China and Socialism

On the bus ride from Qingdao’s modest Liuting International airport, a handsome Ghanaian man sat beside me. It was not long before our conversation turned to the reports of the Chinese goldminers arrested on allegations of illegally goldmining in Ghana. ((See Zhao Yanrong, “Goldminers held in Ghana,” China Daily, 7 June 2013, p. 11.)) My fellow passenger agreed with my assessment that if Chinese were in Ghana, then most of them were probably seeking to better their meager economic means.

The well travelled Ghanaian, who said he has been to three provinces in China, expressed admiration for the development of the Chinese economy and the pulling of millions out of poverty. This was a key point that Andre Vltchek made in his interview with Adam Chimienti. ((Adam Chimienti, “It’s Not China that Should be Feared: It’s the West,” Dissident Voice, 30 May 2013.)) Much of Vltchek’s admiration for China is right on; however, other points Vltchek makes are challengeable.

Vltchek: “There is no doubt that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has become a major international force in economic and diplomatic terms. “

Indubitably. The China Daily newspaper on 7 June boasted that the Chinese economy will be larger than the combined economies of the US and EU by 2030. ((Andrew Moody and Lu Chang, “China’s economy might be No 1 in 2030,” China Daily, 7 June 2013, p. 15.))

Vltchek states, “A successful socialist nation is the worst scenario for the manufacturers of global Western hegemony. Western propagandists prefer to highlight inequality and pollution in China to discredit it.” The same criticism of inequality applies to capitalism. However, the existence of a wealth inequality leads one to question whether the economic system in place actually is socialism.

The Chinese economic growth concerns many in the US. One of the men who presided over the financial collapse in the US, Hank Paulson, sees fit to warn China and give advice: “The current growth model is running out of gas. They’re going to need to reinvigorate reform, it’s clear.” ((See David Whitford, “Hank Paulson: China needs to reinvigorate reform,” Fortune, 7 June 2013.))

Vltchek makes the argument that “The per-capita metric is the only honest way to calculate, and by this standard, any EU country, not to mention the United States, pollutes more than China!” This argument is coherent, but it also applies to the economy, in which case China drops down many ranks if the DNP (or PPP) per capita is the measure examined. Nonetheless the per capita pollution is of meager comfort to people who have to breathe in the particulates that hang over major cities, making for smoggy days and starless nights.

Even eating in China is a scary proposition, as the staple food of rice is reported to be contaminated with lead that exceeds the provisional total tolerable intake for consumption by a factor of 12,000. ((Mike Adams, “Rice imported from China loaded with toxic levels of lead,” Natural News, 15 April 2013.)) Why? Because the water used for irrigation is contaminated. If so, then crops that rely on irrigated water should also pose a risk.

The Natural News reports: “China remains the world’s most polluted agricultural hub, and a wide array of metals are routinely found in samples from China, including cadmium, lead, arsenic and sometimes mercury.”

Indeed, food is a major concern in China, ((Wang Zi, “Food Safety Dilemma,” 21st Century, 23 May 2012, p. 4.)) and websites are dedicated to exposing unsafe food in the country. ((See Zhang Chunmei, “Websites Expose Unsafe Food,” 21st Century, 23 May 2012, p. 4.))

Many Chinese realize that their comrades in government – the Communist Party elitists – enjoy their own special, uncontaminated food supply. ((Yvonne Su, “China’s elite enjoys untainted fruits,” Asia Times, 7 July 2011.))

It is true that where China is today needs to be considered in light of its history when Japanese and western capitalist powers “plundered, raped and humiliated” China.

Vltchek continues, “Corruption was implanted. It is now fighting to finish with those foreign habits.” Come on! Corruption is an outside invention? Chinese are as prone to human virtue and vice as other humans, but insofar as systems magnify these traits, outsiders can be argued to be complicit in Chinese corruption. Nonetheless, the mere fact that China was ruled by monarchies evinces a historical system of elitism and “corruption.”

Vltchek states, “China is hated mainly because it is the only truly socialist Asian power.” I cannot agree with the assessment that China is socialist. In that case, socialism must be defined.

French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon maintained “… socialism opposes the principle of property with that of association, and makes vigorous efforts to reconstruct social economy from top to bottom…” ((Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, System of Economical Contradictions, or, The Philosophy of Poverty, [E-reader version] Transl Benjamin R. Tucker, 1847.))

Moreover, “Political economy tends toward the glorification of selfishness; socialism favors the exaltation of communism.” ((Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, System of Economical Contradictions, or, The Philosophy of Poverty, [E-reader version] Transl Benjamin R. Tucker, 1847.))

Proudhon identified inequality, particularly, the inequity in exchanges, as “the most potent cause of misery that the socialists have unveiled…” ((Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, System of Economical Contradictions, or, The Philosophy of Poverty, [E-reader version] Transl Benjamin R. Tucker, 1847.)) In this respect, China is assailable for adherence to socialist tenets. The growing number of Chinese billionaires leads itself to criticism. ((Scheherazade Rehman, “How Communist Can China Be With All Those Billionaires?,” World Report, 30 April 2013.))

China has capitalist overtones, such as a lack of universal healthcare (although it is comparatively affordable), lack of equal access to education, and the growing chasm between the rich and the poor. Of particular concern to socialists was the move to entrench rights to private property in the constitution.” ((See China’s Constitution amendments to have far-reaching influence,” People’s Daily, 28 December 2003.)) Right-wing publications, like the Economist, complain that the Chinese legislation did not go far enough. (( “China’s next revolution: Property rights in China,” Economist, 8 March 2007.))

Western media point outs that the Chinese economy achieved its incredible growth because it opened up and embraced entrepreneurship (which is not anathema to socialism). The change in orientation is alluded to by former Chinese chairman Deng Xiao Peng who is quoted, apocryphally, by the western media as saying, “To get rich is glorious.” (( “Deng Xiaoping,” Wikiquotes states, “Deng is commonly quoted with this phrase in western media but there is no proof that he actually said it”.)) Why would he say such a thing? To state such without context would be foolish or contrary to socialism. Wealth as an individual acquisition points to selfishness. The corollary of the apocryphal quotation is that to be poor is inglorious. This is scathing when applied to the self-designated leader of the so-called free world, as poverty is alleged to engulf half of the US population. ((Of course what constitutes poverty differs from place to place and according to definition and measurement. See “Half of America in poverty? The facts say It’s true,” Press TV, 5 September 2012. “Congress ignores America’s poverty crisis,” Press TV, 8 April 2013.))

There is a concentration of wealth in China, but much of the economy remains under the control of the state, contrary to neoliberal dogma. There is not a genuine socialism in China by any linguistic or philosophical stretch, but what is clear is that while China and its state-owned enterprises continue to pull the country’s population out of poverty, much of the staunchly capitalist US slides further into neoliberal-induced poverty.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at Read other articles by Kim.