China’s rapid ascent as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies (Adornino & Wilcox, 96) has triggered enormous attention among scholars interested not only in the political, economic and social underpinnings of its continued growth but also in the implications of its increased integration with the global economy. Indeed, an examination of the unique characteristic of China’s development and transition from a planned, centralized economy based on the socialist ideology to the liberal, open-market economy it is today strengthens the arguments in support of globalization.
On the other hand, the impact of its liberalization and democratization on China’s poor also presents a critical view on the trade-offs of global integration. The stage for China’s entry into the global economy was clearly set by the transition from a closed, relatively self-sufficient economy which was crystallized in the post-Mao era under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership in the Chinese Communist Party. In the late 1970s, the Party began instituting domestic economic and social reforms mirroring its abandonment of the socialist economy and ideology in favor of neoliberal economics.
(Adormino & Wilcox 96) Among the major reforms undertaken was the development and democratization of trade and markets, effectively allowing uncontrolled private ownership to the means of production, heretofore owned publicly, and the shift from a planned economy to a “market-oriented free trading system. ” (Guan, 2001:118) Likewise, the Chinese government reduced state control and intervention in economic activities as it began to adopt an Open Door policy to attract foreign direct investment and facilitate the growth of China’s international trade.
Thus, China became part of the global economy after economic liberalization and democratization. On the other hand, the country’s integration into the neoliberal world economic order has also been the subject of much criticism. Guan (2000) notes that the implementation of market reforms and China’s consequent integration drastically changed not only the country’s economic system but also important aspects of its social policy. (119) As a result of the shift to a free market economy, the State’s role in the provision of welfare and security for its citizens significantly diminished.
For instance, food and price subsidies have been stopped and the poor are faced with the risks of unemployment. Likewise, Guan (2001) asserts that widening social inequality has also characterized modern China despite sustained economic growth and efforts at reforming social policy to provide safety nets for labor, agriculture, and other poor sectors. (243) Undoubtedly, knowledge of both the negative and positive aspects of liberalization informs the Chinese government’s attitude toward global economic integration.
This is evident in the manner by which the state has controlled the pace of China’s integration with the international economy in order to preserve social stability. (Adornino & Wilcox, 97; Yong & Moore, 117) However, Yong and Moore (2004) attribute the State’s waryness of completely and totally embracing globalization to its fear of the inherent weaknesses and vulnerabilities of a globalized system that could jeopardize China’s “strategic outlook as an aspiring great power.
” (117) China is thus effectively hindered from fully associating itself with the global economy due to its political identity as a socialist country and to the fact that the market reform has resulted into the further fragmentation of interests in Chinese society. Thus, it is in the most ironic sense that, as Adornino and Wilcox (2006) observe, the Chinese Communist Party legitimizes its rule and power through a flourishing capitalist economy.
(100) The State is therefore careful of rushing headlong into a fully open, liberalized country since this would entail the further erosion of its power as “market reforms have increasingly devolved decision-making powers to producers and enterprise managers. ” (Adornino & Wilcox, 100) The further diffussion and decentralization of power threatens not only the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party but also endangers the country to social instability as the needs of its citizens become increasingly diverse and at the same time polarized between those benefitting from the market reform and those who have lost much because of it.
(Adornino & Wilcox, 100) China’s experience in globalization is arguably unique due to the government’s ambivalence in adopting a clearly Capitalist stance and ideology and the pressure created by the need for social equality. China’s integration to the global market is hampered by internal difficulties in aligning various political and economic interests. On the one hand, China’s economic restructuring has created a rapidly growing and expanding market and trading system integrated with the international economy.
On the other hand, its government has to precariously balance competing interests in social and domestic policy, resolve the problems in social inequality, and at the same time reduce its involvement in economic activities as demanded by the free market economy. Thus, while the benefits of China’s rapidly growing economy is obvious for the elite, the host of political and social problems created in its wake also makes the majority of the Chinese people bear the brunt of the development from a clearly socialist path into an ambivalent capitalist society. Works Cited: Adormino, Giovanni and Wilcox, Russel G.
“China: Between Social Stability and Market Integration. ” China & World Economy 14. 3(2006):95-108. Guan, Xin Ping. “China’s Social Policy: Reform and Development in the Context of Marketization and Globalization. ” Social Policy and Administration 34. 1(2000):115-130. Guan, Xinping. “Globalization, Inequality, and Social Policy: China on the Treshold of Entry into the World Trade Organization. ” Social Policy and Administration 35. 3(2001):242-257. Yong, Deng and Moore, Thomas G. “China Views Globalization: Toward a New Great Power Politics? ” The Washington Quarterly 27. 3(2004):117-136.