Whither China?

Mike Calvert mikeybear77 at SPAMhotmail.com
Mon Nov 8 09:01:47 MST 1999

Please take me off the list

Mike Calvert

>From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
>Reply-To: marxism at lists.panix.com
>To: marxism at lists.panix.com, pen-l at galaxy.csuchico.edu
>CC: hliu at mindspring.com
>Subject: Whither China?
>Date: Sun, 07 Nov 1999 09:16:45 -0500
>This paper is by a Chinese political economist at MIT, Zhiyuan Cui.  It
>a good summary of the debate in China in recent years.
>Cui posts on the Post Keynesian list.
>After receiving this note from Henry Liu this morning, I put the paper he
>refers to out on http://www.panix.com/~lnp3/china.htm.
>It appears in the latest Social Text under the title "Whither China" and
>this is the conclusion:
>How does the discussion of these three schools of thought on property
>rights answer the question "Whither China"? I am not an idealist who gives
>priority to ideas in historical explanation. But I submit that ideas play a
>particularly important role in times of big social change. It is so because
>big social change implies huge uncertainty, and the various actors need
>some ideas or theories in order to persuade themselves and others where
>their interests may lie. At this kind of historical juncture, ideas could
>leave more imprints on historical trajectory than they could possibly be in
>relative stable times. China now stands in such an historical juncture.
>We have already seen that the sophisticated thesis of "clearness of
>property rights" has a big impact on the CCP's decision to establish " the
>modern enterprise system" via corporatization. We also have pointed out
>that the thesis of clearing property rights can be used for many different
>purposes, including argument for "labor's property rights". The news came
>out of China immediately after the 15th party congress seems to indicate
>that China will experiment with shareholding system on a larger scale . But
>the central leaders also cry for caution and prudence in the enlarged
>experiment . Therefore, it is not impossible to see the emerging Chinese
>shareholding system combining the best elements of each of these three
>schools of thought.
>However, there is one great danger: corruption in the implementation
>process of corportization. It is well known from the Russian privatization
>experience that corportization may degenerate into sheer misappropriation
>of public assets by corrupted officials and managers. Though the Chinese
>leaders insist China's corportization is not voucher privatization of the
>Russian kind, it must face some similar problems of procedure in asset
>valuation, which are subject to misuse easily.  In this light, it is
>particularly relevant to connect political democratization with
>corportization reform. Wu Jinaglian, whose idea on clearing property rights
>we discussed above, has proposed to establish a "public assets committee"
>in each level of People's Congress overseeing the implementation of
>corportization . If tried, this proposal may prove to be crucial to the
>success of Chinese shareholding system.
>Finally, can we say today's China is moving toward "capitalism", as the
>western left and right are converging their views on this matter? It
>depends on what we mean by "capitalism". Deng Xiaoping once said, "we do
>not know what is socialism". In fact, we might add to this by saying, "we
>also do not know what is capitalism". Fernand Braudel confessed in his
>monumental work on the history of modern civilization from the 15th to the
>18th century that he might be able to write the whole book without using
>the very word "capitalism" . Indeed, the word "capitalism" seems too broad
>to be useful for analyzing today's China. Should we say the shareholding
>system is inherently "capitalist"? If so, how do we make sense of the
>historical fact that J.S. Mill introduced the General Act of Incorporation
>with limited liability for shareholders to the British Parliament in 1855
>on the basis of its supposed function to promote worker's cooperatives?
>After all, Marx converges with the American "legal realism" in insisting
>that "ownership" is not a single right, but a "bundle of rights" , which
>can be disintegrated and rearranged to regulate changing social relations.
>The vocabulary of "bundle of rights" makes it possible to break away from
>the Stalinist conception of socialist ownership as having only two possible
>types, namely, "state ownership" and "collective ownership". The CCP's 15th
>Party Congress did exactly that by allowing cross stockholding between
>state shares, legal-person shares and individual shares. It opens up the
>possibility of enlarging and democratizing the stakeholders of the bundle
>of property rights in corporations. It also leaves the room for corruption
>and misappropriation of public assets wide open. It is here that both hope
>and danger for China lies.
>Louis Proyect
>Marxism mailing list: (http://www.panix.com/~lnp3/marxism.html)

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