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Socialism, also known as communism, is an economic system that involves collective wealth. This simply means that there is social ownership of everything present. This differs from capitalism, which is an economic system that encourages the accumulation of individual wealth.
Many countries today practice capitalism. China is one of the countries that are associated with socialism. This means that whereas the rest of the world encourages individuals to make money for themselves, China encourages its citizens to create mass wealth in order to benefit everyone in the society.
There are various aspects that one has to consider when talking about socialism. Some of these aspects include the rule of law, democracy, and human rights. It is relevant to discuss the three aspects because they affect the whole society. It is important to note that what might be a human right in a capitalistic world might not be a human right in a socialistic world (Gore 1999).
Socialism and democracy in China
Democracy can be defined as a concept that gives the citizens of a given country the power to rule themselves. One of the most common definitions of democracy is that it is ‘a government of the people, by the people, and for the people’. From this definition, one can identify that democracy involves people choosing their own leaders. The definition gives the notion of a number of leaders from which the people can choose from.
Democracy has been mainly associated with the capitalist world. It is, therefore, very hard to have democracy in a socialist state like China. One of the things that make it difficult to have democracy in China is the lack of multipartyism.
Multipartyism is the idea of having several political parties in one country and all of them have a right to vie for public office. This means that there is only one political party in China. The people do not have options when it comes to choosing their leaders because they all come from one communist party (Brodsgaard & Yongniana 2006).
There are scholars who argue that there is some form of democracy in China. Yu (2009) argues that the Qing dynasty of China had some form of democracy. This can be proven by the writings of Liang Qichao who was an activist in the late 1890’s.
Qichao was among the first Chinese people to request for more citizen participation in the activities of the government. What is interesting to note is that even though Liang wanted democracy, he wanted to change China into a democratic constitutional monarch and not a democratic constitutional state.
This meant that even though China would be a democracy and get a constitution, it would still be under one ruler or one family (Shapiro 2001).
Yu (2009) explains that Liang’s ideas were, however, rejected by a doctor named Sun Yat-Sen who claimed that the Qing monarchy had to be removed for there to be a democracy.
Dr. Yat-Sen was of the idea that democracy meant the freedom of the will for the citizens to not only choose the leader they wanted, but also for them to be able to remove the leader who did not perform accordingly. This would have been impossible to achieve with a monarch in control of the government.
Up to date, there is still a lot of debate on whether China has some form of democracy or not. Pils (2006) argues that China has always been fighting the western culture and the capitalist system is part of the western culture.
There are various politicians, scholars, and other professionals in China who believe that there is no form of democracy in China because it is a socialist state. This group of individuals has had various debates on how to change the communist system in China into a more favoured capitalist system. So far, nothing has been done yet.
Pan (2003) argues that there is no room for democracy in the contemporary Chinese culture. He explains that China has always been competitive even with the communist economy.
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At the moment, China has among the biggest and strongest economies in the world. He explains that the Chinese would have to rub off their culture completely for democracy to work. The other option is to keep their culture, practice communism, and forget about democracy.
One of the things that have apparently aided China in keeping such a large economy while practicing socialism at the same time is the culture. One of the main aspects of communism is social harmony.
This is also a big part of the Chinese Confucian tradition. It, therefore, acts as a motivation to both the government and the people of China (Harrell 1995). The Chinese believe that having many political candidates to choose from can create disharmony in the society.
Another aspect of socialism that goes hand in hand with the Chinese Confucian traditions is serving the common good and not just the majority. This is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts of socialism. Many scholars are of the idea that socialism works for the majority, unlike capitalism that works for the minority.
The scholars believe that capitalism will satisfy the minority rich, while communism will satisfy the majority poor (Harrell 1995). However, looking at the economic system of China, one will notice that the country still has poor people. This can be attributed to the fact that the economic system they have in place serves the greater good and not just the majority poor.
Socialism and human rights in China
Another aspect of socialism that has been debated with regard to China is the issue of human rights. According to Waterfield (2008), there is no possible way of combining human rights with communism. He argues that the human rights were written by states that do not practice communism.
However, this does not mean that there are no human rights in China. There have been a lot of disputes over the years about the extent to which socialism protects the rights of an individual (Waterfield 2008)
China and her supporters have argued that their laws and cultures are strong enough to protect an individual without adding the human rights that are stipulated in the UN Human Rights Charter. According to a report from the United Nations, in the year 2012, there were twelve requests from different states that asked for the UN’s official visit to China to settle the issue of human rights.
The Chinese government, however, claimed that it is such intrusions that create disorder. This was an indication that the international community did not follow their Human Rights policies. This, however, did not stop other international bodies from accusing China of violating basic Human Rights due to constrictions of culture and socialism.
China is accused of restricting speech. Movement of individuals is also restrained by the government. Chinese also enjoy less freedom of religion and worship. China has, however, stood its ground and explained that it has its own set of human rights that might not be similar to those in the UN Charter.
The government of this communist state has explained that the state is improving some of the rights that its people have and that national culture is a big part of these rights.
In the constitution of China, the “Four Cardinal Principles” have been presented as the country’s form of citizenship rights. The government has a right to arrest any person who violates these principles. The fact that the government is the only body responsible for determining whether a person has violated these four principles or not is a violation of the Human Rights that are indicated in the UN Human Rights Charter.
One aspect that many Human Rights activists are against in the Chinese constitution is the death penalty. Many other countries have done away with the death penalty and replaced it with life imprisonment.
Other policies that violate the global Human Rights include the One Child Policy in Tibet (Cooke 2003), the lack of freedom of the press in the Mainland, the lack of freedom of movement, lack of an independent judiciary, lack of labourers’ rights, and lack of the rule of law (Perry & Seldon 2003).
The lack of freedom of the press has also been hotly debated over the years. The press is controlled by the authorities in the Communist Party, thus there are some pieces of information that are either manipulated or left out to protect the image of the Communist Party (Dutton 2000). Efforts by global bodies to push China to give the freedom of media have not been successful.
The freedom of movement is one of the most important human rights in the UN Human Right Charter. However, this freedom is not acknowledged in the communist state of China. In the late 1950’s the then leader of China, Mao, restricted the citizens so much that he dictated the places where people would work. This restriction on movement has not changed much since then.
In terms of labour, people are known as either rural or urban workers. If a rural worker, for example, moved to the urban areas without permission, they would not have rights to some necessary provisions like health care and proper housing.
The citizens have to get permission to move from one place to another. Failure to get this required permission before moving from one place to another has serious repercussions (Department of State 2008)
The One Child Policy is probably the most common policy in China. The government, especially with regard to Tibet, has a restriction on the number of children an individual can have. The government has argued that denying these people the right to have more than one child is relevant in controlling the population growth.
Those that do not abide by this policy get fined and, in severe cases, the extra children are taken by the government. The international community has argued that this one child policy has led to an increase in forced abortions, sex selective abortions, female infanticide, and gender imbalance in the whole of China (Blanchard 2007).
All these contribute to the violation of Human Rights, according to the UN Human Rights Charter (United Nations News Centre 2013)
Socialism and the rule of law in China
The rule of law can be defined as the impact or the influence of the law in a given society. Every democratic state in the world has the rule of law. Going with this statement, it is true that China has no rule of law, due to the fact that it has no democracy. The rule of law entails good behaviour of all those who have political power. In a communist state like China, there is nobody to keep an eye on the behaviour of the government.
The rule of law also seeks to make everyone equal by ensuring that no one is above the law. Despite the fact that many presidents seem to be above the law, it is no hidden fact that the president is above the law in China. This gives the president so much power that he can do anything he desires without the restrictions of the law (Peerenboom 2002).
The Chinese law uses the Chinese Confucian tradition as its foundation. Some of the traditional aspects of the Chinese law have been reviewed due to the influence of other cultures, industrialization, and modernity.
Even though many countries and leaders disregard the rule of law, the Chinese government has been under the keen observation on its stand on the rule of law. This might be due to the fact that the country does not appreciate the Human Rights that are set out in the UN Human Rights Charter (Li 2000).
Over the years, the Chinese law has adapted both Confucianism and legalism, which make it more complex. Confucianism is the idea that everyone is good, thus everything that they do is good. However, this idea has several shortcomings. It can be argued that the Chinese realized these shortcomings and decided to combine Confucianism with legalism.
Legalism is the idea of having rules and laws that govern the behaviour of individuals. It also includes punishments for all the people who violate the rules. According to the Chinese political culture at the moment, the combination of the two ideas has led to a very powerful president.
The president is the one who makes the rules that govern the people. He is also the one who decides on the punishments for violating the rules that he made. The president is above the law because he is one who makes the laws and stipulates their corresponding punishments. This goes against the rule of law (Winter, Teo & Chang 2008).
In conclusion, socialism is mainly associated with China. This is why many of the characteristics of the state of China are perceived as the characteristics of a communist state. From the discussion, the People’s Republic of China does not encourage human rights.
The party also prohibits democracy and it does not have the rule of law. This means a communist state is one that does not have democracy, does not encourage human rights, and does not have the rule of law. Although many countries also violate human rights and the rule of law, the fact that China has refused to accept these two concepts is what makes it a communist state.
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