"We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude." --Thomas Jefferson This week, we celebrated 235 years of American Liberty1. Conversely, on the eve of our Independence Day, the Red Chinese celebrated the 90th year of tyranny under the Communist Party.
A few decades ago, the contrast between the economies of the United States and China was stark. More recently, however, the Chinese Communist government has allowed the "liberalization" of their economy while American Socialists2 have subjected ours to ever more collectivist3 regulation, oppressive taxes and intervention. Consequently, the once-colossal contrast between our economies, while still vast, has greatly diminished.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the Reagan Era4, China is now the last remaining Communist stronghold with ties to the 1919-1921 Marxism-Leninist revolutionary period. Chinese intellectuals embraced Communism at the time, but the Chinese Communist Party did not gain constitutional dictatorial authority until 1949 after Mao Zedong's revolution established an autocratic socialist system for the People's Republic of China.
After the Qin Dynasty unification in 221 BC, China stood as a pillar of world civilization, excelling in economy and culture, particularly in the arts and sciences. However, civil unrest in the late 19th- and early 20th centuries resulted in the demise of its last great dynasty, and led, ultimately, to the Maoist revolution.
Though Mao's totalitarian rule restored China's sovereignty, it did so at great cost. Mao imposed rigorous social controls and brutally oppressed liberty and free enterprise, leading to the deaths of an estimated 70 million Chinese civilians, most as a result of centralized agricultural policies that led to massive government-induced famine. The rest perished at the hands of Mao's Red Brigades during the horrendous Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from 1966 until Mao's death in 1976.
In 1976, as we were celebrating the Bicentennial of American Liberty, moderate Chinese Communists under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping abandoned the disastrous Maoist reforms and adopted more market-oriented economic policies. In two decades, China's economic production had increased four-fold, as did the standard of living for the Chinese people. Since 2000, China's economy has experienced double-digit growth in most years, resulting in what is now the world's second largest economy.
The Communist Party has, to date, retained its political monopoly with the backing of its enormous military and police reserves. However, as China's economy is increasingly shaped by principles of free enterprise, the inevitable result of improved standards of living has exposed the Chinese people to cultures and ideas well beyond their horizon. More than 1.3 billion people, who were largely isolated from the outside world just two decades ago, are now awakening to the prospects of Liberty and free enterprise.
On July 1, Chinese President Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, amid the kind of mass fanfare5 that only the Chinese are capable of conjuring, delivered a keynote address to Party elite. Hu conceded, "In some historical periods, we once made mistakes and even suffered severe setbacks, the root cause of which was that our guiding thought then was divorced from China's reality. Our party managed to correct the mistakes by the strength of itself and the people, rose up amid the setbacks and continued to go forward victoriously."
Of course, the "root cause" of China's catastrophic "mistakes" is directly tied to its failed utopian endeavor to implement Marxism, "the continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat." (Could there be a lesson here for American Marxists6?)
Moreover, Hu boldly acknowledged, "The Party is soberly aware of the gravity and danger of corruptions that have emerged under the conditions of the party being long in power. If not effectively curbed, corruption will cost the party the trust and support of the people. The whole party must remain vigilant against corruption."
Essentially, Hu was unwittingly paraphrasing 19th-century English historian and moralist Lord John Acton: "All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Clearly the Red Chinese leaders understand that their despotic regime's7 days are numbered unless they convince the people that their government knows what's best for them. If the Chinese economy continues to recede on pace with the world economy, Hu's regime may well face significant civil discord -- discord that could overwhelm the Party's predictable propaganda machine. China is facing formidable odds to economic recovery, most notably Communists who are embezzling billions from Chinese businesses for the "right" to stay in business. If they do not succeed, unemployed and desperate Chinese peasants -- those who had flooded into urban areas in search of jobs -- will take to the streets, and the resulting conflagration between Chinese military forces and civilians would, in its first hour, eclipse the slaughter at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
As the Chinese Communists move to liberate their economy amid this looming threat of civil unrest, will a plurality of Americans finally come to their senses and roundly reject those among our leaders who envision a utopian USSA8?
Winston Churchill wrote, "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." Likewise, celebrated American leftist Norman Mailer conceded, "The function of socialism is to raise suffering to a higher level." But will Americans be able to resist the indoctrination of the contemporary Left's propaganda machine?
What would history make of the prospect that a decade from now, the Chinese people might enjoy a greater degree of Liberty and free enterprise than we Americans?