The United States and China are locked in a trade war that shows no signs of abating. The Trump Administration's talking points is that America is winning. But the Chinese are playing "the long game" and can wait out the American president. Not for the very first time in recent history, a rising power is challenging an existing one as it consolidates its strategic moves in the global sphere. And despite China's meteoric rise and economic success as the world's second largest economy, it is still little understood in the western world. So, let me start with a prophetic statement by French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte who called China a sleeping lion two centuries ago. He said that when that lion awakened, "she will shake the world." He was right.
Nowadays its politically en vogue to label China as "a miracle" in the socio-economic sphere. Indeed, the Chinese economic conundrum is at odds with the so-called "traditional understanding of socialism" and the fact that the country seems as odds with not just socialism but embracing western market strategies in a mix that still befuddles western thinkers. Moreover, adding to the puzzlement is the fact that while liberal democratic nations that embraced "market economics" and developmental models have gone into stress and stagnation, China has grown, developed, and this process has been stable even in the face of the last global recession that western countries are still digging themselves out of.
Yes, the fundamental fact is that China is a very different nation that plays by its own set of political and economic rules. That's what so irks and galls those who wholeheartedly embrace western capitalist "free market" systems in the context of liberal democracies. This can only be attributed to the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which is fundamentally and markedly different from the western system where multiple parties wage constant political contests to hold office in turn, often dividing the populace along narrow partisan political lines. The CPC IS a modern Marxist Party and its publicly stated over and over again that it's not about to abandon socialism as the system that undergirds its economic transformation.
This is at the crux of the Chinese Conundrum: How could such an ancient, agrarian civilization modernize so quickly while under the leadership of a Marxist Party a party that rejects completely the tennents of western democratic liberalism? For me the explanation lies in the simple fact that politically China is the epitome of stability in a very volatile and undulating world economic international system a very necessary ingredient in both internal and external economic growth and development. So, we can cry, yell and criticize all we want but without the CPC and its strong and UNITED leadership, the "Chinese Miracle" would never have been possible. Period.
This much maligned political system in the west that believe only "western democracy and free market capitalism" can bring economic growth, individual progress and change, is erroneous for two things. First, western democracies are notoriously messy and the process for changing political processes and systems are very disruptive. The system creates periodic economic chaos, gross inequality, economic booms and bursts, social disruptions, and thus, is inherently unstable. By contrast, the Chinese system - so far - is a relatively stable system that is built on long-term planning and efficiency.
For years, we've been stridently been told that a "one party" system/state is fundamentally undemocratic, anti-people, and systematically oppressive. The leadership of China is often described as both dictatorial and authoritarian. The better system, we're told, is western style democracy that is firstly "open and free" and all about the people. Such rhetoric belies the fundamental facts when it comes to China and helps to perpetuate the mass ignorance surrounding the country: China's rise was accompanied by not making the mistakes of western countries, and understanding and embracing a pragmatic home-grown Chinese system based on its history, culture and heritage. The CPC as a modern political organization serves as the first and foremost answer to understanding the China miracle.
Finally, there is the fallacy that socialism and a capitalist market economy are incompatible. I do not believe so. China has embraced SOME western market economic models, and has successfully married them to socialist norms. It's also taken a more nuanced approach to modern socialism by rejecting the old rigid and dogmatic thinking that the "party alone must command the heights of the national economy" something that greatly contributed to the demise of the former Soviet Union.
The Chinese Model is more closely aligned with the Cuban Model that would be another economic "miracle" if it can be unshackled from the United States six decades old blockade. So, essentially China has prudently and pragmatically learned from the errors of western market driven systems, picked and improved on its successes, while avoiding its failures and weaknesses, and made them compatible with socialist norms and practices.
While western nations are today ruled by political oligarchs, multinational corporations, and big banks, political parties and elected leaders pay lip service to serving "we the people," while they are really beholden to big business whose interests run counter to those of "we the people." In this context, western democracy has been corrupted and undermined by a small, rich very rich number of people who appropriate the vast majority of wealth leaving millions to suffer daily and struggling to eke out a mere existence. That's why there is so much protests and riots across the globe today from Latin America to Europe.
For all of its faults, the CPC has always been people-centered. Many developing nations have sought to build their economies and nations using versions of market economics and liberal democracy, copying the United States and the United Kingdom in the main. China has gone down a very different path. It's not abandoned its socialist/Marxist platform and philosophy, but refined and modernized it. That's why from 1979 to 2019 China was able to lift 800 million people out of poverty. The key to China's success is a good balance between the roles of the government and the market.
Lastly, most people in the west believe modern countries must be either western or westernized. For them that is the success matrix. However, by resisting westernization China is driven by its own internal logic. I know that this statement is scoffed at by western political leaders and academics: The CPC sees people first - not capital - as the most important resource in Chinese society. Proof of this is that over the past 40 years, China's aggregate economic performance has surpassed that of Britain, France, Germany and Japan, and, as I said before, over 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty - a modern day economic miracle not achieved before by any nation on earth. I believe that there are many lessons to be learned here, and beyond a shadow of doubt China must be doing something right.