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Reviews 153 Charlotte Ikels. The Return ofthe God ofWealth: The Transition to a MarketEconomy in Urban China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996. xviii, 311 pp. Hardcover $49.50, isbn 0-8047-2580-2. Paperback $16.95, isbn 0-8047-2581-0. In this volume, Charlotte Ikels, an anthropologist who has a good command of Cantonese language, offers a description and analysis ofurban life in Guangdong after 1978, with a special emphasis on the city ofGuangzhou. The aim ofthe book is to show how contemporary urban life has changed since 1978 and how the economic reform process has affected urban residents. With this objective, the author takes a closer look at particular aspects ofurban life. After a general introduction and an introductory chapter 1 on "The City of Guangzhou," each aspect ofurban life is given its own chapter—"Living Standards " (chapter 2), "Family and Household" (chapter 3), "Education" (chapter 4), "Employment" (chapter 5), and "Leisure Activities" (chapter 6)—all summarized in a concluding chapter. At the beginning ofeach chapter there is a short description oflife in Guangzhou as it was before the reform, followed by a discussion of die reform measures, their implementation, and the results, with the experiences and views of Guangdong residents at the end. Each chapter is subdivided into detailed sections on special topics, with information ranging, for example, from a discussion ofsupervision in the danwei work unit to advertising in the mass media . Each section has a subheading that does not appear in the table ofcontents, but the reader may look up the passages on special topics in the appendix, which contains not only notes and references but also an index. The text is complemented by two maps, eleven tables, three figures, and ten photographs. Two years after the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and the deatii ofMao Zedong (1976), economic problems became pressing, with rural and urban underemployment, a shortage ofconsumer goods, and inefficiency in state enterprises. The reform was initiated in order to induce the transition from a centrally planned economy to a market economy with a private sector. Marxist theoreticians had to solve the dilemma posed by a restoration of capitalism under socialism , known as "socialism with Chinese characteristics." They maintained that socialism would come only after capitalism had fully developed. The "means of production" had to be kept under the ownership ofthe state while their management was handed over to private individuals. This type ofcapitalism was then© 998 by University caiied a "socialistmarket economy"—an oxymoron, as the author rightiy argues ofHawai'i Press, , T . , . , , , . .^. (p. 3). In practice, this meant the promotion of the private sector, and it turned out that this was impossible without foreign investment. 154 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1998 The main issues of the reform were the creation ofnew jobs for unemployed laborers from the rural areas, greater efficiency in state enterprises while shifting the welfare obligations from the state to the individual or work unit, and die attracting of foreign investors, especially overseas Chinese. In 1979, the government authorized Chinese-foreign joint ventures. In the following year, Special Economic Zones were established. In 1994, a system of free medical care was implemented , and in the same year, job assignments were no longer compulsory for students, on the condition that they pay their own tuition. The retirees' pension was set at 30 percent of the local average wage, and a minimum wage was established at 50 percent ofthe local average wage, for fear ofeconomic disparity and social instability. The author mentions four factors that testify to the improvement of urban living standards: a rise in employment, incomes increasing ahead of prices, the growth ofthe private sector, and the taking of second jobs and jobs after retirement (p. 264). To show the effects ofprivatization through investment ofmoney from abroad, Ikels points, as a good example, to Guangdong, a region of China that had always been open to foreign influence. Guangzhou, one of the six largest cities in China, was therefore a pioneer in the implementation of urban reform and assumed the role of national trendsetter for consumer attitudes. Ikels discusses the question of whether development in Guangdong has been in any way representative...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 153-155
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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