Earlier this week, Chris Beam did a piece asking “How communist is China, really?” and concluding “not very.” He makes familiar points, but this is one hell of a too-be-sure graf in my opinion:
That said, the Chinese government still controls major aspects of the economy and society. For example, just about every Chinese bank is state-owned, so the government decides which businesses and individuals will get the most favorable loans. The domestic media are entirely state-owned as well and offer uniformly favorable political coverage. Perhaps the biggest vestige of classical communism is the fact that every square inch of land in the country still belongs to the government. (People and businesses can own houses and other property.)
I’ve made this point before but the approach of today’s CCP is arguably right in line with Lenin’s New Economic Policy or the ideas of Nikolai Bukharin and Mikhail Gorbachev all of whom certainly thought they were Communists. Indeed, if you ask me the status quo in China is pretty similar to the agenda outlined in the Communist Manifesto. Similarly, when Bean says “irony is that the Communist leadership structure is geared toward capitalist ends” he turns out to mean that it’s geared toward economic growth. Growth is something that the post-1960s far left is typically skeptical of, but Karl Marx and all the leaders of the USSR espoused the view that policy should be geared toward maximizing growth.
I don’t want to make too much out of this and obviously the “China embraces capitalism” view has taken hold largely because it contains a lot of truth. Still, I think it’s a mistake to too-quickly reject the idea that China’s leadership may very sincerely see themselves as continuing to carry the Communist torch.