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.

  • 2
    Please list which tenets where China is blatantly doing the opposite.
    – agc
    Oct 26 '17 at 22:45
  • Yeah I'd say most educated Chinese, e.g. above high school level would agree. Oct 26 '17 at 23:00
  • 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
    Oct 27 '17 at 8:37
  • 8
    Aren't 2, 3 and 4 in clear contradition with 1 ?!?
    – Bregalad
    Oct 27 '17 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? Oct 29 '17 at 2:16
  • 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.

  • 9
    "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. Oct 27 '17 at 0:21
  • 6
    @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
    Oct 27 '17 at 2:52
  • 5
    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
    Oct 27 '17 at 4:05
  • 8
    @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
    Oct 27 '17 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
    Oct 29 '17 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.)


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...


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.

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