China has undergone a great deal of rearranging in the past 70 years. Mao was a totalitarian and Communism presented him with a powerful system. He was a true believer, creating state-run industries and instigating the Cultural Revolution when things were not changing fast enough for him. Upon his death, however, the Party elites decided they liked being elites, and they sought dialog with the West via Nixon and Kissinger, turning away, for a time, from their allegiance to the USSR. They still had a state-run economy. Nearly all workers were employees of the state. There was, during the 1970s and early 1980s, a migration to the urban areas and industrial jobs. These workers no longer thought of themselves as peasants. They adopted the proletarian attitude. Freedom may have been foreign to them, but they learned to be good government workers. Though they had low productivity, they were relatively loyal and docile.
In the 80s and 90s, the government began a push for greater productivity through privatization – though still state-controlled, moving toward a more fascist economic model. The old proletarian worker (read “union worker”) was not happy with the change, but they could be replaced with younger workers not indoctrinated in the attitude of “good enough for government work”. Chinese productivity increased, but at a minimal cost to the factory owners in terms of labor. The Chinese economy also produced what might be called, in Marxist terms, a petite bourgeoisie of technical and information workers. This became the aim of Chinese students who planned to improve their station in life.
Thus Communist China became Fascist China with an elite leadership in the Party, the government, and the military, capitalists, a middle class, and a working class. Profits and investments from the West have enriched both the owners and the government – but not so much the working people. Americans buying resin figurines at the Dollar Store have funded China’s military expansion, its satellite capability, and its advances in technology – much of which was stolen from the West and reverse-engineered. It becomes a little scary when we think that China holds a significant portion of US-government debt. They have a reserve of billions of our dollars. While I have no animosity toward the people of China, the Chinese government is not our friend or ally. The leadership is dangerous and untrustworthy. It is likely that they seek to replace America's global hegemony.
But all in China is not peace and contentment. China has blown its own real estate bubble with uninhabited ghost cities. They have a retro-communist element among the older workers who are opposed to privatization. This would be comparable to our own SEIU and NEA – unionized government workers who would gladly surrender economic and individual freedom, preferring job security for the incompetent, the unproductive and the lazy. There have been numerous strikes organized over the last several years. In some cases they have turned violent. In one factory, workers opposed to further privatization beat a manager to death – an event related by the Communists with a morbid glee. The petite bourgeoisie is also struggling under the ongoing changes. Unemployment for Chinese college graduates with technical degrees is around 15%, based, presumably, on government figures. Since the Chinese government is at least as untrustworthy as our own, the figures could easily be higher.
In addition to political unrest, there are cultural issues. China is not of a piece. Violent clashes have taken place between Muslim Uighurs and portions of the Han Chinese population in northwest China. The issues that led to the suppression of protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989 have yet to be resolved. There are people in China who value liberty and who embrace Western values of individual rights and the rule of law. Christianity remains a potent force in China with millions of members in the underground church. Then there is the more visible suppression of Tibet and the exile of the Dalai Lama.
China is also threatened in the East by the growing economic power of India with a population comparable to China’s and an increasingly competent military. China is attempting to spread its influence and gain power in Africa and Europe. In both cases, India may have the upper hand. Through their long association with the British Empire – troubled though it may have been at times – the Indians are far more Western in their thinking than the Chinese. Indians have a history of working in African nations as well, especially on the coast. Also, India is not hampered by a fascist regime and is much more of a free market nation than China has ever been. If the threat of Pakistan were to be removed or, at least, significantly reduced, India would gain greatly in an Asian balance of power.
It is unwise to trust the commonly held views of China’s vibrant economic growth and future. Fascist economies do not do well in the long run. I expect China, despite its massive manufacturing base, will suffer a major setback in what appears to be an impending and inevitable global depression. At that point it could suffer significant internal upheaval and be distracted from its goal of dominating Asia and the Pacific. Or it could become extremely and desperately dangerous.