GDP and grain production in China

Roberto Delacruz mlm at
Tue Apr 23 07:17:07 MDT 1996

Thought I'd add this article about recollectivisation in China
Maoist Peg in a Capitalist Hole

Rising like an unquiet spirit out of the farmlands of eastern China's
Henan Province looms the biggest, shiniest Mao Zedong statue to be
erected in China in more than a decade. About 30 feet of spotless white
marble, the brand- new sculpture dwarfs the teenaged militiamen who stand
guard in round-the- clock shifts at its base.

Mao's raised stone arm seems to cast a blessing over the surrounding
village of Nanjie, a thriving neo-Maoist commune in a country that has
unequivocally  turned its back on the Great Helmsman's  philosophy. Mao's
radical collectivist doctrines have received short shrift in China ever
since Deng Xiaoping pro-claimed in the mid-1980s that "to get rich is
glorious." But 10 years on, losers in Deng's increasingly stratified
socialist market economy are pondering how their shattered "iron rice
bowls" can ever be put back together again; they look to-ward Nanjie for

Nanjie's recollectivization began in 1986 when local Communist Party
secretary Wang Hongbin repealed the Dengist  "household responsibility"
system of farming. After a six-year experiment with family plots, the
village reverted to communal cultivation. Through collective effort,
Nanjie now boasts a drought-proof 2,230-foot-deep communal well.  And, no
matter how overloaded the national transportation grid, Nanjie's supplies
and produce move on the village's own 150-truck fleet. Even inflation,
the great bogyman of China's current boom, hardly fazes Nanjie: Villagers
receive their staples in kind rather than cash.

Agricultural production, which had slumped by more than 50 percent under
the "household responsibility" system, has rebounded. It accounted for a
record $944,000 of village income in 1994. Yet only 70 of the 3,100
inhabitants now work in the fields, and agriculture adds up to just 1
percent of Nanjie's total projected output for 1994.

The rest comes from communally owned village enterprises
For Deng's left-wing critics, Nanjie sums up a "back to the future"
vision for  post-Deng China
Nanjie, on the other hand, prides itself on treating its guest workers
"even better than our own villagers," according to Li Heqian, director of
the village investment corporation. "For one thing, the migrants get paid
more: 2,160 Alan a year in salary and 1,440 yuan in welfare benefits [a
total of about $427], versus 2,300 and 900 yuan [about $379] for Nanjie
natives .... We get five applicants for every job offered."

Still, being born in Nanjie confers certain advantages. Local families
are entitled to airy, 1,000-square-foot, completely furnished apartments.
Each of these homes costs about 120,000 yuan, Li reckons. Because the
village pays such a hefty "dowry" to each household, the "elder aunties"
of the village committee reserve the right to vet all marriages. Approved
couples get to tie the knot in a yearly mass ceremony.

Village elders regularly update the "star ratings" of each of the 700-odd
households on such parameters as personal hygiene, public spirit,
domestic tranquillity, studiousness of  children, work enthusiasm,  and
political participation.  Ten-star households enjoy the full range of
Nanjie welfare benefits: free gas and electricity, medical care,
kindergarten-through-college education, life insurance, and a grocery
basket that includes everything from flour and pork to persimmon cakes
and monosodium glutamate.

For each star short of the mark, the "aunties" rescind one perk, forcing
the family to buy those benefits on the market. "Here, you don't gain
face by spending money," Li points out. "You lose it."

Such a reversal of prevailing Chinese norms doesn't come easily. Nanjie
starts  inculcating "socialist spiritual civilization" at an early age.
>From the shiny new four-story schoolhouse comes the drone of children
reciting their Quotations of Chairman Mao
Back in Cultural Revolution times, recalls Zhang Yubin of the Hen an
foreign - affairs department, Nanjie commune was regarded as no great
shakes, politically or economically. Maybe it takes the milieu of a
market economy to make neo- Maoist collectivism work. Maybe the square
peg cannot stand without the round hole.

"If the so-called Nanjie model says anything of interest to contemporary
China," says the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences sociologist, "it's
all about micro- rather than macroeconomics. It's fine to run a
conglomerate that way. . . . But it only works in the broader context of
competitive capitalism."

Lincoln Kaye, "Far Eastern Economic Review" (independent newsmagazine),
Hong Kong, Nov. 17,1994

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