Economic Change in China Some Impressions"
THE CHANGES which have occurred in China's economic policy since 1978 derive their inspiration from the guidelines set forth by the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Party Central Committee held in December that year. Following the traumatic decade of the 'Gang of Four', the Central Committee called for 'emancipating our minds, seeking truth from facts, and doing everything in the light of China's realities';} for correcting the 'left'mistakes of the Cultural Revolution in all spheres of national life;
and Tor shifting the focus of the work of the whole party to socialist modernisation as of 1979'.2 The programme of correcting past errors and 'building a socialism with specific Chinese characteristics' 3 found full expression in the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980-85) launched in 1979. The traditional development model which concentrated on the speedy achieve ment of quantitative targets of output, capital accumulation and material inputs ,was to be substituted by a strategy of systemic' development,which involved other aspects of modernisation — such as proportions .structures, efficiency, etc. —which required 'qualitative optimisation'.4
* I am not an ardent China-watcher, nor have I specialised in socialist thought and development. Like many of my generation,! have been left-of-centre, with a preference for planning rather than the free market system and have had a contemporary interest in Chinese political and economic development. I was therefore more than mildly surprised when I was invited by the ICSSR to a seminar in Beijing in 1986 organised by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). I could do little preparatory reading prior to leaving, and I arrived in China with the traditional 'open mind/We had three days of discussion in Beijing, followed by brie;
visits to Hangzhou, Shanghai, Guangzhou (Canton) and Shenzhen.At each of these places, we met scholars or government functionaries, saw some sights and exchanged impressions amongst ourselves. Thanks to poor organisation, we did not get any of the seminar papers or background data on the Chinese situation either before or during the seminar. Nor could we visit any village, collective, factory, institution or facility for informal field discussions. Since none of us could speak or read Chinese we could not converse with or learn from the man in the street or follow the local newspapers and television programmes. Thus, what we came back with was a series of images, disjointed notes, some photographs and a few official publications in English. What follows is a rationalisation of such fleeting perceptions rather than a deeply researched historical or current review. The reader is requested to bear this in mind.