China, more specifically the Communist party of China, is widely condemned by western media and the international community for its stance on human rights. Issues such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion and political freedom are all attacked on a regular basis.
Anyone within China who attacks or criticises the government is accused of disrupting their ‘harmonious society’ and can expect to be arrested and charged with dissent or subversion. One well known example of this is the political activist Liu Xiaobo who was first arrested in 1989 after the government’s brutal crackdown on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. He was sentenced to 2 years in prison for his involvement in the protests. Later, in 1996, he was again arrested for speaking out against China’s one party state and this time he was sent to a re-education labour camp for 3 years. In 2009 he was again arrested for ‘subverting state power’ and sentenced to 11 years in prison; in 2010 (whilst still imprisoned) he was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his non-violent struggle to promote human rights in China. Despite all of this almost no-one living in China will have heard of him – simply because the state is adept at managing what its people see in the news, it exercises strict controls over what appears on television, in newspapers and what can be accessed on the internet.
Another story which our media often reports on is the ongoing dispute over Tibet, an area which has shifted in and out of Chinese control over centuries. Many Tibetans see the Chinese government as suppressors, subduing their right to freedom of expression and worship. One of the main causes of tension is the fact that China has exiled Tibetan Buddhists spiritual leader – the Dalai Lama. This is also one of the reasons that the Tibet-China relationship is so well reported in the media, since his exile in 1959 the Dalai Lama has travelled the world advocating a non-violent road to independence for Tibet. Despite this there have been, and still are, uprisings which have been violently suppressed by the Chinese government. News stories like these and countless others about poor working conditions, low wages and forced abortions paint a very negative image of China which I wouldn’t say is entirely fair.
China is also routinely labeled as a communist country in the western media and as the ruling party is called ‘The Communist party of China’ this seems fair enough. However, the word ‘communism’ is a loaded word when used in the west, mainly because of old soviet states and the cold war it has attracted very negative connotations in peoples minds, especially in the US. But is it fair to label China as communist, is China really still a communist country?
In its purest form communism is a political ideology where no-one owns anything and therefore there is no class system, everyone is equal and everyone works toward the common good, there is no private land, businesses or property. Of course this system has many problems; not least the lack of motivation to work hard if it does not directly benefit the individual. Modern China is so far from this ideal that it is hard to still consider it communist at all – it may have been something close to this many years ago under Chairman Mao but that system is long gone. In today’s China people can start their own business, put their money into private bank accounts and buy luxury goods. That’s not to mention the huge amounts of foreign investment which go into the country every year. The government still technically controls the distribution and redistribution of land but recent laws have been passed which enhance private property rights and make it harder for the government to intervene. So China has kept some elements of communism but it also has something close to a free market which brings it a step closer to a capitalist ideology. Of course the government still considers itself to be a communist government but is it fair on China that we refer to it as communist even with all of the negative connotations?
All of this makes it hard to precisely label the Chinese political ideology, I think something like social-capitalism would be a bit closer to the truth.
Of course there are also positive news story relating to China in our news. We often hear of their booming economy which is growing at an unprecendented rate and how this is bringing prosperity – lifting millions out of rural poverty and enabling the Chinese government to introduce legislation regarding improved pay and conditions for its workers. China has also started its own space program and is planning to send up its first manned aircraft in the near future.
All in all the way China is portrayed in our media can be quite negative but the more their economy grows the more positive stories i believe we will be seeing. As the country gets richer and richer more money will be used to look after its citizens which of course can only be a good thing.