- Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Yingjie Guo
Chapter 12: China’s emerging ruling class: power, wealth, and status under market socialism
For over 30 years the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been reforming its state socialist political economy. The introduction of market forces, the phasing out of state socialist planning procedures, and the emergence of new entrepreneurial classes have led many commentators to emphasize the extent to which China has embraced capitalism or capitalist economic practices (Chen, A. 2002; McNally 2008). According to the US polemicist Stefan Halper, ‘capitalism is now a global phenomenon – with China among its greatest champions’ (Halper 2010: 1). Others have in more sophisticated ways taken the PRC to task for its neo-liberal tendencies (Harvey 2007) or its variety of state capitalism (Huang, Y. 2008; Chan and Unger 2009). Still others have seen the emergence of an endogenous capitalism in East China, outside and in some sense in opposition to the Party-state (Nee and Opper 2012). Arguments about the politics and procedures of market transition are complex (Goodman 2014a: 125–30), but it is nonetheless clear that the ruling class of 2015 in the PRC is not the ruling class of 1978. Wealth and wealth generation certainly now matter, and probably more than membership of the working class. Thirty-one dollar billionaires (of a national total of 212) were delegates to the National People’s Congress in March 2013, and 52 were delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (Anderlini 2013; Wang 2013).
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