Even Cuba finally gets it: Capitalism works
Cuba's regime recently acknowledged the failures of its centralized system – eyeing the growing list of communist countries shifting successfully toward free-market economies. As capitalism makes inroads, will political freedoms follow?
(Page 2 of 2)
Meanwhile Fidel, in a interview with an Atlantic Monthly reporter, let slip his view that the Cuban economic model has failed, hastily but not credibly claiming later that he had been misunderstood.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Looking to Russia, China, and Vietnam
What the brothers Castro learned from studying Russia, China, and Vietnam is that all have supplanted the old communist economic systems with consumerism, free markets, and privatization in varying degrees, while China and Vietnam have kept the state in firm control. Even North Korea, whose communist-run economy has left many of its citizens hungry and despairing, has rehabilitated a former prime minister who was fired three years ago for promoting market-oriented reforms. Pak Pong-ju re-surfaced from obscurity in August, with restored party status, stirring speculation that economic reforms and pragmatism are in store. This suggested policy shift comes at a time when Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, is engineering the political succession from himself to one of his sons, the 20-something Kim Jong-un.
Vietnam, while under strict Communist Party political control, has been steadily transforming from a centrally planned economy to a market-oriented one, with rapid growth stimulated by the traditional entrepreneurship of its people.
And despite the Communist Party’s tight hold on the reins of political power, China’s free-market economy has become the second largest in the world, exceeding even Japan’s. Its populace of industrious millions has built roads and high-speed railway networks and factories and whole manufacturing cities, turning out cars – and now electric cars – and electronics, machinery, and consumer goods for export and to meet the demands of its own increasingly affluent citizens.
All this freeing up of centralized economies that have proved inept is of course a step on the road to the inevitable: namely, the political freedoms that the respective regimes fear, and – ultimately – democracy. We must hope that such progress will come sooner, rather than later.
John Hughes, a former editor of the Monitor, writes a biweekly column.