“Fascist” is the word that has been thrown around most readily in the recent election. I don’t think the majority of people using it have any conception of what it means. The one thing we know for sure is no one means it as a compliment.

The problem is many conflate fascism with free-market capitalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Capitalism supports private property, freedom of speech, and the rule of law. These are essential to individual progress. Capitalism champions the rights of the individual. No other system does that. 

At its base, fascism is about ensuring every part of the economy benefits only one favored group. Equality does not exist. Elections are not allowed. They would imply the leader could make mistakes. Private enterprise is tolerated only if it furthers the aims of the government. Any and all dissent is quashed. Advancement can take place only with absolute obedience to the ruling party.

There’s no doubt that we have challenges in this country, but it is nothing like a fascist state. However, there’s one country that’s approaching the definition of fascism. It’s China.

Xi Jinping is now leader for life. He has even had his way of thinking enshrined in China’s constitution. He has destroyed the means for a smooth handover of power to younger generations. He aims to cling to power for as long as he can because he wants to remake the economy in his image.

China is unwinding the free-market reforms it introduced 40 years ago. Shelving Ant Financial’s IPO last week was an example of China’s willingness to put Communist Party loyalty ahead of innovation. China revealed more new regulations to curtail the country’s biggest tech companies yesterday. It’s another signal the Party worries about how to control the sector. 

China has ambitious international aspirations. It knows if it wants to achieve its goals, it has to ensure absolute loyalty at home. That means exerting control over both companies and citizens.

The pandemic has afforded China’s police state a level of control it could have only dreamed about before. There are now cameras everywhere. It’s deploying big data to root out any aberrant behavior.

Historically, fascist movements have been enormously successful in building infrastructure. That’s because they follow a singular vision from the top and walk all over anyone who gets in the way. That’s exactly what China does in the name of GDP growth. Millions of people have resettled to build railroads and ghost cities.

Fascists don’t tolerate diversion from the defined norm. The forced sterilization of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang, China, is a genocide by stealth. There is no getting around that fact. It’s a hallmark of a fascist regime to target one whole section of society for extermination.

The one thing few people talk about is how fascists were admired in the 1930s. Apologists argued they were delivering growth and jobs for their populations. Isn’t that exactly what we’re seeing today with China’s tactics? Investors have nothing but praise for China’s economic achievements. They’re very quiet about China’s failings.

The lesson here is many people are missing the elephant in the room. The second-largest economy in the world is a fascist dictatorship. If you strip out the cost of wages, China spends more money on its military than we do. That should give everyone pause. As we look at the next administration, the question of how to deal with China is going to be front and center.

All the best,

Eoin Treacy