Tiananmen Square

Chinese Communists No Longer Put Much Stock in Communism

China has gone from Mao to 'money worship.'


CHANGSHA, China—On an island in the Xiang River stands a massive bust of the late Chinese ruler Mao Zedong as a young man, his long hair blowing gracefully in an imaginary wind. Good thing for him he's a safe distance from the Expo Central China. If he could see it, he would be tearing his hair out.

As leader of the communist revolution of 1949, Mao was dedicated to class struggle and the elimination of property. He created a totalitarian society in which everyone wore the same clothes, chanted the same slogans and—as far as anyone knew—thought the same revolutionary thoughts.

Mao's "new man" was barely recognizable as human. Purported to be selfless, tireless, austere and indifferent to pleasure, he lived for the revolution alone. Skeptics mocked these subjects as "blue ants," for their drab, uniform dress and unquestioning obedience.

But that way of life is extinct and apparently unmourned, as the expo confirms. It's a sprawling complex brightly decorated in corporate logos. Arriving visitors are greeted by rock singer Pink's pugnacious warning: "I'm not here for your entertainment/You don't really want to mess with me tonight."

The risque music emanates from an outdoor exhibit featuring young women in off-the-shoulder gowns alongside the Gucci edition Fiat 500. Gucci? Fiat? This is communism, 21st-century style, and it seems as relevant to Mao as it does to the pharaohs.

Inside, an audience in a glittering ballroom hears one speaker after another hold forth on how China in general and these six provinces in particular can attract foreign investment. Vice Premier Wang Qishan, a member of the Communist Party's Politburo, unabashedly sings the praises of "market reforms."

The adjoining exhibition hall is a carnival of booths, products and hired staffers brandishing glossy brochures. Under Mao's leadership, slogans ran along the lines of "Communism is heaven and people's commune is the bridge." Here, I spy a Wal-Mart display with the pitch: "Save money. Live better." Farther along is a Starbucks, which at one time would have been reviled as a criminally decadent luxury.

The spectacle is not limited to the trade fair. Wal-Mart has 370 stores in China, and Starbucks has more than 570. Mao's masses thronged the streets on bicycles. Today's Chinese sit in late-model cars in endless traffic jams.

All this began some three decades ago, when the People's Republic gave up trying to forcibly redesign human nature in favor of making the best of it. So thorough is the outward transformation that it's often hard to remember—or quite believe—that this is an officially communist country.

American business executives claim that small increases in marginal tax rates or regulatory requirements will sap their drive to achieve. But if China's officially socialist system has a demoralizing effect on the spirit of enterprise, you can't tell.

Critics at home think the problem is just the opposite. In his book, "The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers," journalist Richard McGregor quotes one academic's complaint that "the sole dominant ideology shared by the government and the people is money worship."

He says that like it's a bad thing. But the money-worshipping China is a gargantuan improvement on the Mao-worshipping version.

Not that communism is entirely dead. The party remains in firm control of the government, and many enterprises are partly state-owned. Party committees operate in corporate workplaces, where they play the odd role of celebrating those who diligently serve the interests of shareholders.

Touring an auto plant near Shanghai that is part of a joint venture of General Motors and SAIC Motor, I saw more than one employee recognition poster adorned with a smiling face alongside a hammer-and-sickle—signifying that the worker is a card-carrying Communist.

What that means is hard to figure. One Chinese woman, hearing of my strong aversion to Marxist-Leninist ideology, introduced me to her husband, whom she attested is "very anti-communist" and who proceeded to express his discontent with the government.

He seems to have no trouble reconciling these views with his membership in the party. Even Communists no longer put much stock in communism.

Today, it's the consumer who rules, and it's buying and selling that dominates economic life. Mao's visage still dominates Beijing's Tiananmen Square, but his people seem to have more in common with Calvin Coolidge. At the Expo Central China, it's clear that the business of China is business.

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  1. So if it is not Communisum …Then what is it?

    1. In reality their government is more fascist than communist. There’s no doubt that China is a lot better today than it was when Chairman Mao was killing tens of millions of his own people, but it still has a LONG way to go before I would consider it admirable.

      Also, foreign visitors to China should know that some of those big cities are really little more than Potemkin Villages. One aspect of communism that the Chinese government has kept is that they do facades very well.

      1. Ironically, I’d prefer a fascist government dedicated to everyone making money than I would the current abomination.

      2. More like feudal, it seems, or a Cosa Nostra regime.

        The kleptocrats realized they could get away with more if they had no ideology. Without either the excuse or the need of communism, the levers of power were still there to be used by whoever could get away with loot as long as possible, until displaced by the next set of bosses. However, that does allow for a lot more free enterprise than previously, so pretty much everyone gets richer — but especially those with current cx.

    2. A mature type of fascism.

      1. This. The current crop of scumbags running the show are quite pragmatic: There’s a shitpile of money to be made in the official corruption that is rife in China, so they’ve decided to make it.

      2. Unlike the pre-pubescent fascism we’re slouching toward here in America.

        1. I’d say it’s more like we’re twirling toward fascism.

        2. Unlike the early stages of Fascism in Italy and Germany that was ended with WWII.

    3. It’s a right-wing dictatorship in Communist drag, and right-wing dictatorships generally have an easier time becoming free countries than do left-wing dictatorships.

  2. Even Communists no longer put much stock in communism.

    Science H. Logic, another pile of drivel from Reason’s Thomas Friedman. No communist at the higher level has ever believed in Communism. The Chinese leadership is about power, always has been. Just because they have learned that they can loot more from a productive populace doesn’t mean they are in favor of any real Liberty.

    For all the Chinese that don’t have the opportunity because of their oppressive leaders: Fuck you, Chapman.

    1. This article is obviously focused on the industrialized portion of China and its modernized people, not the backwater part of China and its abjectly impoverished people. Even if things aren’t perfect, you have to admit they are moving in the right direction at a very quick pace.

      1. depends on how you define the right direction. Is it increased liberty for people or simply the adoption of some capitalism for the sake of increasing domestic wealth?

        1. I think the wealth provides a significant subset of the population with a degree of freedom not possible under a state-mandate and -enforced pauperism.

          1. Positive freedoms FTL. A golden cage is still a cage.

            1. I agree. It remains to be seen whether material wealth instills a desire for political liberty, too. The case of Singapore doesn’t bode well for the idea.

              1. I agree. It remains to be seen whether material wealth instills a desire for political liberty, too.

                Economic liberty necessarily leads to political liberty simply because economics and politics can’t be separated.

            2. Yeah, but it’s still gold, too!

        2. Is it increased liberty for people or simply the adoption of some capitalism for the sake of increasing domestic wealth?

          Does the motive matter?

          1. just asking how some guy defines “the right direction.” The Chinese figured out their subjects would less cranky if they could run businesses, make some money, buy a few nice things. But a dictatorship is still a dictatorship. Yes, conditions are better but presuming some “right direction” is being plotted is wrong.

            1. Assuming that the “right direction” involves planning is wrong.

              It has moved the right direction; if there was a motive (which I suspect there was) it’s largely irrelevant.

            2. What Chinese politicians are plotting is irrelevent. I merely meant that many Chinese now have a quality of life that is objectively better than it has ever been. They also have more liberty than ever before, though they still have a long way to go.

          2. The motive matters for determining what happens when the economic growth slows.

        3. you hit the nail on the head. They allow some people capital and tell others to kick rocks

    2. This article and your comment brought to mind this passage from my journal of my China trek last year:

      And there, after two weeks and hundreds of miles in China, we saw our first actual Mao suit on an old man, still living in his mind it would seem the “good ol’ days” of repression and failed grand five-year economic plans. I had indeed expected to see more Mao suits on old true believers. Except true believers are, if Mao jackets and caps are any identifier, manifestly very hard to find. What we see here in 2011 is what should have always been obvious and always was to many – there never was much genuine regard for Communism among these most entrepreneurial, most inherently capitalist of people. It was of course high farce, as with all politically correct contrivance; something played at for a time on pain of opprobrium – in this case opprobrium of the ultimate degree. It is the same farce that was revealed by the giant supermarkets and department stores and normal fashionable clothes preferred by free people that we saw last year in Eastern Europe. The ridiculous Mao suits never were exactly a fashion statement (even as they were paradoxically exactly that in the extreme). They were rather, in the time of the Cultural Revolution when the Red Guard was busy running wild disposing of doctors , lawyers, professors and other notorious “counterrevolutionaries”, simply a health maintenance measure.

      1. Silly Ice. If you want to see Mao suits you go to Berkeley, not Beijing.

    3. For all the Chinese that don’t have the opportunity because of their oppressive leaders: Fuck you, Chapman.

      Please explain what opportunity is missing. I only ask because I think you’re just parroting a talking point.

      1. You’re aware of a guy who escaped from jail recently, no?

        1. Is there a point to your statement?

          1. look up, its sailing over your head

      2. Talking point? Someone had to inform me that the Chinese leadership were oppressive assholes?

        I was thinking of being able to tell someone to fuck off on the internet, for an easy start. Are you unaware of the Chinese censoring and restricting access?

        Saying fuck off certainly can’t be stopped, but the Chinese continue to punish people for their words/beliefs.

        1. Saying fuck off certainly can’t be stopped, but the Chinese continue to punish people for their words/beliefs.

          There’s a lot more evidence that demonstrates how terrible China’s censors are than there is indicating how effective they are.

          1. Oh, so since they are not efficient in their oppression it doesn’t count?

            Why not just respond “Nuh hu”? It would be less stupid than that comment.

            1. As stupid as your unsupported assertion?

              I’m just questioning whether you actually *know* what liberties the Chinese are missing out on, to which point you’ve been suspiciously silent.

              1. The legal restriction to only having one child, which over a third of the population is subject to, is a pretty big liberty to not have, in my book.

                1. See, this is a misconception; you’re just taxed more for having additional children. They aren’t murdered straight out of the womb.

                  Although I do agree, it’s hard to separate folklore from fact, as I’m trying to demonstrate to Gill.

                  1. Having also been to China, by what I’ve seen it is very difficult to find a true believer in communism in there who is under the age of 60. Most of the current generation and the one coming up behind it has lost the taste for it. What is different is that they have a pretty unique plan for defeating communism; they are waiting for the commies to die. What will it take, maybe 30 years or so? To us that seems like pure lunacy since 30 years is 10% of our history but to CHINA, it is nothing. They are letting mother nature be their assassin and major changes will take place in the next couple of decades.

                  2. The “taxes” are huge – frequently as much as 20% of a family’s income over multiple years. If you don’t pay them your children aren’t recognized in the hukou system. And, forced abortions and sterilizations are still not uncommon in the countryside where people cannot afford the additional taxes.

                  3. They have carried out forced abortions for a long time

                  4. They have carried out forced abortions for a long time

              2. freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, restricted property rights, restrictions on freedom of movement, lack access to a viable and principled legal system

    4. Totalitarians who win their power through manipulating the proles into revolution will usually continue to do so after they win. What’s interesting is that these revolutions always seem to end up with non-proles in charge.

  3. And this is why, by the end of the century, China will be the dominant world power. (By then they will also probably be in decline as some other power starts to take their place… Middle East maybe?)

    1. China has thus far shown no ability to do anything but provide massive cheap labor to implement Western innovation. They need to show something more to become a credible world power contender.

      This is not a knock against Chinese individuals, their culture just shuns innovation.

      1. Their demographics are not promising, either.

        1. The gender ratio at birth is almost back to normal, actually. But it’s going to be difficult for the millenial generation males, that’s for sure, barring a mass importation of Laotian mail order brides or flowering of the Gaysian movement.

      2. True, but how prominent was American culture 150 years ago? We were very industrious then and we reaped the benefits despite the fact that all of the developed world (Europe) saw us as a bunch of backwater yokels.

        It’s hard to innovate when you are struggling to feed yourself. Many Chinese are no longer struggling to feed themselves.

        Also, they are “stealing” our ideas much faster than we can generate them. Once they catch up there will be much more pressure for them to start generating new ideas of their own.

    2. China will not be surpassing the United States for a variety of reasons. But to summarize the US inherently has a more advantageous position in location (given current geopolitics, resources, and natural transportation system created by the mississippi river network. It makes our slad even more pathetic considering that the United States only has to not delibertly fuck itself up to be a great and power nation.

      1. China is rich in natural resources and has several major rivers that service all of their major population centers. Also, they are much more willing to exploit their natural resources than we are currently. As far as geopolitics go, who is their major competitor for influence right now? The US. China is in a much better position to influence southeast Asia and the Middle East than the US is.

        1. china is not that rich in natural resources, and they have very little of the resources they really need with such a large population: arable land for food and clean drinking water.

    3. Lol no they won’t.

      China is largely a paper dragon. The may be the worlds largest economy simply by virtue of their size (although I’d honestly put more Stock in India holding that spot by then) but they have shown no ability to really develop and internal consumer market because doing so requires the party to relinquish control over the economy. Further as their standard of living grows their salary demands will grow pricing themselves out of the market as the place to go for cheap labor and all those factories will move on to Pakistan or Nambia or some place like that and then where will China be?

      Combine that with their economy distorting big projects (building entire cities on the hope that someone will eventually want to live in them for example) and when their economy finally collapses (which it will because it is entirely too dependent on exporting cheap consumer goods to American and European markets which themselves are very fragile right now) and things in China will get REALLY ugly.

  4. They opened up a Wal*Mart in Beijing, and thousands of Chinese lined up to shop at the American store.

    A week later the store closed.

    Why does a Chinese person need to go to an American store to buy cheap shit made in China?

    1. Why does a Chinese person need to go to an American store to buy cheap shit made in China?

      It’s their way of revering our dedication to Socialism.

    2. What are you blathering about? There are 7 Walmarts open in Beijing as of today and there are hundreds of other walmarts throughout China.


      1. It was a joke, birdbrain.

  5. criticize the govt, demand an unfettered Internet, mention human rights, and it is quite likely that all will soon be reminded of just communist China remains.

  6. This makes a whole lot of sense dude. Wow.

    1. no wai

  7. Ford and other Western businesses built factories in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Does this mean that Stalin’s Soviet Union was no longer communist?

    1. Depends on what you mean by “communist”, I think.

  8. American perceptions of China are as incorrect as Chinese perceptions of America. China is a big place, it has a billion people, and despite the stereotypes they are not all the same. There are many forces at work in China, one thing is clear, the days of total communist rule are over and the CCP will gradually evolve away from where it is now.

  9. Communist Rulers,” journalist Richard http://www.ceinturesfr.com/cei…..-c-11.html McGregor quotes one academic’s complaint that “the sole dominant ideology shared by the government and the people is money worship.”

    1. you ass. why is it that even after registration spammers are still coming to this site?

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