It shouldn't surprise anyone that an article for school children published by The New York Times is biased against communism and for capitalism. But that doesn't mean we can't expose such bias and try to find ways to counter it in
The article in question is called "10 Things You Need To Know About
by Patricia Smith and it is published in a school-oriented teen magazine called
It is typical of the kind of biased slant would have come to expect from The New York Times and other mainstream publications.
Near the front of Smith's article we see this statement:
has been a Communist country since 1949, when Mao Zedong's Communist forces won
a civil war and founded the Peoples Republic of . By the time Mao died in
1976, China 's economy was in ruins. His
successor, Deng Xiaoping, introduced free-market reforms in 1978 that allowed
private business and foreign investment—and led to three decades of explosive
First off, there is no explanation as to why this new government chose to embrace communism, in 1949. Communism is simply portrayed as "authoritarian," "strict limits on people's rights" and Smith mentions there are 500,000 political prisoners in
China. There is
no mention at all of attempts to end poverty, the goal of a classless society,
the push to feed, educate and provide healthcare to a population that had
little or non of these things before the revolution. There is no background to
explain the difficulties of reforming a feudal society where peasants and poor
people were treated as little more than slaves.
Smith outright lied that the Chinese economy under Mao "was in ruins." As reported in the newspaper Revolution (or Revolutionary Worker):
" You've been lied to. In reality,
industrial economy under Mao grew impressively--at an average rate of 10 percent
per year, even during the Cultural Revolution. China China,
the former "sick man of Asia,"
transformed itself into a major industrial power in the quarter century between
1949 and 1976--a rate of development comparable only to the greatest surges of
growth in history. And
it achieved this without relying on exploitation or foreign assistance, and in
the face of a hostile international environment."
While this newspaper is pro-Maoist, there are other sources and some are listed in this article. There were some ups and downs to
economy, but over all, the economy worked. If it had not, how would the nation
have survived from 1949 through 1977? That is about 30 years and no country
could last that long with a ruined economy.
Again in Smith's article:
"Thirty years ago,
was a poor country. The
streets were full of bicycles because almost no one could afford a car. People
needed ration coupons to buy cooking oil or clothes. Today, China 's booming
cities are clogged with traffic. The country boasts more than 400 billionaires
and 9 of the world's tallest buildings." China
may have been a relatively poor country under Mao, it had a maintenance
economy. It functioned and met the needs of the people. Most people had
bicycles and few people had cars. What Deng did was to open up the country to
foreign investment to create a consumer
culture. That meant that there would be more consumer goods, such as all
the technological toys people in this country have come to believe they are
entitle to. But there was no effort to make sure that ALL the people take part
in this culture. There is still a lot of poverty in China and attempts to improve the situation
had not gotten better under Deng. He had done what capitalist-consumer
economies always do—They create a large enough middle class that they can
ignore those left out who live in poverty.
For example, while most people had bicycles during the Maoist years, lots of people in
don't own cars today.
According to The World Post:
is the biggest car market in the world by number of vehicles sold. But it still
lags far behind developed markets in terms of the ratio of cars to people. In
2010 in China China, only 31 per
1,000 people owned a car, compared with 424 per 1,000 people in the ,
said IHS analyst Namrita Chow." United States
So many people are left out of
China's free-market. At the same
time the number of cars in China
has led to severe problems of pollution. If most people had cars in China
it is hard to imagine that their environment would be livable. The World Post:
"While burning of coal for power plants is a major source of air pollution across China, vehicle emissions are the single biggest source of PM2.5 – a secondary pollutant that forms in the air and is tiny enough to enter deep into the lungs – in Beijing, according to the capital's former vice mayor, Hong Feng."
Smith gives us a report of glowing praise by the Chinese for the "reforms" of the last 30 years:
"Most Chinese have applauded the economic reforms: 76 percent say they're better off under a free-market economy, according to a recent Pew poll."
After 30 years we can assume most of the people, especially the youth, have no memory of living in the Mao years. So what where they asked to compare to the so called "free-market" reforms? We know little about this poll and in this context it seems misleading.
Another miss-leading statement Smith gives:
"The conventional wisdom has long been that people earning middle-class wages and participating in a free-market economy will demand and eventually get political freedoms."
What does she mean by "conventional wisdom?" Who believes this and where does it come from?
For years US pundits were predicting that a well developed (consumer oriented) economy in
Korea would encourage western style
democracy. From the end of the Korean War, in 1953, to the late 1980s or early
1990s South Korea
was a dictatorship. So why does a successful and "free-market"
economy lead to democracy and freedom? Actually it doesn't.
From 1973 to 1990
Chile was led by a military
government. Free-marketeer Augusto Pinochet had overthrown the Marxist
president Salvador Allende. Pinochet ended democracy and almost all civil liberties.
Allende respected his country's elections and civil liberties. There are many
examples of authoritarian free-market governments in the world, both past and
pundits and journalists harp about human rights abuses in countries like China, they overlook the many undemocratic
trends in the US
in recent years. Right-wing political leaders have expanded the rights of
businesses and curtailed the rights of common citizens.
Why does the
have the highest percentage of its people
in prison? Why are the rights of union workers being rolled back and the
rights of unions
to take part in politics being suppressed? Why are Republicans successfully
able to cut
back on some people's voting rights? And how democratic is a system that
to buy politicians and elections —leaving most voters out of the actual
process of selecting candidates?
In other words maybe this country could use some democratic reforms of its own.
The real issue now is how to provide students in middle and high schools with alternative views on history and foreign affairs. Most students will never be exposed to anything other than pro-western, pro-capitalist, pro-US propaganda. By the time they graduate they will have no exposure to Marxist views of any kind. They are raised to believe they live in a country were there is "a Market place of ideas." They have been given a pro-western education telling them that all beliefs that conflict with the system of capitalism, that they have been raised in, is the best and that is presented as "fact."
In education we have a great challenge today to find ways to reach school children with exposure to ideas they have been told can't work.
For those of us who want to challenge the system, countering
propaganda in the form of "education" is one of our most difficult
 See S. Ishikawa, "
China's Economic Growth Since 1949," China
Quarterly, June 1983, Table 1; Raymond Lotta, "The Theory and Practice
of Maoist Planning," in Raymond Lotta, ed., Maoist Economics and the Revolutionary Road
to Communism (New York:
Banner, 1994); Carl Riskin, "Judging Economic Development: The Case of ," Economic and Political Weekly,
8 October 1977. China