How Communist is China ?

We don’t want even one politically unqualified person sneaking into the Party, fishing for personal gain. Xi Jinping.

A billion Chinese have applied for membership in the Communist Party of China since 2001. 907 million of them were rejected, mostly on moral grounds. It seems that most Chinese adults would take the Party oath, to endure the people’s ordeals first and enjoy their fruits last[1], subject themselves to constant scrutiny, and be held to higher ethical and legal standards than non-members. Adultery is cause for dismissal. Rape is cause for execution. Nonetheless, ninety-four million members are honoring their oath pretty well.

Party People

Founded in 1921, the CPC became the ruling party in 1949 after 300,000 members gave their lives in the war. Membership rose from 4.5 million to 94 million today, or ten percent of the adult population. Membership is prestigious, as I saw while wandering Shenzhen with a French Communist. He had only to produce his Party card to draw an admiring throng, yet members see little financial benefit:

We estimate the returns to membership of the Communist Party of China using unique twin data we collected from China. Our OLS estimate shows a Party premium of 10%, but the within-twin-pair estimate becomes zero. One interpretation is that the OLS premium is due to omitted ability and family background. This interpretation suggests that Party members fare well not because of their political status but because of the superior ability that made them Party members. The estimates are also consistent with another interpretation that Party membership not only has its own effect but also has an external effect on siblings.

Twenty-eight percent of members are farmers, herders, and fishermen, and ethnic minorities are overrepresented but, because membership involves much volunteer work, only twenty-five percent are women. Their average age is thirty years.

The Party’s organizational skills are legendary. When Covid-19 broke out in Wuhan, a million local members were called to duty and forty-eight thousand more–mostly medical specialists–were flown in to contain the virus.

After a Shanghai high-rise fire killed fifty-eight people in 2010, Party volunteers coordinated twenty-five fire stations, a hundred fire trucks, and a thousand firefighters along with police, hospitals, finance, insurance, housing, donations, counseling, criminal investigators, and schools. Forty-eight hours later, insurers compensated families for property losses and wrote $250,000 checks for each death. Ten days later, Shanghai mayor Han Zheng confessed, “Our poor supervision of the construction industry caused the fire”. He fired or demoted thirty officials, and indicted twenty-two, most of whom went to prison–two for sixteen years–and implemented new building codes. The contrast with Grenfell Tower–still under litigation–is stark.

Structurally Communist?

I have appended my comments to Marx and Engels’ ten-point test, from their Communist Manifesto:

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes. Land reform was completed in 1953. All land is owned in common. 98% of people own their homes.
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax. Individual Income Tax runs from 3% – 45%, rates that will likely remain unchanged until a proposed property tax (currently meeting stiff resistance) becomes law.
  3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance. There is no inheritance tax but, once a property tax is legislated, an inheritance tax might follow. Thanks to universal home ownership, the nation’s wealth Gini coefficient is low.
  4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels. This was accomplished by 1960. Beijing is now the preferred domicile for most billionaires and most foreign investors.
  5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly. Mao founded the world’s richest central bank, the People’s Bank of China. China’s Big Four retail banks are the world’s largest and most valuable.
  6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State. China’s government-owned media are the most trusted on earth.
  7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of wastelands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan. Soil improvement has been ongoing for seventy years and crop yields continue climbing steadily.
  8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture. Used effectively in the early years, this has been phased out in favor of mechanised agriculture.
  9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of the population over the countryThe combination of agriculture and manufacturing was successfully implemented during the Cultural Revolution and the dispersion of manufacturing is still prioritized. Urban hukou are issued to those who want them to redistribute the population.
  10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c. The OECD says, “China’s PISA test results showed the resilience of pupils to succeed despite tough backgrounds – and the high levels of equity between rich and poor pupils”.

Control of the Means of Production

Control of the means of production is through collective ownership of all banks, insurance companies, media, health providers, and defense industries, ensuring that they act in concert, for the general good. There are now more hungry children, drug addicts, suicides and executions, more homeless, poor, and imprisoned people in America than in China

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