Features of Capitalism and the Restructuring of Ruling Classes in China

  • Torstein Hjellum Asian Research Centre


The questions that will be discussed in this paper are the following: Is it possible to identify capitalist classes, or a Chinese bourgeoisie (as a faceted mixture of diverse capitalist groups or classes) at the end of the 1990s? Are capitalist classes becoming an integral part of a "ruling class' or a collective body of 'ruling classes'? Is 'bureaucratic capitalism' a proper term of Chinese capitalism? This is an ambitious task: It involves complex and contested concepts, that of 'class', 'capitalist class' and 'ruling class' and it tries to relate them to a very complicated historical process actually taking place in the largest country in the world. However, the questions involved are, or should be, of the greatest interest to the Chinese people and social scientists. In the paper I try to summarize some literature on the subject and to interpret some empirical findings from a class-theoretical perspective in the hope of stimulating further studies and debates. The author argues that the actual modernization of the Chinese economy is producing new economic elites which will constitute a Chinese 'bourgeoisie' among which state and party cadres are in the lead. The specific state-led capitalism should be properly labelled 'bureaucratic capitalism'.