Monday, September 25, 2006

Neo-Liberal State Capitalism In Asia

Reading the Right from the Left.

Free Trade Zones are the newest formation of state capitalism. Of course the contradiction here is that they pose as a form of free trade. When in fact the difference between them and state enterprizes is simply a matter of ownership. Name change really. Of course there are concrete structural differences to. But for all intents and purposes both are forms of state capitalism.

Whether they are called new economic zones; in Canada's Maritimes (dominated by call centres rather than the traditional use of these zones for manufacturing), Maquiadoras in the Caribean, Latin and South America, or Special Enterprize Zones zones in Asia and Aftica or economic reconstruction Zones in American inner cities, they remain a market distortion.

In India they are finding that the creation of these Special Enterprize Zones (SEZ) distort the market place. And since they are implemented as one of the tools of neo-liberalism to free the market of state control it is another contradiction of real existing captialism, rather than the text book capitalism of the Austrian or Chicago schools. Such text book capitalism showed its failure in the melt down of the Russian economy after its failed attempts to privatize with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

Attack on Indias economic zone plan

Since the passing of the Special Economic Zones Act in February, hundreds of businesses have rushed to take advantage of generous tax breaks, causing consternation in the finance ministry, the central bank and even the International Monetary Fund.

Special economic zones have been established in several countries, most notably in China, where they attracted the foreign investment and know-how that were central to the modernisation programme launched in 1978. However, critics claim SEZs attract investment only by offering distortionary incentives rather than by building underlying competitiveness and can delay real economy-wide reform

But economists believe the proposed SEZs are unlikely to help Indian manufacturers achieve scale efficiencies, since 133 of the 267 are less than 1 square kilometre in area. The average size is just 4.2 sq km.

“Mega-sized SEZs are the ideal solution,” said Chetan Ahya of Morgan Stanley. “We believe that in today’s highly competitive globalised world, the concept of small-sized SEZs is completely outdated.”

In a continuation of a long-running turf war with the commerce ministry, finance ministry officials said the scheme was providing unnecessary tax breaks to real estate development that would have taken place regardless of whether there was a SEZ scheme in place.

It remains the function of the state to create these zones, through cheap land, tax and regulation breaks, in particular labour laws, health and safety regulations, etc. In other words it is not about trade or even production but cheap manufacturing of goods, which can only be brought about by an attack on labours wages and benefits, which eat into surplus value (profit). When the neo-liberals call for de-regulation, ending red tape, etc. it is always the labour laws they focus on or laws that impact on workers. A couple examples from the Financial Times online should suffice to make the point.

UK in secret deal with Italy on China trade

Britain has just enough EU member states ready to support its exemption from the working time directive – seen as a vital part of Britain’s flexible labour market – but the coalition is flaky.But the proposed deal has hit a hitch: Italy has so far refused to give Britain the written assurances it wants on working hours. Communists and socialists in Mr Prodi’s coalition believe the UK’s working time “opt out” exploits workers and gives Britain an unfair advantage over countries where the 48-hour limit applies.

Another shift in ownership from an autarkic form of state capitalism to a monopoly state capitalism like India's (their so called Democratic State Capitalism) is currently occuring in China as part of its economic reforms. That is the creation of capitalist law, specifically bankruptcy law.

China state firms win stay of execution

The move, aimed at cushioning the social impact on employees of financially strained state companies, will slow the disposal of bad loans held by state banks and distressed debt companies and perhaps also reduce buyout opportunities for foreigners.

The bankrupcty law, passed in August after more than a decade of debate, is seen as crucial stage in China’s reforms as it enables creditors and investors to weed out underperforming companies by filing for bankruptcy to recover at least part of their funds.

However, the law, which is due to come into effect in June 2007, will not apply to 2,116 state-owned enterprises considered at financial risk by the Chinese authorities until at least the end of 2008.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Professor Li Shuguang, one of the authors of the new law, said that for those companies, employees’ health and wage claims would still take precedence over creditors’ claims, an arrangement that had so far slowed restructuring in some sectors.

Estimates of the claims by state employees range from hundreds to thousands of billions of renminbi, China’s currency.

In other words before the capitalist risks their investment, the public has alread invested more than the private capitalist ever would. Any change in the regulations of the state, do not minimize the state, they simply make it more open to the influence of monopoly capital for its own interest.

Private equity firms’ and foreign multinationals’ efforts to buy and restructure state companies would also suffer a setback.

Professor Li, who hosted a seminar for Wall Street analysts and investors at New York’s China Institute in September, said it was “the most important law in China’s development of a market economy”.

“It shows the central government’s commitment to introducing a market economy and to use the legal system to deal with the issues arising from a market economy. That would have been unthinkable 10 or even five years ago.”

Actually the most important development of the Chinese economy in its transition to monopoly corporate state capitalism from the autarkic variety was the opening up of the banking system to foreign investment and the development of a stock exchange.

The later was further enhanced by China's take over of Hong Kong one of the biggest market exchanges in the world. While the PR was that this was the end of British colonial rule over the island and the end of the age old battle between China and Britain which began during the opium wars, Hong Kong's value was its investment and banking window onto the monopoly capitalist world.

A major portion of the foreign investment in China consists of Chinese private capital
recycled through Hong Kong. The importance of Hong Kong for the growth of nonstate
enterprises in China lies in its efficient financial markets and legal system.
A Proposal to Privatize Chinese Enterprises and End Financial Repression
Cato Journal -Volume 26 Number 2, Spring/Summer 2006

This new bankruptcy law however is a major and significant change for enabling foreign captial to buy and operate state enterprizes, not create new ones with their own capital. In other words a Public Private Partnership (P3) the keystone of the neo-liberal economic reforms in this period of globalization.

Foreign Direct Investment, FDI in China is not being invested in new enterprize zones nor in the developing private sector. Rather it is focused on Partnerships in existing State Enterprizes or SOE's as they are called. This means that Western corporate monopolies financial and manufacturing, are partnering with existing state enterprizes awaiting the day they can buy them at fire sale prices.

The market reforms in China, as they have been applied elsewhere, once again shows the textbook liberaltarian idealists of the Von Mise institute and the neo-liberals at the CATO institute overlook the key determinant of the capitalist market that is the labour theory of value.

For them labour is reduced to an input value not unlike raw materials and technology. It is a form of variable capital investment. More importantly for this form of liberal economics, cost, price and consumption rule. Yet in reality, by their own admission labour value is the key to capital creation. Even in China during this transisition from the autarky of State Capitalism to a privatized state capitalism.

The key here is that the two components of liberalization are P3's in State industries and the transfer of the responsibility of social benefits to the State.
What makes private industry competitive is its ability to keep wages and benefits low even more than a cheap tax regime. The lattter is gravy.

China has allowed both private industry and its own state enterprizes to transfer their responsibility for wages and benefits to the state. Ironically the state has no infrastructure for the delivery of unemployment insurance, health care, welfare or social assistance, pensions etc. because these orginally had been the responsibility of the State enterprises.

With Dengs capitalist reformation the result was an uneven playing field. Free Trade Zones and private companies were allowed to exploit the vast labor market with low wages and no benefits. While the state enterprizes were expected to carry on with higher wages and benefits.

This produced the false impression that private enterprize and Free Trade Zone businesses are more productive than state owned enterprizes. They are not more productive, they are more profitable because they keep more of the surplus value of their labour due to lower wages and no benefits.

The sources of the Chinese economic miracle are well known. The
rise in rural incomes, with the adoption of the household responsibility
system (the shift away from collectivized farming) and the bonus
from the demographic transition with a fall in the dependency ratio
(the ratio of children and the old to workers), led to a marked rise in
savings rates.

A monumental unintended consequence of the decollectivization
of agriculture was the initiation of a boom in small-scale,
nonfarm rural enterprises, which began with Deng Xiaoping’s injunction
that it was virtuous to be rich. Local party officials took this to
heart, becoming directors and managers of township and village enterprises

With the rise in farm incomes, the pent-up demand for manufactured
goods and housing was met by the TVEs, which were run as
profit-making capitalist enterprises, even though they were collectively
owned. They provided the local authorities with “extrabudgetary
revenues” and gave officials legal opportunities to become

Unlike SOEs, the TVEs did not carry any welfare responsibilities

and were free to hire and fire the abundant local labor. With Deng’s
creation of the Special Economic Zones in China’s southern rim in
the early 1980s, the TVEs—and later individually owned private
firms—became the spearhead of a Dickensian capitalism.

These nonstate enterprises have made China into the processing
center for manufactured goods in the world. Success has occurred by
using cheap labor in the Chinese countryside along with foreign technology,
and relying on self-financing from household savings and
enterprise profits, along with foreign capital from the Chinese diaspora
and a myriad of multinationals, and engaging in fierce locational
competition promoted by local municipal authorities.
This labor intensive industrialization is now spreading inland along
the Yangtze (The Economist 2004: 13).

These spin-offs from the decollectivization of agriculture were
aided by the massive buildup of infrastructure by the state.

Labor intensive export industries were further helped by domestic price
reforms and by one of the largest unilateral liberalizations of foreign
trade in history.

The rapid export-led industrialization in the private sector is based
on processing imported components with domestic and foreign
capital and technology, and cheap domestic labor.

In the pre-reform period (before 1978) China’s development strategy
provided only limited urban employment opportunities. Consequently,
the government assigned several workers to the same job,
leading to a large labor redundancy in the SOEs. As these industrial
workers only received a low wage to cover current consumption, the
government also had to cover their pension, health, housing, and
other social expenditures from the SOE revenues, which were mandated
to be remitted to the government.

In the reform period, the SOEs have been responsible not merely for wages but also for these “social” benefits, which has imposed a “social burden” on them that is absent in their non-SOE cousins. This burden has grown in the reform
period as wages and benefits paid by the SOEs have grown by 16 percent per annum between 1978 and 1996, while their output grew by 7.6 percent per annum (see Lin 2004).

A Proposal to Privatize Chinese Enterprises and End Financial Repression
Cato Journal -Volume 26 Number 2, Spring/Summer 2006

The new bankruptcy law as well as reforms to State owned companies, the ability to layoff and fire workers, reductions in wages and benefits, and a shift of the responsibility for these to the State, are being implemented in China. The profitability of SOE's is reduced because of the surplus value absorbed by labour.
Again it is not investment, nor techology nor the bueracracy that is the source of profit it is labour. In the case of the newly privatized corporations if the costs were the same they would actually be making less profit for Chinese investors as the techology and marketing aspects of these companies are in the hands of their foreign investors.

The fact is that both the private sector and the state owned enterprizes are kept afloat by the Chinese people by low wages and the banks investing their savings in these companies.

The key to the historic development of capitalism was the privatization of agriculture. The end of the commons and the creation of the encroachment acts. Historic capitalism developed in England before its advent anywhere else in the world. Because of the privatization of agricultural production. This has occured in China with the Deng reforms, privatization of land is the modern equivalent of the English encroachment acts, thus creating a capitalist economy regardless of the politics of the State.

The state can call itself anything it wants, communist, socialist, democratic, republican, blah, blah. The political ideology of the state is is irrelevant to capitalism as a system. Capitalism created the state in its image, for the centralized accumulation of capital. Its political forms regardless of the propaganda of the left and right, are neccasary for the primitive accumulation of capital. If a state is authoritarian at first, as the state was prior to the advent of capitalism, then it will be liberalized as it creates its own bourgoise, the private owners of wealth. Which accounts for the development of the national state in the 19th century and its further development in the 20th.

As long as the state functions to provide private land and labour for those with inherited wealth, then the economic system is capitalism. In the case of China instead of inheriting land, labour and wealth from ones aristocratic and fuedal status and holdings, the inheritance came from ones position in the Communist Party of China.

China’s task of moving from the plan to the market was much easier than that of the other
socialist transition economies of Russia and Eastern Europe because of differences in their
initial conditions. Russia and Eastern Europe had about 90 percent of their labor force in
industrial SOEs, while most of China’s labor force (80 percent ) was in agriculture. For
Russia and Eastern Europe the only route to a market economy was a “big bang” to
dismantle SOEs, which resulted in short-term losses in output and employment. In contrast,
China, by replacing its rural communes with the household responsibility system, all
but in name restored privately run and owned family farms. This Chinese rural “big bang”
led to a rise in output and allowed China time for gradual reform of its inefficient stateowned
industrial enterprises.

A Proposal to Privatize Chinese Enterprises and End Financial Repression
Cato Journal
-Volume 26 Number 2, Spring/Summer 2006

China's advantage over India as stated at the begining of this article, is a matter of land. Both countries have labour capacity, manufacturing base, but it is land capacity that restricts India's ability to compete with China for manufacturing. Which is why India's techonolgical development has been centred, like our own in the Maritimes, around call centres, and the outsourcing of IT and software development, as well as phamaceuticals. Such tertiary businesses do not need large amounts of land, and with cheap labour can provide for high rates of profit.

India is the world's fastest wealth creator
So, where is the growth going to come from? The answer is infotech (IT), pharma and textiles. With more wealth, the investment pattern too is expected to change from predominantly cash deposits (which constitute over 60% of the AUM in India, China and Korea) to equities and more sophisticated instruments.

China is becoming like its neighbours , Korea and Japan, a market driven state capitalist economy. India is developing as primary resource based manufacturing economy; steel and developer of tertiary industries in its fordist economy.

The neo-liberal shaping of state capitalism in both China and India into market states relies soley on its devaluation of labour, not tax or land incetives.






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