Ul­ti­mate tri­umph

Re­form and open­ing-up a con­sen­sus in China de­spite oc­ca­sional ex­treme views

Global Times - - Front Page - By Xie Went­ing Page Ed­i­tor: liqian@glob­al­times.com.cn

China will cel­e­brate the 40th an­niver­sary of its re­form and open­ing-up this year

Leftists say that so­cial prob­lems caused by the re­form have over­shad­owed its achieve­ments

As the open­ing-up has en­tered a deep-water stage, new ob­sta­cles and in­ter­ests groups ap­pear

“Com­mu­nists can sum up their the­ory in one sen­tence: Elim­i­nate pri­vate own­er­ship.” When Zhou Xincheng, a pro­fes­sor of Marx­ism at Ren­ming Uni­ver­sity of China, em­pha­sized this in his re­cent ar­ti­cle in Qizhi, a Party the­o­ret­i­cal jour­nal, it im­me­di­ately at­tracted at­ten­tion and con­tro­versy.

Giv­ing Qizhi’s back­ground and af­fil­i­a­tion with the Party and the tim­ing of its pub­li­ca­tion – right be­fore the coun­try pre­pares to cel­e­brate the 40th an­niver­sary of its re­form and open­ing-up – many are con­cerned that Zhou’s ar­ti­cle might sig­nal re­gres­sion.

Some pri­vate en­trepreneurs are now “ex­tremely wor­ried” and think this ar­ti­cle may be a tip-off; “they feel a strong sense of un­cer­tainty,” ac­cord­ing to a fol­low-up ar­ti­cle in news out­let San Tiao.

“En­trepreneurs are not the only group that felt a chill read­ing Zhou’s ar­ti­cle. Or­di­nary peo­ple who own pri­vate prop­erty through their own hard work can’t stop wor­ry­ing about ‘elim­i­nat­ing pri­vate own­er­ship,’” read the ar­ti­cle.

Su Wei, a pro­fes­sor at the Party School of the Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC) Chongqing Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mit­tee, told the Global Times that peo­ple’s con­cerns over Zhou’s ar­ti­cle is “un­nec­es­sary” and that China’s lead­er­ship will con­tinue to deepen re­form for peo­ple’s wel­fare.

“De­spite some left­ist groups and op­po­si­tion among cer­tain in­ter­est groups, look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture, re­form is sup­ported by most Chi­nese peo­ple,” he said.

Anti-re­form forces

China is now the world’s se­cond-largest econ­omy as a re­sult of rapid de­vel­op­ment brought about by its re­form and open­ing-up.

Start­ing from 1978, China be­gan to re­form the eco­nomic sys­tem by re­lax­ing State con­trol and al­low­ing non-State own­er­ship and mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion, and in the mean­time opened up the econ­omy to the out­side world.

And yet, de­spite the out­stand­ing achieve­ments made over the past four decades, many “leftists,” some quite ex­treme, con­tinue to ar­gue that China’s re­form and open­ing-up has ush­ered in more prob­lems than ben­e­fits.

Xia, 42, who works in a pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion in Hubei Prov­ince, stressed to the Global Times that the pol­icy has caused many so­cial prob­lems, in­clud­ing an ex­treme dis­par­ity be­tween rich and poor, as well as soar­ing hous­ing prices and wide-scale pollution.

“The ap­pear­ance of bil­lion­aires shows that China’s re­form is on the wrong track,” he added, ex­plain­ing that while Chi­nese peo­ple have en­joyed ma­te­ri­al­ism, bet­ter hous­ing and an abun­dance of food, these aren’t “real ben­e­fits.”

“They are suf­fer­ing from spir­i­tual void. Many Chi­nese are now be­hav­ing so stupidly that they even travel to Ja­pan. They treat our en­e­mies as friends. Their spir­i­tual sta­tus makes me anx­ious,” he said. “The hap­pi­ness we ob­tain from ma­te­ri­al­ism won’t last long.”

In his opin­ion, Xia be­lieves that the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion (1966-76), con­sid­ered by the CPC to be China’s decade of po­lit­i­cal chaos, was in fact a time dur­ing which so­ci­ety was “healthy and pos­i­tive.”

“Now the money goes to a few pri­vate peo­ple or for­eign­ers’ pock­ets while our lo­cal gov­ern­ments are debt-rid­den,” he said.

A search on left­ist web­sites in­clud­ing Utopia, a fa­mous left­ist and Maoist web­site, re­veals that many share the same thoughts as Xia. On pop­u­lar ques­tio­nand-an­swer web­site Zhihu, some ne­ti­zens linked an­tire­form and open­ing-up forces di­rectly to Maoists.

Xia said that the younger gen­er­a­tions of Chi­nese are now too self­ish and only care about ma­te­rial plea­sures while to­tally blind to the coun­try’s true prob­lems.

“Many el­derly peo­ple are fi­nally wak­ing up. But among the post-1990s gen­er­a­tion, they’re too lame to no­tice the prob­lems in re­form and open­ing-up and I feel sad for them,” he said.

Su noted that ex­treme right­ist also do not quite ap­prove of the cur­rent re­form, as what they ad­vo­cate is “ab­so­lute lib­er­al­iza­tion” and they feel that “cur­rently, there is no re­form in China.”

Ac­cord­ing to Su, many laid-off State-owned en­ter­prise (SOE) work­ers are un­sat­is­fied with the re­form and open­ing-up pol­icy. These work­ers once en­joyed sta­ble salar­ies and high so­cial sta­tus. Af­ter the re­form, how­ever, life has been harder for them.

Now, new ob­sta­cles are ap­pear­ing, in­clud­ing the rise of “in­ter­est groups” in dif­fer­ent re­gions and within the Party it­self.

“Some gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials col­lude with busi­ness­peo­ple to snatch up in­ter­ests and they be­come an in­de­pen­dent king­dom,” Su said, adding that the re­form is in a “deep water area.”

Some pub­lic ser­vants and of­fi­cials have also be­come re­sis­tant forces in the re­form, ac­cord­ing to Su.

Many cur­rent poli­cies, in­clud­ing re­tire­ment salar­ies

De­spite some left­ist groups and op­po­si­tion among cer­tain in­ter­est groups, look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture, re­form is sup­ported by most Chi­nese peo­ple.” Su Wei Pro­fes­sor at the Party School of the Com­mu­nist Party of China Chongqing Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mit­tee

and health in­sur­ances, are more in fa­vor of peo­ple work­ing in the gov­ern­ment than those work­ing for com­pa­nies. There­fore, they are un­will­ing to push the re­form for­ward, he said.

Led by the Party

A key point of Zhou’s ar­ti­cle is that he de­fends SOEs, which he said are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of pub­lic own­er­ship and the essence of so­cial­ism.

He slammed of­fi­cials who said it is bet­ter to only let pri­vate en­ter­prises com­pete in the mar­ket and harshly crit­i­cized ex­perts who speak out for pri­vate econ­omy.

Fol­low­ing the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s call, a slew of SOEs are now speed­ing up mixed-own­er­ship re­form and ush­er­ing in pri­vate in­vest­ment in a bid to im­prove com­pet­i­tive­ness and let mar­ket forces play a greater role.

Su said that this mixed-own­er­ship re­form rep­re­sents so­cial­ism with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics and that ush­er­ing in pri­vate cap­i­tal won’t dam­age the essence of SOEs. “Even when ush­er­ing in pri­vate in­vest­ments, they are still builders of so­cial­ism with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics. They’re still led by the Party,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion, im­por­tant sec­tors in the mixed-own­er­ship re­form in­clude power, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, pe­tro­leum, nat­u­ral gas, civil avi­a­tion, the mil­i­tary and oth­ers.

The de­bate over cap­i­tal­ism and so­cial­ism in re­gards to in­tro­duc­ing pri­vate and for­eign in­vest­ment has long been a key is­sue in China’s re­form and open­ing-up. Deng Xiaop­ing, a for­mer Chi­nese leader and chief ar­chi­tect of the pol­icy, con­struc­tively made a slew of re­marks to end the de­bate.

“The chief cri­te­rion for mak­ing that judg­ment should be whether it pro­motes the growth of the pro­duc­tive forces in a so­cial­ist so­ci­ety, in­creases the over­all strength of the so­cial­ist state and raises liv­ing stan­dards,” Deng said in his 1992 tour to China’s south­ern re­gions be­fore in­tro­duc­ing for­eign in­vest­ment on a large-scale.

Su said that the elim­i­na­tion of pri­vate own­er­ship is Com­mu­nism’s “ul­ti­mate goal,” but now we are still at the pri­mary phase of so­cial­ism, dur­ing which we en­cour­ages the de­vel­op­ment of a non-pub­lic sec­tor econ­omy.

“It’s nec­es­sary to re­state our ul­ti­mate goal. If we don’t talk about long-term goals, it will lead to op­por­tunism and cor­rup­tion. But the ul­ti­mate goal doesn’t equal an ac­tion guide­line,” he told the Global Times.

Re­form in a new era

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping vowed to press ahead with re­form to reach “ul­ti­mate tri­umph” in a New Year ad­dress for 2018.

“We will take the op­por­tu­nity of cel­e­brat­ing the 40th an­niver­sary of the re­form and open­ing-up in 2018 to fur­ther carry out re­form, as re­form and open­ing-up is the path we must take to make progress in con­tem­po­rary China and to re­al­ize the Chi­nese Dream,” Xi said.

Su said that when China first started its re­form and open­ing-up, there was no “top-layer de­sign” and peo­ple just “touched the stones to cross the river.” “But now we have a top-layer de­sign and we can cal­cu­late the max­i­mum com­mon fac­tor,” he said, adding that top lead­ers are al­ready plan­ning fur­ther re­forms.

They are a solid foun­da­tion for fu­ture re­form in deeper lay­ers, which must rely on the thor­ough study and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the spirit of the 19th Na­tional Congress of the CPC and Xi Jin­ping Thought on So­cial­ism with Chi­nese Char­ac­ter­is­tics for a New Era, Xinhua re­ported.

In 2015, the new Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party Dis­ci­plinary Reg­u­la­tions stip­u­lated that peo­ple who openly op­posed re­form and open­ing-up pol­icy will be ex­pelled from the Party, ac­cord­ing to Xinhua.

Wang Zhanyang, a pro­fes­sor at the Cen­tral In­sti­tute of So­cial­ism, told the Global Times in a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view that “main­stream pub­lic opin­ion sup­ports re­form and the mar­ket econ­omy, rather than ask­ing for an­other round of Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion and planned econ­omy.”

Wang added that the in­flu­ence of the left-wing “on or­di­nary peo­ple has been greatly re­duced.”

Su said that, de­spite China’s cel­e­bra­tions for the 40th an­niver­sary, it is im­por­tant to re­flect on the “blun­ders” we’ve made in the past and “avoid only re­port­ing what is good and con­ceal­ing what is bad.”

Photo: VCG

A gi­ant flag of the Com­mu­nist Party of China hangs out­side of a depart­ment store in Shenyang, Liaon­ing Prov­ince, on Septem­ber 26, 2017.

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