26 July 2011 ~ 0 Comentarios

What’s wrong with China’s capitalism

By Carlos Alberto Montaner*

WalMart China

(The Miami Herald) Eric X. Li has written an intelligent defense of the Chinese model in The New York Times. The author is a successful venture capitalist in Shanghai. He was educated at Berkeley, Stanford and Fudan University, one of his country’s best academic institutions. Therefore, he knows perfectly the capitalist model of the U.S.’s liberal democracy and the model of authoritarian capitalism that has made China the world’s second economy.

His argument in favor of China’s authoritarian capitalism is based on five premises:

• According to surveys, the government enjoys majority support from a society that progresses and has faith in the future.

• Although control is in the hands of a single party, that institution is a true meritocracy in which the best people rise to positions of power. This confers legitimacy to the government.

• It is wrong to say that the lack of freedom of expression stifles creativity and the innovative impulses of society. The number of scientific publications and entrepreneurial initiatives launched by the Chinese increases constantly.

• Nor is it true that the Communist Party’s authoritarian control generates more corruption. Some multiparty democracies, such as Argentina, Italy or India, are more corrupt than China.

• The key to China’s success is the leadership of the Communist Party, not the market economy. If the market economy were the fundamental element of progress, how can we explain the backwardness and poverty of countries like Pakistan or Haiti?

It is a pity that Li left individual freedom out of his analysis. Freedom is not an empty word used to compose poems for national holidays. It is the basic component of emotional well-being. It is being able to make rational decisions without external pressures, based on the information available to us and the values we hold dear. It is the supreme achievement of the evolution that separated us from the other animal species and gradually effaced the behavior derived from instincts, or the obedience induced by the ferocity of the alpha ape.

“Freedom for what?” Lenin asked one day, scornfully. Freedom to speak, listen to, read or write whatever we want; to make our own choices; to reject or applaud; to try to live wherever and however we wish. Freedom to make mistakes and bounce back in a constant struggle for a happiness that can only be defined individually. Freedom to exercise our sexual preferences and raise our descendants in accordance with our convictions and values. Freedom to be consistent with our intimate criteria and not have to feign beliefs we do not share, a hypocritical behavior that usually turns into psychological unease.

Authoritarianism, always artificial, intended to create uniform societies, is a cruel generator of dissonances in those who suffer it. I have resorted to that example on previous occasions: Does the reader recall what happens to us when we lie? The body rebels. Our hands and armpits sweat, the flow of saliva increases, the heart rate rises, the voice changes, our gestures betray us. Contrary to what cynics say, our species is biologically adapted to coherence and truth and that behavior is achieved only if we are free, not governed by a group of arrogant humans who have all the answers and command our lives any way they wish.

It is possible that, to some degree, China’s economic success is due to the iron-fisted leadership of a single party. It is not an exception. It is almost certain that the leaps to modernity in Spain and Chile are directly related to the strong hands of Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet, two dictators who imposed necessary reforms to spur the productive apparatus of their two nations, but that’s only one aspect of the issue. The objective is not to be a well-cared-for, prosperous and smiling slave. The objective is not to be a slave.

I hope the admirers of authoritarian capitalism realize that another world is possible. It shouldn’t be difficult for the Chinese to remember that, before the recent progress of mainland China, two appendices of that culture found their way toward the First World: Hong Kong and Taiwan. As a British colony, Hong Kong became wealthy without surrendering its freedom. Taiwan prospered while its society cast off its dictatorial origins and became free.

Li should know this: One doesn’t have to choose between freedom and progress. Both objectives can be reached. Others have done it.


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