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Socialism with Chinese characteristics

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This article is about the term itself and its relationships. For its implementation and effects see Economy of the People's Republic of China and Chinese economic reform.

"Socialism with Chinese characteristics" (Template:Zh-s, Template:Audio: Jùyǒu Zhōngguó tèsè de shèhuìzhǔyì) is an official term for the economy of the People's Republic of China which as of 2006 consists of mixed forms of private and public ownership competing within a market environment.

John Gittings in The Changing Face of China quotes Deng Xiaoping as stating:

"Planning and market forces are not the essential difference between socialism and capitalism. A planned economy is not the definition of socialism, because there is planning under capitalism; the market economy happens under socialism, too. Planning and market forces are both ways of controlling economic activity." [1]

The PRC government maintains that it has not abandoned Marxism, but is simply redefining many of the terms and concepts of Marxist theory to accommodate its new economic system. The ruling Communist Party of China argues that socialism is not incompatible with these economic policies. In current Chinese Communist thinking, the PRC is in the primary stage of socialism, and this redefinition allows the PRC to undertake economic policies that attract the foreign capital necessary to develop into an industrialized nation, prompting many people to wonder if the PRC's mixed economy called "socialism" differs significantly from western nations' mixed economies called "capitalism" or if the difference lies now, not in the economy, but only in single-party state versus liberal democracy.

Marxist theoryEdit

According to Technological Determinism & Socialism with Chinese Characteristics:

"new economic development strategy based upon decentralization of control over the state owned enterprise sector, expanded market transactions to replace command and control allocation, dismantling of the rural commune system (completed in 1985), increased use of material incentives in workplaces, and ultimately, upon the modernization of the Chinese economic infrastructure (as well as the military infrastructure). This last aspect of their strategy represents more than a mere objective. Modernization represents the mission of the pragmatists. Deng Xiaoping rejected the Maoist tendency to forswear the technological trappings of the so-called West (including soft technology in the form of social relationships) and embraced the idea that modernity required copying many of the traits of the Western capitalist nations." [2]

In Marxist theory, history progresses through a number of stages from slave society to feudal society to capitalist society to socialist society to communist society. In Maoist theory, the revolution of 1949 was an irreversible change from feudalism to socialism. The Communist Party of China argues that therefore China is still socialist.

In current Chinese Communist thinking, the PRC is in the primary stage of socialism, and this allows the PRC to undertake just about any economic policy it wants without running into theoretical difficulties or without undermining its justification for existence.

However, this solution presents another problem. If the Communist Party of China does not use any theory and not even a set of general guidelines for what a socialist economy should look like, then how does it make its economic decisions? Their answer is to use Deng Xiaoping's dictum seek truth from facts and just do whatever seems to work.

There is also one final problem the Communist Party of China is still trying to deal with - namely that Marxism claims to be an exact, well-defined scientific theory of social and economic development, while the PRC reformulation of Marxism clearly lacks these qualities. It is difficult for the PRC government to build its legitimacy on a theory that amounts to "do anything that seems good".

Deng XiaopingEdit

According to Necessary Chinese Illusions:

"Chinese professor Han Deqiang in his paper Chinese Cultural Revolution: Failure and Theoretical Originality examined the demise of communism in China. Han detailed how from its very beginning the communist revolutionary government had been infiltrated by a capitalist faction which had established itself within the bureaucracy. Prominent among the bureaucrats was Deng Xiaoping." [3]

Deng Xiaoping on June 30 1984 said:

"What is socialism and what is Marxism? We were not quite clear about this in the past. Marxism attaches utmost importance to developing the productive forces. We have said that socialism is the primary stage of communism and that at the advanced stage the principles of 'from each according to his ability' and 'to each according to his needs' will be applied. This calls for highly developed productive forces and an overwhelming abundance of material wealth. Therefore, the fundamental task for the socialist stage is to develop the productive forces. The superiority of the socialist system is demonstrated, in the final analysis, by faster and greater development of those forces than under the capitalist system. As they develop, the people's material and cultural life will constantly improve. One of our shortcomings after the founding of the People's Republic was that we didn't pay enough attention to developing the productive forces. Socialism means eliminating poverty. Pauperism is not socialism, still less communism." [4]

Communist Party of ChinaEdit

Wang Yu on behalf of the Communist Party of China in January 2004 said:

"production stagnated for a long time. There was little improvement in people’s quality of life, and China’s gap with developed economies widened further. All of this made Chinese Communists ask themselves time and again the following questions: Where on earth was the superiority of socialism? Was socialism rich or poor? What is revolution and what was its purpose? The theory of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, which took the development of the productive forces as its fundamental task, came into being amid and as a result of these reflections and reviews." [5]

See alsoEdit


  1. Cited by John Gittings in The Changing Face of China, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005. ISBN 0-19-280612-2
  2. *Technological Determinism & Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
  3. Necessary Chinese Illusions : Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
  5. Our Way: Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics By Wang Yu on behalf of the Communist Party of China (2004 January)
sv:socialism med kinesiska särdrag


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