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Excerpt from an essay by Vince Sherman on China and "Market Socialism"|
While the Great Leap Forward was an ambitious attempt at laying the industrial foundation necessary to build socialism, the facts are in: China’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 1960, after the GLF, was $68.371 billion. (10) In 2009, China’s GDP sits just under $5 trillion, making it the second largest economy in the world. (11) In other words, the modern Chinese economy is about 73 times the size of its economy following the Great Leap Forward, which was previously the largest socialist economic overhaul in Chinese history.
The cruel irony of Chinese socialism is that the bulk of its international admirers are not ‘leftists’, but rather capitalists. Far from approving of socialism, these capitalists are in awe of China’s manipulation of markets to build a thriving modern society without resorting to free markets. They hate China’s accomplishments and its socialist path, but they cannot deny its thriving success. Even Scissors acknowledges in the same Heritage Foundation article that, “between June 2002 and June 2008, China’s GDP more than tripled and its exports more than quadrupled.” (8)
China’s incredible GDP growth is of vital importance to socialism. Scissors continues:
This rapid GDP growth has created jobs: by the end of June 2008, the unemployment rate among registered urban voters was a mere four percent — even lower than the government’s ambitious target of 4.5 percent. That figure may understate true joblessness by ignoring rural and unregistered urban employment, but it accurately reflects trends in the broader job situation. So many migrant workers from rural areas were absorbed into the urban labor force that the 20 million such workers reported to have lost their jobs in late 2008 still left well over 100 million rural migrants with jobs in cities. (8)That China can essentially guarantee full employment for workers highlights another way in which the CCP uses markets to advance socialism. In addition to achieving de facto full employment, “Urban wages have climbed significantly, by 18 percent between 2007 and 2008,” representing serious material gains for the Chinese working class. (8)
Unlike the dispossessed masses of capitalist countries, the Chinese masses are consistently more satisfied with and favorable to their own nation’s economy. A July 2008 study conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project polled a diverse cross section of people in 24 developed countries, including China prior to the Beijing Olympics. Pew’s findings confirm the popularity of market socialism among the Chinese masses:
“As they eagerly await the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese people express extraordinary levels of satisfaction with the way things are going in their country and with their nation’s economy. With more than eight-in-ten having a positive view of both, China ranks number one among 24 countries on both measures in the 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Pew Global Attitudes Project.” (12)Incidentally, Pew finds that “Chinese satisfaction with these aspects of life has improved only modestly over the past six years, despite the dramatic increase in positive ratings of national conditions and the economy.” (12) While the Chinese masses celebrate the recent dramatic increase in the nation’s standard of living, the longevity of their satisfaction reflects a deeper relationship with the state.
Among Pew’s most interesting findings was the level of people in China concerned with growing income inequality. While inequality is a chief concern for the dispossessed masses in capitalist countries, the wealthy are not concerned with income inequality at all, as it constitutes the cornerstone of their class. The Chinese masses, however, respond to this critical concern very differently. Pew finds:
“About nine-in-ten (89%) identify the gap between rich and poor as a major problem and 41% cite it as a very big problem. Worries about inequality are common among rich and poor, old and young, and men and women, as well as the college-educated and those with less education. In that regard, despite economic growth, concerns about unemployment and conditions for workers are extensive, with 68% and 56% reporting these as big problems, respectively.” (12)The universality of concerns about income inequality, concerning even wealthier citizens, demonstrates the continued supremacy of socialist values in China. Cultural norms and values arise from the material conditions and relations of production. If China was a capitalist country, the widespread prevalence of socialist values–cutting across income levels–would not exist. To contend otherwise is to abandon a materialist analysis of culture.