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Deng Xiaoping: Leading Thinker in China's Market Economy

Although the United States and the European Union continue to deny that China has established a market economy, a number of other nations, including New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, have agreed that China has.

When most Chinese were fearful even to mention the term "market economy," the late leader Deng Xiaoping vigorously preached its adoption during his historic 1992 inspection tour to south China. Deng's bold remarks brushed aside ignorance and deep-rooted prejudice over market economies, which socialist Chinese used to call "capitalist rubbish."

What Deng clarified on the market economy issue made him an unrivaled economic pioneer in China. He said in his most frequently quoted words that "Practice of a planned economy is not equivalent to socialism because there is planning under capitalism too; Practice of a market economy is not equivalent to capitalism because there are markets under socialism too."

Experts believe Deng's simple but penetrating paradox opened China's access to a market economy.

In 1993, the year after Deng made his historic remarks, more than 40 well-known Chinese economics scholars published the book " Chinese Leading Economists on Reform." In it, the economists discuss the feasibility and legality of the market economy that would come into being in a socialist country.

It seemed that academic thinkers were following in the statesman's steps.

Deng originally surprised the world with his "non-socialist" opinions in 1979, when China kicked off the landmark government reform and opening up drive. In a meeting with visiting foreign guests, Deng amazed them by unexpectedly asking "Why can't a socialist country have a market economy?" Later China created its four Special Economic Zones where a fledgling market economy began to take shape.

"Deng Xiaoping is known as the 'chief architect' for China's reform and opening up policies," said Ding Chun, an economics professor at Shanghai-based Fudan University. "China didn't clearly articulate that the goal of economic reform was to establish a socialist market economy until 1992 when Deng Xiaoping made his south China tour and gave speeches on the market economy."

Deng's foresight and determination encouraged him to push through implementation and improvement of Chinese-style market economy, which maintained many "Chinese characteristics" that fit China's actuality, according to Ding.

China's market economy has been successful and prosperous, though negotiations over the market economy status will continue and bargaining between China and its US and EU partners will remain hard.

Over the past decade, China's gross domestic product grew by more than 8 percent per year, and its foreign currency reserve exceeds 400 billion US dollars. Most economists agree that it is simply a matter of time until China's full market economy status is recognized by major economic powers.  Some Chinese see US and EU reluctance to grant China full market economy status might result from the desire to hold the upper hand in negotiations over other issues, such as pressuring China to open its doors wider and faster in some industries.

(Xinhua News Agency August 12, 2004)

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