Sunday, October 15, 2006

Effects of China's "Radical Marketization"

Recently the Chinese government purged a large number of corrupt officials. Former Tainanmen Square demonstration leader Wang Hui shares his view of the larger situation facing China with Pankaj Mishra of the New York Times Magazine:
… local officials, he said, used their arbitrary power to become successful entrepreneurs and the expense of the rural populations they were meant to serve, and had joined up with real estate speculators to seize collectively owned land form peasants (According to Chinese officials, 60 percent of land acquisitions are illegal.) The result has been an alliance of elite political and commercial interests, Wang said, that recalls similar alliances in the United States and many East Asian countries.
Wang strongly commends the Chinese government for having admitted its failure at providing adequate health care and education. But he says that due to extensive decentralization, “it is not easy to translate central government policy into action.”

The future danger for China, in Wang’s opinion, is that a lack progress on issues facing the majority of Chinese will lead to pressure for more authoritarianism: “We have already seen in Russia how people prefer a strong ruler like Putin because they are fed up with corruption, political chaos and economic stagnation.” He says “When radical marketization makes people lose their sense of security, the demand for order and intervention from above is inevitable.”

Although I am not sold on Wang’s prognosis, I found his diagnosis of the problem facing China compelling.

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