The Deng Xiaoping Era: An Inquiry Into the Fate of Chinese Socialism, 1978-1994

The Deng Xiaoping Era: An Inquiry Into the Fate of Chinese Socialism, 1978-1994

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780809078158
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 09/30/1996
Pages: 544
Product dimensions: 6.35(w) x 9.23(h) x 1.62(d)

About the Author

Maurice Meisner, Harvey Goldberg Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the author of Mao's China and After.

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The Deng Xiaoping Era: An Inquiry Into the Fate of Chinese Socialism, 1978-1994 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
willyvan More than 1 year ago
Meisner first looks at China’s achievements under Mao. He notes, “From 1952 to the mid-1970s, net agricultural output in China increased at an average per annum rate of 2.5 percent, whereas the figure for the most intensive period of Japan’s industrialization (from 1868 to 1912) was 1.7 percent.” Meisner writes, “Between 1952 and the close of the Mao era, steel production increased from 1.4 to 31.8 million tons; coal from 66 to 617 million tons; cement from 3 to 65 million tons; timber from 11 to 51 million tons; electric power from 7 to 256 billion kilowatt hours; crude oil from virtually nothing to 104 million tons; and chemical fertilizer from 39,000 to 8,693,000 tons. By the mid-1970s, China was also producing substantial numbers of jet airplanes, heavy tractors, railway locomotives, and modern oceangoing vessels. The People’s Republic also became a significant nuclear power, complete with intercontinental ballistic missiles. Its first successful atomic bomb test was held in 1964, the first hydrogen bomb was produced in 1967, and a satellite was launched into orbit in 1970.” He praises “the Mao regime’s striking successes in transforming China from one of the world’s most backward agrarian countries into the sixth-largest industrial power by the mid-1970s.” He observes, “It has often been pointed out that conventional measurements of income and consumption are inadequate indicators of the actual standard of living and the quality of life. It is also necessary to take into account public consumption in such elemental and essential realms as education, health care, sanitation, and welfare provisions for the elderly and the destitute – matters not easily quantifiable in standard economic calculations. In all of these areas the Mao regime achieved great social progress, and by most key social and demographic indicators the People’s Republic compared favorably not only with other low-income countries such as India and Pakistan but also with ‘middle-income’ countries whose per capita GNP was five times that of China.” Meisner then turns to examining China under Deng. He points out, “To no small degree, the agrarian successes of the Deng era capitalized on the economic foundations laid during the Mao era. … Certainly the higher yields obtained on individual family farms during the early Deng era would not have been possible had it not been for the vast irrigation and flood-control projects – dams, irrigation works, and river dikes – constructed by collectivized peasants in the 1950s and 1960s.” He asserts, “As has been true of the histories of all capitalist economies, the power of the state was very much involved in establishing China’s labor market. Indeed, in China a highly repressive state apparatus played a particularly direct and coercive role in the commodification of labor, a process that has proceeded with a rapidity and on a scale that is historically unprecedented.” He notes, “Frenetic and chaotic industrialization continued to poison the air and water, and further shrank the acreage of land under cultivation. Industrial accidents reached frightening proportions, killing an estimated 20,000 workers annually in the early 1990s, and injuring many more.” Of China during the ‘reform era’, Meisner concludes, “The economic gains have been spectacular. The social results are calamitous.” As Marx observed, capitalism is a “social anarchy which turns every economic progress into a social calamity.”