XNUMXst century socialism



In China, market and planning are part of a whole, not opposites that repel each other.

Some data are startling. At this very moment, around two million engineers and economists are working frantically in some Chinese public body with a mission that goes beyond designing and executing projects. On his shoulders rest the tasks of ensuring the country's technological self-sufficiency and, at the same time, guaranteeing that 13 million urban jobs are created every year. In addition to a clear combination of science and art, it is an interesting portrait of a new type of social engineering.

This social engineering can be seen as a new class of social-economic formations that emerged in China with the advent of the economic reforms of 1978, the moment when rural reforms led Chinese socialism to reinvent itself through market institutions. Since then, market and plan in China are part of a whole, not opposites that repel each other. Our research points out that the dynamics of this “market socialism” is based on waves of institutional innovations that led, for example, to the formation of a powerful public productive and financial nucleus (96 large state-owned business conglomerates under the coordination of SASAC [Comissão de Supervision and Administration of State Assets of the State Council] and about 30 development banks). A thriving private sector is no more than an ancillary and receiver of the chaining effects generated by the core state of the economy.

Two questions for debate: is there any country in history that under the care of its National State is the role of coordinating the execution of thousands of projects simultaneously, from a bridge to large platforms of the level of a quantum computer? Would it be heresy to claim that no country that has an economy based on private property and a western democracy would be able to accomplish anything close to what the Chinese are accomplishing?

To both questions the answer is no. The political power of the Communist Party and the hegemony of public ownership over large-scale production are a more plausible explanation for the Chinese state's ability to deliver what it promises. Included in this historic package is the confrontation with the great contradictions that emerged as a result of its development process. Nobody is interested in hiding China's social and environmental problems, by the way. After all, wouldn't the development process be characterized by jumps, from one point of imbalance to another?

In this sense, what would “XNUMXst century socialism” be? The concept manifests itself from the actual movement. That is, the historical form that emerges from the Chinese experience is a mix between an illiberal democracy and the emergence of new and superior forms of economic planning. At the disposal of the aforementioned two million professionals are disruptive technological innovations such as 5G, Big Data, artificial intelligence. Never, at any time in human history, were the conditions for the conscious construction of the future present in the same place.

The end of extreme poverty, the constant improvement of the living conditions of its people and ambitious plans in terms of reducing carbon emissions express a historical form characterized by the transformation of reason into an instrument of government. Here is the historical form synthesized in the Chinese experience: “XNUMXst century socialism”, an embryonic expression of an emancipatory and civilizational project, has its most complete historical form in China. A society largely guided by science. In this respect, socialism as “reason in command” is an interesting counterpoint to the irrationalism behind the rise of the extreme right precisely in the heart of Western civilization, supposedly “superior”.

*Elias Jabbour is a professor at the Faculty of Economic Sciences at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ). He is the author, among other books, together with Alberto Gabriele, of China: Socialism in the XNUMXst Century (Boitempo).

Originally published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul, on December 19, 2021.


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