November 9th, 2009
02:48 PM GMT
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I've got my own piece of Berlin Wall stuffed away somewhere in my house. I had borrowed a hammer and chisel from a man at the wall and hacked off my very own piece.

West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall as they watch East German border guards demolish a section of the wall.
West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall as they watch East German border guards demolish a section of the wall.

It was a week after "Checkpoint Charlie" - a crossing point between Easy and West Germany - in Berlin had been thrown open, a week after a divided city and a divided Germany were reunited.

I had flown over from London with friends for a first-hand view of history. We arrived late on a snowy Friday evening, found a cheap place to stay and headed out into the night. Every bar, every cafe was packed with exuberant West Germans and uncertain East Germans. But everywhere we went, the air of German brother/sisterhood was palpable. Everyone was so positive. We were all Germans, they told us. It would be a seamless unification. Only a few people voiced their concern about how exactly this would work.

We stayed up all night, drinking and talking to Germans. In the morning we headed for the checkpoint ourselves. It was packed with people; all along the wall people were busy trying to knock it down. One other snapshot that still stays with me is the East Germans pulling overloaded shopping baskets full of consumer goods back across the dividing zone to their homes. Little things like washing up trays for the kitchen sink, boot polish, soft drinks. Anything, as long as it wasn't made in the German Democratic Republic.

We snatched a few hours sleep that afternoon and went back out into the night to join the party. The feeling of optimism was still burning.

Well, as history shows, reunification turned out to be much harder, more expensive and longer than anyone could have seen. A few months after the wall came down I visited the former East Germany working on a story about East Germany Inc. being up for sale. An enormous firesale of outdated factories and machinery. Buyers were only interested in the property, and as long as they could get rid of most of the workforce.

Fast forward to today. Think of another communist economy. And think of the difference. This economy is leading the world out of recession, this economy is, at the moment, one of the great hopes for global economic growth, this economy now lectures the U.S. on economic policy. This economy is China. Two decades ago this day, East German communism was finally put to rest. In China, it's going from strength to strength.

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soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. gogo

    there is not communist economy in China but capitalist economy. much more capitalist economy then in USA.(no union, no protection of working class at all) .go there and look around , please. communist economy is in North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Zimbabwe

    November 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  2. razvan enescu

    a splendid took almost 20 years to realize that not everything
    during communism was wrong. all they wanted(Western countries) was just to open new markets to sell their products and services.

    November 9, 2009 at 4:52 pm |
  3. Jon

    What are you implying? That "communism" is truly the best economic route? Clearly, if that is so, you are mistaken. China's economic success has nothing to do with their "communism" and everything to do with their "capitalization" over the past few decades. China is still Communist (big C) in the political sense. They have a one-party totalitarian government, they don't allow freedom of religion, they don't allow free press, they send refugees from North Korea back with the knowledge they will be executed for having fled, and if they wanted to confiscate and control every dollar, service and product made in China they would. However, their ECONOMY has become much more capitalist in the past 30 years by allowing freer trade and competition. They saw the tremendous success of Hong Kong's economy, which was virtually unregulated 30-40 years ago, and decided that the rest of the country could profit by following suit.

    People too often confuse words and their meanings, and this is a perfect example as to how that can actually be dangerous if we don't start taking back the proper use of language, for history has shown time and again that capitalism is the most humane, practical and productive of all economic systems. China is MIXED in the political and economic sense of the words 'capitalism' and 'Communism.' When we start saying a communist country is the more economically successful and that we should start reconsidering that system, then we have taken a giant step backward and are only proving that because of our ignorance we are destined to one day repeat a very terrible history. Why do we refuse to see things clearly?

    November 9, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  4. olotata

    Communism is the system that Jeses preached for in the bible. "Share your wellfare, greedy shall burn in hell, the generous will gain more", says the bible. Vote for healthcare bill.

    November 9, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  5. Bryan

    So long as you are comfortable with the government telling you what you can think and believe, China is the place to go. For myself, I'll take the risks inherit to being free to think and speak as I choose over the perception of security a communist government offers. The Chinese have such a great history and rich culture. But it's unfortunate that they are forced to see it and the rest of the world through government filtered eyes.

    November 9, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  6. Intrepidez

    Um case you missed the news, China's economy isn't communist anymore (and hasn't been since before the Berlin Wall fell).

    November 9, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  7. Al

    Yes China's economy is growing by leaps and bounds, but the duel economic system in place in China today is not really Communist in the traditional sense. Most of the wealth creation in the country has been in the coastal provinces where free-ish private markets and economies are allowed by Beijing.

    November 9, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  8. andrea

    The author is totally wrong. The bulk of the Chinese economy is not state controlled and the model followed there is far from classical Marxism. It is the political system which is still communist dominated.

    November 9, 2009 at 5:45 pm |
  9. silencedogood

    To call the current Chinese economy communist, let alone a successful example of a "communist economy", is a farce. Back when they actually followed the principles of a communist/socialist political economy their country was in shambles. What has brought them out of that state has been adherence to free market principles (which are dressed up in political language to be consistent with their ideology–but a rose by any other name...), their cheap labor (due to drastically lower living standards) and their avoidance of excessive national debt.

    Contrast that with what we are doing in the US, i.e. adopting socialist (i.e. inefficient) principles while driving both the country and our personal households into extreme debt and you will see why we got into this mess and why its going to take so long to get out of it.

    November 9, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  10. Frank Willburg

    China's "Communism" is closer to Facsism. It is a brutal state run government that is constantly seeking to smooth out any wrinkles that freedom or true workers rights would impose. China is abusing the African Continuant and pillaging its resources in an attempt to stay ahead of the power curve, which it has thus far accomplished. Any thoughts that this government is anything like a shinning beacon that is showing other countries how to organize themselves is scary to say the least; lest we have more dictatorships and less freedom and liberty in our world. It is always easiest to have some state run body dictate what to do and how to act to increase efficiency, but what we lose is the humanity in the government systems which serve the people and their interests.

    November 9, 2009 at 7:09 pm |
  11. Daniel

    You can't compare East Germany with China.

    There is very little left of communism in China except for a totalitarian government. The superpower has complteley embraced capitalism over the past few years. Capitalism is exactly what will take us out of the recession. How? By giving billions of Chinese people the opportunity to consume, buy, own, create, grow, and be rewarded. That's capitalism.

    Andrew, you'd like to see true comunism? Think Cuba and North Korea.

    November 10, 2009 at 12:39 am |
  12. David

    The Chinese economy is not a truly Communist economy. There have been enormous changes since 1970, and the nature of how it is administered looks very little like the Soviet Union did.

    November 10, 2009 at 12:41 am |
  13. André Kruger

    It is surely a joke to say that the growing Chinese economy is a communist one. Only the capitalist incentives allowed into this community fuels any growth.

    November 10, 2009 at 12:56 am |
  14. Joe Ferriols

    Is China still communist? Maybe in name, but in practrice they are not one anymore. Yes, they have retained some aspects of it – specially dictatorship – but as an economy, they have long ceased to be a communist country. Dictatorial capitalist maybe?

    November 10, 2009 at 1:11 am |
  15. Bryan

    China does not have a communist economy. It does have a centrally controlled goverment that could be called communist. The economy though is market oriented. They are lots private individuals who own property, and businesses in China. Collective farming ended over 25 years ago in China. Comparing China's economy of today, to that of East Germany, or any former soviet bloc country, is like comparing dogs, and pianos. Nothing in common at all. Anyway eastern europe, and asia have figured out that market economies are the best way to go.

    November 10, 2009 at 1:51 am |
  16. Olivier

    This author need to read books or something. China does have a communist political, and rethorical, system, but to think that China runs on a communist economy is., ummm,... what's the word...

    November 10, 2009 at 1:56 am |
  17. Mau

    Interesting commentary but isn't true that China's economic growth is due to the economy of that country adopting some capitalist policies? What about its growth during the 40 or 50 years prior to adopting those policies?

    November 10, 2009 at 2:10 am |
  18. Rob Wilson

    China will be a light weight compared to Viet Nam...give it time.

    November 10, 2009 at 2:15 am |
  19. Marc F.

    Too bad China can hardly be considered communism at all right now. Sure, after the Chinese civil war, the communism was fairly straight laced, and then cultural China favored such a system. However, I would only use China as an example of a developing economy from a communist system, not an actual working communist system. China is currently developing a strong middle class and Chinese citizens are becoming millionaires every day. All it will take for China's complete growth potential to be reached will be a full-on democratic revolution.

    November 10, 2009 at 2:43 am |
  20. aRfFuL

    Well a lot of people seems to have misunderstood the fact that China is technically not communist anymore, and has not been for the last 10-20 years now. There are many private companies, people own a lot of posessions and luxuries, there are many foreign investments in China now – all the things which basically defines capitalism more than anything.

    People seems to be mistaken communism with authoritarianism. China is now actually a capitalist authoritarian-oligarchy. It resembles none of the characteristics of a communist economy anymore. So to put it in the same context as what East Germany was is not really looking at things in perspective.

    Communism is not the same thing as authoritarianism.

    November 10, 2009 at 2:58 am |
  21. Laura

    You can't call what they have in China Communism. Communism as discribed by Marx has never existed. I don't know what you call the Chinese economy, but I think we need a new label for it.

    November 10, 2009 at 3:00 am |
  22. EconomistPhD

    China and East Germany are unfair comparisons. Additionally, China is booming economically because it is gradually abandoning basic communist principles. As a communist country, China is a failure. As an emerging capitalist nation, it is headed for the top.

    November 10, 2009 at 3:56 am |
  23. Egill Jónsson

    China's economy is going from strength to strength precisely because it is not communist any more. They switched from communism to capitalism years ago, only their government remains under the thumb of the "communist" party, which is mostly a nationalist party nowadays.

    November 10, 2009 at 4:47 am |
  24. Rafael

    What has China´s present economy to do with communism ? On the contrary, seems like typical 19th century capitalism repeating itself (country run by a powerful elite, industrial revolution, low wages, poor safety standards, child work, oppression, minimal worker rights, military growth, poor countryside, looking for raw materials in Africa,... and yes: fast development ! ).

    By the way, for all its success, "communist" China (PRC) still has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with "capitalist" China (Taiwan), regarding Human Development variables for instance (and size apart of course).

    As an economic system, communism will NEVER go "from strength to strength" as the author states, only from "weakness to weakness".

    November 10, 2009 at 5:34 am |
  25. Jeremy

    Is China really commmunist? Like most western countries, including the United States, they offer a Reagonomics-based government backing of massive corporate industry, while offering a bureaucratic money-go-round form of social programs to keep the working class working hard. I have the impression that, as in the United States, unemployment is a worrisome thing, and job benefits such as vacation time and a ~40 hr. work week are considered luxuries for a small class of workers. They have a "pragmatic" economy, just as the US, where money gets sent in the direction of economic growth. It's pointless to call it "distribution of wealth" – as if money is being distributed for the sake of creating a single economic class. I'm fairly sure that in China, money gets sent the way of the business man, just like in the US. Meanwhile, the worker continues to work 60+ hour work weeks in the capitalistic atmosphere of job insecurity, where paychecks only seem to chase the inflation rate.

    November 10, 2009 at 5:41 am |
  26. A Test

    Dear Mr Stevens,

    You are frogething the fact that East Germany was a communist country and China has in the past 20 years pretty much thrown out anything that is communist about managing the economy. China is a example of what can be achieved when you dismantle communism in economy (not to be confused with political control). Now, the lack of relaxing political control in the next few years can have a negative impact. Anyway, surprised to see a CNN anchor not realizing where the economic growth in China was comming from!

    November 10, 2009 at 5:59 am |
  27. David

    Does this author understand the difference between communist and totalitarian?
    China in not communist. Not in any way at all.
    It is however totalitarian.
    Better not to confuse the two.

    November 10, 2009 at 7:24 am |
  28. Joe

    China is not a true communist country. The only reason their economy is so good is because the keep becoming more capitalist. They are still a one party dictatorship, but no longer truly communistic.

    November 10, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  29. Charles

    Is this article a joke? China has today nothing to do with communism except for the lack of democracy, regardless of the socialist language used by the regime. China is one of the most capitalist economies in the world. Please...

    November 10, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  30. varsha

    Don't forget that we only get to see the China that is projected by although I agree on the Chinese economy being a mighty one & indeed dictating its terms in these times, it is still a golden cage. The principle of communism is a flawed one which was proved in case of Berlin incident, people would rather live in a democratic hell than a dictated paradise.

    From the economic perspective, yes China is much better off but I can't comment about its social aspect (which is what communism is about) simply because I DON'T KNOW!! They have control over that information.. So lets not hastily hail it as success of Communism..

    November 10, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  31. russell bellagrego

    I cringe when I see the results of Richard Nixon's overtures to China, that led the the USA into the role as a debtor nation to the largest , most repressive, communist Nation on earth. We allowed them to take away all our industries with favorable trade deals for nothing. We are now a service industry country where are children will serve Big Mac and be glad to get a menial job. All the real jobs will move east to China and the service jobs that can be done on line will be in India and the Philippines. We screwed ourselves and our grandchildren will pay the price.

    November 11, 2009 at 12:13 am |
  32. Peter Pettersson

    But this economy also lead us in to one of the worst recessions for a number of decades.
    Isn’t it amazing how fast some people seems to have forgotten that?
    And no, I’m not saying that communism was an alternative. But since it’s collapse nobody seems to look for alternative solutions any more.
    And this economy has yet to show a solution for how it is supposed to work once it no longer can expand, when all markets are saturated, when we no longer can sell refrigerators to eskimos. Start over? Bring back production from the Third World? I wouldn't be so quick to salute ”this economy”.

    November 11, 2009 at 12:51 am |
  33. Chris

    "Communist Economy"? Really? There's a difference between an actual communist economic system and a communist in-name-only economic system so you can maintain totalitarian control over a country... you sir are an idiot

    November 11, 2009 at 3:21 am |
  34. kal

    Can you see something communist (marxist or stalinist, not just the party name) in China?

    November 11, 2009 at 3:29 am |
  35. John

    I think you should go to China, as you did Germany, and then see what you really think. You might find that much of the activity is growth for growth's sake. The collateral consequences will cause China to implode.

    November 11, 2009 at 3:31 am |
  36. Cool Blue

    China hasn't had a communist economy in decades.

    November 11, 2009 at 3:35 am |
  37. Neil

    China's economy isn't actually communist, though. These days, its booming industries are basically capitalist in nature, with as much or as little government intervention as the government desires.

    November 11, 2009 at 3:45 am |
  38. FreakyT

    Interesting article. However, I don't really think that's a valid comparison. China isn't really "communist" in any sense but name. It's kept the totalitarian part of communism, but eliminated any of the central planning that make a communist economy, well, communist.

    November 11, 2009 at 4:06 am |
  39. Ihaveapiecetoo

    I have a piece of the Berlin Wall as well. China maybe an upcoming economy but its strength has come from its loosening of government control and allowing property rights for the individual. Both of which run counter to communist doctrine.

    November 11, 2009 at 4:30 am |
  40. joey

    I think it's safe to say that the Chinese today are about as communist economically as the East Germans are today. China maintains that it's communist for one reason alone: the Communist Party of China. They lack the internationalism of the Leninists and the economic finesse of the Trotskyists, and they're sweeping Mao further and further under the rug. These are corporate consumerists like you and I, they just happen to live under an authoritarian government.

    It's unclear whether communism in Western Europe crumbled with the Berlin wall or was simply subsumed by the socialism of the EU, but China has surely shed its workers' ideology while adhering to a distinctly nationalist policy of social control.

    November 11, 2009 at 4:58 am |
  41. John Wilson

    China is not a communist country. It's capitalist.

    November 11, 2009 at 7:45 am |
  42. Hoff

    China isn't a communist economy; it's economically more free than the US. Hence why it's in better shape. Capitalism works, who would've thought?

    November 11, 2009 at 8:50 am |
  43. raluca

    Like most people that have never lived in a communist country there is one problem that you fail to take into consideration: even if china is one of the biggest economies at this time, it doesn't mean that people inside the country benefit from it. the consumer goods that china creates are mostly for export. china makes sneakers but out of 10 pieces of sneakers, maybe one of them is purchased by a Chinese person.
    I read an article the other day about Chinese people selling fake eggs, made out of plastic and powder chemicals. Imagine living in a country where you couldn't find eggs in every supermarket and you would buy them from some guy in the street only to find out they were fake.
    The reason you saw east Germans carting off goods from west Germany was not because they were "made in the west" as you assume. It was because in the east they had none of them, not even the most basic. I know because i grew up in a communist country where you had to wait for an hour in a queue of people to get a loaf of bread and where meat was sold in the dead of night only to high up party members.

    November 11, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  44. Stephen

    The Chinese are the biggest capitalists in the world. Communism is still not the answer.

    November 11, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  45. Tomaz

    Chinese communism has existed in the name only for the past 20 or so years. It's now a mercatilist dictatorship, akin to enlightened despotism of the 18th century Europe, with a surprisingly similar economic model in many respects.

    November 11, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  46. Greg W.

    The reality about China is that they are not truly communist as in Marxism or Maoism, the are more corporatist and communist in name only. Marx and Mao would be ashamed of what is going on in China right now. In reality the Chinese are capatilists at heart.

    November 11, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  47. Rene Marzoni

    Yes, in China the economy is going stronger for a simple fact; they have millions of workers who can not complaint and get a misery salary, real slavers. They still have a unique and only party in power. That might be a pretty good model to follow in the world, right!

    November 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  48. Tom Buckner

    I must differ with your analysis of China. The Chinese government effectively abandoned the communist economy and embraced capitalist methods while the ruling party continued to call itself Communist. China now is a one-party corporate state: a kind of irreligious fascism.

    Never mind the dictionary definitions, look at how the mechanisms actually function: Mussolini himself, who coined the Fascist label for the political movement he headed, later referred to the system he headed as a "corporate state." In actual function it was an attempt to revive old-fashioned monarchy with new labels, a ruling coalition of wealthy landed aristocrats and the addition of industrial barons, the military, and the dominant church to lend an air of legitimacy.

    The Chinese Communist system resembled Stalin's Soviet Union for several decades, but by the 1980's China's leaders could see that the Soviets were headed for downfall and began to reexamine their approach to the economy. They succeeded in a near-complete overhaul of their economic paradigm without ever losing political control. At no point did "Communist" China become a truly open, democratic society, yet over twenty years they morphed from a closed society of the extreme Left to a closed society of the extreme Right (clumsy labels, to be sure, but not completely useless: from Left collectivism to Right wealth-concentration and all its trappings).

    The most interesting aspect of the Chinese Left-Right flip, to me, is that they introduced the anti-religious aspect of Left ideology to an otherwise Right ruling structure. Whereas old-school fascists continued the old monarchist/feudal trope of using religion to cloak themselves in legitimacy (The King is chose by God or else someone else would be King) the new Chinese fascism continues the old communist trope of ruling in the name of the People. Even if the People don't get to pick the government. I think this explains the harsh reaction of the Chinese government to the Falun Gong: Beijing correctly sees Falun Gong as a realistic threat which has the power to spread throughout the country the moment the pressure is let off it, and sweep away the Party's claims to legitimacy.

    I would say that much of China's success in the global marketplace is not really due to any singular virtue of China. Granted there are vast numbers of smart people in China who work very hard, and the Chinese government has many policies designed to foster China's competitive stance; but much of their success is in a very real sense our failure. With astounding folly, US governments have offered tax advantages and low tariffs to corporations which send US jobs overseas to increase profits; vital US industries have been offshored completely or nearly so; one is strongly tempted to conclude that some US leaders care more about business than democracy.

    And yet, I wonder: Chinese leaders can issue directives to their corporations, and know that obedience will follow at once. Chinese corporations are part of the power structure, but they don't run the government, at least not yet. The US government seldom dares to challenge corporate power. China's government may actually be the less dysfunctional of the two.

    November 11, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  49. Ken in Mt

    China is a confusian soceity, western Europe and the Americas are not. The difference is that in China the emphasis is on the citizens responsability to the State, in the west that is reversed. This also plays into why democracy has sort of been a null concept in the far east

    November 11, 2009 at 7:03 pm |
  50. Brian

    This inane post is almost not worth commenting on, but I will point out that China's economic policies are anything but communistic. State Capitalism or Authoritarian Capitalism is a better term – and what "lectures" are you referring to? China's rise is more of a victory for the West than it is a communist win. It is hard to beleive that Mr. Stevens is an Anchor Man.

    November 12, 2009 at 2:40 am |
  51. aRfFuL

    In reply to Tom Buckner's comment about China is unique in being a far-right irreligious state, I think it is important to recognise that Chinese culture has separated church (any church/religion) and state a long time ago. They recognise the harm of religious fanaticism to political stability and even back in the days of Confucius (which is like what, 3-4000 years ago) thinkers have influence the polity to separate the two; and throughout many civil wars in China this has proven even further this theory to be true, thus politics separates itself from religion even further (Emperor as the Son of the Heaven has ever less as less meaning in Chinese culture as we look down in history, In fact, what Chinese people in turn became belief in is national unity and centralised government, not any gods or kings).

    So it wasn't even because of Chinese communism that China come down hard on religious cult such as Falun Gong. Chinese people's (as in Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc) opinion in general towards politically active cult such as Falun Gong is negative anyways even without communist upbringing. It is in the culture.

    November 12, 2009 at 4:02 am |
  52. Guy P

    China's economic success is a byproduct of western capitalist greed where cutting manpower costs is the prefered way to maximize profits. If, for the same reason, our jobs are outsourced back to us by China, then this country will be truly capitalist.

    November 12, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  53. Herby Sagues

    Not only China is not really communist (production and development is not state led, only state participated) but it might be leading the world in total economic growth as a state, but their people are still miserable. HAve you even been to China? I have, and it is not a nice view (other than from the touristic point of view, in which is gorgeous).
    China is growing because they have cheap, underpaid labor, they are destroying their environment and they are willing to compromise a few million lives in work related accidents.
    They are not growing because they are communist (they are not), they are growing because as a dictatorship they can enslave their people and produce more for less because of that.
    If you think that's the way to go, I don't want to live in your world.

    November 13, 2009 at 4:18 am |
  54. Mekhong Kurt

    I was startled to read a comparison of East Germany with China, and even more startled to read the assertion that China's economy is a communist one. Though the government does still own some industrial properties as well as retail ones, it has divested itself of a great number of such possessions. As just about every contributor here has observed, China's economy isn't anywhere close to textbook communism. When I moved to China in 1985, the changes were already vast and accelerating. Chinese people are justly famous for their strength in a gapitalist system, and that's what Beijing is delivering as fast as possible. I say "as fast as possible" because they can't very well just shut down every state enterprise with no place for the employees to go. But even now - starting quite a few years ago - the "iron rice bowl" has been pretty much destroyed.

    The genius of the late Deng Xiao Ping was that he realized he could hold back on moving towards capitalism, or he could hold back on moving towards democracy (in the Western sense of that term) - but he couldn't continue to deny the Chinese people *both.*

    And now there are some limited steps being taken towards something resembling democracy, at least on local levels. A few years ago I took my Sister to Beijing, and one evening while waiting for her in our hotel's lobby, I picked up a local paper. I can't read much Chinese, but I could tell that one front-page story had to do with local elections in Beijing. Curious, I asked a lady at the desk about it. She proudly told me that the last of Beijing's several thousand neighborhoods - a political subdivision in the Chinese scheme - had held neighborhood elections, of sorts. She went on to explain that anyone who wanted could run for election, though any election is essentially a one-day affair. The candidates make their pitches, then residents of that neighborhood cast a voice vote, eliminating candidates until one is left. Yes, all must be vetted by the Communist Party ahead of time, but within that context, the candidates are subject to voter approval. Successful candidates take care of local concerns such as problems with power, water, and sewage, and those involved in street repairs, garbage collection, etc. In other words, what they have is somewhat akin to the town hall meetings we had in the early days in the U.S., though we didn't have the party control the Chinese have.

    Yes, the Chinese leadership tries to dress all this up as "socialism with Chinese characteristics," but that's a diplomatic little fiction necessitated by the country's history since 1949. Heck, they're still trying to disengage themselves from Mao - not an easy task now, nor likely to be any easier for at least another generation or two, after everyone who lived during the Mao years is gone. Why so long, considering he died in 1976 - 33 years ago? Because there are plenty of closet Maoists left who would happily return the clock back to the early days of contemporary China. I don't understand that, but I've known some of those Maoists myself, and I became convinced they were quite genuine in their devotion to Maoism. They just can't be as open about their preferences as they would like to be, since even the Party still maintains that Mao was, yes, 70% correct - but also 30% wrong.

    Mr. Stevens, such a fundamental error coming from a well-experienced news anchor is downright puzzling. I'm not attacking you, just, well, puzzling about it.

    November 13, 2009 at 5:23 am |
  55. vinod bangkok

    There is straw hiding the mountain.
    The success of Chinese capitalism is due to its communist back ground. They have a success story now that was never achievable in India, Brazil, Egypt or Indonesia – the so called fully fledged democratic capitalist countries.
    Communism failed because of the lack of Information system of the past which resulted in bad management over the masses. Now with massive databases, internet and e-mails the 10,000 or so "people" in Beijing control and govern the whole of China. They lead China into this success era.
    The democratic aspect of China is in favor of the west because they can importer cheap goods from China mainly possible because of the poor communist peasants who provide cheap labor. So the success of China is not the story of a free society benefiting by following their dreams.
    But the poor peasants who are providing the cheap labor for these business men are still controlled by the communist policies. Democracy riding royally on Communism and then we say communism is bad ha ha ha ha.

    Lets compare India and China since 1947.
    China goes communist, India the other way.
    China is still controlled by the communist who can decide what they want to do with the country. They will allow capitalism to employ their communist peasants and hopefully one day the country as a whole will have a somewhat good standard of life. But the rule of the country will always be communism. Meaning, the government is run by the very few highly trained and skillful people earning their ranks. These people will live for the good of the country. It is not dictatorship and there are no millions spent on dirty elections. Also the banks do not issue loans on the possibility of a client making more money because he loaned his money to a very secure business. Anybody doing fishy or monkey business is simply "beheaded".

    India is no man's land. It is so corrupt that the horizon is nowhere to be seen where the majority of its people live a decent life. Right now they are far behind China. Indians wear Chinese made Jackets, eat Californian "Washington" brand apples and they are 2 years behind their latest offer to the world the Nano – which was a century late in the first place.
    Brazil, Egypt, I do not know but nobody talks about their success.

    Think about it by the end of this century when each square kilometer of China is under capitalism governed by Communist Beijing providing the country a very reliable security and justice system.
    That is a challenge mankind faces. And I think the most important tool is EDUCATION.

    I read something somewhere which somewhat meant:-
    12 year old thinking = communist = everybody should be equal.
    34 year old thinking = capitalist =want to invest my hard earned money
    60 year old = dictator = why don't people simply listen to me words of wisdom.


    November 13, 2009 at 7:06 am |
  56. Paulo Carvalho

    1. Comparing China to the Soviet Union or the GDR is completely absurd. In China you have (or used to have) a Maoist regime while in the Soviet Union you had a Marxist-Leninist regime.

    2. Being Communist doesn't mean being totalitarian. For example, Cyprus isn't totalitarian and it is Communist.

    3. Communist and Socialism are not the same thing.

    4. The USA adopting Socialism or anything that has to do with it?! This surely must be a joke... and by the way, doing that would be really good for you.

    5. Communism failed decades ago and Capitalism failed after it. It's time to "reinvent" themselves and try it all over again. That's what China is doing. Very well indeed, but totally neglecting the rest of the world and the environment. Oh well, there just doing what the USA have been doing for the past 50 years so I guess that won't bother you :p

    PS: China is a dictatorship but the USA ain't properly a democracy either. The Cold War-style propaganda is still there, way more subtle, but it IS there.

    November 13, 2009 at 10:21 am |
  57. shadysider

    This was quite a 'what the heck' article. As other commentors have suggested, the writer is saying that as an economic system that communism works in China, but in fact China is quite capitalist. Do more research. And oh, yeah. This has nothing to do with the fall of Berlin. So, jambled article with little knowledge of facts. FAIL.

    November 13, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  58. Kristen

    The rpoblem with East Germany (and the Soviet states in general) was not their centralized, planned economy but the SERIOUS lack of individual rights and freedoms that came along with it. China has managed to ditch the planed economy WITHOUT opening any freeedoms to its citizens. This was done by brainwashing an entire generation into believing that having things is better than having ideas. China is thriving on the backs of its workers. The rising middle class is conditioned to ignore social wrongs. China is not headed for capitalism nor is it communist. China is seriously headed towards feudalism. However, since it worked very well for them in history, perhaps feudalism is the answer for their future. For some, the security of knowing your place in life is better than the insecurity of having to make your own place.

    November 13, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  59. El Punto de G

    Mr Stevens:

    What are you talking about?

    China is a capitalist country in terms of economy. Private property is allowed, this is not communism.

    Politically speaking they are communists that don't respect human rights, freedom or the right to association.

    China is a unique hybrid system which is a shame for the world. There is no freedom in that country. But maybe you should apply for the Chinese citizenship and you must move there for some years. Then you'll be able to rewrite your article.

    November 14, 2009 at 3:12 am |
  60. amyhu

    Brian is correct.

    China's rise in its economy owes a lot to the fact that all companies which invested and/or are still investing in its vast territory were or are allowed to abuse the land and the people to gain financial benefit.

    The collaboration among those corporate executives and the govern-ment officials of all levels,ie.,local,provincial,and central, succeeded in grabbing 99% of the benefit generated by the door opening to the outside world leaving only a little crumby stuff for the poor Chinese.

    It is indeed a pitty and very unfair to the great Chinese people.

    November 14, 2009 at 6:11 am |
  61. John E.

    Yes. I agree communisun has taken it 's own shape from Why is it called" the The Peoples Republic Of China ", Anyway? It seems like the People don't run the government It has become totallrian Yet It just held the World Summer Olympic and even Welcome Great Britian to presenting the 2012 Summer Games. With The Hong Kong region of China now in who ever hands and still Great britian invest in China What are we As united state Citizens going to do We can only embrass our hands to action and the ASIA markets who ever that may be Just hope it is NOT North Korea Yet just few years ago It was told that South Korea would join North Korea I do know the Gateway to ASIA markets comes from Haiwainext to West Coastal States .

    November 14, 2009 at 6:34 am |
  62. Karl

    What an utter nonsense to describe the Chinese economy (as opposed to the ruling class) as "communist" and further suggesting that thus it could lecture the west how to do it better! Chinas economy is more capitalist than that of most western countries!

    I wonder how a journalist with such an apparent lack of background knowledge can become a "CNN anchor".

    November 14, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  63. walter

    Putting the idea in a few words:

    1) To whom is China selling goods at most? To communist countries that can not afford buying?, or to real democratic countries, which are efficient and capable in producing and therefore have money to buy. This means, China´s success depends enourmously on the free word.

    2) Because of my last quote, I think China is taking big advantage of their millions of people, who work almost for nothing, in a bad work environment, which means very low production costs.

    3) I read last week on the news, that China has the fastest growing billionare population in the word, do you think this is communism? I would define this more a kind of extreme capitalistic totalitarism.

    November 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  64. mao

    China is polluted, as all capitalist countries are. Because capitalism is not natural, as socialism in the Soviet Union wasn't either...they polluted their country even worst. Most of cancers and other diseases in western countries are the result of industrialization. And the worst of all is that, humanity thinks that capitalism is the most "natural" of societies because it generates wealth. I would just say that all of you are fooled...capitalism is our own suicide. China's wild growth will be China's suicide. The only "natural" human organisation that can lead to our survive is living like north american indians lived before the arrival of "capitalist-minded" europeans, or like those wise people living in the raining forest of the Amazones. We are sick, because we all look for wealth, comfort, hedonism, pleasure, live longer and longer, and we don't care about what happens in 200 years because we will not be there. Our "natural-capitalist" mind will drive us to our own end.

    Ok., now I must recognize that it's difficult to live like indians did...we are too many, but we can maybe make a change our concepts about capitalism, about growth, about wealth...we can change the way we consume...we could renounce to many stupid things which we don't need to live well...we could give prioritiy to real things in life...but no, "capitalist-oriented" people cannot change their habits, and they don't care about the planet, or about our future generations...all they want is to have the most now.

    All I can say is: capitalism is the worst system we could put in place, because of its greedy, making people highly ambitious, and for not caring about real values like solidarity and community. Anyway we will go all to hell because of yous stupid need of wealth...

    When all the trees have been cut down,

    when all the animals have been hunted,

    when all the waters are polluted,

    when all the air is unsafe to breathe,

    only then will you discover you cannot eat money.

    November 15, 2009 at 8:47 am |
  65. Paulo

    Please in wich world is Mr. Stevens living?
    China is for a long time a capitalist country with a authoritarian government and a confirmation that communism was the bigest failure of all times.Live in a country that tryed a communist economy , well they became one of world poorest country, now they are following capitalism with quite good results although with a long way to go.

    November 15, 2009 at 9:31 am |
  66. audu usman

    communism or capitalism or whatever names are used, the important thing is a functional system that delivers sustainable good life to the people. capitalism can be seen as freedom to enjoy economic pluralism and democracy can be seen as freedom to enjoy political pluralism but if any type of pluralism fails to deliver good life, it would fail. for example, American pluralism has created dictatorship of the mega-corporation and health bill that would extend medical services to a certain group of the so-called super-free Americans is being blocked. in China, they have dictatorship of the politicians but those guys don't seek to truncate steps that may deliver better life to their people. We should come out of the illusion that political pluralism delivers automatic good life. it the choices the government makes that matters. if the goverment of a plural country prefers to put trillions of dollars into wars in iraq and afganistan instead of economic re-engineering, capitalism and democracy would not do any magic is such a scenario. governments should make good choices and allow economic competition and that's all. there is dictatorship everywhere. the west has dictatorship of the multi-nationals and political leaders are boys to the big corporations .

    November 15, 2009 at 9:46 am |
  67. Yehoshua Ya'acov

    Who cares about 20 years ago, today its China, that leads the commuist world.

    Yehoshua Ya'acov will soon be more famous in China than the PM as is already happening in Russia. Why? He's the originator of the post COLLAPSE of the world economy's NEW "convergence model" that's Humanomics(sm) whose 'central organizing principle; is "Receiving, to give(sm)" as is the cognitive behavioral science paradigm and also its parallel NEW economic paradigm the "Integration of Labor(sm)." The latter NOW replaces the old industrial model of the "division of labor" that delivered the iindustrial revolution around the world. The US and its CIA has used Israel to interdict his work to slow its recoognition and use, while in the US so too it used Google and YouTube to disinformation about its strategic efficacy, to keep the competition on the back foot. Yehoshua lives in Jerusalem and is held under virtual "house arrest" since 1987 AFTER being robbed of all his property when he moved here to drive him out and back to the US as the Israelis are a CIS proxy,
    Tky, YYBA

    November 15, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  68. L.C. Montes

    Years ago, an elderly gentleman said to me that China would never be communist because it was centuries-old-corrupt.... I´ve always kept that in mind....

    November 15, 2009 at 9:10 pm |
  69. Ty

    Most people in the Western world do not understand the essential difference between East European and Asian Communism: That Eastern European Communism was installed through Soviet Red Army occupation at the end of the WW2, against the wills of the local people; whereas Asian Communism was an integral part of the nationalistic movement of its own local people.

    November 15, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  70. Nimal Fernando

    In my view any attempt to fit in activities in Present China to the 19th century models of Communism or Capitalism would be a mistake.
    In the same manner trying to put a name tag to activities in China will also be of no use .I believe that new model incorporating the activities in China needs to developed. We do not have a model of that nature It needs to be developed Thats a job for the Therists.
    In the mean time trying to get credit for what has happened in the recent past and happening at the moment either for Capitalism a Communism would be a mistakle

    November 16, 2009 at 2:20 am |
  71. Louise

    According to the Protestant Ethic, God will reward your faith in Him here as he will in Heaven. Many preached this when I was a child and the USA was #1. Now that China and India seem to be taking over the top, it is obvious that they all must be converting to Baptist or, maybe, Methodist.

    November 16, 2009 at 7:51 pm |
  72. andre


    November 17, 2009 at 9:37 am |
  73. Jason C

    A terribly researched, confused, and misinformed article. China is not a communist economy – it is a capitalist economy governed by a Communist government. The rise of China has nothing to do with the so-called "communist" aspects of its economy, and frankly I'm appalled that CNN would publish this article. Quite an insight into the worldly views of a CNN contributor. Mr. Stevens – please do not write about anything related to China until you have properly caught up with your reading – or better yet spend some time actually living there.

    November 18, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  74. Dele

    Reading through all the comments on this subject, one might come to the conclusion that China's recent economic success is due to a combination of 2 factors:-

    1. Abandoning communist economic model for a capitalist one
    2. Retaining their authoritatian or totalitatian or fascist political system.

    The second point is likely to be controversial, but it is true, provided the government rules in the interest of the country and it's people. Singapore is another good example.

    The risk is that in most cases, the rulers become power drunk, develop a messianic complex, become corrupt and begin to enrich themselves and their cronies at the expense of the country and it's people. China has been fairly lucky with their leaders, but there is no assurance that this will always be the case.

    So, at the end of the day, with all it's warts and pimples, democracy still offers the best form of government that provides an assurance of freedom and economic well being.

    And by the way, the Chinese story is still unfolding. Let's see where they are in the next 15 years.

    November 18, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  75. Larry


    don't be so naive to allege that "you couldn't find EGGS in every supermarket" in China

    this kind of biased statement does not help us to understand why China succeeds in the past 3 decades.

    November 19, 2009 at 2:18 am |
  76. Chris

    I'm grateful that free markets have made life better for both East Germans and the Chinese. The GDP per capital in China before economic reforms (1978): $200 – now over $2500 (in 2005 dollars). The GDP per capital in East Germany before the wall fell was less than 1/2 West Germany. They are now at over 70% and have new infrastructure on which to build. Parity is expected in the coming decade. I'm glad free markets are slowing the immigration trends. A wall was built to keep East Germans from fleeing. A fence with razor wire kept mainland Chinese from fleeing to Hong Kong- unfortunately, that fence remains in China.

    November 19, 2009 at 5:34 am |
  77. Riaz,NJ

    Chinese Communism ? Its a government controlled Currency and labor market. they control the wages, they can pay as little as one cent and get this done !!!

    November 19, 2009 at 8:29 pm |
  78. eddie

    I do care which "ism" it is. I have lived and work in China and admire the energy and hard work of the population. Chinese people are able to bear great sufferings and sacrifices. Few nations can match that.

    There is freedom to live where I want, spend what I want to spend on. I do not need to be involved with politics. So, where is the communism in the life of a typical Chinese citizen?

    November 20, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  79. TONY


    November 21, 2009 at 6:49 am |
  80. Matt S.

    Obviously no one knows actually what communism is. Karl Marxs' communism(Pure Socialism) said that there is no government at all, everyone is equal, no private property...The "communism" that china has(which is more capitalism now) is a hijacked form of Communism.

    November 21, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  81. Robinoi

    China's economy is capitalist, but also heavily protectionist. They and India's economies have boomed over the previous decades by selective insulation of various parts of their industries from 'free trade' with the world over the years.

    November 22, 2009 at 10:54 pm |
  82. Anthony TK Goh

    I like your story of the two walls.
    One was destroyed whilst the other has stood the test of time and will last for generations to come.

    The prosperity of a China that we have seen since 1989 is not without precedence. We have seen the fall and the rise of Germany., We have also seen the fall and the rise of Japan, both happening barely 60 years ago. Thanks to the USA and the world of free trade,they are still the economic powers today. And China has just joined the ranks.

    Let us never forget the world of free trade – the lesson that the world have learned when protectionism reared its ugly head and led us into
    the Great depression of 1929 lasting five years or more.

    Today,we have just managed to overcome an ugly recession that threatened our livelihoods. Today, nobody talks about communism any more. Every country talks about MONEY and free trade.

    We are all a community of nations depending on each other for
    economic survival. .We want to trade and exchange services
    We want peace and prosperity NOT war.


    November 24, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  83. Eva

    Communist economy how I remember it: 5 year plans, no private ownership, standing in line for the most basic items such as toilet paper, meat delivered to stores once a week, bananas and oranges only available for Christmas, etc., etc. China is a true monster in a way how it combines totalitarian regime with capitalist-like economy. This is very scary. I'd rather live in a free country with struggling economy than in a "golden cage".

    November 25, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  84. Sash

    1. China is not a socialist economy, but wild capitalist as in the early industrialization time in Europe. A small group of people own all the resources and can exploit an enormous working force in a way they find appropriate without being worried about any consequences.
    2. People on the west have so childish and romantic nostalgic feelings about the Communism that its almost unbelievable. Anyone should understand that communism is worse than national-socialism or any other dictatorship system ever created. The human being is taken away from religion, family or any other base values and is put into an immoral dual standard system. I'm sick reading about the good old communist times. And for a difference with the people living in communism now all these speakers are allowed to give back their passport and nationality and catch the first flight to Cuba or Venezuela and live their lives there, but please don't talk about communism or nazism in Europe.

    December 1, 2009 at 7:25 am |
  85. Shane Hodge

    Why does everyone think China is some sort of economic mastermind? They are doing the same thing we did....lending money to people who can't pay it back. So in 20 years when everyone is broke the USA will still remain supreme because military is all that will matter at that point and we'll just take what we want.

    December 8, 2009 at 8:20 pm |
  86. Jonathan Daniels

    As many have commented, China's economy is capitalistic but driven by a totalitarian government. I think one day China will go through another evolutionary period where the government will change and people's universal rights are respected.

    Trying to compare which system (economical and political) is better is something that we are still trying to achieve. In my opinion the best system is when the citizens of a country are brought up with high standards of moral values. Achieving power and wealth are not of human nature, suppression of freedoms is universally eliminated, and the system governing the country is transparent and free of corruption.


    December 16, 2009 at 8:43 pm |
  87. Rick Jones of Prague

    What is really amazing is that the readers who contribute comments are more knowledgeable than the bloke who wrote the article.

    Any half-wit knows that that portion of the economy in China that is booming is the classic model of early industrial-capitalism. It is just obvious.

    What is Andrew Stevens implying ?

    Is he so ignorant and daft not to realize that the PRC is "communist" in the sense that it retains the political structure of a communist country but has shed the command economy ?

    Or perhaps Stevens is one of these hopeless dreamers who is looking for the "third way" between capitalism and communism. Well, if so then I have a bulletin for Mr. Stevens: the third way is the road to the Third World.

    I cannot believe that CNN actually pays his guy a salary.

    And some people say that Sarah Palin is not ready for prime time.

    Give us a break !

    December 21, 2009 at 12:05 am |
  88. Wysocki

    Just to remind you, Germany's division was the result of their being responsible for the deaths of 70 000 000 people (people got used to million this or that nowadays, I think this conveys the weight of this number more clearly). So, I'm happy they are happy, but to symphatize with them as if nothing has never happened is somehow ... disgusting. Seriously, guys...

    December 22, 2009 at 1:54 am |
  89. karai

    capitalism is alive and kicking,
    in china
    no unions, no lowest wages, just like in good old times

    December 25, 2009 at 9:51 pm |
  90. royalcourtier

    Andrew Stevens is completely confused. Communist China's economy was stifled, backward and inflexible.

    From the early 1980's a market economy, and later full capitalism, was allowed. The Chinese economic miracle is a triumph of the free market, not of communism!

    January 1, 2010 at 8:00 am |
  91. emily

    i am a Minority ethnic in china,i live in china,but i really don't know what is communist economy ,i only know that there many people in china,if you don't work hard,you will have no job,and if you don't study hard to learnt technique,or you will can't get job,and no house, no girl freind,so you must be work hard,make more and more money,you have no time to to consider the political.Because, the President belong to only one,The rest must be earn money,i think the thing which let chinese economy moving ahead is competition,but not communist ,chinese only care about their family,they will work hard earn more money to care their family to buy house,to take good care of their children,care their wife and old people,and much no one pay more attention to DALAI who want to do as emperor,we don't understand his behavior.

    January 2, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  92. emily

    i am a Minority ethnic in china,i live in china,but i really don't know what is communist economy ,i only know that there many people in china,if you don't work hard,you will have no job,and if you don't study hard to learnt technique,or you will can't get job,and no house, no girl freind,so you must be work hard,make more and more money,you have no time to to consider the political.Because, the President belong to only one,The rest must be earn money,i think the thing which let chinese economy moving ahead is competition,but not communist ,chinese only care about their family,they will work hard earn more money to care their family to buy house,to take good care of their children,care their wife and old people,and much more..............................

    January 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  93. Misha Moldovan

    It is always interesting to hear speculation about the strengths and weaknesses underlying the two dominant forms of capitalism widely touted by each system's proponents to be the 'answer' to world problems - i.e. the two main pillars supporting the whole notion of capitalism - collective and individuals capital acquistion and distribution systems - 'communism' and 'free enterprise' systems.

    It should be apparent by now to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that most of the world has been and remains veiled by the irrational superstition that has deified the notion of capitalist systems devoid of morla underpinings.

    For the most part, the pillar of communism collapsed slowly - like a the image of the twin towers - into rubble by the middle-90s with some lingering memories still found in highly centralized systems that are far from communist. It can also be seen that individual, unfettered capitalism (or perhaps free enterprise) has itself found its foundations crumbling and this second pillar seems to also be in slow collapse.

    The question still seems this: Can the world not come up with a better system, one that is on the one hand bound by widely excepted moral and ethical limitations but on the other hand - within that framework of decency, moderation and human regard - one that allows for a high degree of human initiative and freedom?

    A totally regulated and controlled approach to captialism has for the most part failed and those left who claim 'communism' as their 'logo' are so remote as to hardly be able to be called a 'planet' circling the system Mars and Engels first imagined. The totally unbridled system most emblematically seen in the recent Wall Street disaster and collapse of the storied investment banks has also been exposed for the corrupted and failed system that it had become.

    Where do we go? Just bailouts and looking for economic heros like China? Are there not other places to look? For all its wonders and accomplishments of late, China still barely manages to feed its people, it is rife with human rights issues, and its environmental record is horrendous. The average worker in China is still making what - perhaps less than $250/month? So where has the 'communist' dream of fair and equal distribution of capital among the workers gone?

    Perhaps the world needs a new and more just economic paradigm and perhaps a more honest dialogue about economies, human nature, and the future. Who is writing this future? Does it remain the rich and powerful? Are all the world's people at the decision making table?

    January 4, 2010 at 5:05 am |
  94. Nik

    Communism works really well....on paper. Take only what you need, give only what you can. Great concept. I wish it did work. The problem is it doesn't atke into account that people are actually greedy and lazy (not all, but enough to ruin it for the rest). If I can only take what I actually need, no matter how hard I work, where is the incentive to to work any harder than the minimum? What is to stop me from saying I need more than I really do? The guy next dorr does that, why can't I? Communism hopes that its your feeling of duty to the state and your overwhelming sense of national pride. But in the end its our desire for compitition, our desire to be thought of as better than the next guy that throws a monkey wrench into the machine.

    January 5, 2010 at 1:30 pm |

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