In light of the Cuba debate an interesting comment by
China’s earlier socialist period arguably provided a good launching pad for market reform. That foundation provided wide access to education and health care; highly egalitarian land redistribution that created a rural safety net and thus eased the process of market reform, with all its wrenching disruptions and dislocations; increased female labor participation and education that enhanced women’s contribution to economic growth; and a system of regional economic decentralization (that linked the career paths of Communist Party officials to local area performance). County governments were in charge of production enterprises long before Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms set in, and, even more significantly, the earlier commune system’s production brigades evolved into the highly successful township and village enterprises that led the later phenomenal rise of rural industrialization. In all these respects China’s legacy from the earlier period has been much more distinctive than that in India. When I grew up in India, I used to hear leftists say that the Chinese were better socialists than us. Now I am used to hearing that the Chinese are better capitalists than us. I tell people, only half-flippantly, that the Chinese are better capitalists now because they were better socialists then!
The non-economic evaluation of state socialism’s legacy might be more benign also. The stabilization of democracy is much of post-Communist Europe suggests that late Communism did leave a legacy of an educated population and rationalised state apparatus.