Since the reform and opening-up, China has transformed itself into the world's largest manufacturing country and the second largest economy. It has eradicated absolute poverty at an unprecedented scale and speed. And, it has embarked on a new journey of building a modern socialist country. Unlike the rise of the West, which was linked with maritime trade and colonization, the "miracles" of China's development are a result of the path that China has chosen. Han Zhen explains China’s success of opening-up along a socialist path through a historical lens.
- The ongoing process of opening-up. In a response to the West's expansion in seafaring trade and colonization, China implemented the Hăijìn (海禁), or sea ban, during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), restricting maritime trade and colonial settlement in China. This was a turning point in Chinese history, leading China to retreat from the world, become a greater target of Western colonialism, and enter a period of economic and social isolation. China has, however, learned that economic and social development, and knowledge and cultural innovation require mutual communication and learning between civilizations. Since 1978, China has gradually opened its doors, paving the way for China’s modernization path.
- Adhere to socialism instead of replicating the Western colonial modes. Since losing the Opium War in 1840, China tried to rely on Western models for its economic development. The imperialist aggression, however, eventually shattered that illusion. History proved that only Marxism could help China by recognizing the importance of developing the productive forces, while simultaneously fighting against feudalism, capitalist exploitation, and imperialism. The national modernization project of building a New China would not be possible without socialism.
- Reform is ongoing. After the Chinese Revolution of 1949, China drew on the Soviet model to begin socialist construction. But, as time progressed, China adapted its socialist construction by using reform mechanisms that responded to its conditions. A key to China’s success has been the understanding that no mechanisms are enduring and that new reforms are constantly required to solve the challenges of building a prosperous, modern socialist country. China should not be restricted by rigid and outdated mechanisms and regulations and must continually use reforms to enhance social vitality.
- Uphold the principle of following an independent path. China cannot continue to be successful in socialist construction without adhering to the principle of maintaining an independent path to development. Too often, the "globalization" of capitalism has been used to justify global economic policies that subjugate developing countries. Understanding this, China has continued to expand reforms and a policy of openness, but according to its own goals, pace, and path. CPC leadership is the key to China’s success. The CPC united and led the Chinese people, guiding the process of opening-up and reform along an independent and socialist path. Without the CPC, China would have remained subordinate to a capitalist world order and US hegemony, or under the control of certain interest groups. Accordingly, China's success has caused panic for the West, whose development model has shown many more shortcomings versus the Chinese one.
In 1956, a series of conflicts, over ideology and national interests, began between China and the Soviet Union, unfortunately leading to a military dispute. Chinese scholars generally agree that beginning with the Khrushchev-era (1953-1964), the Soviet Union embarked on a path of revisionism. Zhang Wenmu writes that 1978 was a watershed year for the economic development of the Soviet Union. When its military expansion finally pushed China to align itself with the US, the Soviet Union was forced to confront both China and the US, which was beyond its capabilities. This was followed by so-called "political opening" (glasnost), "economic reform" (perestroika), and "new thinking" in foreign policy (novoye myshleniye), all of which betrayed the principles of socialism. In the end, the Soviet Union, a world superpower, was "peacefully" dismantled without military conflict.
- Beginning in 1960 until 1978, the socialist system, complemented by planning policies and abundant natural resources, allowed the Soviet Union to have a higher growth rate of their real gross domestic product (GDP) than the US. Strong economic development enabled the military power of the Soviet Union to combat US hegemony. Gorbachev's political reforms, however, during his six years in power (1985-1991) led to the USSR's weakening and dissolution.
- In 1973, Mao Zedong pointed out that the Soviet Union's expansionist ambitions contradicted its capabilities. During the Brezhnev-era (1964-1982), the Soviet Union’s military expansion led to a conflict with China and the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, putting the Soviet Union under excessive political and economic pressure.
- With Gorbachev at the helm, the Soviet Union implemented the "new thinking" reforms – propagated and supported by the West – abolishing the ruling party position of the proletariat, promoting capitalism, and privatizing state assets. As a result, the political environment and economic development of the Soviet Union began to deteriorate rapidly, and the peoples’ standard of living declined. The eventual disintegration of the Soviet Union was the inevitable result of its betrayal of socialist principles. The Soviet Union was not defeated militarily but was dismantled from within by the West through ideological subversion.
- The capitalist reforms of the Soviet political and economic systems, from Khrushchev to Gorbachev, adversely affected the history of the Soviet Union, and thus the history of the world. China learned a great deal from the mistakes of the USSR and has been able to chart a course for itself and the world in the 21st century.
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