By Danny Haiphong and Carlos Martinez
China is led by a communist party, with Marxism as its guiding ideology. In the period since the foundation of the PRC in 1949, the Chinese people have experienced an unprecedented and extraordinary improvement in their living standards and level of human development. The social and economic position of women has improved beyond recognition, along with the rights and conditions of ethnic and religious minorities. In spite of all this, support for China within much of the Western left is a somewhat marginal position.
This article, written to coincide with the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC), provides a brief overview of why we believe anyone considering themselves to be a socialist should support the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Poverty alleviation and improvement in living standards
In its 72 years of existence, the People’s Republic of China has accomplished more in the realm of poverty alleviation than any nation in history. China in 1949 was one of the poorest countries in the world, with a life expectancy of 36 years (9 years lower than the global average). Its GDP constituted 0.3 percent of global GDP. Malnutrition, illiteracy and homelessness were rife; millions died every year for lack of food. Population numbers had remained static between 400 and 500 million for a hundred years.
During the first three decades of socialist construction, feudalism was eliminated, comprehensive land reform carried out, and basic medical services were set up throughout the country. However, although the basic problem of feeding the population was solved – and famines had become a thing of the past – hundreds of millions of people in the countryside still endured harsh conditions.
Since the launch of reform and opening up in 1978, the number of people in China living in internationally-defined absolute poverty has fallen from 850 million to zero. And although market reforms have resulted in high levels of inequality, the inverse correlation between wealth and poverty has been broken – life for ordinary workers and peasants has continuously improved, at a remarkable rate and over an extended period.
China’s average life expectancy is now 77 years (4 years higher than the global average) and its per capita GDP over 10,000 USD. Its GDP constitutes 18 percent of global GDP. The entire population (of 1.4 billion) has secure access to food, shelter, clothing, education and healthcare. By any measure, this progress is extraordinary and historically unprecedented. Anyone considering themselves socialist should appreciate the far-reaching significance of these steps forward in wiping out poverty and improving the living standards of the Chinese people.
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