What Are You Reading…On Capitalism

This past week I attended the Henan Provincial Banquet in honor of the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Entrepreneurs, politicians, teachers, doctors, and other well-known figures from throughout the province came to the dinner. I joined the party of foreign teachers from SIAS University, and was seated next to a doctor of oncology who teaches at Zhengzhou University.

While the food was tasty, and the service impeccable, what interested me most was the pageantry of the affair, as there was one table set aside from all the others where the VIPs sat. Each person at this table had their name read out at the beginning, and was served food the other tables did not receive. Yet even as they privileged a select few, there were also rituals designed to encourage comradery, such as standing for the Chinese national anthem, and having the opportunity to meet and take pictures with the VIPs.

The whole event made me reflect on how clearly present capitalist relationships are even in the ostensibly communist country of China (even at a Party-sponsored event). This is, of course, hardly a new opinion, as many have commented on the new economic direction China has taken over the last few decades. But what struck me was how many of the VIPs at the table were not Party members (or at least were not introduced as such), but businesspeople. While there were other professions represented, business seemed to have the biggest contingent. Similarly, the video that played during the meal highlighted the economics of the Henan province, not its cultural and social virtues. What this means for the future of China I don’t know. But the following papers may provide some clues.

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