Rethinking Chinese Development

“The Chinese state many times backed off from carrying out those policies that could lead to massive layoffs and the elimination of social safety nets.” 1

The author makes this claim in comparing China to the East Asian countries that developed without China’s legacy of revolutionary socialism. China placed such emphasis on the collective well being for so long that it makes sense that the state did not want to abruptly deny individuals that sense of security. That history, too, might mean that most Chinese citizens would not understand the kind of economics behind the sort of big-picture policies that might put some people out of work while still benefiting the overall economy. According to the chapter, China is actually aiming to ramp up the level of social security nets available which seems a pretty extraordinary goal considering the size and relative poverty of China’s population. From what I understand, most of the current developed countries didn’t start implementing significant social safety net programs until the bulk of their economic development was completed. My question is, are Chinese leaders really trying to avoid policies that would harm the social safety net because of a true continued commitment to socialist ideologies or because they fear what happens to their hold on power if a large enough section of China’s massive population becomes dissatisfied with the economic directives the state hands down? High unemployment is never a good thing for those in control, even if what caused the unemployment is meant to be beneficial overall.

  1. Alvin Y. So, “Rethinking the Chinese Development Miracle,” China and the Transformation of Global Capitalism, Ho-fung Hung, editor (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 60.

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