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Geography explains why China is communist

Geopolitics YouTuber says Beijing needs to redistribute wealth to interior and shore up security of coast

Screenshot from the Youtube video showing the enormous inequality between coastal and interior China. (Caspian Report photo)

Screenshot from the Youtube video showing the enormous inequality between coastal and interior China. (Caspian Report photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A recent video released by a geopolitics Youtuber, Shirvan Neftchi, claims that geography is the principal reason China cannot abandon communism as its governing ideology.

The video, released on the popular channel Caspian Report, has already been viewed almost 200,000 times. It argues that while inequality is a growing issue in many countries around the world, in China, it is “augmented by geography.”

“China is stuck with communism,” Neftchi says “not because of moral or ideological reasons but for practical reasons that are ingrained in its geography.”

A graphic reveals the severity of unequal distribution across the country, showing the GDP per capita in wealthy, advanced coastal areas to be roughly three times that of the economically backward interior China. If coastal China were an independent state, it would be as prosperous as its East Asian neighbors Japan or South Korea — and Neftchi suggests, China would likely become a liberal democracy.

China’s interior is more akin to the economies of Yemen or Sudan, he adds. “Why doesn’t China just let go of its impoverished interior and redeem itself as a democratic, liberal and wealthy state?” he asks.

The answer, he says, is that security is more important than prosperity for China. Traditionally, threats to China’s coastal areas have come from peripheral areas, and so every historical Chinese state tried to expand the borders outward to act as a buffer zone and protect China’s coastal heartland, he says.

Neftchi likens China to a giant oyster, with the coastal areas being the "pearl" (valuable, but vulnerable), while the hinterland is the shell (rough, yet protective). The predicament is to protect coastal areas, but maintain control over a hinterland that is not only poorer, but also has many areas that hold their own unique geographies, histories, dialects and interests.

In order to balance this massive disparity, China needs to combine a strong state apparatus with wealth redistribution policies. A communist system is perfectly suited for this task.

“For Beijing, communism and its emphasis on authority and equality is a means to bridge that geographic gap,” he says.

Beijing uses the wealth generated in coastal areas to subsidize the economies in the interior. This, he describes as “manufactured stability” — imperfect, yet adequate.

For China, communism is a trade-off beyond security and prosperity, he says, adding internal stability would spiral downward if communism came to an end. “It would be checkmate for China,” he concludes.

Updated : 2021-12-04 20:38 GMT+08:00