Monday, October 22, 2007

China and Capitalism

Readers of today's Independent can be forgiven if they get confused:

In the days of Chairman Mao, capitalists were "counterrevolutionaries" and "poisonous weeds", but China's Communist Party has ceded some ground of late to "capitalist running dogs" and now lists people like Chen Ailian, a sharp-suited entrepreneur, among the ranks of cadres.


The new Politburo, which is expected to cede some of its older blood for the younger allies of leader Hu Jintao, will run a different brand of Communist Party to the group of 13 ideologues who gathered in a draughty hall in Shanghai for the first congress in 1921. Back then, there were just 60 Communists in China – now there are 73 million.

In her old life, before she bought the Roller, Chen drove a truck, but now she is chairwoman of Wanfeng Auto Holding Group – the largest manufacturer of aluminium alloy wheels in Asia and one of the top 50 auto parts suppliers in China. "Like workers, farmers, intellectuals, cadres and soldiers, private entrepreneurs are also builders of socialism with Chinese characteristics," said the 49-year-old, who represents the private sector in the booming province of Zhejiang.

The fiery rhetoric rings uncannily similar to the dictums of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book, but her story is a parable of new China.

She borrowed £32,000 and rented a factory, then built her business up until her company, based in her home town of Shaoxing, was supplying components to the likes of Ford, Toyota, and GM. Chinese factories built 8.5 million cars last year, making it the world's biggest manufacturer and the third-biggest car buyer.

Private entrepreneurs were long excluded from the Communist Party, but now they are recognised for their contribution to the economy. Last year 1,554 capitalists joined the party, a small but significant number in terms of their influence. The rise of the stock market and years of double-digit economic growth have given rise to a new entrepreneur class and China's 345,000 dollar millionaires are more than welcome into the ranks of the party.

The simple fact is the Chinese Revolution in 1949 saw the development of state capitalism, not the establishment of socialism, under the auspices of the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship. The CCP developed into a ruling class.

What has changed through the decades is the way the Chinese ruling class has been recruited as well as more liberalisation of the capitalist system there.

The "socialism with Chinese characteristics" is balogney. It's capitalism pure and simple - the word "socialism" is being misused by a ruling class to hide the exploitation of the Chinese working class.

But heck, the media never had problems calling the economic system in China "Capitalist" yet still calling the country "Communist" the very next breath.

A clearer example of Doublethink if ever there was.

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