By the Piece – Economic Imagination in Mao’s China

Bolun Zhang, University of California, San Diego
Yimang Zhou, University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY)

What if a socialist state no longer had a coherent planned economy when the planned economy was deemed not socialist enough? Using archives from different levels of governments and factories, we closely examine the fluctuation of China’s wage policy and the actual practices on the workshop floor during Mao’s China. We found that the although Mao tried to distance himself away from the Soviet-style planned economy, his ideological agenda met the constraints of the planned economy’s infrastructure. Mao’s preferred form of wage was more often adopted in factories and enterprises that were closely integrated into the planned economy. As a consequence, Mao’s high socialism failed to become an alternative to the planned economy. On the contrary, the former was built upon the infrastructure of the later. This contradiction resulted in a mixed and hierarchical economy, parts of which ironically constituted the constituency of market-oriented reform in the post-Mao period.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 44. Performativity from a New Angle: Planned Economies and Their Data