The Capitalistic Spirit in China

While almost no one will offer a sure opinion on why fuel costs are on the rise, one of the reasons being advanced is the soaring demand in China and India. Business in Asia took us to Beijing twice this year, giving us the right to at least offer the viewpoint that this could very well be a factor.

There isn’t anything in America that rivals the amount of building and the rate of expansion that we saw in Beijing, with construction cranes in every direction and new office buildings, apartments, and structure of all kinds recently completed or nearing completion. Capitalism is breaking out in China, and with more than a billion people anxious to get a piece of the action, the suction of the Chinese economic engine may certainly be putting pressure on the oil markets and much else.

Our Chinese interpreter who calls herself Jillian, a young newlywed whose husband is a junior executive with a prominent construction company, seeing our amazement at the amount of new construction, said that in the new system—the ability of people to make more money if their company made money—there was now incentive to work hard. (We nodded agreeably).

Jillian continued that when people made more money they looked for bigger houses or apartments, and spent more money on services. (Yes, we thought, realizing that we w ere getting a lesson in capitalism that she didn’t realize we’d already lived. Perhaps she thought we were liberals).

Clearly the people of China have seen the light concerning the free market economy.

Of course earlier this month many questions around the abrupt consolidation of power by the Communist Party’s chief, Hu Jintao, suggested that it’s too soon to conclude that the freedom to make money in modern China automatically spawns other freedoms. One chilling indication of that was the arrest of a Chinese journalist last week, apparently out of suspicion that he had helped a American reporter get a scoop on the political shift.

But increasing political freedom and greater human rights in China seem all but inevitable. The advent of capitalism will lead to greater democracy, rather than the opposite order, which we may have expected.

Theologian Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute wrote in his book Business as a Calling:

Although capitalism and democracy do not necessarily go together, at least in the world of theory, in the actual world of concrete historical events, they are led toward an almost predestined marriage, both by their inner dynamism and by their instinct for survival. “Capitalism” and “democracy” go together as “political” and “economy.” The “system of natural liberty” naturally seeks expression in both politics and economics, in republican forms of government and capitalist forms of economy.

On this basis, one can predict that as the entrepreneurial spirit grows in the People’s Republic of China. . .and as the middle class gains in self-confidence and independence, an ever-rising tide in favor of democratic institutions will slap against the sides of the governmental structures of China. The free economy will unleash forces that propel China toward the free polity.

I wonder if Jillian realizes this yet.

–James Jewell

About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group ( Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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