lørdag 11. mars 2023

A Key Plank of China’s Planned Economy Is Making a Comeback. Why?

Last October, the central province of Hubei caused a minor panic when it announced the resurrection of a once obscure relic of China’s high socialist period. Known as “grassroots supply and marketing cooperatives,” they were once a fixture of China’s planned economy, facilitating the trade of grain, cloth, and other necessities nationwide from the 1950s to the 1990s. In an era when private enterprises were all but nonexistent, the cooperatives played a central role in the purchase and distribution of rural goods around the country.

The cooperatives faded away after the market reforms of the 1970s and ’80s, which forced them to compete with more nimble private enterprises, from supermarkets to digital platforms. So, many Chinese were taken off-guard when Hubei officials announced they had nearly doubled the total number of cooperatives in the province between 2014 and 2021. Old fears of an economic backslide resurfaced as nervous commentators wondered if the report signaled a return to a more planned economy.