The People’s Republic of China has kept its name but the unelected government has been busy changing China’s image in the world. It doesn’t make economic sense to be regarded as a hard-line Communist country keen to demonstrate the fairness of a workers’ paradise, and keen to agitate a world revolution.
The cult of personality that surrounded Mao Tse Tung and to a lesser extent Deng Shao Ping has gone. Instead the leadership of the country changes hands every few years. Not democratically, of course, but the illusion of a popular choice and accountability is fostered by this policy. The leaders no longer wear utilitarian worker’s suits; rather they don smart suits and ties.
The ideologues controlling the policy of the country have been replaced by technocrats who are more focused on the bottom line than on following the dictates of Marxism, Stalinism or Maoism. Officially, there is very little mention of communism.
Now there is private ownership. Even foreigners can buy land in China. There is a stock market that is partly opened to the world. The currency is still artificially pegged but this is advantageous in keeping the Yuan cheap enough to keep the all-important exporting sector going.
Not only are the people of China allowed more freedom of movement within China but they are also issued passports. If you go to Khao Lak, Koh Samui, London, Tokyo, Los Angles, Rio de Janeiro and many other places in the world you might be surprised at how many Chinese tourists and business men you will see. While the rest of the world feels the pinch from the 2008 financial meltdown, China has been largely unaffected.
The 1 child policy is still in place, with notable exceptions for a few ethnic minorities and for Han Chinese colonizing Tibet. However, the official line has softened. The posters focus on the benefits of the small family rather than threatening fines, eviction etc. (See Guardian 27th Feb. 2012).
The poster boy of the revolution used to be Lei Feng. He was a soldier who tirelessly worked for the revolution, for the party and for his fellow comrades, Mao famously said, “Learn from Lei Feng.” The new images of Lei Feng show him with a floppy haircut looking far from the man of stone he used to be portrayed as.
While at home economic reforms have been hailed as a form of liberalism, and the creation of a thriving middle class as a good thing, foreign policy has never been more aggressive. The Chinese are stepping up their actions in their claims for disputed waters with Japan and Korea. Recently Chinese fishing boats in a military fashion clashed with Korean coast guards resulting in one Korean official being bludgeoned to death. The Chinese have broken an agreement with Japan and started searching for oil on the very edge of their territorial waters.
The Beijing Olympics saw China exert the full extent of its political power to get people arrested all over Europe who protested China’s occupation of Tibet.
In Taiwan there is a large move away from the independence stance of Chen Shui Bian to the pro-China Ma Ying Jeou.
All over the developing world China are buying friends and natural resources. They are the only country with the funds to do so. America is weakened and distracted by two foolish wars that are simultaneously winding down in what looks like defeat. America needs China’s money as well, and has no stomach to sling mud at its new superpower rival. After all, China has rebranded itself and the old fear of communism just doesn’t seem to work when it comes to China. Besides, compared to North Korea, China seems like a model state.