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Reviewed by:
  • The Chinese Model of Modern Development
  • Dave Flynn (bio)
Tianyu Cao , editor. The Chinese Model of Modern Development. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2005. xi, 323 pp. Hardcover $132.00, ISBN 0-415-34518-9.

This publication is the result of a symposium on the Chinese Model of Modern development that was held in Hangzhou, China, July 5-7, 2002. The symposium was partially underwritten by the Ford Foundation. The papers are written by a mix of academics from England, the United States, and China. Also, there are a few policy makers involved in discussing the intended and unintended outcomes of government planning.

As has been the experience of this author, books from conferences or symposia are often quite diverse in the clarity and rigor of their articles. Unfortunately, this collection suffers from the same fate. Perhaps the implied socialist development theme of the symposium brought forth an opportunity for more Communist Party rhetoric and, frankly, dense Marxian and Maoist prose that is quite difficult to decipher. However, as one reads, and rereads, the implied meaning of the party rhetoric becomes clearer.

The editor of this book, Tian Yu Cao, a philosophy professor at Boston University, introduces the contents of the compilation with an essay purporting to propose the distinct Chinese path to "humanist socialism" resulting "from the internal limitations of capitalism" (p. 3). In order to bring about humanistic socialism "we must make use of the market but we must also count on the state" (p. 3). This essay, as well as the concluding essay by the editor, somewhat ineffectively explains why the Chinese model of development is both unique and better than those of the West. Unfortunately the rhetoric delimits the necessarily jaundiced view of a seasoned academic. Another essay written by Yu Guangyuan, a former leading member of the State Council Research Office and vice president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, revisits his writings for the distinct Chinese model of development. He, however, spends more time defending his [End Page 374] past work than providing any new insight into the development reform and its outcomes in China over the past "twenty-three years" (pp. 42-44).

One refreshingly candid article by Qin Hui identifies some of the more critical issues facing policy makers in China. Among other issues, he says "primitive accumulation whether 'socialist' or 'capitalist' has been promoted with an unhesitating iron hand" (p. 91). This has led to the increasing gaps between the rich and the poor as measured by the Gini index. It is increasingly being argued that the majority of citizens (farmers) are not being supported or protected by the state (Chinese Communist Party [CCP] leadership) from mass land grabs by "connected" developers, an event spurring social unrest.

Furthermore, as has been increasingly reported in the media, implying an increasing openness (vs. opaqueness) by Chinese leadership, land grabs suggest a certain "right" to the land. However, as Cui Zhiyuan thoughtfully argues, "if private ownership adjusts to population change, it cannot be private property in the sense of owners' indefinite control . . . China's rural land is not owned by the state, or by the individuals" (p. 158). Cui later invokes the wisdom of Fei Hsiao-Tung (Xiaotong) when he argued in the late 1930s the communist movement was a peasant revolt due to dissatisfaction with the land system. Fei further argued that mere land reform in the form of reduction in rent and the equalization of ownership does not promise a final solution for agrarian problems. Cui suggests that flexible specialization rather than mass production has been and should remain the solution to rural transitions of the farmers and the township and village enterprises (pp. 167-168). "The Chinese rural industry highlights the importance of institutional, in contrast to technological, foundations of flexible specialization" (p. 169).

Despite reforms to the individual registration system, hukou, restrictions continue to affect the lives of Chinese migrants. Employment, housing, and social benefits are commonly linked to hukou identification. Rural migrants to urban areas are often unable to obtain equal access to public services such as health care and education. Continued hukou restrictions may be fueling the emergence of an excluded migrant population in China...


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