Proposed: That China is Fascist

Same as a thread from 2001, that never got any traction, but now 20 years later.

I was idly thinking to my self that China is a post-socialist economy in exactly the same way as fascist Germany and Italy were, with what seems to have developed into the same political ideology (‘our power proves our correctness’) and the same racial/cultural ideology.

Then I wondered what people would say if I actually advanced that as a proposition, so here I am.

I’m not sure Germany or Italy had as much government involvement with the economy as China. But in the sense leader/party controls all, I’m with you.

It all depends on how you define fascism. The wikipedia article isn’t very helpful.

One of the historians quoted in the article says “trying to define fascism is like trying to nail jelly to the wall.” Another historian is quoted in the article as saying fascists are both anti-liberal and anti-conservative. That doesn’t make much sense from a contemporary American perspective. Maybe it made more sense back in WWII Europe?

Overall, though, in my book China does qualify as a fascist country. In particular, I think any arguments agains China not being fascist based on claims that they are socialist are irrelevant. Socialism, being an economic system, is orthogonal to fascism which is more about the system of government, and it’s certainly possible for a nation to be both at the same time.

I feel China lacks some of the key factors of a fascist state.

  1. A favored ethnic group. The Chinese government obviously favors Chinese people but I don’t feel it does so anymore than other national governments favor their own nationality. China may be cracking down on some ethnic groups like the Tibetans or the Uighurs but their propaganda seems to be that these people need to be liberated from their old oppressive traditions and advanced to the level of modern Chinese rather than saying these people are inherently evil aliens who need to be exterminated.

  2. A cult of personality. They definitely had this under Mao. But now they’ve reined it in (probably in reaction to Mao). Xi is certainly a powerful man but he is not portrayed as the embodiment of the nation the way people like Hitler or Mussolini or Saddam were.

  3. The temporal orientation. Fascist societies are pseudo-romantic and look back to an idealized past which they claim they will recreate. Communist regimes, like China, are pseudo-scientific and reject the past and claim they are working towards an idealized future.

Trying to avoid the “well they had socialist in the name National Socialist” level of shallow, unhelpful analysis and looking at where the actual Axis regimes differed from conservatism as practiced at the time:

*Extremely anti-monarchial and to a great extent anti-aristocratic. They believed in hierarchies defined by race and military achievement but were opposed to intra-racial distinctions based on historical lines of nobility, mostly because they believed that incompetent monarchial governments had led their countries to disaster in WW1.

*Often skeptical of traditional religion. Some Fascist countries reached an accommodation with Catholicism but in Germany especially only a very specific, selective form of Christianity was endorsed and many leaders were private atheists and/or sought to move to a form of neo-paganism in the future.

*No conservative skepticism of technological progress or large-scale industrialization.

*The defining feature of Burkean conservatism is skepticism of revolutions and all top-down, radical change and a trust that features which have evolved in society over time have survived because they serve some functional purpose. This does not match how Fascists viewed the world or actually acted in any way.

Huh. That is an interesting claim. While there are criticisms of the list, I think the 14 characteristics of fascism by Lawrence Britt might be instructive. (Note that I am just going on what I know—I’m not someone who studies the country.)

I was going to go through it all, but I realized in looking that I don’t know enough about the country to be sure of a lot of them. What I will do is point out the ones I’m sure about.

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: I have to say yes. There is a whole culture where the government can do no wrong, where all criticisms are assumed to be lies.

  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights: definitely applies to the Ughurs, but I’d argue it applies to anyone who speaks out against the government, as it can result in jail time and indoctrination. They are the “enemy” who must be reeducated (i.e. beaten down until they stop resisting) lest they be a threat.

  1. Controlled Mass Media: pretty widely known how much control China exerts on that, including the Great Firewall.

  2. Obsession with National Security: This is about how they use fear of foreing powers as motivation. The way they talk about the West spreading lies and being out to get them seems to fit.

  1. Obsession with Crime and Punishment: this one is about having almost unlimited power to jail people, which China has in spades.

  1. Fraudulent Elections: I don’t know for sure they were fraudulent, but the general idea seems to be more about the lack of a true choice. Plus I think the whole president for life thing needs to fit in here. I’m counting it.

There are others I was pretty sure about but didn’t include. There are none that I am sure do not fit.

I hope someone else with more knowledge will look at the other points I left out.

(Note that I chose that link because it has a nice Infobox. A lot of sites were older academic sites that wouldn’t show a preview. Or they were about whether a specific country is fascist.)

I’m not sure what you mean by a “post-socialist” economy, since neither Germany nor Italy were ever socialist. In general, though, I agree that the resemblance is startling, despite the very different ideological origins.

As has been noted, the crucial word here defies precise definition. I would go with “a one-party political regime which ruthlessly suppresses dissent, favors the interests of big business, and justifies itself by nationalist and/or racist rhetoric”.

So yeah, with the caveat that in this case the “big businesses” are not just cozy with but actually owned by the State, pretty much check marks down the line.

There is a bit of it at work. Specifically, many Chinese ascribe to Han superiority, the notion that Han Chinese (who comprise around 90% of China’s population) are and ought to be dominant and superior in China.

I think the issues of capitalism and religion under fascist regimes are just two aspects of the same principle; fascist regimes are totalitarian and therefore do not tolerate any real or potential rivals. They see corporations and churches as powerful organizations that need to either be made subservient to the regime or eliminated.

That said, totalitarianism is not exclusive to fascism. Other systems like communism and theocracies can also be totalitarian.

Han chauvinism certainly exists. But as the article you linked to notes, the governing regime in China officially condemns it. While its condemnation may be superficial, it certainly is not endorsing it.

China is not “cracking down” on the Uighurs, it is actively committing genocide against them (and, in slightly slower motion, against the Tibetans). The Chinese government’s denials of condoning racism should be taken as seriously as Trump’s.

I disagree. The Chinese government has declared that its goal is to “re-educate” the Uighurs and turn them into good citizens. That’s not genocide. Hitler, for example, never claimed that he would turn the Jews into good Aryans.

I’ll readily concede that Chinese methods being used against the Uighurs are brutal and millions of Uighurs will likely die as a result. But the regime will be happy if some Uighurs decide to collaborate and will hold these people up as proof of the government’s good intentions to the Uighur people.

At the risk of turning the thread into a definition battle, AIUI, “genocide” often is considered to be broad enough that the act of trying to wipe out a group’s identity is often classified as genocide, just a milder form of it. In other words, you can commit genocide without actually killing someone.

It would be like as if the United States tried to erase “black identity” and henceforth passed laws that nobody was allowed to have their hair done in cornrows and dreads, wear Air Jordans, rap, wear hoop earrings, speak Ebonics or “talk in a black way”, etc. basketball was discouraged, Beyonce’s music was banned, - anything that indicated “blackness.” (I apologize for crude broad-brush stereotyping but you get the idea.) And black people were to be constantly monitored by their white minders, and also put into reeducation camps where they would learn how to be “whiter.” Nobody would be getting killed, but an entire culture would be getting wiped out.

That’s what China is aiming for with the Uighurs. They want to erase the Uighur culture to the point where the only thing that makes them different from the Han is their facial features and skin color, but they’d be essentially identical in every other way.

I won’t comment on the OP. However, I felt compelled to point out two things regarding your views as presented here, Little_Nemo. First, you are taking the government’s own (often contradictory) statements at face value and ignoring their actual actions, which are not even as decent as their not-especially decent statements suggest. Second, you are flat wrong about the second part. The actions of the Chinese government in practice has been that even well-integrated Uighur people are insufficiently “Chinese”, and they have been subjected to merciless subjugation.

Well there’s the term cultural genocide for that.
I haven’t heard genocide itself used that broadly, and personally I think it would be a negative development for the word to shift in that way. I mean, just a couple of days ago Biden acknowledging that the Armenian genocide really happened was a major political event, partly due to how much weight that word still carries. Modern-day Turkey cannot just shrug and say “meh, genocide means a lot of things”. Yes the body of the allegations remains the same, either way, but labels like this matter.

However, in the case of China, we don’t have to worry about that definitional dispute anyway. There are numerous reports of forced sterilizations and abortions (if not actual killings of adults), so it isn’t merely cultural genocide anyway.

The striking thing about this is that every single one of the cited examples on the list also applied to Stalinist Russia. Therefore, by this “logic”, communism is fascism.

Which highlights the silliness of this entire exercise. In the end, all it is is a semantic game, coming up with cherry-picked similarities between X & Y, and thus categorizing X as Y and obscuring their differences.

People play this type of game all the time with various motivations. But I suspect a big one in this case is to distance a negatively-viewed entity from those whose ideologiy might be otherwise associated with it.

I’m not sure what additional meaning one gets from calling China “fascist” instead of “authoritarian” or “totalitarian”.

It has some added ooomph. Some people get motivated to oppose fascism when they might not object to authoritarianism.

I feel that while actions are more important than words, we cannot just dismiss words as being meaningless.

As I have pointed out, the Chinese government has stated its goal is to re-educate the Uighurs not to eliminate them. This is a matter of record.

This means if China ends up eliminating the Uighurs, it will be publicly seen as a failure for the Chinese government. It will show that the Chinese government was unable to convince the Uighurs to convert to benefits of the communist cause and the Uighurs were willing to die rather than give up their traditions.

Such a genocide would obviously be a horrible blow to the Uighur people. But it would also be a substantial blow to the legitimacy of the Chinese regime. Other people, including many Han in China, would start questioning if communism was such an ideal system if people were willing to be killed rather than embrace it. And they would be questioning the regime that had set itself a major goal and then shown itself unable to achieve it.

The Chinese regime already has some major problems brewing. One of them is the fact that it has a substantial capitalist economy being ruled by a communist political system. This is an obviously shaky balance. The last thing the regime wants is a major upset.

The average Chinese person doesn’t know that events such as Tiananmen Square or the Chinese war with Vietnam in 1979 even happened. China’s internal censorship is still very effective especially for those who aren’t willing to risk their freedom by actively seeking out prohibited news. The idea that anything remotely close to the truth about what is going on in Xinjiang is going to reach “many Han in China” so they can start mulling over whether they consider the regime legitimate is itself propaganda that drastically overstates how free China is.