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Jun 17

Looking Back on China (2): Socialism or Capitalism?

“No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat, as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat.”

 It was probably the most influential quote of Deng Xiaoping, the Chief Architect of Chinese Reform and Opening, who further interpreted that “Do not restrict yourself from the difference between Socialism and Capitalism. Developing productive forces is our first priority.” Since then, China has been continuously engaging in one of the most magnificent economic reforms throughout the world for more than 30 years. At the same time, however, the line between Socialism and Capitalism is increasingly blurred in the largest socialist country in the world.

 In the official discourse system of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the ideology of Socialism with “Chinese Characteristics” plays a sovereign role. The core of this ideology is to build up a socialist market-oriented economy FeaturedImageand the most fundamental requirement is that it should be dominated by the public sector in the industries so significant as to influence the national economy. Since China is and will long be in the primary stage of socialism, the Chinese government is supposed to employ any beneficial resources or means to develop the country into an industrialized nation.

 Every Chinese high school student and college student is capable of explaining the aforementioned abstract political theories to you in detail, because they have thoroughly memorized mandatory knowledge of this topic in Politics classes. In China, CPC is omnipresent  in everyone’s daily life. In elementary school, pupils perceive the qualification to be a Young Pioneer as a supreme honor in their school life. In the government, crucial positions are only open to CPC members, while some of the insignificant positions are intentionally kept for non-Party members for fear of the criticism of one-party dictatorship. Even in the enterprises, entrepreneurs are proud of the large number of CPC members in the union, because working closely with the government will avoid unnecessary troubles in business. More importantly, the authoritarian framework of government, the mode of operation of politics, and the predominant national ideology all undisputedly demonstrate that China is absolutely a socialist country, at least in light of politics.

 Nevertheless, it is a totally different story in economy. No matter how unwilling they will be, CPC leaders have to admit that China’s economy is fundamentally capitalist.

China has become the factory of the world. But this is not without expense. Sweatshops are exploiting the laborers as severely as Karl Marx warned against Capitalism more than a hundred years ago. In 2010, consecutive islavesuicides in the Foxconn factory shocked China. Eighteen workers attempted suicide with fourteen deaths; many after working longer than 72 hours with no breaks, in less than humane conditions and pay. Why did workers, theoretically the governing class in socialist society, even want to commit suicides in a country that they govern?

 In 2012, China scored 0.474 in Gini coefficient for income inequality, higher than the warning level of 0.4 set by the United Nations, which revealed that China is confronted with a wide disparity between rich and poor. When hundreds of wealthy Chinese tourists are lining up outside the franchise stores of the world-renowned luxury brands such as L&V, Versace, and Gucci in Paris, there are 394 million people living on less than $2 a day back home. A large portion of social wealth is under the control of a tiny portion of extremely affluent people, which is not supposed to have anything to do with socialism.

 Unlike the democratic socialist countries in Northern Europe, China has not constructed a developed social security system. For instance, China’s healthcare system is one of the most commercialized in the world. As a privileged class in the society, public servants can enjoy comprehensive medical care and health insurance, while tens of thousands of migrant workers are excluded from the urban medical care schemes. With the development of new cooperative medical systems, peasants and migrant workers may benefit more from the social security system. But currently, in rural areas, a serious illness still means endless miseries, or even heavy debts.

 China’s economy is now essentially capitalist, as indicated by the privatization of the bulk of the means of production, and the conversion of labor power into a commodity. Workers can only survive by selling their labor power to an employer.

 This is far from the end of the story. Accumulation of material wealth spurred Chinese people to seek for more than just money. There is more and more consensus of anti-corruption and anti-bureaucracy campaign in the society. The appeal to convert the central point of the reform from economy to politics has been witnessed on Weibo.com (Chinese version of Twitter). Open-minded people are more inclined to label themselves as fans of liberalism or individualism, rather than collectivism. However, there is one thing for sure, that CPC will never reform the political system into complete capitalism. How to meet people’s growing demands to democracy and simultaneously consolidate the rule of CPC will be the largest challenge that Xi Jinping and other new generation of central leaders have to strive to meet.

 To be socialist, or not to be; that is the question.

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  1. zjlqzzj

    Liu,I’m not saying you’re complaining about political system in China,in fact,I’m surely not qualified to comment the politic issues in front of a laywer student.

    Surely distinguishing the line between socialism and capitalism is important, and I do not go against that the CCP’s principal”Sticking to the socialism”.As an ordinary citizen,as long as sticking to the socialism can lead to a more prosperous,confident and balanced society,it’s fine,why not?The society,I mean,should not be filled with priviledges that twist the distribution of the fundemental rights for each citizen of this country.Here I don’t think my comment can be blocked in Chinese websites,well,I have no time and no willing to express any of them.

    So it’s my point of view that reducing priviledges in many aspects in the society seems more important.Actually,the both sides are making efforts.The CCP realized the importance of it perhaps at the end of the Cultural Revolution led by Mao.One of what American people proud most,I think,is that the gov is captured in the cage instead of that the US sticks to the capitalism,right?I think it’s just different view can lead different conclusions.

    1. Mars

      Never say that you are not qualified to talk about certain topic with certain kind of people. Freedom of speech is the innate right possessed by every human being. Maybe I disagree with you about your every single word, but I will still fight to death for your right to freely express your opinions.
      Yes, as you said, common people are always practical. In the past, they thought that as long as we could make money and never worry about starvation, we would whatever the CPC says. However, with the wealth surge, more and more people think more than just money, for example, human rights. I’m not saying that there are no human rights under the ruling of communism, but people gradually find out that maybe some basic rights such as universal vote can never be achieved because of its contradiction with some fundamental principles of socialism.
      the mere realization of the problem of bureaucracy is far from enough. Chinese people cannot just stand aside and wait for CPC itself to make some changes. Remember Jiang Jingguo? He realized that dictatorship cannot last forever and profoundly changed his ruling by himself. This suicide-like reform was so radical that a former dictator opened the door for democracy without any physical pressure from other countries, which has never been seen in the history of the Chinese society. Come back to the discussion, as a common people, what we can do is just to hope that such miracle could occur in the mainland as well some day. A society is consisted of tens of thousands of common people. If we show the will, the rulers will find its way.
      I enjoy discussing with you like ever before.

  2. zjlqzzj

    it doesn’t really necessary for me to identify the lines between the socialism and capitalism in China.Reducing priviledges in many aspects in the society seems more important.Meanwhile complaining the those prviledges won’t be helpful to a person’s maturity in his views of seeing the world.
    On the other hand,”Workers can only survive by selling their labor power to an employer.” That is true and surely unsustainable in the process to the modernization of a country.And upgrading the industries or industries transfering shall be a imperative way to go.
    However,at the time when the computer and robot increasingly replacing the labor force like workers in Foxconn and so forth.
    Confronting those problems will be a tough question,i think. That should pose a big threat to China.

    1. Mars

      you don’t think it’s important to distinguish socialism with capitalism? If so, why did we have to study those tedious Marxism in high school and university? If so, why can’t we change the ruling party and elect the leaders the people truly support? The ideology does matter greatly to a country.
      I’m not complaining about the privileges that a certain sort of class possesses. It’s one of the expressions of a more fundamental problem. It’s a problem of the system.
      I’m glad that this website has not been blocked by the government so that you could comment freely.

      1. zjlqzzj

        Liu,I’m not saying you’re complaining about political system in China,in fact,I’m surely not qualified to comment the politic issues in front of a laywer student.
        Surely distinguishing the line between socialism and capitalism is important, and I do not go against that the CCP’s principal”Sticking to the socialism”.As an ordinary citizen,as long as sticking to the socialism can lead to a more prosperous,confident and balanced society,it’s fine,why not?The society,I mean,should not be filled with priviledges that twist the distribution of the fundemental rights for each citizen of this country.Here I don’t think my comment can be blocked in Chinese websites,well,I have no time and no willing to express any of them.
        So it’s my point of view that reducing priviledges in many aspects in the society seems more important.Actually,the both sides are making efforts.The CCP realized the importance of it perhaps at the end of the Cultural Revolution led by Mao.One of what American people proud most,I think,is that the gov is captured in the cage instead of that the US sticks to the capitalism,right?I think it’s just different view can lead different conclusions.

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