Is it fascism?

This is an open thread that I’d like to kick off with this most unusual article claiming China is a fascist state.

I never claim that China is fascist. I do not say it is a police state, though sometimes, when they arrest people I know, I think it’s a fair label. China is many things and defies being pigeonholed. There may be fascist characteristics, but I’ve certainly felt that at times about many other countries, at times even the US. China can be remarkable free, as all of us know. But it’s more complicated than that. You know as soon as you start talking with Chinese people about Tibet and Taiwan and the looting of the Summer Palace that there’s a lot of groupthink going on. They may be completely right on those topics, and I sympathize with their viewpoints; that’s not my point. My point is the uniformity of opinion. In the US we have violently different thoughts about Iraq and politics and government and foreign policy. In China, there are certain topics where you know in advance what the response is going to be, right or wrong. But even here absolutes are unreliable; Chinese are increasingly speaking up and even making fun of their government’s clumsy efforts to control its people’s brain cells.

I equate fascism with complete totalitarianism, and China doesn’t meet that criterion. Several of the points the writer brings up, however, are quite true, especially in regard to Chinese perceptions of China’s deserved place in the world and its collective sense of national humiliation. I’m just not sure this constitutes fascism. So many Americans believe in our manifest destiny and America’s unquestioned right to bear the mantle of leader of the world. That isn’t quite fascism, it’s just crazy.

But the article did make me think. Sometimes I thought I was reading the musings of a frustrated English teacher worried about the “China threat,” sometimes I thought he made some astute observations.

Thanks to the reader who sent me the link. I hope I don’t regret posting about it.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 75 Comments

What’s wrong with fascism? China needs a facsist to rise to power.

February 12, 2012 @ 5:29 am | Comment

What’s wrong with fascism?

It doesn’t work, dumbass. Never has, never will.

February 12, 2012 @ 12:35 pm | Comment

Meiji era’s Japan, Chancellor’s Germany, Chairman’s China were the three golden periods of human history. People were liberated, states won independence, self-reliance and dignity from humiliation and calamity.

The men of those times, could partake in the naval battles of the Strait of Malaca, plant their flag on the 203 heights, traverse the Black Forest in a torrent of iron clad tanks, stomp through paris raping and murdering, trek with the Chairman on the Long March, sling a rifle on one’s shoulder and from the Yalu River chase the Americans into the ocean. That’s the life of true men. Unlike today’s men, who are reduced to worrying about mortgages, yardwork, barbeque, 50% sales on Amazon.

Even a thousand years later, those times will forever remain monuments in the riverbed of human history, evoking endless memories in the hearts of all men.

February 12, 2012 @ 1:11 pm | Comment

LOL, StephenKing. Are you a “true man”, in your unique parlance, pray tell? Gosh, whatever country you’re from, I sure hope you’re in their armed forces and volunteer to get deployed in a forward area. Either that, or you should be living in a cave.

That said, I’d sure like to meet a guy who claims to have “memories” from a thousand years ago.

February 12, 2012 @ 2:24 pm | Comment

Great. A Chinese Tyler Durden. Now I really have seen everything.

February 12, 2012 @ 7:07 pm | Comment

@FOARP- Capturing enemy fighters in a war and holding them for the duration is completely legitimate under the laws of war. It has been done by all states, whether democratic, fascist, communist, whatever, for hundreds of years. Now if the US government were arresting its political enemies and holding them without trial, as the Chinese government does frequently, that would be a different kettle of fish. Last I noticed, though, Mr. Obama’s most vocal adversaries were still free to run around and criticize him and even the OWS idiots have been able to evade arrest to the extent they’ve been able to stay away from drug dealing, assault, rape and murder. So your point reduces to what? That a grand total of three (3) jihadists were water-boarded? I’ll grant that’s a form of torture (although mild compared to electrodes, fingernail pulling, beatings, etc. – the garden variety stuff the PSB routinely dishes out). That seems like a pretty slim reed upon which to conclude that the United States a facist-tending country.

February 12, 2012 @ 7:34 pm | Comment

@StephenKing: ROTFLMAO

February 12, 2012 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

ROFL. Am I the only one who can see StephenKing is being sarcastic?

February 12, 2012 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

I’m sure Stephen King was joking. I’m also sure he looked at googlemaps where France borders on Germany, and decided that the Germans came to Paris through the Black Forest.

February 12, 2012 @ 10:27 pm | Comment

I don’t want to get sucked into Doug’s defense of torture etc., and wander away from the point of the thread. This is the wrong board for making light of torture or to excuse it because other countries do it worse. And no one said the US is a “facist-tending [sic] country,” and am not even quite sure I know what it means. Don’t put words in people’s mouths.

As for OWS — I went to two of their demonstrations, and found nearly all the protestors peaceful, articulate white-collar workers who care deeply about the increasing economic divide in America. When you have hundreds of thousands of people congregating in parks around the country, of course there will be psychopaths and criminals — very, very few, but if one rape is committed the GOP in a chorus screeches that OWS is a bunch of rapists. This is a Republican canard, an obscene lie, yet you’ve swallowed it hook, line and sinker. To use your own words, you owe the peaceful demonstrators an apology (which I don’t expect but it’s fun to turn your hysterical rhetoric on yourself). And you know what? OWS has won. The notion of the 99 percent has sunk in and become a common part of our vocabulary. They will be back as winter ends, but they have already scored a huge victory. I support them — the peaceful, committed ones who make up the vast majority — and will continue to do whatever I can to support them. And now, back to China.

February 13, 2012 @ 12:54 am | Comment

[…] thought about this after reading the well-regarded blog The Peking Duck‘s February 9 post, ‘Is it fascism?’ This was a post followed by 53 comments on […]

February 13, 2012 @ 1:08 am | Pingback

“Capturing enemy fighters in a war and holding them for the duration is completely legitimate under the laws of war. It has been done by all states, whether democratic, fascist, communist, whatever, for hundreds of years. Now if the US government were arresting its political enemies and holding them without trial, as the Chinese government does frequently, that would be a different kettle of fish.”

The majority of people being held in Guantanamo were not captured under arms, and have not been positively identified as combatants. This argument is specious.

@Tai De – Yes, I have never heard of any good Pâté coming from the Black Forest. Choclate cake is more their sort of thing so I understand.

February 13, 2012 @ 2:06 pm | Comment

even the OWS idiots have been able to evade arrest to the extent they’ve been able to stay away from drug dealing, assault, rape and murder.

I think this kind of comment says a lot about the commenter himself, and little – if anything – about the issues. Clearly, China has no monopoly on fenqings. The same kind of thing could have been written about the June-4th movement, by whoever might be interested in smearing its reputation.

February 13, 2012 @ 6:12 pm | Comment

“And now, back to China.”

Speaking of torture…one step forward, how many steps back??

http://seeingredinchina.com/2012/02/08/ge-xun-21-hours-in-beijing-part-1/

http://seeingredinchina.com/2012/02/09/ge-xun-21-hours-in-beijing-part-2/

Ugh.

February 14, 2012 @ 5:06 am | Comment

I remembered reading this years ago. Yes, the author is known for being a neocon.

http://www.weijingsheng.org/doc/en/comfacism.html

I still think he makes some very valid points. The concept of a mature fascist state is intriguing.

In the end, T.I.C. It is its own thing always and forever.

February 14, 2012 @ 5:29 am | Comment

Boya, just remember the source — Michael Ledeen was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Iraq War and was the poster boy of neo-conservatism back in the Bush days.

February 14, 2012 @ 12:21 pm | Comment

When it comes right down to it, “fascism” is just another vague label which, even if true, would be of little consequence.

China’s political system is best explained by simply listening to how the Chinese themselves describe it – Leninist, which is to say it is led by “democratic centralism” with decision-making carried out in a “vanguard party”. That China’s economic system is essentially a relatively free market means that Chinese claims to have a “Marxist” economic system, albeit one with “Chinese-characteristics” can no longer be taken seriously, but much of the rest can and should simply be taken at face value.

February 14, 2012 @ 2:41 pm | Comment

Just read in the news about a decree that prohibits foreign programming from being aired between 7 – 10pm. More of the roll-out from hi jintao’s “vision statement “.

February 15, 2012 @ 8:46 am | Comment

I’m with FOARP on this – “fascism” is a lable that seems to encompass everything people don’t like. It’s sorta kinda like “socialism” to extreme right wingers – a label to use as an insult, even if the recipient accepts it as a badge 😉

@SKC – well, they need more room for those series where the plucky young men and women fight the Imperial Japanese army, eh? Not to mention Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf for the kids….

February 15, 2012 @ 9:48 am | Comment

I just read in the NYT op-ed section that China’s political system is far superior to the American system.

Can we have a thread on this one next? I need some time to gather my thoughts as I’m not even sure where to start…

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/16/opinion/why-chinas-political-model-is-superior.html?_r=1

February 17, 2012 @ 8:50 am | Comment

T’other Richard
Loved that! I did have to laugh. Obviously authoritarianism is much better as it is older – snigger! Next “There have been slaves for most of our history….”
Did like this

“China is on a different path. Its leaders are prepared to allow greater popular participation in political decisions if and when it is conducive to economic development and favorable to the country’s national interests, as they have done in the past 10 years.

However, China’s leaders would not hesitate to curtail those freedoms if the conditions and the needs of the nation changed. The 1980s were a time of expanding popular participation in the country’s politics that helped loosen the ideological shackles of the destructive Cultural Revolution. But it went too far and led to a vast rebellion at Tiananmen Square.

That uprising was decisively put down on June 4, 1989. The Chinese nation paid a heavy price for that violent event, but the alternatives would have been far worse.”

Allow the people a voice until they demand too much, then kill them. Much better than allowing the people a ballot. Regime change by revolution was always more fun….

February 17, 2012 @ 9:07 am | Comment

I can’t believe Eric X Li is getting any serious attention outside of the Hidden Harmonies circles. Does somebody in China have nude photos of Pinch Sulzberger or something? This a travesty greater than publishing Shaun Reins.

February 17, 2012 @ 9:29 am | Comment

So Eric Li is rehashing of what George Soros and Thomas Friedman has said in the past.

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/11/16/soros_china_has_better_functioning_government_than_us

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/09/opinion/09friedman.html?_r=1

February 17, 2012 @ 12:33 pm | Comment

“Decisively put down” should join “vacation-style treatment” as a new China meme, or perhaps be entered into the Newspeak dictionary.

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China takes a different approach to political rights than what Li posits. There is no concept of rights as “privileges” to be “negotiated based on the needs and conditions of the nation.” The Constitution says this:

Article 35: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.”

Article 37; “The freedom of person of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable.”

I’d refer Mr. Li (and Messrs. Friedman and Soros) to “Human Rights and Asian Values” by Amartya Sen for an actual informed analysis on this debate.

And who determines what the “needs and conditions of the nation” are? Presumably it’s the omnicompetent technocratic leaders who do no wrong. Until they decide that the “needs and conditions of the nation” are to smelt steel in the backyards of peasants. Or purge society of all bourgeois elements. Or kill all the Jews. You name it. A government run by a tiny, unaccountable group of people arbitrarily determining the “needs and conditions of the nation” is a recipe for disaster.

Finally, I was surprised to learn that ancient Athens and the U.S. are the only examples of democracy in the history of the world, and because one fizzled out and the other is currently suffering from political gridlock, democracy must not work. Since there have been no other democracies in the history of the world with which to compare authoritarian China, we must ultimately conclude that democracy is untenable. And of course, the successes of other authoritarian regimes like Syria, Russia, North Korea, etc. really help to bolster Li’s argument.

February 17, 2012 @ 3:53 pm | Comment

Eric li again makes a fool of himself. He, like a certain Forbes contributor, seem to have no aversion to repeatedly doing so. Power to him.

It’s too bad that the ccp gets to be both judge and jury ( not to mention executioner) when it comes to determining who gets out of line wrt what china needs. And as other Richard points out, it isn’t so much that china doesn’t acknowledge the existence or importance of democratic and individual rights. She does have a constitution, after all. It’s just that its not worth the paper it is written on. So the ccp isn’t really looking out for what’s best for china or Chinese people. Her overiding motivation is to ensure its own continued existence, whether that existence is warranted or not. There is something rather un-Darwinian about that, and if li is concerned about who might be first to go the way of the dodo, he really need look no further.

February 18, 2012 @ 9:14 am | Comment

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