The Sydney Morning Herald just published a profile of professor Qin Hui, a Tsinghua University economic historian and one of the country’s most important public intellectuals.
The popular Western view that China will soon collapse under the weight of its political and economic contradictions is fantasy, and becoming more unrealistic by the day. The bigger questions require the world to accept that China is already a powerful world force.
The world therefore needs to come to terms with the nature of Chinese capitalism – Qin calls it “autocratic capitalism” – and consider what institutions and systems it might find itself importing from China, along with the great wall of capital and plasma TVs.
But the driving purpose of Qin’s critique, of course, is to encourage his own country to be more curious about the sources of its new-found global power and be more open to the social democratic traditions.
Qin’s view stems from an understanding of Maoist China in which the state stripped the underprivileged of their political power in the name of socialism. His views on contemporary China tie into debates already raging here, including within the top echelons of the Chinese state, about how to better produce democratic accountability and distribute the fruits of prosperity.
But rarely have Chinese thinkers argued so forcefully that economic exploitation and the Communist Party’s monopoly on political power are tied inextricably together.