The government in China today is communist. It refuses to give the population democratic rights for a variety of reasons based around the history of China over the last several thousand years, China between 1900 and 1949 and concerning the Communist Party itself. However the Communists encourage private enterprise because of what has happened since 1949. China’s development in the future will be due to the problems they face today. The fact that China is a communist country with a capitalist economy is a paradox. Normally in a communist country the government controls all industry.
This is not very successful as without competition technology does not develop. China has chosen to use a capitalist economy because of its experiences with a communist one. One reason for refusing to give democratic rights is that of the dynasties. China had been very successful for hundreds of years without democracy. In the early 20th Century the Quing family ruled China; they were the last Chinese dynasty. The Chinese were one of the most advanced civilisations in the world. They had invented gunpowder, spectacles, the magnetic compass and much more.
They were also skilled at astronomy, maths, engineering and medicine. Therefore the Communists today could say that China did well with autocratic rule and therefore there is no reason to allow more democracy. A second reason for not giving democratic rights was the dislike shown towards Europeans and the West. Europeans had tried to influence China and tried to take its resources. This led to China hating Europe and because Europeans were democratic they also hated democracy. The Boxer rebellion was a good example of Chinese hatred towards Christians and Europeans. When it was crushed it bred even more hatred.
A reason that the Communists don’t give democratic rights is because they believe that in the past democracy has shown itself to be evil and it still could be. The events between 1912 and 1916 are another reason why the Chinese Government refuses to give democratic rights. Yuan Shikai became president of China in 1912 after the death of the last of the Manchu’s. When he came to power he set up a constitutional republic, in other words a democracy. He dissolved the National Assembly in 1914 after his party lost the majority. Then he ruled as a dictator and governed 12 of the 18 provinces of China.
Communists could say that their previous experience of democracy proved to be terrible and argue that it would be just as unsuccessful if they tried again. The Communists could also refuse to give democratic rights because of their experience with warlords. From 1916-27 China was split and ruled in different areas by warlords and Civil War erupted. China’s people experienced a very bad period in that time and suffered a lot. The leaders of today could say that they need very strong, central government to avoid Civil War again and democracy wouldn’t provide this.
In 1926 the Communists ‘save’ the Chinese from the Warlords on “The March North”. A further argument for refusing democratic rights is what happened in the Jiangxi province. Although the Guomindang, under Chang Kai-shek, ruled most of China the Communists ruled the Jiangxi province. For the first time the peasants, previously under feudal rule, gained many rights, including the right to own land and have a say in the running of their own communities. Schools were established and arranged marriages were abolished.
The people of China today may feel gratitude towards the Communists for freeing them from feudal duties. When the Communists came to power the parties aim was to be a “people’s democratic dictatorship”. This means that there would be democracy for most but dictatorship for those that didn’t comply with Communist rule (reactionaries). The Communists faced many problems when they came to power before they could unite China. Civil war had caused a reduction in agricultural output and increases in population put strains on the few resources they did have. However they further reformed the feudal system.
The Communists may argue against the need for democracy because of the reforms that they made. The Communists changed many laws covering the rights of women. 270 million women were now liberated from arranged marriages and allowed to own property. Also maternal benefits were allowed. There was land reform involving the Agrarian reform law which took land from rich people and gave it to the poor peasants. They teamed together to buy and share equipment and animals. Peasant farmers could show aggression to landlords at meetings which were often followed by the landlord’s execution.
After being attacked by Japan during WWII, the Communists sought to reform areas of China. They did this first by taking large areas of land from the rich business men and giving them to the peasants. They made farming schools and made soldiers work agricultural areas. Rents and taxes were reduced and no-interest loans were given out by the government. Social reforms were made including the banning of the binding of women’s feet, making illegal the forcing of children into slavery, the murder of unwanted babies and prostitution.
The Communists could feel that China should feel in debt to for giving them the life they had. Today the Communist Party may refuse to give democratic rights because of Deng’s reforms. When Deng came to power in 1979 he faced enormous problems within China. The majority of Chinese people lived in poverty. Deng introduced a 10-year-plan in 1979. This was designed to increase industry and agriculture. Jobs were created and workers were paid bonuses for extra output. People were allowed to start their own businesses. Peasants’ plot sizes increased and they were allowed to sell their surpluses at market.
Communists today could say that they started to do well without democracy so they should be allowed to continue. They also faced the problem of overpopulation. In 1982 the Census showed that the Chinese population totalled 1,015,410,000 people. China did not produce enough food to feed everyone and predicted that by the year 2080 3 billion people would be living in starvation conditions. In 1980 Deng started the One Child Plan. This meant that couples would only be allowed one child, and if they had no children they would be rewarded.
This plan contrasts with the previous government encouragement for producing large families. These problems remain today. Communists could argue that only a non-democratic government could pass such a harsh but desperately needed law. An environmental reason for not allowing democratic rights is that of the Three Gorges Project. This project is to dam the Yangtze River. The building of this dam will produce a smooth, navigable river for trading vessels, it will prevent devastating floods damaging 400 million homes and 70% of China’s rice crop every few years.
It will also create an amazing 18thousand megawatts of hydro-electricity. However, there is plenty of opposition to this plan because it will flood 140 towns and thousands of villages and will involve the forced removal of millions of people. The communists argue that such an important project could not be passed in a democratic country. Government in China, although being communist, encourages a capitalist economy. One reason why it might do this is due to the failure of the Great Leap Forward. This was a plan to become one of the world’s leading industrial nations and improve agriculture.
This was to be done by organising people into ‘communes’. Families gave up everything they owned to common ownership. The policy of ‘Communes’ lead to widespread starvation. Another part of the Great Leap Forward was the Backyard Steel Campaign. This was the building of over 600 thousand furnaces in villages to create steel. The Great Leap Forward failed after only a few months. Old machinery fell apart after being pushed too hard and workers fell asleep at their benches. The Backyard Steel Campaign failed; 3 million out of every 11 million tons of steel produced was too impure to use and was scrapped.
One in ten people worked at the furnaces so not enough people were left working in the fields and insufficient food was produced to feed the population. Coal used in the furnaces deprived the trains of fuel and so the steel produced could not be transported. Communists today could say that the reason that they promote a free market economy is because the Communist Plan used in 1958 failed and sent the country into crisis. The Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1969 pushed China into ‘chaos on a grand scale’ for the second time in ten years under Moa Zedong.
A second reason why the Communists encourage a free market economy rather than a Communist one is because of the failure of ex-Communist countries. When Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, the economy was in total disarray. He began to restructure the country but in doing so he led the Soviet Union away from Communism and started the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. In November 1989 the Berlin Wall was opened, and less than a year later East and West Germany were reunited. The Cold War was pronounced over, and the Warsaw Pact was dissolved in 1991.
In 1991 US Secretary of State, James Baker wet to Albania, one of the most Communist societies in Eastern Europe. He was greeted there by thousands of Albanians cheering and waving American flags. This marked the end of the fall of Communism throughout Europe. In August 1991 the Communist system collapsed where it had begun in the Soviet Union. The Communist party was suspended from all activity, and the Soviet Union was officially dissolved in December. Communism failed because it was not an economic system; it was simply a system of political control of everything.
The result was predictable: great wealth for the few and squalor and poverty for the rest. The failure of Marxism was clearly predicted by economist Ludwig von Mises in 1922 in his book ‘Socialism’. He was the first to explain Communism’s basic flaw: it had no means of economic calculation. An economy is a price system. A business must know the costs (or prices) of everything raw materials, machinery, rental of buildings, labour, inventory, overhead, shipping, and more. In other words, a business must know what it can afford in relation to expected income.
Prices are calculated in relation to supply and demand. Under Communism, there was no market to set prices. Supply was determined by the government, regardless of demand. Everyone was forced to work, so there was no competition for jobs. The true costs of production were not known. Wages were completely arbitrary, as were prices of goods. For this reason the government in China can promote a free market economy to prevent failure as experienced by the Soviet Union. The Chinese government may also argue that countries with capitalist economies are the leading nations of the world.
The United States of America, Japan, Britain and other western European countries have the top economies in the world. Japan especially must be admired by China after its transformation from their loss in the Second World War and their isolationism to being the second richest country in the world. The Communists in China may justify encouraging a free market economy because of what has been achieved by countries with that type of economy. There are three possible routes for China to take in the future. One of these options is to become more democratic than they currently are. China would do this for many reasons.
The internet is a big problem for an authoritarian state as it cannot be censored in the same way that a newspaper can. This means that ideas from democratic countries come to China and the people want to see them brought into their government. It also provides uncensored worldwide news. Also as China has a free market economy, foreign businesses bring their foreign cultures, including democracy, to China. Another reason for China to become more democratic is the fact that the Chinese people now have enough money to travel and when they see the freedom that people have in democratic countries they want the same at home in China.
All these factors lead to the people of China wanting more freedom and they see that an obvious way to do that is to become democratic. China could also stay the way it is at moment, communism with socialist characteristics. It would do this because it is doing so well at the moment with the type of government they are using. In fact China are doing so well that economists for ‘The Lehman Brothers’ believe that it will overtake Japan in 2030 and become the worlds second largest economy and some predict that by 2025 it will be the largest.
Another reason for China staying as it is is Wen Jiabao. He wants China to have a Singaporean style of government, meaning he still wants autocracy but he will allow tightly controlled elections. In 2002, China has massive bad bank debts of over i?? 300 billion, it still has many State Owned Enterprises which are badly managed, over staffed and unable to compete with private enterprises, it has an impoverished and vast rural population of farmers and, since joining the World Trade Organisation in 1999, inevitable massive increases in unemployment.
In order to tackle these major and complex problems China’s leaders will need to keep a reasonably tight control over the population, whilst encouraging private enterprise. All of this means that China may stay as it is currently. China may also revert back to a stricter authoritarian state. This would happen if Wen was seen by the hard liners as not solving the problems (listed above) that China faces, and increasing discontent amongst rural farmers and the unemployed, they may well take control.
Wherever and whenever there is a power vacuum it is filled, as in the former USSR where the mafia now control large parts of political and economical aspects of society. When there is a change from a strictly autocratic government to a more liberal or democratic one, there is an explosion in lawlessness, as witnessed in Iraq. This would mean China becoming more hard line Communist. It can be seen that there are many and complex reasons why the Communists could justify that there is no present need for greater democracy in China.
These reasons include not only their historical development during the dynastic and feudal period but also the more recent events during the 20th century, social transformation from a dynastic and feudal system through several phases of Communist and autocratic rule to very gradual opening and re-emergence of the country to the influence of world market and more liberal governmental systems. The only certainty is that of the short term future, in that it appears that Wen has no intention of creating a democratic system but will continue with a more liberal but autocratic system.