Keep Your Hands Off/ Private Property

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China has passed its first post-revolution law to protect private property, and the backstory on how is… entertaining.

The leadership did not so much overcome opposition to the property law as forbid it. Unlike in 2005, when leaders invited broad discussion about property rights, the latest drafts of the law were not widely circulated. Several left-leaning scholars, who favor preserving some elements of China's eroded socialist system, said they had come under pressure from their universities to stay silent.

When one financial magazine, Caijing, defied the Propaganda Department's ban on reporting on the matter and published a cover story last week, it was ordered to halt distribution and reprint the issue without the offending article, people associated with the magazine said.

While the law's final wording — and the nature of any compromises necessary to build a consensus to pass it — remain unclear, many mainstream scholars and business people have welcomed it.

Brian Doherty reported on this possibility last week.

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  1. Last week’s issue of the Economist included an editorial observing that this law will sanctify all sorts of unsavory takings from the past several years. So if you’re a peasant trying to get your land back, you’ll get a lecture on the new sanctity of private property rights in China.

    Gee, I wonder what effect this will have on general public attitudes in rural China…

  2. China does seem to be going through a different kind of revolution at the moment. Where this will lead and what it will mean for the, as an example, Tienanmen Square Protesters who are still in jail is yet to be determined. Suffice it to say that the PRC is now CINO (Communist in Name Only.) Well, just thought I would send this off using my Lenovo Laptop and then maybe I will download some Mises.org podcasts onto my MADE IN CHINA MP3 player.

  3. Gee, I wonder what effect this will have on general public attitudes in rural China…

    Considering the recent riots over bus fare, probably not a good effect.

  4. China is an interesting example of a big authoritarian system having enormous success in the market. Gee, it’s a lot like a corporation.

  5. “Gee, it’s a lot like a corporation.”

    Edward, a corporation cannot legally throw you in a cage at the point of a gun for not purchasing their products or services. A nation-state can.

  6. Sounds like another Rove/Cheney conspiracy with evil corporations infiltrating China’s universities.

    Expect a full New York Times/Congressional investigation into the Halliberton links to Chinese academia. As soon as they stop the success of the surge in Iraq, of course.

  7. Judas Priest.

    I win the post title/rock reference contest this time!

  8. Sounds to me like China’s saying, “Instead of taking your property and doing with it as we will, we’ll let you be the owner and make you do what we want with it.”

    I still think that this revolution* is designed mainly to keep local bureaucrats from taking property the national bureaucrats covet.

    *If the government leads it, can it really be a “revolution?”

  9. So, how will this compare to the enclosure movement in England/UK from the middle ages to the 19th century?

  10. “Last week’s issue of the Economist included an editorial observing that this law will sanctify all sorts of unsavory takings from the past several years. So if you’re a peasant trying to get your land back, you’ll get a lecture on the new sanctity of private property rights in China.”

    Gotta start somewhere. Retroactivity always poses problems.

  11. Judas Priest.

    I win the post title/rock reference contest this time!

    Not so fast.

    Slayed: Keep your hands off my power supply

  12. Gotta start somewhere. Retroactivity always poses problems.

    Especially when it’s conveniently timed. Or inconveniently timed, depending on whether you’re the peasant or the friend of the local party boss.

  13. I win the post title/rock reference contest this time!

    Gah! Dan beat me to it!

  14. You know, I can’t resist grinning at leftist voices being silenced by government. I mean, to imagine ‘we respect property now, so, you shut up’ really entertains me. Of course, I ultimately believe that any and all expression should be allowed–and I, too, read the article in The Economist about how this property law is more about protecting privilege than anything else–but, nonetheless, if China could embrace liberty, what a valuable ally (especially against those ‘sky is falling, comrade’ Europeans)…

  15. Gotta start somewhere. Retroactivity always poses problems.

    So does further alienating a huge part of your population, especially when it’s already pissed off by government policies. To add to MP’s link:

    unrest in rural China

    The bias the CCP has for the “new” China of semi-capitalists versus what (I believe) it views as it’s embarrassing rural red-headed stepchild is palpable. The Three Gorges Dam is a great example.

  16. Chris,

    That was kind of disturbing.

  17. Damn! Dan T. beat me.

    “Whoaaa-ohh!”

  18. de stijl – agreed. Anybody reading the Economist is quite disturbing.

  19. De Stijl,

    I absolutely agree: it IS disturbing. While many Western politicians advocate central planning in regards to the economy, environment–personal choice–the Chinese are advocating the same to ESTABLISH CAPITALISM. I mean, what does it say about us when the Chinese (or, to provide a more admirable example, the Estonians) are striving towards liberalization more than we are? Now, I am NOT defending 99.9% of the policies of the Chinese government; all that I am saying is that if the Chinese are moving towards ‘getting it’ in regards to private property, why aren’t we?

  20. Anybody reading the Economist is quite disturbing.

    Um, excuse me?

  21. Chris,

    I was referring to the “I can’t resist grinning at leftist voices being silenced by government. I mean, to imagine ‘we respect property now, so, you shut up’ really entertains me.” passage.

    Be careful of this level of schadenfreude. It can lead to some ugly shit.

  22. De Stijl,

    Again, I absolutely agree with you, although I don’t consider my momentary revelry schadenfreude: more gleeful astonishment at the irony of it all. Another example might be Gerhard Schroeder’s recommendation to cease the ban on the sale of European weaponry to China: a social-democratic pacifist willing to arm a nationalist, communist regime that threatens its people and neighbors (i.e., Taiwan) daily. I mean, balls!

  23. They do seem to be making the easy transition from socialist totalitarianism to quasi-capitalist authoritarianism. I really wonder if they’re going to be able to veer onto the Korea road of more-or-less democratization and liberalization, or if they’re just going to descend into some mutant middle way between Mussolini’s Italy and Tito’s Yugoslavia with perhaps just a bit of Hirohito’s Japan thrown in for good measure.

  24. While China is going capitalistic some terrorists in India want India to go Maoist http://newstandardnews.net/content/ion/index.cfm/bulletin/6610

    And of course there are always academics on US and other Western college campuses who get paid to spout anticapitalism.

  25. thoreau,

    I suspect the current Chinese legislation will duplicate the English “land reform” passed under the Restoration Parliament. The “reform,” ostensibly, was intended to abolish most forms of feudal tenure. The problem was that there were two contrary ways of doing it–upward and downward. One way would have been to regularize copyhold tenure and other forms of traditional peasant tenure rights, and transform the peasantry en masse into freeholders, as was later done in France. The other was to regularize the landowning classes’ property rights under feudal legal theory as freeholds, and turn the peasants working the land into tenants at will. Guess which path was followed? Parliament chose to uphold what Hodgskin called “artificial” against “natural” rights of property; it upheld the rights of a political rentier class against those who had actually mixed their labor with the land.

    In recent years, China has violated villagers’ common rights to farm land in favor of corporate interests that wanted to use the land–a sort of cross between Kelo and the Enclosures. You can bet your bottom dollar the “property rights” the Chinese state protects will not be those of the peasants.

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