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82 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 Feng Chen. Economic Transition and Political Legitimacy in Post-Mao China: Ideology and Reform. Albany: State University ofNew York Press, 1995. xvi, 246 pp. Paperback. Feng Chen's new book, the latest in the political-economy-of-China genre, assesses the impact of China's current economic reforms on the political future of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Chen's thesis is simple and straightforward : the reforms tend to undermine the ideology of socialism on which the legitimacy ofthe Communist regime is based. He devotes eight chapters to an analysis of this tendency. In chapter 1, Chen explains that the Communist regime has always depended on ideology for the exercise ofits power. The author views Communist ideology as consisting oftwo components. One involves "fundamental principles"—the fixed core values of the party—and the other "instrumental principles"—the theoretical justifications for changeable public policies (p. 10). In Chen's view, the CCP's incorporation of capitalist ideas into the instrumental principles ofits ideology has created for the regime two possible dire consequences. On the one hand, if the current economic reforms fail, the public would lose confidence in the regime. On the other hand, ifthey succeed, capitalism would replace socialism , thus depriving the regime ofits ideological foundation. In analyzing the fundamental and instrumental principles of Communist ideology , Chen focuses on the changes in China's "ownership system" (p. 21). In chapter 2, the author goes into a brief examination of the pre-reform ownership system by identifying four specific types, as outlined in the 1954 Chinese constitution : the state-owned sector, the cooperative sector, the private sector, and the state-capitalist sector. In consequence ofthe various public campaigns for collectivization since the mid-1950s, public ownership has become the most dominant type and has created a number of "serious problems." And it is these problems, which the author does not identify, that prompted the CCP to launch economic reforms at the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee in 1978. In chapter 3, Chen describes the debates in the ideological circles of the CCP on how to develop theoretical justifications for the economic reforms being implemented. The debates centered on two issues. One of these concerned how to deal with the ideological orthodoxy that prevailed up till 1978, primarily the thought ofMao Zedong. The reformers, with Deng Xiaoping as their champion,© 1997 by University argued that the value of the orthodoxy had to be tested in practice. This argument ofHawai'i Presseventuallyprevailed, with the slogan "seeking truth from practice" becoming the crucible of all Communist ideological statements. A related issue concerned how to justify the use of capitalist methods ofeconomic development in the land of Reviews 83 socialism. The reformers responded with the statement that China was still in the preliminary stage ofsocialism, which was characterized by low productivity, and that the country needed to use capitalist methods to develop fully "the productive forces" before marching into a higher stage ofsocialism. The change in China's ownership system, as Chen discusses in chapter 4, first occurred in the rural areas. It is ofinterest to note that the impetus ofthis reform did not come from a policy reorientation ofthe national government but from a spontaneous initiative by rural communities to resolve the problem of falling production in the communes. Chen reports that the farmers ofthe communes in Anhui Province experimented with a contract system ofproduction that was conspicuously successful and widely emulated. This experiment drew the attention of the Institute ofRural Economy ofthe Chinese Academy ofSocial Sciences and the Ministry ofAgriculture, which, upon extensive research and investigation, recommended the adoption ofthis system. With the approval ofthe CCP's Central Work Conference in 1980, a nationwide Individual Household Contract (IHC) system was adopted. This system continues to recognize public ownership ofagricultural land but grants individual farm households the right to cultivate their plots, to enter into contracts with the government for the delivery of a minimal amount ofproduct, and to retain any additional amount they may produce. The IHC effectively terminated the commune system. Chapter 5 discusses the process of change in industrial ownership. This process , though later than the rural...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 82-85
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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