China's Capitalist Road?


  • Fred Magdoff



History, Political Economy


The dramatic changes that have occurred in China over the last decade and their effects are bewildering to many. A complete reversal in economic direction has changed much in the countryside, where most Chinese live and work, as well as in the cities. Some of the results, such as increased construction of homes for farm families and development of new "sideline" industries, seem to be positive, and are touted by the leadership. Other changes, such as the deterioration of agricultural infrastructure, do not bode well for the long run, as William Hinton observes in The Great Reversal: The Privatization of China, 1978-1989 (Monthly Review Press, 1990). I read Hinton's perceptive book within days of visiting China in the spring of 1990. Observations and discussions during travel through Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces confirmed over and over much of what Hinton describes. The book, a collection of essays, a few of which appeared in Monthly Review, raises the overriding questions: what brought about the policy changes? what are their effects? and were there ways other than that chosen by the Deng Xiaoping leadership to deal with some of the admittedly difficult problems that beset rural China in the late 1970s?

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