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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

China: Getting rich whilst looking after the poor

Farid A Malik |

After the demise of the British Empire, it seems the sun is about to set on the capitalist Kingdom of United States of America (USA). Marxism has entered the 21st century. In the recently concluded 19th Congress of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) President Xi Jinping proudly announced that by the year 2050 his country will be the sole superpower of the world leaving the USA behind.

Chairman Mao Zedong’s dream is finally turning into a reality. President Xi has termed it as ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’ based on creativity, cohesion, and effectiveness. China’s contribution to the global economic growth is greater than 30% which is more than the combined support of USA, Europe, and Japan.

Read more: Why China needs CPEC?

PRC has kept its course of development set by Chairman Mao and his deputy comrade Chou-en-Lai and then modified by Deng Xiaoping and President Xi. The Chinese revolution of 1949 continues to work towards a classless society while the Soviet uprising of 1917 has changed course with the breakup of United Socialist Soviet Republic (USSR).

Welfare states will emerge with the focus on human development and common good instead of personal empires and fiefdoms as has been the norm.

20th was a century of revolutions and conflicts with three major ones (Soviet, Chinese, Iranian) and two world wars. The 21st century started with deregulation, privatization, and globalization with the free market approach. Today there are 1500 billionaires in the world with 637 being in Asia the highest ever. It means that accumulation of wealth has started here also.

The free market has neutralized the socio-economic gains of the 20th century. Poverty and hunger are on the rise in the capitalist world. Even subsidized health care scheme (Obama Care) is being debated for a possible withdrawal. It is both the best and the worst of times. The world is divided between having and have-nots, while the rich are getting richer the poor are becoming poorer. Such an imbalance calls for major re-alignment of economic priorities before it is too late.

Beijing the capital of PRC has more billionaires than New York the commercial capital of the capitalist world but there is one big difference. While the government in China is striving to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, there is no such effort in America. 

Read more: China: A story of a great transformation

In the free enterprise approach, there is also a free fall for the less privileged. President Ronald Reagan used to say that no government is the best government; this approach is not followed by President Xi who has complete responsibility for over a billion human beings.

China’s contribution to the global economic growth is greater than 30% which is more than the combined support of USA, Europe and Japan.

In America, people are pushed to perform while in China they are protected to deliver for themselves and the nation. Most plans are long-term with nation building being the central theme. In America, Presidential terms are for four years with a maximum of two. Policies are short-term with major corporate influence. The country is controlled by corporate board members not people’s representatives despite regularly held elections. Representative democracy has failed to deliver in the 21st century. China has yet to formulate a democratic framework but its focus has been on the economic emancipation of every citizen leading towards a classless society as envisioned by Karl Marx.

Read more: China turns desert into land rich with crops

The growth of China is unmatched by any other state. There the literacy rate is almost 100%. The Muslim population is educated and healthy compared to any Islamic country including Saudi Arabia. No nation can progress without human resource development (HRD) and China leads the world in this vital area. It has the largest trained workforce of the globe that is able and motivated to produce goods and provide services at affordable cost.

Pakistan can learn from the development framework of China. As a student, I had the honor and distinction of shaking hands with Comrade Chou-en-Lai during his visit to Pakistan in the sixties. The progressive student’s movement was deeply impressed by the Chinese Revolution. There were slogans which read ‘East is Red’. The progressives played a pivotal role in the election victory of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) in the 1970 electoral exercise. China helped the country in the basic industrialization of Pakistan while the Soviet Union built the only steel mills at Port Qasim outside Karachi.

The 21st century started with deregulation, privatization and globalization with the free market approach.

During its formative years, the Chinese leadership repeated the word “Superpower Hegemony” many times. Hopefully, the same high handedness will not be carried out by the People’s Republic. So far China has avoided conflict; instead, it has focused on economic growth. Projects like ‘CPEC’ and ‘OBOR can have far-reaching benefits if hegemony is avoided. Local bullies like Bharat / Hindustan can learn from the positive approach of the Chinese and seek peace through the negotiated settlement.

Read more: China’s ‘great game’ in its near-abroad

Perhaps Maxism will now set the curse of the world in the 21st Century. Welfare states will emerge with the focus on human development and common good instead of personal empires and fiefdoms as has been the norm. A free market approach has failed to provide economic prosperity leading to the wellbeing of the masses. Prosperity has to be spread and shared not monopolized. In the 21st century, the right to exploit has to be contained. Poverty is no longer a local issue it has been globalized and has to be addressed with an environment and economic emancipation of the downtrodden and the weak.

Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here with author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.