China economics

China: Past, Present, and Future

Until Deng Xiaoping, there had been no wise Chinese leaders in the 20th century… only misguided idealists.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair sums it up well (h/t Tom Barnett)

Prior to 1949, China was a deeply riven and unequal society. There was a reason for the civil war and the multiple invasions of foreign powers. There was a reason for the upheaval of 1949. In the first 30 years came the completion of the revolution and the establishment of the People’s Republic

When you read about the Army-Parties in Iraq, and satirical pieces about “Afghan Presidential Election A Celebration of All Forms of Government,” one reads headlines that could have come from China in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, or 1940s.

The great men in China before Deng Xiaoping accomplished a lot, but may have destroyed even more

Sun Yatsen smashed the apartheid Qing dynasty, and replaced a slowly modernizing force for peace with political chaos and famine. Sun was never able to hold power, due to…

Yuan Shikai, who may have been the most able leader of the century. Originally the Imperial Governor of the capital district, Yuan negotiated the transition from the Empire of the Great Qing to the Republic of China. Using the Vatican City-State as a model, the Imperial Household obtained foreign head-of-state status in Beijing, with the Forbidden City and Summer Palace as sovereign territory. Yuan proceeded to throw all his contributions away by declaring himself emperor. The national ourage replaced revolutionary chaos with warlord barbarism. This was ended by…


Chiang Kaishek, who abolished the warlords system, largely at the price of redefining “loyal” warlords as general. Throughout World War II he acted as he was — the most powerful warlord among many — and kept of a de jure resistance against Japan while primarily struggling against the Communist insurgents and his generals (neither an exhaustive or a discrete set of adversaries). Chiang’s misrule lead to the collapse of his armies and the success of…

Mao Zedong, who lead three popular revolutions, only the first of which was good for China. In the Democratic Revolution (began in 1949), the one-party dictatorship of the KMT was replaced by “New Democracy,” in which a multiparty, corporate system of government would exist under the hegemony of the Chinese Communist Party. Using loyal subordinates, Mao pacified the countryside and brought the first peace China had known since Sun Yatsen. Mao immediately threw this way, first in 1950 with the Korean War (which singlehandidly sunk hopes for an early reunification with Taiwan), then with the Socialist Revolution in 1952 (in which “New Democracy” gave way to a clone of Sovietism), and then the Cultural Revolution (when Mao wisely recognized the unpopularity with Sovietism, and replaced it with “great chaos under heaven.”)

Following all these men, Deng Xiaoping took power, and introduced market reforms along with law and order.

Market reforms and the rule of law brought China to greatness.

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5 thoughts on “China: Past, Present, and Future
  1. November 12 is also significant for China because it is Sun Yat-sen’s birthday. I’m not sure if you knew that when you were writing this post.

    But largely, I agree that the 1911 revolution left much chaos in its aftermath. It is unfortunate that the 100 Days Reform did not take root. China would be much different today if that had been the case.

  2. Purpleslog,


    Though I think if you look the number of KMT soldiers killed by the Japanese, versus the number of KMTs soldiers who died from starvation, neglect, and exposure, one might wonder…


    The market-price system. It is no longer functioning.


    I did not realize that — very fitting!

    Cixi is a monster without redeeming qualities, at least in a political sense. The worst of Stalin and Mao, just without the positive press.

  3. Mao may have been a better wartime leader but Chiang Kai Shek was surely a better peacetime one.
    China gets either a Humanist without Humanity or a Soldier who can’t and won’t fight.

    IF ONLY Chiang Kai-Shek had a few more years to build up his army with German assistance, Nationalist China could of been fielding the most advanced army in Asia. Unfortunately the Japanese noticed.

    Incidently, I think you are wrong in suggesting elsewhere that KMT China would like India today, I’d imagine that it would be closer to Japan but 10 times larger, assuming we didn’t get nuked by the Soviets during the Cold War.
    But this is all Alt-Hist fiction now.

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