for moving China forward is freedom - and most of all, freedom of speech. No politicians should fear criticism so much that they lock people up for it. May it take much less time for the CPC to humble itself to make China really a republic for the people, as individuals, with rights. They are already halfway there.


Anonymous said...

Now here is a glaring double standard. Not a mention of Tianamen Square, human rights abuses, dictator politics and the only reference label you place at the bottom of this post is "China". So what's going on here? Are you planning on a job in China and don't want to put up your weights with critical posts? Seems Liberty Scott can tolerate a violent socialist government after all.

libertyscott said...

I write about Tiananmen Square every year, I've written about the contrast between the mainland and Hong Kong a few times. I criticised the faux "diversity" China trotted out during the Olympics which hides the fundamental racism pervasive in China.

What was the last paragraph if it wasn't calling for some serious reform?

China socialist? You've not been there I suspect. There are some aspects of China less socialist than most Western countries, try health care, try setting up a business.

Yes the regime is violent, and when it faces dissent it happily uses violence and covers it up. If you consider context, I write about China regularly. It is only the relatively uninformed that think China is just a modern communist country, when it looks somewhat like the authoritarian capitalist economies that used to run Taiwan and South Korea. Not as free, but China has vigorous internal debate about government policies online.