Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Socialism 3.0 - the beginning of a new China?

China is a country of many contradictions. On the one hand it is a single party communist state and on the other hand it has the most ruthless capitalist ethos I have witnessed.

My reading is that the period of all out capitalism is drawing to an end. China has done what it needed to do to catch up, import technologies and learn learn learn.

The result has been rising inequality and rising discontent.

Enter stage left "Socialism 3.0".

The Diplomat gives a good summary of the rise of the "new left" in China. This development is exactly what I would have expected. Is this development good or bad for world trade and development? Time will tell.

Socialism 3.0 in China [The Diplomat]
But while Bo’s Chongqing has become a capital for China’s New Left, it’s not the only model competing for the attention of China’s top leaders. Liberals and globally oriented modernizers have also drawn inspiration from local governments, especially reformist policies pursued by the governments of Shenzhen and Guangdong Province.


So what exactly do New Left thinkers believe the next wave of Chinese socialism is going to look like?

For a start, they say, it’s going to be a lot less like capitalism. They call for a major re-entry of the state into the economy, and point to Chongqing as proof that a large public sector can co-exist with a dynamic market. Over the past few years, as Chongqing has become a popular destination for factories relocating from the more developed coastal provinces, where wages and costs are rising, its GDP has grown by about 14 percent a year—much faster than the national average–providing fodder for left-wing academics to cast it as a model for growth.

The political scientists of the New Left are using Chongqing, which has encouraged the expansion of state-owned enterprises, to respond to the economic argument shared by many market-oriented Chinese economists that state investment ‘crowds out’ private enterprise (guo jin min tui).

However, Cui Zhiyuan, a Qinghua University professor who has spent much of the last year conducting field research in Chongqing, argues that in Chongqing ‘It’s not the state crowding out private enterprise…In fact, the state and the market develop together (guo jin min ye jin).’

Wang agrees, citing the growth of private activity in the city, which has outpaced state investment. In fact he dismisses the idea of crowding out, writing ‘This kind of idea not only has absolutely no theoretical foundation, but it’s been also been proved absurd by the practical experience of Chongqing…As the state’s absolute role in the Chongqing economy has increased, its proportion of the economy has decreased.’

In the Chongqing model, though, everything links back to the issues of poverty and inequality, and the government of Chongqing has turned the market profits of state-owned enterprises toward traditional socialist projects, using their revenue to fund the construction of affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. It’s perhaps not surprising then that Bo’s biggest policy hit is the affordable housing initiative for the city’s poorest. The massive construction programme aims to provide cheap apartments to a third of the municipality’s 30 million residents, a programme that has received national attention and clearly impressed the central government, which is rolling out a similar plan at a national level as part of the 12th Five-Year Plan.

Bo has tried to cast his programme as a step past the single-minded focus on GDP that has defined Chinese policy since Deng. ‘It’s not about how many tall buildings you have, it’s how happy people are,’ he argued in a 2009 speech to Chongqing Party members.

These are exciting times for China and these developments should be watched carefully.

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