Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gong Xiantian on the Reform Process and the Law in China

"Since the reform and opening policy started—especially under the influence in recent years of neo-liberal economics of the West and the “Washington consensus”—a small minority in China, who seek to promote capitalism and to bring down the state enterprises on which the economy of New China has been based and which have scored an impressive record, smeared the state enterprises as being “inefficient” and “feeding lazy buggers”.

In name, they are seeking to steer the state enterprises to health, but in reality, they are steering them to death, selling them at deflated prices. (Remember what Premier Zhu Rongji once said: “In what way is it a sale? It’s a giveaway, a half-sale, half-giveaway.”) These moves have resulted in a massive leakage of the assets of state enterprises, forcing redundancy on many workers, resulting in the serious economic and social problems that prevail today, bringing great difficulties to the work of the party central leadership as well as the government, locking all players on the chessboard into a state where taking initiatives is difficult.

In recent years, people have taken counter-socialist measures and paths under fancy titles such as “a conversion to shareholding structure”, “cash payment in lieu of a worker’s entitlements based on years of employment”, “state enterprises retreat to make space for ‘people’-owned enterprises”, “management buyout” and “strategic restructuring”.

No one can say with certainty how much or little is left of the state enterprises! At the moment, no one has anything responsible to say about state enterprises and state property. According to the scientific estimates of veteran cadres who have spent their whole working lives at the State Statistics Bureau and other specialists, the output of the state sector isn’t even seventeen per cent of the country’s industrial output. Yet, highly regrettably, individual leading officials of the bureau continue to lie to the party central leadership as well as the people, failing to provide a credible figure. The statistics released so far are self-contradictory, full of mistakes and omissions, with errors of such a serious nature that they absolutely shouldn’t have occurred.

Although our party decreed and billed our task as two “unwaverings”, many of our cadres are unwavering only with respect to the so-called people-owned enterprises (which are mostly privately owned). Even years ago, there were provincial officials who appealed for a big push to develop so-called people-owned enterprises “with their hearts at ease [implying they wouldn’t be charged later for political incorrectness, as happened during the Cultural Revolution], with minimum prescriptions and with boldness”.

Later on, the “easy going” policy was added [as a fourth element], thus constituting the “four let go” policy on the people-owned economy. However, the development of publicly owned enterprises has received no special attention, as it should have, nor have useful measures been taken on the issue. Things happened this way because the public sector is not where the interest of these cadres lies. With meticulous calculation, they try to put state enterprises in an extremely difficult state, leading to the tragic situation where there was the need for a struggle for a [fair and equal] “national treatment” [on par with private enterprises] for state enterprises! This is why some members of the masses said the “common property party” [the literal meaning in Chinese of “communist party”] has become the “private property party”!

To talk about equal protection in such a grave scenario is like advocating protection for a beggar’s multipurpose stick and bowl equally with the machinery and vehicles of the minority! It’s like giving protection to the homes of average citizens, even their dangerous derelict homes, equally with the high-class villas of those who have struck a windfall fortune! According to the current conception of the Draft, equality will be delivered only to capital but not for the protection of labour. What is the difference then with capitalism? In the absence of the objects of such rights, or when such objects are few and far between, what possibility remains for equality of the subjects?

What difference is there then with equality under capitalism? What’s the point of protecting something that I don’t have? I don’t need protection for things not in my possession! Even less do I need protection for things that I can’t possibly have even in the future! With respect to the ownership of the means of production, one is super-rich, with net worth of millions, tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars; the other is a bum possessing nothing of value, providing no basis at all to talk about any equality between the subjects! The prerequisites and targets for the adjustments that the Draft is aiming for simply do not exist!

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