Impressively for a writer whose primary claim to fame in the context of socialism is his demonstration of its ‘inevitable’ impractibility, Ludwig von Mises enjoys a substantial following in today’s China. Many of his books, including his rather touchy Die Gemeinwirtschaft (“Socialism” in the English edition, “社会主义” in Chinese), have been published over the past few years, and a Baidu search for 米塞斯 (“Mises” in Chinese) yields 179,000 hits. In January 2010 his magnum opus Human Action (“人类行为的经济学分析”) was finally added to that list.
Unsurprisingly, interest in Murray Rothbard’s and Friedrich v. Hayek’s work has followed. At least 5 of Hayek’s works have Chinese translations – by publishers from Anhui to Jilin province; Hayek’s Road To Serfdom (“通往奴役之路”) was published by three different publishing houses. Four of Rothbard’s books have now been published, and that by publishers with close ties to government circles: Man, Economy & State, What Has Government Done to Our Money, America’s Great Depression and Ethics of Liberty. There are even two competing editions of America’s Great Depression. Equally notably, there is a vibrant discussion of the Rothbardian worldview on blogs and book review sites such as douban.com.
In view of the information diffusion afforded by the Internet, a certain awareness of the Misesian message is not surprising. What IS notable is the apparent government support it enjoys. Not only are government-affiliated publishers doing the publishing and promotion, but these publications are even getting write-ups in the official media – see for example the recent write-up on Human Action in the China Daily entitled “Balance growth with social equity“. True, the article did express some reservations, but judging from the content, one would have to guess that the writer had actually READ the book. Moreover, his initial characterization of the book was as a “masterpiece”.
Given that the China Daily is THE government mouthpiece, this does make a statement. How long will we have to wait on the next write-up of Human Action in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Le Monde or the New York Times? And how many countries around the world are promoting Human Action in airport bookstores?