Friday, 16 February 2007

The Smallest Sparrow

Today, Shanghai Daily ran on op-ed by Wang Yong, on the legacy of Deng Xiaoping. In the piece, Wang believes firmly that the influence of Deng’s leadership extent beyond his politics and economic policies – he changed the very philosophical consciousness of China on the notion of equality, justice and openness.

Many lessons can be learned from this piece pertaining to the current leadership of our country and the collective awareness of every Malaysians on what is needed to drive our nation to a better tomorrow.

I am reproducing some parts of the article here, but I highly recommend the whole article. Emphases are added.

“Deng's legacy: Equality, justice and openness

Wang Yong

Shanghai Daily, 2007-2-16

…All of China has Deng Xiaoping to thank for her prosperity and freedom.

Deng may not have been a perfect man, but he was a great man. Next Monday marks the 10th year since Deng passed away, and people remember him for different reasons.

Most people, of course, remember the great leader for his dedication to a socialist market economy and an open-door policy. But why did he prefer an open market economy? What made him believe that markets exist in both socialist and capitalist economies?

I think Deng's philosophy is more important than his economic policies. After all, policies can be fine-tuned over time, but what matters to a nation's prosperity is often the mindset of its leaders.

In his mind, the fundamental difference between socialism and capitalism is that the former advocates common prosperity, while the latter focuses largely on efficiency and accommodates extreme inequalities.

Deng's pragmatic and democratic spirit is best reflected in his thinking about common prosperity. To achieve that goal, he allowed for some people getting rich ahead of others. He did not sacrifice efficiency just to preserve the utopian idea of equality

But Deng never ever allowed for extreme inequalities, though some Chinese economists since Deng's death have preached that they are inevitable in an advancing economy.

In particular, Deng hated inequalities caused by official corruption. He once said that high-level officials must be strictly monitored for corruption…

Deng's most important legacy is to do away with extreme inequalities, especially those resulting from official corruption.

To achieve common prosperity is not just a purely economic matter. It requires leadership to heed even the voice of the smallest sparrow falling to the ground. It's a common prosperity of material and ideas together…”

Greater efficiency over a misguided preoccupation of equality, unconditional intolerance of corruption especially that of the highest level, and to heed even the voice of the smallest sparrow to achieve a common prosperity of wealth and values – I sincerely hope Malaysia is listening.

Have a good Chinese New Year.



Jeffrey, HL said...

Hi Elanor,

Hindsight is 20/20. China had the USSR as its communist sponsor ( and later rival) which crumbled later. Deng and his colleagues knew they would have suffered the same fate if not for economic changes/revolution (using their language).

China also knew had they not changed, (famine, communisim in China was actually Maoisms) China would have fallen far behind the rest of the world.

Also, China had a different set of things to deal with as compared to Malaysia. The tools were different as were the patients.

BTW Deng loved playing bridge just like Warren Buffet. A common denomination of money?


Elanor said...

Hi Jeffrey,

By no means I am advocating an exact Chinese development model for Malaysia. I am not even saying that whatever said in the article is true or not as I am in not an expert in China's economic history.

The Op-ed however highlighted some core and general messages that might have or might not have applied to China that in my view are what Malaysia should have more of:

1. Strive for efficiency (growth and development) instead of preoccupying national consciousness with the priority of equality of outcome (in this case, on a racial basis).

2. The promotion of elite super-rich should never be endorsed, esp. through abuse of power. Corruption is a disease.

3. On the other end, efficiency does not mean poverty need not be addressed. The state should emphasise on access and opportunity for the lower income people. As Bernanke recently said in his speech on inequality: "the challenge for policy is not to eliminate inequality per se but rather to spread economic opportunity as widely as possible."

Sorry to have not made myself clear - again, I am not saying Malaysia is China (before Deng), just that some of the messages in the piece resonated with my personal views of things.

Happy CNY


feliz said...

On Deng being a very remarkable leader,
Tong & Straussaman, 2003 cited :

" Deng believed that political reform would follow economic reform and that economic reform rested upon sound administration "

Indeed, what a capable leader Deng's amazing in just 23 years span ( from 1979 when he took over as Party Leader ) .. to have ushered China to successfully participate in global economy and then to become the 3rd largest world market ( in 2002, after US & Germany ). Its such an elephant task any ordinary leader would have found it impossible.

Jeffrey, HL said...

Deng was implicated in the Gang of Four with their cultural Revolution where millions of Chinese died.

I guess they are trying to rehabilitate his stature in history.

Sure, he did institute economic reforms, (the Chinese worked in a consensus at that time). Did the right thing then, maybe today he would have been charged with crimes against humanity?

And HAPPY CNY to you too.


Dek Mat said...

Jeffrey, Elanor wasn't commenting on Deng but what Malaysia can learn from Elanor's emphasis from the op-ed.