By Ulyana Kim
Grigory Yavlinsky is a politician recognised
and respected by the world democratic community. He is a regular
participant of the meetings of the International Crisis Committee,
the World Economic Forum, the Trilateral Commission, etc.
Grigory Yavlinsky has been one of the initiators of nomination
of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, a candidate for the Nobel
Peace Prize. We began our conversation with discussion of
QUESTION: Grigory Alexeyevich, when you decided to nominate
Chinese dissident for the [Nobel Peace] Prize, did you think
about that the reaction in the world would be controversial?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: I knew that Liu Xiaobo beliefs were the
same as mine, and he had received 11 years in prison because
of this. He, like me, is convinced that a man has a right
to say what he thinks, that freedom is the right of every
individual, that laws must be respected by everyone, including
the authorities, and that one should fight for his beliefs
only in a non-violent way ...
And I tried to support a person, who had been going though
very difficult times and who had no one but his wife who could
support him in China. That's what I wanted to say, when I
signed the appeal to nominate him for the Nobel Prize. And
[the Nobel Committee] agreed with our nomination. That's it.
I did not act against the Chinese state or their government.
Over 1 billion 300 million live in China today, however, it
is for the first time in history that a Chinese citizens had
been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I think that time will
come when China will be proud of its citizens Liu Xiaobo.
QUESTION: Why, when the socialist camp collapsed in 1990s,
the Chinese Communist Party managed to keep the power? Moreover,
according to many prominent politicians, [the Chinese Communist
Party] managed to solve the economic problems so that now
China even competes for the world leadership in [economic]
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Well, it is too early to talk about what
has happened. The process of disintegration, of which you
are asking me, is not over yet, and the consequences of the
Cold War are far from being understood and interpreted. Much
is yet to come, in China too. We need a much deeper analysis
and try to forecast for a long-term perspective, rather than
limit ourselves to the present situation only. In addition
to advertising there is a real life and serious problems of
Everyone knows that the scope of poverty in China is still
a very large, and many people live below the poverty line,
the gap between the rich and the poor has been deepening and
stratification of the society has been progressing. It is
a big question whether this is consistent with what is called
socialism and communism.
The Communist Party, which has been in power for many decades
and refused to carry out some political reforms, conducts
a different policy [now]. This conflict between the form and
the content will inevitably lead to a situation when they
will have to address many fundamental problems that are only
beginning to emerge now.
I was in China and I would like very much to see peace in
this great country and so that China would conduct transformations
via evolutionary non-violent way, but I have great concern
whether this is possible. I think that China's economic model
is not so economically efficient and competitive, as is often
pictured by outside observers.
The modern business world, the world media, world politics
praise those countries (regardless of their regimes) where
they can obtain huge profits and dividends - such as in China.
QUESITON: What, in your opinion, has allowed the Chinese
government to achieve such economic growth rates?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: I'm not an expert on the Chinese economy.
I think that high economic growth rates and apparent economic
success, are primarily due to exceptional hard work and talents
of the Chinese people, their patience, persistence, desire
to learn new things and master it all. This is, in my opinion,
the main thing!
As for the economic mechanism, given extremely low price
of labour at long working hours and increasing skill, we can
say that the whole economic model is similar in essence to
leasing arrangements between the Chinese government and global
Due to the low rental payments (payment for labour and taxes),
stable long-term rules, incredible scope and huge profit margins
for both the leasers and the leaseholders we got the Chinese
But people make their living through very hard work. When,
for example, a young girl in China, works at an assembly line
and assembles computers, such hard and intensive work leads
to her loosing eyesight so that a year later she can not work
there any more. They replace her with another girl coming
from a province and who is happy to get out of there and get
a job with a small salary. The issue of healthcare is never
And those politicians who say that we should adopt the Chinese
model of development are either naive or dishonest. It is
impossible for Russia. Historians might argue whether Russia
of 1990s could try and keep a competitive advantage of an
extremely low price to work or not, but for this issue is
closed for the present Russian economy.
As regards investments, as you know, China has been constantly
receiving considerable funding from the “huaqiaos" (Editor:
Chinese who moved abroad for permanent or temporary accommodation).
Thus, China acquires and uses a very strong flow of investment
on very favorable terms, as such financial flows are not always
competitive in Europe or America, but China, as I see it,
receives them anyway.
By the way, Russia has been demonstrating a reverse process:
not only don’t we have our huaqiaos, i.e the businesses of
Russian communities abroad, but our business take every opportunity
to take their money abroad. Third, relying on the huge desire
of the American business to receive immediate windfall at
the expense of the very economic mechanism I have just told
you about, China managed to amass the largest in the world
history gold and hard currency reserves and virtually put
the U.S. in a kind of dependency.
How long can such a model exist? Given the scale of human
resources and the power of the political regime, this may
last for a long time. However, it is not as simple as that.
A real middle class has been emerging in China, and I'm not
sure that this class will always be satisfied with the political
system that exists there.
This political system represents a significant, meaningful
restriction for the middle class, it does not allow it to
move into power. But at the same time, ensuring the growth
and development of the middle class is perhaps the key issue
for further progress in China.
QUESTION: And what do you think about the politics of Russia's
approximation with the Chinese totalitarian regime? Can we
say that Russia is friends with China hoping to get the same
profit there, like other countries do?
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: China is extremely important neighbour
and partner for Russia. I believe that maintaining good relations
with China is necessary for Russia. But Russian authorities
have a naive feeling that China will build relations with
Russia as an equal strategic partner. I think it's absolutely
The official speaks seriously and as equals only with such
partners the U.S. and the EU. It does not recognise anyone
else as a power and a strategic partner.
I should say that in general I do not support Dmitry Medvedev
and Vladimir Putin’s policies. I believe that their attempt
to maintain continuity with the Soviet period dooms the country
to a very big problem for the collision with the modern life
and has the effect of demodernisation.
And please note, they always talk about modernisation, but
the use of Soviet methods of control, the Soviet style of
living and the Soviet approach leads the country back [into
the past], into the opposite direction.
QUESTION: Do you want to say that we have shifted into the
past time rather than summer time.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Yes, it is roughly like this. The attempt
to link the pre-revolutionary, Soviet Russia and modern Russia
into a single conglomerate has no prospects. This design is
doomed to failure because people's consciousness is not a
puzzle, it can not be assembled this way from different pieces.
The way out of the system we lived in for almost 100 years
is very long, generations formed during this period and people's
consciousness is very confused and distorted.
QUESTION: Political scientists sometimes wonder whether we
can see continuation of the Arab events in China as a "jasmine
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: I hope that nothing like this will happen
there. The Chinese society today has swapped their political
claims for a chance to obtain and increase their revenues.
Yet such a swap has been suiting the society. However, other
processes develop there in parallel. At least 10 million young
people with good education, but without work have recently
emerged in China. It is a serious challenge for China’s political
system, more serious than 100 million poor peasants.
QUESTION: Add here another 700 million Chinese living below
the poverty level completely neglected by the authorities.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Yes, I know that people there live on
less than one dollar a day. Consequently, everything is not
so easy. There are problems in China’s political and economic
system that can not be solved by means of economic growth.
The Soviet Union too demonstrated GDP growth sometimes by
12-14 per cent, and we know how it all ended… But no one wants
to recollect this now – today everything on the surface looks
so good, the parameters, revenues, Olympic Games...
QUESTION: In pursuit for profit everyone forgot about the
moral component associated with the persecution of people
for their beliefs, which leads us to where we started our
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY: Unfortunately, the drama is that when the
profits constitute hundreds of per cent for the absolute majority
of modern politicians, bankers and transnational businesses,
no restrictions exist. They cooperate with any regimes – both
with the democratic and the totalitarian regimes. All the
moral standards end on the level of estimated profit of 150-300
per cent, when everything is forgotten.
original text of the interview in Russian
and Legitimacy. The founder of the Yabloko Party analyses
the political situation. Article by Grigory Yavlinsky on radio
Svoboda. April 6, 2011.