Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Andrew Batson's Blog — What is socialist about “socialism with Chinese characteristics”?

Capitalism aims at efficiency, and socialism aims at effectiveness.
But I’ve also been wondering whether there are other, more purely economic consequences: what do Chinese leaders think are the fundamentals of socialism that they cannot abandon and still call themselves socialist? So far, I’ve come up with two answers. And as so often, one of Deng’s own pithy comments provides the best summary. In a 1985 interview with American journalists, Deng said: “In the course of reform we shall make sure of two things: one is that the public sector of the economy is always predominant; the other is that in developing the economy we seek common prosperity, always trying to avoid polarization.” I think that’s exactly right.
I would propose, then, that in practical terms the “socialism” part of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” means 1) a continued large role for state-owned enterprises, and 2) generous regional development policies aimed at offsetting the inequalities produced by market forces.…
The economic model that China’s post-1978 leaders have been working with owes a lot to Lenin’s New Economic Policy of the early 1920s in Russia. To recover from the excesses and economic disasters of the early Bolshevik period, Lenin proposed a mixed-economy model, in which market mechanisms and private firms play a major role but SOEs occupy a strategic position (the famous phrase “the commanding heights” is often attributed to Lenin at this time, but it appears only in fragmentary form in his collected works; Nikolai Bukharin, the theorist of the NEP, should probably get the credit). This mixed model did not last long in Russia, but it has persisted for some decades now in China [since introduced being by Deng]…
Here a good guide is John G. Gurley’s 1970 essay “Capitalist and Maoist Economic Development,” a treatment of Maoism that is unusually sympathetic. Gurley introduced a distinction between capitalist “building on the best” (investing in the places and people with the greatest comparative advantage) and Maoist “building on the worst” (deliberately investing in the places and people that are disadvantaged). Here’s how he summarizes the difference:
Capitalist development, even when most successful, is always a trickle-down development. …. In many ways, then, Maoist ideology rejects the capitalist principle of building on the best, even though the principle cannot help but be followed to some extent in any effort at economic development. However, the Maoist departures from the principle are the important thing. While capitalism, in their view, strives one-sidedly for efficiency in producing goods, Maoism, while also seeking some high degree of efficiency, at the same time, in numerous ways, builds on “the worst.” … Maoists build on the worst not, of course, because they take great delight in lowering economic efficiency, but rather to involve everyone in the development process, to pursue development without leaving a single person behind, to achieve a balanced growth rather than a lopsided one.
Andrew Batson's Blog


Andrew Anderson said...

Deng said: "... the other is that in developing the economy we seek common prosperity, always trying to avoid polarization.”

Which is why fiat and credit creation should be ethical and not, as they have been in the US, favoring the rich*.

*Eg. Interest paying sovereign debt since this constitutes welfare proportional to wealth and not need.

Bob said...

Should be "What is socialist about "State capitalism with Chinese characteristics?" "