Questions to ponder

Content:    What is the Cold War and what is the role of Cold War rhetoric in shaping the language of economic/political transition in China (and elsewhere)?   | Why is a change in ownership not necessarily revolutionary (from a class process perspective)?   | What was the role of productive self-employment and land reform in the early history of the PRC?   |   What were the contending visions of socialism in China (including Mao's vision) and what are the implications of these differences for the path to economic, political, cultural, technological, and environmental change/development?   |  What are the implications of alternative visions of socialism for the social construction and significance of gender?   | What class processes were fostered by the policies collectively referred to as the Great Leap Forward?

The leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) describes their project as "building socialism" and labels the People's Republic of China (PRC) a "socialist" nation.  What do they mean by socialism?  Is socialism a distinct economic system.  The CPC is, supposedly, grounded upon a foundation of Marxian theory (or, perhaps more accurately, Marxism-Leninism-MaotseTung thought).  What does this mean?  Marxian theory begins analysis of society with the concept of class.  What is the relationship of the Chinese concept of socialism and the Marxian concept of class?  More specifically, what is the relationship to the post-structuralist Marxian notion of class processes?  Can we associate socialism with a particular class process or a specific set of class processes? 

China's economic growth over the last twenty plus years has been phenomenal.  China has exceeded all expectations of economists, even the more optimistic ones.  Is there something about this Chinese version of "socialism" that explains this near double digit annual growth for such a long term (and in a very large and complicated social formation)? 

The Cold War represented an "ideological" struggle between two contending national groupings, the U.S. dominated NATO alliance, and the Soviet dominated CMEA.  The struggle had interrelated political/military, economic, and cultural dimensions.  China was originally situated within the Soviet/CMEA orbit, but eventually became (like Yugoslavia) an independent entity, while still officially classified with the "communist" bloc.  How did Cold War rhetoric influence the economic development of China?  Are there lingering effects of this Cold War on the Chinese economy and polity?  Was the Cold War really a struggle over the class nature of social formations? 

The debate over "transition" in Eastern Europe, Russia, and China has tended to deploy words such as "privatization," "market economy," "free enterprise," "formerly centrally planned," etc.  What do these words mean and how are they being used to make sense of these social formations?  Are these phrases part of a complex attempt at understanding the social dynamics of change or are they part of a reductionist project (or both of these or neither and something else entirely)?  Do these phrases help us to understand the process of change in those social formations, what makes them distinct from each other and from "non-transitional" social formations (if there is such a thing), and the likelihood of future economic success or failure?  Why are the ownership-management (agency) problems of China (or the CMEA nations) any different from the ownership-management problems that have been the subject of a longterm debate in the "Western" social science and business literature (such as the famous Berle and Means study)?

Why do farmers want to be productive self-employed?  Is farmer productivity influenced by whether or not they are self-employed?  Why would the CPC oppose self-employment at one point (forcing the creation of "communes") and then later return to support of productive self-employment?  And what will be the impact of a transition from the prevalence of self-employment in agriculture to capitalist agriculture?

© Satya J. Gabriel, 9 February, 2001
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