World

After 70 Years, Communist China Is Weaker Than It Appears

A paramilitary policeman stands guard at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, in 2013. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)
The Communist ideology is a parasite that cannot survive for long on its own.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 after 69 years of tyranny and aggression. On October 1, the People’s Republic of China will officially turn 70. The brutal regime of Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping has made China the world’s longest surviving Communist country, and unlike the Kremlin of old, Beijing seems stronger than ever.

The contrast between China today and the Soviet Union at its death could hardly be more stark. In the early 1990s, Russia’s military was swiftly losing ground to American investment and innovation, forcing a global retreat of influence and power. Today, the People’s Liberation Army is quickly closing the gap with the U.S. armed forces and is projecting its newfound power from the Arctic to Africa to Australasia.

Communist China is also sprinting economically. It overtook Japan as the world’s second-largest economy in 2011, and its GDP has nearly tripled since then. Many forecasters say it’s a matter of when, not if, China overtakes the U.S. By comparison, the Soviet Union struggled to keep its economy even half as large as America’s.

Finally, China is markedly more oppressive than the Soviet Union at a similar age. Where the latter was weakening its control over people through perestroika and glasnost, the former has imprisoned millions of Muslim Uighurs, initiated a new crackdown on Christian worshipers, and instituted a draconian social-credit system that monitors the Chinese people’s daily lives and ranks them accordingly. It even seems willing to initiate a Tiananmen Square–style crackdown on the escalating protest movement in Hong Kong.

Has Communist China discovered a fountain of youth? Yes, and it’s exactly where Ponce de Leon said it would be: in America.

Whereas the Soviet Union largely walled itself off from its greatest adversary, literally and figuratively, China’s leaders have sought to exploit America across the board for decades. China profits from U.S. financial markets; purchases cutting-edge U.S. firms; pilfers trade secrets and technology from U.S. companies, including defense contractors; and promotes a massive misinformation campaign on U.S. soil to sway policy and public opinion in its favor. Yet far from being a source of strength, Communist China’s dependence on America is one of its primary weakness.

Like the Soviet Union before it, China’s tyranny stifles the creativity of its people. While Beijing grants some few a small amount of economic autonomy, it refuses to let the average Chinese citizen fully pursue her dreams, apply her talents, or realize her potential, preventing untold advances across every field of endeavor. There’s a reason Chinese parents send their children to American universities and their cash to Western banks. China’s seemingly inexorable rise requires continued access to America and the fruits of our system of free enterprise and the rule of law.

This reality is coming into focus under President Trump. The administration has started to disentangle Communist China from America’s economy and institutions. China’s stock markets are suffering and its economy is growing at the slowest rate in nearly three decades. Additional unraveling of U.S.–China ties will likely further demonstrate the bankruptcy of the Communist economic model, and its need for external support.

Beijing knows this, hence its relentless focus on tamping down trade tensions, but not national security or human-rights issues. It also benefits from the widespread belief that Communist China is here to stay, so we might as well deal with it rather than hope for a better, more democratic regime. In our organization’s discussions with government leaders, prominent academics, and corporations, we have found an overwhelming belief that a change in China’s government would be catastrophic. They prefer to work with the devil they know, not hope for a devil they don’t.

Yet the lessons of history are worth remembering. The fall of the Soviet Union ushered in a new era of freedom, prosperity, and peace in its former lands, and far beyond. A collapse of red rule in China will surely be more complicated, given its greater interaction with the world, but it stands to reason that the Communist party’s loss will be the Chinese people’s gain. Many others, America included, will benefit, too.

Communist China is weaker than it appears. However, it’s unlikely to fall unless the United States, and the rest of the free world, continue to ratchet up the pressure. The Communist ideology is a parasite that cannot survive for long on its own. This 70th anniversary is a time to realize that Communist China should never have gotten this far.

Marion Smith is the executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, an educational and human-rights non-profit authorized by a unanimous act of Congress.

Most Popular

Culture

Thank You, Kanye West

It was “a plan by the Devil to have our kids committing suicide at an all-time high.” So said Kanye West, who recently declared, via Twitter, that he was running for president, on the “Birthday Party” ticket. It’s about the best explanation I’ve heard for the non-coronavirus that plagues us. There’s ... Read More
Culture

Thank You, Kanye West

It was “a plan by the Devil to have our kids committing suicide at an all-time high.” So said Kanye West, who recently declared, via Twitter, that he was running for president, on the “Birthday Party” ticket. It’s about the best explanation I’ve heard for the non-coronavirus that plagues us. There’s ... Read More
Education

The Case for Reopening Schools

On the menu today: My reader who is the head of research for a top-ten hospital weighs in on how to get kids back into classrooms safely this fall, a blathering Biden comment I missed that could have gotten his Twitter account suspended, and California’s state government tries to implement an ambitious ... Read More
Education

The Case for Reopening Schools

On the menu today: My reader who is the head of research for a top-ten hospital weighs in on how to get kids back into classrooms safely this fall, a blathering Biden comment I missed that could have gotten his Twitter account suspended, and California’s state government tries to implement an ambitious ... Read More
Science & Tech

The Ideological Corruption of Science

Why don't many people “trust the science” anymore? Perhaps because science, as an institution, has fallen prey to the same ideological infection that has invaded and corrupted many other institutions. But it is too rarely discussed, which is why a Sunday Wall Street Journal column by theoretical physicist ... Read More
Science & Tech

The Ideological Corruption of Science

Why don't many people “trust the science” anymore? Perhaps because science, as an institution, has fallen prey to the same ideological infection that has invaded and corrupted many other institutions. But it is too rarely discussed, which is why a Sunday Wall Street Journal column by theoretical physicist ... Read More
Science & Tech

Evaluating Fauci’s Record

The White House is getting a lot of heat by pointing out that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious-disease official, has a spottier record on predicting the course of pandemics than the media would have you believe. “White House officials now want to rein in Fauci by cherry-picking instances in ... Read More
Science & Tech

Evaluating Fauci’s Record

The White House is getting a lot of heat by pointing out that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious-disease official, has a spottier record on predicting the course of pandemics than the media would have you believe. “White House officials now want to rein in Fauci by cherry-picking instances in ... Read More
Culture

In Defense of Terry Crews

There are many worthy nominees for the craziest moment in the current cultural turmoil, but the controversy over tweets by actor Terry Crews deserves to be high on the list. In one of his offending tweets, Crews said on July 4th: https://twitter.com/terrycrews/status/1279493774679261185?s=21 It wasn’t ... Read More
Culture

In Defense of Terry Crews

There are many worthy nominees for the craziest moment in the current cultural turmoil, but the controversy over tweets by actor Terry Crews deserves to be high on the list. In one of his offending tweets, Crews said on July 4th: https://twitter.com/terrycrews/status/1279493774679261185?s=21 It wasn’t ... Read More