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A momentous debate has been unfolding in China over the last fifteen years, only intermittently in public view, concerning the merits of socialism as a philosophy of social justice and as a program for national development. Just as Deng Xiaoping's better advertised experiment with market- based reforms has challenged Marxist-Leninist dogma on economic policy, the years since the death of Mao Zedong have seen a profound reexamination of a more basic question: to what extent are the root problems of the system due ...
A momentous debate has been unfolding in China over the last fifteen years, only intermittently in public view, concerning the merits of socialism as a philosophy of social justice and as a program for national development. Just as Deng Xiaoping's better advertised experiment with market- based reforms has challenged Marxist-Leninist dogma on economic policy, the years since the death of Mao Zedong have seen a profound reexamination of a more basic question: to what extent are the root problems of the system due to Chinese socialism and Marxism generally? Here Yan Sun gathers a remarkable group of primary materials, drawn from an unusual range of sources, to present the most systematic and comprehensive study of post-Mao reappraisal of China's socialist theory and practice.
Rejecting an assumption often made in the West, that Chinese socialist thought has little bearing on politics and policymaking, Sun takes the arguments of the post-Mao era seriously on their own terms. She identifies the major factions in the debate, reveals the interplay among official and unofficial forces, and charts the development of the debate from an initially parochial concern with problems raised by Chinese practice to a grand critique of the theory of socialism itself. She concludes with an enlightening comparison of the reassessments undertaken by Deng Xiaoping with those of Gorbachev, linking them to the divergent outcomes of reform and revolution in their respective countries.
The Affirmation, Development, and Negation of Marxism
From the Whatever to the Dialectical Materialist Approach
Competing Models of the Socialist Economy
The Reassessment of the Socialist Economic System
The Noncompeting Nature of the Socialist Political System
The Reassessment of the Socialist Political System
The Reconceptualization of Socialism
The Response to the "Liberal" Reassessment of Socialism
The Chinese and Soviet Reassessments of Socialism: A Comparison
The Post-Mao Reassessment of Socialism and the Chinese Socialist Experience
Posted June 14, 2006
Certainly a signal event of the last quarter of the 20th century was the systematic dismantling of social democracy in all it forms, pretty much throughout all those parts of the world where it had taken hold. Yan Sun documents the main moves in this process for the People's Republic of China, in her book, The Chinese Reassessment of Socialism, 1976-1992. Dr. sun's study is interesting for three reasons: First, China is a big, important player, and a large part of the way it plays has been formed by the events after Mao Zedong's passing this book documents the changes, and offers canny political, economic and psychological insight into those changes. This is important, because most of that insight is very different from the ordinary public interpretations, whether scholarly, political or journalistic. Bet on it: Dr. Sun got it right, and the rest of the 'foreign affairs' set didn't. Second, this is a backgrounder for evolving changes China, and perforce, the rest of East Asia. Even the ordinary press passed comments that suggest increasing disgruntlement with the effects of the last quarter century and more of economic development, with less attention to human needs. Put aside larger questions of how Chinese have historically viewed themselves China spent a quarter-century convincing itself that a good life for all was the legitimate aim of the state. Novels (always an interesting gauge of issues with which ordinary folks identify cf: various novels by Qiu Xiaolong) suggest that apparent divergence from that, both economically and politically, has not proven satisfactory. The discussions of the 2006 session of the National People's Congress ¿ widely reported ¿ suggest that the regime, generally presented outside China as secretive, has found it desirable to allow a greater degree of openness. Other events (e. g., disrupted 'net access, even for government officials ¿ though that could be technical and only seem to be political, in some instances) suggest that this is very much a debated issue. Third, there is the larger world. Some nations espoused a model of socialism like that of China quite a lot of the rest of EuroAmerican nations adopted less extreme forms of social democracy. Under attack from the end of the 1970s, it has been systematically dismantled since the late-1980s. That this is not a party-political matter is evident when a Green such as Joschka Fischer can publish Die Linke nach dem Sozialismus. From Dr. Sun's book, it seems the Chinese began the actual changes earlier, and with greater, more careful debate than was true in either the former Soviet Union or the EuroAmerican nations. Dr. sun tells the story well. First laying out the main lines of thought ¿ a sort of program of 'schools' and players ¿ she then proceeds to alternate between the chronicle of events, and analyses of the main issues, first economic (the dominant concern of the emerging dominant group under Deng Xiaoping) and then more foundational assessements of socialism proper and its political implementation. At every step, Dr. Sun has carefully shown the connections ¿ both at they are, and as they appear to Chinese political operatives and the intellectual establishment of which they are a part. In chapter nine, she offers an interesting comparison of Chinese and Soviet reassessments of their own developmental histories. Throughout the book, it's pretty clear Dr. Sun has done a close reading of the relevant theoretical texts ¿ Marx, Engels and so on. She also makes clear just how carefully the political and intellectual elite whose tale she tells had done the same (and I find that quite credible, based on other conversations). In short, this book provides insight into how China got to where it is today. It casts light on larger problems (if only by highlighting a lack of comparable care in thinking through the dismantlement of social-democratic systems in other quarters). It suggests that some issues ChiWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.