The word about the place here in China is that Chairman Xi Jinping (yes, that is what his Chinese title is, mistranslated at ‘president’) is the most theoretically aware and sophisticated leader since Chairman Mao. People are saying that he has a theoretical ability in Marxism that was somewhat missing from the practical orientations of the previous three holders of his post. Needless to say, I have been following to local news in some detail, especially in relation to the ‘two sessions’, held annually in Beijing.
Two moments have captured my attention. The first is a statement by Chairman Xi from last November. He stressed that China would be guided by Marxist political economy. Is this an empty statement? I suspect not. The joke about the place until recently was that while Marxist philosophers have much to say and indeed do say it, and while Marxist sociologists have much to say but mostly say the wrong thing, Marxist economists have no forum in which they can speak. Chairman Xi’s statement may well be the moment when Marxist political economists come back into their own. The second statement is that the publicly owned state sector of the economy should be healthy, competitive and dominant. This marks a significant shift from recent policy, in which the non-state-owned sector was threatening to dominate the economy. As is the way of such matters, it had become a commonplace that economic matters were dominated by neoliberal economists. Not any more, for Chairman Xi has clearly been listening to the Marxist economists who have been warning about the decline of the publicly owned sector.
It will be fascinating to see all of this unfolds.