By Ragnar V. Røed, 17th of December 2018.
This text is primarily written by Ragnar V. Røed, who in the foreword has thanked others for their help and contributions. The author welcomes criticism, and wishes to improve the text with more references, better references, or to redress errors and inaccuracies. Write to Tjen Folket Media, and we will convey your message to the author.
This text is to large degrees based on a document from the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and we must thank these Indian comrades for their solid work in revealing Chinese imperialism. Significant portions of this text are fairly directly based on this Indian document. Unfortunately, the English translation has not been made official. I nonetheless believe that the analysis is more or less correct, and that the different numbers and facts in the text can be researched and verified via other sources.
Lenin writes in the preface to his classic text, Imperialism:
…imperialism is the eve of the socialist revolution; that social-chauvinism (socialism in words, chauvinism in deeds) is the utter betrayal of socialism, complete desertion to the side of the bourgeoisie; that this split in the working-class movement is bound up with the objective conditions of imperialism…1
Social-chauvinism is the transition from the communist standpoint for the proletariat and the world’s oppressed peoples and nations, to taking a bourgeois standpoint for the imperialists. European imperialism created a privileged layer in the European labour movement. This labour aristocracy became the social basis for social-chauvinism. Under their leadership, the western labour organizations and parties broke across to the bourgeois and reactionary. They have systematically taken to parties for their own country’s bourgeoisie, against that of other countries – and against the oppressed and exploited peoples in the third world.
Revolutionaries in Norway must break with social-chauvinism by relentlessly attacking Norwegian imperialism. Our primary enemy is here in our own country. The Norwegian monopoly bourgeoisie and their state are both predators and scavengers in the capitalistic imperialist world system. In the global rivalry, they ally themselves primarily with US imperialism and the European great powers, but have their own independent imperialist ambitions.
As the world’s only superpower, US imperialism is the primary enemy of the entire world’s oppressed countries and peoples. They are foremost among imperialists. But does that mean that the US’s rivals, primarily Russia and China, become allies to the world’s oppressed? Does the communists’ opposition to Norwegian monopoly capital and Yankee-imperialism mean a truce with Russia and China, or perhaps even an embrace of them?
A thorough analysis of China’s character and China’s role in today’s world gives an answer to these questions. And it also gives a number of insights that can be applied to how we must handle all such states. It will also increase our insights into how the capitalistic imperialist world system functions, and how Maoism should be used today.
In addition to the analysis from the Communist Party of India (Maoist) from 2017, we also introduce the Latin American Maoist Parties and Organizations’ analyses of the world situation from 2016 at the basis for this text. The text is completely dependent on particularly the Indian comrades, but also the crystal clear analysis of the Latin American comrades. Possible errors and deficiencies in the translation or understanding of documents both from India and Latin America rest entirely on my shoulders and the reader should be alert to this possibility.
Otherwise, I would like to thank many more, but particularly two comrades for having read the text beforehand and having offered responses and suggestions for improvement. Thank you comrades! I hope for more of this in the future, as I do not consider the text to be entirely complete. There are nonetheless limited returns in delaying this publication any longer. Therefore, I welcome criticism, from friends and foes, and reserve the right to make changes in the future to meet correct criticism accordingly.
I hope and believe that parts and excerpts from the text can stand on their own for discussion and studies. For instance, there is a description of the counterrevolution in China contained in the text that does not exist in such a comprehensive form in Norwegian.
– Ragnar V. Røed, December 2018.
In May 2017, the Central Committee in the Communist Party of India (Maoist) took the initiative to undertake a study of China. It had as its goal to answer questions as to whether China has become a new imperialist power. Their findings have been published, but unfortunately not in English. On the contrary, a group of Western third worldists have translated this text.2 As we read it, we must keep in mind that the text is not an official translation from the party itself. Possible errors and deficiencies can be the work of the translators. Nonetheless, the article is comprehensive, replete with a lot of documentation and background history, and it concludes that China is today a social imperialist great power. At its fifth conference, the Central Committee of the Party resolved, according to the introduction to the text, that:
Today, China has become a modern social-imperialist power, an integral part of the capitalist-imperialist world system, while also playing the role of antagonist towards the oppressed classes and people in general.3
The Fifth Meeting of Maoist Parties and Organizations in Latin America that took place in 2016 has expressed the same view in its statement on the international situation. They write:
The United States are in this moment the only hegemonic superpower. With the decomposition of the social-imperialist USSR in 1991 the economical weight of Russia shrank to a level comparable to the Italian imperialism, while its character as atomic superpower prevails. There are also other imperialist power like Germany, Great Britain, France, Japan, China, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Italy, Spain, etc. that compose a handful of oppressing countries.4
This meeting of Latin America’s Maoists declares, as the Indian Maoists, that China is social-imperialist. And in Africa, one sees China as clearly imperialist. Grotesque working conditions in Chinese mines and Chinese intervention in local politics are quickly recognized on a continent that for centuries has been plagued by Europe’s colonialism and imperialism. But among certain individuals on the “left”, we again see the old error that was made when Soviet imperialism challenged the US. Instead of identifying China as imperialist, they see China first and foremost as an opponent of US imperialism. And some speak, as the Chinese leaders do, of a “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” It smacks of Tito’s “Yugoslavian socialism” or our own Socialist Left Party’s “socialism in Norwegian”.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), hereafter CPI(Maoist), writes:
China, which had never robbed other nations to sustain itself, had by 2014 unquestionably transformed into a new social-imperialist power. As a result of super-exploitation, China has evolved into an imperialist power. The evolution of China as a global factory is not only strengthening global economic reorganisation, but also changing the dynamics of supply and demand chains in the global economy. It has become a hungry dragon for resources, from iron ore to natural rubber and other raw materials.5
All capitalist states will engage in some form of capital exports and intervention in other countries’ internal relations. This applies not only to imperialist countries, but also to rulers and states in oppressed nations. For instance, we can see how the Indian state, a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country oppressed by imperialism, nonetheless competes with other capitalist states, and exercises aggression and intervention in other countries, like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. We can see how Uganda, through militias, contributes to the destabilization of eastern Congo in order to gain a share of the exploits from the plundering of its neighboring countries. That said, the character of a country is not determined by whether or not it operates in this way in its entirety. Each capitalist state will attempt to expand its capital and its political influence. The character – whether or not a country is imperialist or if it belongs to the world’s oppressed nations – deals with the degree of this capital export, monopolization, and intervention in other countries.
I claim that even more important than degree is the question of the class character of the state. In oppressed countries and nations, the state has the character of a bureaucracy-capitalist state in the hands of a comprador bourgeoisie. In collaboration with and subservience to foreign imperialism, the comprador bourgeoisie sells land and people for a share in the imperialists’ plunder of the country. This is their political and economic raison d’être. To understand the character of a country’s bourgeoisie, one must see them in their historical development, and see where they come from and see which position they have in regards to the bourgeoisie of other countries, primarily those of imperialist countries.
This article on China shows that the degree of Chinese monopoly and export of finance capital is enormous, among the top in the world, and that the Chinese bourgeoisie is not a comprador bourgeoisie, but rather an independent national bureaucracy-bourgeoisie, with their own independent imperialist ambitions. And thereby, there is no doubt that the Indian and Latin American comrades are correct when they say that China is an imperialist country.
Part I: China Becomes Capitalist
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution started in China in 1966. It was the peak of the class struggle in socialist China. The goal of the Cultural Revolution was to hinder the capitalist-roaders in reestablishing capitalism in China, as they had in the Soviet Union.
Counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and the Great Polemic
In 1956, the Khrushchev clique fortified its power in the Soviet Union. During the 20th Party Congress in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev’s so-called “secret speech” came to fruition. The speech was not so hidden, as all the world’s communist parties that were attendees of the congress were able to read the speech after it was held. It was also circulated among the entire party apparatus and had great ripple effects. In Georgia, Stalin’s birthplace, there were great popular protests in the aftermath of the departure from Stalin. Khrushchev condemned Stalin as a criminal tyrant. Before Stalin died in 1953, on the other hand, Khrushchev was one of those who had always spoken warmly about Stalin, and with such beaming diction that it became parodic.
The break from Stalin was just a part of a large-scale political-ideological reversal. And it went hand in hand with the Khrushchev-clique’s takeover and heavy capitalistic reforms in the Soviet Union. The world’s first socialist country again became a capitalist country. But capitalism was not implemented by Western invasion or through an open counterrevolution, but rather by a rightist line within the Communist Party itself. A so-called “peaceful counterrevolution” had occurred, with radical changes in the leadership, ideology, and economy, while their banners, phrases, and Lenin portraits remained.
The Communist Party of China stood at the fore of revealing what had actually happened. In a series of open letters to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, they revealed Khrushchev’s false communism, that the dictatorship of the proletariat was abolished in the Soviet Union, and that capitalism was reintroduced. The letters between the two parties are often referred to as “the Great Polemic” and were broadcast to the world in 1963 and 1964.6 In the polemic, China’s communists placed weight on the fact that socialism is a transition society that springs out from capitalism, that there continue to be classes and class struggle in such a society, and that the state must therefore be the dictatorship of the proletariat under the leadership of the proletariat’s party: the communist party. The articles from China, which revealed the Soviet revisionism, were primarily signed by editors in the party’s main organ, Renmin Ribao [The People’s Daily], and the party’s theoretical journal, Hongqi [Red Flag].
Mao Zedong is the one who stood at the center of theorizing the class struggle’s continuation and intensification in the socialist society. Both Lenin and Stalin had written about it, but Mao and the Chinese communists analyzed the development in the Soviet Union and their own country, and systematized the theory. Using as a starting point the theses of the class struggle manifesting within the communist party as a struggle between right and left, that no ideology can be classless, that each state has a class character, and that the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie continues under socialism and remains the most important contradiction in this society as in capitalism, they were able to show that the Soviet Union had changed its colors. Furthermore, they could see that what had happened in the Soviet Union could also happen in China.
Class Struggle or Productive Forces as the Primary Driving Force for Socialist Development
The line struggle was nothing new in the Communist Party of China. Prior to the victory in the people’s war and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the party had gone through a series of great party struggles and rectification campaigns. Right opportunism and “left”-opportunist lines were defeated, but many times they were able to cause enormous damage to the Party, the Red Army, and the People’s War. In the aftermath of the Great Leap Forward that Mao initiated in 1958, Mao was attacked from the right in the party. The leap was condemned as too radical and as a fiasco, and today it is portrayed as a catastrophe by Western bourgeois historians and China’s modern capitalist rulers.
The Great Leap Forward gave China a system of People’s Communes, which the Chinese leaders saw as a communist form of organization. Without going into detail on the Great Leap Forward, the main objective was to make China independent (in particular from the Soviet Union) and self-sufficient and to industrialize the country quickly. In the period from 1949 (the establishment of the People’s Republic) until Mao’s death in 1976, life expectancy in China rose from 35 years to roughly 65 years,7 and industrial production was multiplied by several factors. There was tremendous and unparalleled growth. Joseph Ball writes about this in an article for Monthly Review.8
Errors (alleged or confirmed) of the Great Leap Forward were used against Mao by the rightists in the party, particularly by Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, despite the fact that they had both supported the campaign in words when it was put into motion. Throughout the 50s, there were struggles in the party over which methods ought to be emphasized. The leftist line under Mao’s leadership placed weight on the class struggle and on slogans like “grasp revolution, promote production”. The rightist line chose different variations of productive forces theory. In other words: that the development of productive forces should be the primary driving force for the development of socialism.
In the constitution of the “Communist Party of China”, the theory today manifests itself when they write that “at the present stage, the principal contradiction in Chinese society is one between the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and the low level of production.”9 This line is not only an expression for today’s revisionist leadership of the country, but was also the general line for the rightist line in the party all the way from the establishment of the people’s republic in 1949. The struggle between right and left, between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, was clearest in the question of what was the key element: the class struggle or “modernization of productive forces”.
Den Xiaoping formulated it as follows:
Therefore, the fundamental task for the socialist stage is to develop the productive forces… One of our shortcomings after the founding of the People’s Republic was that we didn’t pay enough attention to developing the productive forces.10
However, that the leftist line put the class struggle at the center does of course not mean that Mao or the leftist line was against modernizing or developing production. The Great Leap Forward is one of the examples of the weight that Mao put on these exact questions. To make China self-sufficient in food production, to industrialize the country, to develop its independence and economic strength were always central questions in the communists’ program and the socialist development. But those who look away from the fact that the class struggle is the driving force have abandoned Marxism. And they will also go away from the question of mobilizing the masses, and will lay the ground wide open for capitalist counterrevolution.
Deng and the rightist line’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics” had the sole task of legitimizing capitalist reforms before the masses and cadres.
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the Following Bourgeois Counterrevolution
It was in this context that Mao Zedong and the leadership of the Communist Party of China took the initiative of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. In February 1967, Mao told his comrades:
Our present revolution — the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is a revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, and we have launched it ourselves. This is because a portion of the structure of proletarian dictatorship has been usurped and no longer belongs to the proletariat, but to the bourgeoisie. Thus, we had to make revolution.11
The Central Committee of the Party passed its first great resolution on the revolution in August 1966, where they wrote the following:
Although the bourgeoisie has been overthrown, it is still trying to use the old ideas, culture, customs and habits of the exploiting classes to corrupt the masses, capture their minds and endeavour to stage a comeback. The proletariat must do the exact opposite: it must meet head-on every challenge of the bourgeoisie in the ideological field and use the new ideas, culture, customs and habits of the proletariat to change the mental outlook of the whole of society. At present, our objective is to struggle against and overthrow those persons in authority who are taking the capitalist road, to criticize and repudiate the reactionary bourgeois academic “authorities” and the ideology of the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes and to transform education, literature and art and all other parts of the superstructure not in correspondence with the socialist economic base, so as to facilitate the consolidation and development of the socialist system.12
This was the program statement of world history’s largest revolution. It would wave back and forth over the next ten years. Liu and Deng were condemned before the masses as prominent capitalist-roaders and representatives for the rightist line, and both had to resign from their central leadership positions in 1966. Liu had been the First Vice Chairman of the Party, and one of the party’s foremost leaders. He was revealed to be the leader for a bourgeois and counterrevolutionary headquarter and died in 1969. Lin Biao replaced Liu’s position in the party and he built his own bourgeois headquarters. Lin quickly plotted a coup, but the plans were revealed and he died in a plane crash during an attempt to flee to the Soviet Union in 1971.
At the recommendation of Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, who had gotten cancer, Deng was allowed back into the party’s central organization in 1974 as the first Deputy Prime Minister. In the years prior, he had written and laid plans that he immediately began to put into motion. But after Zhou Enlai’s death in 1976, he was again removed from his position after he was again revealed and exposed as a bourgeois reformer. Mao was sick, but the right-wing was not strong enough to replace Zhou Enlai as Prime Minister with one of the clearest capitalist-roaders. Instead, the centrist Hua Guofeng took over the post, apparently as a compromise between right and left. The revolutionary wing of the party put in motion the new campaign against Deng Xiaoping, but when Mao died that same year, Hua resolutely went on the offensive against the revolutionaries.
The so-called “Gang of Four” were arrested and indicted for a series of alleged murders during the cultural revolution. These leading revolutionaries were Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, along with Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen. Hua ended the Cultural Revolution with an iron fist. The label “Gang of Four” stems from the campaign that Hua lead against the entire Cultural Revolution. It is now depicted as a tragedy for the country. Hua claimed that Mao was not responsible for the Cultural Revolution’s alleged tragedies, but that there were others who operated in his name. Hua attacked Mao’s teachings in Mao’s own name, and claimed he was following Mao Zedong Thought when he cracked down on the left. This break was possible because Hua had secured support among the leadership of the army. There was a secret unit within the Chinese intelligence services that arrested the revolutionary leaders in a coordinated action.
Deng Xiaoping was again let back into central positions. In 1977, he became Vice Chairman of the Party, Vice Chairman of the party’s military commission, and Chairman of the General Staff in the People’s Liberation Army. He quickly outmaneuvered Hua, and by 1980, Hua was vacated from his leadership positions. The Deng clique had secured its power within the party, and Deng stood, in contrast to Hua, for an unabashed market liberalism under the cover of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.13 The bourgeois counterrevolution was now complete, as it had been in the Soviet Union in 1956. But Deng, who without a doubt was the country’s and the party’s true leader, never formally took any titles. For a long time, he ruled from a formally withdrawn position, with the exception of the army leadership, where he was formally the chief. Nonetheless, there can be no doubt that he was the chief and architect for the large capitalist reforms.
The Cultural Revolution succeeded in exploding two bourgeois headquarters: first Liu’s headquarters, and then Lin’s. In this way, it inhibited and delayed the capitalist counterrevolution. In the course of the revolution, industrial production growth reached 13.5% a year,14 an enormous growth that far surpassed that of Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union.15 This great growth happened despite the revisionists’ attacks and disruptions. And it is a fact that stands against the rightist line’s claim that the revolution created economic problems. The Cultural Revolution was an enormous victory for China and the world’s people. Not only was it concrete progress there and then, but it lead to a new and lasting weapon for the proletariat’s ideological arsenal that comprises scientific socialism. The Communist Party of Peru writes:
[Chairman Mao showed] that in socialism it was not concretely determined who would defeat whom, that it was a problem whose solution demands time, the unfolding of a process of restoration and counter-restoration, in order for the proletariat to strongly hold political power definitely through the proletarian dictatorship; and, finally and principally, the grandiose solution of historical transcendence, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution as the continuation of the socialist revolution under the proletarian dictatorship.16
Cultural revolution is a mobilization of the masses to expand the dictatorship of the proletariat in all areas, and to smash the bourgeois headquarters and the capitalist-roaders. Concretely in China, the first time this method was put into practice, one may argue as the Latin American Maoists do, that the counterrevolutionaries were allowed too much playing room in China. Deng and Hua were able to conspire against the Cultural Revolution and the revolutionary leaders.
The Maoist Parties and Organizations in Latin America say precisely this in a statement from 2016 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the start of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Moreover, they write that:
Some of the problems of this two-line struggle that developed in the bosom of the Communist Party of China and in the Chinese society were: the handling of the two-line struggle itself; the deficient handling of the two types of contradictions – between us and the enemy, and in the bosom of the people – that left room for the revisionists; absence of a new and firm impulse for the GPCR after the attempted coup of Lin Piao […], etc. The revisionist line had great space to develop.
The two-line struggle had important advances, but cunning revisionists like Teng Siao-ping and its clique found the auspicious moment to overtake the contradictions in the bosom of the people and to overtake the power through a fascist coup, exposing problems not solved by the revolution. One of the main issues is the insufficient application of the proletarian military line regarding the ‘sea of armed masses’, which should have been expressed through the transmission of greater competence to the people’s militias, […which Chairman Gonzalo pointed out…]
In the same text, they write:
As long as there are classes, there will be class struggle, because that is how the law of contradiction specifies in the class society; the highest way of solving the contradictions in the class society is the war and, because of that, until the whole mankind enters to communism there will always be the need of the people’s war. Studying the [Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution], we understand more deeply the omnipotence of the revolutionary war, meaning the people’s war, Maoism and how to apply it. All of these are lessons of the class struggle in the [Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution].17
The question of the dictatorship of the proletariat, of political power to the proletariat, is the key question in socialism. Without it, there can be no socialism.
In its statement from 1993 on Maoism, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) writes:
Mao developed the Leninist thesis that politics is the concentrated expression of economics, showing that under socialist society the correctness of the ideological and political line determines whether the proletariat actually owns the means of production. Conversely, he pointed out that the rise of revisionism means the rise of the bourgeoisie, that given the contradictory nature of the socialist economic base it would be easy for capitalist roaders to rig up the capitalist system if they come to power.18
And as Chairman Gonzalo himself writes:
Political Power is fundamental in Maoism. Political power for the proletariat, power for the dictatorship of the proletariat, power based on an armed force led by the Communist Party. More explicitly:
1) Political power under the leadership of the proletariat in the democratic revolution;
2) Political power for the dictatorship of the proletariat in the socialist and cultural revolutions;
3) Political power based on an armed force led by the Communist Party, conquered and defended through people’s war.19
There can be no dictatorship of the proletariat without the proletariat’s party with power. The proletariat exercises its political leadership principally through its political party. If the party is taken over by revisionism, not only does the party change its colors, but the people who actually control the state and own the means of production change fundamentally as well. Revisionism cannot rule on the behalf of anybody but the bourgeoisie. Mao Zedong understood this and formulated it clearly in 1964:
Class struggle, the struggle for production and scientific experiment are the three great revolutionary movements for building a mighty socialist country[…] If, in the absence of these movements, the landlords, rich peasants, counterrevolutionaries, bad elements and monsters were all allowed to crawl out, while our cadres were to shut their eyes to all this and in many cases fail even to differentiate between the enemy and ourselves but were to collaborate with the enemy and were corrupted, divided and demoralized by him, if our cadres were thus pulled out or the enemy were able to sneak in, and if many of our workers, peasants, and intellectuals were left defenseless against both the soft and the hard tactics of the enemy, then it would not take long, perhaps only several years or a decade, or several decades at most, before a counterrevolutionary restoration on a national scale inevitably occurred, the Marxist-Leninist party would undoubtedly become a revisionist party or a fascist party, and the whole of China would change its color.20
When Hua Guofeng’s intelligence service arrested the leaders for the leftist line in the Communist Party of China, when they were tried and sentenced to death or life in prison, when the entire Cultural Revolution was suppressed and stopped with the help of the army, when the state and industry became a corporative unit and each revolutionary movement and proletarian class struggle – yes, even the most limited democratic protests, then and now – are met with persecution, abuse, censorship, house arrest, false charges, imprisonment and murder, what else can it be called but fascism?
It is important to treat the counterrevolution concretely. The general and evidently abstract in the process of a class displacing another class through a takeover of the political power is something that many self-proclaimed Marxists themselves have problems understanding. They believe that it is difficult to see the counterrevolutions in the Soviet Union and China because they manifested themselves as something different than what they recognize as a revolution. They believe it is difficult to see past the revisionists’ phrases around “socialism with special characteristics” and the red banners that continue to wave before the Red Square in Moscow and Tienanmen Square in Beijing. And, as many others, they have difficulties seeing history’s actors as representatives of classes and underlying contradictions. Therefore, it is important to refer to the concrete political struggles, between concrete persons and fractions.
China’s capitalist economic reforms
Furthermore, we must consider the concrete consequences of the counterrevolution. The new political-ideological line quickly led to very tangible consequences. CPI(Maoist) has in its article on Chinese social imperialism gone into great detail on this, and have offered a number of examples. They write that the Hua-Deng clique immediately began to implement the counterrevolutionary line from Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao. After having persecuted, arrested, and even murdered revolutionary leaders, they set in motion a political campaign for legitimizing the coming reforms. The technocratic slogans dealt mainly with political stability, discipline, economic growth, incentives, foreign technology, and unlimited foreign investments.21
Deng maintained that they needed to continue combining “economic planning with market forces regulations” and that China would never again need to be a country that kept its “doors closed”22 or where the economy was held under “rigid control”. The Indian Maoists write that the changes to come would necessarily made the rich richer and the poor poorer and that to develop capitalism, the means of production and labour power would necessarily become negotiable goods. Markets for production and labour power would necessarily be established. And in this way, the “socialist market economy” is a pure fiction. The Deng reforms would necessarily be reforms for developing capitalism. What follows is an abridged overview of the comprehensive economic reforms that the Deng clique implemented in 1978.
The reforms began in agriculture and in the countryside. Agricultural production was de-collectivized. The People’s Communes were dissolved and instead, responsibilities were privatized. In 1979, the system for “specialized households” was introduced. This happened first within agriculture, and later in other sectors. Local directors became responsible for surplus or deficits. Instead of collective and communal ownership, ownership was privatized and a contract system was introduced. The following reforms were implemented within agriculture:
- Individual farming was reintroduced. The state would only buy agricultural products from each individual family.
- Farmer families could sell their surplus on local markets and authorities promoted free market sales of food.
- The People’s Communes’ jurisdiction was abolished, including responsibilities regarding making employment available to the public.
In 1980, China became a member of the IMF and the World Bank and thereby became integrated into the capitalist imperialist world system. Multinational companies were able to come into China without restrictions, particularly in the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) from 1980 and onward.23 In 1982, there were 26 million private companies in China, and in the next year, this number increased to 58 million.24 The World Bank gave China a 20 year loan for 220 million USD to expand railways.25 Free zones were established for foreign monopolies. And the door was opened for foreign investments.
The Deng clique did not phase in competition gradually, but with a bang. The “Open-Door” policy and the first reforms allowed imperialists to plunder the labour of the Chinese people. Upheavals in the countryside made hundreds of thousands of peasants homeless. In this way, they created as many as 150 million “free labourers”. Together with the unemployed resulting from privatization, China gained an enormous reserve army of labourers. This is how China became the world’s industrial “workshop”. The development from the 1970s until the 2000s can be split into three phases. The first phase (1978-1986), a second stage (1987-1996), and a third stage (1997-2003). The first phase was the launch and introduction of the economic (capitalist) reforms.
Reforms continued. Economic responsibilities were decentralized. The door was opened for more local “experiments”. Corruption and bureaucratization ran rampant and created a great deal of dissatisfaction – including the riots in 1989. In 1990, the Shanghai stock exchange was again opened, after it was closed by communists some forty years earlier. The public companies became even more profit-motivated in their enterprise, and directors were given even greater freedoms and power within them.26
The reintroduction of capitalism destroyed the proletariat’s social networks. The rates of poverty, unemployment, black markets, corruption, prostitution, infant mortality (particularly of female infants), drug use, trafficking, robbery, assault, murder, grotesque beauty pageants, and so on all exploded together with the economic reforms.27
In addition, great contradictions were developed within the bourgeoisie. There were contradictions between private capitalists and the state’s leaders. The former demanded political reforms for freedom of expression, multi-party systems, and other things they hoped would protect from from the arbitrary manner in which the state monopolist despotism ruled. This culminated in protests at Tienanmen Square in 1989. Popular dissent intersected with petit bourgeois and private capitalist reform demands. The protests were struck down brutally, one of the most liberal top leaders was expelled, and the reform process continued a little more carefully afterwards. The bureaucracy-capitalists feared that they would not survive a transition to private capitalism after having seen the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The following generation of reforms regained a portion of control for the state and instead reorganized central power.28
In 1997, the 15th Congress in the “Communist Party of China” declared that they would reorganize the entire state sector with the primary task of transforming the public companies to become totally profit-driven. The first step was to privatize small state-owned companies. The second step was to make the remaining public companies corporations of the Western type. All public companies were made profit-oriented and everything that the proletariat had won was reversed. This phase was the peak of the capitalists’ war against China’s broad masses, as the Indian Maoists write. Between 1998 and 2002, more than 25 million workers were fired from the public sector, according to Chinese authorities’ own figures.29
The Indian Maoists write that the reforms led to the private sector making up more than 70% of China’s Gross National Product (GNP). Chinese authorities’ ownership share of the publicly owned industrial companies sunk from 68.8% to 42.2%. Yet, even though the state capitalist sector is relatively small, it continued to play a large role. Most of the largest companies from China are totally or partially publicly owned. All banks and insurance companies are subject to a public commission.30
This entire presentation bases itself on a document from the Maoist Communist Party of India. And they portray the establishment of the new bourgeoisie in China with a starting point in the state and party. They write that the new bourgeoisie oppresses and ransacks the proletariat and that this has only intensified under the development of the capitalist relations in the country. The new bourgeoisie has robbed for itself private value by buying and selling speculatively with monopoly power, by buying and selling stocks, by doing business with monopoly power through public companies (the People’s Liberation Army has opened luxury hotels and produces refrigerators, pianos, commercial airlines, and so on), and by selling access to the Chinese market to foreign capital. The leadership’s sons and daughters will often sit in positions of power that have made them the link between foreign companies and the Chinese market. This has of course been lucrative for these individuals.
In 2001, China became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In this way, China became even more integrated in the imperialist world system. And it became more difficult for the US to create problems for the ascending competitor China. This is in the aftermath of new policies from the Chinese leadership which in English are called “Go Out” or “Go Global”, passed in 1999. This policy had as its goal to create a powerful increase in China’s investments worldwide, as well as foreign investments in China.
Concretely, the goals for this policy were to:31
- Increase China’s direct foreign investments (FDI).
- Diversify production, and produce new products.
- Increase the level and quality of projects.
- Expand finance channels in the national market.
- Promote brand recognition for Chinese companies in American and European markets.
The capitalist reforms in China have gone hand in hand with a steadily increasing economy. According to Chinese Maoists, China’s share of world production was roughly 4% in 1991 and by 2011 was over 14%.32 This made China’s economy the second largest in the world. The tendency is growth in China’s share of the world economy, and a shrinking of US shares. The US has been the world’s largest producer and economy for 110 years, a position that now appears to be threatened.
To summarize this part on China’s way to capitalism, N.B. Turner has written an important and very good point in the text Is China an Imperialist Country? He writes:
The bigger exception we need to discuss, to the general rule that undeveloped (or “Third World”) economies cannot develop in a sustained and complete way under capitalism, is the case of China itself. How is it possible that China’s economy has continued to develop so tremendously since the transformation of socialist China back to capitalism?
There are two aspects to the answer to that question: First, China was no longer really “undeveloped” at the time of Mao’s death; on the contrary, it had already made major advances in the independent development of its economy during the period of socialism. Second, and even more important, the new Chinese bourgeoisie which captured power after Mao’s death was itself independent of foreign imperialist control.
In China’s case, the necessary political independence to promote the locally based development of its newly capitalist economy only came about because of its earlier socialist revolution and period of socialist development. During this socialist period there was a complete political break from foreign imperialism, and this political independence in China largely continued even after the restoration of capitalism. In other words, the new ruling class in China was basically a bureaucratic national bourgeoisie, and not a comprador bourgeoisie. Of course there are some compradors in China, just as there are in every country, but they are not the leading core of the ruling class.33
This character of China, where new democratic and socialist revolution had first liberated the country from imperialism by smashing semi-feudal and semi-colonial relations is what radically distinguishes China’s development from that of the development of large countries in the Third World like India, Pakistan, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt. None of these have broken with imperialism in order to build their own independent capitalist economy. This is simply not possible within the imperialist system. The rule is that a country can only become independent through a revolutionary break with imperialism, through new democratic revolution and socialist construction.
A handful of exceptions where countries have experienced large economic advances can perhaps be found in relatively small countries, like South Korea and Singapore, which have been deliberately and systematically build up by US imperialism as buffers against Soviet and Chinese competition. But the rulers in these countries continue to be closely tied to and dependent on their “allies” in the US, Europe, and Japan.
Socialism laid the basis for an independent capitalist China with an independent bourgeoisie, and this was a prerequisite for establishing the modern social imperialist China.
Part II: Imperialist China
In his 1916 classic work Imperialism, Lenin established and systematized the Marxist (and today Maoist) lessons on imperialism. He showed that in the transition from the 19th to the 20th century, capitalism changed its character. It went from its first stage, free competition capitalism, to a new, higher stage, which we call imperialism. Right from the start, in the study of China as an imperial state, it is useful to begin with Lenin’s analysis.
Lenin on imperialism’s economy, character, and place in history
In his work, Lenin focuses primarily on imperialism’s economy, and he writes in a foreword:34
This pamphlet was written with an eye to the tsarist censorship. Hence, I was not only forced to confine myself strictly to an exclusively theoretical, specifically economic analysis[…] That the period of imperialism is the eve of the socialist revolution; that social-chauvinism (socialism in words, chauvinism in deeds) is the utter betrayal of socialism, complete desertion to the side of the bourgeoisie; that this split in the working-class movement is bound up with the objective conditions of imperialism, etc.—on these matters I had to speak in a “slavish” tongue.
When Lenin defines imperialism’s economy, he writes:
If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism. Such a definition would include what is most important[…]
But very brief definitions, although convenient, for they sum up the main points, are nevertheless inadequate, since we have to deduce from them some especially important features of the phenomenon that has to be defined. And so, without forgetting the conditional and relative value of all definitions in general, which can never embrace all the concatenations of a phenomenon in its full development, we must give a definition of imperialism that will include the following five of its basic features:
(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life;
(2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy;
(3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance;
(4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and
(5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed.35
Lenin concludes by saying that
Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.36
When Lenin further moves from imperialism’s economy to its historical-political character, he writes:
We have seen that in its economic essence imperialism is monopoly capitalism. This in itself determines its place in history, for monopoly that grows out of the soil of free competition, and precisely out of free competition, is the transition from the capitalist system to a higher socio-economic order.37
With this, Lenin is saying that imperialism points towards socialism, towards socialization of not only production, but also appropriation. He writes that imperialism is a decaying capitalism, and that this is the last stage of capitalism, the closest it will ever come to a transition to socialism. He further writes that:
Monopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination and not for freedom, the exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest or most powerful nations—all these have given birth to those distinctive characteristics of imperialism which compel us to define it as parasitic or decaying capitalism […] It would be a mistake to believe that this tendency to decay precludes the rapid growth of capitalism. It does not. In the epoch of imperialism, certain branches of industry, certain strata of the bourgeoisie and certain countries betray, to a greater or lesser degree, now one and now another of these tendencies. On the whole, capitalism is growing far more rapidly than before; but this growth is not only becoming more and more uneven in general, its unevenness also manifests itself, in particular, in the decay of the countries which are richest in capital (Britain).38
Capitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and of the financial strangulation of the overwhelming majority of the population of the world by a handful of “advanced” countries. And this “booty” is shared between two or three powerful world plunderers armed to the teeth (America, Great Britain, Japan), who are drawing the whole world into their war over the division of their booty.39
As long as capitalism remains what it is, surplus capital will be utilised not for the purpose of raising the standard of living of the masses in a given country, for this would mean a decline in profits for the capitalists, but for the purpose of increasing profits by exporting capital abroad to the backward countries. In these backward countries profits are usually high, for capital is scarce, the price of land is relatively low, wages are low, raw materials are cheap. The export of capital is made possible by a number of backward countries having already been drawn into world capitalist intercourse; main railways have either been or are being built in those countries, elementary conditions for industrial development have been created, etc. The need to export capital arises from the fact that in a few countries capitalism has become “overripe” and (owing to the backward state of agriculture and the poverty of the masses) capital cannot find a field for “profitable” investment.40
Lenin describes a transformed world at the start of the 20th century. And this transformation lays the basis for contradictions between imperialists on one side and the oppressed countries and peoples on the other. This was pointed out by the communist global movement as one of four great contradictions in global society, and Mao Zedong pointed it out as the primary contradiction in its epoch. Maoists maintain that this is how it is today. The other contradictions are between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, among the imperialists themselves, and between socialist countries and capitalist countries. Today there are no socialist countries, such that today, the first mentioned is primarily the historical contradiction.
The question of imperialism, what imperialism is, and which states are imperialist is in other words a question that Maoists maintain has a great meaning.
The Indian Maoists write in the analysis of China that:
Though imperialism had been somewhat weakened by the drastic changes in the world after World War II, the epoch of imperialism has not ended. Mao said repeatedly: “We are still in a phase of imperialism and working class revolution.” The scientific analysis of Lenin, based on the fundamental principles of imperialism, is wholly valid and not outdated. The principles taught by comrades Lenin and Mao is the basis for our theory and practice. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism knows that imperialism is moribund. At the dawn of the world revolution, when imperialism is at its parasitic height, even then it will not go willingly out of this world. Imperialism can be eradicated permanently from the earth only when the oppressed classes and people of the world unite and make socialist revolution.41
and they conclude that it is imperialism’s nature to fight fiercely against revolution, even at the end of its life.
The Communist Party of India (Maoist) points out the five economic aspects of imperialism that Lenin demonstrated and write that when Lenin defined imperialism as a specific stage of capitalism, he showed three sides of its nature: (1) that it is monopolistic capitalism, (2) that it is a parasitic and decaying capitalism, and (3) that it is a dying capitalism.
Further, they write that there have been many changes in the world after the death of Lenin and Mao, but that the developments have confirmed Lenin’s revolutionary principles, confirmed the description of imperialism, and have shown Maoism’s immortality. They write:
But history has its own twists and turns. The birth of Bernsteinian and Kautskyite revisionism after the death of Engels, the emergence of Khrushchev-Brezhnev revisionism after the death of Stalin, and similarly, Hua-Deng revisionism arose after the death of Mao. By 1956, under the leadership of Khrushchev, capitalism was restored in the USSR under revisionist Brezhnevite leadership, the Soviet Union transformed thoroughly into a social-imperialist power. Under the leadership of the revisionist Hua-Deng clique in China, capitalism was restored and the foundation of social-imperialist power was laid.42
The Chinese communists’ description of Soviet social imperialism in 1970
In the article Leninism or Social Imperialism, the author cites Mao Zedong who in 1964 says that “the rise to power of revisionism means the rise to power of the bourgeoisie” and that “the Soviet Union today is under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, a dictatorship of the big bourgeoisie, a dictatorship of the German fascist type, a dictatorship of the Hitler type.” The article was in its time groundbreaking and classically Marxist in its systematization of the analysis of the Soviet Union as imperialist. It explains how the Soviet Union now (then 1970) has been taken over by a bureaucratic monopoly-capitalist bourgeoisie of a new type that is decadent, lives in luxury, and fights among itself with internal contradictions, at the same time working together to re-implement capitalism.43
This article is signed by the editorial department in three important Chinese communist periodicals and they write furthermore on page 17 that to achieve maximal profit, the new bourgeoisie in the Soviet Union must indulge itself in intense expansion and aggression, and take part in the imperialist division of the world. They write that this is the class basis for Soviet revisionist social imperialism (socialism in word, imperialism in deeds).
They write on page 18 that Brezhnev has continued Khrushchev’s counterrevolutionary line, and that they use people without regard for life. They write that “he and his like follow Hitler’s policy of ‘guns instead of butter’ and accelerate the militarization of the national economy to meet the needs of social-imperialism for arms expansion and war preparation”. They describe how this policy has lead the Soviet economy to crisis, led to them taking German loans, and to selling natural resources to Japan. They write that large amounts of revolutionaries and innocent people have been thrown in concentration camps and “mental asylums” in the Soviet Union, and that the rulers have even sent tanks and panzers to oppress the people’s opposition in a brutal manner (Page 21).
On Page 23, they cite Stalin who said that the easiest way to take over a fortress is to do so from within, and they say that socialism’s fortress, which stood its ground against the armed intervention of 14 countries in 1918, the White Army, Hitler’s millions of soldiers, along with imperialist sabotage, blockades, and encircling, finally fell when it was taken over from within by the Khrushchev-Brezhnev clique, the international communist movement’s greatest traitors. Today, we can see that the same thing has occurred in China, where the Hua-Deng clique walked in Khrushchev and Brezhnev’s footsteps.
In the text, the Chinese communists refer to Lenin, who revealed how the Second International’s (social democratic) leadership, through opportunism, had abandoned the proletarian standpoint, and went completely over to imperialism and the bourgeoisie. They also write that Soviet revisionism had gone the same way, but they had state power, in contrast to the social imperialists in the Second International. They write that:
The historical lesson is: Once its political power is usurped by a revisionist clique, a socialist state will either turn into social-imperialism, as in the case of the Soviet Union, or be reduced to a dependency or a colony, as in the case of Czechoslovakia and the Mongolian People’s Republic. Now one can see clearly that the essence of the Khrushchov-Brezhnev renegade clique’s rise to power lies in the transformation of the socialist state created by Lenin and Stalin into a hegemonic social-imperialist power.44
The authors further write that:
- Soviet revisionism will often talk about Leninism, socialism, and proletarian internationalism.
- That, however, through the Warsaw Pact and COMECON, they pressure other countries in “socialist labour divisions” that in practice subjugate them to Soviet revisionist interests.
- They will often invade other countries, and have hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops stationed in these subjugated countries.
- They talk about “helping” countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, but that this “help” is just an attempt to bring them under Soviet influence, in competition against American imperialism
- They plunder poor countries with unequal exchange, trading expensive weapons for cheap natural resources.
- Soviet revisionists talk about supporting revolutionary struggles, but condemn riots in the capitalist countries as “extremists” who split popular movements there.
- They have provided the reactionary rulers in India and Indonesia with weapons, which are used to massacre revolutionaries.
- With Brezhnev as leader, the militarization of the Soviet Union has sped up, within all sectors from atomic weapons to the navy.
- The Brezhnev doctrine in socialism’s name, in a false abuse of socialism, reserves the right to violate the right to self-determination of other countries.
The authors of the article against Soviet imperialism conclude that it will not last long. They cite Mao Zedong, who with revolutionary optimism maintained that despite temporary set-backs, the masses of people will win and finally defeat the imperialists, including social imperialists.
The Chinese communists’ exposè of Soviet revisionism in the 1960s is relevant in treating China today. Just as the Cultural Revolution exposed the rightist line in China, it is relevant to understand who Hua and Deng, the architects of modern China, truly were. The Chinese communists, under the guidance of Mao Zedong, theorized and systematized what revisionism with power is for the first time in the 1960s. They showed its class character, and what kind of class dictatorship and form of government it will introduce. And they concluded that the historical lesson is that revisionism with power either creates an imperialist country, or an oppressed (colonial or semi-colonial) country.
Their sharp analysis can be used to cut the analysis of China today to the bone. There can be no doubt that the country is under revisionist leadership. If we accept this Maoist thesis, all that is left is to show whether China is an imperialist state or a semi-colony. There are no other alternatives that exist, if one follows the Marxist (today Maoist) doctine. That China is under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is confirmed by the revisionists’ own theories, which are the same productivist thoughts that Stalin fought in the struggles against Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Bukharin, and which Mao fought in the struggles against Liu and Deng. It is confirmed by the comprehenseive capitalist market reforms in China throughout the 1980s and 90s. And it is confirmed clearly by today’s condition, the situation in the country, and China’s role in the imperialist world system.
Today’s China has over 800 billionaires.45 Over 100 of them sit in elected posts in the state’s top organs. Yet another example of the strong corporativism in China, and the overt smelting of the state and finance monopoly capital. According to the Indian Maoists, one third of the country’s fortune is in the hands of 1% of the country’s population. The poorest quartile of the population holds only 1% of the country’s fortune. China is a country with extreme differences between the poor and rich, where the bourgeoisie lives in enormous luxury. It is sanctioned by the state that follows Liu and Deng’s old slogan of “make yourself rich”, and the thinking that we are accustomed to in the West: that when someone becomes rich, it is a good thing for everyone. There is nothing communist about this.
Nearly 70 members of the National People’s Congress in China have accumulated enormous riches. Their total wealth in 2017 surpassed that of the combined wealth of all US congresspersons, including the US president, cabinet members, and supreme court justices. In 2011, these Chinese top politicians had combined incomes of nearly 90 billion dollars, and it has only increased since then.46
The Indian Maoists write that China has surpassed the US as the world’s largest producer. China produces 50% of the world’s cameras, 30% of the world’s TVs, 25% of the world’s washing machines, and 20% of the world’s refrigerators. Within 2003, exports accounted for 33% of China’s GNP.
China’s capital export, capital import, and state debt
As of 2017, American institutes estimate that China invested nearly 200 billion dollars in other countries, and over half of this within agriculture, energy, and transportation.52 The estimates include direct investments (FDI) along with investments in building and infrastructure. According to the same institutions, the investments are largest to the US (170 billion), followed by investments in Australia, Great Britain, Switzerland, and Brazil. In this way, China has enormous capital exports. China was ranked in 11th place on the CIA World Factbook statistics for direct investments in 2017.53
But Hong Kong was ranked in 4th place on the same statistics. Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, when the city was returned to China, with a particular political and economic autonomy. Following agreements with the British, this autonomy was to be preserved for at least 50 years. A lot of Chinese capital moves to foreign destinations via Hong Kong. Only the Netherlands (!), the US, and Germany were estimated to surpass Hong Kong on this measure. If one includes Hong Kong with mainland China, it would surpass Germany and take 3rd place worldwide. In imports as well – that is, investments from foreign citizens and companies – China (with Hong Kong) lies in third place behind the Netherlands and the US. The Netherlands’ position has to do with the fact that capitalist use the Netherlands to avoid taxes, and investments as a rule only go through the Netherlands en route from one country to another. Only one fifth of the investments from the Netherlands are actually made by Dutch owners.54
While China exports enormous quantities of both goods and capital, China has a uniquely low level of national debt compared with the other great powers. According to several sources, the US is the country with the most foreign debt in the world. As of 2017, it was 22 trillion USD, almost as much as the US total GNP and nearly 60,000 USD per US citizen. The US is followed by Great Britain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands on the list. China does not appear on the list until number 12, but measured in terms of national debt per capita, China’s foreign national debt amounted to only 1,500 USD per Chinese citizen and according to Reuters, the debt only made up 15% of China’s GNP. Compare this with Ireland’s foreign national debt, which is nearly 500,000 USD per capita and nearly 7 times greater than the country’s GNP. China’s total foreign national debt is only three times larger than that of Norway.
These numbers show firstly that foreign national debt, formally speaking, is not in and of itself “dangerous”. Tax haven Luxembourg was registered as having nearly 7 million USD per capita in national debt in 2017, 6000 times the GNP of the country. That companies registered in Luxembourg have an enormous amount of debt is just a part of Luxembourg’s “niche” as a tax haven and finance center in global capitalism. Secondly, China’s enormous exports, both goods and capital exports, together with extremely low debt, shows that the country is relatively independent of other capitalist states. On the contrary, it is other countries that are incredibly dependent on China’s investments, and that Chinese banks buy state obligations (their national debts) from them.
Monopoly capital, finance capital, state capitalism, and exploitation in China
Bureaucratic and private monopoly capital has the power in China. Even the public companies (state owned enterprises, or SOE) operate as private companies both within China and on the world market. But the state and the state party (the CCP) has more direct influence on all of the companies in China than is common in the West, where very many directors, even in the private sectors, are members of the CCP. One in five private industrialists in 2002 were party members. China was ranked third place on a Forbes list of the world’s largest companies by country. Three of the world’s ten largest companies (super-monopolies) are Chinese. They are the oil companies Sinopec and CNP, along with the energy company, State Grid Corporation of China. Among the world’s 500 largest companies, China is in second place with 73 (behind the US’s 132) and ahead of Japan (68), France (32), and Germany (32). The US is on the way down on this index, from 197 of the 500 in 2000 to 132 in 2012.
Foreign capital owns shares in many Chinese companies that deal with export, but the proportion of local (Chinese) owned export companies has long been rising. Additionally, according to Chinese statistics, 41% of foreign direct investments (FDI) in China come from Hong Kong (2010). Foreign investments from the US were, in the same year, just 7% of the total investments. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) maintains that it is a myth that foreign capital dominates the Chinese economy. China has some of the world’s richest billionaires. And Chinese monopoly capital has near-total control over the internal economy in China, in contrast to monopolies in other countries, which experience more competition for their internal national markets. The Indian comrades say that this gives Chinese monopoly capital more playing room than Western capital to develop itself in the future.
Exploitation and hyperexploitation are, according to the Indian Maoists, the primarily driving force of the Chinese imperialist system. China is in a position to pitilessly exploit and oppress working people with the help of its well-organized, centralized, fascist, and bureaucratic state. This is what lies behind the “mystery” of the “Chinese miracle”, China’s global advances.
Furthermore, the Indian comrades point out:
- Extreme poverty in the countryside, driving young peasants to the cities.
- 200-300 million workers have immigrated from the countryside to cities.
- At one point, more than 40% of Beijing’s population were such migrants.
- Migrants make up over half of the workforce.
- Migrants have a poorly-defined legal and social position, which exposes them and keeps them unorganized.
- In 1983, industrial workers’ share of the national income was 57%; in 2008, it was only 26.2%.
- The relative wage costs in Chinese industry is several times smaller than they are in the West.
- Nonetheless, profit margins continue to sink, and if China wishes to compete with the US and Japan, they must move more of their factories to less developed countries.
The first economic principle of imperialism is monopoly. The second is for the smelting together of bank capital and industrial capital and to create finance capital and a financial oligarchy. The central authorities in China have full control of China’s finance sector. Former state minister Wen Jiabao is the patriarch of a family of investors who control nearly 3 billion USD.55 It is worth wondering why some people would call this a socialist country…
Four of the world’s ten largest banks are Chinese. The largest of these (ICBC) has holdings worth 2.8 trillion USD. These banks are closely inspected by senior members in the CCP leadership. All these Chinese banks are under strict control of the party and authorities. And the banks have enormous incomes and profit. In 2012, their profits were nearly 30 billion USD, according to the Indian comrades.
The Indian comrades estimate that the total number of labour aristocrats and petit bourgeoisies in China can be between 100 and 150 million. The labour aristocracy comes primarily from the many workers’ and peasants’ organizations in China. Even if the masses of people have become victims of hyperexploitation, some have been able to rise through the ranks of these organizations. A petit bourgeoisie has been formed, consisting of professionals, technicians, lawyers, engineers, and so on, a layer whose development is closely linked to the development of Chinese imperialism. The labour aristocracy also serves as the main social support for revisionism in China and manifests itself in labour movements as agents for the bourgeoisie.
That China is a state capitalist country under a revisionist leadership does not change the fundamental anarchy that follows capitalist production. There is a housing crisis bubbling beneath the surface in China, where there have been sold an enormous amount of new houses in the past 10 years, but where there are also millions of empty dwellings. The overproduction crisis is awaiting China, as it does other capitalist countries, and it shows itself as these “ghost towns”, where thousands of apartments and offices are never inhabited.
Capital exports and “Go Global”
Besides the monopolies and finance capital in China, capital exports are also growing. Capital export is second only to monopolies as the prominent sign of imperialism’s economy, according to Lenin. This comes to manifest in the form of the growth of Chinese stocks. 3.3 trillion USD of China’s economy is from turnovers of foreign stocks, write the Indian comrades. China has become the USA’s largest creditor in the form of American government bonds. And China has also been buying its way into the Eurozone. China lends more money to so-called developing countries than the World Bank.
As earlier mentioned, China initiated the turn of the millennium with its “Go Global” strategy. Among the goals for this was to create “global masters” within business. An example of this is Pearl River, which are said to produce the world’s best pianos. China came out of the 2008 financial crisis as one of the world’s largest capital exporters. But the Indian Maoists write that China has only recently grown to an imperialist power, and is weaker than the Western countries and Japan, which they claim continue to dominate over international finances.
Furthermore, at least 80 million Chinese work in the semi-colonial and semi-feudal countries in the third world. They work for Chinese companies, typically as managers and foremen. China’s monopoly companies focus on infrastructure like harbors, along with strategic investments in things like oil refineries. China has invested 200 million dollars in the Gwadar harbor in Pakistan. The Ramu nickel mine in Papau New Guinea was bought by the Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) to the tune of 2.1 billion dollars. This has been attacked by armed locals after the destruction of their homes and the pollution of local drinking water. Meanwhile, the Chinese shipping giant COSCO bought 51% of the Greek harbor of Piraeus.
China hedges their bets heavily on transportation, infrastructure, and oil and energy, for instance in Russia, Brazil, Venezuela, and Kazakhstan. And the country is working to build motorways from China to Europe via Central and Western Asia.
Carlsson’s objections to calling China imperialist
The former leader of the Swedish revisionist party Kommunistiska Partiet, Anders Carlsson, wrote an article in 2011 for the newspaper Proletären. Here, he asks if China is an imperialist country. He concludes that “today, we believe that the labeling of China as an imperialist country is incorrect”, but that “an analysis that seems correct in 2011 can be incorrect within a few years.”56 As mentioned, he wrote this in 2011, such that we must allow for the possibility that he has changed his position now in 2018. Nonetheless, it is worth looking at the objections he presents for defining China as imperialist in 2011.
First, it must also be said that the Indian comrades have not determined a concrete year that they maintain that the quantitative gave way to the qualitative, and that China changed its character from just a capitalist country to becoming a social imperialist great power. They write only that it happened before 2014. The undersigned wish to maintain that it happened long before 2011, but admit that not being able to identify an exact year when China became an imperialist power is a weak point in the analysis.
Anders Carlsson writes that such changes as a rule occur gradually and will be difficult to pinpoint, particularly in the midst of the process. His argument against defining China as imperialist can be summarized as follows:
- China is a subjugated capitalist country that more than anything is characterized by the exports of goods.
- China is completely dependent on foreign capital and foreign technology.
- Lenin’s five points on imperialism’s economy are difficult to apply to China.
- There are monopolies that dominate China’s capitalism, but these are foreign monopolies.
- Since industrial capital in China is largely foreign and since bank capital was until recently (2011) public, it is difficult to say that they have been smelted together into finance capital.
- There is a smelting of capital, but since the public sector is lagging, finance capital does not present an expanding tendency.
- Capital exports in and of themselves are not enough; capital exports must play a special role that distinguishes itself from the export of goods.
- Privatization, splitting, and closures dissolve earlier monopolies.
- The tendency is in other words against that which led Europe to imperialism’s stage.
- There continue to be large returns for the exploitation of workers in China, and there are still hundreds of millions of workers in reserve.
- There is no labour aristocracy in China.
- Running businesses in other countries does not make a country imperialist; this is just global trade. It is the methods of the businesses that make the difference.
- China does not have a military presence in Africa, and does not operate as earlier colonial rulers do, like France, Great Britain, and the US.
- China continues to have one foot in the third world.
- The primary side of China’s relations with countries in the third world is that they operate as equals with mutual benefits when compared with these countries’ relations with the imperialist countries.
A number of Carlsson’s claims stand in direct contradiction to the conclusions offered by the Indian communists’ analysis. I maintain that the claims that monopolies in China play a smaller role – that there is a tendency away from monopolization – is absurd. That Chinese companies would shrink or be split up is completely removed from reality. Equally absurd is the theory that one cannot talk about a development towards finance oligarchy and the smelting together of industrial and bank capital. This is simply untrue. The Indian comrades point out that even though there are some contradictions between private capitalists and the state, it is the one and the same monopoly-capitalistic bureaucratic ruling class that has the power in China. Through the state and party, these are openly politically united. Billionaires sit in the top leadership of these organs. And the former state minister controls massive sums. The same class controls all of China’s banks, and whether or not they are publicly listed, they are completely under the control of this oligarchy. It is obvious that both the tendency towards monopolization and finance capital and finance oligarchy has been growing in China, not shrinking as Carlsson claims.
The claim that foreign monopolies dominate in China is also incorrect. Household consumption (e.g. food and housing) is dominated by Chinese monopolies. China is the world’s largest producer of steel and produces nearly half of all the steel that is sold on the global market; the largest dominating companies are primarily dominated by central and local authorities, together with Chinese private capital. In 2005, industry made up over 70% of China’s GNP and almost half of all industrial companies were either fully or partially owned by central or local authorities. And of the rest, there are of course many with Chinese private capitalist owners. Of which many are members of the party. In 2004, 74% of China’s 500 largest companies were fully owned by the state or were publicly traded corporations. And again, privatization or formally private ownership rights do not lead to the Chinese bourgeoisie “losing control” over Chinese capitalism. It is just another form of the same capitalist relations of production. It is typical for revisionists to place greater weight on formal ownership relations than which class it is that has power. Nonetheless, the numbers simply do not support the claim that China was a subjugated capitalist country in 2011.
China is no more dependent on foreign capital and foreign technology than other countries in the imperialist world system. China is no more dependent on the US than the US is on China. Nonetheless, all of Lenin’s points on imperialism’s economy can be readily applied to China. This is something that the Indian comrades have shown. China is, particularly when considering Hong Kong, world leading in capital exports, and capital exports play an increasingly larger role for the country’s economy. The claim that China’s monopolies are dissolving is completely opposed to the factual tendency towards monopolization. Carlsson writes that there continue to be great returns for exploiting workers in China, but the Communist Party of India (Maoist) writes that the degree of exploitation is sinking. Carlsson claims that there is no labour aristocracy in China, another claim that is also completely incorrect. There is obviously an upper layer of the proletariat in China and there is obviously a large bureaucracy of officials and foremen in the union movements and other organization bureaucracies. All under the control of a corporative state and a party with a state goal of making China the world’s most powerful country.
I would also like to cite two short excerpts from Carlsson’s article in their entirety:
In this context, it must be noted that Lenin’s description of capital export’s ways no longer apply. The main part of direct investments abroad occur today between imperialist countries, with the US as the largest recipient.
This is yet another astonishing case in Carlsson’s article. Lenin correctly places a lot of weight on the capital exports from the imperialist countries to oppressed nations in Africa and Asia, but the tables in Lenin’s book Imperialism also show that in imperialism’s start, it was far from all capital exports from imperialist countries going to colonies. For instance, when he shows that more than half of England’s capital exports in 1910 went to Europe and America, that 2/3 of France’s capital exports went to Europe, and that less than 1/4 of Germany’s capital exports went to Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Furthermore, it must be underlined that both Great Britain and the US, long after their transitions to their imperialist time periods, were the world’s largest goods exporters! England was called the world’s workshop, all the way until the US overtook and maintained the position as the world’s largest goods producer, at least until China recently took the position.57 It is a bit mysterious for the undersigned, how Carlsson comes to the conclusion that China’s goods exports, in and of themselves, are a characteristic feature of China as a subjugated capitalist country.
The US has had the position as the world’s largest producer for 110 years! It was precisely in this period that the US went from an imperialist great power to the world’s only and hegemonic superpower. But moreover, the tendency for the largest investments (as measured by dollars) occurring between the imperialist countries themselves is nothing new. The basis for imperialism is not exclusively the hyperexploitation of the third world. Bourgeois statistics fall short when it comes to painting the complete picture.
Carlsson also writes:
We have by no means the intention to judge the Chinese policy. China is, of course, acting in its own interest. But the bilateral agreements with a long list of countries in African and Latin America, including Venezuela and Cuba, have so far been beneficial to to the parties, at least more advantageous than the conditions previously provided on the global market.
It is possible to find the underlying agenda of the article from this excerpt alone. Carlsson’s party, the revisionist Kommunistiska Parti, claims that Cuba is a socialist country. Members of the party have an expansive friendship campaign with the Cuban state. Even the government in Venezuela has their support and is often referred to as socialist. The Cuban and Venezuelan flags wave at their political events. It is possible that Carlsson does not have the intention to judge China’s intentions, but he does judge reality nonetheless. And this is to the benefit of the revisionists and bureaucrat-capitalists in Cuba and Venezuela. This puts them in a better light than if their friends in Sweden were to call their new friend an imperialist in line with other imperialists.
Corporativism and fascism in China and Bråten’s article on China
Kommunistisk Plattform, which was founded by the Hoxhaist ML-group Revolusjon, has through their editorial Revolusjon! published a good article on China’s imperialism written by Eirik Bråten. Here, he writes about the side of China that reveals the Chinese government form’s corporativist and fascist character.
He writes that as an answer to increased criminality under capitalism, a “quota of 5000 death sentences within 1984” was established and that “this quota was overfilled with 24,000 death sentences passed and executed before the end of that same year.”58 The regime’s answer to criminality is completely normal for capitalist countries that cannot solve the social problems that are frankly created by capitalism itself, other than by brutally cracking down on the symptoms and desperate people.
Further, the author writes that “the People’s Liberation Army is subjected to the CPC via the Military Commission, not the Chinese state or the country’s defense department. It is more that the army leads the state and the party, not the other way around,” and in the same place he writes that
China and the ‘CPC’ allow for pro forma opposition, as long as it in no way threatens the capitalist system and the power of the state apparatus. This has allowed eight political parties of the most marginal character to be allowed in addition to the ‘CPC’, while a communist opposition and communist organization has been banned and persecuted. This has, in recent years, created the temptation to build and to propagate for parties such as the Maoist Communist Party of China and China’s Proletarian Revolutionary Central Committee, which were established in 2008 and 2010, respectively. These parties, in the same manner as Mao Zedong and company, held their demonstrations, protests, and meetings in Hong Kong, where they were still able to benefit from the bourgeois-democratic freedoms gained over the last few years of British colonial rule. This is one of the paradoxes of the slogan “One Country, Two Systems”.
This is in line with Mao’s warning that if socialism were to fall – revisionism comes to power – it may fall not only to capitalism, but to fascism. The strong centralization, a prerequisite for consolidating power in the hands of the proletariat, makes it so that if the bourgeoisie takes power, it is a short way to fascism. The need for fascism may also arise there, as socialist countries will have strong revolutionary tendencies and revolutionary cadres. They will have an organized proletariat and the new rulers will have a great need to crush the revolutionary headquarters and all attempts to reorganize or reconstitute them.
It must furthermore be underlined that China is not a stable system, as many in the West incorrectly believe. The riots and reaction to the riots in 1989 is an example of this. Signs of crisis in the economy and concerns among the ruling class is another example. Fascism is an unstable form of government and it is also an answer to instability, a desperate attempt to hold the system together. The way we are familiar with in many countries in the third world, or from the interwar period in Europe.
Some weaknesses in Bråten’s article on China
Eirik Bråten’s article is mostly good, but I believe that it has some weaknesses. Firstly is the title, possible assigned by the online magazine and not the author himself, “China – A social imperialist super power”, without the article actually arguing for China being a superpower. Maoists today say that the US is the world’s only superpower. China is one of several competitors, and in some areas the foremost competitor, but the US continues to dwarf China on the military and political arenas. Measured by GNP, the US (and the EU countries combined) lie far ahead of China.
Secondly, Bråten writes that
Hua Guofeng was the Party Chairman and Prime Minister after Mao. He was close to Mao in the lead of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Soon, party struggles in the CPC broke out, regarding the decisive line for the People’s Republic of China […] Deng Xiaoping and his higher-ranks took power in the CPC in December 1978 at the 11th Central Committee’s Third Plenary, and Hua and the people around him were pushed out.
Like AKP(m-l) in 1976/1977,59 the author accepts the official Chinese account of Hua as Mao’s legitimate successor and one that “belonged to the circle” around Mao and the leadership of the CPC. Hua’s fascist attack on the so-called “Gang of Four”, the following death sentences and life sentences, the break from the Cultural Revolution, and so on are too vaguely described as “party struggles” that “soon broke out”. The two-line struggle had been waged for a long time in the CPC. And Hua was not really that close to Mao and the revolutionaries, but was rather a centrist. Hua was partial to the right-wing, and the left-wing was not strong enough to go against it. But Hua showed his true character with his brutal attack on the left-wing. Bråten’s article gives the impression that Hua was continuing Mao’s line, but does not mention the revolutionaries (among them the so-called “Gang of Four”), and the time placement of the change was incorrectly written as 1978, and not 1976, even though out of context, it is correct that Hua, after having done the rightist line’s dirty work, was quickly pushed to the sidelines by Deng and his closer allies. As mentioned earlier, Hua continued just as fully in the Central Committee after this for many years (all the way until 2002!). The great qualitative break occurred in 1976, with the attack on the revolutionaries and the complete liquidation of the Cultural Revolution. Deng’s maneuvers in 1978 and the years that followed were just the consolidation and advancement of the new bourgeois power that robbed power for itself in 1976, together with reforms that corresponded with the new ruling classes’ and capitalism’s interests.
A third weakness of Bråten’s article, and this weakness is an extension of the preceding point, is that it does not clearly identify the start of the counterrevolution. It does not state, even if incorrectly, that it happens when Deng pushed Hua out in 1978, but paints a picture of a smoother transition. Party struggles from 1976 to 1978 are mentioned, as is Deng’s take-over in 1978, the dissolution of the People’s Communes in 1980, great changes in the party leadership in 1982, and the purges between 1977 and 1985. Economic reforms and party decisions throughout the 80s and the resolution of the “socialist market economy” in 1992 are also mentioned.
It is good, and important, to go through this. But it is also important to establish concretely and clearly when the country changed its colors. With Maoism as a tool for analysis, and with Mao’s thesis of “revisionism with power is the bourgeoisie with power”, as Bråten also refers to in the last paragraph, and with a correct analysis of the counterrevolutionary Hua, we can clearly conclude that the counterrevolution occurred in 1976. The main question of socialism or capitalism is the question of political power for the proletariat, and after Hua’s counterrevolutionary coup, this political power had been liquidated.
China’s neocolonialism in the third world
China’s business in Asia, Africa, and Latin America takes the form of a neocolonial exploitation. The Indian communists point out five countries as examples in Asia:
One of the world’s poorest countries is experiencing their peasants now working on Chinese-owned soil. China is building a railway worth 7 billion USD in Laos’ capital city of Vientiane to plunder the country of its timber, rubber, minerals, and food products.
The railway in Laos also connects China more directly to Bangkok, Thailand and Yangon, Myanmar. Laos has become a semi-colony of China and a bridge to the rest of the region.
Pakistan is China’s strongest ally, and they have even received atomic technology from China. China has also helped to quell uprisings in the country. In return, Pakistan has become a passage to the Persian Gulf and Africa for China.
China has invested 50 billion USD in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project that has led to the displacement of Baloch and Sindhi minorities in Pakistan.
Pakistan has taken enormous loans from China, which the people will not benefit from, but which of course they will need to pay for.
15,000 Chinese soldiers have been stationed in Pakistan to protect their interests.
Through the alliance with Pakistan, China is fighting India over dominance of the Indian Sea.
China has also met opposition in Pakistan. In November 2018, while this article was being written, a Chinese consulate in Pakistan was attacked, and VG writes:
The separatist group Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has claimed responsibility for the action.
“We have carried out this attack, and our activities will continue,” says the group’s spokesperson, Geand Baloch. He called the news bureau AFP from an unknown location. “China is exploiting our resources,” Jiand Baloch of the Balochistan Liberation Army tells Reuters.60
With NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, China has increased its economic, political, and military activities in the country.
They have started the recovery of copper and other minerals in the country, and are active in a number of enterprises.
Afghanistan and China have formally entered a partnership and China is facilitating a dialogue between authorities and the Taliban.
China is Sri Lanka’s largest finance partner and deliverer of defense materials.
90% of China’s energy imports go through Sri Lanka’s sovereign waters.
The alliance with Sri Lanka is also poised against India and for influence in the Indian Sea.
China gives all possible support to Sri Lanka’s war against Tamil national liberation, where tens of thousands of Tamils, from liberation army soldiers to infants, have been killed.
China has vetoed a UN resolution to investigate Sri Lankan war crimes.
China is heavily invested in the country’s infrastructure.
Nepal has always been closely connected with India, but lies between the two giants of India and China, and has also had good relations with China in the past.
After the monarch fell in 2008, the relationship with China has been strengthened.
China has ramped up its “security operations” in the country after 2008.
China gives a lot of “aid” to Nepal, including in the form of Chinese schools.
China is one of the largest investors in the country, and is one of the countries that gives “development aid” to Nepal. (Norway also invests in Nepal, particularly in hydroelectric power)
China has given loans to Nepal for the expansion of wind power.
A railway is being constructed between Tibet and Nepal.
India has expressed concerns about China’s construction in the Himalayas.
China has particularly set its sights on Africa. Africa has enormous natural resources, including oil, iron, copper, and gold. 30% of the world’s mineral deposits are in Africa, including 42% of the world’s bauxite, 38% of the world’s uranium deposits, 55% of all cobalt, 44% of chromium, 82% of manganese, and 73% of the world’s plutonium. China is the world’s largest importer of several of these minerals. China has become Africa’s largest trade partner.
In an article submitted to Dagsavisen in 2014, Sjur Papazian writes:
A report from the World Bank in 2009 estimates that Chinese economic commitments to African infrastructure project increased from more than 1 billion USD annually between 2001 and 2003 to around 1.5 billion USD annually between 2004 and 2005, and reached at least 7 billion USD in 2006. In July 2012, China’s president Hu Jintao offered 20 billion USD to African countries in loans over the course of the following 3 years. The estimated total Chinese investments from 2010 to 2012 were as high as 101 billion USD.61
He explains the war of words between Western countries and China over China’s activities in Afghanistan. Correctly enough, he points out a degree of hypocrisy in European former colonial rulers of Africa, who continue to plunder the continent, criticizing China for human rights abuses on the continent. Of course there is competition between the Western countries, primarily the US, and China which come to the surface in diplomatic jabs.
Within the oil sector, China is active in Sudan, Angola, Nigeria, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, and Gabon. Sudan is the fourth largest oil provider for China and China buys 1/3 of its oil from Africa.
The Indian Maoists write that in Africa, China stands for socialism in words, but imperialism in deeds. China offers its five principles of “honesty, equality, mutual benefit, solidarity, and collective development” and the words sound nice and suit local authorities well. At the same time, African producers have needed to close their doors because the market has been flooded by cheap goods from China. Chinese mines and exploitation destroy the environment. Human rights are trampled and the local bourgeois authorities are corrupted even further. Ghanaian peasants are furious over China’s illegal mining operations and pollution of the drinking water. This is what China’s neocolonial exploitation of Africa looks like.
China’s capital exports to Latin America are on the same level of magnitude as in Africa. Chinese banks circumvent the World Bank to give “development loans” to Latin America. Hydroelectric dams are built with Chinese loans in Argentina and Ecuador. China invests in Chilean copper, Brazilian iron ore, and Argentinian soybeans.
China’s militarization and international political and military rivalry
To maintain and advance its imperialist ambitions globally, China enters into political, economic, and military cooperation agreements. Together with Russia and other countries, they have taken part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a type of counterweight against NATO. Together with imperialist Russia, they have established the BRICS-cooperation, with Brazil, India, and South Africa, despite the contradictions between the different partners.
Imperialism necessarily leads to war. The century that has passed since Lenin’s classic work has confirmed this thesis to the fullest degree. Two world wars and several hundred wars, military conflicts, coups, and bloody conflicts have rocked the world. They continue to characterize the world today, especially in Central Asia, Western Asia, and North Africa, and in countries like Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Somalia. The imperialists, primarily US imperialism, has killed millions of Muslims in the past 20 years alone.
China is building up its own military force. Between 2002 and 2011, its military budget has increased by 170%.62 According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China now has the second largest military budget.63 And they write in 2017 that China’s military budget amounted to more than 13% of the world’s total military budget. China is the world’s fifth largest atomic power, behind the US, Russia, Great Britain, and France. The army is modernized and has showed its strength by shooting down satellites. It must be mentioned that feeding, clothing, and housing a Chinese soldier is much cheaper than it is for its Western competitors. Even tanks, planes, and submarines are cheaper for China. These factors make China’s military force relatively stronger than the numbers would suggest. Even if China has a much smaller budget, they have almost twice as many soldiers in active service than the US, with 300 battleships, compared with the US’s 500 and 1500 fighter jets versus the US’s 2800.64
We must understand this military build-up in China through the perspective of China being encircled by competitors and their spheres of influence. The world is, as Lenin pointed out 100 years ago, by and large divvied up between imperialists. If China is to expand, it must do so in competition with other imperialists. And this competition will be bloody, the way that the competition between US imperialism and the Soviet social imperialism was. And as we see in Syria today, where Russia’s Assad fights against the US-backed opposition and where hundreds of thousands die, while millions more are displaced. The Indian Maoists mention on a preliminary note in the text, that the struggle between the US and the Soviet Union was extremely bloody. They write that it lead to direct and indirect wars between them, and that between 1945 and 1990, there were at least 125 regional wars, civil wars, and armed conflicts that claimed more than 40 million human lives, all while tens of millions were displaced.65
When one speaks of WWI and WWII, which in many ways can be seen as one connected conflict, it is apparently easy for Europeans to forget that the catastrophe that these wars wrought on Europe is no worse than the havoc that imperialism wreaked on the world afterwards. The great conflicts between imperialists have only shifted arenas. Instead of Somme, Verdun, and the Belarussian plains, African and Arabic names demarcate massacres and famines. It is also apparently easy to forget that both of these wars did not only occur in Europe, but took place all over the world.
China is one of the world’s largest weapons exporters today (number 3), and we will most likely see a more militarily active China in the years to come, Already they have involved themselves in some places. They have supported the uprising in Chad against President Idriss Deby after he acknowledged Taiwan, but have apparently later been able to win him over with the use of bribes. China played a role in Sri Lanka’s oppression of the Tamil LTTE. They have given atomic weapons to Pakistan. They have surveillance operations in Nepal and Afghanistan. They sell weapons to regimes that are China-friendly.
As of 2005, China has had some small forces stationed in Liberia, Western Sahara, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, and Congo. With the Gwadar harbor in Pakistan and its first African military base in Djibouti, China has increased its foreign forces from 20,000 to 100,000. And China has high-level military cooperation agreements with Sudan, Algeria, Nigeria, and Egypt.66
China, Russia, and the Rivalry with the US
The Indian communists maintain that China will need to fight with other imperialists in the future. Recently, the relationship between them and the Western imperialists has been tense, but polite. But this is transitory, as cooperation between imperialists is relative while competition is absolute. The US is attempting to encircle and limit China, and look for methods to isolate China and beat them in the struggle for markets. The TPP was an attempt to pass a trade agreement that would operate in such a manner, but was scrapped by Trump. The Indian communists claim that there have been created two imperialist blocs that now stand against each other, and that China and Russia, through SCO and BRICS, lead one of these blocs.
This is in contrast to the Latin American Parties and Organizations, who write that:
…[T]here is no “Russia-China Block”, amongst them there are also disputes. Momentarily social-imperialist China has no position of greater significance in the redistribution, because it has limited offensive capabilities compared to the other imperialist powers. With China containment and first conspiracies are undertaken, it has its place as a factory for products of consumption and room for capital of the different imperialist powers such as the USA, Japan, Germany and others.67
The Indian parties write that China and Russia work to break up the “unipolar” Atlantic system, with the US as the hegemonic superpower, for instance when Russia unilaterally annexes Crimea against Western cries and protestations. Or when China unilaterally establishes a no-fly zone in the South China Sea, or when China establishes oil rigs in the sovereign ocean territories that Vietnam has claim to. Russia and China are uncontested great powers in Eurasia. They are permanent members of the UN Security Council. Today, they use this position to break up the existing agenda and delegations between world powers.
The general development and sharpening of the fundamental contractions in the world
Moreover, the Indian comrades point out some aspects of the development in the world as context for the rivalry among imperialists: 1) From 1970, there has been a general crisis and stagflation in Western capitalism, which culminated in the 2008 financial crisis in the US. Political and military competition with Russia and China is stronger than it ever has been since the fall of the Berlin Wall. 2) In the imperialist countries, economic protectionism, chauvinism, and fascism are growing. 3) Competition over absorbing the underdeveloped countries is continuing, and the rivalry increases. 4) US imperialism, the only superpower today, is trying to hold onto its position. The weakened Russian imperialism is attempting to maintain and strengthen its influence in neighboring areas. Competition with the West has reached a high point when China has become an imperialist country, and competes with the US and seeks rearrangement. To a lesser degree, Germany and France compete for dominance in Europe.
The Indian Maoists maintain that there are no plans for direct war between the US, China, and Russia in the near future, but that several indirect wars are on the agenda. The US is attempting to circle them both in, and only China has the means to break the siege. NATO is waging war in Afghanistan and Syria, along with sporadic wars in Africa and other places. The NATO bloc competes with Russia for the Arctic. And Russia and China pose a great threat against the US’s dominance over the distribution of oil and the most important minerals.
The Indian Maoists write in their conclusion that the three great contradictions in the world are being sharpened, including the contradiction (1) between imperialism and the oppressed peoples and nations, (2) between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in the capitalist and imperialist countries, and (3) among the imperialist countries and the companies within them. The first of these is the primary contradiction, as it also was in Mao’s time. They maintain that the masses of people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America rise again and intensify the struggle against imperialism, against imperialist exploitation, persecution, oppression, aggression, trauma, insults, abuse of authority, and discrimination. Also the opposition against China’s social imperialism grow. And it is the task of communists to turn this opposition into proletarian revolution.
They write that communists like Mao’s students understand and accept the armed revolution’s way. The socialist world revolution takes the form of new democratic and national revolutions in the oppressed countries, but that they are a part of one and the same revolution under the proletariat and the communist parties’ leadership. Even if “we are alone”, they write, after the socialist countries have fallen to capitalist counterrevolution, the situation offers enormous opportunities. The prairie is dry, and even a small spark can set fire to it. They write that if the revolution doesn’t stop it, the rivalry between imperialists will lead to world war, but as Mao says, war will in turn lead to revolution. Revolution is the primary tendency and there is not a force in the world that can stop it.
Lenin writes in Imperialism:
The capitalists divide the world, not out of any particular malice, but because the degree of concentration which has been reached forces them to adopt this method in order to obtain profits. And they divide it “in proportion to capital”, “in proportion to strength”, because there cannot be any other method of division under commodity production and capitalism. But strength varies with the degree of economic and political development. In order to understand what is taking place, it is necessary to know what questions are settled by the changes in strength. The question as to whether these changes are “purely” economic or non-economic (e.g., military) is a secondary one, which cannot in the least affect fundamental views on the latest epoch of capitalism. To substitute the question of the form of the struggle and agreements (today peaceful, tomorrow warlike, the next day warlike again) for the question of the substance of the struggle and agreements between capitalist associations is to sink to the role of a sophist.68
With Lenin’s words as a basis, how are we to view José Maria Sison’s position on China and the form that Chinese imperialism takes? He has given the following answer to the question of whether or not China has become capitalist:
Indeed, the Dengist counterrevolution resulted in the restoration of capitalism in China and its integration in the world capitalist system. By Lenin’s economic definition of modern imperialism, China may qualify as imperialist. Bureaucrat and private monopoly capital has become dominant in Chinese society. Bank capital and industrial capital are merged. China is exporting surplus capital to other countries. Its capitalist enterprises combine with other foreign capitalist enterprises to exploit Chinese labor, third world countries and the global market.
China colludes and competes with other imperialist countries in expanding economic territory, such as sources of cheap labor and raw materials, fields of investments, markets, strategic vantage points and spheres of influence. However, China has not yet engaged in a war of aggression to acquire a colony, a semicolony, protectorate or dependent country. It is not yet very violent in the struggle for a redivision of the world among the big capitalist powers, like the US, Japan, Germany and Italy behaved in joining the ranks of imperialist powers.69
José Maria Sison was the first leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), today lives in the Netherlands, and is the leader of the International League of the Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), an international umbrella of mass organizations, primarily Filipino mass organization both within the Philippines and abroad. The CPP declares itself a Maoist party and they continue to lead a people’s war in the Philippines, a people’s war that all communists whole-heartedly support. They have waged people’s war for more than fifty years, and they express, for instance, warm support to the people’s war in India. Yet Sison and the ILPS have received hard criticism from revolutionaries, for instance by the Communist Party of Brazil (Red Fraction), for weakness in regards to China and other revisionist governments. Sison is not to be taken lightly by Maoists today, as he is the historical leader for the Communist Party of the Philippines, one of the world’s most important communist parties.
But in this interview, doesn’t Sison do exactly what Lenin warns against? Namely, to “substitute the question of the form of the struggle and agreements… for the question of the substance of the struggle and agreements”? If China is imperialist according to “economic criteria”, it makes no difference if their imperialism in Africa primarily takes the form of agreements with corrupt regimes, or by direct military force. The content will be precisely the same.
In the same interview, Sison follows up with:
It is with respect to China’s contention with more aggressive and plunderous imperialist powers that may be somehow helpful to revolutionary movements in an objective and indirect way. China is playing an outstanding role in the economic bloc BRICS and in the security organization Shanghai Cooperation Organization beyond US control.70
Regarding the definition of China, it is completely unreasonable to demand aggression at the American level in order to define a country as imperialist. The last 100 years alone, has Sweden not participated in extremely many military operations? Is Sweden not imperialist? And what about the examples of Chinese intervention in armed conflicts in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Chad? Of course China’s militarism and intervention is at a completely different and much lower level than that of US imperialism. The US has been the world’s foremost imperialist for a century. They are the world’s only hegemonic superpower. And they took after brutal colonial powers like England and France, which still have soldiers in African countries that they colonized several centuries ago.
Yet, as Stalin writes:
The dialectical method regards as important primarily not that which at the given moment seems to be durable and yet is already beginning to die away, but that which is arising and developing, even though at the given moment it may appear to be not durable, for the dialectical method considers invincible only that which is arising and developing.71
China is growing among the imperialists. In many places, they are still far behind the US. They are also far behind the contradiction-full alliance [in the original, the word “bloc” is used, but has been changed by the author in the translation] of European states (the EU) when taken together. And in military offensive capacity, they clearly lie behind several states, among them Russia. China has one military base abroad; the US has hundreds. But China’s role in Asia, Africa, and Latin America is imperialist and nothing else. And the country’s economy, as Sison himself describes as imperialist (!) must go hand in hand with militarism. It is also relatively absurd from a Marxist standpoint to say that a country can be defined as imperialist “according to Lenin’s economic definition”, but nonetheless not call it imperialist.
We must conclude in the clearest terms that China is imperialist – social imperialist – an enemy of the world’s people and the international proletariat.
Sison’s statement is not incidental or detached. Sison maintains that it is good to have a “multipolar” world and that Russia, China, SCIO, and BRICS play a positive role against the US. At the same time, Sison himself reveals that China is committing abuses against the Philippines and is robbing ocean areas that belong to the Philippines. Sison calls Duterte cowardly for having accepted China’s attacks on Filipino sovereign waters, but does not call it imperialist.72
It is not in line with Maoism to suggest that competition between imperialists is something that helps revolutionary movements. This is a revisionist position. They saw Soviet competition with the US as a helping hand to the fighting people in the third world. In reality, revolutionary movements were brutally oppressed by Soviet imperialism. From Afghanistan to Ethiopia, from Angola to Czechoslovakia, liberation became co-opting into the social imperialist system. Revolutionaries and patriots were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered by Soviet imperialism and their lackeys. To say nothing of the millions of people who were killed either directly in wars, or by epidemics, hunger, and poverty in their aftermath.
It must further be added that it is a good thing for the people that the enemy is split and fights each other fiercely. Particularly when the struggle is sharp and they thrust sticks into each others’ spokes. When Chinese warlords fought each other, it was a tactical advantage for the Communist Party of China in its people’s war. The Afghan Maoists prefer that the reactionary Taliban fights against the US-loyal government, and hopes against the reconciliation and potential peace agreement between the Taliban and the government that Chinese diplomats work towards. The revolutionary wishes for fighting and struggle in the enemy’s camp. That the people’s enemies don’t have the ability to unite themselves against the masses is something that the revolutionary can take advantage of tactically. And the struggle between them pushes forth change, and it makes it impossible for them to continue to rule in the old ways, something which is a benefit to revolutionaries. The contradiction among imperialists is always present, and we do not wish, as certain revisionists do, that imperialists would unite because “peace is most important”. This is without wishing the violent suffering that the imperialist competitions and proxy-wars impose on the masses any welcome, by any means. This has to do with keeping two thoughts in one’s head at the same time: both to welcome splits between the imperialists, while at the same time fighting all imperialists and not spreading the illusion that some of them are engaged in a more “progressive” position than others.
The Soviet Union’s imperialist competition with the US – their construction and expansion – was by no means to the benefit of the world’s people when it almost threw the world into atomic war. And who gains from China rushing forth as the new competitor of the US? Who gains from their expansion in Laos, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Sudan, Congo, and so on? Certainly not the world’s poorest and most oppressed peoples and nations! It is precisely them who will need to pay for China’s economy that “can be called imperialism” and it is them who will be hit the hardest in the coming wars between the imperialists. And additionally, the social imperialists drag the reputation of socialism into the muck and splatter mud on Mao’s portrait.
Communists do not fear imperialism or imperialist great powers. We know that the future belongs to the proletariat and the world’s people. And we see that sharp contradictions between the imperialists also lead the revolution closer. But the tendency towards sharp competition between the imperialists is an absolute tendency under imperialism. Only the revolution can stop the wars. But neither China nor any other imperialist are objective supporters of this. On the contrary, as stated earlier, it is in the nature of all imperialists to fight bitterly against revolution. China’s rulers are that class that came to power by murdering China’s revolutionary leaders, and they are prepared to wage social fascist terror in other countries as well, as in the genocide of Sri Lanka’s Tamils.
Furthermore, a number of self-proclaimed Western Marxists make the great error of, in practice, putting the contradictions among the imperialists themselves above all other contradictions. They give geopolitics preference over the class struggle. They believe that the competition between powers like NATO and Russia can, with the “correct” handling, lead us closer to communism. If this is not their conscious opinion, then they will unconsciously make this error by connecting their political project as a small appendix to the great Russian or Chinese panzer. Or as a dinghy tied to the sinking ship of the Baathist Party in Iraq or the so-called Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. To “defend” one or another bourgeois government against US imperialism becomes more important than developing the class struggle, building the communist party and mass organizations, and initiating the people’s war.
The primary tendency in the world is not permanent, but in our epoch, it has always been between the imperialists (all imperialists!) on one side, with US imperialism as the largest, and the world’s oppressed peoples and nations on the other side. To engage in a political partnership, even if it is totally one-sided and purely theoretical from these groups’ perspective, with Russia or China, is a betrayal of the world’s oppressed. In the case of China, it is a betrayal against the hundreds of millions of exploited Chinese proletarians, and against the masses in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, who pay for this Chinese expansion with blood, sweat, and tears.
We do not fear revisionism, we do not fear social imperialism; we know that they are paper tigers and that the people’s war’s flames will scorch them from this earth. But they will not fall by themselves, and none of them are friends of the people. It is a special responsibility for the communist parties to reveal revisionism at its core. It is our duty to tear down the false image they attempt to create for themselves in order to divert attention from the bloody footprints they leave behind them wherever they go. It is our duty to clear up any confusion that they cause among the masses, it is our duty to draw a sharp line between us and them, and it is our duty because we ourselves will lead the revolutionary war, the people’s war, which tears asunder the bourgeois state and puts the dictatorship of the proletariat in its place.
The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is the only way to world communism, where classes are abolished forever, where imperialism is a passing memory, and where hunger, need, war, and poverty are mere concepts to be read in history books. We know that it is not only a possibility, but a necessity.
Death to imperialism, people’s war until communism!
Bury the social imperialists and social fascists in the same grave as Yankee imperialism!
Forward for world revolution under Maoism’s glorious red banner!
References and Notes
1. Lenin, Vladimir I. Preface to Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Petrograd, 1917. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/pref01.htm.
2. “China: A Modern Social-Imperialist Power, CPI(Maoist).” Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement. September 22, 2018. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://anti-imperialism.org/2018/09/21/china-a-modern-social-imperialist-power-cpimaoist/.
3. China: A Modern Social-Imperialist Power. Proceedings of the Fifth Conference of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). 2017. September 22, 2018. Accessed July 17, 2019. http://www.revaim.org/uploads/booklets/China%20-%20A%20Modern%20Social-Imperialist%20Power.pdf.
4. Thesis on the International Situation and the Tasks of the International Communist Movement. Proceedings of V. Meeting of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Parties and Organisations of Latin America. March 19, 2017. Accessed July 17, 2019. http://www.demvolkedienen.org/index.php/en/t-dokumente-en/1301-thesis-on-the-international-situation-and-the-tasks-of-the-international-communist-movement. English translation by Dem Volke Dienen.
6. “The ‘Great Debate’.” Marxists.org. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/sino-soviet-split/index.htm.
7. Kantha, Sachi S. “Nutrition and Health in China, 1949 to 1989.” Progress in Food and Nutrition Science 14, no. 2-3 (1990): 93-137. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2293245.
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10. Xiaoping, Deng. “BUILD SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS.” Speech, Council of Sino-Japanese Non-Governmental Persons. June 30, 1984. Accessed July 17, 2019. http://academics.wellesley.edu/Polisci/wj/China/Deng/Building.htm.
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17. The Maoist Parties and Organizations in Latin America. “Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution with People’s War until Communism!” News release, February 25, 2017. Dem Volke Dienen. Accessed July 18, 2019. http://www.demvolkedienen.org/index.php/en/t-dokumente-en/1270-celebrate-the-50th-anniversary-of-the-great-proletarian-cultural-revolution-with-people-s-war-until-communism.
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33. Turner, N. B. “Is China an Imperialist Country?” Banned Thought. March 20, 2014. Accessed July 19, 2019. http://www.bannedthought.net/International/Red-Path/01/RP-8.5×11-IsChinaAnImperialistCountry-140320.pdf.
43. Leninism or Social-Imperialism? Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1970. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/china/social-imperialism.pdf.
45. Chan, Tara Francis. “Communist China Has 104 Billionaires Leading the Country While Xi Jinping Promises to Lift Millions out of Poverty.” Business Insider. March 02, 2018. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.businessinsider.com/billionaires-in-china-xi-jinping-parliament-income-inequality-2018-3?r=US&IR=T.
46. The net worth of the top 100 wealthiest representatives in the National People’s Congress was roughly 3.91 trillion Chinese yuan (or 568 billion USD) at the end of 2017. The wealthiest US congressperson at the end of 2017 was Darrell Issa (R), with a net worth of 283.3 million USD. Only 5 congresspersons had a net work surpassing 100 million. This places the upper limit for US congressional net worth around 50 billion, but estimates are closer to 2.1 billion US. The net worth of the Trump administration cabinet was estimated at 5 billion USD, including Trump. The upper limit to the net worth of Supreme Court justices in 2017 was in the tens of millions. See references 47,48,49, and 50. These estimates do not take into consideration hidden assets, tax evasion, and capital income on which Thomas Piketty has written extensively (see reference 51). US representatives are, for instance, not required to report assets in real estate (although as 47 indicates, many do). Nonetheless, this cuts both ways (both US and Chinese representatives) and could not possibly account for a 100-fold gap between the cohorts using the most liberal estimates.
47. Glenn, Elias. “Wealth of China’s Richest Lawmakers Rises by a Third: Hurun.” Reuters. March 02, 2018. Accessed July 19, 2019.https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-parliament-wealth/wealth-of-chinas-richest-lawmakers-rises-by-one-third-hurun-idUSKCN1GD6MJ.
48. Dennis, Steven T., and Jay Hunter. “Wealth of Congress Jumps $150 Million.” Roll Call. October 23, 2014. Accessed July 19, 2019. http://www.rollcall.com/hill-blotter/wealth-of-congress-jumps-150-million-50-richest/.
49. Cranley, Ellen. “The $2 Billion Cabinet: This Is How Much the 10 Wealthiest Members of Trump’s Cabinet Are worth.” Business Insider. January 31, 2019. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-cabinet-members-net-worth-2019-1?r=US&IR=T.
50. Levinthal, Dave, Lateshia Beachum, and Carrie Levine. “Supreme Court a Millionaire’s Club.” Center for Public Integrity. Accessed July 19, 2019. <a href="https://publicintegrity.org/federal-politics/supreme-court-a-millionaires-club/"https://publicintegrity.org/federal-politics/supreme-court-a-millionaires-club/.
52. “Does China Dominate Global Investment?” ChinaPower Project. July 19, 2018. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://chinapower.csis.org/china-foreign-direct-investment/.
53. “Country Comparison: Sock of Direct Foreign Investment – Abroad.” Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2199rank.html.
54. Shaxson, Nick. “Why the Netherlands Is the World’s Largest Source of FDI.” Tax Justice Network. November 10, 2014. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.taxjustice.net/2014/11/10/netherlands-worlds-largest-source-fdi/.
55. Barboza, David. “Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader.” The New York Times. October 25, 2012. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/business/global/family-of-wen-jiabao-holds-a-hidden-fortune-in-china.html.
56. Carlsson, Anders. “Är Kina Imperialistiskt?” Proletären. November 16, 2011. Accessed July 19, 2019. http://proletaren.se/artikel/stub-133. Our translation from the original Swedish.
57. “China Tops U.S. in Manufacturing.” Industry Week. March 14, 2011. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.industryweek.com/global-economy/china-tops-us-manufacturing.
58. Bråten, Eirik. “Kina – Ei Sosialimperialistisk Supermakt.” Revolusjon. November 3, 2018. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://revolusjon.no/teori-og-analyse/2095-kina-ei-sosialimperialistisk-supermakt/. Our translation from the original Norwegian.
60. Dahl, Ingvill D., and Christina Cantero. “Seks Drept I Angrep Mot Kinesisk Konsulat.” VG. November 23, 2018. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.vg.no/nyheter/utenriks/i/gP9xL9/seks-drept-i-angrep-mot-kinesisk-konsulat. Our translation from the original Norwegian.
61. Papazian, Sjur. “Kinesisk Imperialisme I Afrika?” Dagsavisen. January 13, 2014. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.dagsavisen.no/debatt/kinesisk-imperialisme-i-afrika-1.451913. Our translation from the original Norwegian.
63. “Military Spending Graphics 2017.” SIPRI. May 2, 2018. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.sipri.org/gallery/military-spending-graphics-2017.
64. Silva, Cristina. “What China’s Military Looks like Compared to the U.S.” Newsweek. November 08, 2017. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.newsweek.com/what-chinas-military-looks-compared-us-704881.
69. Sison, José Maria. “The Communist Party of the Philippines on Maoism, New Democratic Revolution, China & the Current World.” Interview. Jose Maria Sison. January 19, 2014. Accessed July 20, 2019. https://josemariasison.org/the-communist-party-of-the-philippines-on-maoism-new-democratic-revolution-china-the-current-world/.
71. Stalin, Joseph V. Dialectical and Historical Materialism. 1938. Accessed July 20, 2019. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1938/09.htm.
72. Sison, Jose Maria. “Statement on China-Philippine Exploration Deal.” Jose Maria Sison. August 1, 2018. Accessed July 20, 2019. https://josemariasison.org/statement-on-china-philippine-exploration-deal/.