Is China's rapid economic growth in recent years an example that totalitarian states work? (March Post)
Westerners have many misconceptions about China, while most are simply slightly annoying, some are very infuriating, such as when many westerners think that the rapid growth of China in recent years are caused by or is benefitting from the totalitarian rule of the Communist Party. This myth is so prevalent that almost every article I read online about China's growing economy mentions it, and so do many so-called "experts on China" online. I'm no expert on China, but I can tell you that it is completely false, while the totalitarianism of the Communist government might've done some good to the Chinese economy, its disadvantages far outweighed any benefits it might've had. The true reason behind China's massive economic growth has nothing to do with the Chinese government; and everything to do with the history of China and China itself.
Propaganda poster for the "Great Leap Forward" a series of economic and political reforms by the Communist government during the late 1950s and early 1960s that totally wrecked China's already brittle economy for years.
The history of China's economy is a depressing one. China's recent economic growth was preceded by over two centuries of economic isolationism and stagnation, with little to no trade with any other country in the world, and horrible economic and living conditions. China's economy had been in massive decline even prior to the fall of the Qing dynasty, and the chaos that followed only worsened China's. After the Communists took over after the Chinese Civil War, the new government tightly regulated all trade and had complete monopoly over every resource in China. The communists also outlawed private trade, when my grandma was young, she recalls seeing someone tried and being put into jail for selling eggs without official approval. In a nutshell, prior to Deng's reforms mentioned in the previous blog post, China was just one massive North Korea. It was only until after Deng's reforms that loosened the power of the Communist Government, did China's economy start to make a comeback. The totalitarianism of the government not only did not benefit China's economy, it inhibited it for long periods of time.
But not only did the totalitarian government not help, China's history has shown that it often made mistakes that severely damaged its economy. The "Great Leap Forward" is a excellent example of that. The "Great Leap Forward", or the "Second Five-Year plan of the People's Republic of China", was an effort made by the Chinese Communist Government to modernize China's economy and to bring it up to western standards, not only did it failed miserably, it caused a famine that killed tens of millions of people and set China's economy back at least a decade. During the "Great Leap Forward", Mao famously ordered peasants to kill all the sparrows because he thought that doing so will increase grain production, however that caused locusts, whom that sparrows ate, to multiply and massively damage grain production.
Chinese history has shown that despite what many westerners believe, the totalitarian communist government was not a factor in China's economic growth, as a matter of fact, its policies only served to stifle the Chinese economy. But if the government is not the cause of China's growth, what is?
Chinese miners working near a coal mine, they're picking out desirable coal from undesirable coal. China is the world's largest coal producer and has the world's third largest coal reserves.
Chinese construction worker busy at work.
China's recent economic growth is surprising to many, but it shouldn't, historically, China's economy had always been the world's largest and most powerful. As a matter of fact, in China, the recent economic growth is referred to as a "recovery" back to the golden age of China during the early Ming and Qing dynasty. China is rich in both manpower and natural resources, it has had the potential to become the economic superpower it is today for a long time, however, political instability and bad communist policies have hampered any significant growth until recently.
Chinese GDP over time.
My father was born in the 1960s, back when the entire GDP of China was only around 70 Billion, today the GDP is around 11 trillion, that is a 255 time difference! But as you can see in the graph above, major economic growth did not happen until after Deng's reforms in the 1980s. And just in case you forgot what the reforms were since the previous blog post, the reforms included the central government opening up the Chinese economy to the general public and removing many regulations and controls, "privatization" of the government monopolies, and massive reductions in the power of the central government in regards to trade and the economy. This shows that the economy of China improved only after the government became less totalitarian! The numbers don't lie, China's recent growth is caused by the Communist government becoming less totalitarian and more free, the true cause of China's economic growth is its people and natural resources. China has the world's largest population and workforce, China has the third largest coal reserves, thirteenth largest in oil reserves, and the world's largest in iron reserves. China also has an incredible production capacity, as China is number one in the world for both iron and coal production, and fifth largest in oil production.
Those are the true reasons why China's economy is growing, it is not caused by a totalitarian state, it is caused by the Chinese people and China itself.
Skyline of Shanghai at night, what a beautiful sight.