Is Chongqing building a new model economy?

By John Sexton
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, May 19, 2011
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Bo Xilai and Red Chongqing

By sending in a SWAT team to force crooked bosses to pay back-wages last week, Chongqing's charismatic Party Secretary Bo Xilai further convinced supporters that he is a politician who cares about ordinary people.

A happy Chinese migrant worker in Chongqing holding up the overdue wages he has finally been paid.

May 3, 2011, the Chongqing police and Jiangbei District government distributed the first batch of wages to migrant workers who were owed wages by crooked bosses at the Top of City Garden construction site.

Bo's popularity soared after he ordered a 2009 crackdown that netted around two thousand gangsters and corrupt officials, including the city's deputy police commissioner Wen Qiang.

Chongqing has also launched a massive public housing program and reformed the household registration system to make it easier for peasants to obtain urban residency. The local economy, including its large state sector, is registering stellar growth rates, with GDP doubling in the past five years. But by encouraging the singing of "Red" songs in Chongqing's public parks and launching a "Red" TV Channel, Bo has alienated liberals who accuse him of trying to revive the spirit of the Cultural Revolution.

Chongqing's "Red Professor"

Cui Zhiyuan is a professor in the School of Social Policy at Tsinghua University but spent last year working in the Chongqing Public Assets Commission on an exchange program. He returned enthusiastic about developments in the upper Yangtze metropolis.

When I met Cui in his Tsinghua office, he was signing a master's thesis for a young Chinese American who happened to be a major in the US Army. Most students on the masters program are from overseas, he said.

Cui is neither a Marxist nor a member of the Communist Party. He calls himself a Liberal Socialist and traces his ideas back to British philosopher John Stuart Mill, but the press usually tags him as part of China's New Left – a label he dislikes.

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