Is China a Totalitarian State?

Sen Lu   YuChun Song

For foreigners who do not know the real situation in China, China is a country where there is only one political party, the government strictly controls the people (freedom of speech, freedom of movement and other aspects of life), only one ideology or value is allowed in the society, the people have no right to vote and be elected, the government persecutors ethnic minorities and Muslims, human rights are violated, and political power is concentrated and only in the hands of a few. In Western politics, these countries are considered totalitarian regimes. Scholars and politicians in some Western countries, and even in some Southeast Asian countries, claim that China is a totalitarian state that is often heard.

So, China is a country with a totalitarian regime?

Before answering this question, first of all, we should know what is a totalitarian regime? Totalitarian regimes (totalitarianism, also called universal regimes or general rule) originated in the west, was founded by Italian fascist leader Mussolini. And it used to refer to the fascist countries all aspects of social strong control ability. The meaning of today’s totalitarian regime is defined by Western political scientists.  C. J. Fredrick and Brzezinski summed up the characteristics of totalitarian regimes in three aspects: an official ideology of omnipotence; the only political parties based on a strict police system are allowed to exist; the monopoly control of the social rights. Hanna Arendt believes that “complete and comprehensive control of society can be said to be the only form of totalitarian regimes, and nothing else can coexist with it “. Next, the author will spread out this discussion.

First, it is mechanical, unrealistic and wrong to use the western scholars’ definition of totalitarian government to measure developing countries, especially socialist countries. Developing countries, including China, have various forms of government with different structures. The simple classification summarized by western countries can no longer explain the forms of government in the real world.In the western political field, scholars divide the regimes of countries in the world into three types: democratic regimes, authoritarian regimes and totalitarian regimes. The classification criteria are based on the western individualistic values and the political practices of western countries, which are relatively similar and unified. It can be concluded from these countries that it is obvious that they should not be placed in the developing countries with diversified politics, and they have strong western ideological color and obvious political tendency. Therefore, it is unrealistic to impose democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian regimes on a large number of developing countries. It’s like you make a dress fit your body, and then you put it on someone else, and it doesn’t fit anyone else.

Second, even if the definition of a totalitarian state is applied to China, the reality of China does not match the characteristics of totalitarian state. First of all, the truth is that there is no all-encompassing official ideology that permeates every aspect of individual life in China. Marxism is only the guiding ideology of the Communist Party of China, rather than requiring every citizen to take Marxism as the criterion. Citizens believe that Marxism is voluntary and the Chinese government will not force them to do so. There are multiple ideologies and values in the domestic society. Second, China’s head of government is separate from the country’s top leader, who does not have all the power in one place. The National People’s Congress possesses legislative power and delegated executive power to the head of government and the government under its leadership, and delegated judicial power to the president of the Supreme People’s Court and the President of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. However, there are many political parties in China. Not only the CPC, but also at least eight other political parties play an important role in influencing Chinese politics. The Communist Party of China (CPC) is the ruling party, and the democratic parties are participating parties. They hold many government positions in the central and local governments. Then, in China, in addition to official media, schools, enterprises, individuals and other entities are allowed to run newspapers, websites, TV, network broadcast, etc., and freely express their opinions on “We Media”. China has the largest number of individual “We media” in the world. Finally, China is currently implementing a socialist market economy. Although many western countries do not recognize China’s market economy status, the number of Private companies in China far exceeds that of state-owned companies and has a huge influence in China. Huawei, for example, is such a private company. China’s economy is open and is continuing to open wider. It has huge trade contacts with all countries in the world. It has no control over the economy. The police are not allowed to shoot, kill or beat people at will. The relationship between the police and the citizens is harmonious and friendly. The police help the people to solve difficulties, protect private property and catch criminals who endanger the people in order to maintain social order.

Third, in the political field, many concepts and nouns are controversial, leading to different definitions and interpretations of the same concept or noun by different scholars, and the same is true of “totalitarian regimes”. Since the definition of totalitarian regimes is now explained only by Western scholars, can the Orientalists give an explanation? The answer is clearly yes. We can give “totalitarian regimes” gives a new definition: a totalitarian regime refers to a country’s head of government party holds a majority of seats in parliament, the head of government is a national supreme commander of the army at the same time, and can be nominated or appointed justice of the regime in this case is a totalitarian regime, we call such a country a totalitarian regime. In order to achieve political goals, the head of government and his party usually takes joint actions. In general, the head of government is the leader of the party. When the party of the head of government holds a majority of seats in the parliament, the head of government indirectly controls the parliament, thus gaining the legislative power indirectly. The head of government himself has the highest executive power; the head of government can have influence over the judiciary by nominating or appointing judges. In addition, the head of government is the head of the national army and can command the army. In this way, the head of government controls the military power. When a head of government has executive and military power, indirect legislative power and influence over the judiciary, it is inconceivable that such a regime is not a totalitarian regime.

According to the new definition, many countries in the West are eligible. They belong to the totalitarian state. China? Apparently not. The head of government in China has only the highest executive power, while the military power belongs to the national leader. The head of government in China is separate from the head of state, not the same person. The legislative power belongs to the National People’s Congress, and the executive power is vested in the Head of government by the National People’s Congress. The head of government is responsible to and supervised by the National People’s Congress. The head of government is not the leader of the National People’s Congress, on the contrary, the head of government needs to be elected by the National People’s Congress. Judicial power is delegated by the National People’s Congress to the President of the Supreme People’s Court and the President of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. They are elected by the National People’s Congress, just like the head of government. They are only responsible to the National People’s Congress and have nothing to do with the government headed by the head of government. As a result, the head of government in China has only executive power, not military power, and cannot influence the legislature or the judiciary.

China is not a totalitarian state, either in terms of its use or in practice, or by definition. To describe China as a totalitarian state is a misperception of China, not a reflection of what is really happening in China, and it is also wrong.

(Sen Lu, Scholar, Yunnan University; YuChun Song, Scholar, Yunnan University )