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 Sunday, September 22 2019 5:55am Hongkong Time

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Contradictions in Socialism with Chinese characteristics

Sidney J Gluck

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.

This paper was presented at the Philosophy Conference, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Beijing, held on October 30 and 31, 2000.

At the outset it should be clear that a discussion of contradictions in Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is not a pejorative. On the contrary, it defines the struggle for a better life. Every society has its contradictions which are the levers of change. Understanding contradictions helps initiate actions and movements to affect the outcome of class interests. This is as true of China as it is for the USA and the rest of the world, North and South.

Take Out on a Glass Plate (c) Yin Yang
Photo © Yin Yang, iStockPhoto

There are two distinct categories of conflicts: one, contradictions in nature and two, contradictions in human society.

Humankind versus nature is a constant challenge, always in flux. Technology sets the range of ability to use the elements and forces of nature at will for human survival. A major contradiction arises when destructive class interests or neglect cause ecological imbalances leading to significant changes in a natural phenomenon, i.e. global warming threatening society itself.

The advent of private property opened the way to exploitation of man by man, culminating in capitalism's introduction of socialized production for individual profit, fraught with contradictions, and it remains dominant in the 21st century because two technological revolutions in the 20th century gave it new life and growth.

Because of the contradiction between underdevelopment and the need to integrate rapidly into the world economy on a high technological plane, methods honed by capitalism must be adopted in China to achieve competitive status without sacrificing socially and collectively owned public enterprise. This follows a period in China when technology and management were de-emphasized though collectivity and social concerns were practices within low productivity and living standards. Modernization, therefore, has sharpened this threat.

The ideological campaign launched in February has answered the growing contradiction between adaptation of capitalist economic mechanisms without its class content. Nonetheless, a growing disparity in income, while reflecting a socialist tenet, "from each according to ability, to each according to his need (or needs), to each according to contribution" [1], and financial incentives to stimulate productivity requires special regulation, fiscal policy, taxation, social propaganda and raising the level of the lower income sectors and shaming ostentation. The rate of share in the benefits of modernization in cities versus the countryside is a growing contradiction. Uneven geographic development, particularly in the West and Northwestern ethnically populated regions, lags in national development as a whole. The Chinese government and Party are to be commended as the first nation in history to plan the full integration of backward regions in order to achieve a balanced development. The introduction of high-tech, medium and small enterprises and a service sector in these areas counter the effects of underdevelopment, combined with the development of infrastructure to tie the region to the rest of the country.

We do not look upon the misuse of freedom through economic crime, drugs, prostitution and other degrading elements that came with the opening as contradictions in and of themselves, but as reflections of the diminution of Socialist morality.

A further consequence of opening is a set-back from the equal treatment of men and women under SOE employment and social benefits. The changed social contract within joint ventures and the private sector tends to employ men in better positions than women. This has affected family life and relations between the sexes. The ideological campaign is a welcome antidote.

In foreign relations China faces western corporate domination of trade and investment as reflected in GATT [2] and WTO, which stand in contradiction to independent choices by underdeveloped countries struggling to improve their own standards regardless of internal class formations. China stands as a champion of the underdeveloped. Hence, when China joins the WTO, we may expect and intensification of internal debate as a major feature and a battleground for humane world development within the WTO. China appears willing to accept this role.

While friendly relations through trade and investment are major objectives of both the USA and China, there are fundamental differences in political and economic expectations. Friendship and understanding must be based on reality. China's chosen direction is Socialism.

It allocates its national capital accumulation for public development, giving priority to investments fostering economic integration through development of infrastructure, power generation, public transportation, ecology, land improvement etc, etc, and to the stimulation of a rapid rise in living standards. China will champion the underdeveloped nations against imperialist remnants, support regionalism and the UN, oppose unilateralism, make efforts to maintain stability and avert war, all this, in contradiction to single power hegemony.

President Clinton, on the other hand, clearly defines the underlying political motivation for working with China economically as the encouragement of private entrepreneurial ideology and formation of an "independent middle class that will divert China from Socialism".

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Note 1: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need (or needs)" is a slogan popularised by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program. For details, visit or see Wikipedia

Note 2: See

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