Having read Karl Marx, and seeing the 10 tenets of Communism, I find it hard to consider China as a Communist country.

Just trying to stick to the 10 tenets.

  1. Abolition of private property, everything is public.
  2. Progressive Tax.
  3. Abolition of rights inheritance.
  4. Confiscation of property of all emigrants and rebels.
  5. Centralization of all credit in the hands of the state.
  6. Communication and Transportation in the hands of the state.
  7. Factories and instruments of production owned by the state.
  8. Equal obligation of all to work.
  9. Abolition between distinction of town and country by equable distribution of population over land.
  10. Abolition of child labor; child rights to education; education combined with industrial production.

I mean as I go down the list I only see China doing a few of these things, and blatantly doing the opposite in other ways.

I know that these tenets aren't the end all be all of communism - but should be considered nonetheless.

  • 3
    Please list which tenets where China is blatantly doing the opposite.
    – agc
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 22:45
  • 3
    Those tenets are actually from Marxism and they do not intend to define Communism. The idea was to build a bridge from Capitalism to Communism. Communism itself is a form of anarchism (stateless) and historically there was a big divide between those two points of view (Marxism and Anarchism).
    – armatita
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 8:37
  • 15
    Aren't 2, 3 and 4 in clear contradition with 1 ?!?
    – Bregalad
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 10:08
  • 1
    The title is about China being Communist, but the body of the question is about China being communist. Which one do you mean? Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 2:16
  • 3
    They call themselves "Socialist with Chinese characteristic" now, when you need that long a phrase to state your position you can probably guess what are they upto.
    – Faito Dayo
    Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 2:05

8 Answers 8

  • First of all, for clarity, China never claimed to be communist.

    I have reviewed the full text of Chinese Constitution (both the China's Constitution of 1982 with Amendments through 2004, as well as 2017 changes published by Xinhua).

    It does not mention China being a Communist country anywhere. As a matter of fact, the only time the word "communis(m|t)" appears outside of the name of "Communist Party of China" is:

    Article 24
    The state advocates the civic virtues of love for the motherland, for the people, for labor, for science and for socialism; it educates the people in patriotism, collectivism, internationalism and communism ...

    Here we merely see advocacy for communism.

    On the other hand, Chinese system is described formally as Socialist (NOT Communist); and merely based on Marxist ideas:

    Article 1
    The People's Republic of China is a socialist state under the people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants.
    The socialist system is the basic system of the People's Republic of China.

    As such, the answer to the title of your question is a resounding "NO"

  • To reinforce that, let's review the main point of communism, as expressed in the same chapter of Communist Manifesto as 10 tenets:

    In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

    This is patently false for China, as we see in its Constitution:

    Article 13
    Citizens' lawful private property is inviolable.
    The State, in accordance with law, protects the rights of citizens to private property and to its inheritance.

  • Second, I don't think you (nor, really, many Marxists - and, ironically, many anti-Marxists, based on what I see in Google) correctly understand what the so-called "10 tenets" are.

    They are NOT, as is often claimed, a property of Communist society.

    Instead, they are possible steps that are needed in order to transition to one.

    This is clearly seen if read in context of preceding paragraphs of Communist Manifesto:

    The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

    Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

    These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.

    Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable. (... list "10 tenets")

    Note also that, realistically speaking, this doesn't even apply to China, as China was not transitioning to Socialism/Communism as an advanced country as per Marx's understanding; and now that it is advanced, it's already Socialist and doesn't require this violent transition as per Marx.

  • However, just for completeness, let's investigate how the 10 tenets apply to China:

    1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

      This is somewhat complicated in China, but largely TRUE.

      Wikipedia has a summary, but in short, all urban land is owned by the state and all rural land by either the state or the collectives.

      You may not buy land, but you may only have "Usufructuary rights" to it.

    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

      According to this nifty income tax table by KPMG, TRUE

      Highest bracket is 45% for incomes in excess of 80,000 RMB (about $11,600 USD):

      enter image description here

    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.


      The right to inherit property is established in 1985 "Law of Succession of the People's Republic of China"

      Article 1
      This Law is enacted pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China with a view to protecting the right of citizens to inherit private property.

      Detailed analysis in 1988 article "Inheritance Law of the People's Republic of China" by Anna M. Han of Santa Clara University School of Law

    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

      • TRUE before 1954 and somewhat true before 1977

      • Largely FALSE since 1977 "Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission"

      Both periods were covered in detail in 2007 "Citizenship and Those Who Leave: The Politics of Emigration and Expatriation" edited by Nancy L. Green and Francois Weil, in the chapter "Overseas Chinese"

      The confiscation in early years was covered briefly in "Broken Promises: The Status of Expropriated Property in the People's Republic of China" published in Asian American Law Journal by Elaine Sit in January 1996, especially land ownership.

    5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

      TRUE initially.

      FALSE as of 2014

      As per Financial Times in Dec 2016:

      China’s banking regulator has revealed data for the first time on a group of five privately owned banks that Beijing approved in 2014 as part of a closely watched pilot programme. The group includes WeBank, backed by social media group Tencent Holdings, and MYBank, controlled by Ant Financial, the financial affiliate of ecommerce giant Alibaba Group.

      As a group, the five pilot banks had total assets of Rmb133bn ($19bn) by the end of September and profits of Rmb572m in the first three quarters of 2016, the regulator disclosed. That compares with Rmb217tn in banking assets for Chinese banks overall. If the group was a single institution, it would rank 18th among Chinese lenders by assets. 

    The pilot went successfully enough that China approved more in 2016:

    BEIJING - China's banking regulator on Tuesday gave approval to five new private banks, bringing the total number of private lenders to 16.

    1. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

      Communication: as of 2017, TRUE for voice calls but FALSE for broadband communications.

      Transport: Largely TRUE for rail till 2000, but becoming less true since then.

    2. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

      OK, I didn't bother checking that one, partly because I'm not sure what the first part means. The last part (improvement of the soil) is only partly true, as there's private land use in both agriculture and industry - while land isn't owned, its use and improvement is not always as per common plan.

    3. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

      Unlike USSR which had a formal "parasitism" law, I have not been able to find one for China (though that may be a limitation of my knowledge than lack of such law).

      I obtained a confirmation of this via this Law.SE Q&A; where the user answered with examples of "uneployment" payments in law, strongly implying that being unemployed is legal in PRC.

    4. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.

      It's complicated. The answer to this would at best be a whole SE answer in itself, or a whole book at worst. Basically, the theory is that - at least under current leadership of Chairman Xi, the drive is to develop both; in practice there was a large migration from rural to industrial areas last 20 years.

    5. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.

      TRUE on free education. TRUE on child labor, at least on paper; but looks like often FALSE in reality.

DISCLAIMER: This answer is from 2017. Chinese society, laws and governance have been undergoing steady but at times important changes under the leadership of Winnie The Pooh Chairman Xi Jinping, and as such, the answer may not reflect the up-to-date reality in China as I haven't been keeping up on all those changes.

  • 14
    "does not mention China being a Communist country anywhere" is a straw man at best and revisionism at worst. The PRC was brought about by the Communist Party of China, and it was communist for all practical intents until China began to reform from within in the 1980s. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 0:21
  • 10
    @DenisdeBernardy - the name of the party is "communist". The structure of the country was (and technically speaking, still is) "socialist". They are two different things.
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 2:52
  • 6
    Re "...now that it is advanced, it's already Socialist...", there seems to be a rather ironic humor in the fact that China started out backwards and Communist (or nearly so), and sheds aspects of Communism/Socialism as it advances. In another few decades, it may become a total free market capitalist economy, though still politically controlled by the Communist-in-name-only Party.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 4:05
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    @DenisdeBernardy "...and it was communist for all practical intents" This isn't true. And neither is the implication made at revisionism. For example the Wikipedia article for Communist Society is both informative and well sourced. I understand that the cold war still has a big influence in the world but if we keep dismissing words like this we will end up loosing important philosophy. The PRC is as much communist as the DPRK is democratic.
    – armatita
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 8:52
  • 3
    Great answer (and, I would note, very objective and on-point). Just one question. Didn’t Mao (who, I believe, created the Communist Party) make many, many statements about the supposed benefits of Communism, how it was being brought to China, and so forth? Or are you saying more that the current Chinese government would not claim to practice Communism?
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 22:39

In politics textbooks, at least in current versions that I can remember of, @user4012 is correct. Communism is a goal, not a means in the books. Since Marx himself never finished his third volume in his lifetime, the means of transition was left to later people from Lenin, Mao, all the way to now.

And it is said that the trial and error is still in progress, claiming that trial and error, analyzing specific problems and coming to results in the specific sense (contrary to general), as the spirit of Marxism. This is backed by Marx's analysis of German of his time and coming to the conclusion of possibility of something like the Russian revolution, despite not being completely adherent to the fuedalism->capitalism->socialism->communism rule.

(PS. The current social atmosphere nowadays is to limit the greedy capitalists again here.)


No, modern China is not communist. As I explained in a previous post, "pre-1980s China was socialist/lower-stage communist. Karl Marx believed that one method for true communism is socialism or the lower stage of communism to achieve the final stage of communism. In his work Critique of the Gotha Program, Karl Marx mentions the dictatorship of the proletariat, a form of the state where members of the working class take control of the state and nationalize the means of production in order to make everything publicly owned and improve the standing of the current community." Now, China is state capitalist because it allows for private ownership of property while the government controls some property and resources while businesses retain their autonomy and have lots of power under a market economy. Modern China also allows for inheritance, which is a big no-no in socialism (the lower stage of communism) and the final stage of communism, which should be a stateless society without inheritance of property.


Somebody who grew up within a western-style liberal democracy might see Communism and Capitalism as two opposing systems - the impression particularly enforced by the Cold War. However, from the Marxist viewpoint these are two different stages of the social development (which roughly proceeds from Primitive Communism to Slavery, to Feudalism, to Capitalism, then Socialism and only then the Communism.)

Marxist stages
Classical Marxism predicts that the society moves to the next stage (through a violent revolution) only when its previous stage has fully developed and achieved its crisis. Ironically, Communism has never taken root in the developed Capitalist societies, producing revolutions mostly in countries with very little proletariat and usually significant agricultural sector (notably USSR and China.) This posed a theoretical problem for Marxist, which has been traditionally dealt with in two ways:

  1. revising Marxism, as to fit the conditions of the country in question
  2. trying to accelerate the passage through various stages under the guidance of the Communist party

Maoism was distinctly the first type of the approach, as it relied on the small peasant landowners (which are somewhat close to small bourgeosie according to Marx, and as such reactionary vis-à-vis Communism.) Thus, one could argue that modern "capitalism" in China is the response to the failure of Maosim to produce quick transition to communism, and adoption of the second type of approach - trying to rush Chinese through various successive stages (and sub-stages) of the Marxist theory. In this sense the answer to the OP title would be:

Is China really Communist?

China is not Communist yet.

Non-antagonist classes
Furthermore, although China has never undergone a total nationalization (as it was done in the USSR), the problem of co-existence of capitalist and community forms of production, and the co-existence of the various classes (bourgeosie, small landowners, proletariat, lumpenproletariat, intelligensia) was addressed already in Mao's writings. The important claim in this respect is that class co-existence in a communist-rule China is non-antagonist - that is the classes are not fighting each other, but rather developing together towards eventual transition to the communism (this is opposed to the view that the country has to be forcefully pushed through successive revolutions, as was tried during the great leap forward, Hundred flowers campaign, and the cultural revolution.)

Democratic centralism
Finally, China still can claim to having political system built along the Communist lines, and presenting an alternative to western-style Liberal Democracy - that of Democratic centralism. Here the experts trained in social theory (i.e., members of the communist party) are free to discuss matters, but once the correct position has been decided by voting, everyone must accept it as the ultimate truth and move on.

Remark: it is necessary to keep in mind that the Communist Manifesto is not a summary of a mature creed, but rather a teaser. The Manifesto was published in 1848, written by young Marx (30 y.o.) and young Engels (28 y.o.) on the assignment by the Communist League (not to be confused with the Communist International, created much later). Thus, the Manifesto is the first presentation of the theory, which would be put to test a few months later in 1848 European revolutions, and seriously developed only in the following decades.

  • 1
    China is not Communist yet. And I'm sure the USSR will reach true Communism within the next handful of 5-year plans... China's is never going to be communist. They're too smart to go down Venezuela's path of hammering away over and over with failed stuck-in-the-19th-century economics that caused the country with the world's largest oil reserves to plunge literally 3/4 of its population into abject poverty. Or is that "not true Communism" also? Why do the purveyors of left-wing collectivist economics always need excuses?
    – Just Me
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 11:58
  • 2
    @JustMe I simply presented how it looks from the point of view of the communist philosophy (more precisely Marxism). It is just an informed opinion - I am not a communist. As for what the American left-wing wants - they usually have no idea what they are talking about.
    – Morisco
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 12:45
  • @JustMe If you are interested in my critique of Marxism, see this answer in philosophy community.
    – Morisco
    Commented Jul 4, 2023 at 11:39

Although the communist society was never realized (and arguably, neither a true socialist society), the distinction between communist and socialist dates back to the 3rd international; from there, marxist-leninist became the communists (including Mao); social-democrats became the other group who proposed a more evolutionary via to socialism than the socialist revolution (advocated by the communist).

After Stalin death, Mao thought he was to be considered the international leader of the communist international, but Nikita Krushchev disputed that leadership.The rupture between china and the USSR followed. Thus, the structure of the China society and government under CCP (i.e., under Mao and before the reform) was definitely communist (as per above considerations). But after the reform, China transformed into the socialist-oriented market economy of today; thus, it is not communist.


This answer is mostly from a related post on LawSE

Re Marx's 8th tenet: Equal obligation of all to work.

I cannot find any such requirement in either the Criminal Law or the Labour Law, but I see that the latter makes two references to providing state benefits to the "unemployed":

Article 70

The State shall develop social insurance undertakings, establish a social insurance system, and set up social insurance funds so that laborers may receive assistance and compensations under such circumstances as old age, illness, work-related injury, unemployment and child-bearing.


Article 73

Laborers shall, in accordance with the law, enjoy social insurance benefits under the following circumstances:


  • (4) unemployment ...


The Labour Law also includes this, which coupled with the provision of state benefits for the unemployed, seems to suggest that the PRC do not have such an obligation (officially anyway):

Article 5

The State shall take various measures to promote employment...


I think that it's Important to emphasize that there are many different forms of communism, and that not all countries were able (or even found it desirable) to use the same model.

Marxism, on which communism is considered to be based, operates on a basic fundamental principal that the society transitioning to communism has a industrial base in which the producing classes were being exploited by the non-producing classes.

China was primarily an agricultural nation in which the producing classes were farmers rather than industrial laborers, and in where the exploitation was by a non-producing landlord class, not a non-producing management class.

Therefore Marxist based communism could not be achieved because the foundations were not in place, and were not desirable to be put in place because they aimed at resolving problems that China did not yet have while not addressing the issues that it did have.

To address each of your issues directly:

  1. Abolition of private property, everything is public.

This was the original aim, but China saw that this policy was failing in Russia and was producing inefficiencies, while it also failed to address the aspirations of China's landless rural population (Which provided the mainstay of Mao's early supporters).

China moved farmland and industrial property into public ownership, but maintained a quasi-private system in which land was allocated to people rather than collectives, as this provided a greater level of motivation and cultivated a sense of ownership.

In recent years China has moved away from this, and has allowed increasing private ownership, including corporate ownership of farm land.

  1. Progressive Tax.

I am not qualified to address this issue.

  1. Abolition of rights inheritance

China allowed the inheritance of property and wealth, and the transfer of the right to land, though the land remained in public ownership if it was agricultural and only permission to farm was transferred. This provided people with greater motivation to be productive

  1. Confiscation of property of all emigrants and rebels.

This is too long to answer here

  1. Centralization of all credit in the hands of the state.

China has state owned banks, private banks have recently been introduced based on the reforms of Deng in the late 1980s due to the state owned systems becoming stagnant and inefficient. Though the state maintains a controlling share in many institutions that is great enough for governments such as Washington to consider them state owned.

  1. Communication and Transportation in the hands of the state.

See 5

  1. Factories and instruments of production owned by the state.

See 5

  1. Equal obligation of all to work

To the extent that is possible, yes.

  1. Abolition between distinction of town and country by equable distribution of population over land.

This was attempted but failed, and was later moved away from once the populations of cities became substantially more productive.

  1. Abolition of child labor; child rights to education; education combined with industrial production.

This was, and still is, being attempted.

To summarize, China attempted to follow the principals of Marxism but with the emphasis on the rights of landless rural laborers rather than uneducated industrial laborers.

It attempted to redistribute land, property and wealth to the above population, but found that rural laborers made poor industrial laborers, and vice-versa. Causing a drop in agricultural and industrial production that lead to recession and famine.

These policies were abandoned or adapted under Deng during the 1980s, and the position of the state was changed form being an owner to a stakeholder, but not to the extent that China is considered to be a free market economy by the US.

While this cannot be considered to be pure Communism based on the principles of Marx, it can be considered to be Communism with Chinese characteristics because it fulfils (or at least is intended to fulfil) many of the aims of Marxism, but not necessarily in the ways envisioned by Marx. To quote Deng "It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice".



It doesn't matter what China claims or doesn't claim. PRC (the People's Republic of China) is ruled by the Communist Party. That and that alone makes it a Communist country.

All Communist countries (aka "the Soviet Block") referred to their social order as "socialist."

But in the Western use of the word, as long as the leaders of the country would answer "yes" to the question "are we Communists?" the country they is Communist.

Communist party's ideology developed over a long period of time and had a few branches. So trying to nuance this, by asking, "what type of Communist country?" could easily make general descriptions impossible.

The clearest to see which country is, or isn't, Communist is to see if the party in Charge of it calls itself "The Communist Party." And the article "the" is there because in the Communist dogma, regardless of which branch of the Communist ideology the party follows, there is only one Communist Party.

  • 1
    1. There's very clear disctinctions between communist and socialist country. Formal ones. 2. There are literally NO communist countries in the world, and there pretty much never were (maybe parts of Spain for a short period?). You saying "the country is communist" is just your personal opinion, not a political/economic/legal analysis
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 16:01
  • @user4012 re (1): yes, but that is a self-attributed distinction. What the countries call themselves and what they are called by the outsiders does not have to match. re (2): you did notice that I used a capital-C "Communist," did you not? That's because the "Communist Party" is a proper noun. And "Communist" countries are, as I described, the countries ruled by that entity which goes by that name. It's not my opinion. It's a nominal designation rather than an analytical one.
    – wrod
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 17:51
  • So basically, you made up a new, absolutely useless definition of a upper-C "Communist" country which has zero impact, usefulness, or informativeness, that LITERALLY just means "self-naming by a ruling party". Which is... why bother with that? And what does it have to do with the question, since the question was about lower-c "communist" definition that has nothing to do with yours?
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 4, 2023 at 22:51
  • @user4012 a Communist country, in the Marxist sense, is a complete oxymoron. Marx's Communism, as the end state of civilization, implies no nations. And I didn't make anything up. This is what the words "Communist country" mean. Even if they not understood to mean that. It's just how they are used. Socialist countries are only called "Communist" if ruled by the communist party and North Korea, which is a straight up Monarchy at this point, is called a "Communist country" because it's ruled by the Communist Party. Communist Party is the only unifying characteristic.
    – wrod
    Commented Jul 5, 2023 at 19:06

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