Colby Cosh is a favorite of mine over at Macleans, but a slew of urgent matters delayed my reading of his recent post on economic reality in Communist China by about a day or so. That said, I felt Cosh’s column deserved a response from the anti-Communist community.
To be clear, “response” is not necessarily “criticism.” Cosh makes a number of excellent points about the true nature of the economy in general, and technological research in particular, in the land run and imprisoned by the Chinese Communist Party:
Rowan Callick’s new book The Party Forever: Inside China’s Modern Communist Party makes a simple, compact judgment on the general state of Chinese higher education: Just look where the Party leadership sends its own children to university: the U.S. Another important leading indicator of cultural progress is press freedom, which, if history has anything to say on the matter at all, appears to be utterly integral to sustained prosperity. But Mainland China has no newspapers as we understand them; it is not even clear that the regimented, spoon-fed ‘reporters’ there could assemble one, even if the Party would allow it.
Where Cosh slips up, however, is his description of “Chinaphobes”:
What I always wonder when I encounter a China bull or a Chinaphobe—for they are two sides of the same coin—is this: Even if they think ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ is economically superior to ordinary capitalism, where in China are the parallel cultural institutions to support prolonged capitalist-style growth?
For starters, those of us who are deeply concerned about the antics of the Chinese Communist Party do not consider “socialism with Chinese characteristics” to be superior to the free market at all. In fact, the problems Cosh himself cites with the CCP regime – “the vast infrastructure projects standing unused in the middle of nowhere, the blind environmental despoliation, the dodgy economic statistics” – are continuing subjects of posts from this very quarter. The long-range trajectory of the contest between freedom and tyranny hasn’t changed utterly: freedom is still expected to win.
What remains open questions (which, to be fair to Cosh, he did not explore) are these: how long will it take for freedom to be triumphant, and how much blood and treasure will have to be spilled and spent in the meantime? Those of us who would like to minimize both have grave concerns about the CCP not because we think they will win, but because everything that postpones their defeat means longer imprisonment for the Chinese people, and more lives in the democratic world lost.
The best explanation for this kind of thinking comes from a witness (whose name I can no longer remember) to a Congressional committee in Washington that was debating free trade with Communist China (otherwise known as PNTR, this was in early 2000). His exact words elude me, but the crux of his argument was as follows.
In 1890, Germany was an aggressive international power which was troubling its neighbors abroad and stoking nationalism at home. A hundred years later, Germany took its place as a prosperous and stable democracy. No one would want to replay that century.
As I heard this, I believed (and still do) that China will be a prosperous democracy in 2100. However, there are a multitude of paths it can go before that happens. Anti-Communists do not need to be reminded of Communist China’s vulnerabilities. We need to remind others that said vulnerabilities should be exploited and used to help the Chinese people take their country back as soon as possible.
I suspect that Cosh himself might actually agree with that.