March 7, 2012
by Zhun Xu
In 1997, the World Bank published a long report “China 2020” calling for privatization of public owned enterprises and further liberalization of market. There was very little dissent from the Chinese people; in fact, very few of them knew what was going on in the policy making circles. The later history suggests that the Chinese government followed the advice from the World Bank very closely. Not only the bureaucrats privatized almost all the public owned enterprises, they also provide “market solution” to education, health service and residential housing issues.
Recently, the World Bank and the research institution under the Chinese State Council published a new report “China 2030”. This report gives basically the same prescription as 15 years ago. But the reception is different this time. In the World Bank news conference, Du Jianguo, an independent scholar stood up and protested against the structural reform doctrine advocated by the World Bank. He condemned the report as “poison” and demanded the World Bank to leave China. This protest was reported by several independent media and received enormous support from the online communities.
Interesting enough, just a short while ago, the authoritative People’s Daily published an editorial calling for further reform while acknowledging the potential oppositions as “trivial critics”. In the Chinese context, “further reform” in the mainstream media means neoliberal reforms like privatization and marketization. This article attracted lots of critique from Marxists and left wing in general, the scale of which is very unusual in the last 20 years.
All these widespread oppositions to the market reform give us a clear signal: the Chinese people are now explicitly hostile towards neoliberalism (even though not all of them ever heard of this term). There are several major reasons worth mentioning. First of all, we “have been there”. Last wave of neoliberal reform has laid off million of workers and destroy millions of families. The marketization of education, health service and residential housing made the life of the working class miserable. Second, the leftist movement has grown much stronger since 1990s. Several large leftist websites are more and more visible in public discussions and all of them explicitly oppose the reform plans from the World Bank and the central government. Many grass-root worker/peasant organizations come into being and they are in nature anti-neoliberalism. Last but not least, neoliberalism is in crisis all over the world. The recent economic crisis refreshes the memory of those Chinese people whose mentality remained at the “end of history” more than 20 years ago.
These oppositions and discussions gave birth to a People’s Proposal on China’s future development. The first draft was written by a writer on one of the largest online forum in China. Red China website quickly edited them into a concise version. After that, people have been enthusiastically discussing the proposal all over the Internet and have been adding other things. The China Study Club in UMass Amherst (which I belong to) collectively translate the Red China version into English to give people a sense of what the proposal looks like. This achievement is definitely a milestone in working class movement in China in that for the first time in recent three decades so many people are consciously questioning the whole program of the ruling class and begin discussing what they want. The proposal does not use any Marxist term, nor does it mention socialism, but everyone can see where it is heading towards.
A SIXTEEN-POINT PROPOSAL ON CHINA’S REFORM
1. That the personal and family wealth of all officials be publicized and their source clarified, and all “naked bureaucrats” be expelled from the Party and the government. (“Naked bureaucrats” refer to those officials whose family lives in developed countries and whose assets have been transferred abroad, leaving nothing but him/herself in China.)
2. That the National Congress concretely exercises its legislative and monitory function, comprehensively review the economic policies implemented by the state council, and defend our national economic security.
3. That the existing pension plans be consolidated and retirees be treated equally regardless of sector and rank.
4. That elementary and secondary education be provided free of charge throughout the country; compensation for rural teachers be substantially raised and educational resources be allocated on equal terms across urban and rural areas; and the state assume the responsibility of raising and educating vagrant youth.
5. That the charges of higher education be lowered, and public higher education gradually become fully public-funded and free of charge.
6. That the proportion of state expenditure on education be increased to and beyond international average level.
7. That the price and charge of basic and critical medicines and medical services be managed by the state in an open and planned manner; the price of all medical services and medicines should be determined and enforced by the state in view of social demand and actual cost of production.
8. That heavy progressive real estate taxes be levied on owners of two or more residential housings, so as to alleviate severe financial inequality and improve housing availability.
9. That a nation-wide anti-corruption online platform be established, where all PRC citizens may file report or grievance on corruption or abuse instances; the state should investigate in openly accountable manner and promptly publicized the result.
10. That the state of national resources and environmental security be comprehensively assessed, exports of rare, strategic minerals be immediately cut down and soon stopped, and reserve of various strategic materials be established.
11. That we pursue a self-reliant approach to economic development; any policy that serves foreign capitalists at the cost of the interest of Chinese working class should be abolished.
12. That labor laws be concretely implemented, sweatshops be thoroughly investigated; enterprises with arrears of wage, illegal use of labor, or detrimental working condition should be closed down if they fail to meet legal requirements even after lawfully limited term for self-correction.
13. That the coal industry be nationalized across the board, all coal mine workers receive the same level of compensation as state-owned enterprise mine workers do, and enjoy paid vacation and state-funded medical service.
14. That the personal and family wealth of managerial personnel in state-owned enterprises be publicized; the compensation of such personnel should be determined by the corresponding level of people’s congress.
15. That all governmental overhead expenses be restricted; purchase of automobile with state fund be restricted; all unnecessary traveling in the name of “research abroad” be suspended.
16. That the losses of public assets during the “reforms” be thoroughly traced, responsible personnel be investigated, and those guilty of stealing public properties be apprehended and openly tried.
ORIGINALLY PROPOSED BY Hanjiangchunmeng on bbs.people.com.cn
EDITED BY RED CHINA WEBSITE (http://redchinacn.com)
TRANSLATED BY CHINA STUDY CLUB IN UMASS AMHERST