Friday, August 17, 2007

Reforms---market and otherwise

Like my mixed feelings about the Clinton wing of the Democrats at home (Mr. or Mrs. Clinton), I never know quite what to make of the market reformists in China, a country where the distinction between "liberal" and "left" is as clear as day and night.

Hu Shuli has a piece in Caijing magazine, in which he complains, in typical market reformist fashion, that people who think China has become too imbalanced or worry about further marketization leading to social instability are missing the forest for the trees.

He dismisses those who "suggest solving all our social problems once and for all, simply by expanding China’s social welfare system," but then hedges by saying that "current projects that should continue include efforts to establish a strong social-security system."

Then he slips in a little gamble:

Current efforts to deepen reforms of the economic system face many challenges. Therefore, it is high time that we continued on political system reform actively and safely. The core goal for political-system reform is to accelerate democratic change and establish a modern, socialist country with democracy and a full-fledged legal system.

Efforts to reform the political system and other arenas should proceed shoulder-to-shoulder.

A friend of mine said that China will definitely begin democratic reforms before too long; the only question is who will come out on top: liberals or the left. His words had an ominous ring to it, a little like Sunni insurgents and Shiite death squads in Iraq gearing up for the show-down that will come when America leaves.

But, really, where should workers and farmers stand? How much should they cooperate with market reformers who, like Hu Shuli, also advocate a common goal, political reform?

There isn't a ton of history to rely on here. The United Front---during the revolution and immediate post-revolution years---managed to draw on a range of energies for reconstruction, but didn't give liberals much of a real voice. The liberal Tiananmen students, on the other hand, didn't give farmers and workers an equal stage.

And Clinton II isn't likely to give labor any important seat at the table.

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