DANIEL VAUGHAN: Bernie Sanders: Defender of communist China

We’re in the middle of a pandemic right now in America thanks to a disease that originated in China back in November 2019. Before entering Sunday evening’s Democratic debate between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, I wouldn’t have thought a single American, except those in the tank for any communist regime, would defend the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). I was wrong.

I forgot about Bernie Sanders.

Not much changed in the overall dynamics of the Democratic primary race on Sunday. Biden has raced into undisputed frontrunner status in this race; all he had to do was leave the debate upright, without taking any hard hits from Sanders. The former vice president mostly accomplished that feat, and I suspect Biden is the runaway favorite going forward.

But the part of the debate that stuck out to me was Bernie Sanders’ unwillingness to ever challenge China — on anything! Early on in the discussion, when the moderators were discussing COVID-19 and their plans for dealing with it, the moderators brought up the fact that the virus came from China. They asked whether or not the United States should place any blame on China, or seek answers from the CCP. Sanders said no.

According to CBS News:

Sanders suggested now isn’t the time for finger-pointing.

“If there was ever a moment when the entire world was in this together … this is that moment,” Sanders said.

Now, you might be able to chalk that answer up to some feel-good socialism where everyone gets along and tries to make the world a better place. But that’s not what Sanders thinks at all.

Later in the debate, the moderators asked Sanders to defend his past remarks, where he praised communist Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Sanders used that as a plank to turn around and not only support his past comments, but also point out that there are good things about China too; as the Associated Press reported during the debate:

[Sanders] says during the Democratic presidential debate that while he condemns authoritarianism in Cuba, China and elsewhere, its possible to acknowledge positive changes made by such governments. As an example, he said China has made progress in reducing extreme poverty during the last 50 years.

Sanders said its a “problem with politics” that politicians can’t acknowledge progress if it happens in an authoritarian country.

The period that Bernie Sanders is referring to could be one of several. The critical moment for the communist regime of Mao Zedong came during the Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966–1976. According to a Hong Kong-based reporter, who found state classified documents, it’s estimated that “nearly two million Chinese were killed and another 125 million were either persecuted or ‘struggled against’ (subjected to ‘struggle sessions’) as a result of the state-sponsored killings and atrocities committed during the Cultural Revolution.”

It’s pretty easy to get rid of poverty when you’re busy killing everyone in the country, rich or poor. But let’s say that’s not what Sanders is referring to, and that he’s talking about more recent “advances” under the CCP. If you look at those numbers, the only reason China has made any amount of progress is that they started implementing some capitalist reforms, allowing the free market to flow in their country.

Indeed, the limited form of extreme poverty reduction that China has experienced has been a result of capitalist reforms in the country — but it’s certainly not accurate to call China a free market economy. They have retained all the trappings of an overbearing communist regime bent on controlling every aspect of their citizen’s lives. And their wealth inequality, which Sanders mostly blasts in America, is incredibly steep.

It’s hard to pin down what, if anything, Sanders finds so compelling about China or Cuba. If you take a look at Cuba, before Fidel Castro took it over, no one was complaining about needing a literacy program. Residents from there called Cuba “one of the most advanced and successful countries in Latin America,” according to PBS.

Castro destroyed the wealth and beauty of Cuba, and he burned it to the ground. Before Castro seized power, PBS reported, “Cuba ranked fifth in the hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in per capita ownership of automobiles and telephones, first in the number of television sets per inhabitant. The literacy rate, 76%, was the fourth-highest in Latin America. Cuba ranked 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capita,” the outlet noted.

China, before the communists took over, had a long-standing, thriving culture and economy. Since then, they’ve only seen an explosion of wealth and power since signing trade deals with the United States and bringing in free-market reforms.

Communism and socialism destroyed these countries. And now, China is using that power to try and harm the United States.

And here’s the point: Sanders doesn’t have an answer for either. If his plans regarding “Medicare for All” worked, we’d see them working in places like China or Italy, where single-payer health care systems are already in place.

Sanders entered the debate not looking to provide practical answers, but to be the socialist ideologue. He defends every ounce of turf where people criticize the failures of socialism, communism, or Marxism. It’s a good thing Democrats appear to be in the process of rejecting Sanders, because his defense of China — the reason Americans are suffering in the middle of a pandemic right now — is appalling.

I don’t have much love for Joe Biden, but watching an avowed socialist squirm on stage defending his record on supporting authoritarian regimes in Cuba and China was important for Americans to see.