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5 - The Chinese industrial state in historical perspective: from totalitarianism to corporatism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2010

Brantly Womack
Affiliation:
Northern Illinois University
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

Observers of Chinese politics often are impressed by its vast diversity and its conflicting images. These conflicting images are found not only in analyses of the Chinese communist regime of revolutionary vintage but also in studies of the party-state's endeavor to extend its control over an increasingly industrialized and modernized society in the aftermath of the revolution. According to one view, the party-state is seen as being totally dominant in the industrial sector, in view of such powerful tools as central planning and state ownership, coupled with administrative channels of material supply and the bank's supervision. By the same token, at the enterprise level, the factory directors find at their disposal a vast inventory of tools of control, covering comprehensively all aspects of the worker's life, and this often creates an image of “totalitarian management.”

But there is another view, in which empirical studies suggest that the party-state seems powerless when it confronts the task of modernization and economic growth in the postrevolutionary era. For instance, within the structure of the command economy, the industrial ministries at the central level and the industrial bureaus at the local level find it difficult to keep abreast of operations of the various enterprises because of weakness in the feedback system. Thus, considerable material concessions must be made in order to induce compliance from the low-level units. Examples include the profit-retention system (1979-1984), the tax-forprofit system (begun in 1983), and the contractual-responsibility system (begun in 1984).

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1991

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