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Fare Thee Well Private Economy?

As China celebrates the 40th anniversary of the launch of economic reforms in December 2018, concerns grow about the Chinese government’s commitment to further liberalise the economy. Despite their economic contributions over the last four decades, private firms in China find themselves embroiled in an ever-challenging situation, plagued by slower economic growth, tighter credit lines, tougher regulations, and stronger Party interference. These hardships have resulted in at least ten private firms being nationalised by state-owned enterprises in the first nine months of 2018. Some Chinese intellectuals went as far as to publicly assert that private companies should be eliminated from China’s economy considering that they had completed their job of helping China prosper. Amid these arguments, President Xi Jinping reiterated the government’s support for private firms in October. His assurance was, however, quickly called into question. In early November, authorities in Beijing first banned the executive director of Unirule, a liberal think tank, from travelling to the United States to attend a symposium on China’s economic reforms, and then revoked the business licence of Unirule, forcing it to suspend all its activities. Such occurrences show how the current Chinese leadership has become increasingly intolerant of dissenting views, not only in the political realm, but also on economic matters. This can be seen in the latest attempt at rewriting Chinese history, as evidenced by an exhibition titled ‘The Great Revolution’ that opened at the National Museum in Beijing on 13 November to celebrate the anniversary of economic reforms. While Xi Jinping enjoys numerous displays about his achievements, Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s economic reforms, is much less visible at the exhibition, and other key actors of the past decades, such as Zhu Rongji, China’s former reformist premier, are nowhere to be seen. NLiu

(Sources: Economic Information Daily; Financial Times; The New York Times; Radio Free Asia; South China Morning Post; Wall Street Journal; Xinhua)

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