China

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Map of the People's Republic and Taiwan.

China (Chinese, simplified: 中国 or traditional: 中國, both romanized as Zhōngguó) is a name claimed by two countries: the communist state People's Republic of China (PRC), comprising a large part of eastern Asia, and the dissident Republic of China (ROC), more commonly known as Taiwan. Most commonly, the term "China" is used to exclusively denote the People's Republic of China, with Taiwan being used to identify the portion controlled by the Republic of China. Oddly enough, this isn't the first time Taiwan has been ruled by an ousted Chinese government.[1]

As a culture and civilization, China has existed for more than three thousand years.[2] It was one of the earliest civilizations to appear and was responsible for numerous scientific advancements and technological breakthroughs, such as gunpowder, compasses, and papermaking.[3] During the Imperial China period, the nation was ruled by hereditary emperors who justified their power with a concept called the "Mandate of Heaven."[4] According to this idea, emperors were legitimate because they ruled with the consent of the gods, however they could lose the Mandate by being cruel or stupid, justifying rebellions against them. The last imperial dynasty was the Qing, which suffered from internal disasters (the Taiping Rebellion) and external attacks (Europe) and collapsed in 1911.[5] From there was an aborted attempt at a republic, a civil war, an invasion from Japan, and a takeover by Mao Zedong's communists on the mainland and the exile of Chiang Kai-Chek's nationalists to Taiwan.

Mainland China, under the command of the Chinese Communist Party, has proven to be a surprisingly resilient authoritarian regime, and it's one of the world's last nations that at least pretends to be nominally communist.[6] Unfortunately, the nation has a dismal human rights record involving censorship, political imprisonment, and racial discrimination.[7]

Despite the hammers and sickles plastered all over everything, China is actually a primarily market based economy with large amounts of government intervention.[8] This has made China into an economic powerhouse, but it's also facing a serious pollution crisis as well.[9]

Despite China's military being still outclassed by that of the United States, it is recognized as a rising power and will likely be able to claim the title of superpower before too long.[10] On December 4th, 2014, it was announced by the IMF that China became the largest economy in the world (though only if measured by purchasing power parity[11]), passing the US, which had previously held the title since the time of President Ulysses S. Grant.

The US State Department recently imposed a Level 4 Travel Advisory against mainland China due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.[12] The State Department has also evacuated much of its non-essential personnel from China.

Government[edit]

National Congress of the Communist Party of China, 2012.

Constitution[edit]

China's constitution states that the People's Republic "is a socialist state under the people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants."[13] Indeed, China is one of the last countries in the world to still apply the title communist to itself.

The current document was applied in 1982, replacing the old constitution which had been applied during the rule of Mao Zedong.[14] It was written during Deng Xiaoping's premiership as a means of removing all of the old Cultural Revolution rhetoric which had been gradually added to the old document. It also attempts to claim that Chinese citizens enjoy a variety of civil rights which they do not have in reality.

Sadly, China's constitution is largely ignored by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which is kind of amusing when you realize that most of the leaders of the Communist Party were around and had input into creating the document. Theoretically, Chinese citizens have the right to freedom of speech, press, and assembly, yet the Great Firewall of China is still being implemented.[15] When the Party does acknowledge the Constitution's existence, it's to amend it to be more authoritarian. Just in 2018, Xi Jinping championed a constitutional amendment to remove term limits for the position of Chairman, thus ensuring that he will remain in power for as long as he wants.[16]

The Communist Party[edit]

The seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, including Xi Jinping.

China is currently a one-party dictatorship under the Chinese Communist Party. Although China theoretically has a presidential office, true power lies with the leader of the Communist Party, called the General Secretary. Xi Jinping currently holds both titles, which should not surprise you. Not only does the General Secretary have absolute power over all government bodies, but he also holds the title of Chairman of the Central Military Commission, making him the supreme military commander in China.[17] During his time in office, Xi has created more administrative bodies with himself as the official chairman, using these as a means to further centralize his own power. That should also not surprise you.

The Party uses three means to keep itself in power: control of personnel, propaganda, and the People’s Liberation Army. Despite China being a country of more than a billion-and-a-half people, the Chinese Communist Party has only ninety million members.[18] Over 70% of those members are men.[18] The National People's Congress, theoretically the highest organ of power in the party, only convenes every five years. Much of its purpose is to select members for the Central Committee, a much smaller body of people that selects members for the Politburo, which itself selects members for the 7-member Standing Committee.[18] China also has a Cabinet, called the State Council. It's headed by Li Keqiang, the Chinese Premier.[19]

Selection for these leadership positions and even selection for the highest positions in the nation all happen through a complex network of negotiations, bargaining, and backstabbing. VIPs in the Party seem divided into two groups: the "princelings" like Xi who are the children of high officials, and the "tuanpai", people who rose from relative obscurity like Hu Jintao.[18] Xi has, in recent years, made moves to purge the tuanpai from the higher levels of the Party.[20] If this all seems like a more complex version of an absolute monarchy, well, that's probably the point. The People's Republic was never designed to be for the people.

Government structure[edit]

A Chinese military band performs in front of the Great Hall of the People, the meeting place of the National People's Congress.

China theoretically separates the powers of head of state and head of government between two offices. The President is the head of state, and that office is currently held by Xi Jinping. The Premier is the head of government, and that office is held by Li Keqiang. However, China also has a position that is informally referred to by observers as the "paramount leader", which refers to the actual ruler of China.[21] The term was created to describe the rulership of Deng Xiaoping, who at times managed to wield power without holding any official offices. The current paramount leader is, of course, Xi Jinping, who currently holds four offices: General Secretary of the Communist Party, general secretary of the Central Committee, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and President.

China's legislature is called the National People's Congress. It has 2,980 members, but it mostly exists to "rubber stamp" legislation that had already been decided upon by Communist Party leaders.[22] Thus, despite being the national legislature, it is quite powerless. China only tolerates the existence of the body because it can point to the People's Congress as a false example of how it supposedly obeys the will of the people.

The State Council, headed by the Premier, fulfills the role of China's Chief Executive authority. It is a vast web of ministries and bureaucracies, and its role is to ensure that the Communist Party's legal agenda is implemented.[23] The State Council also drafts and executes the economic plans for China, meaning that it has broad control over the average citizen's life.

Recently reorganized by Xi Jinping, the Central Military Commission manages all branches of the Chinese military.[24] One of the branches of that military is the People's Armed Police, which exists to keep the Chinese people in line.[25] Th Central Military Commission's existence is a major part of how the Communist Party keeps control over the country.

Human rights in China (it ain't good)[edit]

"Police Attention: No distributing any unhealthy thoughts or objects!" Tri-lingual sign in Tibet, 1993.

Under the rule of Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has deepened its contempt for human rights.

Xinjiang internment camps[edit]

In 2017 and 2018, evidence emerged that China was systematically jailing Turkic Muslims in its western, Central Asian Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in "political re-education" camps.[26][27] While the Chinese government initially denied the accusation, it eventually admitted to providing free "vocational education" as part of its "anti-extremism" campaign.[28] Those who have left the camps have claimed that they were anti-Muslim brainwashing camps, and those who resisted indoctrination were often subjected to sleep deprivation and stress positions.[29] Prisoners at the camps are used as forced labor while also being compelled to give up their religion, language, and culture.[30] US estimates put the number of prisoners at between 800,000 and 2,000,000 people.[31] More recently, Chinese propagandists have begun bragging about how the camps provide "job training" for the Uyghurs; what they don't mention is that this is achieved by using prisoners as forced labor in China's factories.[32]

Tibet[edit]

Chinese authorities in Tibet are notorious for restricting religious freedom, freedom of assembly, and freedom of movement.[7] Tibetans in retaliation protest the occupation by means of self-immolation, with at least 150 known cases since 2009.[33] The Chinese government has taken a policy prioritizing stability over all other concerns, and they paint any cultural and religious differences in Tibet as "cultic."[34] Shows of nonviolent resistance have resulted in a brutal crackdown, and paramilitary enforcers roam the streets of Tibet both on foot and in armored vehicles, backed up by a wide network of video surveillance.[34] Any dissidents can thus be dealt with quickly and efficiently. In 2012, China changed its policies and announced that all Tibetan Buddhist monasteries would host a permanent installation of CCP officials and troops.[35] In 2013, the number of Communist Party officials deployed to Tibet reached 20,000, with the purpose of assisting surveillance and reeducation programs.[36] In 2018, China outlawed benign Tibetan social organizations which did things like attempt to preserve the Tibetan language and promote environmental protection.[37] China's rule in Tibet has now become overtly totalitarian, and dissenters arrested for political crimes get an average of 5.7 years in prison.[38]

Meanwhile, China is pouring billions of dollars into Tibet both for infrastructure and to superficially renovate Buddhist holy sites. This is most likely an attempt to increase the central government's influence over the Tibetan Buddhist religion, with the aim of hijacking the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama to name their own loyal head of the religion.[39]

Surveillance[edit]

Facial-recognition tech in China.
Reform and opening has already failed, but no one dares to say it. The current system has created severe social and economic segregation. So now the rulers use the taxpayers’ money to monitor the taxpayers.
—Chinese historian Zhang Lifan

In Tibet and Xinjiang, China has revolutionized a new form of surveillance known as the "grid system of social management." Its primary aim is to make it easier for the government to monitor all potential dissidents by having a network of community workers assigned to specific area, or "grid", provide personalized intelligence data on all individuals living within.[40] The grids are purposefully small to the point that every neighborhood has several, and the data is thus detailed and real-time.

Even in China proper, the surveillance system is grimly totalitarian. The Chinese government employs facial-recognition software to aid its ubiquitous cameras, and it collects other biometric data and is continually employing new technologies to create an ever more oppressive surveillance state.[41] Much like the military-industrial complex in the US, China has politicians dependent on a cadre of surveillance and security companies, which themselves form a major part of China's economy.[42] This security-industrial complex, encouraged by Xi Jinping's government, ensures that there is a steady economic incentive to continue making China more dystopian.

Racism[edit]

The Chinese government practices widespread racial discrimination in Xinjiang and Tibet, refusing to allow ethnic minorities into the Party, and placing these regions under the control of ethnic Han Chinese administrators who often care little for the people they are tasked with administrating.[43] Racial discrimination also extends to police and security forces stationed in Tibet, and it shouldn't take a genius to figure out how that impacts the quality of life there for Tibetans.

Amidst rising anti-foreigner sentiment, racism in China took a new form with a new target in the Spring of 2020: Africans. In southern Guangdong province, Africans were victim to a host of racially-motivated acts, including immediate eviction, prohibition from entering certain eateries, namely McDonalds, and severe racial profiling [44] While Chinese and African interaction has been on the rise since Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative took off in 2013, the outbreak of COVID-19, increasing xenophobia, and typical Chinese cultural conservatism have manifested themselves as primary roadblocks to China-African relations [45]

Censorship[edit]

They're desperate to censor this.

Censorship in Mainland China consists of a a mish-mash of tools to prevent "collective action"; simply because of the sheer scale of web users, Beijing knows it won't be able to filter out everything, and this is not helped by the fact that China lacks a centralized ratings and content categorization system.[46] Nonetheless, the effort to block "subversive" Internet content frequently enters comical territory, for example, a World of Warcraft expansion delayed specifically for depicting walking skeletons.[47] As human rights activists and netizens in general find increasingly complex ways to bypass the system, mostly relying on memes and clever wordplay[48] Chinese internet censorship is also rather harsh when it comes to porn. It remains to be seen how long the authorities are able to clamp down on those evil Western influences.

China has cracked down in recent years on efforts to circumvent its censorship. In January 2017, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued regulations that effectively banned Virtual Private Networks (VPN) which can be used to view content not permitted by China's censors.[7] Apple removed VPN services from its App Store in China, and China arm-twisted its own tech giant Alibaba into removing vendors who sell VPNs.[7]

Censorship has backfired, however - after doctor Li Wenliang sent a message in a private WeChat group (a monopolistic Chinese messaging app which the government uses to spy on citizens)[49] with several medical students, warning them of cases of what would become the highly contagious COVID-19, the government-controlled police detained and censored Li, forcing him to sign a paper apologising for his 'illegal behaviour'.[50] Not only was the doctor vindicated when the virus spread in a global outbreak, causing a spiral of deaths,[51] but when Li contracted and then died of COVID-19, he became an unintentional martyr, a symbol of the government's failure to deal with the outbreak and oppressive restrictions of personal freedoms, inciting rage and anti-government dissent across China.[52] If they had not gone after the doctor, this never would have happened, marking this an incredible instance of the Streisand effect.

LGBT rights[edit]

China has a contradictory and wishy-washy record with respect to LGBT rights. Homosexual activity was officially decriminalized in 1997, and has been delisted as a mental disorder by the Chinese Society of Psychiatry in 2001. In addition, individuals are allowed to legally change their gender - albeit with restrictive requirements such as requiring the individual to be unmarried, have no criminal record and the permission of family members.[53] China also has the largest LGBT market in the world.[54]

Nevertheless, the LGBT community in China continues to face hostility. Throughout 2019, the Chinese government cracked down on the LGBT community by shutting down forums, curbing news coverage of gay issues, censoring online search results, and preventing LGBT charities from registering.[55] The rainbow flag is a dangerous symbol in China, as people wearing it have been brutally beaten and subsequently castigated in the media as having a "distorted sexual orientation" and being "terrifying".[56]

China's internet content regulations officially ban "displays of homosexuality", lumping gays in the same category as "incest" and "sexual perversions" and "situations of unhealthy love and marriages".[57]

Economy of China[edit]

Shanghai's financial district.

After Mao died, the new leaders under Deng Xiaoping abandoned any pretense of ideological communism, and began reforming the country, effectively changing the economy from a communist to a functionally capitalist one.[58] China is currently privatizing its agricultural sector, although many other sectors and industries remain in state control.[59] Today, the PRC is pretty much only communist by name, and as one can tell, has a lot of cultural promotion and managed to undo most of the damage done by the Cultural Revolution. They have the second-largest economy in the world and is number one in emitting greenhouse gases. Luckily, environmental awareness is also something that is growing in China these days, though it has to do a lot more to fully clean up the water and air. Basically, Part of China is maintaining its authoritarian government while having a fairly laissez-faire economic system (look at that, Milton).

Capitalism in China is particularly obvious to visitors: street merchants and vendor malls are regular sights, counterfeit goods are readily available, clothing stores sell alcoholic beverages, McDonald's and KFCs are large multilevel restaurants in major metropolitan areas,[60][61] and haggling (to a certain degree) is expected.

Beijing's variable air quality.

China is often spoken off with reverence by people bemoaning that "nothing gets built" due to NIMBYs. Unfortunately, corruption is endemic in China, and it's considered one of the biggest obstacles to doing business there.[62]

On a happier note, China has in a few years gone from virtually no renewable energies to a global leader in both solar and wind power.[63] It has similarly gone from steam trains to high speed rail[64] and it produces millionaires and billionaires at a rate that only the Gilded Age US did.[65] That said, China also produces a metric shitload of pollution from its hundreds of thousands of factories and exploits millions of migrant workers that are held in abject conditions so that your iPhone can be shipped to you as cheaply as Apple will allow; the Foxconn factory (ironically Taiwanese owned)[66] is infamous for its "suicide nets" preventing workers from killing themselves due to overwork.[67][68]

Thanks to China's restrictive migration systemWikipedia, migrant workers from poorer cities often face discrimination in employment and residency, and this is not helped by China's lack of independent trade unions. Another issue is that while China is not as politically corrupt as many places, it is still more corrupt than basically all stable democracies, thanks to its lack of any independent agencies overseeing matters of corruption, and responses to political corruption, such as Xi Jinping's purges, are often heavy-handed. And as shown by the protests in Hong Kong and Taiwan's continued refusal to "reunify" with the mainland, China's political system is not as attractive as Very Serious People would like you to believe.

International relations[edit]

There is lingering hostility between China and Japan over World War II and war crimes. Also, China is nominally interested in eventually "liberating" the Republic of China (Taiwan) from what used to be called a "fascist Western puppet state" and finish the civil war, although seeing the increasing trade and tourism between the two states, it is unlikely to happen without severely damaging China's economy and international reputation, and possibly drawing the US in.

China has more recently began to invest in and trade with countries across Africa.[69] Although this has upsides such as lower-cost loans and investment in infrastructure, Beijing has been criticized for allowing human rights to be undermined during trade with African countries.[70] There have unfortunately been reports of many businessmen arriving in Kenya from China who consider Africans to be inferior. There have been reported instances of physical abuse against employees, segregated workspaces, and general racist abuse in Chinese-run workplaces.[71] Anti-black racism is not limited to Africa. African-American English teachers in Chinese schools are often turned down in favor of less qualified white colleagues.[72]

China currently plays manufacturer and banker to the United States' consumer and borrower. This has economic and political implications, though contrary to what some kooks think it doesn't mean China is going to show up on the doorstep one day saying they own the country now.

One country, two systems[edit]

See the main article on this topic: One country, two systems

It is a system that guarantees different systems and autonomy in Hong Kong and Macao.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. See the Wikipedia article on Kingdom of Tungning.
  2. The History of China — Over 3,000 Years of Civilization China Highlights
  3. Top 20 Ancient Chinese Inventions US-China Institute
  4. The Mandate of Heaven Lumen Learning
  5. The Fall of China's Qing Dynasty in 1911–1912 ThoughtCo
  6. The “Surprise” of Authoritarian Resilience in China Tang, Wenfang. American Affairs. Feb. 2018
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Human Rights Watch World Report 2018: China Human Rights Watch
  8. [File:ForbiddenCity MaoZedongPortrait (pixinn.net).jpg How China went from communist to capitalist] Holmes, Frank. Business Insider. 10.10.15
  9. China’s polluted skies Bernard, Steven and Lucy Hornby. Financial Times. 06.28.18
  10. What kind of superpower could China be? BBC News. 10.19.12
  11. The China Story You Should Pay Attention to, and the One You Should Ignore, The Atlantic
  12. China Travel Advisory. US State Department.
  13. Constitution of the People's Republic of China.
  14. See the Wikipedia article on Constitution of the People's Republic of China.
  15. China's Still Having a Hard Time Obeying Its Own Constitution. The Atlantic.
  16. Xi Jinping Amends China's Constitution. Lawfare.
  17. See the Wikipedia article on General Secretary of the Communist Party of China.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 The Chinese Communist Party. Council on Foreign Relations.
  19. See the Wikipedia article on Li Keqiang.
  20. China's princelings versus tuanpai. Straits Times.
  21. See the Wikipedia article on Paramount leader.
  22. China's rubber-stamp parliament at a glance. France 24.
  23. State council. BBC News.
  24. Central Military Commission. Global Security.
  25. People's Armed Police. Global Security.
  26. China's hidden camps Sudworth, John. BBC.
  27. See the Wikipedia article on Xinjiang reeducation camps.
  28. Internment camps make Uighurs' life more colourful, says Xinjiang governor Kuo, Lily. The Guardian. 16 Oct 2018.
  29. Uighur woman details horrific abuse in China internment camp CBS News. Nov 27, 2018
  30. U.S. sportswear traced to factory in China’s Muslim internment camps Dake Kang, Martha Mendoza and Yanan Wang / Associated Press. Star Advertiser. December 17, 2018
  31. State Dept. official: China holding 800k Muslim minorities in internment camps Keller, Meghan. The Hill. 12/05/18
  32. China’s Detention Camps for Muslims Turn to Forced Labor New York Times. Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy. Dec. 16, 2018
  33. Self-immolations by Tibetans International Campaign for Tibet, December 10, 2018
  34. 34.0 34.1 China’s Cult of Stability Is Killing Tibetans Carrico, Kevin. Foreign Policy. Jun. 13, 2017.
  35. China: Tibetan Monasteries Placed Under Direct Rule Human Rights Watch, March 16, 2012.
  36. China: ‘Benefit the Masses’ Campaign Surveilling Tibetans Human Rights Watch. June 18, 2013
  37. China’s Crackdown on Tibetan Social Groups Human Rights Watch. July 30, 2018
  38. Detention and Prosecution of Tibetans under China’s “Stability Maintenance” Campaign Human Rights Watch. May 22, 2016.
  39. China spends big in Tibet to avert a crisis when the Dalai Lama dies Eric Baculinao and Jason Cumming. NBC News. Aug. 30, 2018
  40. Grid locked The Economist Jun 22nd 2013
  41. Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras New York Times
  42. The Rise of China's Security-Industrial Complex Council on Foreign Relations
  43. State Department notes ‘severe’ repression in Tibet in 2017 Human Rights Report International Campaign for Tibet, Apr 20, 2018
  44. The coronavirus crisis has exposed China's long history of racism by Hsiao-Hung Pai (April 25th, 2020) The Guardian.
  45. 'Textbook' Discrimination: Human Rights Report Accuses China Of Mistreating Africans by Austin Horn (May 6th, 2020) NPR.
  46. Harvard team finds that China's Internet policy allows more than most realize, Ars Technica
  47. Banning Skeletons in Chinese Games, Popular Science
  48. How Memes Became the Best Weapon Against Chinese Internet Censorship, The Atlantic
  49. WeChat and the Surveillance State, Stephen McDonell, BBC News, 7 June 2019
  50. As New Coronavirus Spread, China’s Old Habits Delayed Fight, New York Times, 1 February 2020
  51. Coronavirus 2019-nCoV Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE
  52. 'Hero who told the truth': Chinese rage over coronavirus death of whistleblower doctor, the Guardian, 7 February 2020
  53. [https://www.undp.org/content/dam/china/docs/Publications/UNDP-CH-Legal%20gender%20recognition%20-%20China%20180805.pdf Legal Gender Recognition in Chhina: A Legal and Policy Review]. UNDP and China Women’s University. 2018.
  54. China now has the biggest LGBT economy in the world, but still no same-sex marriage. PinkNews.co.uk. 21 Feb 2020.
  55. Fewer rainbows, less social media for China’s LGBT community. South China Morning Post. 16 May, 2019.
  56. It Can Be Dangerous To Wave a Rainbow LGBT Flag In China. The Daily Beast.
  57. China Keeps Trying to Scrub LGBT Content From the Web. The Daily Beast.
  58. See the Wikipedia article on Chinese economic reform.
  59. Op-Ed: China’s Marxist communal farming makes way for agribusiness. LA Times. Op-ed by Michael Meyer.
  60. The Weirdest Food on the Chinese McDonald’s Menu. Chinosity.
  61. KFC is by far the most popular fast-food chain in China and it's nothing like the US brand — here's what it's like. Business Insider.
  62. China Corruption Report.
  63. The East Is Green: China’s Global Leadership in Renewable Energy. By Dominic Chiu. Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  64. See the Wikipedia article on High-speed rail in China.
  65. Why Communist China Is Home to So Many Billionaires. Fortune.
  66. Foxconn Founder Pulls Out of Presidential Race in Taiwan. Wall Street Journal. September 19, 2019.
  67. Moore, Malcolm (11 Jan 2012). 'Mass suicide' protest at Apple manufacturer Foxconn factory. Telegraph. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  68. Merchant, Brian (18 Jun 2017) Life and death in Apple’s forbidden city. The Guardian. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  69. China's investment in Africa: Everything you need to know BBC. 27 Jun 2019.
  70. China’s Investment in Africa Cannot Buy the Silence of a Continent. Deprose Muchena, The Diplomat. 28 Apr 2020
  71. Kenyans Say Chinese Investment Brings Racism and Discrimination Joseph Goldstein, New York Times. Oct. 15, 2018
  72. Discrimination and Racism in China InterNations.