Running Dogs Take Note: In praise of Mao's PE

Daniel F. Vukovich vukovich at
Tue Jan 11 16:57:38 PST 2000

At 07:38 AM 1/11/00 +0000, you wrote:

>OK but can you explain the argument below? Too many negatives.
>Can you concisely summarising the two contrasting perspectives?
> >once you call into question the notion that per capita income is not
> >the best indicator of econo development (as the Wbank and other folk do),
> >then the historical record of MZ et al., appears more and more impressive.
>Chris Burford

Yes, quite garbled, as you and Carrol noted -- as am I garbled, now on Day 2 of this damn flu. (The t.v. tells me I'm supposed to blame Aussie football fans from last Spring, and hence globalization. How is that for everyday nationalism?!) I anxiously await posts which give me home remedies or war-stories...the ground cloves and honey aint enough.

Anyway: Based on my perusal of the Conclusion, Bramall's point seems to be that if you take per capita income -- and opulence -- as the primary measuring stick, then the performance of the Maoist econo pd. is "unimpressive." This is a standard used by the World Bank, among others. It is also an entirely normative decision. (needless to say, this "capitalist accounting" is also a bit absurd to use to evaluate a specifically socialist and Maoist mode of development-- as Bill Hinton has noted, you need to consider the differences: the point was to build the iron rice bowl, to live and work in an obviously communal way, etc). It seems, as well, that Bramall wants to problematize or complicate the "standard of living" standard, though he does acknowledge that rapid increases in consumption achieved in the 80s "constitute an indicator of underperformance."

If however, you choose to measure the econo performance via what Bramall calls "capabilities"-- the picture changes drastically. The degree of literacy and life expectancy were absolutely transformed by the late 70s, such that PRC was on a par with middle-income countries. The WBank likes to take credit for these, even though they weren't in China until Deng was fully re-ensconced. The rapid and impressive industrialization and technical progress have long been noted, as has the facts that the economy continued to grow even during the GLF pd and the Cult. Rev pd. Bramall also notes that "when one turns to the distribution of incomes and capabilities [within Sichuan and across PRC]...the record is better still" (337). "At worst, food consumption levels were adequate in the late 1970s."

Bramall also claims to place M. econo development in its wider international context, through-out the book. This includes PRC's refusal of _pax Americana_ after 1949, and so also necessitated defense-oriented heavy industry. Suffice it to mention the Sino-Soviet split as well.

The real force of B's book would seem to be that it does indeed write this history from 1930-on, and that it is empirically based in a specific region (Sichuan). This enables him to make comparisons, obviously, and is rather different than *assuming* that early marketization (M Selden's argument, I'm afraid) would have been a better and proper route. He seems to be making a defense of planning, even as he criticizes its specifics deformations. Also v. different than ignoring the -- horrid -- national econo context of Republican China, which some are wont to do. The broadest conclusion in re Sichuan (which Bramall says was the hardest hit by the famine that came in the wake of the GLF), is that econo development there "was without doubt successful" and sowed the seeds for the "economic miracle" [his scare quotes, not mine] of the 1980s.

Interestingly, one can see a similar overall argument (in re. the "seed sowing") across a certain political spectrum within PRC studies-- I am referring to work by the former KMT soldier Ray Huang (and a real reactionary in political terms), and by the "liberal" (?) Jean C Oi (Rural China Takes Off: Institutional Foundations of Econo. Reform). These last two seem to lack any individual, methodological self-reflexivity, however-- no overt sense that their analyses are, after all, *analyses*, as opposed to objective truth-telling or the magical intuiting of the facts.

------------------------------------------------------ Daniel F. Vukovich Dept. of English; The Unit for Criticism University of Illinois Urbana, IL 61801 ------------------------------------------------------

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