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A Critical Review of China’s Reform

Return of Marxian Macro-Dynamics in East Asia

ISBN: 978-1-78714-478-1, eISBN: 978-1-78714-477-4

ISSN: 0161-7230

Publication date: 8 August 2017


This paper reviews the socioeconomic reform policies employed by the China’s party-state between the early 1980s and mid-2000s. Unlike conventional frameworks viewing the reform as an economic development project designed for “national interests” or “ruling elites” personal interests’, this paper interprets the reform as a political attempt of the state made in response to the crisis of dominance over the working class. In the face of the crisis of class dominance expressed as economic and political unrests related to low growth of labor productivity, the state managers of the post-Mao era embarked on the reform as a way of restoring the state’s ability to impose work upon the workers. As is well known, the reform was “market-oriented” with the state relinquishing some of the control over economic managements, and this paper sees it as the state’s strategy of reducing political risks arising from a highly politicized form of class confrontation. By making pressures upon producers look like a purely economic matter arising from private relations, that is, by depoliticizing exploitative social relations of production, the market-oriented reform helped the party-state effectively repress workers without a serious damage to political legitimacy. From this perspective, this paper examines the reform policies in management of labor, firms, and money, and how those policies contributed to the state’s ability to discipline class relations of production in China. This paper, however, does not conclude that the reform as a depoliticization strategy of class dominance was successful and nonproblematic. It is argued that beneath the success of the reform was a growing necessity of crisis; faced with re-burgeoning workers’ struggles, growing problems of overproduction/overaccumulation, and the resultant looming banking system crisis, the party-state came to find it more and more necessary to bring the economic managements back into political ambit with the related political risks also growing.



Lee, G.C. (2017), "A Critical Review of China’s Reform", Return of Marxian Macro-Dynamics in East Asia (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 32), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 159-184.



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