The Communist Approach to Obesity

Here’s one way to fight obesity: mandatory exercise, as Beijing has commanded again, after a three-year break. “The short-term goal is to involve 60% of the workforces in Beijing by 2011, and 70% of the workforces of the government,” says Zhang Yujing of the Beijing Federation of Trade Unions. “We want all state-owned enterprise workers to have restarted this routine by next year.” The city’s residents seem to support the policy: “I think this [resumption] is really necessary, because people’s living habits are very bad now. They sit in the office the whole day,” said one 30-year-old, who works in marketing. “I have my own exercise plan, but I never put it into practice because I am too busy.” [%comments]


Not to be nit-picky, but this isn't a communist approach to obesity- this is a totalitarian or state-run-capitalist approach.

The communist approach, in like with Marx, would be something like, workers who run worker-owned enterprises collectively and democratically decide to allocate X-amount of surplus towards weight loss efforts and institute a by-law mandating good health.

A misnomer, but interesting post. I wonder how a policy that is "forced" like this compares in outcome to the voluntary incentive based policies that many health providers have here in the U.S.


The most interesting question for me is, how much of the mandatory exercise time comes from the worker's leisure, and how much from the work day?


When I used to work nights in my office, I'd do crunches, leg lifts, and push-ups in my cubical. Nice break in the day, but I think people would look at me weird if I did it during the day now.

N. Normal

The capitalist American approach to obesity is:

Everybody grow as big as a zeppelin. The exercise is provided by the lifting of the junk food to the insatiable lips.

The professional circus fat man Chauncey Morlan, d. 1907, wouldn't even be noticed in todays America.

Any chance of this country paying for universal health coverage will be destroyed by by an tsunami of obesity-related illnesses. The forced-thin chinese will become filthy rich manufacturing the mountains of needed medical supplies.


I don't have to wonder how the outcomes compare. Whether someone is obese or not, it's my freedom I'm not willing to sacrifice.


Actually getting confused about the definition of communism for an economist kind of make me wonder up to what points actual economic studies are politically biased...


There are lots of good reasons to exercise, but it's a lousy way to lose weight.

Laurence Ballard

Anastasia makes an excellent point; China ceased to be a "communist" State ( if it ever really was in the first place) decades ago. I prefer to call the current regime ' Red Fascism."


It is ignorant to still label Beijing (China) with "communist". Even Bill O'Reilly stopped doing this many years ago.

If education can be mandatory like America does, why cannot exercise be?

I wonder if this post is an economic one or a political one.

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

Coomunism: We pretend to exercise, You pretend to teach Jane Fonda Jazzercise Class.

In High Tech America, we have Virtual Aerobics instructors from our Nintendo Wii. Alas, we are still fat.


FWIW, my understanding is that from a scientific standpoint, the link between exercise and weight loss is tenuous at best. I suppose in that sense, this is a good example of how dangerous totalitarian states really are... in taking away individual freedoms one misguided decision can be made on everyone's behalf, whether they buy into the theory behind it or not.

Maybe we should try to get Philip Morris to convince their leaders that smoking is good for you.

Philip Owen

There is no way known to science to make a large group of people lose weight and maintain the reduction for more than a year or so. Starvation doesn't work. Starving people can't work or function socially. After starvation they eat to make up the loss.

As Haggus says, exercise has a lot of benefits but wieght loss is not usually one of them. Excercise (4 hours a week) lost me 16 kilos in 6 months. With even more intensive exercise (8 hours a week) over the following 5 years with the same diet I gained 6 kilos of weight (muscle not fat - my waist line didn't change). I crossed some threshold for hormone production or something like that. Most people aren't so lucky. I am still on a 29.5 BMI although I look more like 25 (still big).

Prevention amongst preteens is the answer. There is no cure once you have become obese. If the Chinese program serves as a means of prevention then it is an excellent investment. The targets should be inactive office workers unlikely to otherwise produce excercise related hormones as the marketing worker suggests above.



This is an excellent idea. It's like gym class in elementary school. I think the key to fighting obesity in America is daily gym classes from Pre-K to 12th grade, which hopefully would encourage an active lifestyle as adults. There's so much pressure over standardized tests preparation that we forget about keeping kids healthy.


This isn't a particularly Communist practice. Japanese corporations - especially manufacturers - have been conducting group exercises among their workers for decades. The Japanese practice though seems to have started with the military, and Japan itself used to be a fascist state, so you might more accurately call this a totalitarian-militarist approach to obesity.

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

If the Chinese took on the exercise fads like Americans:

Imagine selling ONE BILLON Abdominizers or Thigh Masters to Beijing.

Walking is too easy, boring, and does not actuate the inner consumer in us all.

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

"There are lots of good reasons to exercise, but it's a lousy way to lose weight." Haggus

TO lose WEIGHT, you have to EXERCISE and EAT LESS. Many beginner exercisers make the mistake, of using an exercise program as a License to Eat. We ALL have to be more active. The weight is not going to lose itself.

Many health club members drive 10 miles so they could go on a treadmill for 20 minutes. IF they walked 10 miles, they would have saved the fuel, air pollution and tasted their community and maybe make a friend instead of tuning into a Fox Talkshow. And when we are walking for an hour, we are not feeding our face or beering our liver--another weight loss strategy.


Why do you call this "the communist approach"?

That's not the communist approach. That's actually the totalitarian (or dictator's) approach.

And as pointed out above, China has moved away from Communism and recently there you can see the same level of worker exploitation as you would find in the Western societies in the wake of the industrial revolution.


Simply an inevitable result of state run healthcare.
We aren't there yet, but Obama and others have admitted to seeking to crowd out private health insurance, so we are well on our way to the same thing.

BTW, it won't work anywhere. Diet is most important. But that one is at least a generation away.


Quibbling over theoretical (Marxist) communism vs. modern communism in practice (former USSR, China) does nothing to change the fact that the mandatory exercise program is targeted toward employees of state-owned companies. State ownership of enterprise is one of the main items that we identify with communism as a political system (not a philosophy). In practice, virtually all communist states of the 20th and early 21st century have been totalitarian.

Bobby G

I agree with much of what has been said above (sereneredhd, Blake). I think that 1) it won't work and 2) people should have their own indifference curves and be able to decide for themselves how obese they want to be. Of course, there is a current market failure in such a decision: choosing to be obese and not exercise does not place all of the cost of that poor decision upon oneself but divides it among taxpayers... at least this is the way our country is heading.

So like Blake says we are likely on the way towards the government telling us how to be healthy and likely creating punishments if we don't do it their way. This is the solution we are heading towards given the current socialist healthcare Obama and his adminstration is pushing on us. It will end either as described or (fingers crossed) by abolishing the socialized health care initiative in its entirety.

Let people choose what they want to do with their lives! Also let people be responsible for what they want to do with their lives! Reward good behavior! Don't reward bad behavior! This will lead to more good behavior! Yay! And the people who still don't think the good behavior is "worth it" can still live their lives as they please!

Really, why are there not more countries with that sort of philosophy? :(