The reform of state-owned industry has lasted for a long time, but it’s still controversial and remains a headache for the country. The bigger size it is, the harder to change. For the agricultural reform, decollectivization and marketization worked. But for the industrial reform, especially for state-owned industry, we cannot decentralize it because of its nature, and we are not strong enough to marketize (in other words, to compete with international companies) or we cannot marketize it for national security reason (such as electricity and oil, even till today, there are only limited numbers of state-owned companies competing against each other). Thus the reform we tried for the state-owned industries was privatization – to change them into companies. As Lang Xianping criticized, it caused a huge lose of national properties, which now belong to individuals. In the late 1990s, hundreds of thousands of laid-off workers from state-owned factories also created a social problem, and it’s hard to tell whether the society get recovered from it today.
In terms of state-owned industry, I thought of a movie earlier this year, called “24 City.” It focuses on a military factory with its luminous past and fading present. You can see how government policies changed since 1950’s, and how they affected the factory and its workers, relatives and the small world it constructed. The movie looks like a documentary, which is a collection of several interviews, but actually some actors are mixed into it with other real workers. Through these personal perspectives, you can get a sense of how their lives have intervened with the factory. People are very attached to the factory, the place they were born, they grew up, and they worked for their whole lives (I saw it when I was in France, but I don’t know if there’s a copy with English subtitle).