People say you don’t like China. No, I love them. But their leaders are much smarter than our leaders. And we can’t sustain ourselves with that. It’s like taking the New England Patriots and Tom Brady and have them play your high school football team. President Donald Trump.
China’s political process is probably the most transparent of any major nation’s. Because their bios and track records are constantly updated online everyone is thoroughly conversant with the top one thousand aspirants for leadership and even American observers correctly predicted Xi Jinping’s elevation to the presidency. Everyone knows exactly what the government has promised, what it has delivered and where the country is heading, thanks to public documents like this:
Anyone can–and millions do–read detailed discussions of China’s economic direction, like this one from the 200-member Party Central Committee, the Party’s highest organ of authority when the National Congress is not in session. Its members have spent a collective five thousand years governing and their report, Eight Principles of a Socialist Political Economy with Chinese Characteristics, demonstrates that there is still intelligent political life on earth:
- Sustainability Led by Science and Technology: the overriding mission of early stage socialism is liberating and developing the forces of production. Socialism requires a minimal foundation of material and technological development so the determining effect of science and technology needs to be fully understood so we should recognize the strategic importance of science and technology in allocating scarce resources.
- Orienting Production to Improving Ordinary People’s Livelihood: the chief contradiction in socialism at its earliest stage is between people’s increasing material and cultural needs and the backwardness of social production which can only be overcome through the speedy and steady development of productive capacities; this is the primary task of socialism in its initial phases. Improving people’s livelihoods is an endless task and new challenges constantly emerge. We should adopt more targeted and direct measures, helping working people as a whole to solve their difficulties and promote their well-being through legal institutions and civil society. We should realistically assess the effects of our actions on living standards, ensuring that public services create a reliable social safety net. Our objective must be a society in which all people contribute to the satisfaction of human needs to the extent they are able while enjoying access to the material, social, and spiritual resources they need for the full development of their human potential in accord with the needs of sustainability.
- Public Ownership Takes Precedence in National Property Rights: The institutional guarantee for all Chinese people is that they will share the fruits of development as well as an important guarantee for enhancing the party’s leading position and maintaining the Chinese socialist system. The principle highlights a basic difference between the socialist economy and the modern capitalist economic system, in which private ownership is dominant. We should learn from past errors of state-sector reform that allowed a narrow elite to amass huge fortunes through misdirection of funds. The collective and cooperative model of Chinese village economies needs further investment. New policies must be introduced to enhance the vitality, competitiveness, and risk management of the public economy.
- The Primacy of Labor in the Distribution of Wealth. In any capitalist economy, wage laborers are paid only for the expenditure of their labor power, and not for the value of the commodities they produce. Under these conditions, the specific wage a worker earns is associated with his or her position and performance. And while in some sectors of capitalist economies, collective labor organization can limit the rate of exploitation and give the appearance of a fair distribution of wealth, the overriding power remains the private property rights of owners and employers. The distribution of wealth in a Chinese socialist economy must be guided by the needs of labor, not capital. We must strive against exploitation and polarization. The income gap should be bridged, and increased income for all citizens should coincide with economic growth and labor productivity. It is vital to establish a sound and scientific mechanism for determining wage levels, as well as a mechanism for regular increases in wages.
- The Market Principle Steered by the State. The anarchic character of the capitalist market combined with individual capitalists’ drive to innovate in order to reduce labor costs leads to periodic crises of overproduction in which workers suffer most. Such crises can be short- or long-term, depending on the degree of non-market factors like the degree of monopoly. In a capitalist market economy this proportional law relies mainly on such spontaneous adjustments and the role of state regulation is relatively limited. Our principle of state-steered markets emphasizes that a socialist society can develop a market economy in a planned and proportionate way and that the fundamental role of the market in resource allocation should be carried out under government supervision. While giving the market a determining role in general allocation while promoting the regulatory role of the government, we must make every effort to address problems of imperfect market mechanisms, excessive government intervention and poor regulatory supervision. To achieve this we must advance market-oriented reforms that significantly reduce the government’s direct allocation of resources and permit allocation to occur according to market pricing and competition rules to achieve maximum efficiency. The government’s responsibility is keeping macroeconomic policy steady, strengthening public services, guaranteeing fair competition, reinforcing market supervision, promoting collective prosperity and rectifying–or compensating for–market failures.
- Speedy Development with High Performance: A relatively low growth rate with insufficient resource use inhibits full employment, wealth accumulation and public welfare. Yet a higher growth rate with extensive rather than intensive resource utilization is equally detrimental to ecological sustainability and distributive justice. We need a dialectical analysis for any index based on gross domestic product, GDP.
- Balanced Development with Structural Coordination: One of the principles of our political economy is the proportional distribution law of social labor (‘proportional law’), which governs the contradictory movement between social production and demand and the need to coordinate development for the entire national economy. The law requires that the overall social labor of people, tools, and materials should be distributed proportionately according to demand in order to maintain a structural balance among different industries and sectors. We must abandon the persistent misconception that, if we eliminate economic surplus caused by administrative intervention, excess production capacity and product surplus formed by marketization can be balanced automatically without government intervention. This neoliberal fallacy and its consequences explains the large structural excess capacity in the Chinese economy and goes against the spirit of Chinese socialism.
- Economic Sovereignty and Openness: A final principle is to open the economy to trade and investment because it is beneficial to economic growth at home and abroad, helping to optimize the allocation of resources and improve interactions between industry and technology. The manner, range and extent of this economic opening up should be implemented flexibly and be responsive to complex and changeable conditions in national and global economy. Developing countries, for example, should devote particular care to their strategies and tactics when opening up to developed countries, given the inherent risks and uncertainties inherent in such an unequal relationship.
Thanks to socialism with Chinese characteristics, by 2021 every Chinese will have a home, a job, plenty of food, education, safe streets, health and old age care, mothers and infants will be less likely to die in childbirth, children will graduate high school three years ahead of American kids and outlive them. That’s not too shabby for a country that was the world’s poorest when I was born, and it certainly has popular support:
 Dialectical analyses probe ideas and values, their significance and limitations. As long as you show good dialectical analysis in getting there, it does not matter what your final conclusion is.
For an in-depth discussion of the conference see A Theory of China’s ‘Miracle’ by Cheng Enfu and Ding Xiaoqin.