Redux of Socialism – The Statesman
The signals are clear. The Chinese seek to pivot to socialism with, well, socialist characteristics. Now that the risk-reward ratio in terms of the benefits of state-controlled capitalism ~ rather erroneously called “socialism with Chinese characteristics” ~ has tilted in favor of the former with growing inequalities, cronyism and the concentration of wealth, opportunities and access to goods and services in the hands of the top third of the population, the potential for social unrest in China was recognized by the leaders. The course correction began under the aegis of the concept of “common prosperity” put forward by President Xi Jinping in his comments to the Communist Party of China Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs last month, suggesting that “prosperity common ground is a fundamental requirement of socialism ”and is necessary to“ balance growth and financial stability ”. Following its example, the Committee called for “reasonable adjustments to excess income” and for high income individuals and businesses to “give back more to society”. That’s the problem with China’s absolutist model of governance ~ its leaders can adopt utilitarian approaches without any ideological interference based on their perception of what is in the common good because daddy knows best. This is quite different from the old Soviet system or even from the communist parties in the West or closer to home in the subcontinent which attached particular importance to notions of ideological purity. The Chinese pivot towards what is effectively a model of wealth redistribution, although updated to take into account contemporary realities, is breathtaking; and this has only been made possible because the policy is shamelessly formulated and ruthlessly implemented from above. The first signs that the CCP was on track to assert greater control over the economy and society came in November 2020 with Beijing’s decision to block Alibaba’s Ant Group from listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchanges and from Hong Kong. Over the following months, Chinese authorities launched a series of crackdowns against tech giants, the wealthy, education providers, celebrities and even young video game players. More than $ 1 trillion in market value for listed companies in China was wiped out in the process, but the leadership is clearly focused on its domestic audience amid whom these harsh measures have apparently met with wide approval. According to business and technology journalist Chang Che, China has 14 simultaneous “crackdowns” against industries and individuals and most, if not all, could be included as part of “common prosperity”. Chinese expert Ryan Hass of the Brookings Institute points to previously low-profile blogger Li Guangman, whose essay calling for a “profound revolution to correct the inequalities that capitalism has created” has gone viral and has been reposted online by party and state-controlled media. . There is some recoil from more moderate voices avoiding calls for revolution and the turmoil it suggests, but those looking for a real debate on the way forward will likely be disappointed. “Common prosperity” is a concept that has stirred strong emotions within the CCP since the party’s spokesperson, People’s Daily, first used the term in a headline in 1953 to support the cause of the Party. socialism over capitalism.