A lesson well learnt – John Gittings

On the Guardian website, John Gittings reviews The Writing on the Wall by Will Hutton:

Will Hutton’s new book on China – The Writing on the Wall – has been welcomed for taking a fresh and critical look at a country which attracts too much hyperbole. It is one of a new genre of China studies by non-China specialists, – which is no bad thing either. Hutton’s analysis of China’s hidden weaknesses is often sharp and to the point: but the advice he then offers to Beijing is more problematic…

Hutton’s gloom, particularly on the lack of political reform and the persistence of social inequality, is justified though sometimes he fails to understand the subtlety of Chinese power relationships. The party committees set up in private enterprises, seen by him as a “spider’s web” of control, may result instead in the party’s values being subverted by those of business. Some of the political levers in what he calls the “Leninist state” are really the old system of guanxi (personal connections) in operation.

The reason why personal saving is so high (and inhibits consumption) is largely because health and social security provision is so poor and people have to provide for their future. Hutton blames this on “Leninist corporatism” but are not inadequate social services equally a feature of the US today? [Full text]

Read an excerpt of The Writing on the Wall.

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