[Viewpoint]New China law a hot propertyLots of major events took place this year, but which of them most clearly shows China’s true changes?
Some would point to the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party, in which Hu Jintao, China’s head of state, laid the foundation for power. In addition, Xi Jinpung, Shanghai’s Communist Party leader, and Li Keqiang, party secretary of Liaoning Province, were elected members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo Bureau, making them candidates to be the leaders of the next generation.
Business people might also chime in, complaining that the changes in economic policy, including labor and the environment, make doing business in China more difficult.
Investors who made big profits from the stock market are likely to want to talk about the Chinese stock market, which has risen more than 100 percent this year again after rising last year, too.
Although significant, these superficial phenomena cannot explain the deep changes in China. It would be empty to talk about such changes without mentioning the property laws that were approved in March and took effect last month.
The property law has had a great impact, reflecting the social changes caused by the reform and the opening up of China which began three decades ago. The new laws may also bring about future social revolution.
Why is that? The property law contains an article that private property will be protected in every case as common property, an unconventional stipulation in China, which still officially champions socialism.
China’s National People’s Congress this year argued heavily about the property law. Starting in 1993, a year after China declared that it had a “socialist market economy” and said there was a need for a property law, fierce discussions about the law took place for 14 years before it finally happened.
Although neo-leftists strongly protested, saying, “The law will transform Chinese society into a capitalist one,” they could not stop the general trend. China has already become a society in which goods are feverishly produced for profit, prices are determined according to “the invisible hand” and labor is commonly bought and sold.
Therefore, the property law, which will ensure a private property system ― the essence of capitalism ― is finally now in place.
The event symbolizes China’s shift to capitalism.
If this is the case, how will the law on property accelerate change?
The most remarkable thing is the proliferation of the propertied class, which has accumulated wealth and will make itself heard.
The property law subdued the anxieties of both home buyers and landowners. Now, the propertied class will try to further solidify its interests. In Beijing and other areas, apartment owners have begun to fight real estate management companies that infringed on their property rights in the past. There has been a big increase in similar types of disputes.
Aware of their rights, the propertied class will raise their voices politically, too. They will seek a political force that can better protect their private property while rejecting any power that goes against their wishes.
Like Yang Huiyan, 25, the heiress to the Chinese real estate developer Country Garden and the richest person in China, many more real estate conglomerates who cornered and hoarded land will appear.
This new land-owning class that emerged as real estate developers will try to occupy even more land now that they have protection from the law. Corrupt bureaucrats who collude with them will prevail and the sense of alienation of the have-nots may deepen.
Mao Zedong (1893-1976) is the politician who probably would have been the most shocked about the new law. More than anyone else, he strove to drive the propertied class out of China, including capitalists and landowners. Although he won the fight, Mao warned at the end of his life, “They will become active again someday.”
His prediction was dismissed as the excessive worry of a dying revolutionist.
But Mao, more than anyone else, may have had insight into the fact that the people’s desire to possess their own property could not be taken away, even if their class could be driven out for a time through land reform and the Great Cultural Revolution.
The advent of the property law eventually proved he had the ability to forecast. However, China has moved too far to the right to go back to the times of Mao.
*The writer is the Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Zhang Se-jeong