BY FAY CHUNG
After the Second World War, the United States forced Japan and other East Asian countries to adopt its favoured political and economic policies. Many important social welfare and investment policies were dictated by America.
This included land reform to provide land to actual farmers rather than to landlords; social welfare such as education, health and a clean water supply; investment into agriculture and industry. The United States used its military power to enforce these social and economic systems on Japan out of fear that the Japanese would instead favour the policies of their neighbour, Communist China, if their living standards and economy did not improve. It is appropriate that Zimbabwe should adopt these progressive policies which we can honestly say are neither capitalist nor socialist, but are based on the economic welfare and progress of the nation.
China itself had a per capita income of about US$300 in 1979, compared to Rhodesia’s US$1000. China’s per capita income today is US$10 568 (figure from IMF, 2019), whilst Zimbabwe’s remains stagnant, estimated at between US$950 or PPP US$1464 in 2020 (Per Capita GDP US$950 in 2020, www.tradingeconomics.com; and PPP US$ 1464, 2019, www.worldbank.com).
China decided to follow the lead of Japan and Singapore which do not claim to be socialist countries, but which have many socialist features of State and governance. This meant decentralising decision-making to the grassroots enterprise level, and favouring market forces in pricing. Following market forces meant that subsidies are only targeted at a small proportion of the population.
In Zimbabwe it would be quite possible and affordable to establish subsidies for specific needy groups, but subsidising the whole population is not affordable. Targeted subsidies can achieve the same economic relief as providing subsidies for all. So far Zimbabwe has subsidised fuel prices and food prices for all. It is obviously not able to continue with such generosity, which seriously hampers economic growth. For example, subsidising over 65s and mothers of under five children would be highly popular and effective, and would be more effective than the present subsidy mainly for Zanu PF followers.
The Chinese State played a key role in buying technologies from outside, particularly from Germany, where many engineering companies were closing down, and transferring such factories directly to China. The State’s role was crucial in terms of enabling China’s backward industries to learn from Germany’s advanced industries.
China’s technologies in 1979 were of a lower level than those of Rhodesia, but China soon managed to surpass the old Rhodesian levels. Japan was also very generous in providing intermediate and advanced technologies to China. US President Jimmy Carter promised Deng Xiaoping 10 000 university scholarships in engineering and fulfilled this promise. Note that in the initial decades of China’s renewal of its industrial technologies, it depended on its diaspora for technologies, management systems and foreign exchange, but the State itself funded infrastructure.
Thus China was able to combine its own primitive technologies together with high level technologies from the West, whilst combining foreign exchange from its diaspora with the limited foreign exchange which the State could afford. The diaspora was encouraged to bring home the export technologies and markets they were using, whilst the State offered attractive and low cost factories with suitable infrastructure, such as electricity, water, roads and railways.
Zimbabwe cannot and should not imitate either the Western or the Chinese ideologies and strategies, but certainly can utilise what is useful from either systems. Zimbabwe has different traditions, culture, values and experience, as well as different challenges, and must find ways in which to address these challenges in its own ways.
China’s reform began initially with agricultural reform, modernising and boosting agricultural productivity after succeeding in providing land to the tillers, mainly the peasantry. This reform lasted for three decades, and provided the capital for industrialisation.
Land ownership changed gradually, beginning with voluntary cooperatives, then jointly-owned communes, and then a return to traditionally owner family farms. In other words, adjustments were made over the last 50 years. Larger area communes were necessary to enable farms to be ploughed utilising tractors which was difficult when the country was full of very small individually-owned farms, but today China has returned to individually-owned farms.
China’s development did not come from outside investment initially, but from its agricultural productivity. Founding its economic growth on real agricultural productivity enabled China to overcome the hyperinflation suffered under the previous KMT government.
Chung was a secondary school teacher in the townships; lecturer in polytechnics and university; teacher trainer in the liberation struggle; civil servant and an UN civil servant. These weekly New Horizon articles are co-ordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in Zimbabwe. —.email@example.com or mobile: +263 772 382 852.