This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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China’s History Informs the Future
Founded in 1949, the People’s Republic of China is not only one of the world’s most populous countries, but also one of the largest. The spotlight came with its consistent economic growth, reaching above 6%, according to the World Bank data. How did the country reach this status? What makes China a global superpower?
Ancient China was one of the greatest civilizations of the world, responsible for well-known inventions such as gunpowder and paper-making. Some of the ruling dynasties perpetuated a government system similar to the European medieval feudalism, having a decentralized structure, its own laws and taxes.
The Rise of Communism in China
After successive ancient and imperial dynasties, China’s destiny would take a completely different route in 1911 when the Nationalist movement responsible for the Xinhai Revolution overthrew emperor Xuantong, the last in Qing dynasty. Shortly after, the United Provinces of China would face a civil war between Nationalists and Communists. As you might know, the Communists, led by Mao Tse-Tsung, won the conflict and after proclaiming the Communist Revolution, he rose to power as the Supreme Leader.
During Mao’s era, the country was molded to be faithful to the Communist agenda. The Communist Party was in charge and was the only official and permitted party in China. Landowners had their lands collectivized, all companies were nationalized, and to sum it up, the state gained full control of China’s economy.
Throughout this reorganization period, five million people, mostly opposers to the revolution, were killed by the tyrannical regime in a small two year period. Few years later, the Communists were producing anti-right propaganda and putting opposers in jail. Internationality, China influenced its neighbors’ wars, specifically fighting alongside North Korea, signing a peace treaty with USSR and occupying Tibet.
With the regime showing its weaknesses, a development program, named “Great Leap Forward”, was implemented. This project had at its core the idea of having an equalized society, where people were forced to join either agriculture or industrial communes. Its failure lead to a colossal economic collapse, and therefore, death by starvation. Opposing factions rose in the party, and the winners started the expurgation of government and party members, trying to erase Mao from the collective memory.
So, how did China climb its way up the hierarchy, like the New England Patriots climbed their way into chronic NFL betting favorites?
Xiaoping Opened China to Capitalism
In 1978, Xiaoping ascends to Supreme Leader. One of his reforms was opening the country’s economy to Capitalism, a socialist market economy, which meant that most of the protectionist and controlling policies, as well as state ownership on strategic sectors and monopolies continued to exist.
With previously authorized foreign investment flooding in, the money was reinvested on development, in a way never seen in China before, contradicting Nobel laureate Milton Friedman.
In terms of repression and freedom, not much changed over the years. The famous Great Firewall of China blocks most western means of communication and, consequently, the pursuit of information and truth is severely penalized. The constant governmental vigilance to punish or reward citizens, which violates all sorts of boundaries when it comes to privacy and freedom to act.
The Tiananmen massacre, in 1989, which is a brutal reminder of what a dictatorial regime can do to its own people and the importance of having a committed and impartial press that is not afraid to report the truth. The most recent protests in Hong Kong give us an updated version on what to expect from the Chinese government and how President Xi Jinping maintains and tightens his grip on power.
This 70th anniversary celebration is nothing more than an act of North Korean-like flexing, to try to show the world how powerful this nation has become. Some experts have predicted that China could become the world’s biggest economy by 2030, overtaking United States of America.
In light of the trade war between USA and China, that has been going for over 500 days, and the Hong Kong violent protests it is worth it to remember the history of this country. President Donald Trump must keep his word and don’t take pressure from Chinese government, especially considering Xi Jinping has been seeing his country growth rate lower to 5%, something that might have to do with the Trump administration’s trade tariffs.
Leonardo Pinho is a contributing author for NRN. He has his finger on the pulse of both American and global affairs.