China: Free market economists urge post-Olympics social and political reforms

For its foreign visitors, the Olympics seemed to be an introduction to all that free market forces have done to China since Opening Up and Reform began following Mao's death (which was 32 years ago today, btw, and barely paid any attention).

What does that mean? It led Thomas Friedman to write that American cities now look third world in comparison to some of the ones China has built

Zhang Danhong took it a step further and claimed that through its free market reforms the Communist Party of China has done more than any political force before it by providing the Chinese people with the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Just as Zhang was getting fired by Deutsche Welle for having spokensaid that in public, with worries of a global economic crisis growing, a high-profile forum was held in Beijing to discuss the direction China ought to take over the coming thirty years.

In attendance were the who's who in the Chinese free-market economics, political and academic circles: Jiang Ping, Mao Yushi, Qin Hui, Zhou Qiren, Fan Gang and, having just several days prior been accused by anti-CCP website Boxun of spying for the US, free market economist Wu Jinglian.

Also in attendance was diehard free market economist Steven NS Cheung, who upped Zhang by proclaiming the current Chinese system the best one seen in human history.

On the weekend a summary of the ideas put forth at this forum was put online and has been getting posted around, bringing the forum discussion online. Flagship Bullog blogger ProState in Flames yesterday renamed the piece ‘Steven Cheung: “China's system, #1 under heaven”‘ and netizens elsewhere have been making similar snarky remarks. Namely, the anonymous piece appears to have been written by someone who was featured at the panel and refutes Cheung's claim, driving home the point that the priority now is for political and social reforms to catch up with economic reforms, starting with the growing rich-poor gap and the fight against corruption:



Forum participants unanimously admit that over the past 30 years, the rules and systems in every area of China have undergone enormous changes, the largest of which have been the solid degree of protection given to private property rights, the rapid reduction in the public economy, and that private enterprise has gradually developed to the point now of occupying half the country's economy. These changes in the system have unleashed entrepreneurs’ creativity, which in turn has led to continual rapid economic growth and high-speed increases in private wealth and government fiscal revenue. Participants put forth various theories to explain this growing miracle.

Having made a trip especially to attend this conference was ethnic Chinese economic expert Steven N.S. Cheung who asserted, based on this kind of growth, that after fumbling around for thirty years, China has already developed into the best system seen not just in Chinese history, but also in humankind's. However, both publicly and in private, all mainland scholars unanimously feel this view to be overly optimistic. Economists at the forum all feel that the current economic situation is quite severe, and that the high-speed economic growth seen over the past few years will not necessarily continue. What's most worrisome, however, are not just cyclical factors, but the deeper-level structural and systematic factors.





At the “Thirty Years of Marketization” forum, the vast majority of scholars are no longer only looking to the past and feeling smug in comparing today's well-off China with the poverty of thirty years ago; on the contrary, even more people are looking ahead, and considering just what sorts of system reforms it is that China now needs to undergo. Scholars commonly hold that only through stepped-up broader and deeper system reforms can market perfection be achieved, and from there seeing China's society continue on its course of transforming for the better.

The strategy that scholars put forth includes reducing the power government departments have to control resources, strictly curb the limits of the government's role, that the government ought to stick closely to its own role, that it cannot act in commercial functions or use its authority to engage in municipal or land business; that the government reform the fiscal budget system, that it give the public greater access channels for participation in fiscal governance. Professor Jiang Ping further stated that while development is top priority, so too are human rights. Overall, participants all agreed with Wu Jinglian's statement that political reforms must be implemented slowly and surely to perfect the framework of a constitutional system.

In other words, if China wants to ensure stable growth, it must perfect the market system; if it wants to realize social prosperity, it must establish some degree of a basic welfare system. However, fulfilling the public's material needs requires the support of a reasonable social and political system. As Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Secretary Hu Jintao pointed out during a June 25 speech at the Central Party School, political system reforms must follow the constant promotion of economic and social development.

1 comment

  • […] Ctrl-A, Delete, to the point where all the top free market establishment economists in China had to have a public forum to declare that things have now gone too far and bringing in some sort of balance is the only next […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site