Modern life offers many happy moments, but I’m particularly indebted to the People’s Republic of China for censoring the latest issue of the Far East Economic Review, which featured an article of mine on the cover. As Rowan Scarborough was kind enough to point out, the folks at FEER had asked me to update an old think piece, in which I had argued that contemporary China is difficult for us to understand, because it is something we haven’t seen before: the world’s first mature fascist state....
And here is the beginning of his censored piece in the Far Eastern Economic Review:
Beijing Embraces Classical Fascism
In 2002, I speculated that China may be something we have never seen before: a mature fascist state. Recent events there, especially the mass rage in response to Western criticism, seem to confirm that theory. More significantly, over the intervening six years China’s leaders have consolidated their hold on the organs of control—political, economic and cultural. Instead of gradually embracing pluralism as many expected, China’s corporatist elite has become even more entrenched.
Even though they still call themselves communists, and the Communist Party rules the country, classical fascism should be the starting point for our efforts to understand the People’s Republic. Imagine Italy 50 years after the fascist revolution. Mussolini would be dead and buried, the corporate state would be largely intact, the party would be firmly in control, and Italy would be governed by professional politicians, part of a corrupt elite, rather than the true believers who had marched on Rome. It would no longer be a system based on charisma, but would instead rest almost entirely on political repression, the leaders would be businesslike and cynical, not idealistic, and they would constantly invoke formulaic appeals to the grandeur of the “great Italian people,” “endlessly summoned to emulate the greatness of its ancestors.”
Substitute in the “great Chinese people” and it all sounds familiar. We are certainly not dealing with a Communist regime, either politically or economically, nor do Chinese leaders, even those who followed the radical reformer Deng Xiaoping, seem to be at all interested in treading the dangerous and uneven path from Stalinism to democracy. They know that Mikhail Gorbachev fell when he tried to control the economy while giving political freedom. They are attempting the opposite, keeping a firm grip on political power while permitting relatively free areas of economic enterprise. Their political methods are quite like those used by the European fascists 80 years ago.
Unlike traditional communist dictators—Mao, for example—who extirpated traditional culture and replaced it with a sterile Marxism-Leninism, the Chinese now enthusiastically, even compulsively, embrace the glories of China’s long history. Their passionate reassertion of the greatness of past dynasties has both entranced and baffled Western observers, because it does not fit the model of an “evolving communist system.”
Yet the fascist leaders of the 1920s and 1930s used exactly the same device. Mussolini rebuilt Rome to provide a dramatic visual reminder of ancient glories, and he used ancient history to justify the conquest of Libya and Ethiopia. Hitler’s favorite architect built neoclassical buildings throughout the Third Reich, and his favorite operatic composer organized festivals to celebrate the country’s mythic past....
Later in the piece, he discusses the delusion that China's growing wealth makes it more Democratic and less dangerous. The opposite is true. He wrote:
How, then, should the democracies deal with China? The first step is to disabuse ourselves of the notion that wealth is the surest guarantor of peace. The West traded with the Soviet Union, and gave them credits as well, but it did not prevent the Kremlin from expanding into the Horn of Africa, or sponsoring terrorist groups in Europe and the Middle East. A wealthy China will not automatically be less inclined to go to war over Taiwan, or, for that matter, to wage or threaten war with Japan.
Indeed, the opposite may be true—the richer and stronger China becomes, the more they build up their military might, the more likely such wars may be. It follows that the West must prepare for war with China, hoping thereby to deter it. A great Roman once said that if you want peace, prepare for war. This is sound advice with regard to a fascist Chinese state that wants to play a global role.
Senator Obama has stated that he is pleased that United States trade policy is stabilizing this fascist regime. Specifically, here is a selection from his remarks when he spoke to the Alliance for American manufacturing in Pittsburgh on April 14 2008:
Seeing the living standards of the Chinese people improve is a good thing - good because we want a stable China, and good because China can be a powerful market for American exports. But too often, China has been competing in ways that are tilting the playing field.
Senator McCain was more realistic about China's fascist government in a column that he wrote with Senator Lieberman on May 27. They wrote:
China's rapid military modernization, mercantilist economic practices, lack of political freedom and close relations with regimes like Sudan and Burma undermine the very international system on which its rise depends. The next American president must build on the areas of overlapping interest to forge a more durable U.S.-China relationship. Doing so will require strong alliances with other Asian nations and a readiness to speak openly with Beijing when it fails to behave as a responsible stakeholder.