is frozen in a structure that I describe as Leninist corporatism - and which is unstable, monumentally inefficient, dependent upon the expropriation of peasant savings on a grand scale, colossally unequal and ultimately unsustainable. It is Leninist in that the party still follows Lenin's dictum of being the vanguard, monopoly political driver and controller of the economy and society. And it is corporatist because the framework for all economic activity in China is one of central management and coordination from which no economic actor, however humble, can opt out.
In this environment genuine wholesale privatisation is impossible and liberalisation has well-defined limits, as President Hu Jintao himself brutally reminds us. The party, he says, 'takes a dominant role and coordinates all sectors. Party members and party organisations in government departments should be brought into full play so as to realise the party's leadership over state affairs'. It may be true that party organisations in the provinces (some with populations bigger than Britain's) and in the chief cities are jealous of their autonomous local political control, but all retain the discretionary power to do what they choose and override any challenge or complaint from any non-state actor - or, indeed, from state actors if they cross the will of the party. …
The cumulative result of all this is economic weakness, despite the eye-catching growth figures. Innovation is poor; half of China's patents come from foreign companies. Its growth depends on huge investment, representing an unsustainable 40% or more of GDP financed by peasant savings. But China now needs $5.4 of extra investment to produce an extra $1 of output, a proportion vastly higher than that in economies such as Britain or the US. But 20 years ago, China needed just $4 to deliver the same result. In other words, an already gravely inefficient economy has become even more inefficient. China's national accounts tell the same story. Hu Angang calculates that China is now back to the Mao years in term of the inefficiency with which it uses capital to generate growth.