Orthodox Trotskyism weighs in on class nature of China

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Apr 25 12:14:38 MDT 2001

China, America and the Pacific

By Ted Grant and Alan Woods

Unable to challenge China directly, the American ruling class attempts to
gain its objectives by other means. A section of the US capitalists -
particularly those with economic interests inside China - argue that by
investing in China and binding her ever more securely to the world market,
they can strengthen the hand of that wing of the Bureaucracy (the
"reformers") which wants to hasten the transition to capitalism. In this
way they hope to get a more pliable (and weaker) regime in Beijing, over
which they could exert pressure.

Although China has moved a long way towards capitalism over the past
twenty, and particularly the last ten years, the transition is by no means
complete. A large part of the economy still remains in the hands of the
state, especially the key sector of heavy industry. True, there are
thriving pockets of capitalism, mainly on the coastal areas and in Hong
Kong, and these are growing in importance. But, unlike Russia, where the
Bureaucracy foolishly accepted the advice from the West to move rapidly to
dismantle the state owned sector, the Chinese Bureaucracy has moved
cautiously, privatising in piecemeal fashion, while maintaining a firm grip
on the levers of power.

In recent years China has enjoyed a high rate of growth. Even now it has a
rate of growth of seven percent. But this has another side. The movement in
the direction of capitalism has engendered colossal social dislocation.
Unemployment is around 150 million. There is huge and growing inequality,
both in the cities and villages. Tens of millions of poor people have
poured into the cities in search of work. In capitalist enterprises -
frequently owned by foreigners - they are subjected to the most brutal
exploitation for very low wages. Unbearable pressure is put on housing and
the infrastructure. Such conditions, which recall those of the Russian
working class a hundred years ago, are a breeding-ground for revolution.

This is not 1949. After decades of economic growth, the Chinese working
class now numbers at least 200 million. The revolutionary potential of this
gigantic proletariat is self-evident. There have been big strikes and
demonstrations in the cities of China in recent years, and also
disturbances in the villages and a ferment in the minority nationalities
(The Tibetans, Mongols, Uighurs, etc. ) This explains why Beijing has
concentrated all its energies on developing the economy. The Bureaucracy
does not want conflicts outside China that can have negative repercussions
inside the country. It would prefer to avoid a clash with America, which,
apart from being an important source of modern technology, is a major
market for Chinese exports. China has a big trade surplus with the USA.

The future of capitalism in China is by no means certain. The Bureaucracy
itself is split between a pro-capitalist wing and a "conservative" wing
that fears the consequences of social instability that flow from
capitalism. While some sections of the Bureaucracy have enriched
themselves, the majority have gained little or nothing from the market
reforms. This is particularly true of the inland provinces that have not
received the kind of investment which has flowed into the coastal areas.

The fact that the Americans still speak of "Communist China" is an eloquent
proof of their attitude to it. Under Clinton, Washington followed the line
of engaging China - that is, attempting to enmesh it in the world
capitalist system, thereby ensuring that capitalism in China would become
irreversible. But the Bush administration is divided. On the one hand, it
is under the pressure of Big Business whose motto has always been: "Money
does not smell" and which would trade with the devil and his uncle if it
were necessary to make a nice profit. On the other hand, there is the
traditional reactionary wing of the Republican Party, with its die-hard
"anti-Communism", which sees "Red China" as a threat to American
civilisation, motherhood and apple-pie. To this must be added the voice of
the military and those strategists of Capital who understand the long-term
conflict of interest between China and Russia. Having very few opinions of
his own, President Bush is tossed like a rag doll between these rival
factions, with the most contradictory and sometimes amusing consequences.

China is more integrated in the world economy than at any time in history.
But this fact, which is generally a progressive development that has helped
boost the Chinese economy, also means that China is no longer immune to the
shocks that come from the world market. The trade surplus which China
currently enjoys with the USA can be ignored, or treated as a minor
irritant so along as the boom lasts. But with the beginning of a downturn,
protectionist tendencies in the USA will grow. Such tendencies are
particularly strong among the Republicans. The attempt to include China in
the World Trade Organisation - which is still not finalised - will meet
ferocious resistance from these sections. If the present downturn turns
into a slump, the contradictions between China and America will intensify.
Already the chorus in the US about China's human rights record, the absence
of free trade unions, the low wages etc. are a hypocritical disguise behind
which the protectionist lobby pushes its case against trade with China.

Full article: http://www.marxist.com/Theory/china_america_pacific.html

Louis Proyect
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