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The world’s biggest supporters of capitalism are Asian—and mostly Communist

Alibaba founder Jack Ma gives a thumbs-up as he arrives to speak to investors at an initial public offering roadshow in Singapore September 16, 2014. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd raised the price range on its initial public offering to $66 to $68 on Monday, reflecting strong demand from investors for the year's most anticipated debut and potentially the world's largest-ever IPO. The Chinese e-commerce company, which handles more transactions than Inc and eBay Inc combined, has attracted investors keen to buy into the country's rapid growth and its evolving Internet sector. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) - RTR46D5G
Alibaba founder Jack Ma gives a thumbs up to free markets.
By Zach Wener-Fligner

2014-15 Fellow. Quartz Things team.

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Where can you find the strongest bastions of capitalist ideals? In Britain, where they were written into economic theory 250 years ago? In the US, where free-market thought is practically religious dogma?

Nope. According to a recent Pew poll, that the four countries where the most people support a free market—Vietnam, Bangladesh, South Korea, and China—are all in Asia. Of those, China and Vietnam are run by governments that are Communist, at least in name.

What stokes belief in free markets? It helps if inequality is not a big societal concern. “In most advanced economies, people who say the gap between the rich and poor is a very big problem are much less supportive of the free market than those who worry less about inequality,” the report says. The study shows Bangladeshis, Vietnamese, and Chinese are relatively unconcerned about inequality.

It’s one thing when a country is so poor there’s not much inequality on view. But inequality in China is increasing, and surpassed that of the US in spring. It seems that the influx of wealth brought by free markets has overpowered concerns about inequality—China minted more new millionaires last year than any other country.

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