Talk:Chinese civilization/Archive 4

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For earlier material see Talk:China/old Talk: China (Archive 1)

If you want self-definition, use Marxist-Leninist. The trouble with self-definition is that there are a *lot* of self described Marxist-Leninists that would object to the PRC being called a Marxist-Leninist state.

The trouble with not being clear with definitions is that it prevents communications. For example, what the Chinese call socialism looks and smells to most Westerners as capitalism, but there is a very good reason why Chinese don't call it capitalism.

-- User:Roadrunner

I am sorry, Roadrunner, I am not sure what your point is here -- are you saying we ought to identify the PRC as a "Marxist-Leninist" state because that is how they define it, or that we shouldn't define it that way because many Marxist-Leninists would not call China a Marxist Leninist state?
In any event, I am not sure how your proposal (to call/not call it a Marxist Leninist state) fits into the current discussion on this page. JTDIRL want to identify it as a "communist state" but their reason is not self-definition, they are following other encyclopedias and the CIA factbook. I want to identify it as a socialist state, because this is how the constitution of the PRC defines the state (i.e. I support self-definition, but do not see where China defines itself as a "Marxist Leninist" state, they say "socialist") Slrubenstein

The fact that both of you insist on misinterpreting JTD's points is downright insulting. He is a competent academic and certainly aware of the information that you both are presenting to counter our position. You both are highly intelligent so I expect you to comprehend what I'm about to explain without further elaboration.

We are not arguing that China is a "communist" (lower-case "c") society in the Marxist sense, that is a state where the means of production are under common ownership. Whether or not China is a "socialist" society in Marxian terms, defined by state ownership of the means of production, is further irrelevant to this debate. In this context, the term "Communist state" (upper-case "C") strictly refers to the type of government in the same sense that "constitutional monarchy" describes the governments of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, that "federal republic" describes the government-types of the United States and Brazil, that "Islamic republic" describes the government-type of Iran, that "military government" describes the government of Myanmar, and finally that "absolute monarchy" would describe the government of Oman. The government is Communist, ruled by a Marxist-Leninist party.

Divergences between the development levels, levels of state ownership, and economic structures between the five Communist states of China, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, and North Korea or whether or not China is "capitalist" and has betrayed its Marxist-Leninist philosphy thus don't matter to this discussion (I personally think that they haven't and that they've finally found a workable model of socialism worth revisiting, but that doesn't matter either). The ruling Communist parties of these countries share roughly the same structure and share similarly intertwined state and party institutions and share roughly the same constitutional forms. They represent a common government-type based on the Leninist state and are bound by having to adapt to similar circumstances, that is (with the exception of Castro's Cuba which wasn't at first definitively Communist) supplanting or revamping existing state institutions to fit the mold of an underground revolutionary political party.

Furthermore, it is downright insulting and slanderous to accuse him of justifying his position just because he sees China described as "Communist" in "biased" periodicals and sourcebooks. He's merely pointing out that no political scientist would argue that China, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, and North Korea are not under Communist governments. That argument would be just as absurd as insisting that the page on Sweden not describe it as a "constitutional monarchy".



You are mistaken. As I have said, political scientists and others are moving away from designating the PRC as a "communist state," for the reasons (among others) I present.
Inter alia, I see I must repeat another point I make above: do not take things personally -- or, in this matter, present the conflict on this page as if it is about insulting JTDIRL personally. There is no insult, and nothing personal on my part, and it seems to me there is nothing personal, and no insult, on the part of others, although you continue to insist on taking things personally.
This is not "about" you or JTDIRL. Not all comments are about either of you. In fact, some of my comments were directed at Roadrunner. I did not take his comments to be directed specifically at you or JTDIRL or even me -- as with many talk pages, a Wikipedian was expressing a view s/he considered relevant or worth thinking about. Don't insist on reducing everything here to being about you or (in this specific instance) JTDIRL.
This is a Wikipedia. A huge number of people are working on producing a text that has no "author" and which does not belong to any one person. There is no room for personal investment in this project. The question is the text, that is all. I have not insulted anyone. I questioned a word in the article. I presented the reasons for my change, and my reasons for disagreeing with a revert. This is how things are done. Slrubenstein

Did you even bother reading what I wrote. These observations by the political scientists you brought up don't matter. We're not referring to a “communist” economy or a "communist" society. Do you understand the difference?

I have no idea what you are talking about. I am not discussing the Chinese economy or society (although some political scientists include these issues in classifying the nature of states). I am talking about the nature of the Chinese state. I call it "socialist" because that is how the Chinese constitution identifies the Chinese state. I am not doing it because of any marxist theory, I am doing it because of an official document that identifies the Chinese state as socialist.
By the way, it is in no way "insulting and slanderous to accuse him of justifying his position just because he sees China described as "Communist" in "biased" periodicals and sourcebooks." It is a fact that JTDIRL justifies his position at least in part by refering to other encyclopedias and the CIA factbook. And there is nothing wrong with questioning the bias of those documents -- that is a major task of any historian, and certainly relevant to an encyclopedia dedicated to NPOV. Slrubenstein

I was also right to question the nature of your explanations. You were both trying to explain that China is not even a communist economy in Marxist terms, which he wasn't arguing. 172

I’ve explained this concept to children who’ve had no problems understanding it. Do you have any basic understanding of the forms of government in Laos, China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam? Maybe you should read up on them on Wikipedia and then reread what JTD and I have written so that you could understand it.

The Chinese government nominally adheres to a Communist ideology, which dictates that the state is now in the position of building socialism, the intermediate stage between capitalism and communism. Their ideology is Communist, and they claim that their state is in the early stages of building a socialist society from which a communist one would evolve. Iran in a similar sense is a theocracy and is organized according to the principles of Shiite Islam. China is a Marxist-Leninist state run by the Communist Party and organized according to those principles.


The Chinese constitution defines itself as a socialist state. I have also checked through the most recent issues of Modern China which is the, or one of the premiere journals of China studies in the West (maybe along with Modern China Quarterly) and the scholars there refer to the Chinese state as socialist. I realize that when you lecture to children you can claim a position of authority that is seldom questioned. But when you converse with other scholars, people will question you all the time. You need to learn that it is possible for you to make a mistake every now and again. Slrubenstein

A suggestion: you both seem to be talking around each other and describing different things. In very simplified terms: 172 is describing China as Communist because of its structure of government; Slrub is defining it as socialist because that is how the country defines itself in its constitution. I am leaving out the CIA Factbook, Britannica Jr. and the issue on China of Humpty Dumpty Magazine that I read in my dentist's office. (Modern China is another thing entirely). Perhaps a compromise is possible. How about, China is a country in Asia ... that describes itself as socialist. It has been ruled by the Communist Party (organized as a Leninist state, whatever) since 19xx". That way, both sides in this argument are stating facts which seem to me, the disinterested observer, to be essentially correct when describing different aspects of China. Danny

The trouble with that is that I would argue that the structure of the Chinese government is radically different from that of Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, and North Korea. Unlike the other four, the Communist Party of China is subordinate to the state and does not have extra-legal powers and in at least one case I can think of this theoretical structure had a practical consequence. -- Roadrunner

Absolutely not. The government-type is a Communist state. That’s why the government claims that the party is in the early stages of building socialism, the intermediate between capitalism and communism. China’s government-type is Communist just as Norway is a constitutional monarchy. We don’t need to get into Marxist-Leninist ideology on the intro of the China page just as the Norway page doesn’t not elaborate on something like the divine rights of kings. I’m not making appeals to authority either; I’m just frustrated that someone can fail to recognize objective reality.

We don’t want to make the intro confusing by getting into political theory. Libya, for instance, also claims to be a socialist republic, but is not organized according to the Communist party/government structures as China, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, and North Korea and is not a Marxist-Leninist state.

Roadrunner brings up a good point, but he's also confusing the issue. We're dealing with the official forms. Yes, much like Stalin, Kim and his father have subverted the party’s official power with their dictatorship. In the same respect, both Kuwait and Spain are constitutional monarchies despite how differently things work out in practice. I know.

I think I didn't make my point clear. My belief is that the party-state structure and constitutional theory in China is sufficiently different from the other obvious examples of Communist states to make it highly misleading to lump China in with the others. The big difference is that since the early 1990's China has not formally subscribed to the doctrine of party supremacy over state structures and it does formally subscribe to the principle that the party is subordinate to the state and must obey the law. This has a number of implications that makes party-state relations in China less like the Soviet Union and more like Francoist Spain. --Roadrunner


172, I appreeciate your saying that you are not making an argument form authority, but I think I can now more clearly explain my difference with your (and JTD's) position -- not that I am certain I will convince you. You state that "someone can fail to recognize objective reality," and I think hee we come to the crux: I do not believe that it is "objective reality" that China is a "communist state." I believe that there is an objective reality that encompasses not only the structures that coordinate the access to and control over resources, and ideological claims, but yes, even political institutions. But I do not believe that there is an "objective" reality to how we label these structures, ideologies, and institutions. In fact, I believe that debates over how we (people in general, or scholars) label such things constitutes much of "theory." And to be more to the point, identifying different political arrangements as "democracies," "parliamentary democracies," "republics," "authoritarian," "communist" etc. are matters of -- at best -- convention. In other words, these words may refer to objectively real things, but are not in and of themselves "objectively real." To give them such ontological status is precisely what scholars call "reification."
You believe that it is objectively real that China is a communist state. Not only do I not believe that that is objective reality, I believe that that is an unavoidably subjective claim.
Sometimes most subjects agree to such claims and the terms are conventional and uncontroversial (as with calling the UK a Constitutional Monarchy or a Parliamentary Democracy.) But I do not believe this is the case with "Communist China." Not only does the Chinese constitution classify the state differently from you, many political scientists and political sociologists and historians do as well. Slrubenstein

If the US and China view the Chinese economy/government differently -- why not note that within the article? Shino Baku

Because it is not just a US versus China issue -- there are non-US citizens who call China a communist state, and there are also US government officials and scholars who do not. Slrubenstein

The point is that some people (mostly the Chinese government and allies) feel one way while some people (mostly the US government and allies) feel another way. Thus you shouldn't "define" China as such and such without entering a NPOV disclaimer that so and so feels differently. Shino Baku

The problem is that its not so clear cut. For example, take the description of China as a Marxist-Leninist state. There are supporters of the Chinese government who would agree with that statement, there are supporters of the Chinese government who would disagree with that statement. There are opponents that would agree. There are opponents who would disagree. The same goes true with just about any other statement, you will find people agreeing and disagreeing and the problem is that those agreements and disagreements don't often correspond to other political attributes. -- Roadrunner

FCOL Roadrunner, you keep missing the point, misunderstanding what its being said and misrepresenting it. We are talking about the categorisation of the system of government. That is all. There are a limited number of categories, into which each state worldwide is slotted. Stop going off on pointless tangents of the point at issue.

It , Sirub, is frankly irrelevant how the Chinese constitution described itself because constitutions regularly attach names to themselves (or sometimes no names) for internal political reasons. But internationally, wiki like all other encyclopædias and sourcebooks slots them in to a clearly defined list of categories that have general, widely understood meanings. Bunreacht na hÉireann nowhere describes Ireland as a republic. (That was debated in a review of the constitution recently and it was decided not to add in that word. It only exists in statute law passed long after the constitution was enacted, as a description not a name or definition.) Nowhere in Britain's unwritten constitution are the words "constitutional monarchy" featured. Nowhere in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act are the words constitutional monarchy" featured. In fact the word dominion is used, if I remember correctly. (Somewhere around my office I have a copy of the CACA but I can't lay my hand on it right now.) By your reading, wiki should not call Ireland a republic and we should not call Britain or Australia a constitutional monarchy. Yet all those terms are used on wiki and elsewhere, because that is what they are. Wiki like other sourcebooks slots a state into the relevant category irrespective of the technical name a constitution uses, if it uses one for political purposes that has not a clear and unambiguous international usage and comprehension.

A socialist state is meaningless and not used by political scientists as a definition of the state. It may define the politics of the state, but that is a different thing entirely. When political scientists, historians and academics define the type of state China is, they invariably say a Communist State, because that has a specific meaning, relating to the constitutional structures, the dominant political movement, the existence of a one party state and the blurring of the state and party into an intertwined single entity that has no comparison within liberal democracies.

And I object to the description of China as a communist state *precisely* because it implies things

about the Chinese constitutional structure that *simply are not true*. The Communist Party and State are not blurry. They are quite distinct closely related structures that in quite frequently come into conflict with each other (particularly at the sub-national level where the party and state often are at each others throats). It is true that the Communist Party is a one party state, but so was the PRI in the 1950's and no one ever called Mexico a Communist state.

Unlike the constitutional theory of the classic communist state, Chinese constitutional theory since the early 1990's makes it clear that the party is private organization which is subordinate to the state and that the party has no extra-legal powers. The state can even order the Communist Party not to operate in certain areas of the country, as it has done in the case of Hong Kong.
You can list the characteristics of the classic communist state, but I'm pretty sure that almost none of them would apply in China-2003.

-- Roadrunner

Sweden during its long period of left wing government was sometimes called a socialist state, not in terms of its constitutional structures (which were of a constitutional monarchy with a liberal pluralist democracy) but it terms of its politics. Others called it a social democracy. But those terms did not refer to its governmental and constitutional identity. That remained a constitutional monarchy.

China's constitutional identity is unambiguously a Commmunist State (note the capitals).

No it is not. The constitutional structures of China are not peculiarly Communistic.

Within the article the issue of what the politics of the state are could be debated. But its category is 100% unambiguous. It is, as the world's encyclopædias, as political scientists the world over state when talking of its governmental identity, as the UN records, a Communist State. Anything else is factually incorrect and is unambiguously POV in trying to recategorise the state in a manner different to elseone else's.

There is no such internationally recognised category as a Socialist State. There is no such internationally recognised category as Marxist-Leninist State. There may be socialist political movements, marxist-leninist political movements, but they refer to politics, not state categorisation. States that use such definitions in their constitutions do so for declaratory purposes, but their categorisation is not used in reference books when describing a state. This is like the bad days of Daeron all over again, with people trying to make up categories that don't exist and accusing people putting in the internationally recognised category of being POV. ÉÍREman 22:41 Apr 23, 2003 (UTC)

First of all it isn't "China", it is the "People's Republic of China." "China" is a geographic and cultural entity that is millennia old - the PRC is a nation that is less than 100 years old. This article should be split (consensus on this issue is in the archive and the mailing list). Second; "communism" is both a loaded and ambiguous term. For Marxists it is the final stage (or goal if you like) of socialism in which all the means of production are owned and operated by the people and there is no longer any concept of individual ownership. But this term has been subverted by certain authoritarian socialistic nations to mean a socialistic dictatorship by a single party (totalitarian socialism). But under the Marxist definition there has never been a communist state and possibly there never will be due to their strict definition. We also very commonly call certain nations "communist" just as we call other nations "republics". At one time this was a very negative slur in the west but since the fall of the USSR this isn't really the case anymore. So what is a Wikipedian to do? I personally like Danny's idea for a compromise in which we state what I consider to be undisputed facts - that the PRC is a socialistic (purposely an adjective) state which is described as being a communistic (must also be an adjective) state. We can then go on to describe the specific differences between the PRC and other "communistic" states that Roadrunner pointed out. But this should be under the "Government" section of this article. PS the tone of several comments above is not in line with WikiLove - I suggest that those people who have taken an aggressive tone to reflect on the fact that we are all here because we want to learn and share what we know. Being combative and rude will only drive away other people who have these goals and they will be replaced by trolls and vandals. --mav

Mav, Communist State (note the capitals) is long used political science definition to describe a system of government, akin to other terms like Constitutional Monarchy, Popular Monarchy, Republic. Federal Republic. Confederation, etc (note all capitalised because they are state definitions). communism (small 'c') is a different thing, with a different meaning, alongside terms like authoritiarian, etc etc which can have a POV meaning. That is a description of the political culture of a state. But we are talking about a definition of the constitutional system and PROC has been called a Communist State in encylopædias for generations.

And most of these descriptions fail to take into account the constitutional changes that have occurred in the PRC in the 1990's. Since the early 1990's, it has been established that the state overrules the party, and as part of some constitutional changes which were formalized in 1998, the party no longer has any special role in the economy. -- Roadrunner
It is the standard definitionary term for the structure of the state, that highlights the nature of the regime, the existence of a single party political system where the party (calling itself 'Communist') and the institutions of the state are so intertwined they are like siamese twins, with the party owning the state, the state owning the party.
And this is *not* the case in China. The Party and state are two distinct entities which have a complicated relationship that is sometimes in direct conflict. Roadrunner

When Gorbachev moved the old Soviet Union in its last days away from that intertwining and allowed the appearance of different political system dominated but not owned by the CP, then the old Soviet Union ceased to be a standard Communist State. If and when that happens to the PROC, then a new definition of the state will have to be used. But as of now, the PROC meets all the characteristics of a Communist State. Other encyclopædias wouldn't see this as even a point of dispute, given that it is the standard definition used and has been for decades. ÉÍREman 22:53 Apr 23, 2003 (UTC)

Mav and Shino Baku: please read the dialog on this talk page before drawing your conclusions. The identification of China as a Communist state (note the upper-case "C") does not require a debate about political theory, contemporary Chinese political economy, or Chinese history. This is merely the classification of the structure of the Chinese government.

I'd lose my mind if I had to explain this most basic of concepts once again. So please just read one of the many explanations by JTD or myself on this talk page. 172

Disambiguation based on first capital is a very poor method - it is best to use the adjective "communistic" instead. I don't think that there is any dispute that the PRC government is communistic. "Communism" (note the captial becasue it is at the start of a sentence) is an ambiguous noun. --mav

Mav. It is a definition, not an adjective!!!
No - there are two different definitions for the same term. This is ambiguous - just like "football". --mav

Disambiguation based on first capital is a very poor method Shino Baku

It is like groundhog day here. The facts regarding definitions are explained. Then people misunderstand or misrepresent them, go off on irrelevant tangents, so the facts are explained again, people come back, misunderstand them, misrepresent them, go off on tangents so the facts are explained again, people come back misrepresent them . . . . oh God, will someone please wake me up from this nightmare!!! ÉÍREman 23:21 Apr 23, 2003 (UTC) (Monty Python should make a film of this page. It is surreal enough!)

As we have said, political scientists and others are moving away from designating the PRC as a "communist state," for the reasons (among others) I present, most notably that point by mav:

  • "Communism" is both a loaded and ambiguous term.

Shino Baku