01 October 2019

70 years of the most deadly tyranny of human history

The People's Republic of China is celebrating 70 years today, but for anyone who believes in the dignity of humanity, any semblance of individual rights and freedom, or even believes that human beings should deal with each other in a context of truth, honesty and openness, it should be a day of mourning.

For all of the tales of the economic successes in mainland China since it abandoned Maoism in 1978, it is overwhelmingly a tale of blanking out the horrors of the rule under Mao, the ongoing horrors of a techno-authoritarian state that still treats its people as a means to an end, and a system that spread the spilling of blood beyond its borders.  Despite the power, prestige and wealth of China today, it is still poorer, materially and in human terms, on a grand scale, than it would have been had Mao's madness been defeated.  Indeed, had Mao not come to power, there are literally millions of people outside China who would not have been murdered by the regimes that he explicitly backed, armed and supported.

For China, as with Germany and Korea, there is a quasi-scientific laboratory of what would have been had the Communist Party been defeated.  Hong Kong may seem the obvious one, but the more compelling one is the "other" China, the Republic of China, in Taiwan.

You see in 1949, Taiwan was largely agricultural when the Kuomintang fled the Chinese civil war and set up its based in Taipei.  Sure, I don't have any delusions about the regime of Chiang Kai-Shek.  He was bloodthirsty, intolerant of political plurality and ruthless against dissent, but he did not embark on crazy plans that created mass famines, nor did he shut down the education system and economy for a Cultural Revolution.  More notably, as the People's Republic was recovering from the poverty, purges and madness of Maoism in the 1970s and 1980, the Republic of China on Taiwan saw off Chiang Kai-Shek, and his son, and became a vibrant, dynamic liberal democracy.  It has been so now for over thirty years.  

So Taiwan is free and Chinese, but it is also much wealthier per capita.  On average, incomes in Taiwan are 2.5 times that of mainland China.  Car ownership is 2.7x higher in Taiwan than the mainland.  Now of course the mainland has a much more diverse and complex demographic than Taiwan, but given Taiwan was a rural backwater in 1949, it truly is an economic miracle (the same tale is that of south Korea, as the southern half of Korea was mostly rural, but the north industrialised, not that you would know today).

By other indicators Taiwan is superior, on inequality the GINI index is 0.336 compared to 0.468 for the PRC (1 is highest inequality).  So "socialism with Chinese characteristics" is less effective at reducing inequalities than a capitalist liberal democracy.

However, this is about much more than economics.  China lost between 18 and 56 million people in the Great Leap Forward primarily due to man-made famine, as Mao diverted farmers to making what was effectively junk steel, farmers were forced to surrender a third of output for export and many other centrally directed follies such as the mass slaughter of birds (the Four Pests Campaign) resulting in an invasion of insects.  Beyond the famine was the political murders, the purges and the suicides due to the political campaign.  Frank Dikötter's book Mao's Great Famine devastatingly portrays the horrors of the time.  Mao was certainly history's greatest killer.

Beyond that, the PRC has executed millions as political prisoners, its maltreatment of Tibetans and today of the Uighur community in Xinjiang province are all horrors in their own right.  The Black Book of Communism estimates 65 million died due to the policies of the People's Republic of China, including murders, suicides and famines.  Sure some may argue details, but Mao did after all encourage the USSR to start World War 3 claiming that China could lose half its population and still have more people than the United States.  The One Child Policy nationalised human fertility and means there are now 30 million "surplus" boys or rather men who will never statistically find a female partner. This is also apparently affecting crime, as boys grow up in male dominated environments.  For all of the Communist Party's propaganda about the rights of women, it still owns the fertility of Chinese women, and it has never had women remotely close to power (excluding the psychopathic Jiang Qing).  

The PRC claims to have esteemed credentials in international peace, but they are disingenuous.  This is the country that released the last ever atmospheric nuclear weapons test (16 October 1980), which started war with India in 1962started a conflict with the USSR in 1969 and then attacked Vietnam in 1979 (because Vietnam removed China's Khmer Rouge from slaughtering the people of "Democratic Kampuchea").   

For within a year of founding the PRC, Mao encouraged fellow megalomaniac Kim Il Sung (as did Stalin) to attack the Republic of Korea, starting the Korean War.  When it all went sour when the US led UN forces pushed the regime to the Yalu/Amnok River, Mao sent in his "Chinese People's Volunteers" to save the Kim Il Sung Democratic People's Republic of Korea, prolonging the war by two years.  It's the People's Republic of China that has kept the world's only third generational hereditary Marxism-Leninist dictatorship afloat with the world's longest personality cult.  That's not something to be proud of.

Then you can look at Indochina, and consider the Khmer Rouge. Backed by Mao militarily, financially and ideologically, Pol Pot took inspiration from Mao's peasant revolution to deindustrialise Cambodia, empty the cities and put the entire population into slave like conditions to produce rice.  The starvation and slaughter of opponents (including anyone with much education, or who wore glasses) saw a third of Cambodia's population killed.  The Khmer Rouge abolished money, private property and business, and in the process extinguished millions of lives.  The People's Republic of China continued to back the regime after Vietnam invaded and overthrew it (as did some Western powers to their disgrace for some years), and today Beijing keeps the kleptocratic bully Hun Sen in power as it engages in neo-colonialism of Cambodia.

Today we can see the PRC building bases on disputed islands in the South China Sea, its neo-imperialism with developing countries as it accesses resources and provides authoritarian regimes with means to track dissent.  The PRC continuously talks of international relations in its simplistic and self-serving way, with one of its key principles "non-interference in each others' internal affairs", which is the tyrants' code for "if you don't mention us murdering our citizens we wont mention yours". For the Communist Party of China, executing dissidents and abusing Chinese people is an internal affairs, it regards itself as accountable to nobody.  Part of its view on internal affairs is Taiwan, which it does not tolerate as a competing regime.  Unlike Korea and the former divided Germany, the PRC has long taken the view that there being only "one China" that countries could either recognise the government in Beijing or the government in Taipei (admittedly Chiang Kai-Shek embraced this while he was alive too).  Even though the Republic of China government in Taiwan has de-facto relinquished any legal claim to govern the rest of China, the People's Republic of China considers itself the sole legitimate authority on Taiwan, so reserves the right to use force to "reunify" the country.  So Taiwan is diplomatically isolated, even though it is, to all intents and purposes, a capitalist liberal democracy with the freedoms seen in Western liberal democracies, and indeed Japan and the Republic of Korea as well.  Beijing is so threatened by the example across the Taiwan Straits, of Chinese people peacefully interacting and living in harmony under liberal democracy, that it seeks to blank it out of history and international affairs.

However, for today - a day ordinary Chinese people are not allowed near the celebrations in Beijing (remember any "People's" Republic is ironic, as it is only about the people as an abstract, not the messy, complicated, diverse and curiosities of real individual humans), because realistically the celebrations are NOT about the achievements of China, but the achievement of 70 years of a political monopoly on power by one of the most inept, corrupt and murderous political entities the world has ever seen.  China's growth in the past forty years is a testament to the hard work, determination and ability of Chinese people set somewhat free after thirty years of totalitarian tyranny, but it is in spite of the central control and direction of the Communist Party of China.

Had China avoided the catastrophe of Mao, it would today be a developed country, with a longer life expectancy, higher standard of living, with literally millions more people of talent and ability thriving, and a vibrant culture of debate, discussion, civil society and community.  Not a culture of fear, surveillance, authoritarianism and concealment of history and reality.  It may more closely resemble Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and Japan, and be a force for economic and political freedom, and the values of human dignity and the individual.

The People's Republic of China has been a catastrophe for so many in China, and has contributed to catastrophe elsewhere.  It is a threat to the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan, and is the world's greatest executor.  It is a modern surveillance state, built on intellectual property theft and a culture of fear, corruption and intensive state control, moreover the country is simply the tool of the Communist Party of China, which is itself not accountable to the government (nor is the People's Liberation Army, the armed wing of the party and state).  For the people in China, they may feel justified in celebrating the last forty years of remarkable economic growth and improvements in net standard of living for so many, but that is only because they partially embraced the economics of free market capitalism after decades of totalitarian central planning.  The Communist Party of China got out of the way to enable this, but what it does today is dehumanise and classify the people of China, treating them as servants of the Party and the State.  The people of China deserve better, and some people of China have that.

The future of China can be seen in Hong Kong and Taiwan, if the Orwellian bullies of Beijing dare let them be themselves, and reflect on what could have been and what could be, if they just trust the people.  After 70 years, the people of mainland China ought to be allowed to grow up, speak out without fear and choose those who govern them, and expect the basic principles of rule of law, individual freedom and autonomy, private property rights to apply to them, as they do to the 23 million Chinese people in Taiwan and the many millions of others worldwide.

I'll leave my final comment to the Mainland Affairs Council of the Republic of China in Taiwan:

"The Chinese Communist Party has persisted with its one-party dictatorship for 70 years, a concept of governance that violates the values ​​of democracy, freedom and human rights, causing risks and challenges for the development of mainland China... Its shouting about the struggle for unity, great rejuvenation and unification is only an excuse for military expansion, seriously threatening regional peace and world democracy and civilization...The lifeline of the survival and development of mainland China is not tied to one person and one party"