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Political-economy of China

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Below are some interesting documentaries and resources to learn about China, key issues and its relationship with the world.


Chinese Political-Economy and History


China's Capitalist Revolution

BBC (June 2009)[1]


When Chairman Mao died in 1976, he left China in chaos and poverty. He was succeeded by Deng Xiaoping, who overturned Maoism and taught the Chinese to love capitalism, creating special investment zones for the West. But Deng's crash course in capitalism went wrong when inflation grew and workers lost jobs.
By 1989, China faced disaster. Now, 20 years after the tragic events in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, this programme reveals an interpretation of the motives of the demonstrators that may well overturn the conventional view in the West.


The demonstrators did not begin by demanding democracy. Corruption, inflation and the hardship caused by economic reforms drove students and workers to confront the government and the army. Students went on hunger strike, and troops killed more than 2,000.
Deng Xiaoping gave the order to fire, but his ideas prevailed. This film argues that Deng's capitalist revolution created today's China.


Video Notes:


  • General Characteristics
    • Declared "era of reform" - to catch up with US' economy in 20 years through modernization and going into capitalistic market economy
    • Had "sense of historical direction" 
    • "To get rich is glorious", "To get rich is not a sin"



  • Challenging Mao's policy:


    • Maoists had opposed him
    • He opposed Mao's idea of commune farming, a practice that caused major famines and death of millions 


  • Leading economic growth:
    • Needed to improve its relationship with the US
      • US had banned the sale of high-tech electronic materials; threat of communism
      • US had good relationships with Taiwan/had bases - US closed its embassy in Taiwan
      • Deng became the first Chinese leader to visit the US
      • Deng visited auto-industries, examined NASA simulators, attended basketball game and Rhodeo (with cowboy hat on)
      • Became inspired from the US and came back home to develop China
    • Deng's Strategy:
      • Created Economic zones along the coast
        • Foreigners would be allowed to setup manufacturing industries along the cost and will be allowed cheap labor and generous tax breaks; 
        • China would get money and know-how to kick start the economy
        • Chen-chen - which was an open farm land - was overturned into a city; foreign investors came in; major problem for them was RED-TAPE... a lot of formalities, many years of approval to set up an enterprise... 100 stamps... labor policy was infexible... you couldn't sack non-performing worker... based on seniority... they should get more paid... so it was less fun for investors in the beginning
          • Wages were higher
          • Investments poured in from Hongkong and beyond
          • New types of goods were produced that were never seen before
          • Fashion began to happen...
      • Then Expanded development zones along the coast
      • Created Village enterprises
        • Buttons, zips --> bicycle parts, bricks
        • Many took village enterprise money to start urban housing/businesses
        • Many new private sector started
        • 1986 - unprofitable were allowed to dissolve   


    • Opposition faced by Deng for his policy of modernization
      • Attacked journalists because "they had failed to resist western ideas"
      • Attacked banks to stop them from lending to the special economic zones
      • Resisted development zones, confused foreign investors
      • Saw foreign investors as imperialists


  • Demand for reforms 
    • Were not demanding democracy or countries
    • Wanted government to listen to their ideas 
      • corruption control
      • Was never for overthrowing party
    • But Deng responded heavily due to misinformation given
    • Protested in the square 
    • Millions came to square
    • Party Elders met and took firm measure to suppress the movement
      • Deng gave order to clear the Square
      • Became black spot on Deng's image 




China The Rebirth of an Empire

China, it's development and it's influence on neighboring countries (N/S Korea, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Taiwan/Hong Kong). Very interesting background on its history with neighbors and how the relations have changed and have developed with the economic and socio-cultural changes in the region.



China and the US


Tea Party's look at the US economy and China

This is a speech given to a small crowd of Tea Party members. The speaker makes an argument that one of the reasons that economic growth in the US is lagging (particularly in the manufacturing sector) is due to trade policies that are not truly "free" since Chinese government has distorted by keeping the Yuan undervalued. Hence, the speaker recommends that the US pursue 4 major approaches to grow American economy:

  1. Impose tariffs on those Chinese industries that are preventing the US from enjoying a comparative advantage without the Chinese distortions through undervaluing of the Yuan
  2. Abolish corporate taxes so that production costs are lowered in the US
  3. Remove regulations unless they are very necessary
  4. If need be increase tariff on imported Chinese goods


In addition to dealing with China, the speaker also recommends the following:

  1. Develop manufacturing sector (because the current service sector does not lead to growth when it is transferring money from one person to another) 
  2. Consume less and increase savings
    1. Increase rate should be raised so that people are more inclined to save than borrow and consume to maintain the current living standard 
    2. Give Congress more power to check Fed's decisions
    3. Audit Fed (Ron Paul idea) 
  3. US Congressmen are all lawyers; Chinese top political members are mostly engineers and economists; US congressmen need to listen to economists and public policy professionals


Some quick points:

- Thinks corporation is not good or bad, but is "a force that need to be harnessed and directed." 

-  Agrees with free trade economists that such tariffs would raise cost for Americans in buying goods but asserts, "we would have to endure in the short run" to bring back manufacturing industries so that the economy can grow again. But at the same time also need to reduce consumption of cheap Chinese goods while increasing savings


China and Tibet


BBCL The story of Dalai Lama

Dan Cruickshank presents a documentary revealing the story of the Dalai Lama, his secret Himalayan kingdom and the story of his exile, using eyewitness accounts from Tibetans including the Dalai Lama himself and colour archive footage of Tibet from the 1930s to 50s.






  1. BBC Documentary http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lfcz6

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