At its Sinosphere blog, the New York Times has a report from Didi Kirsten Tatlow on the following the classical liberal economist Friedrich Hayek has among Chinese scholars. She speaks to Gao Quanxi, a law professor at Beijing's Beihang Univeristy described as a Chinese Hayekian, and reports about an unregistered, informal group of scholars in Beijing that call themselves the Hayek Association. Gao, the law professor, argues that communism and socialism have failed in China, leaving it with "statism," something Hayek "really opposed."
Hayek's ideas about the self-organizing economies would seem to be particularly beneficial in China, given the complexity of governing a nation of more than a billion people and the kind of economies it produces. As China's Communist Party approaches the age at which most single-party regimes crumble, will free market theories be able to take root? From the Times:
According to one participant [at a Hayek Association talk], who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of political sensitivities, a district-level party secretary in a city he declined to name recently distributed copies of Hayek's classic, "The Road to Serfdom," to his colleagues to study. The book warns that with state economic control comes tyranny; the foundations of liberty are a free economy and individualism.
What is the government's attitude to all this?
"They maintain an attitude of silence. But they may use parts of it on a practical level," said Mr. Gao. He cited the 1990s, when the government privatized many state-owned companies. But that agenda has run out of steam, he said, and must be reprised, though he was skeptical it would happen soon. Political change to enhance the personal liberties Hayek urged was especially unlikely, he said. "Perhaps in five or 10 years."
Many economists, scholars and politicians believe that China is facing deep challenges to its economic model, that it needs to shift from a fixed investment-fueled economy, where the hand of the state is heavy, to one with more private enterprise and market forces.
For the Hayekians, it's all pretty obvious. What China needs is more of the medicine Hayek prescribed. "China is at a point where it needs to listen to Hayek," said Mr. Gao.
h/t Dave Kreuger