Western perspective on Chinese economy riddled with fantasies, disinformation
Published: Jul 03, 2024 07:08 PM
A view of Shenzhen Photo: VCG

A view of Shenzhen Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

As the Chinese economy, along with the entire global economy, faces considerable challenges in recent years, some Western officials and media outlets have stepped up their long-standing smear campaign against the world's second-largest economy. They cherry-pick information and even distort facts to hype various specious narratives such as "Peak China," while turning a blind eye to China's considerable strengths and vast potential. 

As part of the Global Times' multimedia project to set the record straight, the opinion page is publishing a series of in-depth interviews and signed articles with economists, experts and scholars from different countries who share their views on the prospects of the Chinese economy and debunk Western rhetoric.

In the seventh article of the series, Global Times (GT) reporter Su Yaxuan talked to French economist Rémy Herrera (Herrera), a researcher at the National Center of Scientific Research. Herrera noted that the extraordinary success of China's development worries the West, as the US sees China as a rival and a threat to the maintenance of its hegemony.

GT: You have written several important works related to China. Why did you choose to focus on China? What attracted you to the country?

Herrera: There are several reasons for this. There is, of course, a respect and admiration for the Chinese civilization, which constitutes one of the main cradles of human civilization. There are also political reasons that motivated me to study China scientifically. China, first of all, has made extraordinary advancements in terms of development within a very short period of time, offering hope to many other nations.

I have spent several years on socialism, from both a theoretical and empirical point of view. So I wanted to understand how Chinese socialism works and what its current specificities are. To do this, I had to make a huge effort to move away from Eurocentrism and try to comprehend the distinct ways of thinking that are specific to the Chinese culture. Previously, I had tried to decipher the way of thinking of the Cubans. Indeed, I believe that communism, as well as Marxism, had to blend with local cultural elements to take root in the historical reality of peoples and consolidate their respective revolutionary processes. This is what we must grasp, to better understand each other between revolutionaries.

GT: In an interview, you mentioned that the Western perception of "socialism with Chinese characteristics as an official propaganda discourse" is a complete misunderstanding of China. In your opinion, what is the development path of socialism with Chinese characteristics?

Herrera: I interpret the Chinese political-economic system as market socialism, which is based on very different foundations from capitalism: allowing a form of political democracy, perfectible, but making collective choices possible; very extensive off-market public services; ownership of natural resources and land that remains in the public domain; diversified forms of property adequate to socializing productive forces; a policy of social justice promoted by public authorities - in the face of social inequalities; a priority for preserving the environment, inseparable from social progress; economic relations between states based on a win-win principle; political relations between states based on peace and balance between peoples, ie, peaceful coexistence.

In China today, most manufacturing entrepreneurs are patriotic and committed to the success of their country; they are thus interested in domestic outlets for their production. The growth in domestic demand, stimulated by strong household consumption and very active state spending, is therefore guiding investment toward optimism. Thanks to technological innovations in all areas (such as robotics, digital, space, etc.) and their increasing dominance, the country's productive structures have been able to evolve from "made in China" to "made by China." The increase in labor productivity gains can accompany strong increases in real wages, without causing Chinese labor costs to rise higher than those of competing countries in the South, thus preserving the competitiveness of national enterprises.

The Chinese conception of socialism in the new era is patient, enduring, pragmatic and effective; understanding the long term without fearing contradictions, which are actually complementarities. Today, China's desire is to pursue a socialist transition where a very large majority of the population will have access to prosperity - particularly a wide range of consumer goods - and enjoy them in abundance.  Why wouldn't Western progressives want to learn from this Chinese experience?

GT: You believe that the high growth rate of China's GDP "is not a miracle, but rather the result of a development strategy that has been planned and patiently and effectively implemented." Comparing with the Western economic development, what different but correct choices did China make when working on its development?

Herrera: Decisive strategic choices explain the long-term success of China's development. First of all, we must emphasize the fact that this country is one of the few in the world to have ensured and continues to ensure, in law, access to land for the vast majority of its peasants and their families. The first factor of success was therefore the relevance of the response provided by the leaders of the revolution to the agrarian question. The second factor was the success of the country's in-depth industrialization, and the third factor, the huge social progress made in the fields of health, education and research, which has made it possible to achieve the levels of excellence of human resources today.

But other factors also played a role. One is that market socialism with Chinese characteristics relies on a powerful public sector. The strength of public enterprises comes from the fact that they are not managed like Western transnational firms. They are profitable because the compass that guides them is not the enrichment of private shareholders, but the priorities given to productive investment and the service provided to their local customers. 

GT: For a long time, there have been constant discussions about the "China economic collapse" theory and the "Peak China" theory. Why is the West so keen on predicting the decline and collapse of the Chinese economy?

Herrera: After having been considered by Western big capitalists as an "Eldorado" to be exploited, China is today presented by the media of these same Western big capitalists as a dangerous empire. The extraordinary success of China's development worries the West, as the US sees China as a rival and a threat to the maintenance of its hegemony. 

One sees here attempts to divide the EU, already weakened and in decline on the international scene - an EU which nevertheless doesn't need China to divide itself. One thinks that the hand of Beijing is everywhere in the West. And for security, there are fears that the protection provided by the US will no longer be as effective in ensuring security in Europe since NATO is in crisis. One even presents the construction of the Belt and Road as a project aimed at conquering global hegemony. In reality, behind all this, there is very little analysis, and a lot of fantasies and disinformation. In this context, the slightest slowdown in China's economic growth - which has recently weakened, but remains high compared to rates recorded in Europe, especially in Germany, and even in Japan - is interpreted as a sign of the imminent collapse of China and raises hopes that evaporate what has become a "nightmare" for Western capitalists.

The rise of China is forcing, in the West, supporters of capitalism to rethink the reasons for the decline of their own economies and the decay of their own societies whose fate is abandoned to the supposed "rationality" of high finance. The damage resulting from capitalism is known: plundering of wealth, resurgence of the extreme right and xenophobia, antisocial training of the media by the powers of money, shrinking of spaces for the Western form of "democracy," desensitization of consciences in the face of international inequalities, and the list goes on.

The Chinese leaders have reiterated that the coexistence of public and private activities, both stimulated within the framework of a mixed system, is the chosen means to accelerate the country's productive forces to the maximum. This, in turn, aims to enhance the level of development and improve the living conditions of the population without abandoning socialism.