a) A hellhole, and
b) Not at all democratic.
Think ‘The Democratic Republic of the Congo’ or ‘The German Democratic Republic’.
In many ways, this is isn’t surprising – the countries with the worst governance records and the least scruples want to cloak themselves with the veneer of respectability by claiming to be what they think polite society demands they be. This doesn’t fool anybody except the rubes, of course. But at least it indicates a clear estimate of where they think the positive brand equity lies, and it seems to be in ideas like ‘Democratic’.
Which makes China all the more puzzling.
The Chinese Communist Party has been becoming less communist ever since at least when Deng Xiaoping took over. These days, it is not meaningfully Communist at all.
In fact, if it were to rename itself ‘The Chinese Capitalist Party’, the description would probably actually be more accurate (although clearly imperfect).
But instead, they still want to keep clinging to the title ‘Communist’. This is odd to me. Maybe it just reveals my biases, but at least by my estimate of the ‘polite society’ metric, Communism has some pretty toxic brand capital – the forced labour camps, the gulags, the man-made famines, the hundred-odd million corpses piled up over the course of the 20th century. It’s not as toxic as the ‘Fasicm’ or ‘Nazi’ brands, of course (in public perception at a least, regardless of whether you think the relative ranking is deserved). But if you just wanted to convey a sense of ‘caring about the workers and the poor’, what about ‘Socialist’ or ‘Social’? Surely that would be an improvement.It’s almost as if the Republican Party wanted to use its current policies but refer to itself as the Nazi Party.
My guess is that this is mainly due to wanting to maintain the legitimacy of the current regime by implying a historical continuity in the lineage of power (to disguise the almost 180 degree turn in some of the policies). How else do you explain the cultish devotion to images of Mao, notwithstanding that Mao would probably have a fit if he saw the current policies being implemented by the current ‘Communist’ party?
The best description to me of the current Chinese government, at least domestically, is ‘like Singapore in a number of its attitudes towards policy, but more corrupt and with a more puzzling internal party mechanism’.
But ironically, unlike the Democratic Republic of Congo, I think this current labeling does fool more people than just the rubes. I imagine it colors a fair bit of the instinctive hostility to the Chinese government in the west, at least to extent that they continue to pay obeisance idolize a bankrupt and depraved ideology, even as they disavow it through their actions.
In other words, their actions have actually justified jettisoning what seems to me to be a disastrous linkage, but they cling to it tightly.
I guess they just don’t think that Communism is such a loathsome thing to be associated with. I’d like to think they’re totally wrong, but depressingly I’m not so sure.