Support for the market economy
China’s dramatic economic transformation from a strict command centralplanning economy to a by-and-large market economy in the past 30 years is nothing short of a miracle. After 30 years of double-digit economic growth, China has become the second largest economy after the United States and one of the top trading countries in the world. Obviously many factors have contributed to the rapid economic growth of China in the past three decades. This chapter focuses on the cultural aspect of economic growth in China. It has long been argued whether China’s predominantly Confucian culture is conducive to a capitalist market economy. Max Weber might have turned in his grave to explain the flourishing market economy in China today. In fact, capitalism, as an economic system, had already been successfully adopted by other Confucian-influenced countries in East Asia, such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, before the 1970s when China started economic reform. China’s capitalistic economic reforms have rekindled the debate about the relationship between Confucian culture and capitalism. China’s market-driven economic reform started in rural China in the
late 1970s. Communes, which were set up in the 1950s, were abolished in the early 1980s and were replaced with the Household Responsibility System (HRS) or individual private farming. Not only did Chinese peasants become independent farmers under the new system, many of them also became entrepreneurs running their own businesses. Hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants have also become migrant workers in the cities. What is the attitude among southern Jiangsu peasants toward the market-driven economic reform? How supportive are they of the new economic system? How is their support or lack of it related to such factors as their perceived benefit from the new system, prospective evaluation of China’s economic future, democratic orientation, and so on? How does their attitude toward market-driven economic reform compare with residents in Beijing? These questions will be answered in this chapter.