It wasn’t so long ago that left-wing academics were singing the praises of the Chinese Communist Party. Take British academic David Runciman, for example, who informed us earlier this year that “the democratic cause is on the defensive, and China’s pragmatic authoritarianism now offers a serious rival model, based on economic promise and national dignity.”
Professor Runciman, addressing us from the cloistered halls of Cambridge University in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, is dead wrong on every single point.
Far from being “a serious rival model to democracy,” China under Party rule is merely the latest iteration of the oppressive, inefficient and corrupt regimes of the Soviet era, or the bureaucratic totalitarian regimes of China’s worst emperors.
The true character of the regime was for a time, it is true, disguised by China’s impressive economic growth. The Party insists that all the credit for China’s progress in recent decades belongs to the Party alone. Xi Jinping is only the latest Communist leader to attribute China’s successes entirely to the Party’s far-sighted policies of “opening and reform.”
Runciman wholeheartedly subscribes to the Party’s view, writing that “… The Chinese regime has had remarkable success in raising the material condition of its population. …The benefits of rapid economic growth have been made tangible for many hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens, and the regime understands that its survival depends on the economic success story continuing (italics added).”
This is backwards. China has progressed economically in recent decades not because of the Party, but in spite of the Party and its omnipresent minions.
I know this because I was in China forty years ago when the “opening and reform” first began. The lifting of Mao’s bamboo curtain allowed the native talent and industry of the Chinese people to come into contact with U.S. markets and technology, along with that of other countries. The result was an explosion of entrepreneurial activity that began in the late seventies, and later blossomed into an export-based economy that was the envy of the world.
I am convinced that China’s advance would have been even more impressive if the Party had not squandered so much of the hard-earned wealth of the Chinese people along the way. How many trillions of dollars have gone into the pockets of corrupt officials over the past quarter century? How many trillions more have been wasted keeping bankrupt state-owned-enterprises on life support over the years?
I am fairly certain that the huge sums of money the Party is spending on the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) would be more than sufficient to end rural poverty in China’s backwaters. But the Party is more interested in cementing the PLA’s political loyalty to the Party, not to mention intimidating China’s neighbors, than in anti-poverty programs.
We should also consider how much it costs to monitor and surveil virtually the entire Chinese population. Arresting and imprisoning anyone and everyone who dares to question the continued rule of the Party cannot come cheap. And what about the cost of putting a million Muslims, or hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners—whose only crime is wanting to worship something other than the Party—in re-education camps or prisons for years on end?
All this is to say that, at every turn, the Party has invested enormous resources into its own survival, putting its lust for power and money ahead of the interests of the Chinese people.
As the Chinese say, “When the water recedes, the rocks appear.”
Now that China’s economic growth has slowed down, the truth can no longer be denied: The Party has criminally mismanaged the Chinese economy for its own benefit. The nascent private sector has been stifled by corruption, while inefficient state-owned enterprises continue to run up huge—if hidden—deficits. The stock market is in crash territory and the overall economy is now virtually at a standstill, if not actually contracting.
The Party, by its predatory trade practices and its rampant cyber-enabled espionage, has even managed to squander much of the goodwill that Americans and others once felt for China—at the same time it was busily destroying the better part of Chinese culture.
Runciman argues that China is an attractive economic model by comparing it to India. He writes, “Nondemocratic China has made strikingly greater progress in reducing poverty and increasing life expectancy than democratic India,” suggesting that the presence or absence of democracy is the only difference between the two countries. He fails to mention that Nehru handicapped a newly independent India by imposing socialism on it. This resulted in what Indian economist Gurcharan Das called “a throttling of enterprise, slow growth, missed opportunities, huge subsidies and a rapacious bureaucracy.”
A better comparison would be between non-democratic China and democratic Taiwan. The Taiwanese have a per capita income three times that of China, and live on average five years longer. Not to mention that they enjoy freedom of speech, assembly, and association, all of which are severely restricted in China.
The China-Taiwan comparison reveals the emptiness of the “economic promise” of Communism.
Of course, had Hillary Clinton been elected, I might well find myself reluctantly agreeing with Runciman that “the democratic cause is on the defensive.” In her headlong rush towards higher taxes and more government regulations, Madam President would have further crippled an American economy already burdened with too much of both.
Fortunately, the surprise election of an American original by the name of Donald Trump has forestalled this calamity. Trump believes with Calvin Coolidge that “the business of America is business” and has jumpstarted that enormous engine of progress known as the free market.
Cambridge dons may mock the American president for his brashness, but those who live in the real world understand that Trump’s tax cuts and trade policies have turned around the American economy and put the Party on notice that the U.S. is nobody’s patsy.
America’s best days may well be ahead of it.
Like most on the left, Runciman downplays China’s lack of “individual dignity”—his bland term for the Party’s total disregard for universally recognized human rights. In fact, he even suggests that the lack of human rights is more than compensated for in the minds of most Chinese because, under Party rule, they now enjoy an abundance of “national dignity.”
In this he is parroting the current Party leadership which proposes just such a trade-off. “You may be under constant state surveillance, unable to speak freely, prevented from forming political associations, and unable to worship the way you choose,” the Party says to the people it oppresses. “But never forget that China’s growing economic and military greatness is your greatness. And that you owe that greatness to the Party.”
The Party intends such xenophobic and nationalistic appeals to create superpatriots, national narcissists who will overlook the fact that they, along with every other living Chinese, are being systematically deprived of their natural right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Such nationalistic appeals are also intended to divert attention from the negative consequences of the Party’s continued rule, namely, that corruption will grow, innovation will be stifled, and both people and capital will increasingly seek to flee the country for safe havens abroad.
Where some see the rise of authoritarianism and the decline of democracy, I see the amazing spectacle of both China and America reverting to type.
America under Trump is returning to the principles that have made it the dominant power in the world for over a century.
Under the misrule of the Chinese Communist Party, China is reverting to the totalitarian despotism of its distant past. The Chinese people deserve better.
Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.