After Deng, China still faces tough problems
February 21, 1997
Web posted at: 10:39 p.m. EST (2239 GMT)
From Correspondent Mike Chinoy
HONG KONG (CNN) -- Deng Xiaoping will be long remembered for
reforming China's vast economy, but the late Chinese leader,
who died this week, left behind plenty of unfinished
"Deng orchestrated and brought about a fundamental
restructuring of the entire Chinese economy that has produced
one of the most spectacular bursts of economic growth that
any country in the world has ever seen," historian Joseph
Explosive growth, however, has brought equally explosive
social and economic dislocations. Along with booming
factories that produce goods for London and Los Angeles have
come repeated bouts of inflation, forcing many ordinary
workers to struggle to survive.
Elimination of the anti-capitalist, Maoist police state has
allowed the development of stock markets, successful
entrepreneurs and Chinese millionaires, but the new freedom
has also allowed rampant crime and corruption. Lawlessness is
so pervasive that the government has been unable to control
it despite a highly publicized nationwide crackdown.
Destruction of the communes and the socialist "iron rice
bowl" life-long employment has released a tidal wave of
unemployed Chinese -- by some estimates 100 million strong.
Displaced peasants are flooding the cities in search of work.
Specter of mass unemployment
After liberalizing its markets and permitting the formation
of vigorous new businesses, the Chinese government is still
stuck with tens of thousands of obsolete, money-losing,
state-run factories. The government is afraid to privatize
many of them for fear of putting millions of unemployed
workers onto the streets.
Moreover, the Chinese Communist Party also is facing a crisis
of identity and legitimacy.
"The biggest anxiety of the leadership is...can you keep the
lid on this political system, can you somehow continue to be
a 'in name' Communist Party, believing in Marxist-Leninism,
running what is essentially a capitalist economy," Fan Gang
of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said.
Deng gambled that as long as the Communist Party delivered
the economic goods to the people it would be able to remain
in power. So far that gamble has paid off.
But managing such a sweeping economic and social
transformation in a country as vast and complex as China
would be a colossal challenge for any government. And with
Deng no longer at the helm, it remains to be seen if his
chosen successors will be up to the task.
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