Chinese Communists Doing 'Spectacular Job' Fighting Poverty, NPR Reporter Says

October 1, 2019

NPR reporter Ailsa Chang credited communism for the "spectacular" prosperity that China has enjoyed in recent decades.

Reporting from Beijing on the 70th anniversary of communist rule, Chang told listeners the party has gained the trust of citizens with the "promises they've made good on." In Chang's estimation, Chinese economic policy has largely benefitted the citizenry, though at the cost of creating income inequality.

"It's a party that promised to lift people out of poverty, which truth be told, it has done a spectacular job of, in fact it's lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, but at the same time, income inequalities have intensified in the last few decades," Chang said in a Tuesday report.

She went on to say the party has succeeded because its message of economic empowerment "resonates" with citizens, even though citizens have no recourse to register their dissatisfaction with the government. Dissent is ruthlessly suppressed, as Hong Kong protesters have illustrated over the summer.

Chang said the party promises "if you work hard and you trust us, we will make your life better, and we found that that message actually resonates with people from totally different backgrounds."

Chang turned to a female architect to illustrate her point. She asked the architect about the regime's iron grip on power. The architect emphasized her trust in the ruling party and took a shot at America's open political system for its lack of steadiness.

"I don't care who is the leader in China," she told Chang.

"Do you really not care, or do you just know you can't choose anyway?" Chang asked.

"Maybe both," the architect answered. "In China, maybe we know the leader would make steady, wise choice, unlike United States."

Chang laughed at the apparent allusion to President Donald Trump. She said the Chinese regime, which has attracted international scrutiny for its oppression of religious citizens, alleged organ harvesting operations, brutal one-child policy, and political imprisonment, can be counted on to guarantee "stability."

"What she's saying is, in the end, all she wants is stability to focus on her career, on success, and she says that is exactly what the Chinese government is giving her," Chang said. The reporter interviewed migrants who told her their lives are "thousands of times better than their parents' lives."

Chang's report echoes not just the Chinese Communist Party's talking points, but also democratic socialist 2020 candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.). In August he said the Chinese communists "have made more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization," although he lamented them moving "in a more authoritarian way in a number of directions."

On her Twitter account, Chang tweeted a picture of herself in Beijing at a display set up to commemorate the founding of the People's Republic of China.

On Tuesday's Morning Edition, NPR also brought in China's ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai. He reiterated the party's claim that its policies saved hundreds of millions of people from poverty, downplaying the intensity of China's surveillance state by comparing it to America. He also said Uighur Muslims—more than a million of whom have been put in concentration camps—have equality in China.

He also condemned Hong Kong's protesters and criticized them for supporting American democratic ideals, drawing pushback from host Steve Inskeep.