Comrades at NPR Get Communism Wrong

Comrades at NPR Get Communism Wrong

NPR aired a story this morning about outrageous inequalities within the Chinese Communist Party that make the complaints of the Occupy movement look quaint by comparison. Louisa Lim reported for Morning Edition:

[T]he National People’s Congress, or NPC, includes some of China’s richest people…

Rupert Hoogewerf, publisher of the Hurun list of the 1,000 richest Chinese, says a recent report by his group showed that the top 70 NPC delegates are probably richer than the entire U.S. Congress. This, he says, is “rather ironic considering China is a developing country and the U.S. is the most developed country in the world.”

In fact, the wealthiest 70 delegates are worth $89 billion. According to Bloomberg News, that’s 11 times the net worth of the entire U.S. Congress, plus the U.S. president, his Cabinet and justices of the Supreme Court.

Lim and the analysts she interviewed attribute the growing ostentatiousness of the Communist Party to “the decision 10 years ago by Communist Party Secretary-general Jiang Zemin to allow capitalists into the party.” 

What Lim downplayed, however, is that in China the “capitalists” are often communist apparatchiks to begin with. Even in today’s China, it is very difficult to become wealthy independent of government contracts, government connections, and government protection.

What China is witnessing is what all communist systems–including pre-Deng Xiaoping China–have experienced: that political power becomes the only route to success, and those with political power enrich themselves at the expense of the people.

The difference with China is that rapid economic growth–driven by limited market reforms and aggressive foreign trade–has created more opportunities for the political class to exploit.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty quite independently of the Communist Party, but the super-rich remain the product of what is euphemistically called state-driven capitalism, and what in practice is actually crony communism.

The comrades at NPR–never too eager to remind listeners of the obvious flaws of state-run economies–seem inclined to regard the ostentatious wealth of China’s communist leaders as a moral flaw, a sign of capitalism’s corrupting influence. In fact, grotesque inequality is an inevitable result of communism itself.