Theory and Practice
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
- Organised by Péter Vámos
- Péter Vámos, Chair
- Péter Vámos, “Do Hungarian Economists ‘Share Blame’ for China’s ‘Monstrous Turn’? The Influence of Hungarian Economic Reform Theories and Practices on China’s Market Reforms in the 1980s”
- Jovan Čavoški, “Learning from Each Other: Exchanges between Chinese and Yugoslav State-Party Study Delegations in the Early Period of Reform and Opening-Up”
- Daniela Kolenovská, “Economic Bridge over Ideological Divide: The PRC and Czechoslovakia in the 1980s”
- Miroslaw Sikora, “US-Inspired ‘China Differential’ as an Opportunity for Comecon’s Lagging Technology: The Case of Poland in the 1980s”
- Jan Zofka, Discussant
As China’s reform and opening-up policy unfolded in the late 1970s, both China and the European socialist countries saw renewed opportunities in rebuilding economic relations with each other. In China, Deng Xiaoping’s reform program resulted in the shift from the primacy of politics to that of economics. During the early phase of reforms, the PRC’s leaders paid close attention to the theory and practice of economic reforms in Eastern Europe, especially Yugoslavia and Hungary. As the general direction of economic reforms, establishing a socialist market economy by incorporating market elements into the socialist system, and harmonising plan and market was similar, Chinese economists and politicians were keen to learn from Yugoslav and Hungarian reform experiences. The first two papers of the panel look at how Chinese policymakers learned from Yugoslavia and Hungarian reform experiences in the first decade of China’s reform and opening up. Eastern European leaders were also keen to capitalise on China’s reforms and opening up. The third paper looks at how the Czechoslovak leadership attempted to make political gains from increasing the amount of trade with China and the fourth paper analyses how Poland could make use of the capitalist West‘s more liberal attitude towards China in terms of advanced technology exports than towards the Soviet Union and its satellites and gained access to advanced Western technologies through China.
Péter Vámos, “Do Hungarian Economists ‘Share Blame’ for China’s ‘Monstrous Turn’? The Influence of Hungarian Economic Reform Theories and Practices on China’s Market Reforms in the 1980s”
In July 2019, János Kornai, the world-famous theorist of the socialist economic system and one of the most influential reform economists in China in the past four decades, wrote an article entitled “Economists share blame for China’s ‘monstrous’ turn: Western intellectuals must now seek to contain Beijing.” Kornai writes about the moral responsibility of Western intellectuals, including himself, who “not only watched China’s transformation but actively contributed to these changes.” Kornai took part in the Bashanlun conference in 1985, where western economists and leading Chinese policymakers discussed how the country should be transformed into a market economy. Kornai was among the most influential of those foreign economists whose theoretical writings were closely studied in China. As part of this learning process, Chinese economists and policymakers also studied the practice of the reform of the economic management system in Hungary. Starting from 1979 Chinese delegations of economists visited Hungary and Hungarian delegations were invited to China in order to acquaint Chinese economic policymakers with Hungarian reform practices. During the early 1980s, the phrase “Hungarian model” was widely used in Chinese economic publications. Based on Hungarian archival sources and Chinese theoretical publications, this paper looks at the details of these interactions. It attempts to identify the contribution of Hungarian economic theorists to Chinese reforms and assess the impact of Hungary‘s experience with its reform of the economic management system on Chinese policies in the 1980s.
Jovan Čavoški, “Learning from Each Other: Exchanges between Chinese and Yugoslav State-Party Study Delegations in the Early Period of Reform and Opening-Up”
Despite the ups and downs in Sino-Yugoslav relations during the first three decades of the Cold War, with the initiation of tentative socio-economic reforms in China after the death of Mao Zedong and especially after the Third Plenum of the CCP Central Committee in December 1978, Yugoslavia and its experience with socialist reforms became one of the initial role models for the Chinese leadership in their reform experiments. This was more than obvious with the unprecedented increase in the number of exchanges of study delegations during the first few years after Tito’s ground-breaking visit to Beijing in 1977. Through these in-depth contacts, both sides identified the advantages and downsides of each other’s systems, establishing concrete markers for choosing the best way to advance their societies and economies. Issues related to the nature of Yugoslav socialism, such as the functioning of democracy, the role of self-management, decentralised planning, and the market as well as the standard of living in Yugoslavia were seriously discussed in China. Based on newly declassified Yugoslav archival documents, internal reports made by the Chinese delegations and reports in the Yugoslav and Chinese press, this paper shows that Yugoslavia’s experience with the implementation of certain market mechanisms into its socialist economy, particularly in the field of management of state-owned enterprises and agricultural production, as well its developed economic exchanges with the capitalist world, all proved to be quite edifying for Chinese political and economic planners.
Daniela Kolenovská, “Economic Bridge over Ideological Divide: The PRC and Czechoslovakia in the 1980s”
After 1968, Czechoslovakia belonged to the most static members of the Soviet bloc. Promoting stereotypical solutions, the Czechoslovak leadership supported the Soviet-led strategy towards China and did not develop independent bilateral relations with Beijing. Czechoslovak views on China echoed changes in Soviet policies and the International Department of the Czechoslovak Communist Party’s Central Committee was in charge of implementing Soviet recommendations. As tensions in Sino–Soviet relations gradually eased in the 1980s, the focus of Czechoslovak interest in the PRC switched from politics to economics. Similarly to the reform-minded Chinese leadership, Czechoslovak communist leaders attempted to bolster their legitimacy through economic success and international cooperation. As the Prague leadership worked on separating politics from economics, the influence of economic ministries on Czechoslovak policies towards the PRC increased. They viewed the PRC as a resource-rich socialist state with leadership using effective instruments of power (chauvinism, violence, militarisation of labour), and as a future modern global power. Economic cooperation was gradually followed by contacts in culture, education, and sports and by the end of the 1980s inter-party relations were restored as well. The paper argues that the Czechoslovak communist leadership was not able to confront the growing crisis of the Soviet universalistic project. Their attempt to find an alternative socialist solution, which offered economic prospects through becoming part of China’s globalisation efforts, also failed as it was based on the principle of anti-imperialist nationalism and Czechoslovak citizens favoured direct association with the global West.
Miroslaw Sikora, “US-Inspired ‘China Differential’ as an Opportunity for Comecon’s Lagging Technology: The Case of Poland in the 1980s”
According to Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (CoCom) statistics, in 1984 US authorities approved a total number of circa 2100 licenses of strategic commodities for export to Eastern European and East Asian Communist countries, with 1900 of those “export exceptions” being addressed to the People’s Republic of China and only about 200 to Comecon states. In 1985, the USA agreed to export almost twice as many technologies to the China as a year before. Other NATO members followed this path, becoming more and more prone to share knowhow with the PRC. Nevertheless, they remained intransigent towards Comecon member states, especially the Soviet Union, during the entire 1980s. In 1985, the number of requests submitted to the CoCom secretariat by NATO member states to sell technologies to the USSR amounted 56, Poland was mentioned 81 times, while China was subject to 4425 requests. Thus, in the course of the first half of the 80s, Polish authorities realised that access to advanced technologies, embargoed by the West, can be obtained not only through intelligence gathering in California or West Germany, or black market purchases in Switzerland or Austria, but also by establishing official, semi-official, and secret contacts to the PRC. By analysing Polish intelligence documents and focusing on electronics, computers, and automatic control, the paper identifies the methods applied by the Polish state to bypass CoCom’s trade restrictions and obtain Western knowhow via Chinese companies and institutions and estimates the economic and cognitive outcomes of those clandestine attempts.
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Theory and Practice