Milton Friedman and China
October 25, 2020
by Rainer Zitelmann
Friedman visited China for a second time in 1988 at the same time as the libertarian Cato Institute organized a conference in Shanghai—a remarkable event in and of itself. Friedman gave a speech at the conference and did not hide the fact that the transition from a planned economy to a market economy would also involve considerable costs. But, he added: “It is a tribute to the current leaders of China that they are engaged in a serious effort to make the transition…”
Friedman’s optimistic stance was encouraged by a conversation he had with the then-general secretary of the Communist Party, Zhao Ziyang, whom he described as having a “real understanding of what it means to free the market.” In his autobiography, Friedman writes that his two-hour conversation with Zhao Ziyang made a very positive impression: “He displayed a sophisticated understanding of the economic situation and of how a market operated….
During our conversation, Zhang Weiying repeatedly stressed that “China’s economic rise is not because of the state, but in spite of the state.” Friedman would certainly have agreed. The brilliant economist was one of the first to accurately predict China’s future….
…In keeping with
Friedman’s teachings, the Chinese economic miracle confirms that greater
prosperity for the people can only be achieved by expanding private property
rights and promoting the free market.
Good article. Among the statements that Milton (RIP) made was his restatement of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" (people pursue their individual interests and led by an invisible hand to provide public interest which is not part of their original intention). Milton restated it as:
"People who intend only to serve public interest are led by an invisible hand to private interest which was no part of their original intention."
In this article, the author, Mr. Zitelmann, did not mention the local NGO or institute that facilitated the Cato conference in 1988. Very likely it's the Unirule Institute of Economics in Beijing, headed by Dr. Mao Yushi, a highly respected economist who's free market leaning. I have met Prof. Mao during the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia Conf in Oct. 2004 in HK, mainly sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF). The conf was supposed to be held in Shanghai but the China commie leaders became suspicious and did not grant a permit to Unirule to host an intl free market conf, so a sudden change in venue about 2-3 months before the event.
In that conf I have also met Jimmy Lai, the
most prominent free marketer businessman in HK, that CN commie govt has sent to
jail a few times recently via the HK govt. He's rich he could post bail for his
Pol. Ideology 75, Green New Deal and ecological socialism, February 10, 2019
Pol. Ideology 76, A Nation Of Free Men Or Free Things, July 06, 2019
Pol Ideology 77, On monopolies, M&A's and virtual government, Nov. 27, 2019.