day in China and witness the regeneration of civil society.11 Comment- ing on China’s cultural transformation, Jianying Zha (1995: 202) writes,
The economic reforms have created new opportunities, new dreams, and to some extent, a new atmosphere and new mindsets. The old control system has weakened in many areas, especially in the spheres of economy and lifestyle. There is a growing sense of increased space for personal freedom.
China has a long way to go, but denying China most-favored- nation trading status or imposing sanctions on China with the hope of advancing human rights, as some in the U.S. Congress have threat- ened to do, would be a costly mistake. It would isolate China and play into the hands of hard liners who are critical of market liberalization, thereby undermining the prospects for further reform. The best way to advance human rights in China is not to close China off from the civilizing influence of trade, but to continue to open China to the outside world (Dorn 1996). That will be a slow process, no doubt, but the progress made since 1978 should not be underestimated.
In the coastal community of Wenzhou, for example, there are now more than 10,000 private enterprises, and life is vastly different and freer than before liberalization. According to Ma Lei (1998: 6):
The development of the private sector has fundamentally changed the way residents of Wenzhou look at the world. Traditionally, Chinese peasants lived by the motto, ‘‘facing the earth with the back toward the sky.’’ They were tied to their land. Where they were born was, almost always, where they would work and where they would die. Their options were limited in the extreme. In com- parison, a child born in Wenzhou now has an endless number of choices. He can decide to work the land or work for an industrial firm or even start his own business. Market forces have broadened the horizons of Wenzhou residents and educated them to the ways of the world. They have learned that in a market economy entrepre- neurs frequently fail. But they have also learned that risk taking, when combined with foresight and hard work, can produce signifi- cant rewards—a fact that many business owners in Wenzhou appreciate.
Most important, the people of Wenzhou realize that on the market all is harmonious—that one earns his living not through coercion or brute force but by serving others. That realization has produced a climate in which private industry and private organizations— including private schools—can thrive.
11For a discussion of China’s emerging civil society, see Pei (1997). Kathy Chen (1996) describes the model of development in China’s new urban centers, such as Shishi, as ‘‘xiao zhenfu, da shehui—small government, big society—which advocates less involvement by cash-strapped governments and more by society.’’