China: Marxism Fails Again

Over the past hundred years, there have been more than two dozen attempts to build a socialist society. It has been tried in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Albania, Poland, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, North Korea, Hungary, China, East Germany, Cuba, Tanzania, Laos, South Yemen, Somalia, the Congo, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Mozambique, Angola, Nicaragua and Venezuela. All have ended in varying degrees of failure.

China’s second try, under the dictatorship of President Xi Jinping, is soon to join the list. It seems the poor Chinese people must once again endure upheaval and suffering just as their parents and grandparents did under the “Great Helmsman” and Marxist, Mao Zedong.

Mao established the People’s Republic of China in 1949. He did so by winning over peasant farmers and labourers by gifting their landlords’ land to them and by cancelling their debts. Mao believed in continuous upheaval, so to purify the communist revolution he ordered political purges, mass imprisonments and executions of “enemies of the people”.

After six years, a policy reversal forced peasants to surrender their privately-owned plots and become employees of large, state-owned collective farms. A Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda jingle at the time declared, “Communism is paradise [and] the people’s communes are the way to get there”.

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This was the beginning of the disastrous “Great Leap Forward”. It resulted in plummeting grain production and widespread famine leading to some 40 million deaths. The Chinese people blamed this catastrophe on central planning, causing Mao’s influence within the party to wane. Fearing loss of control, he unleashed the brutal “Cultural Revolution”, a movement designed to destroy his “revisionist” enemies. The purges and ensuing chaos resulted in the deaths of another two million people and the ruination of millions more lives.

After Mao’s death in 1976, a “revisionist”, “capitalist roader”, Deng Xiaoping emerged as China’s leader. Promoting “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”, he de-collectivised agriculture and encouraged the entrepreneurial business class to take market-based risks. “To get rich is glorious” became an official slogan.

But market-driven economic success and the growing financial independence of the Chinese people threatened the CCP’s very existence. For the communist elite, the party’s supremacy is paramount so, on the retirement of Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping, a “princeling” whose own father was purged during the Cultural Revolution, was appointed general secretary of the Party.

Xi still rejects claims that Deng and his successors were responsible for China’s economic miracle. He believes empowering individuals is a “bourgeois fallacy” and that free speech, equality under the law and other rights must be “delayed” or “controlled”. Xi was the ideal candidate so, with one dissenter, he was elected China’s national president in 2013.

From day one, the ruthless but outwardly affable Xi decided he alone was capable of steering the nation to communism’s promised land. Opponents were targeted as “saboteurs” and “wreckers”. Faithful to the communist doctrine, he quickly consolidated his authority. Through numerous purges he made it clear that no one was safe. Using the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, he waged a relentless anti-corruption campaign against his political enemies.

He oversaw the systematic dismantling of law-and-order institutions and the end of an independent public service. He is widely recognised as the “chairman of everything”. Even the Chinese constitution includes a preamble that cements “Xi Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.

While it is a far cry from Deng Xiaoping’s vision for China, the CCP recently passed a “historic resolution” which elevated Xi to the same status as Deng and Mao, effectively making him dictator for life. The official narrative became that Xi Jinping is the embodiment of “Marxism for the twenty-first century” and “the essence of the Chinese culture and China’s spirit”. Xi’s version of Chinese history is China’s record.

Louisa Lim, in The Peoples Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, describes how “For a country that has long so valued its history and so often turned to it as a guide for the future, the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to erase actual history and replace it with distorted narratives warped by nationalism, has created a dangerous vacuum at the centre of modern-day China.” Her analysis has much to recommend it.

Last December, a symposium to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong was held in the Great Hall of the People. Despite Mao’s unspeakable record, President Xi lauded his life as “devoted to national prosperity, rejuvenation, and people’s happiness”. Meanwhile, the 1989 Tiananmen massacre has been airbrushed from China’s history.

As George Orwell observed, “Who controls the past controls the future.” However, as Xi Jinping is realising, not even he can control the forces he has set in motion. Indeed he and his politburo colleagues know that China is struggling socially and economically. The population is ageing and declining. The fertility rate is plunging and is half what it was in the 1980s. It is even lower now than the fertility rate of Japan, a country notable for its low birth rate and ageing population. Women face increasing inequality.

Last year, more than three million students took the public service exam to compete for 39,600 vacancies at central government and affiliated institutions. That’s roughly seventy-seven candidates for every position. Likewise, only 17 per cent of students who sat the post-graduate entrance exams nationwide found vacancies. The officially approved, but understated, unemployment rate for sixteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds is 14.9 per cent. Many young disillusioned Chinese are moving to rural areas where living costs are cheaper.

Having once told the young to “dare to dream”, Xi now orders them to curtail their expectations and “abandon arrogance and pampering”. To the disgruntled, he says, “Eat bitterness”. But, given the mess they are inheriting, China’s youth is entitled to be bitter, and Xi’s bullying attitude carries the potential for civil unrest.

After decades of profligacy, corruption and concealed bad debts, the younger generation faces unemployment and a financial sector at risk of collapse. The property sector, which once represented 30 per cent of the economy, is a disaster of gargantuan proportions. On the latest reckoning, about 70 million apartments in urban China are abandoned or unfinished. Evergrande, the country’s second-largest developer, and Country Garden, once China’s largest property developer, have both defaulted on bond payments.

China’s gross national debt is dangerously high at 320 per cent of GDP. The International Monetary Fund offers no joy. Medium-term growth forecasts are below 4 per cent, less than half that for most of the past four decades. Capital Economics, a London-based research firm, puts China’s trend growth even lower at just 3 per cent and says it will fall to around 2 per cent by 2030. In 2021, China’s share of world GDP was 18.4 per cent; it is now 17 per cent and falling. Increasingly word is leaking out that the Chinese people are beginning to contrast Xi’s stifling centralism with Deng Xiaoping’s emancipating reforms, and they are unhappy.

These developments are being noticed abroad. Beijing was once seen as a commercial world-beater. Now global businesses are building supply chains in places like India and Vietnam.

To add to Xi’s woes, his beloved Belt and Road Initiative is collapsing. Italy’s recent departure reflects this. What initially seemed mutually attractive has turned into resentment as many borrowers struggle to meet debt repayments. Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Zambia are just some of the countries protesting against de facto Chinese colonisation.

President Xi must also worry about the rise and rise of his democratic adversary, India. Boasting the largest population on the planet, with an average age of 28.5 years, and growing economically at 8 per cent a year, India will soon become the world’s third-largest economy. Its military has some 3.5 million permanent members and reservists. It has one of the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenals and boasts sophisticated anti-satellite weaponry.

Yet naive and ignorant Western journalists and intellectuals ignore India and continue to view China much as they did the Soviet Union just before its ultimate collapse. Australia’s former prime minister Paul Keating exemplifies this mindset. In a remarkable demonstration of obeisance and self-delusion, he told Beijing’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, that “China’s development and revitalisation are unstoppable.”

The Australian government broadly shares Mr Keating’s ideological leanings. They believe in the superiority of elitist rule and demonstrate disdain for liberal capitalist democracies. According to a former Japanese ambassador to Australia, Shingo Yamagami, these sympathies and Canberra’s desire to trade with China are overshadowing its security obligations to the region and itself—not to mention Australia’s economic best interests.

As Xi Jinping pulls on nationalistic heartstrings to deflect attention from China’s domestic ills, he proceeds with a massive military build-up and the harassment of smaller nations in the region. Defence spending is budgeted to grow by 7.2 per cent. Australia’s ambivalent stance will give him encouragement.

Xi Jinping is a committed Marxist-Leninist ideologue who believes the survival of the communist state depends on staying the course and the world embracing communism. Through dominating the United Nations, shameless intellectual property theft, propaganda, outright bribery and the skilful application of soft power, he is well on the way to achieving his goal.

The question remains: Will China go the way of all socialist experiments before the West, weakened by seventy years of attacks on its values and institutions, tumbles into the same dark Marxist abyss? If the West is first to go, it will be left to India to keep the liberating flame of democratic capitalism alive.

Maurice Newman AC is a former Chairman of the Australian Stock Exchange and a former Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

15 thoughts on “China: Marxism Fails Again

  • Podargus says:

    I couldn’t care less about Chinese problems. They are amply deserved. I do care about how our Australian self appointed “elite” deal with problems for us emanating from China.
    A good place to start is the thousands of Chinese “students” invited here to corrupt our education system then stay on to pollute our country.
    And Keating (+ fellow travelers) is a fool for multiple reasons going way back.

  • nfw says:

    Chinee students? I fall about laughing. They undertake the easiest degrees, usually business but not teaching as their “proficient” English is rubbish and then complain, so they become part of groups for group work which means the native English speakers do all the real work. Their “education” is simply backdoor immigration. A friend of mine said, I thought, she had to have a pass mark of 85% in the accounting subjects she taught. No, I misunderstood her, she was told to pass 85% of her foreign (read Chinee “students”) as they were full fee paying. Funny, I thought accounting was on/off, zero/one, right/wrong. She left the university as soon as she could.

    • lbloveday says:

      A major way the foreign students get passing grades is via joint assignments where groups of 5 or so hand in an assignment that they have purportedly collaborated on and all receive the same grade. Apart from passing students who don’t merit it, it means much less work for the lecturers as they have on 20% of the marking load.
      My daughter told me of one such assignment where she said she and the other Australian in the group did all the work, and she did most of that. Yet they all got the same Credit grade.

      • lbloveday says:

        onLY 20%

      • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

        To nfw as well. I worked for a Celestial Company for some years attempting to teach their students, probably about a thousand of them all up give or take, how to fly jet aeroplanes and believe you me it all comes out in the wash when you are belting along at about 1000 kph.
        As in all things, the Celestial idea is quantity and not quality, there was absolutely no selection process or aptitude tests so it was a case of –you, you, you over there trying to hide behind the Ming, are going to be aviators– and that’s what happened, basically another disaster. Apparently the average time to make a first solo flight on a small trainer was somewhere over twenty hours and the maximum time for a few was around forty hours as against about six or eight hours way back when the likes of me made a first solo. Relations of “party members” or those in the know were given preferential treatment and of course pressure was applied to those of us who failed a cadet to recant and if one didn’t recant then someone higher up was called in to pass the cadet concerned.

        As stated above by nfw, they were champions at cheating in exams and many other endeavours for apparently it is impressed upon them to win by any means. The above were my impressions from twenty years or so ago and that particular large flying school has long folded but even back then I wondered how long it would take for the whole pack of Celestial cards to collapse. It hasn’t but goodness knows how or why. I used to opine to students that their country may have invented the abacus and a crude form of gunpowder by urinating on charcoal fires, but had they invented the match and applied it to the gunpowder they would have also invented the first astronaut!

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Thanks for this informative account of what’s going on economically and hence socially in the communist paradise of the PRC. Demography is clearly going to have it say, as it always does, and an aging population with a low birthrate is going to mean … well, it can have many outcomes, most of them bad. There will be some winners but a lot of losers in whatever equation eventuates. It will be instructive to keep tabs on the extent to which China loses some of its ‘soft’ power in the international political scene, as well as noting what looks like an ongoing decline in China’s contribution to world supply chains. However, it’s still a big country and we can’t be sure yet of any effects of the decline (if it doesn’t halt).

    Who is going to tumble first, China or the West? I suspect China, because socialism really is a drain on just about everything, and people work always to achieve their own aims and serve their own interests. There’s more hope of doing that in the West than under socialism. Maybe China will fragment before the West does. But with Islam on the rise we can’t be too sanguine about anything.
    And with that meander through inconclusiveness I have had my say.
    I will leave it to the more knowledgeable to continue their prospectives. 🙂

  • Sindri says:

    I doubt Xi is a “committed marxist-leninist”. Like any dictator, he’ll publicly push any nonsense line that keeps him in power, including, God help us, his own “thought”. The real danger of Xi is a very familiar one. He abolished term limits and dismantled the tentative steps China had taken towards collective leadership. He is resorting to militarism and ultra-nationalism to shore up support and crush opposition. He’s likely to start a war over Taiwan, a successful, independent democratic nation of 26 million who do not want to be part of China.
    He has also put a million of his own fellow-citizens in concentration camps. No-one should be in any doubt about what he would be willing to do to a conquered people.

    • Libertarian says:

      He could be the puppet leader, backed by faceless men.

      • lenton1 says:

        With more people in The Commonwealth with more closely aligned values to ours, why on earth we have anything to do with such an unstable, unrelated, high-risk country such as China beggars belief. Of course we know the answer: because it is easy, supposedly. Lazy economics of putting one’s eggs in one big basket, rather than spreading it across a range of smaller, albeit more compatible (culturally) nations. Simplification yes, but you get the idea. The cost/benefit is not as we would be lead to believe by those with vested interests, which brings to mind ….

        Keating (the non-Aussie) could not be more wrong if he tried, but then again, just go look at his long term Board positions to see where his true allegiance lies. Australia’s security however lies within the Commonwealth of nations (not that I have much faith in the leader of it at the moment, HIS allegiance still turned naively towards the WEF). Within it we have cultural understanding and shared history, vital for the development and maintenance of trust, itself crucial to survival on all fronts. The Commonwealth, together with our allied non-members is larger, more influential and, while not perfect, certainly more ethical (could do better) than any communistic Marxist totalitarian state, tho we are terrifyingly seeing shades of that emerging here!). We don’t see too many immigrants flocking to them, but to us. Proof enough of our humanistic credentials. But of course our true enemies lie within our midst: our tertiary-brainwashed grads, Greens, Labor apparatchiks and LINO’s. It’s a common thread of self-destruction. And while the “wheel” is definitely beginning to turn against their tide, it is not turning fast enough, and that’s precisely because our supposed Liberal representatives still remain rudderless and afraid. But afraid of what exactly? As FDR informed us in equally perilous times, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Time we all took notice and stop fearing the paper tiger to our north and chart an economic and social course away from the consequences of its inevitable demise. It was once commonly known that “you can judge a man/person by the company he/they keep”. I think we ought reflect upon with whom we wish our country to keep company.

  • James McKenzie says:

    Where are our beholden psychiatrists and input into society?

  • padmmdpat says:

    A few years ago I visited a friend in China. After a couple of days he said to me, “I know you’re a friendly person but can I ask you not to speak to anyone in the lift or foyer of this apartment block.” “Why not?” “Because I don’t want the police or the military knocking on my door asking who the hell are you, why are you here and what are you up to. ”
    In the time I spent there I did not see in uniform one policeman or soldier, but evidently they are everywhere, not to mention the surveillance cameras. Spooky!

  • Alistair says:

    This is all very well – but I do believe that this sort of thinking is about fifty years out of date. To my way of thinking China ceased being a Marxist State in the 1970’s with the failure of the Mao’s Leap Forward. In the 1970s the United States-backed Trilateral Commission under Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski infiltrated converted the Chinese leadership to implementing a Technocratic State … as a test bed for the introduction of the same political structure globally. (They needed a dictatorship to be able to implement their ideas-couldn’t get away with it in the USA) Suddenly, China under Xi got aspirations of controlling a global technocracy and the USA is struggling to get back control. Now China may be going down hill – but it is a failure of a Technocratic State, nothing to do with Marxism.

  • cbattle1 says:

    On the positive side, China has had a no-nonsense approach to Islamisation, and it has been effective. But in the West, China is condemned for its treatment of Uighurs, while the rise of Islam here is met with hand-wringing, conversations and comment!

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