Amazingly there are still those out there who think that Mao had an idea or two about how to run an economy. Well, obviously, Mao did have an idea or two it’s just that they were horribly, no good, bad ones. The amazement comes from realising that some people thought that Mao had some good ideas about how to run an economy. That amazement rather turning to disgust when I realise that John McDonnell, someone with a greater than zero chance of becoming the next Chancellor of the Exchequer in the United Kingdom, is one of those people. Sure, Osborne was bad, but really, Maoism?
Just to make it clear, Mao did not set the basis for subsequent Chinese growth, did not do the necessary clearing of anything away. China in 1978 was about as rich as England was in 1600 AD. And no, we don’t think that burning Protestants (Queen Mary) nor Catholics (Elizabeth) in the decades leading up to that date laid the foundations for the subsequent growth. Any more than killing the landlords plus all the bright people laid the foundations of China’s take off.
And it really has been a take off, as Mark Perry remarks:
That has to probably be the most significant reduction in poverty that has ever taken place in world history for such a large population in such a short period of time (32 years, or about one generation).
Indeed it is. As his source, Max Roser, points out:
Share of the Chinese population living in extreme poverty
1981: Almost all (88%)
2013: Almost no one (2%)
— Max Roser (@MaxCRoser) April 26, 2018
Again, this didn’t happen because Mao prepared the way. Unless you think that creating abject poverty is a good party trick – many communist parties seemingly thinking so.
Nor has this happened because the Chinese Communist Party has successfully planned the economy. For they haven’t. The growth is in precisely that part of the economy they haven’t planned, haven’t even tried to. There is still that planned part, in the State Owned Enterprises, but the actual Chinese economy is that part that isn’t in that sector, which has grown up like Topsy around it.
Well over a billion people lifted up out of that abject historical poverty. And all just by stopping being idiots implementing Maoist policies and getting out of the way of capitalist free marketry. You know, the stuff that people do for themselves?