|Socialism with Chinese characteristics|
The theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics (Chinese: 中国特色社会主义; pinyin: Zhōngguó tèsè shèhuìzhǔyì) is a set of political theories and policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that are seen by their proponents as representing Marxism–Leninism adapted to Chinese circumstances and specific time periods, consisting of Deng Xiaoping Theory, Three Represents (Jiang Zemin), Scientific Outlook on Development (Hu Jintao), and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. In this view, Xi Jinping Thought is considered to represent Marxist–Leninist policies suited for China's present condition while Deng Xiaoping Theory was considered relevant for the period when it was formulated.
The term entered common usage during the era of Deng Xiaoping and was largely associated with Deng's overall program of adopting elements of market economics as a means to foster growth using foreign investment and to increase productivity (especially in the countryside where 80% of China's population lived) while the CCP retained both its formal commitment to achieve communism and its monopoly on political power. In the party's official narrative, socialism with Chinese characteristics is Marxism–Leninism adapted to Chinese conditions and a product of scientific socialism. The theory stipulated that China was in the primary stage of socialism due to its relatively low level of material wealth and needed to engage in economic growth before it pursued a more egalitarian form of socialism, which in turn would lead to a communist society described in Marxist orthodoxy.
Main article: Socialist market economy
What is socialism and what is Marxism? We were not quite clear about this in the past. Marxism attaches utmost importance to developing the productive forces. We have said that socialism is the primary stage of communism and that at the advanced stage the principle of from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs will be applied. This calls for highly developed productive forces and an overwhelming abundance of material wealth. Therefore, the fundamental task for the socialist stage is to develop the productive forces. The superiority of the socialist system is demonstrated, in the final analysis, by faster and greater development of those forces than under the capitalist system. As they develop, the people's material and cultural life will constantly improve. One of our shortcomings after the founding of the People's Republic was that we didn't pay enough attention to developing the productive forces. Socialism means eliminating poverty. Pauperism is not socialism, still less communism.
Deng Xiaoping, the architect of the Chinese economic reforms, did not believe that the market economy was synonymous with capitalism or that planning was synonymous with socialism. During his southern tour, he said that "planning and market forces are not the essential difference between socialism and capitalism. A planned economy is not the definition of socialism, because there is planning under capitalism; the market economy happens under socialism, too. Planning and market forces are both ways of controlling economic activity".
In the 1980s, it became evident to Chinese economists that the Marxist theory of the law of value—understood as the expression of the labor theory of value—could not serve as the basis of China's pricing system. They concluded that Marx never intended his theory of law of value to work "as an expression of 'concretized labor time'". Marx's notion of "prices of production" was meaningless to the Soviet-styled planned economies since price formations were according to Marx established by markets. Soviet planners had used the law of value as a basis to rationalize prices in the planned economy. According to Soviet sources, prices were "planned with an eye to the [...] basic requirements of the law of value". However, the primary fault with the Soviet interpretation was that they tried to calibrate prices without a competitive market since according to Marx competitive markets allowed for an equilibrium of profit rates which led to an increase in the prices of production. The rejection of the Soviet interpretation of the law of value led to the acceptance of the idea that China was still in the primary stage of socialism. The basic argument was that conditions envisaged by Marx for reaching the socialist stage of development did not yet exist in China.
Mao said that the imposition of "progressive relations of production" would revolutionize production. His successor's rejection of this view according to A. James Gregor has thwarted the ideological continuity of Maoism—officially Mao Zedong Thought. Classical Marxism had argued that a socialist revolution would only take place in advanced capitalist societies and its success would signal the transition from a capitalist commodity-based economy to a "product economy" in which goods would be distributed for people's need and not for profit. If because of a lack of a coherent explanation in the chance of failure this revolution did not occur, the revolutionaries would be forced to take over the responsibilities of the bourgeoisie. Chinese communists are thus looking for a new Marxist theory of development. Party theorist Luo Rongqu recognized that the founders of Marxism had never "formulated any systematic theory on the development of the non-Western world" and said that the CCP should "establish their own synthesized theoretical framework to study the problem of modern development". According to A. James Gregor, the implication of this stance is that "Chinese Marxism is currently in a state of profound theoretical discontinuity".
The Chinese government's understanding of private ownership is claimed to be rooted in classical Marxism. According to party theorists, since China adopted state ownership when it was a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country, it is claimed to be in the primary stage of socialism. Because of this, certain policies and system characteristics—such as commodity production for the market, the existence of a private sector and the reliance of the profit motive in enterprise management—were changed. These changes were allowed as long as they improved productivity and modernized the means of production, thus furthering the development of socialism.
The CCP still considers private ownership to be non-socialist. However, according to party theorists, the existence and growth of private ownership does not necessarily undermine socialism or promote capitalism in China. They argue that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels never proposed the immediate abolishment of private ownership. According to Engels' book Principles of Communism, the proletariat can only abolish private ownership when the necessary conditions have been met. In the phase before the abolishment of private ownership, Engels proposed progressive taxation, high inheritance taxes and compulsory bond purchases to restrict private property, while using the competitive powers of state-owned enterprises to expand the public sector. Marx and Engels proposed similar measures in The Communist Manifesto with regard to advanced countries, but since China was economically undeveloped, party theorists called for flexibility regarding the party's handling of private property. According to party theorist Liu Shuiyuan, the New Economic Policy program initiated by Soviet authorities in the aftermath of the war communism program is a good example of flexibility by socialist authorities.
Party theorist Li Xuai said that private ownership inevitably involved capitalist exploitation. However, Li regards private property and exploitation as necessary in the primary stage of socialism, claiming that capitalism in its primary stage uses remnants of the old society to build itself. Sun Liancheng and Lin Huiyong said that Marx and Engels—in their interpretation of The Communist Manifesto—criticized private ownership when it was owned solely by the bourgeoisie, but not individual ownership in which everyone owns the means of production, hence this cannot be exploited by others. Individual ownership is considered consistent with socialism, since Marx wrote that a post-capitalist society would entail the rebuilding of "associated social individual ownership".