A prof at Renmin University told me in the late 1990s that some people argued in the 1970s that China needed to go backwards from socialism to a market economy in order to achieve communism since market->socialism rather than a Maoist leap of feudalism-> socialism was the way Marx said it had to go.
The October 6th Economist carried an article on the Wu Xiaoping 吴小平 controversy that seemed almost an echo of that kind of thinking.
So I looked into Wu Xiaoping.
Wu Xiaoping sounds like an eccentric character with a deep background in finance. Not the sort of person one would expect to lead the state enterprise counter-revolution.
Wu Xiaoping’s statement was discussed on some Chinese language BBS about three weeks ago. I found some comments on a BBS outside of China in Canada that cover a gamut of responses to Wu Xiaoping. Some though it was a trial balloon for coming policy, some thought moving away from the market was already underway, some thought it was nonsense.
https://www.pin-cong.com/p/130890/?i=1 (bbs with server in Canada)
—- “But do you think about it a bit more deeply, isn’t this a political correctness that is in line with the current political trend of the Communist Party? He is too straightforward, that might cause a panic, and so he is pulled back.
But already the entrepreneurs have expressed their intention to dedicate the company to the Party. They wear funny red uniforms to go to Yan’an pilgrimage. What is the difference?
The political atmosphere has already been shaped. Today, any official within the Communist Party, the political machine itself, the countless political screws who have experienced the anti-rightist cultural revolution, they will be very careful about their own political future political security. ….”
—“This shows that the CCP is testing the public’s response to the next step of public ownership. At the end of the 1940s, on the eve of the seizure of state power, the CCP advertised freedom and democracy and praised the United States because of its status as an opposition party. Today, they care nothing about democracy and freedom, they are trying to move to communism to consolidate their dominant position.”
— “What nonsense!”
—-“…[summary] Wu Xiaoping is very clever. If he had directly criticized Xi Jinping for preparing to move China from a market to a mixed economy, his statement would have been deleted immediately. However, he pretended to be strongly in favor of the supposed Xi policy. That way his statement was not deleted, made quite a racket, and the propaganda organs and Xi had to reaffirm their commitment to reform, therefore forestalling their move away from reform.”
Hu Ping’s Radio Free Asia commentary of Sept 14, 2018 notes that Wu Xiaoping argument was swiftly contradicted by the PRC state media, adding that the storm that it created shows that many people doubt Xi’s commitment to economic reform due to some measures he has taken to strengthen state-owned enterprises.
So long, and thanks for all the growthA Chinese writer calls for private companies to fade away
The state sector sees its fortunes rise under Xi Jinping
“A sense that SOEs are ascendant was captured in an online article that went viral last month. Wu Xiaoping, a former banker, wrote that the private sector had completed its “historic task” in helping state firms to develop, and that it was time for it to start fading away. Mr Wu’s opinion was widely ridiculed online. His post was deleted, perhaps because even censors thought it was over the top. One associate said Mr Wu had only intended it as satire. Whatever the case, his argument touched a nerve. Mr Xi may think that he is taking a middle road, but suspicions of his intentions abound.”