We wish a very happy Year of the Dog to all our Chinese friends and followers, both in mainland China and across the world. It is, of course, an appropriate animal after China has disproved the adage that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” China is a very old country, yet over the past forty years it has shown a commendable readiness to experiment with, and to adapt to, new ideas.
Communism under Mao Zedong failed to deliver the goods. Prosperity was all around them, yet the Chinese people had to struggle with barely adequate food, poor housing, rationed clothing and woeful services. The system of central planning and collective farms had let China fall far behind not only the Western nations, but also Asian states like Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
After Mao and his Gang of Four had gone, the Party leaders decided in 1978 to embark on a programme of systematic reform, cutting back on central planning and bringing in market reforms. Peasants were allowed to work their own land for profit and to sell surpluses in town markets. Communist-controlled enterprises saw authority devolve down to managers, given the right to hire and fire. People were allowed to move to where there was work. Free enterprise businesses were permitted, and sprang up in their thousands.
China’s Paramount Leader, Deng Xiaoping, opened up China to large-scale foreign investment, and accelerated a massive programme of foreign trade. The Communist Party retained a monopoly of power, as Communist governments do, but capitalism was allowed to flourish in China. Unlike Communists who slavishly follow the ideology, Deng opened it up to empiricism, and did what worked. We might be entering the Year of the Dog, but it was Deng who told us about cats. We don’t ask if it is black or white; we ask if it catches mice. Deng’s free enterprise cat caught the mice.
China prospered as never before, rapidly becoming a net exporter of food instead of an importer, and achieved 3 decades with economic growth ranging between 7% and 10%. China still has too much state in its economy by our standards, and still closes off some freedoms taken for granted in the West. But China has stepped onto the world stage as its second major economy, and most Chinese are happy and proud that it is prosperous and respected.
We hope the Year of the Dog will be one of prosperity and achievement for our Chinese friends. Every dog has its day, and long may yours continue.