Online Discussion of ISSS paper 2002-040, "Stability and Change in China: Movement towards a Free Market Economy", Gary METCALF and Fengquan AN

Below is an archive of the comments contributed by members of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), prior to discussion within the Special Integration Group (SIG) on Systems Applications in Business and Industry (SABI). For more information on the discussion which occurred in person during the meeting, please contact someone who attended the session!

(7/7/02 2:34:16 pm)
METCALF and AN 2002-040 Stability and Change in China: Movem



China currently faces many "crises of transition" as it seeks to more directly join the world economic systems. While there is a desire to bring economic prosperity to China, there seems to be an equally strong compulsion not to destabilize current systems which provide security.

In order for China to create and maintain a free market economy, it must allow adequate legal and political systems to evolve. A free market system which can attract the necessary investment of capital cannot survive without them. China's entry into the World Trade Organization will only increase the pressure for changes, even as it offers opportunities for growth.

The framework to be used in this paper for analyzing the current situation within China, and in its relation to other countries, is based on research by Dr. Clare W. Graves. Dr. Graves' work was later developed into a system of understanding both organizations and cultures, known as Spiral Dynamics (Beck & Cowan, 1996), which might best be understood as a system of "deep attractors" and describes a hierarchy that encompasses existing worldviews. Using this framework, many of the fundamental challenges facing China will be explained from a system perspective.

Examples demonstrating how change has, and might further, affect specific organizations are provided, including those from SINOPEC Corporation, CNOOC limited and PetroChina Company Limited.

(7/30/02 5:44:39 pm)
METCALF and AN 2002-040 Stability and Change in China: M

Key insights I got from the paper:
I see two key ideas, which would probably take another whole paper (or book!) to completely integrate!

The first idea is that entry into the WTO is driving social and political change within China at a rate faster than existing societal structures are capable of adapting.

The second idea is the application of the model of Value Memes, whereby the China's transformation can be depicted as a movement from the Blue vMeme (hierarchy and obedience) to the Orange vMeme (mutability and empowerment of individuals).

How might I apply these concepts:
The vMeme approach suggests some categorizations of developmental systems of thinking.

Additional ideas I might suggest to the author.
* Objectivist versus a subjectivist/objectivist framework?
I'm not very familar with the vMeme model, but it appears to me to be oriented more as a descriptive approach with an objectivist slant. It may be possible to get a complementary, but deeper view on the social change through Pierre Bourdieu's concepts of social reproduction of practice, habitus, field and capital. It's difficult to read Bourdieu, but easy entry points may include Moishe Postone, Edward LiPuma, and Craig Calhoun, "Introduction: Bourdieu and Social Theory", in Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives, Craig Calhoun, Edward LiPuma and Moishe Postone (editors), Polity Press, 1993, pp. 1-13, and Pierre Bourdieu and Loic J. D. Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology,, University of Chicago Press, 1992

* Thinking versus practice.
I'm not sure that I like (what I think is) a hierarchical depiction of development in the vMeme model. To me, it feels like a "the victor gets to rewrite history" self-reinforcement of what is "right" and "wrong", or "better" or "worse". The vMeme model seems to approach the ideas of "background social practice", but then doesn't quite incorporate the relationship between the behaviour of at the level of the individual, and the behaviour a the level of the group or organization. Background social practices are discussed in Etienne Wenger, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge University Press, 1998, Charles Spinosa, Fernando Flores & Hubert L. Dreyfus, Disclosing New Worlds: Entrepreneurship, Democratic Action and the Cultivation of Solidarity, MIT Press, 1997, and Hubert L. Dreyfus, Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I, MIT Press (1991).


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