People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 41

October 13, 2013







Spectacular Progress, Formidable Challenges – (5)


Ashok Dhawale


COMPARING our experience in India with our visit to China, we were struck by some of the objective social factors that not only greatly contributed to the success of the Chinese Revolution, but today also help the CPC in the challenging task of socialist construction. These factors are:


1. An overwhelming 91.5 per cent of China’s population belongs to the single Han nationality. Though there are 55 other minority ethnic groups, their total proportion in the country is only 8.5 per cent. Hence the nationality question was never a serious issue in China. Still, the Communist government after taking power, made every effort to help and render justice to all the ethnic minorities.


2. There is basically just one language and one script – Chinese – that is spoken, written and understood throughout the country. Some of the small ethnic groups have their own language or dialect, but they also speak, write and understand Chinese. The commonness of language and script was another great advantage.


3. Religion has also never been a major issue in China. The two dominant religions of the past – Buddhism and Taoism – were by their very nature liberal and not fundamentalist. Christianity and Islam came to China much later, but they were restricted to a few pockets. Hence the serious problem of communalism and communal violence never really affected China.


4. Lastly, since there was no Hinduism in China, there was also no question of the rigidly hierarchical and thoroughly reactionary varna and jaati (caste) system taking root there. Hence the issue of caste oppression was non-existent.


In all the four aspects mentioned above, China was certainly far more fortunate than India, and far less susceptible to the dangers of identity politics.




While China has spectacular achievements to its credit, it also faces several formidable challenges in the years ahead. Seven broad areas can be identified:


The first major problem is corruption. In the three decades from 1982 to 2011, no less than 4.2 million cadres of the CPC were punished for corruption. They included as many as 465 minister-level leaders of the Party. Some of the leaders were even sentenced to death. This is certainly a worrisome state of affairs.


When we were in China, the CPC’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the central government’s Ministry of Supervision launched a new website to enhance openness and transparency. This website can be used by the people to make their complaints. Over 40 per cent of cases of corruption and abuse of power in 2012 were exposed through such tips from the public.


The second aspect is that of inequalities – between different classes, between urban and rural people and between the developed East and the developing West. We saw that urban incomes are three times higher than rural incomes. According to the Xinhua news agency, migrant workers earned an average of only 7019 yuan in net income last year, compared to 24,565 yuan of the average urban workers' salary. These inequalities can lead to social instability.


The third question is that of unemployment. Although over 12 million urban jobs were created in 2011, 25 million urban residents need jobs each year. The rate of registered unemployment is 4.1 per cent. The employment rate for college graduates is 77.8 per cent, which still leaves nearly a quarter of them without jobs. There is also the issue of proper jobs for migrant workers and re-employment of those who have been retrenched from their jobs.


The fourth issue relates to expensive housing, education and health care. China Daily on September 3, 2013 reported that, “New home prices in 100 major cities averaged 10,442 yuan (US$1706) per square meter in August, rising for 15 consecutive months in month-on-month terms.” Considering that the wages of workers and government employees ranged from 2000 to 5000 yuan per month, it is difficult for them to contemplate buying a new house at these rates. Similar was the case with higher education and specialised medical care, despite the fact that scholarships and insurance coverage were available to some extent.


The fifth problem concerns pollution. According to a recent United Nations report, out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 16 are in China. The thick smog in many cities like Beijing is a serious problem. Water pollution due to industrialisation is also a major hazard. Due to a rapid rise in the number of private cars, we were ourselves caught in traffic jams in all the three cities that we visited, although the roads and highways were broad and numerous.


The sixth issue is related to rapid urbanisation and its effects. China Daily of August 27, 2013 editorially cautioned about this: “Urban area expansion will certainly occupy arable land, which poses a threat to agricultural production in the world’s most populous nation. The total area of arable land has already shrunk from 130 million hectares in 1997 to 120 million hectares in 2011. If the rapid decrease of arable land continues unchecked, it will be detrimental to the country’s food security. The acquisition of farmland may cause conflicts between local governments and rural villagers, which could pose a threat to social stability. The expansion of urban areas will also cause damage to local ecologies, which might threaten people’s livelihoods.”


Urbanisation has also led to other problems. The official Chinese Xinhua news agency itself enumerates some of them: Each year, millions of migrant people from the countryside come to work in China's big cities, often in low-paid manual work, but lack access to education, health and other public services and social benefits that are tied to the strict household registration (permit) system. Failure to give such permits to villagers who leave their rural homes leads to problems like unfair treatment, loss of arable land and the piling up of debts. 


Finally, the seventh and potentially the most serious problem is that related to the rapid recent growth of the private sector – both indigenous and foreign – in the Chinese economy, the permission given to Chinese capitalists to join the CPC, with some of them also elected to the Central Committee - and what could be the consequences of all these steps for socialism in the future.  Linked to this is the tendency to downplay, or at least to publicly remain silent about the danger of imperialism, which could lead to de-politicisation of the people. We were told that it was difficult to attract youth to the Party – and that many youth who wanted to join the CPC were guided not by ideology, but by careerism.



Cheng Enfu, President of the Academy of Marxism, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, wrote an enlightening article which was published in the October-December 2012 issue of The Marxist. He wrote that there were seven currents of social thought in China today: neo-liberalism, democratic socialism, revivalism, new leftism, eclectic Marxism, orthodox Marxism and innovative Marxism. He writes, “Those who subscribe to neo-liberalism and the Washington consensus are few in number, but are gaining more and more influence.”  This ideology also leads to glorifying only the 1978-2013 reform phase and belittling the 1921-1966 revolutionary phase of Chinese history.  


Here, it would be apt again to quote Samir Amin: “To say, as one hears ad nauseam, that China’s success should be attributed to the abandonment of Maoism (whose ‘failure’ was obvious), the opening to the outside, and the entry of foreign capital is quite simply idiotic. The Maoist construction put in place the foundations without which the opening would not have achieved its well-known success. A comparison with India, which has not made a comparable revolution, demonstrates this. To say that China’s success is mainly (even ‘completely’) attributable to the initiatives of foreign capital is no less idiotic. It is not multinational capital that built the Chinese industrial system and achieved the objectives of urbanisation and the construction of infrastructure. The success is 90 per cent attributable to the sovereign Chinese project. Certainly, the opening to foreign capital has fulfilled useful functions: it has increased the import of modern technologies. However, because of its partnership methods, China absorbed these technologies and has now mastered their development. There is nothing similar elsewhere, even in India or Brazil, a fortiori in Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, and other places. . . . .


“We must draw the conclusion: if ‘catching up’ with the opulent countries is impossible, something else must be done — it is called following the socialist path. China has not followed a particular path just since 1980, but since 1950, although this path has passed through phases that are different in many respects. China has developed a coherent, sovereign project that is appropriate for its own needs. This is certainly not capitalism, whose logic requires that agricultural land be treated as a commodity. This project remains sovereign insofar as China remains outside of contemporary financial globalisation. The fact that the Chinese project is not capitalist does not mean that it ‘is’ socialist, only that it makes it possible to advance on the long road to socialism. Nevertheless, it is also still threatened with a drift that moves it off that road and ends up with a return, pure and simple, to capitalism.”


We shall end this series with the balanced conclusion about China drawn by the Resolution on Some Ideological Issues of the 20th Congress of the CPI(M): “During these three decades of reforms, China has made tremendous strides in the development of productive forces and economic growth. A consistent 10 per cent plus growth rate on an average over a period of three decades is unprecedented in the entire history of capitalism for any country. However, this very process has clearly brought to the fore adverse changes in production relations, and therefore in social relations in China today. How successfully these contradictions are dealt with and how they are resolved will determine the future course in China. The efforts to strengthen and consolidate socialism will receive solidarity from us and Communists the world over.”