China is known as one of the most powerful countries in the world. With having the largest population in the world and producing rapid economic growth, China’s Communist nation is a powerhouse while at the same time being very isolated. Yet, this doesn’t necessarily look as good as it may sound. When Mao Zedong came to rule in 1949 after bringing victory while leading the People’s Liberation Army, things went to shambles. With the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, China replied with leaders and reforms that could have potentially helped reconstruct the economy and political system for the better. Although, China is still the Communist country it was decades ago. In this paper, there will be an analysis on how China has politically changed after the death of Mao Zedong, the extent of continuity there has been within political structures and practices, a response to Francis Fukumya and others optimism about the whole world becoming a democracy, and showing how China contradicts that position.
After victory was claimed on October 1, 1949 while leading the People’s Liberation Army, Mao Zedong came into power. Mao Zedong was inspired by Karl Marx, yet his Chinese Communist Party was far from being capitalistic and was not executed the way Marx would have intended Communism to be. Mao Zedong is known for the slogan of “Bombard the headquarters” because he targeted the party-state due to their growing conservatism and personally feeling threatened at the fact that he could lose power. Mao “…modified communism to focus on pesantry instead of the working class…” (O’Neil, 280). The first campaign he started was the Hundred Flowers Campaign where he promoted public criticism; although, the criticism soon became out of hand and critics were removed from their positions of authority. Mao then proceeded to start the Anti-Rightest campaign.
This campaign started in 1957 and was an attempt to purge those those advocating for market reforms known as the “Rightest” from the Chinese Communist Party. Mao Zedong was very persistent in breaking the Soviet model and getting ahead of Great Britain which led to the Great Leap Forward in 1958. He wanted to decentralize industry, move it to the countryside, and give responsibility to the people. “In Mao’s view, revolutionary change could be achieved by putting responsibility directly into the hands of the masses, which would move the country rapidly into communism” (Field, 393). This ended up being another failure because twenty million people died due to famine under an economic crisis. The final straw for Mao was the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1968 which was when he decided that the government needed to enforce more radical decisions.
The method of the Cultural Revolution included removing the emerging elites with the bourgeoise culture being attacked by intellectuals. He essentially intended to weaken the party in order to gain personal power; “… Mao made himself the center of all authority and charismatic wisdom” (Field, 394). The Revolution caused many people to lose jobs, religion had become destroyed because of the communist parties strict , and a huge outbreak in violence killing four hundred thousand people. Mao brought in the People’s Liberation Army to end conflicts, though struggles were still very apparent until Mao met death in 1976.
After Mao died, China has had drastic reforms in expansion of private businesses, agriculture, and even a cultivation of foreign relationships. With the help of Deng Xiaoping, the economic reformation period had begun for China. The Chinese economy was soon lifted out of poverty and changed the county and word trade. Yet, for awhile there was still difficulties regarding political life because the Chinese Communist party was still holding complete control. The emergence of political reforms started in 1989 when “… “an estimated 100,000 students and other citizens — rallying for political reform — marched in the streets of Beijing” (Field 395). Unfortunately, the military was brought in as the protesting continued and violence had taken over.
This lead to a social contract in 1997 which said that “… in exchange for accepting the CCP’s monopoly over political power, the Chinese public had been permitted an unprecedented degree of economic freedom and the right to pursue prosperity” (Field, 396). In terms of continuity today, China is still being controlled by the Chinese Communist Party but it is seen as a “postcommunist” nation in terms of economics (O’Neil, 299). Traditional Communist ideals have been modified. For example, “instead of class struggle, it preaches a harmonious society.
Instead of claiming to be the vanguard of the proletariat, it now admits capitalist entrepreneurs to the party and claims to represent all of the people” (Roy). Yet, “… the country remains stubbornly authoritarian” (Field, 396). The party-state has loosened their control in order to allow regional and local governments to take over and this weak rule of law is emphasizing problems of inequality, corruption, unemployment, and inflation. While being ruled under Mao Zedong, China was mostly a totalitarian society and now being ruled under Xi Jinping there is still a great amount of censorship.
American, political philosopher, Francis Fukuyama and supporters argue that the world is gradually moving towards democracy, yet countries like Russia and China seem to be the odd ones out when it comes to eventually democratizing. Although, Chinese citizens and their government recognize themselves as being apart of a true democracy with their government made up of a democratic system with indirect elections. Mao’s definition of the word democracy is defined as “people’s democratic dictatorship” but the word was essentially only used to gain popular support (G.E.). Some factors of China’s political system and government do give us the idea that the Chinese Communist Party now has a constitution as of 2014 after speaking on the rule of law and gave a sense of human rights, yet “…none of these declared freedoms, nor the authority of the constitution itself, goes so far as to protect anyone who challenges the Communist Party’s rule” (G.E.). Some people may be betting on a slow down of economic growth but “…the wealthier Chinese trust the Communist Party to look after their interests more than they trust elections” (Cowen).
Unfortunately, most believe that China will never democratize which contradicts Francis Fukuyama’s prediction of the whole world gradually becoming a democracy. Although a lot has changed from the mid 1960s to early 1970s, with “…restrictions on political speech and opposition increase, hardly anyone thinks this is a realistic scenario” (Cowen). Countries such as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea were able to grow their economy and start a democratic society due to their middle class demanding government accountability.
Yet, China’s middle class is the minority and don’t have the power and unfortunately there’s just not enough demand in global markets to elevate all or even most of the Chinese people, and so Chinese inequality likely will stay high, to the detriment of democratic forces” (Cowen). In addition to that, “the vast size of China’s economic resources means that the international community has far fewer tools it can use to press for change within our country” (O’Neil, 147). While currently having Xi Jinping in power, a democracy in China is not too promising. He has the position of “core leader” and can be known to have more personal control than Mao. He has demanded “absolute loyalty” to Chinese media and even introduced the “Social Credit” which was a rating system that banned traveling on a train or an airplane if you had a low score based on your financial and social criteria.
Ultimately, this is the opposite track to democratizing China and Francis Fukuyama’s prediction will be on hold until Communist motives and authoritarian motives and techniques have been eliminated from China’s political system. Conclusively, the year that China was predicted to turn democratic was 2015 and although we can point out what Fukuyama could have possibly predicted, it is clear that there is a long way to the historical turning point of there being “a world where the majority of people live under democratic rule” (O’Neil, 171).
It’s unbelievable that with such a large population and vast amount of opinions, China is still under a strict Communist system. Unfortunately, citizens hold power very limited due to the government being seen as extremely threatening due to their excessive power and the People’s Liberation Army’s quick response to any acts against the government. Yet, to the world, China is an isolated, economic superpower, with strong sense of nationalism and excessive population. Mao Zedong brought conflict and a downfall to China’s government in 1949 after taking power. His long struggle for personal power and economic prosperity through campaigns, movements, and revolutions led China to rough standing.
After Mao passed, Deng Xiaoping was able to somewhat resurrect what had been left over. China went through Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and finally Xi Jinping. Many things have changed but we are still left with the continuity of authoritarianism and being ruled under the Chinese Communist Party. Ultimately there is a rejection of Francis Fukumya and others optimism about the whole world becoming a democracy due to the censorship on citizens even though the China does see themselves as a democratic government. According to recent events, China’s political system seems to be sadly dating back to history.