On Demonizing Modern China

Rachel Chiu of the Cato Institute published the following opinion piece at USA Today: My grandmother stood up to the Chinese Communist Party. President Joe Biden should too.

I felt compelled to dispel the many misleading ideas in the piece, which seems rather detached from current reality.

First, Ms. Chiu presents a sad tale about her grandmother’s treatment at the hands of the Communist Party of China (hereafter known as CPC) during the Mao years.

She then transitions to modern China under Xi Jinping and continues her criticisms of the CPC with the implication that nothing has changed from the Mao years.

But nothing could be further from the truth. When Deng Xiaoping saw the folly of Mao’s policies, he introduced sweeping reforms in 1978 that utterly transformed the nation. These reforms:

  • caused the country to adopt democratic principles from the West and made them China’s own
  • gave the Chinese unprecedented personal freedoms on par with those of Westerners
  • caused the country to adopt free market principles
  • opened the country up to massive FDI
  • allowed tremendous amounts of Western cultural influence into the country

Today, the Chinese can dress however they like (no more Maoist suits), live anywhere they like, work anywhere, travel anywhere, criticize the government, hold protest rallies, etc. Things that were impossible under Mao.

Now, to be sure, there are limits to Chinese freedom. The government draws the line at inciting insurrection and violence. Such limits exist in the West, as well. In fact, former President Donald Trump is about to be impeached for inciting insurrection in the Capitol Hill riot.

Ms. Chiu is probably unaware of the fact that every year, between 120 and 150 million Chinese tourists leave the country. Surprisingly, these tourists all return to China! If China were a Stalinist gulag state, would you return?

The truth is, Deng’s China is nothing like Mao’s China. They are, for all intents and purposes, two different countries. The difference between modern China and the China before Deng is like night and day.

In fact, the vast majority of the Chinese people support their government. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, China has the most trusted government in the world:

Countries like South Korea, Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Italy, USA, UK, France, Spain rank far, far behind.

According to a study from the Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School, China’s government enjoys a satisfaction rating of 95.5%.

The Chinese are very happy and proud of their country, if the following opinions from the streets of Beijing are anything to go by:

Here’s an American ex-pat who lived in China explaining Chinese freedom:

Second, Ms. Chiu talks about the lack of freedom in Hong Kong. She cites the pro-democracy activists who were arrested. These activists were, in fact, violent protesters who injured innocent civilians, setting one man on fire! Their vandalism caused chaos across the city.

Beijing had no choice but to enact a national security law that quelled the violence. This was a law that was long overdue. After the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, the Hong Kong legislature was required by Basic Law to pass a national security law. They failed in this duty.

By imposing the new national security law, Beijing in fact preserved Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status. Beijing preserved the 1C2S arrangement. In other words, China preserved Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom!

However, Western media chooses to interpret this in a negative fashion. And Ms. Chiu simply follows along.

I’m sure Ms. Chiu had no intention to mislead the public. But her opinion piece perpetuates dangerous myths about China that may damage US-China relations for years.