China is most certainly no longer the "socialist workers paradise" it once claimed to be. Yet it's also not a bastion of free market capitalism either. The current economic system is probably best described as statist, with high levels of cooperation and collusion between government officials and business leaders.
In fact, as an article in today's WSJ highlights, there is now a high degree of overlap between the two spheres. Defying Mao, Rich Chinese Crash the Communist Party:
For years the Communist Party in China filled key political and state bodies with loyal servants: proletarian workers, pliant scholars and military officers. Now the door is wide open to another group: millionaires and billionaires.
An analysis by The Wall Street Journal, using data from Shanghai research firm Hurun Report, identified 160 of China's 1,024 richest people, with a collective family net worth of $221 billion, who were seated in the Communist Party Congress, the legislature and a prominent advisory group called the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
China's legislature, called the National People's Congress, may boast more very rich members than any other such body on earth. Seventy-five people with seats on the 3,000 member congress appear on Hurun Report's 2012 list of the richest 1,024, which Hurun says it calculates using public disclosures and estimates of asset values. The average net worth of those 75 people is more than $1 billion.
By comparison, the collective wealth of all 535 members of the U.S. Congress was between $1.8 billion and $6.5 billion in 2010, according to the most recent analysis of lawmakers' asset disclosures by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Compared to China, we're just pikers in the great game of government-business cronyism, although we have made some progress in recent years. It's one that we should all be content to let them win.