Smashing the Iron Rice Bowl

Courtesy Reuters


The Asian financial crisis has captured headlines and the attention of millions of investors. In Indonesia, Thailand, and South Korea, the crisis' source lies in the cozy relationship between government offices, banks, and private enterprises. China's financial sector blurs the same lines as its floundering neighbors, but two decades of economic reform, rapid growth, accumulating hard currency reserves, and sound macroeconomic performance have led the Chinese leadership to believe they can avoid disaster through more reform. They aim to achieve a "socialist market economy," and its success rests on the reform of state enterprises. But Beijing's half-measures and Band-Aid solutions reveal its inability to resolve the contradictions that arise when socialism is merged with capitalism.

Symbols and slogans, always important in Chinese society, continue to provide a litany of the communist party's ideological objectives and accomplishments. Rice has been China's staple food for thousands of years, and the

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