“”There are some foreigners who have eaten their fill and have nothing better to do than point their fingers at our affairs. First, China doesn't export Revolution; second, China doesn't export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn't come and cause you headaches, what more is there to be said?
“”The Empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.
|—Romance of the Three Kingdoms|
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),[note 1] comprising a large part of eastern Asia, and the dissident Republic of China (ROC), more commonly known as Taiwan.[note 2] 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.
China has existed for more than three thousand years as a culture and civilization. It's so ancient that its oldest rulers are quite literally shrouded in myth; the traditional timeline starts with the probably-not-real demigods known as the "Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors," progressing to the maybe-real Xia Dynasty, and then to the definitely-real Shang Dynasty, from whence China's actual confirmed history progresses. 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. During the Imperial China period, the nation was ruled by hereditary emperors who justified their power with a concept called the "Mandate of Heaven."
According to this idea, emperors were legitimate because they ruled with the gods' consent, much like the Western monarchs and their claimed Divine Right to Rule. However, unlike the western concept, the Chinese Monarch could lose the Mandate by being cruel or stupid, justifying rebellions against them. As a result, China's history is a long cycle of the country fragmenting under civil war, reunifying, and fragmenting again so many times that they actually assumed it was the natural order of things for centuries. The last imperial dynasty was the Qing, which suffered from internal disasters (the Taiping Rebellion) and external attacks (Europe) and collapsed in 1911. From there was an aborted attempt at a republic, a many-faction civil war among warlords, an invasion from Japan, and a takeover by Mao Zedong's communists on the mainland in the Chinese Civil War and the exile of Chiang Kai-shek's nationalists to Taiwan.
Under the command of the Chinese Communist Party, Mainland China has proven to be a surprisingly resilient authoritarian regime ever since the Soviet Union fell, and it's one of the world's last nations that at least pretends to be nominally communist. Unfortunately, the government continues to have a dismal human rights record involving media censorship, political imprisonment, and harsh repression against rebellious minorities. Despite the hammers and sickles plastered all over everything, China is actually a primarily market-based economy with large amounts of government intervention. This has made China an economic powerhouse, but it faces a severe pollution crisis.
Despite China's military being still outclassed by the United States, it is recognized as a rising power. It will likely be able to claim the superpower title before too long. In 2014, China became the largest economy globally by purchasing power parity (PPP), passing the U.S., which had previously held the title since the time of President Ulysses S. Grant. China still needs at least a decade to get ahead when it comes to nominal GDP, even if the COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a shortcut to this goal. Ironically, this spot was initially held by China until which the U.S. became the first western country to surpass the Chinese GDP since the Roman Empire during the 1920s. As the Chinese middle class develops and such growth slows down, the idea of China exceeding American living standards may pose a challenge for the Chinese government, as its citizens may start wishing for further political participation and reform.
- 1 Government
- 2 Human rights in China (spoiler alert: it ain't good)
- 3 Economy of China
- 4 International relations
- 5 One country, two systems
- 6 Culture
- 7 Gallery
- 8 See also
- 9 External links
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
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." Indeed, China is one of the last countries to still apply the title communist to itself.
The current document was applied in 1982, replacing the old constitution applied during the rule of Mao Zedong. It was written during Deng Xiaoping's leadership to remove all of the old Cultural Revolution rhetoric that had been gradually added to the old document. It also attempts to claim that Chinese citizens enjoy a variety of civil rights that they do not have in reality.
Sadly, China's constitution is largely ignored by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including by various provincial officials who place their own 'interpretations', 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. There is a popular saying that the "rule of man" overrides the "rule of law", and one has to wonder if many of China's rights problems could be resolved if politicians simply followed their own damn constitution. When the Party does acknowledge the constitution's existence, it's to amend it to be more authoritarian. 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.
The Chinese Communist Party
China is currently a one-party dictatorship under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 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. The General Secretary has absolute power over all government bodies. He also holds the title of Chairman of the Central Military Commission, making him the supreme military commander in China. During his time in office, Xi has created more administrative bodies with himself as the official chairman, using these 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. Over 70% of those members are men. 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. China also has a Cabinet called the State Council. It's headed by Li Keqiang, the Chinese Premier.
Selection for these leadership positions and even the 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, the children of high officials, and the "tuanpai", people who rose from relative obscurity like Hu Jintao. Xi has, in recent years, made moves to purge the tuanpai from the higher levels of the Party. If this seems like a more complex version of an absolute monarchy, that's probably the point. The People's Republic was never designed to be for the people.
China theoretically separates the powers of the head of state and head of government between two offices. The President is the ceremonial head of state with limited power. That office is currently held by Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, the de facto leader of the one-party ruling China. The Premier of the State Council 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. The term was created to describe the rulership of Deng Xiaoping, who at times managed to wield power without holding any official offices. Of course, the current paramount leader is 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 mainly exists to "rubber stamp" legislation that had already been decided upon by Communist Party leaders. 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 people's will.
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. 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. One of the branches of that military is the People's Armed Police, which exists to keep the Chinese people in line. The Central Military Commission's existence is a major part of how the Communist Party keeps control over the country.
Human rights in China (spoiler alert: it ain't good)
While the CCP managed to resolve some social issues such as food security and abject poverty, under the rule of Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has deepened its contempt for human rights.
Xinjiang internment camps
In 2017 and 2018, evidence emerged that China was systematically jailing Turkic Muslims in its western, Central Asian Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in "political reeducation" camps. While the Chinese government initially denied the accusation, it eventually admitted to providing free "vocational education" as part of its "anti-extremism" campaign. 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. Prisoners at the camps are used as forced labor while also being compelled to give up their religion, language, and culture. American estimates put the number of prisoners at between 800,000 and 2,000,000 people. Chinese propagandists have begun bragging about how the camps provide "job training" for the Uyghurs; they don't mention that this is achieved by using prisoners as forced labor in China's factories.
Chinese authorities in Tibet are notorious for restricting religious freedom, freedom of assembly, and freedom of movement. Tibetans, in retaliation, protest the occupation through self-immolation, with at least 150 known cases since 2009. The Chinese government has prioritized stability over all other concerns, and they paint any cultural and religious differences in Tibet as "cultic." 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 vast network of video surveillance. 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. In 2013, the number of Communist Party officials deployed to Tibet reached 20,000 to assist in surveillance and reeducation programs. In 2018, China outlawed benign Tibetan social organizations that attempted to preserve the Tibetan language and promote environmental protection. China's rule in Tibet has become overtly totalitarian, and dissenters arrested for political crimes get an average of 5.7 years in prison.
Meanwhile, China is pouring billions of dollars into Tibet for infrastructure and superficially renovating Buddhist holy sites. This is most likely an attempt to increase the central government's influence over the Tibetan Buddhist religion, to hijack the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama to name their own loyal head of the religion.
“”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 a specific area, or "grid", to provide personalized intelligence data on all individuals living within. 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, collects other biometric data, and continually employs new technologies to create an ever more oppressive surveillance state. 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. This security-industrial complex, encouraged by Xi Jinping's government, ensures that there is a steady economic incentive to continue making China more dystopian.
While ethnicities such as Manchus, Mongols, and Hui are well integrated into Chinese society, the Chinese government practices widespread, institutionalized racial discrimination in Xinjiang and Tibet, refusing to allow ethnic minorities into the higher echelons of 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. Racial discrimination also extends to police and security forces stationed in Tibet. It shouldn't take a genius to figure out how that impacts the quality of life there for Tibetans.
Interestingly, Tibetans also encounter similar stereotypes in Chinese media as those of the West, that they are peaceful Buddhist people who live song and dance. Uighurs, in contrast, face the same Islamophobic attitudes in Chinese society as in the West, where they are unfairly blamed as a group for the actions of extremists. There is a habit of conflating all Turkic peoples in China as "Uighur," similar to how there used to be a trend in the west of conflating all Asian peoples as "Chinese". In contrast, the Hui, another Muslim ethnic group, don't receive the same restrictions as the Tibetans and Uighurs and can freely practice their religion and culture, demonstrating that logic and consistency are not necessary components of bigotry. Due to such unequal treatment and historical grievances, there are inter-ethnic clashes between the Uighurs and Tibetans against the Hui, with the latter being more supportive of the government.
While Chinese-African relations have been rising, especially since Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative took off in 2013, racism against Africans has also been documented. For example, Africans were victims of racially-motivated acts in southern Guangdong province during the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020, including immediate eviction, prohibition from entering certain eateries, namely McDonald's, and severe racial profiling.
Censorship in Mainland China consists of 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 rating and content categorization system. Nonetheless, the effort to block "subversive" Internet content frequently enters comical territory; for example, a World of Warcraft expansion was delayed specifically for depicting walking skeletons. Human rights activists and netizens find increasingly complex ways to bypass the system, mostly relying on memes and clever wordplay. Chinese internet censorship is also rather harsh when it comes to porn. However, due to China's gender imbalance and a vast population of bored young males, this is rarely enforced, and pornography can be easily accessed both on and off the internet. It remains to be seen how long the authorities can 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. 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.
Censorship has backfired, however - after doctor Li Wenliang sent a message in a private WeChat group (a monopolistic Chinese messaging app that the government uses to spy on citizens) to several medical students, warning them of cases of what would become the highly contagious COVID-19, the provincial police briefly detained Li, warning him not to ' spread rumors' and forcing him to sign a paper apologizing for his 'illegal behavior'. Not only was the doctor vindicated when the virus spread in a global outbreak, causing a spiral of deaths, 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. If they had not gone after the doctor, this never would have happened, marking this an incredible instance of the Streisand effect. After an immense public outcry, Dr. Li was eventually pardoned by the central government.
As of May 2021, RationalWiki is blocked in China.
China has a contradictory and wishy-washy record concerning LGBT rights. Homosexual activity has been documented since ancient times, and several Emperors were reported to have taken male lovers. In fact, homosexuality was only banned in the late 19th century, when homophobia was unfortunately introduced to China to modernize the country and learn from Western ideas. Homosexual activity was officially decriminalized in 1997 (previously, it was criminalized as "hooliganism") and was delisted as a mental disorder by the Chinese Society of Psychiatry in 2001. The current Chinese government policy toward LGBT rights is the Three No's: No approval, no disapproval, and no promotion (hmm, sound familiar?). Such ambiguities both allow the state to easily regulate China's LGBT community (usually by silencing online discussions) and LGBT communities themselves to easily form.
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. China also has the largest LGBT market in the world.
Nevertheless, the LGBT community in China continues to face hostility from government officials and sections of China's culturally conservative population who view homosexuality as an "affront to traditional Confucian morals". Some Chinese see the rainbow flag as a dangerous symbol. People wearing it have been brutally beaten and subsequently criticized in the media as having a "distorted sexual orientation" and being "terrifying", and LGBT Chinese have long lobbied to ban gay conversion therapy. Despite this, there are regular pride events in metropolitan cities, where attitudes towards LGBT rights are more accepting.
In 2018, China's largest social media platform, WeChat, citing internet content regulations, attempted to introduce a ban on "displays of homosexuality", lumping gays in the same category as "incest" and "sexual perversions" and "situations of unhealthy love and marriages", but was reversed following an outcry from LGBT users. Throughout 2019, despite backing UN recommendations on LGBT rights, 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. The National People’s Congress also made it clear that same-sex marriage is not on the national agenda, per China's "traditional values"... again, despite the act being tolerated until well into the era of modern history (after the Industrial Revolution, using Europe and the United States as a reference point).
Economy of China
After Mao died, the new leaders under Deng Xiaoping abandoned any pretense of ideological communism. They began reforming the country, effectively changing the economy from a communist to a functionally capitalist one. Although many other sectors and industries remain under state control, China is privatizing its agricultural sector. Today, the PRC is pretty much only communist by name, and as one can tell, it 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 globally and are number one in emitting greenhouse gases. Luckily, environmental awareness is also growing in China these days, though it has to do a lot more to fully clean up the water and air. Overall, China maintains 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, and haggling (to a certain degree) is expected.
China is often spoken of with reverence by people lamenting 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.
On a happier note, China has gone from virtually no renewable energies to a global leader in both solar and wind power in a few years. It has similarly gone from steam trains to high-speed rail, and it produces millionaires and billionaires at a rate that only the Gilded Age US did. That said, China also has 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) is infamous for its "suicide nets" preventing workers from killing themselves due to overwork.
Thanks to China's restrictive migration system, migrant workers from poorer cities often face discrimination in employment and residency, which 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.
There is lingering hostility between China and Japan over World War II and war crimes. This is not helped by the fact that the two countries are currently geopolitical and economic rivals, together with nationalists in power in both countries. 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 finishing the civil war. However, 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 recently begun to increase its investment in and trade with countries across Africa and built a naval base in Djibouti. 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. There have, unfortunately, been reports of many businessmen arriving in Kenya from China who consider Africans to be inferior. There have been reported physical abuse against employees, segregated workspaces, and general racist abuse in Chinese-run workplaces, which sadly led to growing anti-Chinese sentiments in the region. 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.
China has had a complex relationship with the United States since the Cold War ended. The two countries are major trading partners, with China producing cheap consumer goods for the US. Meanwhile, China proves to be a leading consumer of US brands and cultural products, including music, film, and sports. However, US conservatives regularly complain about the Chinese supposedly taking American jobs. Donald Trump's trade war introduced tariffs on Chinese goods and has restricted and outright banned several Chinese tech companies such as Huawei, WeChat, and TikTok, the latter for its young liberal users ruining his Tulsa rally by purchasing tickets and not showing up. Human rights is another issue that the US regularly condemns China for, which is mostly accurate. Still, due to China being a geopolitical rival, it tends to receive more criticism than the US's pet dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.
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 will show up on the doorstep one day saying they own the country now.
Outside its immediate neighbors and the USA, however, the Chinese government generally takes a more hands-off approach when it comes to international diplomacy and typically does not get involved in other regional disputes to promote economic ties. For instance, in the Middle East, China is the only major power to maintain good relations with Iran, Israel, AND Saudi Arabia.
One country, two systems
It is a system that guarantees different systems and autonomy in Hong Kong and Macao.
Although the country suffered through the Cultural Revolution during the Maoist era, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, folk beliefs, feng shui and Chinese astrology continue to be important religious and cultural influences. Throughout history, Chinese philosophy and literature has also made great strides in the influence of various countries in the region, such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam, among others. Prominent individuals include Confucius, Sun Tzu, Sun Bin and Li Shizhen.
Mandarin is the official language, the language of instruction and the primary language used in the media, though many Chinese dialects exists and are used colloquially, such as Cantonese, Hokkien, etc. The written language is simplified Chinese, unlike the traditional Chinese used on the island of Taiwan. However, Taiwan does use Hanyu Pinyin, the official romanization system for Standard Mandarin Chinese first introduced by the PRC.
Sun Yat-sen, a leader in the Xinhai Revolution and early days of ROC rule in mainland China, is revered as a national hero in both the PRC and the ROC for his reforms by bringing down Imperial China, a political system which lasted for more than 2,000 years since the 221 BC.
Chinese cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines in the world, and it is eaten widely even among non-Chinese individuals. It's cuisine is vast, and there exists uniquely regional cuisines within the country. There are also classifications of Chinese cuisines based on geographical locations and cooking styles.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is also an important part of Chinese culture. They can often be found throughout China and by the diaspora in Chinatowns around the world. Ever since the emergence of Western medicine, it often serves as an alternative medical practice for any individuals who wish to find a solution to whatever illness they may be suffering from. For example, Tofu is considered a cooling agent in TCM. It is believed to invigorate the spleen, replenish the qi, moisten and cool off the yang vacuity, as well as to "detoxify" the body.
- Chinese Civil War
- Imperial China
- Tiananmen Square Massacre
- One-child policy
- Chinese-owned US debt
- The most recent PRC heads of state
- Social Credit System (China)
- Falun Gong
- Black site
- Are Hong Kong & Macau Countries?, CGP Grey
- Don't be fooled, it is not an actual democracy
- ROC is a more accurate name as Taiwan is actually a republic!
- See the Wikipedia article on Kingdom of Tungning.
- The History of China — Over 3,000 Years of Civilization China Highlights
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- Maddison Historical Statistics
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- Constitution of the People's Republic of China.
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- See the Wikipedia article on General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
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- Grid locked The Economist Jun 22nd 2013
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- Manoli, Maria (May 30, 2017). "Sexuality in ancient China, part 2".
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- China now has the biggest LGBT economy in the world, but still no same-sex marriage. PinkNews.co.uk. 21 Feb 2020.
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- "Rights group urges China to ban abusive gay 'conversion therapy'" (in en).
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- See the Wikipedia article on Chinese economic reform.
- Op-Ed: China’s Marxist communal farming makes way for agribusiness. LA Times. Op-ed by Michael Meyer.
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- The East Is Green: China’s Global Leadership in Renewable Energy. By Dominic Chiu. Center for Strategic and International Studies.
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