Deng's Free Market Nightmare

Revolutionary Worker #896, March 2, 1997



The imperialists hail Deng Xiaoping as a "great reformer" who is responsible for "modernization" and "opening China's door" to the rest of the world. He is credited with raising living standards and helping China to become the fastest growing economy in the world.

But what has Deng's restoration of capitalism meant for the masses of Chinese people? The short answer is: Deepening poverty for the majority of people; a growing gap between the rich and poor; the return of oppressive social relations, including the oppression of women; and the subjugation of China to imperialism.

Immediately after seizing power in 1976, the revisionists began restoring capitalism in China. Many of the capitalist-roaders in the party who had been put down during the Cultural Revolution were brought back. On every front--education, culture, medicine, factory management, science and technology--the innovations of the Cultural Revolution were either done away with or stripped of any revolutionary substance. Economic planning now served the process of dismantling the socialist economy and establishing capitalist standards of production.

In 1978, capitalist restoration in China took a huge leap. The communes in the countryside were broken up and agriculture was de-collectivized. In industry, the planning, management and ownership systems underwent profound changes as "profit in command" was brought back as the guide for production.

In revolutionary China, Mao led the development of policies that dispersed industry throughout the country and to develop the poorer and backward regions. Under Deng, a lot of development and resources became concentrated along the more well-off regions along China's coast, in special "economic zones." As a result, the gap between the rich and poor has widened. In 1993, a small percentage of society--four million people--saw their incomes rise 12 times the urban average and 32 times the rural average. But 400 million saw their incomes decline.

Under Mao's leadership, China developed a system of collective agriculture. China's basic food needs were met, and enormous social changes took place in the countryside which dug away at inequality and privilege. All this has been reversed under Deng. Fields and farms were broken up into parcels and plots of land and assigned to individual peasant families. Individual farmers were allowed to hire (and exploit) labor, buy and own farm machinery and to market their surplus crops.

In this mass decollectivization of agriculture under Deng, some people were able to accumulate more, while others got less or nothing. This has led to a situation where there is now much more, not less, inequality in the countryside. Throughout the countryside, where three-fourths of the people in China live, there is massive poverty and unemployment. As a result, the biggest migration of human beings in modern history is taking place. A "floating population" of 100 million people has already left the countryside in a desperate attempt to escape poverty. Huge shantytowns of homeless and poor now ring cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

Under Mao, the common people were brought forward to exercise leadership in all spheres of society and engage in political struggle to transform their workplaces and communities. But under Deng, modernization and profit rule everything. The most important thing to the current rulers of China is how much they can squeeze out of the workers and peasants.

And Deng's regime has dragged China back into the clutches of foreign domination. Under Mao, China was a base area for world revolution. Today it is a sweatshop for imperialism. Companies like Nike and General Motors come in, set up shop and pay some of the lowest wages in the world--as little as 28 cents an hour. In 1993, $123 billion in foreign investment was contracted in China--representing half of all capital invested in the country. And 80 percent of this investment was in the rich coastal regions.

Education in China has once again become a privilege for the elite section of society. The return of privatized farming in the countryside, with profit in command, has brought back brutal feudal traditions and practices. Sons are now valued more than daughters, so that wife beating, the persecution of women giving birth to females and the killing of female babies have reemerged as major social problems.

Corruption is rampant at every level of the party and government. Local bureaucrats have political power and control over scarce resources and state capital. And many officials have become millionaires.

Before 1949 there were some 70 million junkies in China, addicted to opium, morphine and heroin. The Maoist revolution had quickly wiped out China's drug problem. But drug addiction has returned in China with the return of capitalism. In 1995, the Chinese government reported that the number of addicts arrested or willing to register jumped from 250,000 to 380,000 in little more than a year.

On June 4, 1989, Deng Xiaoping ordered soldiers to attack thousands of students, youth and workers demonstrating in Tiananmen Square. Many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people were murdered in cold blood as army tanks ran over people and soldiers fired into crowds. Demonstrations in Tiananmen Square had been growing for weeks, as students, and then others, flocked to the square to protest government corruption and bureaucracy and to demand "greater democracy." Then, before the eyes of the world, the Chinese regime moved on the demonstrators without mercy.

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