- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Contemporary China has rejected the centralized planning of Soviet Stalinism. This Chinese anti-Stalinism is illustrated by its rejection of the Soviet economic model, or contemporary China starts where the influence of Soviet economic policy ends.

Modern China also originated from its abandonment of Mao Zedong´s closed-door policy to the West. Although still revering Mao as a great revolutionary leader, today´s China began by negating Mao´s exclusion of any cultural dialogue with the West.

The 1978 reforms of Deng Xiaoping initiated a new Chinese model of development. Deng escaped from the Stalinist paradigm of economic centralization and introduced “market socialism.” Deng also reversed the closed-door policy of Mao and initiated an “open-door” policy that encouraged the interchange of ideas between China and the West.

The Deng model exploited the capitalist system to speed the industrialization of China. The capitalist free market was employed to advance the modernization of China. This Deng model was a success because it was the catalyst for the economic miracle that in the past 30 years transformed China.

Currently, about 70 percent of the Chinese economy is owned privately, while the central government maintains control of the remaining 30 percent.

But Deng made no political reforms, and on the state level, China is still encased in the single-party system of Soviet Stalinism. Contemporary China is a hybrid: on the socioeconomic level, it is a clone of the European social-welfare state while on the political level it is still a continuation of the Stalinist single party control over the state.

But the success of the Deng model generated its own contradictions. Ideologically faithful to the theory of Karl Marx, China should be transcending capitalism in its march to communism, but the paradox of the Deng model is that China reverted backward to capitalism as a means to accomplish its advanced modernization.

The Deng model inverted the developmental pattern of Marx, who predicted that socialism would replace capitalism. However, contemporary China is suffering from a contradiction in that capitalism replaced, to a large degree, the socialism of Marx, Stalin and Mao.

This internal asymmetry between the ideal and goal of socialism and capitalist reality is evident in the class structure of contemporary China. According to Marxist theory, socialism meant a classless society; however, the reality of capitalist China is the continued existence of class divisions.

The contradiction between rich and poor is publicly advertised by the gated, gentrified Donald Trump-style 40-story apartment complexes that surround the South Lake in metropolitan Wuhan that are privately bought in perpetuity for 3 million U.S. dollars, while the outskirts of Wuhan are clogged with 18th-century shantytowns.

But the worst class contradictions are between the agricultural poor and the metropolitan economic elite. With a population of 1.3 billion, and with a vast demography of farmer poverty, China is confronting one of the major socioeconomic challenges of the 21st century: how to overcome the class polarization of urban wealth and agricultural deprivation.

Contradiction frequently breeds creativity, and the Deng model has launched a massive program to erase the bipolarity between city and countryside. The government has pledged itself to double the income of peasant families by 2020, and has embarked upon a three-pronged program to accomplish this goal: 1) farmers, who are now allowed to own their own land, will pay no taxes; 2) farmers will receive state subsidies as an incentive to increase the amount of land they cultivate; 3) whereas peasant families previously had to pay tuition to send their children to school, they will now enjoy free education through the end of high school.

In addition to their efforts to ameliorate capitalist-peasant class divisions, the Chinese government is preparing for an internal migration that will be the largest in human history. Literally hundreds of millions of peasants, who ultimately forsake their land, will migrate into the already swollen eastern cities, or the government will build new cities from nothing.

The example of the Deng model in the engineering of this second agricultural revolution has already won international recognition. The Chinese Administrative College, an institute in Beijing offering advanced training for government officials, recently hosted a global conference of 80 underdeveloped countries to advise them of the design of their second agricultural revolution. The Deng model is serving as a developmental paradigm for Third World countries in their dash for modernization.

Locating China means to recognize the contending antithetical movements within the country. It is a country of conflicting tendencies, but situating China means recognizing that it is defining its own future with Chinese characteristics.

• Norman Levine recently returned from his third trip to China. He lectured at four universities in Beijing, two universities in Taiyuan, Shenxi Province, and at the University of Wuhan. He talked extensively with Chinese professors and government officials about the Chinese predicament.

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