But nothing has been as jarring to American sensibilities as its recent efforts to prop up stock prices, which began plunging this summer after a huge run-up in late 2014 and the first half of 2015.
In its bid to push prices back up, the government has bought stocks directly and lent to brokers to buy as well. It has halted trading in certain shares, barred large shareholders from selling and loosened restrictions on margin buying. If these weren’t enough, it has cut interest rates and initiated another round of fiscal stimulus.
Efforts to artificially prop up stock prices are, of course, doomed to eventual failure. Markets are driven by greed and fear, conventional wisdom and contrarianism. Attempting to control basic human emotions and thoughts is about as realistic as controlling the weather. When it rains, you can go inside or get wet. You can’t stop it from raining.
But China is trying. Its efforts are particularly disturbing as they show how the government is heading in the wrong direction on issues of economic and political reform. Instead of beginning to privatize some of its more than 100,000 state-owned enterprises and instituting other changes, China is clamping down on an emerging culture of ownership.
It might be doing this in the name of protecting people’s investments. But, at bottom, it is preventing people from buying and selling something at a mutually agreed price. It is trying to have the rewards of rising stock prices without the risks, just as it is trying to have the benefits of capitalism without democracy.
Those in the West who’ve watched China’s rapid ascent have long thought that economic growth will eventually force some level of democratization. This will happen, Westerners believe, when an educated middle class demands more freedoms and when businesses demand greater access to information, more transparency in government and consistent laws they can navigate.
China's stock market intervention suggests that line of thinking could be overly optimistic. So far at least, most Chinese appear content to have rising standards of living without the messiness of democracy. And Chinese leaders are committed to a form of authoritarian capitalism that attempts to marry free enterprise and political control.
Nowhere is that commitment to control more evident than in the Chinese government’s determination to undermine the Internet by imposing a "great firewall" within its own borders and by trying to turn the
Earlier this year, China, Russia and several other countries proposed that the