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Reform and Economic Man


  • Xin Mao


China's reform and opening up begins to enter its eighteenth year. Accompanying tremendous achievements in economic construction in these eighteen years, there have also been unprecedentedly complicated contradictions in society's economic life. Reform had its incubation in controversy, and although the principle of "not debating" (>i>bu zhenglun>/i>) has worked to camouflage a large part of the controversies, certain doubts and worries have nevertheless still managed to become reflected through tortuous and winding ways. Such things as the farfetched explanation that "even if we open our windows we can be sure that flies will not come in," the mood on the part of people who curse even as things are going well for them, the defense of the theory that we are climbing up the moral incline (>i>daode papo>/i>), the joke that has been made of "one hand firm and the other hand soft," the popularity of the "cat theory" of socialism, the "theory" of "[crossing the river] by groping one's way," and the notion that [socialism] "cannot be clarified," the fact that the "three conducives" have become a shield for certain cadres as they sidle up to business tycoons and go about divvying up state-owned property, and the existence of a batch of high-ranking cadresâtypified by [former Beijing Chinese Communist Party Secretary] Chen Xitongâwho are, "at any moment, prepared for" a "Great Escape" in case "anything goes wrong,"âall these things in reality reflect, in one way or another, the anxiety and worries that people have in their minds in regard to the socialist orientation of reform. All of the reforms in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union went under the banner of socialism, but in reality all went in the direction of capitalism. China, too, in its reform, took lessons from the successful experiences of Yugoslavia and Hungary, and we, too, once sang the praises of Gorbachev. Let us not forget that, during the period of turmoil in 1989, Gorbachev just happened to be visiting China, and at the time, Zhao Ziyang, we are told, unburdened himself to Gorbachev, and one must assume that there was much sympathy between the two. As for whether Zhao shared his experience and lessons with Gorbachev in such a way as to have enabled the Soviet Union to complete its evolution smoothly, we will never be able to tell. Today, while it may be true that the evolution of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe has already become history, does that imply that China itself has been able to successfully stem the tide of peaceful evolution, and can rest permanently on these laurels, without fear or anxiety?

Suggested Citation

  • Xin Mao, 1999. "Reform and Economic Man," Chinese Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(2), pages 22-60, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:mes:chinec:v:32:y:1999:i:2:p:22-60

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