The good news is, counter-economics provided most of the progress in Chinese society since the late 70’s. The bad news is, China seems no closer to ridding itself of parasitic government. In spite of the fact that the typical Chinese recognizes the thuggish nature of their government, and tends to disobey or ignore the government when they think they can get away with it, the government manages to survive. Agorism is more than counter-economics. How can the transition to the free society happen?

In “How the Farmers Changed China,” Kate Zhou tells the story of the Chinese reforms. Mao forced China into collective farming, but it was never very popular. During the power struggle after his death, a counter-economic phenomenon emerged, called Baochan Daohu, where the collective farmers would divide up their collective land and their rice quota, bribe the local officials to look the other way, and do their work on a family basis. They kept it secret because plenty of people got sent to reeducation camps for trying to start political movements or protesting, etc. Well, they kept it quiet, but it didn’t stay secret. The idea spread quickly, because it was successful – they got bigger crops. Bigger crops meant more food, and once each family had paid their share of the state-required quota of rice, they got to keep what was left. Soon they had more than they wanted to eat, so they began trying to trade with the city folks. Soon they needed less labor, so they wanted to migrate to look for work.
The city folks were eager to trade, but they didn’t have marketplaces where the farmers could sell. The farmers responded to all these needs with counter-economics. They took their chickens on the bus, on the train, on bicycles, until they had enough money to buy a small truck. They built marketplaces. They bribed officials and cops. They did unofficial construction work, to make places where they could stay in the city. They smuggled stuff in from Hong Kong, and started making stuff in workshops. They bribed more officials to get counter space in the state-owned stores.
The central government opposed all of this, but could not quite bring themselves to smash it. It was too popular, too sneaky, too much like an invasion of cockroaches, where if you smash 10, 100 escape. State restrictions were smashed instead, so they no longer needed an official document to buy food, travel, work, or find a place to stay.
Has all this successful counter-economics resulted in the triumph of agorism? No. Ordinary Chinese know that the government is a racket. They survive by disobeying. But the state parasites are stronger than ever. As the economy grew, so did the state. Though it is less totalitarian than it was, it has a long way to go.
The Chinese got rid of the idea that the state deserves their obedience. But their replacement idea failed to defeat the state.