Monday, February 23, 2015

Are the Ruling Elites in China Now More Pro-Market than the Ruling Elites in the USA?

By Robert Higgs

The current issue of the Cato Policy Report (January/February 2015) contains a short article about a book by Zhang Weiying called The Logic of the Market: An Insider’s View of Chinese Economic Reform, which was originally published in Chinese (and said to be a best-seller in China in that form) and was recently translated into English. The author is the director of Peking University’s Center for Market and Network Economy and is described as a leader among pro-market economists in China, a description that accords well with the quotations given from his writings. In the article, a quotation from a recent Wall Street Journal interview with him states: “He [Zhang] says that when he recently wrote an article praising the late Austrian economist Murray Rothbard, the Communist Party secretary of Shanghai—a fairly high-level apparatchik—told him he liked it.”
I ask you: Has anyone high in the U.S. government ever praised any writing that lauds Rothbard’s views, not to mention Rothbard’s writings themselves? To me it is inconceivable that any such figure would do so. Moreover, is anyone in U.S. academia with a position comparable to Zhang’s position in Chinese academia likely to praise Rothbard’s views? To me it is inconceivable that any such figure would do so.
Once upon a time, the Chinese were the enemies of private property rights and free markets, and the Americans were the enemies of the Chinese and purported to cherish the institutions that the Chinese hated. Today no such clear-cut difference exists. If anything, today’s Chinese in high places seem to be more inclined to say kind words about private property rights and the free market than are comparably placed Americans. And when such Americans do speak favorably of these institutions, they do not really mean what they say, as their actions consistently attest.

The above originally appeared at the Mises Institute.


  1. RW-

    Early in my introduction to Rothbardian economics I had a conversation with a friend (who spent a year teaching in China) regarding crude libertarian thoughts. He helped me understand the Confucian mindset, the hyper local capitalism that has existed in China for millennia, and how the people mistrust but obey the government.

    This was in the late 90s, prior to Hong Kong reunion.

    Since then I've often thought that when the Chinese do decide to shed their chains, it will be sudden, peaceful, and highly disruptive. This just reinforces that belief.

  2. I would recommend the book "Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China" by Leslie T. Chang, a Chinese-American woman.

    China is where America was in the early 20th century. Industrializing from an agrarian economy.

    Bottom line, we all want to live. So, we are all for the Free Market. Because that is what gives us the food to eat and the place to stay.

    All government does is try to deny this basic principle.

    1. Great post, but your last 4 sentences are EPIC!

  3. From a friend of mine who I forwarded this article too: "The Chinese ruling class represent an example of Hoppe's theory of Monarchical ownership in action".

  4. I sat next to a nice young Chinese exchange student (econ!!) on a coast to coast last year. Turns out she's studying at Pace! She didn't know Joe Salerno, but I gave her his name and said you GOTTA talk to this man!!
    I sure hope she did.

    1. Same here. Everyone could DESPERATELY use it! Salerno is the man!