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Italian Communist leaders have praised the Chinese for asking the right questions about why Soviet-style Marxism has failed economically, and a highly sympathetic account of the Chinese reforms appeared in East Germany's official newspaper Neues Deutschland. Svetozar Stojanovic, a Yugoslav social scientist now serving as a visiting scholar in the U.S., goes so far as to say that "in the eyes of many people, the Chinese have become the new vanguard in the Communist world." More surprising still are the views of Silviu Brucan, professor of sociology at the University of Bucharest in Rumania, a nation formally allied with Moscow in the Warsaw Pact. Writing in the American magazine World Policy Journal, Brucan opines that if China succeeds in building a modern economy "the Kremlin will then be confronted with a dramatic choice: to cling to the old ways and rely more and more on military power to exert its influence, or to take the bull by the horns and proceed with a radical change in both economic policy and global strategy. The issue of leadership in the Communist movement will depend on that choice."
Brucan, in common with Western analysts, also believes that successful Chinese modernization "is bound to acquire a tremendous following, particularly in the Third World." Many African and Asian leaders are committed to Marxism as the leading anticolonial ideology but suspicious of the Soviet version. Marxists in Africa talk about an "African socialism" that seems to embrace just about anything that can be accommodated with a one-party state. China's example seems likely to encourage them to believe that they can develop their economies and remain theoretically Marxist without following the U.S.S.R.
In Asia, however, there are two complicating factors. Some countries, notably Indonesia, fear that a strong, modern China may eventually try to reduce them to a kind of political vassalage. A much more immediate consideration: China is already becoming a powerful economic competitor for such industrializing Pacific Rim countries as Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and South Korea. Rising agricultural output has enabled China to become a net exporter of grain. Exports of other goods as diverse as toys and oil are increasing too. Low wages enable China to compete on price with any of the developing countries. And China can offer its trading partners in the industrialized world the lure of access to a potentially gigantic market.
Nonetheless, it is very much in the U.S. interest to do everything it can to encourage Deng's reforms by opening its own markets to China's exports and smoothing China's entrance into the free-world trading system. That will not be easy, in view of protectionist pressures in all industrialized nations, including the U.S. A glaring example of what not to do is the Jenkins bill, named for Georgia's Congressman Edgar L. Jenkins. The bill, which calls for restrictions on textile imports from China and other Asian nations, passed both houses of Congress, but Reagan killed it with a veto.
All calculations of China's potential role in the world, however, rest on two critical assumptions: that Deng's reforms will be continued and broadened, and that they will yield the promised payoff in a relatively short period. Unhappily, neither is at all certain.