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China: handle with care

All change in China this week, as the ‘old guard’ of the ruling Communist Party step down in favour of younger, more vigourous leaders.

So change only in terms of personel, not policies. The new boys would not have been allowed within light years of the reins of power were they not commited to continued rule by the Party.

But that doesn’t mean that it is going to be easier for them to do so. For the last 20 years or so China has been moving from command to market economy and now over 50% of the GDP is generated by the private sector. The changes have been formally recognised by the decision to allow ‘capitalists’ to join the Party so that their interests can be represented as well. Yes, that is absurd but how else are the ruling elite going to cope with changes and stay in power?

Capitalism in China now appears to be irreversible so the big question is how long the present political architecture stand erect against the hurricanes of economic change on the ground.

7 comments to China: handle with care

  • I read an article a few months ago about how the current Chinese leadership has taken another look at Marx’s writings, and found that Marx thought that communism would evolve naturally out of an advanced capitalist system. Since China was really an agrarian society at the time of the revolution, the communist period so far was really just preparing the way for capitalism. The true workers’ paradise would come after China had reached the zenith of capitalism. That was the theory anyway.

    Of course Marx actually predicted* that capitalism (once at an advanced stage) would prove so oppressive to the proletarians that they would rise up against the capitalists in bloody revolution. So by becoming the party of capitalists, the “party of the people” becomes the one the people would eventually destroy. No one ever said this crap had to make sense, it is Marxism…

    * No, I’ve not been spending my time reading communist literature (though I did read the Communist Manifesto in early highschool). I’ve been reading a book about doomsday cults, in which the author includes Nazism, Marxism, Heaven’s Gate, and some environmental groups.

  • David Carr

    Lucas

    That’s an excellent insight. I hope you are right that the ChiComms will actively pursue capitalism believing to be the path to real marxism when we both know that it isn’t. I don’t care if they get there by mistake as long as they get there.

    Nothing wrong with reading Marx; one should always know thine enemy.

    By the way, I realise I was rather ungentlemanly to you earlier. I apologise and hope I haven’t upset you. I’ve been a bit grumpy of late (not that that is an excuse)

  • Anonymous

    It is indeed possible that Carthaginians reached the New World.

  • Here’s a link to the article I mentioned.

    The book I mentioned is called “A Doomsday Reader,” by Ted Daniels. A relevant excerpt:

    “When the Communist Manifesto‘s promised fulfillment failed to materialize as quickly as some adherents hoped, apologetic texts appeared accounting for this failure in terms familiar from religioius contexts. According to Eduard Bernstein, for example, the revolution’s time had not yet come because capitalism needed to expand to its fullest potential … Marx had expressed a similar logic–that is, that capitalism’s power and scope would have to increase before it would become vulnerable to its own internal contradictions and fall to the class struggle. With this in mind, he urged socialists to support moves in the direction of free trade, despite its apparent incompatibility with their goals. This is a clear example of the tendency of extremes in general, and of millenarian ones in particular, to reverse themselves to account for unexpected developments.” (any typos are mine)

    As for being grumpy, being grumpy is fine. Someone who doesn’t get grumpy isn’t really human :-)

  • Bonsai Dave

    My family was enjoying the Great Wall about an hour from Beijing and we struck up a friendship with some 20-yr olds from Canton. They eventually insisted that we accompany them to the restaurant in Beijing where they were waiters, which turned out to be a Cantonese restaurant. We were shocked to find the prices 10 or 20 times what our budget would allow…and we were used to the presumption that the rich foreigners pick up the tab. As we ordered modestly they took the menus away and began to order all the best dishes. It turns out that a 20 year old waiter in that restaurant makes a stunning amount of tips( lots of expense account lunches etc.) Throughout this wonderful meal we found these 20-year olds were extremely knowledgable regarding the reforms that had transformed their country from starvation to substantial affluence (GNP growth of over 10% for almost 20 years straight) Know what 1.1 to the 20th is? After a wonderful meal, our primary host insisted that we drink a toast to this wonderful system and how could we refuse when he said:”Isn’t Communism wonderful?” Of course the word communism, to him, meant the free-market reforms he had been describing for over an hour.

  • Bonsai Dave

    My family was enjoying the Great Wall about an hour from Beijing and we struck up a friendship with some 20-yr olds from Canton. They eventually insisted that we accompany them to the restaurant in Beijing where they were waiters, which turned out to be a Cantonese restaurant. We were shocked to find the prices 10 or 20 times what our budget would allow…and we were used to the presumption that the rich foreigners pick up the tab. As we ordered modestly they took the menus away and began to order all the best dishes. It turns out that a 20-year old waiter in that restaurant makes a stunning amount of tips( lots of expense account lunches etc.) Throughout this wonderful meal we found these 20-year olds were extremely knowledgable regarding the reforms that had transformed their country from starvation to substantial affluence (GNP growth of over 10% for almost 20 years straight) Know what 1.1 to the 20th is? After a wonderful meal, our primary host insisted that we drink a toast to this wonderful system and how could we refuse when he said:”Isn’t Communism wonderful?” Of course the word communism, to him, meant the free-market reforms he had been describing for over an hour.