More than 7,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, China is experiencing drastic changes to its country for the first time in decades, concerning some University of Louisiana at Lafayette students and officials.
On Oct. 1, 1949, Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong declared the creation of the People’s Republic of China — the PRC — which helped establish a long line of Chinese leaders, according to the U.S. Office of the Historian. Under this government, First Amendment rights familiar to U.S. citizens, such as free speech and expression, are highly policed.
UL Lafayette student Chi Zhang, a third-year graduate student studying petroleum engineering, said citizens in China aren’t allowed to voice their concerns in politics.
“We cannot vote, so we cannot make our own decision (about) who will be the next president,” Zhang said.
Zhang, who lived in Beijing until he was 18, said politics in China are different from in the U.S.
“This president names (the) next president, and it’s not the people’s vote,” Zhang said.
China’s current president, Xi Jinping, abolished presidential term limits earlier this month, removing the two-consecutive-term limit instituted by former President Deng Xiaoping in 1982.
China’s approximately 1.3 billion people pose a challenge to education, which can affect how the government rules its people, according to Zhang.
“In China, we have probably 1.4 billion people right now, and they are not so well educated,” he said.
Zhang said despite the multitude of people in China, there are not many universities to support the population. The opportunity to pursue a better education is getting more and more difficult, which can affect future leaders, he said.
“If they know nothing, how can they vote?” Zhang said. “So if a few decided, it’s better than a whole population voting. It’s probably not fair. But fair or not, it’s good,” he said.
China has the second largest GDP in the world at $23.12 trillion in 2017, according to cia.gov. This gives the country tremendous power in the global economy.
Chris Jones, Ph.D., professor of economics at UL Lafayette, said China’s economy has made tremendous leaps and bounds over the course of the last 40 years in the production of goods and services.
“They are (basically) the world’s leading manufacturer of consumer products,” Jones said. “The basic goods and services we consume every day like clothing, household appliances, things of that nature.”
Jones said China’s ability to sell to the U.S. has helped with their growth in an ever-evolving economy.
“One of the reasons they’ve become a leader is that they developed a system where they can produce them at a much lower cost, whereas in somewhere like the U.S. where our labor outputs are very high,” Jones said.
Jones noted some concern should be warranted with China. He said given that Jinping can rule for life, some citizens may fear his limitless presidency would give a feeling of a totalitarian communist ruler like those of previous generations. Jones added, however, he believes things will eventually work out.
“The Chinese President Xi Jinping is a pretty progressive president when it comes to business and trade,” Jones said.
Jones said Jinping understands even if there is a philosophical difference between two nations, you still have to have a good working relationship.
During the current impending trade wars, President Donald Trump and his administration are considering imposing tariffs on $60 billion worth of Chinese goods, according to CNBC.
“I think a lot of it right now is bluster and posturing by our current president,” he said. “There is nothing to be gained for the U.S. or China to get into a trade war.”
Jones mentioned he doesn’t envision a scenario where there is a full-blown trade war.
“It would be too fully damaging if that were to happen,” Jones said.
Despite everything that is going on in his home country, Zhang did say things look promising.
“The future is good,” Zhang said. “I think we are in the right direction.”