Why China didn’t turn liberal
China After Mao: the Rise of a Superpower
Buy on Bookshop.org
Prospect receives commission when you buy a book using this page.
Thank you for supporting us.
Dutch historian Frank Dikötter has mined the country’s official archives to produce his revelatory People’s Trilogy on Maoist China. His follow up, China After Mao: The Rise of a Superpower, is a merciless assessment of China in the Reform Era, and of those in the west—politicians and “China experts” alike—who have been duped by the regime’s deceit and propaganda and beguiled into wishful thinking that its economic reforms would generate a peaceful transition to democracy.
Dikötter shows how the leaders of the CPC have been clear in their resolve to profit from the use of “capitalist tools in socialist hands”—as Deng Xiaoping, who became supreme leader in 1978, put it. All the while the party maintained a monopoly of political power and control of the commanding heights of the economy. At no stage has the party flirted with liberal democracy, the rule of law, freedom of expression or free trade; in fact, it has always regarded them as mortal dangers to the regime. China, though, has led foreigners to believe the opposite to gain access to markets, technology, weapons and investment.
Dikötter is equally merciless in revealing the reality behind the “Chinese economic miracle”. For him there has been no grand plan: “Most wealth flowed to the state, not the people.” His account is compelling, though I would have liked a greater recognition of the successes of the Chinese state since the chaotic Mao years.
The chief economist of HSBC once commented of China’s leaders: “They are going to spend like there’s no tomorrow.” Spend they did, and the ongoing collapse of the property market shows that tomorrow has just come and, in Dikötter’s final judgement, the party has reached “a dead end”.
The post Why China didn’t turn liberal appeared first on Prospect Magazine.