Arts and Letters linked to an interesting (and long) article about China, discussing what China's goals are. While I don't think it's quite accurate to say that the country is communist (totalitarian, certainly, but at least with communism you're supposed to have a lot more economic equality than China manages; or is that really a requirement of communism anymore?), I liked reading the article. And I was glad to see internal stability listed as the first goal. China is far more diverse and unstable than we think it is. Or we just think of Tibet, and there is much more to the story than that.
China absolutely did not feel communist to me in the same way Kyrgyzstan still does. But it is unquestionably not free. But there are many ways to repress people. My husband had an interesting discussion with a Chinese on one of your flights. He was perfectly happy living in China and felt that he had "all the basic rights." I would have been very curious to ask him what those rights are that he has. I can think of few basic rights that I value that the Chinese have.