I would like to reply to a recent comment and in so doing hopefully clear up a few misconceptions about China. Here is the comment: “China is a communist country, would you not agree? I mean nothing happens without the permission of the government (i.e. I heard you cannot even access Facebook). Of course China allows companies to sell their products with restrictions but I would not come close to calling this capitalism.”
Misconception #1: China’s government is a massive, Communist monolithic block in which the central power calls all the shots.
The Washington Post recently ran an article about how recent disputes between the PRC and Japan sheds light on the fact there is often no official policy of the PRC. Shen Dingli, who is the executive dean of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, claims that this is because there are competing interests within the government. The power is actually very decentralized, and each “new generation of officials in the military, key government ministries, or state owned companies,” has an increasing amount of power and confidence. Shen says, “This is a time when the Chinese government is weak. As a result, different interest groups have been unleashed in a less coordinated and less centralized way.”
As for blocking Facebook, perhaps the US government should do the same, and see college students everywhere see a 5% spike in grades! (Every time I see a post such as “My pee smells like Cheerios,” I wish that it were blocked.) But it is true there are serious human rights issues. This also doesn’t necessarily immediately qualify China as a Communist nation, though. India, as a democracy, is incredibly corrupt with the grossest kinds of human rights violations occurring frequently.
While the influence of the former regime can certainly still be felt, most in China agree that they are Communist in name only—in reality no one really knows what to call them, so analysts have just decided on the obvious oxymoron “state capitalism.” Almost all sectors are run by the laws of supply and demand. Decentralized local power allows some companies to operate rather freely. The PRC is most heavily involved in industry and have a lot of say in what they produce. It will be interesting to see how long this model can keep up and if the PRC will be willing to adapt or not.
Misconception #2: Marxism is understood and practiced in China, and the wealth is heavily distributed.
The gap between the rich and the poor, as measured by the Gini Index, is actually greater than that of the United States and rivals Latin America in its seriousness. China has a massive upper class that is only going to grow in wealth and size while maintaining a poor lower class. As for Marxism, it plays no role and very few seem to take it seriously or understand it.
Misconception #3: China will soon overtake the US as the next world superpower.
China is a long way from becoming a superpower. They are achieving so much (well-deserved) attention because they have achieved in sixty years what it took Europe two thousand years to achieve. I think there are various reasons for why they still need a lot of time, all having to do with different cultural, economic, and political values. The people generally are not in a position to grasp the world around them in a way necessary to become a superpower. Granted, all of this is changing at relatively breakneck speed, but it is a long road.