Wu Renbao died this week, who as the party boss of famed rich village Huaxi constructed a hybrid collectivist-capitalist economy glued together by what looks to me like feudalism. The WSJ interviewed sociologist Hou Xiaoshu on the community capitalism found in Huaxi and various other places in China:
How does it all work?
The village finances are kept in the village. In Huaxi’s case, there are three different forms of distribution. One is the “communist” part, which is distribution according to one’s need. So it provides the villager with basic subsistence fees. They also have what they call the “socialist” part of distribution, which means that you have to work in the village, at a factory or in a service area, in order to get paid. That’s a salary. The third part is called the “capitalist” part. That’s the dividend based on factory shares and village shares that you own. Not every villager has that.
So how do they live in China’s richest village?
I visited some of their houses. They live in these very luxurious, kind of European-style villas. The furniture is all furnished collectively. It is all the same, along with the TVs and stereo systems. What they ate…it was basically salted fish and stuff like that. It’s not as if they are having very luxurious food or eating lobsters every night. For the cars, they buy the cars collectively. They might have upgraded the cars but I didn’t see people driving Lamborghinis or BMWs
Ms Hou thinks the whole thing is broadly sustainable, though not as a model for the country as a whole. She notes in particular that the collectivist property structure has helped the village avoid the mass incident problem. And, clearly, there's no poverty and wealth differentials are considered both essential and essential to control. But it exists in Huaxi and various other places in China not as an expression of popular will but of the immense latitude local bosses like the late Mr Wu have over matters of economic development. I suppose the nearest British equivalents wouldbe places like Bournville or Port Sunlight, as they were originally conceived. Anyway, Here's the website of Nanjie, the most explicitly Maoist collectivist settlement. It's in Chinese, but you get the drift.