In 1956, Mao Zedong completed one of his proudest achievements: the abolition of private property in China. Over forty years later—March 17, 1999, to be exact—the Chinese Communist Party, led by Jiang Zemin, formally reversed course. The National People’s Congress voted 98 percent in favor of a constitutional amendment that redefined the private sector from a “complementary” to an “important part” of the economy. The amendment also promised government protection “for the legal interests and rights of the private economy.”
The Jiang regime is, of course, merely putting into legal form China’s de facto endorsement of the private sector that began with Deng Xiaoping’s reform program in the late 1970s. The standard view of modern Chinese history—a view widely shared both inside and outside China—is that Deng acknowledged, and remedied, the folly of Mao’s disastrous experiment with Marxism. As the eminent Sinologist Roderick MacFarquhar put it, “[Deng] deconstructed the China he took over: not the traditional China of Confucian values and Taoist cults, but the China of Communist principles and practices which he had himself helped Mao to superimpose upon their land.” According to MacFarquhar, Marxism led the Chinese nation to disaster, and Deng Xiaoping—whatever his faults—at least had the vision to replace Marxism with capitalist style practices....
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