Dan Nichol reviews the BBC’s China Week
This was perhaps the BBC’s way of recompensing for not adequately covering what was one of 2004’s biggest stories — China’s explosive economic growth.
The country will soon outstrip Britain and become the world’s fourth biggest economic power. Most of BBC’s China week focused on the exclusively “business” side of the story but a report on BBC2’s Newsnight showed the human side of what is happening to the country.
The report showed Tianjin, China’s third largest city, undergoing massive redevelopment to ensure the city keeps pace with growth in the rest of the country. One of the effects of this transformation will be the end of the city’s semi-legal markets. The mayor says that alternative, legal markets will be built, but people are being forced to adopt a totally new way of life. Similarly, many people are being forced out of the old “slum” districts and into new flats. But many people say that they won’t be able to afford to live in them.
Human rights and democracy were also an issue. China’s economic development has not brought about much in the way of bourgeois democracy. Instead, a strange system of individual petitioning seems to have evolved. And it is run by the police!
Thirty years ago, very few Marxists would have predicted that China would evolved into a major capitalist power under Stalinist leadership, but it has. There are undoubtedly severe tensions in China, but its durability as a capitalist power suggests that Marxists may have to think again about how bourgeoisies develop and whether democracy is really essential for capitalism’s development.