The Victims of Communism Foundation's Blog

Is China Still Communist?

Is China Still Communist?

A booming economy. Eight hundred million people lifted out of poverty. It sounds like the market economy success story of our time: a communist state rejects a state-controlled economy, shifts to a market economy, and improves the lives of billions of people. It is easy to look at China’s economic success and assume that it has rejected its communist beginnings, but that is not the complete story.

In 1979, Deng Xiaoping began reforming China’s economy and introducing privatization as a legitimate means to encourage economic growth. Since then, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has continued to pursue free-market economic policies, such as the privatization of small state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and allowing some forms of private property. These changes, unaligned with traditional Marxist ideals about collective ownership, suggest that China is no longer purely communist, but in a transition phase between communism and a more liberal system.

Recent social and political reforms also challenge the idea that China is still communist. The government ended the one-child policy in favor of a two-child policy; the National People’s Congress (NPC), long-considered a rubber stamp for CCP policies, now plays a slightly larger role in governance; and President Xi Jinping is conducting an aggressive anti-corruption campaign. Increasing individual agency, strengthening political representation, and combating corruption are all liberalizing actions that appear to stand at odds with the idea that China remains a communist state.

Sadly, these reforms belie the communist reality. The CCP dominates the NPC and other representative bodies, controls the judicial system, manages the military, and directs major economic activities and large SOEs. State-run media sources toe the government line, and censorship prevents Chinese citizens from accessing or publishing work challenging CCP narratives.

Communism is not merely about who owns property. Communism is about concentrating control of every aspect of individuals’ lives in the hands of an elite governing body. In China, that body is the CCP, with Xi Jinping at the helm. Within the CCP, power rests with the 25-member Politburo which exercises control over major aspects of life in China. This select group cycles on a generational basis, with each new cohort of leaders being groomed for leadership by the previous generations. The current members of the Politburo were born shortly before the CCP took control of China. In the words of Dr. Bo Zhiyue, “the formative years of many fifth-generation leaders were spent during the Cultural Revolution so they probably tend to be more sympathetic to Maoism.” This tendency towards ideological purity suggests that communist ideology is alive and well for China’s leadership.

Beyond the ideological factors, the effectively one-party structure of Chinese politics allows the CCP to control nearly every aspect of life in China, from family life to streaming movies to how history is taught. Those who resist the will of the CCP are ostracized, imprisoned, or disappeared.

Communism in China means enumerated opposition to ideals of free speech, individual thought, pluralism, and democracy. Document 9, formally known as the “Communiqué on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere,” highlights the threat that civil society, economic liberalization, and an open exchange of dissenting ideas pose to the CCP. The Party believes that “advocates of civil society want to squeeze the Party out of leadership of the masses at the local level, even setting the Party against the masses, to the point that their advocacy is becoming a serious form of political opposition.” Heaven forbid that Chinese citizens advocate for greater liberties and attempt to exert more control over their social and political conditions!

Communism is the foundation of the CCP’s repressive policies and continued monopoly of power. The CCP recognition of this fact is demonstrated by its commitment “to strengthen education on the Marxist perspective of media” and “reinforce our management of all types and levels of propaganda on the cultural front…and allow absolutely no opportunity or outlets for incorrect thinking or viewpoints to spread.” The CCP oversees economic reforms, the supposed signs of China’s decommunization, and maintains a firm grasp on economic activity.

China is still communist. Pro-democracy dissidents know this. Five Hong Kong publishers disappeared for printing books criticizing CCP leadership know this. Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned and even executed to harvest their organs know this. The Chinese Communist Party knows this. Communism provides the ideological basis for continued suppression of ideas and basic freedoms. Economic developments do not negate the repressive rule the Chinese Communist Party exerts over 1.37 billion people. As long as the Communist Party’s political tyranny persists, no sum of economic reforms will deliver China’s people true freedom.


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