Can it? Seems like authoritarian is much more accurate, but NYT explores the issue:
That’s what Hu Deping, son of the late Hu Yaobang, the party general secretary forced to resign in 1987 for being too reform-minded, said to a group of mostly Chinese businesspeople and environmentalists in late 2005, in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square.
Here’s what Mr. Hu said, according to my notes: “No matter how authoritarian this society is, even fascist, the people of this country still want justice. One thing they seek is profit, and the other is justice.”
Is today’s China fascist?
To cite a few characteristics, starting with the one-party state: Since the economic reforms that followed the death of Mao Zedong, it has grown immensely wealthy through its state-owned companies, some of which rank among the world’s richest. What was once a poor, authoritarian state has become a rich, authoritarian state.
“The signs have long been there,” said Wang Lixiong, a prominent writer and scholar. “I feel there is a very clear trend toward fascism, and the source of fascism comes from the ever-growing power of the power holders.” China is “a police state,” he said, where power rules for power’s sake.
The passing of Mao did not lead to power-sharing, it just stripped China of its Communist ideology, and no convincing value system has filled the gap, he said.
“Power has become an interest group,” Mr. Wang said.
“Today the interest groups have no ideology,” he said. “Their goal is to protect their own profit and power. They can only rely on power to rule, because they have no goal that convinces the people. So the state relies on power to suppress society and attain its objectives. I think there’s no other route the power holders can go.”
“One of the strongest objections to using the word fascism is that a central element of fascism was mass mobilization,” which included the symbolism and choreography associated with, for example, Hitler’s rallies at Nuremberg, Mr. Delury said. While Mao did that, the current leadership does not, he said, a sign that the term does not exactly fit.
“I think still this leadership is very post-Mao, if not anti-Mao,” said Mr. Delury.
Yet for Mr. Wang, fascism is a threat, even without Mao’s charismatic leadership. He points to rising nationalism at home, increasingly directed overseas.
Does it surprise him to hear what was once a taboo word, an epithet to be hurled at the enemies of Communism, used by a member of China’s elite — even if a critical member — to describe China’s political direction?
“I’m not surprised to hear it, because they know, the people in these ruling circles, they don’t think it’s strange, they know what’s happening,” he said.