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December 22, 2007
The Communist Conundrum
StrategyPage.com points out some of the major problems facing the few remaining communist regimes in the world:
There are only five communist states left (China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba), and all are suffering from the same, long-standing, problem. That is, many of their best trained and most talented people want to go somewhere else. These police states tolerate that, to a certain extent. China encouraged its young and talented students to go abroad for training and experience. While a police state, China has chucked the state control of the economy, and let a booming free market develop. This has, as expected, brought a lot of its overseas students back. North Korea is the other extreme, and is one big prison camp. Getting out is difficult, and very dangerous if you don't know who to bribe. In the middle is Cuba, which has loosened up its economy somewhat since Russia cut off its subsidies in the early 1990s. But despite 11 percent GDP growth last year, it's still a police state with the government owning, and running, most of the economy. So an increasing number of young and educated Cubans are getting out. Sooner or later the internal inconsistencies will overtake any efforts to strong arm the people and revolution will break out. China is worried sick about this which is why they are fanatics about clamping down on the internet. Last year, there were horrific riots in the provinces over corruption and land grabs by the government for development. Tens of thousands of people rioted with a couple of hundred being killed. Some villages were burnt to the ground as a warning to others.
In the last two years, some 77,000 Cubans have entered the United States. Compare that to 1994, when Cuba briefly allowed anyone to leave (some 38,000 Cubans took the opportunity and fled). But those were Cubans of all classes. Now it's the doctors, engineers and college educated in general who are using their talents, and often bribes, to take a "vacation" to Mexico, and then cross the border into the U.S. Because of Cold War era laws, once a Cuban sets foot on U.S. soil, they are allowed to stay and claim political asylum (because they come from a communist police state.) The North Korean leaders note the Cuban experience, and pat themselves on the back for correctly understanding the situation. If North Korea made it easy for their citizens to travel abroad, hundreds of thousands would promptly flee, with the most talented and best educated in the lead.
Mostly, China fears an economic downturn which would halt the pace of growth while throwing tens of millions of out work. Angry, hungry people don't sit idly by. And that vision haunts the nightmares of the Chinese Politburo these days.