He Zhenyi, male, Han nationality, born in September, 1931, is a native of
Be Natural and Unrestrained between the Earth and Sky: Glorious and Simple Life
Teacher He Zhenyi is a financial expert enjoying global popularity, and he is also the founder of the theory school of “theory of common needs of society” in financial circles.
I arrived at teacher He’s home. There is a plaque on the front wall and five powerful and vigorous large characters are inscribed on it “Be Natural and Unrestrained between Earth and Sky”. These five characters reveal the master’s main principles and life pursuits.
Teacher He “Is this plaque your motto?”
“You can say that. This plaque was inscribed by a friend of mine. I like the life attitude of being indifferent to fame and wealth expressed in this plaque”, teacher He talked slowly, “in all my life, I havn’t pursued power, fame or wealth, and I only hope that I can do some beneficial things for the country and the Party”. In his conversation, he was full of gratitude towards the Party and the country, “I was born in the old society, and people of three generations of my family were poor peasants. They were not educated and didn’t have knowledge, and it was impossible for them to go to university. Because of the chance given by the socialist new
In 1980, in a national financial foundation theory seminar, teacher He published new opinions on financial origins and financial nature. He put forward that the occurrence of finance does not come after the produce of a country, and early in the clan society period of primitive society, finance existed, “when primitive society developed to the clan society, after the reproduction organization structure of the society developed from a single layer to several layers, in the process of social reproduction, common needs of society independent of production unit and consumption unit were produced, and then finance was formed.” The proposal of this opinion aroused a large discussion with experts participating in the seminar. In 1982, teacher He published the dissertation Discussion on Finance Origin in Volume 3 of Finance and Trade Economics. After the publication of this dissertation, finance circles responded strongly, and some criticized him, while others supported him largely. Teacher He is very modest. In addition, he absorbed beneficial things from dissenting opinions and continued to study hard and research, gathering historical materials deeply. What’s more, he spent one year learning from archaeologists, sociologists, social development historians, and anthropologists and so on. In 1987, Theoretical Finance of teacher He was published, marking the form of the system of the theory school of “theory of common needs of society”, so the theory school of “theory of common needs of society” was universally accepted in finance circles, it was especially supported by young scholars. In addition, because of this book, he won the Outstanding Achievement First Prize of the Chinese Finance Society and Outstanding Achievement First Prize of the
“You are the founder of the theory school of “theory of common needs of society”, and your monograph Theoretical Finance is the master work of this school, so your contribution is very great. Can you talk about this book?”
Teacher He said: “it is far from a great contribution or great achievement. I only do what little I can to help the development of Chinese finance.” It was unexpected that teacher He mentioned this book lightly. People who are familiar with the development history of Chinese finance know that Theoretical Finance is the first work of “theory of common needs of society”, which has added a period of new history in Chinese finance history thought. The whole book is divided into five chapters. In the introduction, the author summarizes the research methods of finance and new theoretical viewpoints of the book and introduces the main points of the whole book; chapter one: qualitative research on fiscal relations, mainly explores finance origins and its development rules; chapter two: quantitative research on fiscal relations, mainly analyses the level of finance distribution relationship, the objectivity of quantitative change, total scale of incomings and outgoings, and objective quantitative limit of expenditure structure; chapter three: research on the realization form of financial functions, mainly analyses connotations of finance distribution in each category and its effects on the macro-economy and micro-economy; chapter four: research on financial effects, carry out comprehensive and systematic theoretical research on financial effects and provide a set of evaluation methods. This book has been highly praised in finance circles in
“Achievement is only a representation, and the process of theory exploration is more important. The truth is discovered, perfected, and enriched through continuous practice”, teacher He talked about the process of Theoretical Finance, from producing thoughts to constant improvementuntil it is mature. In 1956, teacher He entered the Economic Institute of the
After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, bring order out of chaos, and break away thought imprisonment. And the research of fiscal theory has welcomed a new spring. In 1980, in the second national basic theory seminar, teacher He had new recognition towards financial origin through repeated consideration and systematic research, and then in the seminar he put forward that finance is not produced by state action, after the production organization structure of society developed from a single layer to several layers because of the development of the productivity of human society, and then common needs of society produce, on this basis finance forms. This viewpoint overturns national distribution theory. The speech of teacher He immediately aroused a drastic debate. At that time, almost no one agreed with teacher He.
“Nobody agreed with you at that time, what did you think?” I asked. “I thanks those scholars who debated with me in a friendly way.” I was surprised at teacher He’s answer. He continued to say, “I thought that if it was the truth, it would become clearer through debate. Theories need promotion and perfecting through the collision of different thoughts and the interchange of different opinions. At that time, my “theory of common needs of society” was not vey mature, and it can be perfected continuously only through absorbing essences from opposite viewpoints. As for people doing research, if you are afraid of different opinions, it is difficult to gain achievements.”
“However, at present, some people think that need is people’s subjective desire, and common needs are the collection of everyone’s needs, and it is subjective, is that right?”
“Of course it is not right. So-called common needs aren’t the collection of everyone’s subjective needs, but “it is a kind of public affairs need implemented by a society to maintain a society’s normal existence and development, and its nature is the division relationship between society and members of society in the process of social reproduction””. It seems that I don’t understand totally. “Marxist politicians and economists regard needs as objective things. Except physiology instinct needs, people’s needs are decided by production. As is the production, so is the need. Primitive people did not need to fly; kings, princes and aristocrats in ancient times did not need high technology which is needed by common people today; some proud needs of modern people may not be needed in the future. The product of new needs and the disappearance of old needs are the result of the development of productivity and produce a certain social productivity. Therefore, need is an objective category of social reproduction. As the organic composition of social needs, common needs of society are an objective category of social reproduction, which is determined by social production all the time. Common needs of society don’t exist from the very beginning, and it is a historical category. At the beginning, human society is a single structure, and society, production units, and consumption units are the trinity, therefore, the common needs of society being independent of production units and consumption units don’t exist; and then, with the step-by-step improvement of the productivity of human society, initial population began to expand and to split, and the quantity of population increased ceaselessly. Especially, with the discovery of fire, populations can settle down, and the connection among populations increased, and finally the clan society regarding blood relationship as the link was produced. The important feature of the clan society is that it is made up of more than two clans. When the organizational structure of social reproduction changed, the society became a kind of organizational structure separating from production units and consumption units, and then, the common affairs of society being independent from production units and consumption units and must be implemented by the society collectively, namely the common needs of society. Therefore, the common needs of society are the general needs of the society, which are formed in the process of social reproduction. Correspondingly, social resources are divided into two parts, so as to meet two kinds of different needs: individual needs of society and common needs of society. In Das Capital, Marx has stated the above two aspects. Therefore, the opinion that “common needs are the collection of everyone’s need” mentioned by you just now is not right. Individual needs of society and common needs of society are different, and they have their own specific connotations. It is a kind of public affairs need implemented by a society to maintain a normal societal existence and development, and its nature is the division relationship between society and members of society in the process of social reproduction.
As for us young people initially stepping into the research field, how to master the correct direction of finance research?
“Meeting the common needs of society is the basic feature distinguishing the finance category and other economic categories. It is the mutual feature of finance through getting rid of individual particularities of each historical stage. Therefore, the general research of finance can not replace the individual research of finance. In the development process of human finance, forms and contents of finance of different historical stages are different. As the organic component of social reproduction, finance is restricted by not only different social systems, but also different economic operation models, therefore, under different social systems and different economic operation models finance has distinct features. Therefore, as for the research of finance, we must pay much attention to features and particular functions under different social systems and different economic operation models. At the time of researching the functions of finance, we can refer to the functional theory of western finance, and at the same time we must pay much attention to the difference between Chinese finance and western finance, so that it can effectively guide our financial development and reform. For example, under the socialist system, keeping the dominant position of public ownership is the indispensable condition for us to guarantee the invariability of the socialist nature of the Chinese social system. However, in order to guarantee the dominant position of public ownership, we must have steadily increased accumulation and investment, and where do the resources of these accumulation and investment come from? They come from public resources gathered through finance. Therefore, guaranteeing the dominant position of public ownership becomes a particular function owned by the market economy finance under the socialist system. For example, the confirmation of the strategic task of building a harmonious society, facilitating all the people to move towards common prosperity step by step becomes another particular function that the finance in
Teacher He is a person who can propagate the doctrine，impart professional knowledge，and resolve doubts. Through teacher He’s words, I understood the research methods of finance deeply.
As a famous scholar insisting in the combination of theoretical research and countermeasure research, teacher He has made great contributions in not only theoretical research but also countermeasure research. Especially, since reform and opening-up, teacher He has written many countermeasure articles on fiscal and tax reform and institutional reform. Thereinto, many countermeasure suggestions have been confirmed by executive leaders and department leaders of previous governments, which have been adopted by decision makers. I will introduce several of the most outstanding achievements and policy suggestions as follows: in March, 1983, after the design framework of the tax system of Tax for Profits mentioned in his article Suggestion on Improving Tax for Profits was submitted to the Party Central Committee, it was confirmed by decision makers of the country and accepted in the reform. And this article was published in the People’s Daily in November, 1983, with the name of Theories and Methods of Tax for Profits; in 1997, he published an article named Reforming Rural Pubic Distribution System can Lighten Peasants’ Burden Practically in Volume 31 of Outline Report of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and in the article, he put forward that in order to lighten peasants’ burden, we should not only transform administrative fees into taxes but also reform the rural public distribution system, which was confirmed by national decision makers; in 1992, in the article named Discussion on Issues of Financial Functions in the Great Transformation of Economic System which was published in Volume 6 of Outline Report, I put forward that at the time of developing a commodity economy, we should transform financial functions and solve the problems of “offside” and “vacancy” of financial functions. The publication of this article aroused a great discussion on the transformation of financial functions, and it was adopted by the Department of Finance; in 1994, in the article named Grand Thought on Deepening Institutional Reform published in Volume 8 of Finance and Trade Economics, he put forward reform thoughts and strategies of various business units, which was adopted by the Department of Finance in the financial work conference held in Xinjiang, and this thought has supported the institutional reform of business units theoretically at present. Among countermeasure research topics of teacher He, some were entrusted by government departments directly. For example, Several Theoretical Issues on Building the Management System for Revenue from Administrative and Institutional Fees written in 1999 to solve the dispute on the management right of Revenue from Administrative and Institutional Fees; Strategies and Countermeasures on Chinese Land Reform on Price, Tax, and Fee written in 2000 aiming at issues of taxes and dues from Chinese land; and Brief Discussion on Non-substitutability of Property Tax and Land Transferring Fees written in 2003 and so on. These articles have been confirmed by government departments and provided theoretical support for actual decisions. In all, duirng a fifty-year research career, teacher He keeps pace with the times all the time and follows closely the needs of the socialist construction cause; he is at the frontier of Chinese finance research all the time, and he makes extremely outstanding contributions to the development and reform of Chinese finance cause and the formulation of financial policy.
Facing so great a master, I can not naturally miss the chance for study: “teacher He, countermeasure suggestions raised by you have been accepted by decision-making departments of the government repeatedly and accepted by people from all directions, how do you do it?” Teacher He said slowly: “as for this issue, I have not summarized so far. However, I think that it is of benefit for you to do as follows. Firstly, as for topic selection, you must keep pace with the times. You should follow closely important theoretical issues and practical issues raised in each stage of socialist construction. Don’t follow the trend, you shall make perspective research and innovate in theory, so you can put forward convictive countermeasure suggestions when necessary. Secondly, practice makes true perception. As for research, you should link theory with practice and put in time and energy to carry out investigations; all research conclusions should be formed through investigation and research, and research results should be tested in practice. Only by experiencing this process, can research results have a solid foundation. The reason why the article named Reforming Rural Pubic Distribution System can Lighten Peasants’ Burden Practically written by me can be confirmed by leaders of the Party Central Committee is that it is close to the rural realities in China. It not only connects to my working experiences at the primary level of villages for several years, but more importantly it is that I have been to the villages to investigate repeatedly before I wrote this article. And then I found the crucial reason for the peasants’ burden, so the analysis of this article is objective and true. “From practice and to practice” is the principle. Therefore, I suggest to young scholars that they should spend more time investigating in practice, to gain first-hand materials and to enrich their own practical knowledge. This is beneficial to your own scientific research work.”
“Teacher He, you have been engaged in academic research for more than fifty years, and your theoretical research and countermeasure research are very outstanding. In your academic career of more than fifty years, besides what you have talked about already, what other deep feelings do you have about research?”
“Did you hear of Wang Kuowei’s three states for pursuing studies?” The viewpoints for pursuing studies of Wang Kuowei, a famous master of Chinese culture in modern times, remain fresh in teacher He’s memory. He said that Wang Kuowei has summarized the states for pursuing studies in three sentences. “Green trees were withered by the zephyr last night. Ascending the tower, I found many ways out” is the state that the research is disorganized; “Languishing for you and becoming emaciated, I would never repent” is the process of thinking hard and exploring ceaselessly; “For a thousand times, I failed to locate you in the crowd. Suddenly, you turned your head and stood where sparse and somber lights were shed” is the process that you are very glad for sudden viewpoints after your repeated investigation, research, and the search for answers. Scholars praise highly the summary of Wang Kuowei towards the process of pursuing studies. And my practical experiences are the same. However, if you only experience this process, I can not guarantee that your research will gain real results.
“Are you saying that as for research goes, in order to gain success, you should possess higher requirements?” Teacher He laughed and said: “this is a good question! In order to undertake research and research well, besides individual endeavor as said by Wang Kuowei, you indeed need higher quality.”
“Firstly, you shall cultivate your moral character. In order to make research, you must cultivate yourself at first.” “What is the relationship between doing research and cultivating your moral character?” I was confused. Teacher He smiled and said: “Cultivate individual moral characteristics, run the family in unison, manage the nation in order, and peace will prevail throughout the universe. Cultivating individual moral characteristics is the first, and doing research is the same. Cultivating individual moral characteristics is building scientific outlook on life and value theory, and you shall have the mind to devote all your life energy to national interests and people’s interests. Only by doing research like this, will you not walk in the wrong direction.
Secondly, be indifferent to fame and wealth, be able to endure loneliness and poverty, and insist on an indifferent post. In order to complete Das Capital, Marx gave up high official positions and riches and suffered from starvation; Ssuma Chien was fearless of danger and difficulty and able to endure poverty, and he wrote Records of the Grand Historian for eighteen years. People who are determined to do research shall learn this spirit.
Thirdly, have correct research methods. Marxist historical materialism and dialectical materialism are the most basic scientific methods guiding us social science research workers to be engaged in research. We must firmly grasp Marxist scientific world outlook and methodology and use them to guide scientific research work.
Fourthly, ceaselessly accumulate and enrich yourself with theoretical and practical knowledge. Ancient people say that we should read a lot of books. Book knowledge is very important, because it is the accumulation of practical knowledge of people of previous generations. However, genuine knowledge comes from practice. As for research workers, practical knowledge is more important. You can ceaselessly enrich your knowledge and provide material support for theoretical innovation only through investigation and research in practice to gain first-hand materials.
Fifthly, be good at thinking and dare to think. In general, researching issues is a thought process. Therefore, research workers shall have scientific thought methods. Being good at thinking indicates avoiding one-sidedness at the time of thinking about issues, and you should think in all directions. When conclusions are drawn, you shall think in another position and put forward all kinds of questions from different angles standing in the position of the reader, so as to encourage you to recognize comprehensively and deeply.
Sixthly, be good at absorbing nutrition from different opinions. Ancient people say that you should accept others criticism with good grace. Research workers should accept different opinions with good grace. Facing different opinions, you should not only dare to insist on your opinions, but also not follow a bigoted course. You should be modest and good at absorbing beneficial things from different opinions, so as to enrich and to perfect your research results and to overcome shortcomings. The mutual encounter of different opinions in scientific research is the catalytic agent to promote the deepening of people’s cognition and also the driving force to find new thoughts. Mr. Sun Zhifang, a deceased famous economist, has a well-known saying, “if two things collide, they will smash; if two wisdoms collide, they will burst out spark of talent”, and this is the meaning of academic debate.
Seventhly, don't pretend to know what you don't know, and you shall not feel ashamed to learn from your subordinates. You don’t know everything. You can learn from everyone.
If a research worker wants to do research well and gain success, he shall possess the above qualities.”
This interview lasted for about six hours, before leaving, teacher He presented me with a book named Theoretical Finance (Edition 2), and inscribed “My Little Friend Feng Jing, Please Keep This Book”.
That is teacher He: as an economist, he is concerned with the world, cares for his country and his people, gives advice and suggestions for national construction, and works hard for the prosperity of social science; as an educator, he teaches young scholars carefully, and his students have been key persons and experts in each battle line of socialist construction; as a scholar over seventy years old, he still insists in his own ideals; he is also a respectful senior. With fifty-years of hard work and outstanding achievements, he is indifferent to fame and wealth. “Be Natural and Unrestrained between Earth and Sky” maybe his real ideal.
Feng Jing, female, doctor, was an assistant researcher in the Finance and Trade Institute of the
Translated by Feng Weijiang.
Editor: Wang Daohang