restricted access Postscript: Is an "Even Modernity" Possible in China?
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133 Postscript Is an “Even Modernity”Possible in China? In this study, I have undertaken to analyze the condition of unevenness and its many cultural manifestations in a postsocialist China, a condition, that is, of radical and widespread social, economic, and geographical inequality. As we have seen, this unevenness has not only shaped the sociocultural scenes of contemporary China, but also has become a major theme around the world in this period of late capitalism. For instance, facing the unprecedented global financial crisis, Chinese President Hu Jintao, in his speech delivered at the Group of 20 (G20) Financial Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in September 2009, called on world leaders to “make every effort to promote global economic growth and a comprehensive , balanced and sustainable socioeconomic development.”1 He reiterated the call for “strong, sustainable, and balanced economic growth” at the G20 Toronto Summit in June 2010.2 This call can be viewed as an extension in the international sphere of his domestic administrative concept of building a Harmonious Society in China. As Hu has been officially exalted as the core of the fourth generation of the Communist Party leaders, this concept of scientific development has been extensively propagated all over China through various media. One wonders if this is an indication, despite its ideological orientation, that an even way of development is going to be implemented in China. Perhaps one can be qualifiedly positive about it, judging from some changes taking place recently. For instance, it was widely reported during the summer of 2009 that the central government had agreed to let Shenzhen, the pioneer city in the economic reform initiated thirty years ago, test-run a program of political reform within the city.3 Although specifics of the political reform are not yet known to the public, many people are quite excited about it: it is hoped that the political problems such as insufficient development of democracy and human rights, which have been deepened in the course of the process of uneven economic development, will be addressed. If successfully carried out, this new reform may possibly render the social development more balanced. However, suspicions remain—not only because the practicality and effectiveness of the reforms are yet to be seen, but also because many people have 134 Postscript reasonable doubts concerning the liberal ideas involved, on which the West is running the current world system. These suspicions became even more pronounced when the recent worldwide financial crisis put the current capitalist system to a serious test. As China makes such tremendous efforts to merge further into the global capitalist system—although, to be sure, with its own characteristics—is an even modernity ever possible in China? Is an even modernity conceivable, if modernity is still mainly understood in the capitalist sense? The capitalist historical narrative and the late-capitalist global reality seem to indicate that it is almost impossible to divorce unevenness from capitalism. This is not surprising because, as explained in the introduction, Marxian critics have already pointed out that capitalism is all about unevenness. In my view, the question here, then, is less about even modernity than it is about even modernity. In other words, when the issue of (un)even development is being investigated in a modern context, the concept of modernity is a key word that needs to be put under critical scrutiny. In fact, critics have done much research in the field of modernity. In the case of China studies, the idea of alternative modernities has already been quite dynamically discussed. As a third world country that had an entirely different experience of modernity, China has been regarded as a fertile field where different models of modernity may emerge and thrive. Two main traditions in the Chinese experience have been persistently resorted to, and two corresponding alternative models have come into focus. The first is the revolutionary and socialist experience of modernity in China in the first seven decades in the twentieth century. This experience has had a profound impact on the leftist movements in the West, providing a rich theoretical and inspirational resource for the critics who seek a way of social development that is better than capitalism. The revolutionary and socialist tradition in China has often been taken as an effective corrective to the injustice and inequality exhibited in capitalist modernity.4 However, the less-than-entirely successful experience of the revolutionary and socialist practices in China also makes this alternative problematic and less appealing. Another alternative model is East Asian modernity...