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Neo-Maoism in China
November 12, 2006 12:45 PM   Subscribe

Conditions of the Working Classes in China is an essay that presents a Marxist perspective on the changes taking place in China. The author addresses the tensions between workers and employers, antagonisms between city workers and impoverished migrants from the countryside and the political fights between those who support the moves towards a market economy and those convinced that Mao had it right all along.
posted by jason's_planet (31 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
And just by way of clarification:

I do not share the author's politics. I posted these links to suggest that the moves towards a market economy in China might not be going as smoothly as the headlines might suggest.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:46 PM on November 12, 2006


So Deng Xiaoping's maxim that "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice," no longer applies to those red cats in the last link? Or is it they haven't caught any mice lately?
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:58 PM on November 12, 2006


What the hey?! Is this this jason's_planet dude supporting the author's politics? GET HIM!!
posted by washburn at 1:02 PM on November 12, 2006


Boy Marxists sure love to type, don't they..
posted by Space Coyote at 1:21 PM on November 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


So Deng Xiaoping's maxim that "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice," no longer applies to those red cats in the last link? Or is it they haven't caught any mice lately?

It could be the lack of mouse-catching productivity; it could also be a need to maintain control of the cats.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:16 PM on November 12, 2006


From 2002: Goldilocks Meets a Bear: How Bad
Will the U.S. Recession Be?


Marxists crack me up.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:53 PM on November 12, 2006


Wow, just wow. You wonder what evidence is required to reduce some people's belief.
posted by sien at 4:48 PM on November 12, 2006


There's some strange irony in that a brutal Marxist regime has now been transformed into a brutal capitalist one, by, uh communists.
posted by storybored at 6:12 PM on November 12, 2006


The substance leaflets in question in the second article don't quite fit the "irony" of the lead in. It's not a peaceful pamphlet sating the greatness of Mao, its a denounciation of the Party, that's the no-no. Be a Maoist, be a Capitalist, no one will stop you here, so long as you don't rock the Party boat.

the moves towards a market economy in China might not be going as smoothly as the headlines might suggest.

Moves toward? This place has been a market economy for a while now and it moves a lot smoother economically than the USA! Sure, some peasants are ticked at greedy developers, since when is that new? How many rural US counties have passed laws limiting development?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:38 PM on November 12, 2006


hoverboards: did you read that Goldilocks link for comprehension, or just to mock it internally?

One of his central points:
The only source left for an increase of demand is consumer spending. Therefore, it seems that if the U.S. economy is to recover in 2002, it will require continued increases in consumer spending to provide the boost. How likely is such strong consumer spending in the middle of a recession? Consumer spending depends mainly on household disposable income, which in turn depends mainly on employment and hours worked. If disposable income is to increase in the year ahead, then employment and hours must increase, i.e., firms must hire more workers and run longer shifts.
in retrospect was correct about consumer spending leading the economy out of recession but he, like me and most people in 2002, missed the economic effect that Fed free money & incredibly lax lending standards were going to have in the housing sector 2003-2005.

Negative savings rate. Widening trade gaps. Increased foreign holdings of dollars and domestic assets. Mortgage Equity Extraction rising from $150B in 2001 to $540B in 2005, our national debt rising from $6T when the article was written to $8.6T today.

Today's economy, and how we got here, is nothing to feel confident about, but feel free to continue the braggadocio -- you, too, 'crack me up'.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:16 PM on November 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


New hotness
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 9:44 PM on November 12, 2006


I should add that yesterday my wife and I were approached on the street while carrying some groceries home, by an old man who asked us if we could give him some food because he was hungry. My wife said that this was the first time she had EVER had this happen in China in all the years she has been coming here.

We have seen a few beggars for money. We have seen pentioners collecting recyclables for extra cash, but never anyone who actually said he was going hungry.

To be fair, there is still a limited food distribution system and a liberal welfare dole in China. Housing and heating is still provided to those that qualify and healthcare and education are free (though cbetter quality can be purchased).

Recent changes in the laws have made it possible for citizens to change their hukou which has made life better for migrants, however change is glacial and problems remain.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:17 PM on November 12, 2006


pollomacho: I'd be curious to see some backup facts on the "liberal doles" and free housing. If you're counting the multi-storied wood shacks stuffed with bunks that construction workers live in, or the Hospitals can provide free services, but [from what I've been told] don't give free medicine. I think you're flat wrong on the "free education" bit. Every public school I've encountered charges tuition. The NY Times recently ran a piece about retired school teachers trying to organize classes for peasants, with the story following a family working and living in public restrooms in Beijing.

Only Shanghai has a reasonable hukou policy. Something like 8 million of the 17 million in and around Shenzhen are illegal migrants.
posted by trinarian at 10:36 PM on November 12, 2006


[sorry for the typo, I'm using a shared computer at work and had to post quickly before closing out. My Chinese coworkers seem terrified of Firefox and keep trying to delete it.]

the "or" after the construction workers wasn't meant to flow into the health care bit. it was supposed to talk about squatters living in high-rises under construction.
posted by trinarian at 10:43 PM on November 12, 2006


Pollomacho: People with a Beijing hukou get around 800 a month from the goverment, just to keep people in the capitol happy, but from what I understand this is not the case in most of the rest of China. Education is extremly expenisve in China espiecially if you don't have the right Hukou or are an illegal second child. It's really a tradgey. The medical situation isn't as bad since most basic bedication is quite cheap, but if you need any complecated procedures and don't have the money you are pretty much fucked.

All in all, I don't think marxism is the answer to china's growing inequality problems but I know a retired Peaple's Army Officer who thinks it as bad as before the revolution in the countryside.

And I've been asked for food countless times by beggers in China, so I don't really know why you don't think they exist.
posted by afu at 10:58 PM on November 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Tuition is charged for those living outside the school's hukou. If you happen to live in a hukou with a shitty school you send your kids to another school and pay the tuition. I know very few people that send their kids to the school that is assigned, therefore I know few people not paying tuition. I'm a honkey living in a city too though.

Currently 98.5% of primary school children are in primary school (according to the Ministry of Education, if you can believe them) further 97% of those students move on to secondary. If those numbers are anywhere near accurate then it would be pretty hard to be charging tuition universally and to be requiring 9 years of compulsary schooling.

As for housing, dole, food distribution, etc. , again, within your hukou you can be provided a shelter. Migrant workers that are unwilling or unable to give up their hukou and land rights back home have to live in the construction shacks and tents (which is a hel of a lot, I agree). Those that can and will complete a move can be assigned a danwei in the city.

Generally the dole is given, regardless of hukou to those under the "poverty line" which is set at the low low level of 500 RMB per month (about US$38). Food and coal are handed out, again regardless of hukou to those that can prove a need (I'm still a little unclear on how this line is drawn, working on finding a figure for this, though maybe there is none, but I'm sure you've seen the stacks of cabbage and coal). There is also the food for work program (which is now more of a cash for work program at least in the city), that's the one where you often see old ladies and teenagers diging ditches and doing other public utility type work. In total the state gave out 15.3 Billion RMB last year, granted they also spent twice that on the Three Gorges Dam in the same year, but hey...
posted by Pollomacho at 11:41 PM on November 12, 2006


Sorry, that should be 15.3 Billion on the food for work program.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:42 PM on November 12, 2006


By the way, when are we going to have that Sino-MeFi Summit?!?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:45 PM on November 12, 2006


Hell I'm stuck in beijing tonight with nothing to do. Lets have it right now!
posted by afu at 2:28 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna stick my neck out and say more socialism is exactly what China needs right now. There needs to be a better distribution of wealth. There needs to be more state control over industry. It definitely doesn't need another Cultural Revolution, but it could certainly use competent bureaucrats with the power over factory managers so the government can take control over labor practices and environmental issues.

It's hard for people not living here to get that this is an authoritarian country with no rule of law. All of the despicable labor practices and pollution are against the law, there's just no way to enforce it. Unless your smoke stack pollutes clouds shaped like certain Tibetan religious leaders.


Anyone else in southern China here? Guandongers unite and let's feast on chicken feet!
posted by trinarian at 2:54 AM on November 13, 2006


2,000 people in Sichuan sacked a hospital yesterday when a 3 y/o boy died after being denied treatment until his grandfather could produce $82.
posted by trinarian at 3:18 AM on November 13, 2006


> Guandongers unite and let's feast on chicken feet!

Real Guangdongers eat cats (no, seriously.)

In one of the richest province (Zhejiang, where I live) there is a aweful lot of very poor people -- sleeping on benches, begging money or food, sometimes which a child in tow; living is really bad conditions.

And then there's a lot of people driving cars I will never being able to afford -- sometimes, these two worlds intersect.

I have no numbers to back anything up -- but it's pretty hard for people left out of the System. The System never reallly did envisage that people could be left out of it.

I see the old China that I never met nor had to endure going away with a bit of nostalgia. And I see an immense majority saying that they don't want to go back to the old days. Still 200 millions people in the middle or upper class, 800 millions living in poverty or extreme poverty -- lots of work left to do for that revolution...

Hangzhou meet-up anyone? -- it must be the third time I suggest for one, I must be doing something wrong (like not posting it at the right place.)
posted by NewBornHippy at 4:28 AM on November 13, 2006


Today's economy, and how we got here, is nothing to feel confident about, but feel free to continue the braggadocio -- you, too, 'crack me up'.

Sorry Heywood, I'm not going to deny you your unease about the US economy. It's the perpetually incipient cataclysm (climate change and fascism on the left, terrorism and literally the second coming on the right) that I laugh at. Perhaps you think I should be afraid rather than amused, but if anyone is going to solve the real problems, it's not going to be those who are busy crapping themselves at the imagined ones.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:36 AM on November 13, 2006


I wish I was still in Tianjin so I could be part of a meetup. Seems like we got two or three of us in the Pearl River basin, a couple near Shanghai, and three or four in Beijing. I think we're going to have to settle for regional dinner-ish meet-ups instead of a true Sino-Meetup.

NewBornHippy: Nice photo. I wonder, though, two things about the "immense majority" who don't want to go back. For one, "go[ing] back" is extremely relative. China's gone from bound-foot feudalism, to collectivism, to a free market industrial economy in a single lifetime. Where is their a real point of reference for going back too? Also, an overwhelming majority of Chinese live outside the east coast mega-cities we live in, which is going to taint the statistical significance of all of our conversations. Add in the added wealth factor if you can't speak Chinese fluently and rely on English-speakers for cultural insights. Admittedly, I'm in the second camp still.

Though I'm sure peasants don't want to return to feudalism or Greap Leap Forward/Cultural Revolution style Maoism, I'm sure they miss being considered the most important part of China culturally and economically, and I'm sure more than a few weren't too sad seeing fat-cat industry bosses and dethroned party bosses helping them work the fields during political purges. And come on, who doesn't find a woman's feet bound together in a bloody bandaged concoction at least midly arousing?

Now they're just left behind and swindled without much of a second thought.
posted by trinarian at 4:57 AM on November 13, 2006


I'd be done for a hangzhou meetup, I used to live there and go back a lot.
posted by afu at 5:10 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


i'd be down
posted by afu at 5:11 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna stick my neck out and say more socialism is exactly what China needs right now. There needs to be a better distribution of wealth. There needs to be more state control over industry. It definitely doesn't need another Cultural Revolution, but it could certainly use competent bureaucrats with the power over factory managers so the government can take control over labor practices and environmental issues.

Not much of a neck risk there. In fact, its what Hu Jintao pretty much said he plans to do. Albeit, not so much bureaucratic control over industry. The factories and businesses with government control are the ones who are the worse off. One of the real reasons there have been so many protests over the last several years is due to the deterioration of living conditions for the have nots. If Beijing is smart, they will raise taxes, then spread the wealth out into the countryside to appease the peasants. Otherwise, I doubt the Party wants to mess with its present program of capitalism as long as those making the money remember who's in charge.
posted by Atreides at 7:08 AM on November 13, 2006


The September 2006 National Geographic cover story, China Rising: Manchuria's Rust-to-Riches Gamble, discusses China's problems with rebuilding its heavy industries:
Revitalizing Dongbei, as the Northeast is known, will test China's run of economic success. The region's former strength—the ability of its state-owned enterprises to produce cars, steel, ships, and oil in the early days of the People's Republic—has become a liability. Applying the formula that has worked elsewhere—foreign investment and export-driven growth—the government has closed or partly privatized many industries and used investment from neighbors such as Japan and South Korea to build modern software and manufacturing plants. But with China's highest urban unemployment rate and widespread corruption, the Northeast will likely stumble, not sprint, towards economic success.
See the abridged online version at Manchurian Mandate (with photo gallery, map, and multimedia.)
posted by cenoxo at 4:54 PM on November 13, 2006


By the way, when are we going to have that Sino-MeFi Summit?!?

And when you do, please tell us in the rest of the world about it. I'd love to see some pictures, myself.

What are hukuo and danwei? I don't speak Chinese.

And this is why I love MetaFilter. There's no way in hell I could afford a ticket to China. But post an article online and half-a-dozen strangers with on-the-ground knowledge of the topic in question chime in to teach me more. Thanks!
posted by jason's_planet at 4:57 PM on November 13, 2006


I'm gonna stick my neck out and say more socialism is exactly what China needs right now.

I don't think you are sticking your neck out on that one. That seems to be a rising sentiment around BJ these days. That's a part of Hu's "harmonious society." Tighter regulations on the top, more help at the bottom... You can already see it in new regulations restricting luxury housing, returning bicycle lanes and restricting traffic. (On preview, what Atreides said)

Incidentally, I heard about the Sichuan riot in the Chinese media. The central government was pretty pissed about it as well and I think some heads are going to roll.

J_P, your hukou is your family registry. All your social services are tied to it. Think of it like your residence in the US for things like your driver's licence and in-state tuition, except for this it's more and it's very difficult to transfer. If you are a farmer, your hukou is the communal farm where you were born. You and your family actually own a share in that land. If it gets sold and developed, you (are supposed to) get a cut so often it is financially beneficial to hold onto your old hukou despite moving to the city.

Your danwei is the urban version of the hukou. It is your work group. Poorer, less educated city folk will live in a collective (usually low-rise) apartment complex centered on a geographic area or a factory. In years past the danwei held great power over urban dwellers as they assigned jobs and distributed food, coal and housing. Now that China is a market economy and people have access to currency, they can buy goods and services themselves and no longer have to rely on the danwei for a living. More and more the old complexes are being torn down to make way for high-rise apartments.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:24 PM on November 13, 2006


There has been some minor coverage of this in the UK. Last year Channel 4 aired video footage of a dispute between farmers and hired thugs. There's been lots of unrest all over China.

Heads might roll, but it'll only be because someone let things get out of control and let the farmers/proles riot. A massive land grab is going on in China. Hundreds of millions of farmers and peasants are being extorted by what can only be described as "gangster capitalism".
posted by xpermanentx at 1:42 AM on November 14, 2006


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