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China to embrace capitalists

Communist leaders plan to amend China’s constitution to formally enshrine the ideology of Jiang Zemin, the recently retired leader who invited capitalists to join the Communist Party. Despite sweeping economic and social changes, the political status of China’s entrepreneurs is still ambiguous.

There have been no details of the possible changes although foreign analysts say they include the communist era’s first guarantee of property rights. Certain amendments are still needed to promote economic and social development, said the party newspaper People’s Daily. It said the changes were meant to cope with accelerating globalization and advances in science and technology.

Jiang’s theory, the awkwardly named “Three Represents,” calls for the 67 million-member party to embrace capitalists, updating its traditional role as a “vanguard of the working class” and for the constitution to formally uphold property rights and the rights of entrepreneurs.

As someone who has more than passing acquaintance with communism, I see this is as a big change indeed. Even under most dire oppression you cannot entirely stop people exchanging goods and services. And so it was in the countries of the former Communist bloc, although the private sector was not officially recognised, there were shades of grey in the ‘socialist worker economy’. Former Yugoslavia, for example, ventured furthest in its recognition of private enterprise and some semblance of property rights and in return relatively prospered. Also in practice, Poland and Hungary were kinder to their small landowners and tradesmen than the communist ideologues allowed.

Nevertheless, there was no question of formally acknowledging property rights and any form of private enterprise by governments whose grasp of economics was based entirely on Marxism. It was one thing to tolerate existence of non-state markets and even benefit from them, but changing their opposition to individual’s property rights, so firmly embedded in political systems that were barely surviving, would have been a political, ideological and social suicide. (As a matter of fact, not changing it amounted to the same, just by other means: No, no, no, comrade, let’s not play with this (freedom of the press, speech, travel, association, trade, property rights etc) it has sharp edges and will cut your wrists, let’s just circle round the drain together, holding hands and singing the Internationale…)

China’s development has been very different to that of Eastern Europe, politically and economically, although both were waving the Red Flag. The proposed change to the China’s constitution may amount to a symbolic amendment given that China’s entrepreneurs have driven its two-decade-old economic boom. But then, symbols can be very powerful.

12 comments to China to embrace capitalists

  • Patrick W

    The end of Chinese communism is coming.

    I consider myself something of an old China hand – I speak Chinese, I have an honours degree in Chinese, I have lived and worked in China for many years and my wife is Chinese. We visit her family in Beijing every year. This is a view from the ‘street’:

    The generation that fought and won the civil war is pretty much now in its grave. China has a young population who, like young people pretty much anywhere, don’t give a stuff. Marxist / Leninist thought? Not interested. Essentially the entire population of China under age 40 want (a) money, (b) security that they will not have their money stolen or appropriated, (c) to see the world, (d) fun, (e) peace and quiet and a holiday from ideology. Communism is therefore a dead man walking. It is entirely to the credit of the Communist leadership that they appear to be opening the place up at a pace which will keep most people happy most of the time and not cause violent political implosion. Softly softly. It really, really pisses me off that every time a Chinese leader comes to the UK we get the Tibet rent a mob out to play. Yes China is still a politically totalitarian state – but no longer economically so and it is changing fast. What would you have done different or faster without bringing financial ruin and social collapse and runaway crime? Is Russia a role model? I’m no apologist for Communism or the wrongs of the current system – but give a little respect. More people have risen out of poverty than in human history in the last 20 years. China will change and is more likely to be our ally in 50 or 100 years time than France and the rest of the EU, as they sink backwards. (Also Chinese people are so much nicer and more polite than the French in my experience).

  • Twn

    Embrace them? I don’t even know them!!!

  • Dishman

    I agree with Patrick.
    Their course is pretty well charted out, even if Deng and Jiang haven’t really shared it with everyone.
    They are also much, much nicer than the French. The only Chinese I needed to know was “Thank you” (xie xie).

  • George

    I know it’s only a beginning, but I always thought of China’s economy as being more mercantilist than capitalist. It might be headed in the right direction, but considering how difficult it’s been in the west to move away from technocratric centralization, I wouldn’t expect a short, or smooth, ride.

  • R Roberts

    China will soon achieve what even Mussolini only dreamed of, a near perfect Fascism.

  • Stephen

    “China will change and is more likely to be our ally in 50 or 100 years time than France and the rest of the EU,”

    Are you kidding, China is just waiting for its turn at world Hegomony and if the lefties think the Americans are bad, wait for this monster to arrive. The only possible way the UK would be an Ally of China was if the UK was primarily serving the interests of the Chinese. China has to be No1. … they havent forgotten about the british in china and they are gleefully waiting to take a big dump on the white man.

    I agree with Roberts here also..
    Lets be clear on this, china is a pretty statist racist(in ther supremacist sense), totalitarian giant. the end of chinese communism might be coming, it probably has passed, democracy is not going to happen, 1930′s style european government is. Be wary.

  • Ghaleon

    Sadly, I think Stephen and Roberts might be right… The biggest danger I see in china is that since they aren’t democratic, their foreign policy isn’t influenced by the public and is instead made by an elites wich, in my opinion, base their foreign politic more on realpolitik than on principles… They know that for the moment they are still weak so they try to have a low profile but once they will be strong enought, their foreign policy will become much more agressive. The only thing that could save us from that in my opinion is the influence of the media on the young generation, especially internet because it can hardly be controlled by the government.

    The fact that china represent a much bigger market by itself than the Alena, the EU and even the Zlea is also pretty scrary.

    I’m not sure if it will be fascist,but it could be possible since the population is very homogenous… What I’m almost sure of is that, in the end, it will base is foreign policy on Raison d’État and power politic before any kind of principle and this can be terrible for the rest of the world.

    The only good news here is that the H bomb will always be there to convince them not to do anything stupid=)

  • Michael Lonie

    This will be a helpful change provided it is actually implemented and enforced on the government itself. I would not hold my breath. When reform starts to threaten the monopoly on power of the Communist Party the Commies will try to aquash reform.

    As to foreign policy, I suspect that China regards the US rather as Imperial Germany regarded Britain before 1914. On every path they seek to follow to their “Place In The Sun” the US stands in the way. Any neighbor China is likely to want to “bring back to the fold” because it was once ruled by China, any country where China wants to succor the local Overseas Chinese as the Nazis wanted to succor the Sudentendeutsch or the Ostdeutsch, America is liable to be in the way. That is likely to cause trouble in the future.

    Of course, America could just step out of the way and return home, ignoring the rest of the world. Stephen has pointed out the problem with that idea in this context. I doubt the US would like the result and I alos doubt many others would like it either.

  • Re. China & Fascism:

    Political historian A. James Gregor considers the PRC to indeed be functionally Fascist, ever since (IIRC) the reign of Deng Xiaoping.

    It’s interesting to note that the Fascist intellectuals have been proven correct by both China and the USSR in their prediction that communism would inevitably metamorphose into Fascism in states that had not first achieved advanced capitalism. In other words, economically they would have to move closer to the partly-free market/syndicalist approach of Fascism over time to stay afloat. Destructive parts aside, the Fascists were much more insightful than they are generally considered.

  • M. Simon

    Embracing capitalism is not a contradiction to Marxism because Marx said capitalism was a precursor and necessary stage to socialism.

    Which is why Marx claimed he wasn’t a Marxist.