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Monday, December 22, 2014

Is Mainland China Still A Communist Nation?

Links: A. China Moves Away From Reform
           B. People's Liberation Army

We all have certain phrases and clichés that rub us the wrong way.  One phrase which always brings out the red-ass in me is, "we must compromise with China because they are the world's biggest economy".  Actually, a few variants exist on the same basic theme.  Reading between the lines, the point is that since China has become so powerful economically, we must defer to China and ignore the distasteful laws and actions of the government in Beijing.  The detention and execution of political reformers, religious intolerance as a rule, and hardline support for the likes of Kim Jung-Un in North Korea are three particular issues that I have with China, and if you give me about two minutes I can come up with five more.  While the western world was attempting to peacefully evolve from the age of colonialism, China invaded Tibet and brutally murdered any and all local opposition.  China continues to clamp down on even the slightest display of nationalism in Tibet, which is about as indigenous to China as Tahiti is to France.  I'm not usually an apologist for Islamic "freedom fighters", but China has reacted brutally to expressions of Islamic identity in far western Chinese Provinces.  I believe these examples are all indications that the Chinese government is just as reactionary and just as opposed to basic individual freedoms as they have always been. 

The evolution of a Chinese middle class has done much to encourage people into believing that China isn't a Communist country anymore.  How could they be, with such a large and powerful economy?  China does have a growing middle class (growing SLOWLY), and also an elite class of highly placed party leaders who lead lives very different that the average rice grower out in the provinces.  The Generals who sit in positions of power in the People's Liberation Army all lead very comfortable private lives as well.  Their families also enjoy the benefits of luxury and influence.  But this is how Communism has always betrayed itself.  If you've managed to get through anything penned by Karl Marx (don't lie!), you know that the example must be set at the top, not at the bottom.  Wealth should be evenly distributed, and equality should be the focus of all government domestic policy.  But Communism has yet to follow through on this admirable but unrealistic plan.  Have a look at the Soviet Union, Laos, Vietnam, and China, just for starters.  The people in positions of authority (I thought the working class was the societal authority?) always live well, or at least better than most.  In China today, I wouldn't be surprised if the growth of the middle class slows to a crawl, and the number of rich Chinese dramatically increases.

For the average citizen of China, the rules and regulations of Chinese society haven't changed in over sixty years.  Well then, why do we see so many wealthy Chinese?  Because someone found a way to game the system.  When Europe and the United States opened up to China and embraced Chinese products, the increased flow of money allowed a select few to take advantage of newly discovered avenues to wealth.  Chinese products have always been attractive to western consumers.  Originally interest might have been influence by the sense of the exotic that Chinese products delivered.  Quickly, though, it became about money.  Chinese merchandise was always much cheaper than the competitor.  Chinese businessmen who were fortunate enough to have a relative in the National Bank were able to take out loans and build large factories, duplicating European products at a fraction of the cost.  These businessmen joined the wealthy list as well.  But China is a country of more than one billion people, and the vast majority have always lived within the confines of a limited economy.  The closest most Chinese will ever come to wealth is to wash dishes in an exclusive Shanghai restaurant.

The Chinese economy is a force to be reckoned with.  I will argue that the United States, Japan, and Europe were instrumental in helping the Chinese economy transform so dramatically in a relatively short period of time.  The Chinese needed open markets and favorable trade agreements, and the west obliged.  In the 1970s, the argument was, "there are almost a billion Chinese, we MUST be supportive of their efforts to reform (expand) their economy".  Along with the establishment of middle and upper classes, the Chinese government became flush with cash.  Not just from favorable trade, but also from a streamlined tax system.  The Chinese used the financial largesse to increase their influence diplomatically, especially through building projects in Africa (roads, dams, hospitals, etc.). The Chinese also enjoyed spending money in the United States, with enormous real estate ventures on both coasts.  As far as I am concerned, the most important figure in this discussion is 1.2 trillion.  That is the amount, in dollars, of U.S. debt that China currently owns (eight percent).  How does a Communist country manage to own such a substantial amount of debt from the world's wealthiest nation?  Forgive....I hate rhetorical questions as much as you.

I believe that China is a Communist country.  A country-side tour, outside of Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, will remind the tourist that China continues to be more rural than urban.  Subsistence farming is still the staple way of life for many Chinese families.  It's my understanding that the educational system has improved dramatically in the past two decades, both by the number of schools and the quality of teachers.  As the economy flexes, jobs are created, and China gives the appearance of a nation on the move.  Allow me to share with you the reasons why China continues to be deeply embedded in Communism.  The entire educational system is controlled by the government.  Every Chinese government school textbook is pure propaganda.  Once a student completes what we would consider "grade school", they must take a test to determine their aptitude for whatever direction that they would prefer (occupation/trade).  Most young Chinese follow in their father's footsteps; its probably rarely by choice.  I have had the pleasure of meeting many Chinese students who are studying at U.S. universities.  The tuition for these foreign students is almost always paid for by the university.  After a bit of research, I learned that these students were the children of Generals, Admirals and Governors.  I would have been so thrilled to read, "rice farmer" under the space marked "parent occupation", but it was not to be.  So anyone who thinks that China is "less" Communist because of the plethora of Chinese students studying at U.S. schools, think again.  Chinese students almost always attend universities who have been selected for highly sensitive U.S. Department of Defense research projects.  These students enter the United States with a server on their computer that can't be monitored, and links them directly to Beijing.  This information has been detailed in one news article after another, yet left-wing academia continues to arm-wrestle for the opportunity to host Chinese students.

In the past, Communist nations have always spent disproportionately on their military budgets. I'm not exactly sure where China fits on a scale of military spending, but I do know that since the Nixon rapprochement with China in 1972, the Chinese have become steadily less reliant on outside sources for military equipment, and better at copying the best that the west has to offer.  The Chinese have refined a particularly nasty little trick that a number of countries like to try.  If a particular company has created a really useful mobile missile launcher (for example), the Chinese will invite the company reps to demonstrate the equipment in China.  The reps will be wined and dined, and given the impression that the sale is basically a done-deal.  Sometime while the equipment is in storage in China, the Chinese will take it apart down to the last screw, photograph and measure everything, then put the equipment back together.  The next day, the company reps are abruptly dismissed with a curt, "not interested".  Roughly one year down the road, the Chinese will introduce their own, "indigenous" mobile missile launcher.  But China has not always played the game so smoothly.  One reason why Taiwan has not been swallowed up by the mainland (yet), is because the Chinese Air Force could not guarantee control of the air.  The Taiwanese pilots in their latest F16s were more than a match to waves of whatever the Chinese pilots were flying at the time.  Another issue was naval.  The Chinese navy did not possess a dependable method for transporting troops across the Taiwan Strait (sitting ducks for the Taiwan Air Force).  But since the late 1970s the Chinese have made steady progress in all areas of military concern.  Some people will ask why the Chinese don't just invade Taiwan and resolve the issue once and for all.  I'm sure China could.  When a country can turn to a population of over one billion, there can be no doubt that China could just drop a million troops on Taiwan and smoother the country into submission.  But we are dealing with subtleties here.  The Taiwanese military is no slouch.  It's well-equipped and well-trained, and the navy includes three Daphne-class French submarines that are capable of housing a missile delivery system.  The mainland Chinese are itching to take Taiwan, but they want to look good completing the job.  So a few more military preparations appear to be in order.

Most folks would find it easier to identify a Democracy than a Communist state.  As Eric Cartman on South Park put it so eloquently: "Its the difference between smelling the sweet air of freedom or the stale air of repression".  The Chinese government has shown no disposition towards religious tolerance, and in far western China, Muslims are being targeted by Chinese police and military solely for practicing Islam.  Rumors abound in China that couples are only allowed to have one child, and lets hope that the newborn isn't a girl.  The Chinese government has population controls, in that you must apply to live in certain areas (the Chinese have grown accustomed to many, many waiting lists).  We have already demonstrated the tight grip the government has on all levels of education.  As for students, the government likes to turn them into little spies, because they have the kind of valuable access that case officers would love to have.  I could go on and on, but I think I've made my point.  China continues to be a nation happily integrated at every level with Communist philosophy.  Am I sure?  Have you taken a peak at their electoral process lately?      

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