Do the Chinese “Bite the Hand That Feeds Them”?

IITM CSC Article #26
4 June 2012


Do the Chinese “Bite the Hand That Feeds Them”?


Different people in the world have different understanding of the economic reforms and openness policy of the Chinese Communist Party. However, no one believes that this has been a wrong path to follow; on the contrary, the huge changes astonished the whole world. Ever since the beginning of the 21st century, Chinese scholars have continuously published books analyzing the last thirty years of reforms, reviewing the success and the experience obtained. The Chinese Central Television has also broadcast a 30-episode long report entitled Thirty Years Have Passed, in which the benefits of the policies implemented by the Communist Party has been strongly publicized. Objectively speaking, the new path chosen by the Party thirty years ago radically changed the economic situation in China, solved the basic problem of keeping the majority of the Chinese people fed, with a roof over their heads, increasing their living standards. But while China’s actual strength is increasing, are the Chinese satisfied and happy?

In 1978, China’s destiny was decided during the third plenary session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party, held in Beijing. It was then that the Communist leaders chose to head toward market economy and to implement “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. But after a long and sinuous way, China must now face new realities and challenges. The Party’s decisions about how to transform the economic growth into economic development and how to pass from solving the food and accommodation problems to a well-off society will determine China’s future. The most difficult question is what and how should be changed? Many Chinese scholars consider that at present the reform in China is “like a glass half full; what is left is the other half to be filled, which is more difficult”. The key problem is how can reform and development seek progress through stability.

While the Chinese scholars keep on debating the direction of the reform in China, scholars outside China raise the importance of political reform. There are those who argue that “the Communist Party does not equal China”, clearly distinguish between the country and the Party, and demand the people’s right to vote. They often criticize the Party’s use of force to stay in power and consider that the CCP has eroded the concept of country and subordinated it to the Party. The Chinese Communist Party cannot represent the whole China just because it is the governing party and thus being against the Party does not equal being against China.

Under these circumstances, new phenomena are silently emerging with the common Chinese becoming increasingly demanding and the young and middle-aged strata becoming more involved. Free market economy and higher living standard have increased the people’s purchasing power. Some believe that those who do not need to concern themselves with problems regarding food and accommodation, have more time to think about and debate the governmental policies, and are interested in the debate regarding reforms and attach importance to the goals, content, method and strategy of the future social policies. Technological development and access to the internet have given people from different walks of life the opportunity to use simple language to express their views. There are also those who call this behavior “biting the hand that feeds them”, because even if it is the Communist Party that increased the living standard for the vast majority of the people, some of them are still not pleased. Is it because people are impossible to please? Had the Party not existed, would there have been any China at all? Without the Communist Party, could there be a new China? If all these were impossible, should we not come and work together, keep on struggling and persevere, progress and develop united under the spirit of the Party? However, overlooking the people’s complaints, repressing their protests and ignoring the rampant corruption, will lead to the Party’s destruction. If the Party does not concentrate on re-establishing the balance of benefits, standardizing and imposing the rule of law in the process of reform (so that the reform attains its designated goals) and solving the problems of people’s participation in the reform process, the road ahead will not be an easy one to follow.


Assistant Professor, Centre for Chinese & South East Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Friday, October 16, 2015 - 15:15
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