William Dere


I want to give  some of my impressions of my month long travel through China.


Who gets to determine whether China is socialist or not? I asked the question “Do you think China is still socialist?” to people I met. They responded that China is socialist with economic reforms or China is socialist with Chinese characteristics. These were ordinary people, retirees, small business owners, tour guides, and bus drivers. I did not talk with academics, human rights activists, etc who may have given me different answers. The standard of living in China has developed tremendously over the last 5 years and the people say that this is due to the superiority of the socialist system. Maybe this is Party talk, but the people in China seem to have more faith in socialism than the Western left who say that the economic achievements in China are due to capitalism taking over. I though this was ironic.


I learned from a bus driver in Changsha that China still has the 5-year plans. He tells me that the 12th 5 plan (2011 – 2015) is targeting the development of central China after the 11th 5-year plan focused on the economic development of Western China. With all the news about entrepreneurial businesses booming all over China, the Chinese government still controls the key sectors of the economy such as finance and banking, telecommunications, energy, transportation and heavy industry.


Are all the accomplishments of the Chinese people over the last 20 years due to the development of capitalist economy and not due to the planned socialist economy with economic reform? The people I spoke with don’t think so. Despite the fact that they do not express their economic achievements in ideological language, many still believe the achievements are due to the superiority of the Chinese socialist system.


Beyond ideology. Have the Chinese gone beyond the ideology of doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist fundamentalism? Or maybe they have moved more towards Marx’s humanist approach to social development. With over 5 decades of the Chinese socialist educational system, socialist and traditional Chinese values of respect are inculcated into the various generations without Marxist sloganeering.  As Xi Jinping, the new Chinese leaders said, “The greatest contribution that China can make to humanity is to keep its 1.3 billion people from hunger.” It is not the export of revolution. Long gone are the days of the M-L revolutionary centre with the revolutionary model of socialism in one country. It seems the only people who wish to export revolution are the remnants of the ML left and Trotskyites in advanced capitalist countries.


I still see some billboards and posters exhorting the people to follow the CPC and to diligently study the documents of the 18th party congress, but apart fro that, there are few public displays of communist ideology. CCTV (China Central TV) does show programs to reflect the party line and dramas depicting the struggles of the history of the communist movement, the anti-Japanese war and the civil war, as well as progressive struggles around the world, including a special on the life of Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid when I was there.


As I previously stated, China came through the capitalist global economic crisis in 2008 relatively unscathed due to its centralized socialist planning system. The recent stock market concern about the slow-down of the Chinese economy to less than 7.5% growth. This growth target was built into the 12th 5-year plan as China prepares to shift and re-balance the economy from investment towards consumption.


I am sorting through my notes and I will send you more updates if I come across anything new.


(William Dere is a Chinese Canadian living in Montreal.  Visa to China normally does not allow free travel to all places inside China. However, William Dere because of his and his wife’s Chinese roots was able to get visa to visit the countryside.)

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