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China a guide to economic and political developments



There is currently widespread and growing interest in the Chinese economy, its
rapid growth, and the consequent impact on world business and economic affairs.
At the same time, there are concerns about China’s political system, the Chinese
Communist Party, China’s human rights record and the degree to which reform –
the development of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ – represents real liberalization. This book provides full details of economic and political developments in
China, focusing in particular on events since 1978. It includes coverage of Hong
Kong, Macao, Tibet and Taiwan, together with China’s relations, including international trade, with its neighbours and with the international community. It considers the evolution of China’s ‘open-door’ policy in economic affairs, the impact of
entry into the WTO and effects of the Asian financial crisis. All the key topics – the
growth of the market, the reform of state-owned enterprises, foreign investment,
human rights, SARS and bird flu – are comprehensively covered. Overall, this book
provides a full account of economic and political developments in China, and will
be of importance to all who are interested in this country’s affairs, not only scholars
but also those within the business and policy-making communities.
Ian Jeffries is Reader in Economics and member of the Centre of Russian and
Eastern European Studies at the University of Wales Swansea. He is one of the
foremost authorities on the post-communist world and has written extensively on

communist and transitional economies. His publications include A Guide to the
Socialist Economies (Routledge, 1990), Socialist Economies and the Transition to
the Market (Routledge, 1993) and The Countries of the Former Soviet Union at the
Turn of the Twenty-First Century: The Baltics and European States in Transition
(Routledge, 2004), the last of a five-volume series written by the author.


Guides to economic and political developments in Asia

1 North Korea
A guide to economic and political developments
Ian Jeffries
2 Vietnam
A guide to economic and political developments
Ian Jeffries
3 China
A guide to economic and political developments
Ian Jeffries


A guide to economic and political

Ian Jeffries


First published 2006
by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN
Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
by Routledge
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Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2006.
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© 2006 Ian Jeffries
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or
utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now
known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any
information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from
the publishers.
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ISBN 0-203-09966-4 Master e-book ISBN

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ISBN 10: 0–203–09966–4 (ebk)
ISBN 13: 978–0–415–38223–6 (hbk)
ISBN 13: 978–0–203–09966–7 (ebk)







China: a summary
Population 3
Chinese civilization 9
Communist China 12
Deng Xiaoping 14
China after Deng Xiaoping 16
Economic reforms 20



China and Taiwan 26
The regaining of sovereignty over Hong Kong on 1 July 1997 and
Macao on 20 December 1999 76
Tibet 108
Inner Mongolia 110
Uighurs 111
Human rights 116
SARS 160
Bird flu 175
AIDS 225
Pig disease 229
Direct elections at the local level 230
Political developments, congresses and Central Committee sessions
since March 1993 240


The economy
Introduction 375
Agriculture 377
The market gradually replacing central planning 402




vi Contents
The reform of state industrial enterprises 441
The non-state, non-agricultural sectors 507
The ‘open-door’ policy 516
Economic performance 616
Political developments 641
Economic developments 651






I am much indebted to the following individuals (in alphabetical order):
At the University of Wales Swansea: David Blackaby; Siân Brown; Dianne
Darrell; Michele Davies; Peter Day; Chris Hunt; Frances Jackson; Jaynie Lewis;
Nigel O’Leary; Lis Parcell; Mary Perman; Ann Preece; Paul Reynolds; Kathy
Sivertsen; Jeff Smith; Syed Hamzah bin Syed Hussin; Clive Towse; Ray Watts;
Chris West.
Professors Nick Baigent, George Blazyca, Paul Hare, Lester Hunt and Michael
Russell Davies (Kays Newsagency).
At Routledge: Yeliz Ali, Simon Bailey, Amrit Bangard, Tom Bates, Oliver
Escrit, Tessa Herbert, Alan Jarvis, Liz Jones, Alex Meloy, Peter Sowden, Alfred
Symons, Annabel Watson, Mike Wending, James Whiting, Vanessa Winch and
Jayne Young.
At Wearset: Matt Deacon and Claire Dunstan.
Ian Jeffries
Department of Economics and Centre of Russian and East European Studies
University of Wales Swansea




Readers will note in the bibliography that I have published extensively on communist and transitional economies, but most books deal with groups of countries.
Since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in and
after 1989, the number of countries I have analysed has grown from fourteen to
thirty-five! Owing to the large number of languages involved, I have had to rely
overwhelmingly on English sources.
I am unable to read Chinese and so cannot undertake frontier research on China.
Nevertheless, a vast amount of information is available in English on this increasingly important country. Despite an already vast literature there seems to be a need
for a broad-ranging study covering both economic and political developments, with
particular emphasis on events since economic reforms began in 1978.
I have tried to write a book which will be of interest to governments, business
and academics (from a wide range of disciplines, including economics, politics and
international relations). I present a richly endowed ‘quarry’ of up-to-date economic
and political information (presented chronologically where appropriate) to allow
the reader to dig out any desired facts and figures. This is not (and is not meant to
be) original research but a broad-brush painting of the overall economic and political picture. I make extensive use of quality newspapers such as the International
Herald Tribune (IHT), Financial Times (FT), The Times, the Guardian, the
Independent and the Daily Telegraph. Publications such as The Economist, the Far
Eastern Economic Review (FEER), The World Today, Asian Survey, Transition and
Finance and Development have also proven to be invaluable.
A review in The Times Higher Education Supplement (29 October 1993) kindly
referred to my ‘meticulous referencing’, even though detailed referencing has the
potential to be tiresome to readers. But since this is not original research and I am
deeply indebted to many sources, I feel it necessary to make every effort to acknowledge the material used. It is not always feasible to name the correspondents or contributors, but I try, as far as possible, to ensure that credit goes where it is due. For
this reason and for accuracy I make extensive use of quotations, although where
these include commonly quoted sayings or speeches I leave out specific sources.
China’s relations with North Korea are dealt with in a companion volume
entitled North Korea: A Guide to Economic and Political Developments (2006).
This book also deals with the question of how planned economies operate and
general issues in the transition from command to market economies.


China: a summary

China is the largest country in the world in terms of population. The population was
1.158 billion at the end of 1991 and 1.259 billion at the end of 1999. A figure of
1.265 billion was announced on 28 March 2001, the result of the fifth national
census held on 1 November 2000. In 2001 the figure was 1.272 billion. On 6
January 2005 the figure was 1.3 billion. The world population figure reached 6
billion in October 1999. India is the second largest country in the world by population, reaching 1 billion in August 1999 and 1.033 billion in 2001. (On 1 January
2004 the population of the United States was 292,287,454.) (China is the third
largest country in the world in terms of land area after Russia and Canada.)
About 92 per cent of the population is Han.
By official estimates barely half the population can speak the official language
[Mandarin] . . . A government survey published last year [2004] said only 53
per cent of the population ‘can communicate in Putonghua’ [Mandarin]. In
recognition of this broadcasters commonly include subtitles – the meaning of
written Chinese characters is stable even as spoken dialects vary – on television to help people overcome comprehension problems . . . China has fifty-five
ethnic minorities . . . China’s Han [is] the ethnic group that makes up more
than 90 per cent of the population . . . The Han speak as many as 1,500
dialects, with the bulk of them concentrated in the southern half of the country
. . . Many of the Han dialects are almost entirely mutually incomprehensible.
(www.iht.com, 10 July 2005)
Although the Chinese share a common written language, linguists identify
eight major spoken-language groups that are mutually unintelligible. The Communists, like the Nationalists before them, have gone to great lengths to
impose a common spoken language, Putonghua, commonly known as Mandarin outside of China, as part of their drive to reinforce national unity. But
regional language groups, which include Cantonese and Shanghainese, have
been surprisingly resilient . . . Cantonese is spoken by about 60 million people
in Guangdong province and in Hong Kong and Macao, as well as among
ethnic Chinese populations overseas.
(www.iht.com, 15 January 2006; IHT, 16 January 2006, p. 9)


China: a summary

China has to support about 22 per cent of the world’s population on something like 7
per cent of the world’s arable area. ‘In 1979 only 11 per cent of the total land area of
China was cultivated (50 per cent of India’s land is cultivated), with just 0.12 ha per
capita of the agricultural population (compared with India’s 0.42)’ (World Bank 1984:
35, cited in Jeffries 1993: 137). ‘Only about half of China is habitable . . . [It] has 7 per
cent of the world’s cultivable land’ (FT, 27 July 2004, p. 15). ‘China is the world’s
largest agricultural producer, feeding some 22 per cent of the world’s population with
10 per cent of its arable land’ (FEER, 2 May 2002, p. 25). ‘China attained food selfsufficiency in the mid-1990s, managing to nourish 20 per cent of the world’s population from 7 per cent of its arable farmland’ (The Times, 8 April 2005, p. 50). Thus it
is no coincidence that agricultural reform was first in line after 1978 (see later).
By 1986 life expectancy had risen to 66.9 for men and 70.9 for women (Jeffries
1993: 138). Average life expectancy at birth rose from thirty-five years in 1949 to
seventy years in 1989.
Health experts agree that one of the major achievements of China’s health
system before 1978 was the provision of basic medical care for all urban and
rural Chinese. These services, along with an emphasis on preventative medicine
and national campaigns to eradicate endemic disease, contributed to an increase
in average Chinese life expectancy from thirty-five years in 1949 to sixty-eight
years by 1978. Despite a dramatic increase in prosperity and living standards in
China since 1978 average life expectancy has increased by only 3.5 years, about
half the gains in longevity in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and [South] Korea
over the same period . . . Critics note that the government share of national
health spending has plummeted from close to 100 per cent during the planned
period to about 16 per cent today as the government has steadily withdrawn
from providing health services. By comparison, public spending accounts for
about 44 per cent of health outlays in the United States and an average of more
than 70 per cent in other advanced industrial countries . . . The public’s access
to health care in China has been steadily declining for more than two decades
. . . Critics . . .. [talk of] exorbitant charges for medical services, wasteful overservicing and widespread over-prescription of drugs . . . A hard-hitting report
[was issued] earlier this month by the Development Research Centre, one of the
government’s top advisory bodies . . . The report was co-sponsored by the
World Health Organization . . . [The report] noted ‘to our shame’ that the World
Health Organization ranked the Chinese health system as one of the most unfair
in the world. The report said: ‘Most of the medical needs of society cannot be
met because of economic reasons. Poor people cannot even enjoy the most
basic health care’ . . . In the absence of widespread medical insurance, many
Chinese, particularly the 800 million living in rural areas, cannot afford treatment when they are ill . . . The return [has been witnessed] of deadly diseases
including tuberculosis and schistosomiasis [a parasitic disease carried by water
snails] that had largely been eradicated before 1978 . . . Health care outlays have
now reached 6 per cent of GDP, a relatively high rate for a developing country.
During the planned era outlays on health care were about half that proportion.
(www.iht.com, 19 August 2005; IHT, 20 August 2005, p. 2)

China: a summary 5
Policy as regards population growth
Since roughly the mid-1950s the state has tried to control population growth, often
in draconian fashion.
The 1953 census revealed a 1952 population of 575 million and shocked the
party into a population control programme after 1956. Previously exclusive blame
for poverty was based on capitalism and imperialism, Mao opposing birth control
as a ‘bourgeois Malthusian doctrine’ (Fang Lizhi, Independent, 18 January 1989,
p. 19). It was not until the early 1970s, however, that the programme really took
off, with the aim, set in 1980, of restricting population growth to 1.2 billion by the
year 2000. A mixture of financial and non-pecuniary incentives and penalties were
applied, especially to try to attain the goal of one child per family, formally adopted
in 1979. This was relaxed somewhat in 1984–5 and tightened in 1987. After mid1988 a surprising switch in policy took place, allowing families in rural areas to
have a second child if the first was a girl, due to the difficulty of enforcing policy.
But the policy was maintained for urban areas and tightened up generally for larger
families (Jeffries 1993: 174).
‘The population of China will officially reach 1.3 billion [on 6 January 2005] . . .
State media credited the government’s population control policies over the past
thirty years for delaying the date of arrival at the 1.3 billion figure by four years’
(The Times, 4 January 2005, p. 32). ‘[China claims that its population] would today
top 1.5 billion . . . without government intervention’ (The Times, 7 January 2005,
p. 43).
The present policy as population, formally introduced in 1979, is ‘one child’ per
family with exceptions which have grown over time.
China’s one-child policy was first implemented in 1979, but officially proclaimed only in the early 1980s . . . According to Chinese estimates, only one
in five youngsters is an only child. Faced with growing evidence that its population control measures are being ignored [e.g. false claims that children are
twins], Beijing is aiming to switch to a two-child policy . . . [although] there is
no official policy change yet . . . [China says that the one-child policy] has prevented 300 million births during the past decade and brought down China’s
birth rate from 33 per thousand to fifteen by the end of the 1990s.
(The Times, 8 November 2004, p. 35)
A little-known provision in China’s family planning policy allows an only
child married to another only child to have two children, providing the kids are
spaced four years apart . . . Now the first generation born under the one-child
policy is starting to get married . . . more and more couples will be eligible for
(FEER, 23 November 2000, p. 98)
China is starting to move away from its ‘one-child’ policy and compulsory
birth quotas . . . Targets and quotas have been abandoned in a trial project
backed by the UN Population Fund in thirty-two rural counties. Beijing now
plans to extend the voluntary approach to a further 800 counties . . . The onechild rule has already been relaxed in most of rural China, where families are


China: a summary
allowed two children if the first is a girl – and often if it is a boy. City dwellers
are still limited to one child, unless both parents are single children themselves
. . . While birth quotas have been removed in the thirty-two pilot counties,
families who exceed two children still have to pay a fine, known as the ‘social
compensation payment’ . . . Instead of paying the fine, couples can choose to
have an abortion, especially if the pregnancy was unintended. Another important difference under the UN scheme is that families no longer have to apply to
have their first child. In the past it might have been refused if the village
‘quota’ had been filled.
(Guardian, 27 July 2002, p. 18)
[On 22 July the USA] withheld $34 million in international family planning
funds designated for the United Nations . . . [because] any money to the agency
. . . [the United States claimed] helps the ‘Chinese government to implement
more effectively its programmes of coercive abortion’.
(IHT, 3 August 2002, p. 6)
China’s one-child policy . . . [was] launched in 1980 after the population
topped 1 billion . . . But implementation has always been spotty. Today only
about 20 per cent of children under fourteen are from single-child families . . .
The policy has been most effective in cities, where residents face heavy fines
and can lose their jobs. But in the countryside, where parents depend on children to help them, especially sons, resistance has been widespread . . . By the
mid-1980s most rural communities allowed families with one daughter to have
a second child after four years – in effect to try for a son . . . In 1995 Beijing
approved a pilot project in six rural counties where family planning workers
would try to limit births by expanding health services for women, providing
more information about contraception and allowing couples to make their own
decisions. Then, in 1998, the UN population agency encouraged China to take
the experiment a step further, providing funding and training to thirty-two rural
counties . . . that agreed to eliminate the birth permits, targets and quotas and
stop promoting abortion as family planning . . . [For example] under China’s
one-child policy, couples in this rural county [the county of Yushi] in Jiangxi
province once needed a permit to have a baby. Women as a rule were fitted
with IUDs after their first child, sterilized after their second. But times have
changed. Yushi abolished the permits several years ago and let women make
their own decisions about birth control. It stopped setting birth quotas and sterilization targets for family planning workers, too. The only punishment now
for having an extra child is a fine, and even that is only occasionally collected
in full . . . Four years later . . . [it is claimed that] population growth in Yushi
has remained steady. In addition, infant mortality and other health indicators
have improved . . . as have relations between family planning workers and
residents. Similar results have been reported in the other thirty-one counties . . .
[It has also been claimed] that officials across the country had been impressed
by the results of the UN project, and that many were also abandoning birth
permits and quotas . . . [It is said] that cities and counties accounting for nearly
a quarter of China’s 1.3 billion people had eliminated birth permits and quotas

China: a summary 7
over the last five years . . . and about half the population now lives in jurisdictions that allow women to choose which type of contraception to use.
(IHT, 21 August 2002, pp. 1, 7)
China’s first national family planning law came into effect more than two
decades after its one-child-per-family policy was introduced. The legislation is
aimed at preventing officials from arbitrarily fining and harshly punishing
families which violate the policy. Couples who have more than one child will
now pay a weighted form of compensation, while local governments must foot
family planning budgets rather than relying on fines levied on parents.
(FEER, 12 September 2002, p. 12)
Beijing is considering the value of continuing the one-child policy . . . At the
time it was adopted in 1979, at the urging of Deng Xiaoping, the one-child
policy . . . represented a huge change from the historical importance of large
families in China and from a Maoist philosophy that encouraged parents to
have more children because China would be strengthened by a big population
. . . Some have said [there have been] cases of forced sterilization, abandonment of unwanted children and infanticide by parents who favoured sons over
daughters. According to 2000 census data, China had 117 boys born for every
100 girls . . . Fears of instability that could be caused by this imbalance is
prompting officials to consider relaxing or scrapping the policy.
(FEER, 14 October 2004, p. 28)
China hopes to achieve a normal balance of newborn boys and girls within six
years [by 2010] by banning the use of abortions to select an infant’s sex and by
making welfare payments to couples without sons . . . Government figures
show that 117 boys are born in China to every 100 girls – a gap blamed largely
on a policy limiting most couples to one child. In a society that values sons,
many parents abort baby girls, hoping to try again for a boy . . . The ‘one child’
limit allows rural families to have two children if the first is a girl, because
Chinese peasants traditionally rely on sons to support them in old age . . .
Researchers say China has millions fewer girls than it normally should, suggesting that many were aborted or killed after birth . . . Another programme
gives money to couples who have only one child or two daughters and no sons,
or whose children are deceased or disabled . . . Couples get 1,200 yuan, or
$145, per couple a year after they turn sixty as compensation to families that
practise family planning.
(www.iht.com, 15 July 2004)
‘Beijing said on 15 July that it would strictly ban selective abortion of female
foetuses’ (www.feer.com, 29 July 2004).
[In 2003] 117 boys were born for every 100 girls, compared with a global
average of 105 to 100 . . . Officials said that they would offer welfare incentives to couples with two daughters and tighten the prohibition on sex-selective
abortions . . . Pilot programmes are already under way in China’s poorest
provinces. In some areas couples with two daughters and no sons have been


China: a summary
promised an annual payment of 600 renminbi once they reach sixty years of
age. The money, which is a significant sum in areas where the average income
is [low] . . . will also be given to families with only one child to discourage
couples with a daughter from trying again for a boy . . . In parts of Fujian
province local governments have given housing grants . . . to couples with two
girls. The state will expand welfare programmes so poor couples rely less on
producing a son to care for them in their old age. It will also push a ‘caring for
girls’ propaganda campaign . . . China’s demographic distortions have clearly
worsened since the introduction of the one-child policy. In 1982 the boy-to-girl
ratio was similar to the global average . . . Since 1980 family planning officials
say the restrictions have prevented 300 million births that would otherwise
[have occurred] . . . Two laws have been passed banning gynaecologists from
telling pregnant women the sex of their foetus once it is confirmed by ultrasound checks.
(Guardian, 16 July 2004, p. 19)
Despite some changes, China’s one-child family planning programme remains
a source of coercion, forced abortions, infanticide and perilously imbalanced
boy-girl ratios, [US] State Department officials said [on 14 December 2004]
. . . Couples who have unsanctioned children have been subject to heavy fines,
job losses and forced sterilization . . . Testimony [in the United States]. . .
focussed on a Shanghai woman who, since her second pregnancy in the late
1980s, has been assigned to psychiatric wards, coerced into having an abortion
and removed from her job.
(www.iht,com, 15 December 2004)
One of the world’s least controlled abortion regimes will be tightened . . . on 1
January 2005 . . . when the city of Guiyang . . . the provincial capital of
Guizhou province . . . introduces a pilot programme aimed at halting the widespread termination of female foetuses. The new policy bans doctors from carrying out abortions on most women who are more than fourteen weeks into
pregnancy. In many cases the parents delay making a decision until ultrasound
checks can determine the sex of their child . . . China’s laws do not set time
limits for abortions . . . In 1982, shortly after the introduction of the one-child
policy, the ratio was similar to the global average of 105 boys for every 100
girls . . . Because of the stiff financial penalties for second children, many
couples have unregistered babies. There may be as many as 100 million of
these ‘illegal children’.
(Guardian, 16 December 2004, p. 14)

‘With over 40 million more men than women in the general population, China is
seeking to strengthen laws on prohibiting the use of selective abortion of female
foetuses’ (IHT, 8 January 2005, p. 6). The National Population and Family Planning Commission: ‘As a new measure, the commission will start drafting revisions
to the criminal law in order to effectively ban foetus gender detection and selective
abortion other than for legitimate medical purposes’ (IHT, 8 January 2005, p. 6;
Guardian, 8 January 2005, p. 18). ‘Government figures show that 119 boys are

China: a summary 9
born for every 100 girls, largely because parents abort girls to try again for a boy,
under China’s one-child policy’ (The Times, 8 January 2005, p. 44). ‘Beijing has
set a goal of reversing the imbalance by 2010 . . . But demographers have said that
in poor, rural areas girls are often not cared for as well as boys, resulting in higher
infant death rates for girls’ (Guardian, 8 January 2005, p. 18).
In early January [2005] the government announced that the nationwide ratio
had reached 119 boys to every hundred girls . . . China’s imbalance has
widened since population controls began in the late 1970s . . . [although the]
preference [for boys] dates back centuries . . . Selective sex abortions . . . were
already banned, but doctors often accepted bribes from parents who wanted to
guarantee a boy . . . [Experiments are being conducted to give] rural elderly
people annual pensions . . . if they had only one child or if they had daughters
. . . [and to give] female students from poor families free tuition as are students
from families with two girls.
(IHT, 31 January 2005, pp. 1, 7)
(Although great strides have also been made in education, President Jiang Zemin
said in August 2001 that there were still 100 million illiterate Chinese: IHT, 10
August 2001, p. 3.)
(‘From the late 1970s . . . Chinese policymakers . . . began allowing Chinese citizens to travel abroad’: FT, 14 January 2004, p. 17).

Chinese civilization
China is an ancient civilization. The question why China fell behind Europe after
being ahead is an interesting one. Factors may include centralization which stifled
initiative and enterprise, and a sense of cultural superiority.
China is an ancient and continuous civilization (‘The longest continuous civilization in the world’: The Times, Supplement, 8 October 1999, p. 4). The Shang
dynasty was founded in about 1550 BC. But the first centralized Chinese state
occurred during the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC). The Han dynasty lasted from 206
BC to AD 220. Disunity followed until China was reunified under the Sui (581–618)
and the Tang (618–907). The population of China reached 100 million by the end
of the Song dynasty. The Song dynasty was in power from 960 to 1279. The
Mongols under Genghis Khan invaded China in the thirteenth century and they
established their capital at Beijing (meaning ‘northern capital’ and formerly called
Peking in English). The Mongol Yuan dynasty ruled for nearly a hundred years
until the Mongols were expelled by the Ming in 1368. The Ming dynasty lasted
until the Qing (Manchu) conquest of China in 1644. That dynasty ended in 1911
and a republic was proclaimed.
The existence of the shadowy Xia dynasty – and with it Beijing’s claims that
China’s civilization dates back 4,000 or even 5,000 years – has always been
the subject of intense debate both in China and abroad. All this is supposed to
end later this year [2000] when a government-appointed commission of 170
scholars is due to announce that after four years of research they have blown


China: a summary
away the doubts about China’s misty past . . . Critics say Beijing’s attempts to
promote nationalism have driven the project and that as a result the credibility
of the findings has been compromised . . . Analysts worry that the study could
provide new fuel to a growing fire of ethnocentric nationalism in China that
could result in a more belligerent foreign policy stance on issues such as
Taiwan and China’s leadership role in Asia . . . Compared with the world’s
three other ancient civilizations – in present-day Egypt, India and Iraq – the
origins of Chinese civilizations have always been controversial. That is
because of the long transition period between the various primitive cultures
that existed along the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers from roughly 8,000 to 3,000
BC and the beginnings of the country’s written record during the Zhou dynasty
in 841 BC . . . The existence of the Shang dynasty (roughly 1,500 to 1,000 BC)
. . . as a ‘civilization’, with an organized state and a class system, is no longer
in doubt . . . [The Shang dynasty lasted from the sixteenth to the twelfth
century BC and the Zhou dynasty lasted from the twelfth to the third century
BC] . . . The Xia, by contrast has remained the stuff of legend . . . Archaeologists working on the project say that the final report . . . will conclude that the
Xia dynasty – and thus Chinese civilization – began around the year 2150 BC
and continued for about 650 years until the Shang dynasty. The report is also
likely to conclude that the reign of Emperor Yu, or the Great Yu – a mythical
figure – marked the dynasty’s founding. It will also trace the origins of the Xia
back another 500 years by linking the Xia artefacts to those uncovered . . . in
north-western Henan. Some scholars believe the site was used by a mythological figure called the Yellow Emperor, the legendary ancestor of all Chinese
(Bruce Gilley, FEER, 20 July 2000, pp. 74–7)
In academic circles scepticism abounds over Huangdi . . . the Yellow Emperor,
regarded as the founder of the Middle Kingdom . . . He is credited with the
word ‘emperor’ and the imperial colour yellow, but Chinese legend also claims
that he unified three major tribes in the Yellow and Yangtze River areas,
invented the cart and the boat, and that his dialogues with the physician Qi Bo
were the basis of China’s first medical book, the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of
(The Times, 10 April 2002, p. 20)
Zheng He . . . explored the Pacific and Indian Oceans with a mighty armada a
century before [Christopher] Columbus discovered America . . . At its [the
armada’s] peak [there were] as many as 300 ships and 30,000 sailors . . . [compared with Columbus’s three ships] . . . Zheng He’s first mission [was] in 1405
. . . [and] his final voyage [was] in 1433 . . . By the latter half of the fifteenth
century the country had entered a prolonged period of self-imposed isolation
that lasted into the twentieth century, leaving European powers to rule the seas.
(www.iht.com, 20 July 2005)
A prominent Chinese lawyer and collector . . . Liu Gang . . . unveiled an old
map on Monday [16 January 2006] that he and some supporters say should

China: a summary 11
topple one of the central tenets of Western civilization: that Europeans were
the first to sail around the world and discover America. The Chinese map,
which was drawn up in 1763 but claims to be a reproduction of an ancient map
dated 1418, presents the world as a globe with all the major continents rendered with an exactitude that European maps did not have for another century
and a half, after Columbus, Da Gama, Magellan, Dias and others had completed their renowned explorations. But the map got a cool reception from
some scholars . . . At issue are the seven voyages of Zheng He, whose ships
sailed the Pacific and Indian oceans from 1405 to 1432. Historical records
show he explored South-east Asia, India, the Gulf and the east coast of Africa,
using navigation techniques and ships that were far ahead of their time . . .
Gavin Menzies . . . a former British Navy submarine commander . . . [in] his
2002 book 1421: The Year China Discovered America . . . claims that Zheng
He visited America in 1421, seventy-one years before Columbus arrived there
. . . [The book] laid out extensive but widely disputed evidence that Zheng He
sailed to the east coast of today’s United States and may have left settlements
in South America. Menzies has welcomed Liu’s map as evidence that his
theory is correct.
(IHT, 17 January 2006, p. 4)
The period 1911 to 1949
As already mentioned, the Ming dynasty ended in 1911 and a republic was proclaimed. (China was defeated by Britain in the Opium War of 1841–2 and that was
followed by de facto Western domination of China. This humiliating experience
has influenced China’s foreign policy to the present day.)
The Kuomintang Party (founded in 1924 by Sun Yat-sen) and the Communist
Party of China (founded in 1921) co-operated in the drive to break the power of
warlords, but in 1927, following the earlier death of Sun Yat-sen and under the new
leader Chiang Kai-shek, the former party turned on the latter. The Kuomintang
established a new government at Nanking. In 1936 the Communist Party were
driven northwards from their rural bases in southern China (the so-called ‘Long
March’). Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and opened full-scale hostilities in
1937. Chiang and the Chinese communists under Mao Tse-Tung then teamed up
against the Japanese invaders. But civil war again broke out after Japan’s defeat by
the Allies in 1945. The communists were the victors.
Taiwan was a Japanese colony between 1895 and 1945. Chiang Kai-shek’s
forces fled there on 10 December 1949 after losing the civil war. Beijing took over
Taiwan’s seat in the United Nations in 1971. President Richard Nixon visited China
in 1972 and recognized the country and its ‘One China’ policy. The United States is
against Taiwan ever seeking independence but helps Taiwan defend itself and
expects any reunification to be achieved peacefully and voluntarily. China says that
it will attack Taiwan if the island declares independence. Relations between China
and Taiwan have been particularly strained since the election of President Chen
Shui-bian in March 2000. The ‘anti-secession’ law was approved by the National
People’s Congress on 14 March 2005. This heightened tension, although China



China: a summary

stressed that ‘non-peaceful’ means would be a last resort to prevent secession. The
United States has a policy of ambiguity as regards defending Taiwan, but it is
generally assumed that it would come to Taiwan’s rescue if attacked by China.

Communist China
The People’s Republic (‘communist’ regime) was proclaimed on 1 October 1949
by Mao Tse-Tung (Zedong), who died in September 1976. (The Communist Party
was established in 1921.)
The People’s Republic of China became a member of the United Nations in
Although there were pockets of modern industry in the Treaty Ports and a commercial and monetary tradition, at the start of its socialist period China was, in
other respects, a classically poor country. In 1949, 89 per cent of its population
classified as rural. Average life expectancy was thirty-five years. The literacy rate
was 20 per cent. The commodity structure of foreign trade was characterized by
mainly primary product exports and manufactured imports. In the period 1931–6
net investment was only about 3 per cent of net domestic product (Riskin 1987:
33). The new communist regime was also confronted with hyperinflation on taking
control. In 1952, by which time the economy had largely recovered from decades
of foreign and civil war, per capita GNP was only $50, while agriculture employed
84 per cent of the work force and contributed 60 per cent to net material product
(Riskin 1987: 269)
China is a one-party state, with the Communist Party determined to retain
control. It was prepared to shoot protesting students in Tiananmen Square in June
1989. The stress is on ‘unity and stability’ and the regime is fearful of dissidents
linking up with discontented workers and peasants and of mass movements such as
Falun Gong.
The new search for values from China’s past is exploited by Falun Gong, a
movement ordinarily seen in the West as a sect linked to rather mysterious
traditional practices involving physical exercises as a source of well-being . . .
Even though it is not a peasant movement, and frames its claims in intellectual
terms, Falun Gong resembles popular movements that emerged during the final
decades of the decadent Manchu empire . . . Falun Gong reproaches the [Communist] Party for having attacked China’s 5,000-year-old traditional culture,
attempting to destroy its three ancient religious traditions, Confucian, Buddhist
and Taoist. It accuses the Communists of being the only regime in China’s
history to have attempted to eradicate all three ethical systems, in the past considered the source of legitimate government in China, providing ‘the mandate
of heaven’. This is a powerful and damaging attack on a Communist Party that
presented itself as the vehicle of modernity in China.
(William Pfaff, IHT, 25 August 2005, p. 6)
The Communist leaders . . . came to power through mass movements and is
likely to lose power only in the same way; it is therefore frightened of any
group, even a non-political group like the Falun Gong, that has demonstrated

China: a summary 13
its power to produce mass meetings and demonstrations, or of any publication,
like that of The Tiananmen Papers, that threatens to embarrass the present
Party leaders and undermine their personal position. But the Party is not frightened of purely academic discussions in which only general philosophical opinions and aspirations are mooted . . . The government cultivates uncertainty
about what it will punish as a policy of deterrence . . . Political repression,
though often savage and arbitrary, seems pragmatic. It is limited to what the
government regards as genuine or potential threats to its position and is
intended to discourage open political opposition; it is not an attempt at total
mind-control . . . [In China reference is made to Russia, whose transition produced] what they [the Chinese] call ‘chaos’, crime, corruption, inefficiency and
vulnerability to separatism and border terrorism.
(Ronald Dworkin, The New York Review of Books, 2002, vol. XLIX, no. 14,
pp. 66–7)
China is 90 per cent Han. ‘The country has fifty-five other groups’ (IHT, 1
November 2004, p. 1). There has been unrest among ethnic minorities in peripheral
areas such as the Uighurs in Xinjiang (which borders Kazakhstan). The United
States and China became closer after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on
targets in the United States. The United States has named one Uighur group as part
of international terrorism, but critics stress the importance in general of not branding genuine independence movements as ‘international terrorism’ and thus not
giving countries like China and Russia (in the case of Chechnya) an excuse for suppressing domestic rebels.
The party is resolved to avoid what it sees as the anarchic conditions prevailing
in transitional Russia (and indeed in the Soviet Union just before it disintegrated).
Although the party has been somewhat weakened by the devolving of economic
decision-making to enterprises and powerful regions, the political situation is stable
enough to provide conditions conducive to gradual, partial economic reforms and to
the attraction of foreign investment. The remarkable economic progress, however,
is in stark contrast to its record on human rights.
China has faced periodic censure votes in the United Nations Human Rights
Commission since 1990 (after Tiananmen), although all resolutions have failed to
be carried to date. China stresses aspects such as the benefits of rapid economic
development when discussing human rights. China does not acknowledge that it
has any political prisoners, claiming that over 2,000 people have been jailed for
counter-revolutionary offences. The already weak dissident movement has been
more or less decimated. Leading dissidents such as Wei Jingshen have ended up in
the USA. Attempts to register the China Democratic Party in June 1998 (timed to
coincide with the visit of US President Bill Clinton) led to jail sentences of up to
thirteen years for allegedly attempting to ‘overthrow state power’. There is an
extensive labour camp network. (Former camp inmate Harry Wu estimates that
there are 10 million inmates, while the Chinese government admits to fewer than
1.5 million: Guardian, 19 May 1994, p. 27.)
On 22 July 1999 the Falun Gong movement was formally banned and in
October 1999 it was officially described as an ‘evil cult’. The regime sees the


China: a summary

movement as a threat to the social stability deemed essential for economic reform
and as a threat to the authority of the party at a time when ideology is declining and
nationalism has not entirely filled the void. On 25 April 1999 more than 10,000
members had staged a peaceful demonstration around the leadership compound in
Beijing, complaining about critical comments in the press and demanding legal
status. Falun Gong means ‘Way of the Law of the Wheel’ and is a (slow-motion)
exercise and meditation movement. It is influenced by Buddhist and Taoist principles expressed through breathing exercises.
Independent trade unions are not allowed.
Religious freedom has increased but is still severely restricted. For example,
Catholics are allowed to practise under the auspices of the Official Chinese
Catholic Association. The West estimates that many more practise underground
(recognizing the authority of the Pope). China and the Vatican do not have diplomatic relations (although the latter has signalled its desire to establish these – at the
expense of those with Taiwan – if agreement can be reached over isues such as the
appointment of bishops). Unofficial churches are harshly dealt with.
Tibet remains a sensitive problem for China (which invaded the country in
1950). The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 and has still not been allowed to return
even though he accepts Chinese sovereignty and acknowledges diplomatic
China has been criticized over the way it has handled AIDS and SARS in the
China has exercised strict control over the internet, seeing its benefits but aware
of the threat to party control over information and communication.
It must be said, however, that the present leaders are among the most liberal
realistically on offer. Ordinary people have generally benefited substantially in
terms of rising living standards and typically enjoy much greater freedom as
regards work, movement and information. Many Chinese students now study in
Western countries. On 5 October 1998 China signed the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, although it has yet to ratify it. Direct elections for village
committees, which formally started in 1988, are not to be lightly dismissed despite
being essentially under party control. The degree of democracy varies substantially,
but they are seen centrally as a way of improving and controlling local government,
combating corruption and venting local discontent. The first township election took
place on 31 December 1998. In 1999 experiments began with direct elections at the
lowest level (‘neighbourhood committees’) in a number of cities.

Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was born on 22 August 1904 and died on 19 February 1997. He
was the leading figure in the drive for economic reform, adopting a pragmatic
approach (see quotations below). Deng won the struggle within the Communist
Party about how to maintain party control. (‘In 1976 after Mao’s death and the
capture of the gang of four, Hua Guofeng, Mao’s chosen successor, became top
leader. But with little Beijing experience, Hua was no match for Deng, who step by
step gained support to become top leader in 1978. At the Third Plenum in Decem-

China: a summary 15
ber 1978 Deng was anointed and launched his “reform and opening” . . . He said he
“crossed the river by groping for stones”’: FEER, 25 November 1999, p. 43.) After
he relinquished the titles of political office, Deng Xiaoping’s only remaining formal
title was ‘Most Honorary President of the China Bridge Association’! But he
remained the most powerful figure in reality.
Deng’s argument (which is still generally accepted) is that concessions to the
market and non-state ownership are essential for maintaining party control, while
his opponents believed that the party’s power is threatened by radical economic
reforms (e.g. it leads to demands for political reform). (Deng’s ideas on economic
reform were influenced by people such as Zhao Ziyang.) Deng was aware of the
extraordinary economic progress of the neighbouring ‘Asian tigers’ (and especially
aware of the contrast between China and Taiwan). Deng strongly believed in political stability and considered this a prerequisite of economic progress. He was influenced and personally affected by the anarchy of the Cultural Revolution. He lost
positions of power in 1966 and 1976, making political ‘comebacks’ in 1973 and
1977. He did not become ‘paramount leader’ until his mid-seventies. He thought
that calls for greater democracy and the student demonstrations of 1989 were a
threat to stability and was ruthless in stamping them out.
The goal [of the student protestors of Tiananmen] was to establish a bourgeois
republic entirely dependent on the West. Of course we accept people’s
demands to combat corruption . . . However, such slogans were just a front.
The real aim was to overthrow the Communist Party and topple the socialist
(June 1989)
‘We put down a counter-revolutionary rebellion’ (June 1989).
The following quotations illustrate, among other things, Deng’s pragmatism.
It does not matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice.
(1961, in relation to agricultural reform)
What do the people want from the Communist Party? First, to be liberated, and
second to be made rich.
(Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee, December 1978)
If today we still do not set about the task of improving the socialist system,
people will ask why it cannot solve problems which its capitalist counterpart can.
(August 1980)
We should let some people get rich first, both in the countryside and in the
urban areas. To get rich by hard work is glorious.
(January 1983)
Socialism must eliminate poverty. Poverty is not socialism.
(June 1984)
Development is the core truth.
Fish grow in muddy waters.


China: a summary
Our experience in the twenty years from 1958 to 1978 teaches us that poverty
is not socialism. You cannot eat socialism.
If you want to bring the initiative of the peasants into play, you should give
them the power to make money.
(October 1985)
A planned economy does not necessarily imply socialism . . . a market
economy does not necessarily imply capitalism.
We in China are faced with the task of transforming our backwardness and
catching up promptly with the advanced countries of the world. We want to
learn from you.

(‘In early 1979 Deng Xiaoping was barnstorming America to celebrate the historic
agreement normalizing relations between the countries. At a stop in suburban
Atlanta Deng toured a Ford factory that made more cars in a single month than
China produced in a year. Aware of his country’s economic inferiority, Deng . . .
said he hoped to transform China into an industrial power by the distant year of
2000 . . . China manufactured 13,000 cars in 1979; last year [2004] the number
exceeded 5 million’: www.iht.com, 20 November 2005; IHT, 21 November 2005,
p. 4.)

China after Deng Xiaoping
There was something of a mild power struggle among Deng’s successors, but there
was essentially continuity of policy.
General secretary Jiang Zemin (12 October 1992):
We must hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics
. . . If we fail to develop our economy rapidly it will be very difficult for us to
consolidate the socialist system and maintain long-term stability . . . The goal is
to build a socialist democracy suited to Chinese conditions and absolutely not a
Western, multi-party, parliamentary system . . . [The development of a] socialist market economy [is the only way forward] . . . We are convinced that a
market economy established under the socialist system can and should operate
better than one under the capitalist system . . . [Macroeconomic levers should
be the main means of control. The plan should, for example, set] strategic
targets [include growth forecasts and deal with investment in the infrastructure.
There should be an integrated national market with no regional protectionism].
(Jeffries 1993: 497)
The leading personalities were the following: (1) Jiang Zemin, party leader and
president (March 1993); he was described as the ‘core’ of the collective leadership
(note the word ‘collective’) and he steadily consolidated his position (e.g. he was
prominent during the October 1999 celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of

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