Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Chinese land reform from above


[Chinese] city and provincial governments have been gladly cooperating with developers: Economists estimate that half of all local government revenue comes from selling state-owned land.
In early December five professors at Peking University wrote to the National People's Congress calling for changes to a land seizure and demolition law and accusing developers of usurping the government's role when taking land for construction. The law is leading to "mass incidents" and "extreme events," the professors warned.

The modern "state" is as much a hierarchy as anything else. Whatever values one wants to ascribe to it -- democracy, pluralism, egalitarianism -- it interprets from the top and bludgeons all below. Like every hierarchy, whatever vitality it has, it has stolen from the creative impulse of that social intercourse not yet subordinated to its needs. Among these, self-preservation ranks first.

Such is the lasting irony of China's "communism from above," which was at first a land reform movement from below, but lost its popular character as China's people gradually came to know their state better than they knew themselves. What began as a mass movement of the dispossessed repelling fascism both at home and abroad now sees the dispossession happening all over again, this time in the name of "the people."


Cüneyt said...

Is this any surprise after the Cultural Revolution, though? That was also old Maoist hands playing puppetmasters to pent-up youth energy. Now the vigor is in capitalists and "reformists," but it's still the state and the military's that cashing in. There has long been a regressive impulse in Chinese nationalist authoritarian socialism, from the xenophobia to anti-homosexual tendencies to the revanchism... They have a different starting point, but they've landed in much the same territory as many Western states I know.

JRB said...

You're right: the only thing new about it is that China is now a "success" story.

Jenny said...

Communist China was never really about rightful reform in the first place:

Cüneyt said...

Thank you, J. R. That's much my view, too. The salient point for Western observers has never been the human rights or the ideology, but the strategy. Now China and the US are friends--to the extent that states can ever have human features--and that's how it's going to be marketed.

And that's a great review, Jenny. "The Untold Story" wore its agenda on its sleeve. Mao has to be put into context, even as we might affirm his being a total bastard. By our own metrics, I can't damn them, however. They would only war to control their destiny as we warred to control ours. Their scales of benefit are hierarchical, just like every economy in the world that ever industrialized. But, like us, they have their triumphs. They disland and massacre and intimidate, but they did get rid of footbinding. So yay?