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Here’s the way the Associated Press played it: “Leader Jiang Zemin announced ambitious plans Friday for a capitalist-style sell-off of China’s ailing state companies, but pledged not to embrace democratic reforms or weaken communist rule.”
Here’s the way The New York Times played it: “Even though Jiang’s address embraced a groundbreaking shift to a share-holding system for most of the nation’s large industries, dissolving what was arguably the last pillar of a socialist economy, Saturday’s discussion ignored that topic and was instead dominated by virtually identical expressions of admiration for Jiang, who is party leader as well as president.”
Predictably, the American press is completely missing the real story of the dramatic events that are unfolding in China.
First of all, China is not embracing capitalism in any form, any more than it is embracing democratic reforms. Secondly, China is not dissolving a socialist economy.
Here’s how my dictionary defines “capitalism”: “the economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, as land, factories, railroads, etc., are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions.”
Believe me, comrades, China is in no danger of approaching such a free enterprise system in which “all” or “most” of the means of production and distribution is privately owned and operated for profit. It would be impossible within a system that doesn’t even recognize private property as a right. What China is doing is spinning off a few highly inefficient government monopolies, placing them in the hands of trusted members of the Communist Party apparatus and maintaining tight controls over them. There will not be any competition permitted — at least not from within China itself.
It is even more inaccurate, inappropriate and dangerous to view what is happening in China today as representing the end of socialism. It is not.
Let’s go back to the dictionary on “socialism”: “any of various theories or systems of the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by society or the community rather than by private individuals, with all members of society or the community sharing in the work and the products.”
Notice the phrase “various theories or systems.” Marxist-Leninists and Maoists have no monopoly on socialist systems. You can see socialism in one form or another at work in Great Britain, the Scandinavian nations and, increasingly, right here in the United States. China is not abandoning socialism, nor is it suggesting anything remotely resembling such a plan.
It’s important to be precise in reporting. Such ridiculous notions are quickly becoming part of our popular culture and are leading to a state of confusion and a fanciful flight from reality that will inevitably lead us into poor policy responses.
So what is going on in China? Well, there is another name for the developments taking place under the reign of Jiang. It’s an accurate term. If properly understood, the name itself would alert a sleeping public and a wayward foreign policy establishment to the perils of appeasing this growing monster in the East.
The other name is “fascism.” One last time, let’s go to the dictionary. As you read the following words, I want you to think about whether they accurately describe the changing system in China.
Fascism: “A system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forcible suppression of opposition, private economic enterprise under centralized governmental control, belligerent nationalism and militarism.”
One party dictatorship? Check. Beijing boasts about it.
Forcible suppression of opposition? Check. Beijing says there will be more of it, not less.
Private economic enterprise under centralized governmental control? Check. That’s the only new development in China.
Belligerent nationalism?: Check. Just ask Taiwan.
Militarism? China maintains, by far, the largest standing army in the world, yet is not threatened by any of its neighbors. It is also in the midst of a radical modernization program outlined by Jiang and only last year reminded the United States that its intercontinental ballistic missiles are capable of hitting Los Angeles.
So let’s stop celebrating, folks. Let’s think back to the late 1930s and what happened later because the world preferred to pretend and trade and prosper in the wake of the German economic rebirth. This isn’t Communism anymore, true. But it isn’t capitalism, either. There’s only one name for it — and the last time that name came to power, the whole world was engulfed in flames.