[Marxism] China and imperialist economy

Ben Courtice benj2006 at connexus.net.au
Thu Jan 12 02:17:42 MST 2006


A few excerpts from a feature in the latest "Fight Racism! Fight 
Imperialism!" newspaper from the UK Revolutionary Communist Group 
<http://www.revolutionarycommunist.com> -- the December/January issue 
which this article is from is not online yet, but no doubt it will be 
uploaded soon.

I'm posting this because, in the RCG's typical approach, author Trevor 
Rayne points to some of the implications of bourgeois restoration in 
China for the world economy and from this, I extrapolate, for the 
political economy of the working class. I'm not aware of much Marxist 
discussion drawing out these points yet. (forgive me if it has occurred 
and I've missed it!) However it is plain here in Australia that the 
emergence of China as a capitalist power has an impact -- massive growth 
in Australia's biggest industry, minerals export, combined with decline 
and uncertainty in areas such as manufacturing and agriculture. This 
certainly has an impact on different sectors of the working class. For 
anecdotal illustration, my last job mainly made parts for the auto 
industry, and kept losing customers to overseas manufacturers (including 
China). It was lowly paid and downsizing. My current job makes liquid 
tanker trucks, e.g. for use (among other things) in mines -- and seems 
to be booming, having put on a lot of new people at the same time as me. 
(the pay's a lot better, too :)

Below I've interpolated some commentary with excerpts from the article.

Ben Courtice

****

The article quotes at length figures on China's economic growth since 
1978, with many examples of its industrial, foreign trade, consumer 
purchasing and other areas of economic growth. It finishes this section 
with the following paragraph:

"Capitalism and imperialism have been given an extension of its life by 
the discovery of this last 'frontier for significant growth', as 
Unilever describes China, but in doing so it is producing a rival to US 
global hegemony."

The second point here has been debated a lot not just in Marxist circles 
but in the bourgeois press. On the first point (extension of life, last 
frontier) I wonder just how significant it is for ameliorating recession 
and allowing capitalist growth. A new recession is probably in the 
pipeline soon, going on the general schema that they tend to occur every 
7-9 years. The last recession in 1998 ("Asian Economic Crisis") was 
largely staved off in the imperialist nations, partly (I think) due to 
the sacrifice of the economy of several Newly Industrialising Countries 
(e.g. Indonesia).

The article then charts a brief overview of the bourgeois degeneration 
of the Chinese revolution culminating in the Deng leadership, and a 
sketch of the devastation of China's socialist gains, from the status of 
women to the "Dickensian" condition of coal miners, to the environment. 
"Shanghai has a property bubble and elsewhere there is an 
over-production of property, but not for the working class."

The next section addresses the flight of manufacturing towards China -- 
from countries as diverse as Japan and Mexico.
"_The Economist_ (30 July 2005) notes that with China, India and Russia 
entering into the global capitalist market, the world's labour force 
has, in effect, doubled, with China responsible for over half of this 
increase. 'So, with twice as many workers and little change in the size 
of the global capital stock, the ratio of global capital to labour has 
fallen almost by half in a matter of years.' As a result, wages in the 
most developed capitalist countries are at their lowest level as a 
proportion of national income for decades while profits are at their 
highest level in Japan and the euro area for 25 years. Last year, US 
after-tax profits rose to their highest level for 75 years but wages 
lagged 6% behind cyclical trends. China's influence on low commodity 
prices and purchase of US Treasury bonds has kept inflation rates low, 
allowed central banks to set low interest rates fuelling an expansion of 
credit thereby driving up house prices and consumer debt.
"As China has expanded so world commodity prices for oppressed nations' 
producers have risen. China is a rival to imperialist nations for 
investment in underdeveloped nations and for purchases of their 
commodities."

A number of issues are indicated here. The strengthening of the 
imperialist economies is counterbalanced by the growth of a potential 
rival. Obviously the prospects for China to seriously rival the US are 
contested by Marxists with an understanding of imperialism, but since 
the imperialists themselves appear a little worried (see below) we ought 
to give some consideration to the possibility.

The growth in prices for oppressed nations' producers also affects 
Australia because our main exports are primary products (especially 
minerals). With an impact on the structure of the working class here 
significant to revolutionaries, insofar as the changing stratifications 
of working class privilege affect our organising (the theory of the 
labour aristocracy, for those who adhere to it). In regard to the 
comment on housing prices, this seems to have driven a large section of 
Australia's economy recently, and promoted the existence of a growing 
(at least until recently) section of workers-cum-landlords, owning 
several rental or investment properties.


Rayne points out the negative implications for the US in terms of the 
alternative market for Venezuelan oil (strengthening Chavez' hand) as 
well as Canada:
"Canadian and Chinese firms have signed a memorandum to build a pipeline 
to carry oil to Canada's west coast for shipment to Asia. US Vice 
President Dick Cheney's 2001 national energy security report stressed 
the importance of Canada's oil tar sands to the US. China may seek 'a 
peaceful rise' but imperialism cannot allow itself to surrender resouces 
and markets crucial to its existence that were won by war and military 
interventions."





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