Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Where is China headed?

China's high speed train system

David Seaton's News Link
I heard a talk over a year ago at a meeting of the Madrid Fulbright association: the speaker was professor Fisac, the head of Chinese studies at Madrid University. 

She said that in the course of conversation with an official of the Chinese Communist Party, she had asked him what he considered "socialism".  

He replied that Western Europe was an example of socialism with its good, free public schools and universities and its good, free public health systems.  

Some people listening to professor Fisac thought this Tea Partyish formulation was a joke. I didn't.

I remembered that before becoming head of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa visited France, invited by the PCF. They were impressed by the quality of French education and health services and at the same time dazzled by how well the French ate and dressed. Gorbachev decided that he wanted the same for the USSR: thus was Perestroika born.

Here is how Gorbachev defined it:
Perestroika means overcoming the stagnation process, breaking down the braking mechanism, creating a dependable and effective mechanism for acceleration of social and economic progress and giving it greater dynamism.
Perestroika means mass initiative. It is the conference of development of democracy, socialist self-government, encouragement of initiative and creative endeavor, improved water and disciplined, more glasnost, criticism and self-criticism in all spheres of our society. It is utmost respect for the individual and consideration for personal dignity.
Perestroika is the all-round intensification of the Soviet economy, the revival and development of the principles of democratic centralism in running the national economy, the universal introduction of economic methods, the renunciation of management by injunction and by administrative methods, and the overall encouragement of innovation and socialist enterprise.
Perestroika means a resolute shift to scientific methods, an ability to provide a solid scientific basis for every new initiative. It means the combination of the achievements of the scientific and technological revolution with a planned economy
Perestroika means priority development of the social sphere aimed at ever better satisfaction of the Soviet people's requirements for good living and working conditions, for good rest and recreation, education and health care. It means unceasing concern for cultural and spiritual wealth, for the culture of every individual and society as a whole.
He got into trouble when he combined it with Glasnost (transparency). Everything fell apart. Now the Soviet Union no longer exists,  education and health have deteriorated, the economy is in the hands of gangsters and the democracy (what there is of it) is of very poor quality.

My reading of the Chinese Communist Party is that they want Perestroika without the Glasnost, and I think they are going to pull it off. They saw what happened to Russia and have taken steps to avoid that outcome.

Of course Western Europe is the model of development that the Chinese are after. Any country that took the USA, with its paralyzed political system, deteriorating infrastructures, withering public education and uneven health  coverage for a model would be foolish.

Our problem is how we can have our own Perestroika without everything falling apart. DS


Harry Haller said...

I am working on a paper contrasting India and China and this comes in handy. Very interesting.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I can't think of any two mentalities further removed from each other than the Chinese and the Indian. What I think distinguishes the Chinese most is their effort at a synthesis of their own philosophy with what they find useful in western thought Confucius/Tao/Hegel/Marx/Lenin/Mao. The Indians, on the other hand, having been a colony of the British have been spoon fed a western veneer, but you often get the feeling it is only skin deep.