“Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” – Hypocrisy in the 21st century.
In the following article, the use of Socialism and Communism has been done reciprocally. It is because while all communist regimes are socialist, all socialist regimes are not communists.
Until the late 1920s communism and socialism meant the same thing and were used interchangeably. But after the Russian revolution and the two world wars, this mutual definition is no longer valid. While Marx and Lenin believed communism to be the next stage in Socialism, where the society will be classless and cashless, practicality accorded communism an almost demonic identity which is characterised by an authoritative state and minimal or no personal liberty.
This article has been divided into two parts. While the first part deals with explaining Socialism/Communism and provides a brief history of China and its form of governance, the second part will deal with the authoritarianism and subjugation of human rights that is veiled by “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”
According to Wikipedia,
“Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership may refer to forms of public, collective or cooperative ownership, or to citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, though social ownership is the common element shared by its various forms.“
In layman’s terms, socialism implies the absence of inequality in any form among the citizens of a socialist nation. It is based on the philosophy, all beings are created equal and thus all beings should live equally. In this egalitarian point of belief, there is no place for capitalism or fascism that advocate the rise of industrialists and hierarchical institutions as the backbone of the modern economy. Socialism and its evolved cousin, Communism tend to believe that your everyday, normal worker who’s no different from the next worker in the line is the backbone of the economy.
The most famous proponents of Socialism in its present form were, Marx in the 19th century and Lenin and Trotsky in the 20th century. However, all three of them never had a chance to essentially govern a socialist regime and promote the policies that form the crux of Socialism.
After their death and in Trotsky’s case brutal assassination, the responsibility to spread and use Socialism in the governing of a nation-state was left with pragmatic men like Stalin, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro to name a few, who laid the foundation of Socialism in their respective countries and played the imperative role in spreading the ideals of Socialism throughout the world.
However, after Socialism’s dazzling rise in the 20th century, only a handful of socialist countries saw the light of the 21st century. The largest in terms of land and population and the most powerful and influential among them is the People’s Republic of China. The third superpower in the modern age and the second Communist superpower, China has traversed a journey to become one of the most powerful empires ever in a surprisingly short time. In comparison, the level of influence that China wields today, took the United States of America two devastating wars and more than 200 hundred years of continuous rule to acquire.
Thus it is highly unpleasant, that unlike the United States and not unlike the Soviet Republic, China’s inner functioning and the wheels behind its operational forces are shrouded in a mystery to the outside world.
It has been problematic and challenging to figure out the ideology in place behind the Communist Party of China (CPC), which controls the country and its armed forces and the difficulty in this task is amplified when it is proudly called a Socialist regime by its leaders and nationalists, for the truth is China is no more Socialist than any mixed economy and no less capitalist than any leading western democracy.
China’s tryst with Socialism began when the Communist Party of China was founded in 1921 by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao. This inception of communists in China was inspired by the Russian Revolution or the October Revolution in 1917. Like the Bolsheviks in Russia, there main aim was to consolidate the Chinese mainland and establish a worker’s and peasant’s government. However there already existed a people’s government established in 1911. Thus, in the first half of the 20th century, the Chinese mainland was engulfed in a civil war between two opposing ideals, the Marxist-Leninist (Communist) and the already serving Kuomintang (KMT) government.
In order to maintain the complexity of this article as low as possible, we will not go into detail about the civil war. All we need to know is that the communist party was able to ignite a revolution in China and was able to win the war in 1949, thus establishing complete control over the Chinese mainland and reducing the erstwhile government to an island in the South China Sea called Taiwan.
Presently KMT still claims all of mainland China as its own territory and the government in Taiwan is called the Republic of China (ROC), while the Communist Party of China controls mainland China and claims Taiwan as its own territory. The government in mainland China is called the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The Communist Party Chairman and the strength behind the People’s Revolution was the first president of PRC, Mao Zedong. Establishing communist rule in 1949, Chairman Mao began the implementation of a planned economy that was in close resemblance to the Soviet form of government. He initiated measure like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution to guide his country forward into a Socialist Utopia. However, these measure like his friend Stalin’s great Purge included their own bizarre dogmas. One of the most inexplicable step by Mao was the Four Pests Campaign, undertaken in the Great Leap Forward which ordered the elimination of rats, flies, mosquitos and sparrows who according to the leadership were responsible for damaging the crops and destroying the livelihood of peasants. As it later turned out, instead of those four pests Chairman Mao and his cronies were responsible for destroying the lives of peasants and workers because the blatant hunting of these beings is believed to be the principle reason behind the Great Chinese Famine in which close to 45 million Chinese died.
This is one of the measures which like Stalin’s eccentricity have earned communism the world’s ire. The truth however is that communism like any democratic state depends upon the charisma and the mental strength of its leaders. This statement is backed by the reign of leaders like Deng Xiaoping who stand out against the peculiarity of communist rulers.
Even though Xiaoping never held any political office comparable to the premiership or president hood, he is singlehandedly responsible for China’s vibrant economy and its world power status now. In sharp contrast to most communist leaders, Xiaoping was a visionary who realised the faults in China’s communism and began a system of revival that would later boost the Chinese economy.
Taking control in 1978, he began a roll back of major government policies that had stagnated the development of the nation, and provided more liberty to the general population by removing stringent laws. His doctrine led to the rapid economic development of the nation, which was further supplemented by the opening of the Chinese economy to the world in the 1980s.
This strict adherence to Xiaoping’s policies was carried forward into the 21st century. These steps were in accordance to Xiaoping’s principle of light projection of a country’s military strength and thus afforded PRC the luxury of being a silent but growing power. Xiaoping’s PRC was consequently able to avoid the disastrous interfering in the Middle East that USA, Russia and the EU were unable to steer clear of. While it drained away America’s strength and the world’s willingness to trust America’s “peaceful” actions, they did nothing to impact PRC’s reputation and PRC continued to expand its trade with both the developed and developing/underdeveloped countries (Currently, PRC is the largest trading partner of more than 80 countries!).
However this peaceful projection that most nations had associated PRC with was going to change very soon in 2012, when the rise of Xi Jinping meant that PRC was no longer going to stay in the side-lines.
Xi Jinping took China’s helm while it was the fastest growing economy and in the five years since, he has only increased its overall potential. With measures like encouraging the usage of the Chinese Renminbi for international transactions and inciting the Chinese businessmen to invest in all parts of the world from the Western Hemisphere to the poorest states in Africa, Jinping has only made clear his imperialistic ambitions for his nation-state and himself.
Apart from his strategies to project Chinese economic strength, Jinping has not fallen shy in providing a prognostic image of what Chinese armed force are capable of. From petty skirmishes with India on their shared borders to the absolute annexation and the creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea, Jinping’s PRC has not ran out of ways to bully its smaller and weaker neighbours. This unfortunately is not surprising or appalling as it has been a characteristic of rising superpowers to subvert their neighbouring nations and project a commanding global image.
While these imperialistic tendencies were assumed to be natural as both the United States of America and the Soviet Union have practised them, what comes as a stunner is the increasing authoritarianism under Xi Jinping. While common in a growing and developing nation-state, authoritarianism is believed to grow less as a country becomes more developed. Thus, it was expected that with PRC’s rapid rise into development and super power status, the repression of its citizens and its bullish tendencies would decrease.
Conversely, the despotism has only increased under Xi Jinping,
The only ray of hope was that after Xi Jinping’s reign which was supposed to be over in 2022 (CPC Chairmen generally serve for not more than ten years), PRC would become a more considerate state and would avoid the mistakes America made. Unfortunately, this hope too was dashed this year in October.
In October, occurred arguably the most drastic political event of this year whose far-reaching effects could have consequences in the later part of this century as well.
At the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China held between 18th and 24th October, Xi Jinping, the president of the state, assumed absolute control over this powerful nation by removing any opposition to his rule and signalling that his reign would be far from over after the stipulated ten years in 2022.
Moreover he termed his rule as an equivalent to Chairman Mao’s and Deng Xiaoping’s and like them gave a name to the ideology and the form of governance, PRC has been practising under him. He called it “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”.
Ironically, the practice that Xi Jinping is so keen on taking into the next era is neither Socialist as Marx envisioned nor Chinese as Confucius (the great Chinese philosopher) would have professed.
The next part of the story follows in Part_2 of this series. Read it here.