China Finished Building Socialism – Alexander Gabuyev

According to summaries of the recently-concluded session of the Chinese National People’s Congress published this weekend by the Chinese Xinhua news agency, the country’s national assembly has adopted legislation that will help smooth the way for China’s transition from socialism to capitalism. In addition, the country’s leadership has begun to move forward with a plan to gradually liberalize the regime, via Kommersant, Russia:

One of the main achievements of the fifth session of the Tenth Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) was the adoption of a property law that finally guarantees Chinese citizens the right to own private property. Three years ago, the NPC introduced amendments to the Chinese constitution that recognized private property, but the government’s position on the matter was not spelled out in detail. In total, the legislation has taken 13 years to prepare, and it was passed by the NPC last week after six previous attempts had failed. Many experts consider the 247-article document to be key to China’s eventual economic transition from socialism to capitalism. This view was confirmed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who declared that the NPC’s decision will help China “create an open and honest market system.”

In practice, however, the law will defend the interests only of city residents and does not guarantee peasants ownership of their land. To placate rural residents and avert a possible eruption of growing tensions between the country’s 400 million urbanites and 800 million peasants, many of whom live in grinding poverty, Beijing has decided to increase spending on the countryside to $51 billion in 2007, and residents of rural areas will presumably receive the lion’s share of the $38 billion that the government has earmarked for education and social spending. A clear example of the kind of social upheaval that Beijing wishes to avoid took place last week in the town of Zhushan in the country’s southern Hunan Province, where 20,000 people, mostly farmers, took to the streets to protest a doubling of bus fare over the Chinese New Year holiday, a popular time for travel. The authorities deployed riot police and the military to break up the demonstrations and to stop the crowd from storming the regional administration building, and in the clashes that followed dozens of people were wounded and at least one student was killed. [Full Text]

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