Beijing IPRA (13-12-2008)


Nobody talks about the 1949 Great Socialist Revolution of China anymore. Most of the speeches by the government and private sector Chinese speakers I heard last month at the 17th International Public Relations Association (IPRA) Congress in Beijing talked about last 30 years only. For the Chinese it seems the modern history starts in 1978 December – a year after Chairman Mao Zedong’s death and emergence of Deng Xiaoping as the party leader.


Most of the Chinese I met during my one-week visit, barring a couple of self-employed persons, were happier with the “Socialist Market-Economic System” compared to “pure socialism” days (1949-780. Though hundreds of Chinese still pay their reverence to Chairman Mao’ embalmed body lying at the Tianamen Square everyday as liberation leader, they are not nostalgic about the time he ruled. Rather the older generation still remembers the ‘great failure’ of the “Great Leap Forward Policy” (1958-60) which led to a famine and the repressive “Cultural Revolution”1966-76. However two self-employed tourist guides I met complained that life has very competitive now and inequality has increased. But they also confessed that their families’ standard of living has improved a lot since the new policies have been implemented.


The reason is simple China has been the world engine of growth in the last 30 years which is the result of the ‘socialist market-economy.’ For example in 1980 China new leadership set three objectives: First to double their $250 billion GDP in10 years; second, to double it again by the end of the century. (This target was surpassed by the disciplined Chinese). And third, to double the GDP twice within 30-50 years of the current century. Surprisingly, they have far surpassed the last target in the first 8 years of the 21st century – China’s GDP stand at $6.4 trillion today. That makes it the world’s second biggest economy.


And today when the developed economies are facing recession, the world growth is still going to be led by China and India. Though the economic forecast from both the countries are also talking about substantial drop in growth owing to transmission of global meltdown, both the countries are targeting for at least 7% growth. Even if the official growth figures are taken as over-stated, the fact remains that both countries has large vibrant informal sector which is not counted here.


Awed by the signs of tremendous progress in Beijing; overwhelmed that in the last 30 years they have surpassed all the objectives set at the Communist Party congress in 1980; and impressed by the fact that in spite of being an export-oriented economy it is likely to sustain the impact of global economic crisis, I wonder have our economic policy makers ever tried to study the Chinese Socialist Market-Economy model. I think the Chinese miracle has to be studied in depth. “We have managed to adopt market economic principles but we put people first,” Wang Guaquing a senior official explained.


As no discussion has been held in Pakistan on this subject let’s take a bird’s eye view of the Chinese “Socialist market-economy” policy. The visionary of Chinese miracle — Deng Xiaoping’s, of view was: “A centrally-planned economy doesn’t signify socialism because capitalism is also based on centrally-planned system; a market economy definitely does not exclusively belong to capitalism because socialism also has a market. Whether it is centrally-planned economy or a market-economy, they are both a method of economy.”  This a part of continuous debate internationally (unfortunately, not in Pakistan) about whether market economy can be developed in a socialist society. I would take it further and invite a debate whether market economy can be employed putting people first?


Dr. Le Huu Tang, Vice-Director of the Center of Social Studies ,Viet Nam and Prof. Liu Han Yue, Director of Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, China in their joint book “Economic Reforms in Viet Nam and in China: A comparative Study,” have explained the economic reforms in the two countries. According to them: “A socialist market economy is not a spontaneous market economy. The market is a method and a measure for the most effective arrangement and organisation of natural resources. Yet it has its weaknesses. To make for these shortcomings, the Government intervenes to meet the market economy needs, including macro regulations. In addition to the two traditional methods applied by the market economies in general, which are monetary and financial policies, China resorts to central planning system. As a method for macro regulations, a central planning system has two layers: First, a master plan for national economic and social development; second, some important plans in regulating economic activities in operating the national economy.”


(Doesn’t this sounds familiar when you hear the champions of unbridled market economy these days).


The taste of this pudding is in the fact that China has grown into world’s second largest economy in a short span of 30 years and that it keeps its 1.3 billion people fed, provides them with education, basic health facilities, excellent infrastructure facilities and reasonably good law and order. This is no small achievement. It dwarfs the criticism of China by its detractors on account of less democracy, abuse of some human rights, protests for more rights in remote provinces and Tibet issue.


The Chinese people are single-mindedly pursuing their economic development objectives following the political policy of “peaceful co-existence and no interference in the internal affairs of other countries.” Shouldn’t we be going to China for getting Knowledge and not just toys for our army? May be we can learn a few lessons from our friend China that can really benefit the people of Pakistan. (

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