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The Chinese Reassessment of Socialism, 1976-1992

The Chinese Reassessment of Socialism, 1976-1992

Yan Sun
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 376
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    The Chinese Reassessment of Socialism, 1976-1992
    Book Description:

    A momentous debate has been unfolding in China over the last fifteen years, only intermittently in public view, concerning the merits of socialism as a philosophy of social justice and as a program for national development. Just as Deng Xiaoping's better advertised experiment with market- based reforms has challenged Marxist-Leninist dogma on economic policy, the years since the death of Mao Zedong have seen a profound reexamination of a more basic question: to what extent are the root problems of the system due to Chinese socialism and Marxism generally? Here Yan Sun gathers a remarkable group of primary materials, drawn from an unusual range of sources, to present the most systematic and comprehensive study of post-Mao reappraisal of China's socialist theory and practice.

    Rejecting an assumption often made in the West, that Chinese socialist thought has little bearing on politics and policymaking, Sun takes the arguments of the post-Mao era seriously on their own terms. She identifies the major factions in the debate, reveals the interplay among official and unofficial forces, and charts the development of the debate from an initially parochial concern with problems raised by Chinese practice to a grand critique of the theory of socialism itself. She concludes with an enlightening comparison of the reassessments undertaken by Deng Xiaoping with those of Gorbachev, linking them to the divergent outcomes of reform and revolution in their respective countries.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2175-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. CHAPTER ONE The Affirmation, Development, and Negation of Marxism
    (pp. 3-21)

    The year 1989 witnessed both the forceful suppression of the Tiananmen demonstrators in China and the swift collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. These events were followed in 1991 by the demise of the birthplace of the October Revolution. The disparities among these dramatic and almost concurrent events have raised important questions about the sources of the divergent outcomes in these systems. Why was the Chinese leadership able to cling successfully to the intrasystem, reformist approach, whereas Mikhail Gorbachev presided over a revolution that led to the demise of the Soviet Communist party and state? In the Soviet case, Gorbachev’s...

  2. CHAPTER TWO From the Whatever to the Dialectical Materialist Approach
    (pp. 22-51)

    One major legacy of the Mao era was ideological absolutization. The claim of official doctrine to total truth gave grounding to constant imperative appeals to correct behavior and thinking. These appeals recurred in official efforts in ideological education, media promulgation, and political campaigns. The “two whatevers” expounded by Hua Guofeng and Wang Dongxing upon Mao’s death reflected the state of rigidity in Mao’s late years.

    It is hardly surprising that a debate on the criterion of truth was the first issue of serious political contention in immediate post-Mao China. This was a controversy between a “whatever” (fanshi) faction that insisted...

  3. CHAPTER THREE Competing Models of the Socialist Economy
    (pp. 52-84)

    During the dispute with the whatever group, the veteran leaders—most of whom were victims of the Cultural Revolution—joined forces as a reformist coalition. When these victors of the truth debate turned to proposing ways to redress past wrongs, they began to diverge in perspective and approach. Though unanimous about the priority of economic modernization and respect for objective laws, they disagreed on the types of objective laws that should be emphasized. The more radical of the reform leaders, represented by Deng Xiaoping, Hu Yaobang, and Zhao Ziyang, paid attention to the laws concerning production relations. A more orthodox...

  4. CHAPTER FOUR The Reassessment of the Socialist Economic System
    (pp. 85-120)

    Despite the seemingly facile progress toward the end of the 1980s, the reassessment of the socialist economy was tortuous throughout the phases that have been discussed. Orthodox socialism provided the opponents of radical reform—first the conservers and later the conservative reformers—with a consistent vehicle to question the direction of reform policies. On each key area of reform—economic organization, ownership, and distribution—they were able to dispute its doctrinal legitimacy and to press for policy adjustments that would keep reform within the bounds of orthodox socialism. These bounds remained equally important issues for the reform leadership, not least...

  5. CHAPTER FIVE The Noncompeting Nature of the Socialist Political System
    (pp. 121-152)

    As in the economic domain, the rethinking of the socialist system in the political domain first came onto the Chinese political agenda amid efforts to repudiate the policies and ideology of the Mao era and evolved with empirical reforms. Unlike the economic realm, however, the rethinking of the political sphere involved sensitive issues of CCP rule. Here the conflict between the two groups of reform leaders no longer was defined just by their different visions of socialism but was also tempered by their reactions to any reappraisals that appeared to threaten the party’s rule. As a result, both groups had...

  6. CHAPTER SIX The Reassessment of the Socialist Political System
    (pp. 153-182)

    The post-Mao reassessment of the political system took a more difficult route than that of the economic system. It has also not been translated as much into practice. Nonetheless, in the evolving search for the sources of and solutions to past abuses and failures, many important issues were raised concerning the problems of the socialist political order. This chapter discusses these substantive issues. It draws mainly on the discourse of mainstream reform theorists and intellectuals, who carried out the bulk of the discussions. Although their discourse has not been always endorsed by the reform leadership and has often been rejected...

  7. CHAPTER SEVEN The Reconceptualization of Socialism
    (pp. 183-213)

    The strenuous efforts to reassess and rectify the practice and theory of the socialist economic and political system have raised serious questions about socialism itself as a principle for organizing and guiding Chinese society. If socialism requires such extensive adjustments, why should China continue to be concerned with it? After all, the issues raised in the economic and political reappraisals have pointed to many deep problems in China’s adoption of socialism. Does socialism fit China’s national conditions? What does Marxism entail for China now that many of its assumptions are no longer unquestionable? What do changing conditions at home and...

  8. CHAPTER EIGHT The Response to the “Liberal” Reassessment of Socialism
    (pp. 214-236)

    The post-Mao reassessment of socialism reviewed thus far suggests a prevailing struggle against dogmatism on the Left, that is, the political forces that refused to adapt to the interpretation and application of socialism to the extent desired by more reformist leaders. At the same time, reformulation in the officially guided line of inquiry was largely within the socialist framework of reference. In keeping with this frame, there had been a consistent struggle against “liberalism” on the Right in the same process, namely, the social and intellectual forces that had been targeted in the five campaigns against bourgeois liberalization, as discussed...

  9. CHAPTER NINE The Chinese and Soviet Reassessments of Socialism: A Comparison
    (pp. 237-257)

    Like Chinese reform leaders, Mikhail Gorbachev also encouraged the reappraisal of socialism as a means of diagnosing past problems and articulating reforms. These efforts were expressed in such platforms as “new thinking,” the “renewal of socialism,” and the promotion of “humanistic and democratic socialism.” Because the Chinese party eventually blamed these efforts for the erosion of socialism that heralded the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991, it is interesting to address the important question raised by the Chinese reactions here. That is, what is the role of ideological reappraisal in the divergent directions that reforms have taken in...

  10. CHAPTER TEN The Post-Mao Reassessment of Socialism and the Chinese Socialist Experience
    (pp. 258-276)

    Shortly after Deng Xiaoping’s southern tour of spring 1992 to resurrect reform from the retreat of previous two years, reform theorists and intellectuals who had been active before mid-1989 reemerged to rally for the renewal of reform. At their first few symposiums after Deng’s new offensive, two central topics were the “reconception of capitalism” and the “reconception of socialism.” Aimed at the conservative officials and theorists who had become dominant after mid-1989, the thrust of these discussions was to defend the need for socialism to learn from contemporary capitalism and to oppose a new whateverism that questioned “socialist” or “capitalist”...