Crisis of capitalism no longer seen as someone else's problem

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 January, 2012, 12:00am


It is rare for Xinhua's Cankao Xiaoxi (Reference News) to lavish a whole page on one report.

But it did last Friday, for the Chinese translation of an article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs by Francis Fukuyama, author of the 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man, and now senior fellow at the Centre on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University.

The translators only changed the original title from 'The future of history: can liberal democracy survive the decline of the middle class?' to 'What destiny is waiting for contemporary capitalism?' - perhaps to make it more appealing to readers in China.

Also last week,, a business information website, ran a full translation of an article by former US Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers in the Financial Times on the reinvention of capitalism.

They are only two examples of the growing curiosity in China about how today's economic crisis is going to reshape world capitalism, and how it will affect the global market system, in which China is a new but important player.

Most Chinese theorists and commentators seem convinced that the current crisis cannot be solved by mere technical adjustments and will drag on for years until some painful changes are made.

Today's capitalism, as they see it, has lost its sense of direction, and is in an 'idea-less', 'trust-less' and 'order-less' state, according to Professor Jiang Yong, a researcher with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, which is affiliated with the party's central foreign liaison department.

'It is hard to talk about any development from this state,' Jiang said in an interview published last year in the theoretical journal Contemporary World & Socialism.

Jiang was joined by Professor Shen Jiru, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of World Economics and Politics, who said the lingering crisis, serious though it was, did not spell the end of capitalism.

Echoing Fukuyama, Shen said he did not see any sign of a wave of socialist revolution. Nor was it likely that right-wing forces would seize power.

Interestingly enough, the two party theorists suggested that China, along with other emerging market economies, is doing the world a favour by representing a force that can help maintain peace and help the world regain economic balance.

Shen said China and other emerging economies were reducing the chance of an all-round crisis, and could help bring about an early recovery.

Chinese theorists are exhibiting increasing confidence when discussing the problems of capitalism today. Friday's Global Times ran a commentary urging the United States to 'emancipate its mind' - a term that was used often during the early period of China's reform, when it began to import management practices from capitalist countries.

The commentary, written by Professor Chen Xiankui, an expert in Marxism at Renmin University, followed another Global Times commentary last month urging the US to embark on economic reforms.

Two new characteristics are easy to spot in the recent surge in debate in China about capitalism.

Although the state ideology remains communism, the country's global economic interests mean the crisis in the capitalist world is no longer seen by most opinion-makers as someone else's problem, and even less as something to celebrate.

And there has been growing openness to voices from the Western world itself, ranging from mainstream scholars like Fukuyama and Summers to more visionary, more critical and neo-Marxist critics like Anatole Kaletsky (editor-at-large of The Times of London and author of Capitalism 4.0), Professor Peter Nolan (the British author of the 2010 book Crossroads), Chris Harman (the British author of the 2009 book Zombie Capitalism) and Terry Eagleton (the British literary theorist who wrote last year's Why Marx Was Right).