Is China Really Communist?

Image via NYTimes

Red Flag, but Not a Red State: China is the Epitome of Global Capitalism.

China—a country as old as the earliest civilizations—has become the purported bane of the American economy. The country is blamed for stealing jobs via outsourced manufacturing and making a fortune through various other trade exchanges. As China grows to rival the U.S economy, a thorough understanding of China’s economic ideology is vital.

The first question worth answering: Is China really Communist?

First, one must understand Communism, and the author of its manifesto, Karl Marx. During his time in Paris, Marx became fascinated by understanding the inner workings of how a capitalist society arises. Shortly after, he wrote the Communist Manifesto, as a way of pointing out the class divide that capitalism causes and how communism can ensure an equal classless society. It is important to note, that Marx’s communism theorized an end result wherein there would be no ruling government. Communism, as the name implies, imagines a state in which all resources are owned by the people who work to create them, and any authority exists only to appropriate these resources.

To starving peasants of a country in disarray with a history of failed dynastic rule, the principals are appealing. One could finally earn one’s value in work, without being lorded over by undeserving rulers who did little to help the people. The resulting struggle to consolidate proponents of this ideology and bring them to power brought forth one of the most brutal dictators in the world – Mao Zedong, China’s first communist leader.

Mao’s rise to power coincided with the peak of the U.S.S.R’s power. It was the China that the U.S government became wary of, and Baby Boomers learned about with apprehension and distaste.

But before the U.S.S.R fell, China had already implemented its “Open Door Policy.” This allowed for and incentivized foreign investment and businesses in Special Economic Zones, bringing China new money and jobs. From 1980 to 2016, its annual GDP per capita grew from 205.12 to 8522.86, coinciding with the expansion of these SEZs.

China has expanded the power of its economy beyond its borders as well. It has efficiently bought up the resources in other countries to bring back to the mainland, reduced tariffs on its poorer trade partners and secured relations with many of its Asian neighbors which have typically traded with the U.S.

During my travels in South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe, I was surprised to hear how often the locals spoke of Chinese construction projects throughout the continent. In fact, China has invested billions in African infrastructure. It provides the Chinese with a place to easily export their raw goods they have extracted from their mines in Mongolia as well as employ their large construction companies. While Western nations were either not keen to invest or overlooked the opportunity, China has spread its economic tendrils in all corners of the globe.

Even in America, Chinese companies have quietly acquired various major U.S companies or large divisions in industries from cinema to food packaging.

This snatch-and-grab, it seems, is its main strategy: Become rich as others become poor.

Perhaps the Chinese government is more overbearing than the U.S. However, while strict government regulations stifle freedoms most Americans enjoy daily, such as free use of the Internet, the Chinese people have not been similarly stifled. In fact, China has more billionaires than the U.S. Most of the billionaires are not aristocrats, but rather businessmen and entrepreneurs.

In comparison, an irrefutably communist country such as North Korea, has experienced slow economic growth with periods of steep decline – far different from its neighbor.

So, is China a communist country? Economically, the argument says no, although socially and politically, perhaps so.

Ultimately, to understand China as an economic rival, it does not matter how the government conducts itself within the nation. China has brought the war of capitalism beyond its borders to the global playing field. And the Chinese are playing to win. Those countries who fail to catch up, are left behind.

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