Socialism with Chinese characteristics

From Academic Kids

This article is about the term itself and its relationships. For its implementation and effects see Economy of mainland China and Chinese economic reform.

"Socialism with Chinese characteristics" (Chinese: 具有中国特色的社会主义市场经济) is the official term for the economy of the mainland of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Although it appeared as late as the early 1990s that the government intended to retain ownership of heavy industry, entry, and infrastructure, they were ultimately privatized for a number of reasons. The most important was that with pricing reform in the late 1980s, most state owned enterprises became highly unprofitable and the government decided to close or sell them off. Thus, the PRC gradually made a transition to a system in which all resource allocations are made on the basis of prices, and in which most of the means of production are in private hands, prompting many people both communist and capitalist to wonder how does the PRC system differ from outright capitalism.

The PRC government, however, continues to maintain that it has not abandoned Marxism, since officially abandoning Marxism would undermine the legitimacy of the Communist Party of China. Therefore, the PRC radically redefined many of the terms and concepts of Marxist theory to justify its new economic system.

In Marxist theory, history progresses through a number of stages from slave society to feudal society to capitalist society to socialist society to communist society. In Maoist theory, the revolution of 1949 was a change from feudalism to socialism, and this change is considered to be irreversible. As a result, the Chinese Communist Party has been able to redefine socialism and to argue that socialism is not incompatible with economic policies such as private ownership of the means of production, free markets, neoliberal globalization, or anything else for that matter. In essence, they argue that socialism means anything that happened (or happens, or will happen) from the 1949 revolution onwards. In current Chinese Communist thinking, the PRC is in the primary stage of socialism, and this redefinition allows the PRC to undertake just about any economic policy it wants without running into theoretical difficulties or without undermining its justification for existence.

However, this solution presents another problem. If the Chinese Communist Party does not use any theory and not even a set of general guidelines for how a socialist system should look like, then how does it make its economic decisions? Their answer is to use Deng Xiaoping's dictum seek truth from facts and just do whatever seems to work. In an international context, PRC statesmen usually follow this line: "China respects the diversity of the world. There are nearly 200 countries in the world with a population of more than 5 billion. There should not and cannot be only one mode of development, one concept of values and only one type of social system in the world due to differences in historical conditions, social systems, development levels, cultural traditions and concepts of values."

There is also one final problem with which the Chinese Communist Party is still trying to deal: Marxism claims to be an exact, well-defined scientific theory of social and economic development, while the PRC reformulation of Marxism clearly lacks these qualities. It is difficult for the PRC government to build its legitimacy on a theory that amounts to "do anything that seems good". Therefore, it has moved toward Chinese nationalism as a basis for its legitimacy, and, for that matter, as an emotional motivator as well.

In a dinner with Henry Kissinger, Deng joked with him that the pig being served (Kissinger is Jewish) was not really pig at all, but "Chinese Duck", so it was O.K. for him to eat it. So, too, Deng called his new system Socialism with Chinese characteristics so it wouldn't really be capitalism and would be O.K. for the PRC to adopt.


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