Nothing gradual about Shanghai's embrace of free markets
August 4, 2013 — 6:24pm
Communiqué No. 7: Mao would roll in his grave if he saw modern Shanghai.
The endless sea of skyscrapers and bright lights looks more like Vegas on steroids than a socialist workers’ paradise.
Unless by a worker, you mean a stock broker.
This city represents the promise of an economy that's been posting double digit GDP growth rates for the past decade through rapid modernization and embrace of market reform, meaning capitalism.
The Communist Party officials and Chinese government bureaucrats we’ve met along the way seem to see little irony in this. Chinese bureaucrats, I gather, don’t do irony.
They do earnest instead. And China is singularly obsessed with GDP, which has slowed to a still stratospheric 7.5 percent, give or take a few decimal points, depending on who’s counting and whether they're accounting for a burgeoning black market.
China’s current president and party chairman, Xi Jinping, assured his nation of continued growth the other day, as he must. No revolutionary like Mao, the founder of the modern People’s Republic of China, Xi’s technocratic legitimacy depends on economic performance.
Foreigners, Americans in particular, like to press China on human rights and political freedom. But many Chinese, fearing chaos and instability, remain ambivalent about abandoning their one-party system, at least at this point in their nation’s development.
“Reform” is a popular buzzword in China. But even as the nation races to catch up to the West economically, in politics “gradualism” remains the order of the day.
Zhang Jianping, of the Institute for International Economic Research in Beijing, is fairly typical in that regard. Meeting with a group of foreign reporters, he cautioned, “We don’t want shotgun change.”
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