China isn’t the same country as it was when Mao Zedong was chairman.
Mao-era China was essentially what North Korea is now.
Today’s China is a meritocratic capitalist country with fierce government control is the way I would describe it.
So, how does China compare with its more ‘democratic’ neighbors Japan/Korea/ROC(Taiwan)?
-In China, the ruling party is decided by meritocracy not by the people. The person who is most qualified to lead gets to lead. This avoids the situations like in the USA where an unqualified leader could be elected. But also means if you don’t like the person you can’t remove them. i.e Xi Jinping has decided to remove term limits. If he doesn’t do a good job, the people can’t do anything about it, but they trust him to do a good job. More likely though – if he doesn’t do a good job, the CCP will probably replace him.
-In China you cannot protest against the government publicly or lead a protest group either online or offline. A lot of censorship takes place on social media, though obviously they can’t censor people just discussing about it in person.
-In China the government censors sex/violence in movies/video games. This is supposedly to make the people more ‘pure’ but I don’t think it really makes any difference, people will just get their fix from the black market anyways
-In China, foreign websites are (mostly) blocked. Quora is not, but Facebook and Youtube are. This is supposedly for the benefit of their domestic companies but also has the downside of isolating its people in a bubble. A lot of people use VPN anyways but it does slow down the connection.
Other than these points I don’t find any other meaningful difference between the way China is run than its surrounding (non-communist) countries