THE ALTERNATIVE READING OF CHINA’S “COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE”
To elaborate the cognitive deviation in Chinese academia and clarify our point of view, we take the example of comparative advantage, a concept commonly applied in Western economic theories, to explain problems in developing countries.
In the 1990s, we, the authors, deciphered the law of development in modern Chinese history and then set out to visit other Third World countries. The more we studied rural China as a domestic case of the Third World, the more we became concerned with the Third World problem outside China. We took every chance to compare China with other developing countries. We have visited guerrilla zones in Mexico and India, slums in Bangladesh and Brazil, international hot spots like Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Nepal, and Argentina after the financial crisis. After studying policies for over twenty years and visiting over forty countries through field trips, we have developed some thoughts that are alternative to the two oppositional mainstream thoughts introduced into China a century ago, which are socialism modified by the Russians and capitalism modified by the Americans.
Having pondered on the diverse pathways in which different ethnic groups evolved from primitive societies into civilizations and compared the evolutionary tracks of these pathways, we come to realize that pathways to civilizations for ancient human races are strikingly heterogeneous under different resources and environmental constraints. Different modes of production naturally lead to different social-political forms. If one day, scholars in east Asian universities are no longer willing to dogmatically fit Mayan, Incan, and Ancient Chinese civilizations that had lasted for several millennia into the “five stages of civilization” under the historical materialism in Marxism, it may suggest that we start to have our original understanding of the “Asiatic mode” that Marx emphasizes so much.
We need to know, no matter under which banners of “-isms,” the core idea of Western mainstream social sciences, which control modern power of discursive construction and decorate its “political correctness,” is still monism by virtue of Eurocentrism. Such Eurocentric social sciences are intrinsically implied with theological thoughts of monotheism and clericalism and still serving the global hegemony of unilateralism today.17
Located far from Europe, oriental civilizations in the Far East were marginalized and self-marginalized in modern colonial globalization. For the colonizers, the cost to completely colonize the Far East was too high and the indigenous populations there were far too huge to be totally displaced. In short, not only did the Chinese, the largest indigenous population in east Asia, survive the colonizers and their descendants’ massacres in the age of colonization, but they also, in the process of modern state building, successfully preserved their gregarious civilization that has been cultivated in millennia of traditional irrigation and agriculture. In fact, the gregarious culture was strengthened through modern state building in two aspects: the arduous war for national independence and the civil war and postwar struggles to defend the state sovereignty. Based on modern state building, a centralized system with oriental characteristics has been formed.
This system possesses two effective mechanisms to integrate social resources: first, making use of the core of historical heritage, namely, gregarious culture (facilitated by kinship systems and geographical bondage), to internalize serious negative externalities caused by market economy; second, making use of unpaid labor investment as substitute for capital or so-called family labor portfolio investment, which is intrinsic to peasant household economy inside the typical oriental village communities with varied and comprehensive economic sectors, such as animal husbandry, home construction, blacksmithing, carpentry, textiles, restaurants, peddlers, and processing. This helps to reduce the institutional cost and relieve development problems under the constraints of extreme capital scarcity.
The above-mentioned two mechanisms allowed China to enter the process of industrialization more easily and faster than did those Third World nations that were once fully colonized by the West and inherited the superstructure constructed by the Westerners even after independence. Anyone can simply find a paradox among developing countries—the more modernized political superstructure, the more institutional cost of the local governance, and the less industrialization (see Figure 5.3).
The so-called Chinese characteristics are results of a combination of a macro politico-economic system from historical heritage and intrinsic mechanisms of micro economic subjects. It was this quality that generated the comparative advantage that allowed China to accomplish the industrialization process and sustain long-term economic growth.
Nevertheless, from the individual standpoint of an alternative scholar, the authors are not willing to take positive roles in discussions of comparative advantage analysis that is overestimated only because of the so-called global competition since the rise of capitalism.18 Even though the Chinese have fulfilled self-capitalization under premises of state monetarism and financial monopoly and are taking part in mainstream competition of the twenty-first-century financial bubble created by global financial capital excess, we cannot escape from the end game of global financial capitalization and its coming collapse.