Origins of China’s Contested Relation with Neoliberalism

Isabella Weber in Global Perspectives:

China is found both to be neoliberal and to provide an alternative to neoliberal development. To illuminate the origins of this contradiction, this paper analyzes China’s relationship with neoliberalism from a historical and economic theory perspective. Neoliberal economic thinking became relevant to China with the beginning of reform and opening up in 1978, when the Communist Party moved from Maoism to an economic determinist outlook on socialism. This ideological shift opened the door for exchanges with the World Bank and foreign economists, including neoliberals. Yet an analysis of Milton Friedman’s speeches in China reveals a critical divide: the Chinese reformers embrace the market but deny that the market requires universal private property. Thus, China is integrated into the global market while the Chinese state reserves its rights to control the economy.

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