Revolutionary China and Its Late-Capitalist Fate

A Review of Au Loong Yu, China’s Rise: Strength and Fragility, and Other Recent Writings on China

In: Historical Materialism
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  • 1 University of California, Santa Cruz

This essay examines several works that contribute to an understanding of the nature of contemporary Chinese capitalism and its historical development. Core issues include the character of the bureaucracy, which has had a distinctive relationship to capital formation, and the character of the working class. The periodisation of Chinese capitalism and the relation between the pre- and post-reform periods are pressing political and analytical concerns. This essay suggests the advantages of a clearer focus on the dynamics of depoliticisation in understanding the transition. The contemporary left-intelligentsia in China has in large part pinned its hopes on achieving some form of ideological hegemony within the ccp, maintaining that it still operates within its revolutionary tradition. This represents a questionable strategic gamble. Acknowledging the important contributions made by Au’s book and other recent characterisations of China’s political economy from the left, this essay suggests that there remains much to be done.

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  • 1

    Harvey 2007; Hart-Landsberg and Burkett 2005.

  • 2

    Silver 2003.

  • 3

    Nee and Opper 2012; Oi 1999.

  • 4

    Andreas 2010. This is a review of Yasheng Huang’s Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics. Huang replies to Andreas’s critical review in Huang 2010.

  • 5

    Wedeman 2012. Wedeman demonstrates that corruption was one means by which local cadre signed on to the reform agenda, but concludes that corruption, though endemic and serious, can be controlled. Current events are bearing him out.

  • 9

    Li 2005, pp. 50–1.

  • 10

    Meisner 1996.

  • 11

    Meisner 1996, p. 467.

  • 13

    Cheung 2009.

  • 18

    Au references Ding 2011, a widely-referenced but analytically anodyne book on the ‘Chinese model’.

  • 19

    Meisner 1996, p. 300.

  • 20

    See the discussion in Riskin 1987, pp. 20ff., which draws on Xue, Su and Lin 1960.

  • 21

    Conway 2012.

  • 22

    Hsueh 2011.

  • 23

    So 2005, p. 487.

  • 24

    Barmé 2014.

  • 25

    Evans, Rueschemeyer and Skocpol (eds.) 1985.

  • 26

    Oi and Walder (eds.) 1999.

  • 27

    Oi 1999.

  • 28

    Zweig 2002.

  • 29

    Heilmann and Perry (eds.) 2011.

  • 30

    Mann 2013, pp. 225–45.

  • 31

    Hong 2008, p. 161.

  • 32

    Whyte 2010. This study, based on fairly robust national-survey data, is not as stark in its conclusions as the title suggests, but nevertheless suggests that, despite widespread dissatisfaction, there is little mass inclination toward regime change.

  • 33

    Pringle 2011.

  • 34

    International Labour Organization 2012.

  • 36

    Eyferth (ed.) 2006.

  • 37

    Perry and Li 1997.

  • 38

    Wang 2006.

  • 39

    Wang 2009. The essay was originally published in Pipan yu zaizao [Critique and Transformation, Taiwan] and the translation is slightly amended from the original.

  • 40

    Wang 2009, p. 37.

  • 41

    Cui 2005.

  • 42

    Hu, Wang, Zhou and Han 2011.

  • 44

    Wang 2013.

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