The concept of private ownership is rooted in classical Marxism. Because China adopted socialism when it was a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country, it is in the primary stage of socialism. Because of this, certain policies and system characteristics—such as commodity production for the market, the existence of a private sector and the reliance of the profit motive in enterprise management—were changed. These changes were allowed as long as they improve productivity and modernize the means of production, and thus further develop socialism. According to this perspective, Mao's regime's leftist belief that China could advance to full socialism immediately by bypassing capitalism is considered false.
The CPC still considers private ownership to be non-socialist. However, according to party theorists, the introduction and existence of private ownership does not mean the existence of capitalism in China. It is argued that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels—the founders of communism—never proposed the immediate abolishment of private ownership. According to Engel's book Principles of Communism, the proletariat can only abolish private ownership when the necessary conditions have been met. In the phase before the abolishment of private ownership, Engels proposed progressive taxation, high inheritance taxes and compulsory bond purchases to restrict private property while using the competitive powers of state-owned enterprises to expand the public sector. Marx and Engels proposed similar measures in the Communist Manifesto in regards to advanced countries, but since China was economically undeveloped, party theorists called for flexibility regarding the CPC's handling of private property. According to party theorist Liu Shuiyuan, the New Economic Policy program initiated by Soviet authorities in the aftermath of the war communism program is a good example of flexibility by socialist authorities.
Party theorist Li Xuai said that private ownership inevitably involves capitalist exploitation. However, Li regards private property and exploitation as necessary in the primary stage of socialism, claiming that capitalism in its primary stage uses remnants of the old society to build itself. Sun Liancheng and Lin Huiyong said that Marx and Engels, in their interpretation of the Communist Manifesto, criticized private ownership when it was owned solely by the bourgeoisie but not individual ownership in which everyone owns the means of production and hence cannot be exploited by others. Individual ownership is consistent with socialism since Marx wrote that post-capitalist society would entail the rebuilding of "associated social individual ownership".
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