A Chinese capitalist

Chinese state capitalism is permitting an ever-growing role to private companies which employ workers and compete for sales with state businesses and each other. There are now over two hundred thousand private entrepreneurs, as they are called, running such companies. A recent issue of Beijing Review (1989. no.9) carried an article by one such employer, Zhang Baoning, containing an account of how he gave up his job in a state-owned factory, became a self-employed printer and then was able to hire employees and set up his own factory and shops. But let Zhang speak for himself:


   Although I have succeeded in business in the past few years, I have never felt relaxed I’ve always wanted to develop, but have also always worried that the government would change its policy towards private enterprises and label me a “capitalist”. However, this fear was finally removed by the Party’s decision at its 13th National Congress in 1987 that China needs a multi-ownership economic structure with public ownership predominant at the primary stage of socialism. Therefore, the development of individual businesses and the private economy was to be encouraged . . .
At present. I have to pay 11 kinds of taxes and duties, such as business tax, income tax, and taxes for education, construction, real estate, land use as well as industrial and commercial consolidated duties.
To be frank. I am taxed too much . . .
As everyone knows, relations between a Chinese boss and his employees are delicate in China. For a while they get along quite well, and then suddenly a dispute erupts. Accustomed to the old way of “eating from the same big pot” regardless of how hard they worked, some of my employees lacked a sense of responsibility and tended to take things easy . . .
However, my employees and I treat each other as equals. I am always ready to discuss problems with any of them Sometimes we shout at each other, but mainly we remain on good terms
I offer my employees the same fringe benefits as workers enjoy in state-owned enterprises, such as food and housing subsidies, welfare insurance, various leaves and recreational amenities. In addition, they can come and go any time they like.
However, we don’t always see eye to eye, especially over income distribution They think I must have made big money by exploiting them. They never feel satisfied even though they are much better paid than their counterparts in state-owned factories. I am going to try out the joint-stock system with my workforce with dividends distributed according to the stock they hold.


Whatever the Chinese government may or may not call him, Zhang clearly is a capitalist, even if a small-scale one by Western standards. He has the same concerns as capitalists everywhere: taxes, government policies, and of course those fractious workers. Who now will say that China is a different kind of social system?


Paul Bennett