Dilemmas of Reform in China: Political Conflict and Economic Debate

Dilemmas of Reform in China: Political Conflict and Economic Debate

Dilemmas of Reform in China: Political Conflict and Economic Debate

Dilemmas of Reform in China: Political Conflict and Economic Debate

Synopsis

This is a comprehensive account of the Chinese debates on economic reforms, from the Third Plenum of 1978 to the crackdown of 1989. It is designed for scholars and graduate students interested in the political economy of China's reforms.

Excerpt

The economic reforms that have been implemented in China since the watershed Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee in December 1978 are of unquestioned magnitude and importance, affecting the lives of over a billion people and contributing to the peace and stability of East Asia. in terms of economic growth and restructuring, the accomplishments of the decade from 1978 to 1989 (and since) are impressive. in 1978, the average per capita income of urban residents was 316 yuan and that of peasants was only 134 yuan. a decade later, in 1988, those figures were 1,119 yuan and 545 yuan, respectively. in 1978, national income stood at 301 billion yuan; by 1988 it had risen to 1,153 billion yuan. in the same period, foreign trade expanded from U.S. $20.6 billion to U.S. $80.5 billion.

In political terms, this process has been more problematic. the failure of the Chinese political system was all too visible to the world in the tragic events of June 3-4, 1989, but the tensions within the leadership that formed the backdrop against which the popular protest emerged, and which led ultimately to its violent suppression, differed only in degree from the tensions that had long existed among the leadership. One would have hoped that the economic successes of the reform would have provided a basis for an easing of leadership tensions and the establishment of institutional mechanisms that could have provided for long-term political stability. Unfortunately, that was not the case. As China's reforms deepened and new problems emerged, cleavages among China's leaders deepened. Eventually, divisions within the leadership and the societal frustrations that emerged as a by-product of the reforms led to the tragedy of Tiananmen and the collapse, albeit only temporarily, of the reform process.

In using the term "reform process," I mean to indicate a decision-making process in which conflicts, however severe, can be contained within certain bounds. Those bounds were clearly broken by the events surrounding Tiananmen . . .

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