[Marxism] Is China imperialist?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Oct 21 08:59:47 MDT 2007

Walter Lippmann wrote:
> Only some people on the political left who think that China has now become
> capitalist. The Wall Street Journal doesn't think that China is capitalist.
> They, and the capitalist class for whom they speak, have a pretty clear idea
> of what THEY want. And they don't think China is what they want it to be.

I would be reluctant to use the WSJ as an authority on class relations 
in China, especially if you are referring to the opinion pages, which 
after all probably view Hillary Clinton as some kind of socialist. In 
any case, the WSJ has made it pretty clear in a series of articles that 
China is a capitalist country. They are online at 
<http://tinyurl.com/2tsytj> under the heading "China's Naked 
Capitalism". Here's a sample:

How Capitalist Transformation
Exposes Holes in China's Government
December 18, 2006

BEIJING -- China's embrace of market forces in the past three decades 
has reshaped virtually every aspect of its people's lives. Much of the 
impact has been positive. Hundreds of millions have escaped dollar-a-day 
poverty. The average Chinese citizen is wealthier, and enjoys far more 
economic and political freedom, than when overhauls began in 1978.

But the transformation has also wiped out much of a cradle-to-grave 
safety net -- health care, education, pensions -- that ensured basic 
needs were met for most of the population. It has severely damaged large 
parts of the country's environment, and triggered a widening gap between 
rich and poor.

Indeed, while China's government still calls its system socialist, and 
still plays a big role in the economy, what has developed here sometimes 
resembles a sort of naked capitalism, where an unfettered pursuit of 
profit governs almost all facets of life, and a growing share of the 
population is left unprotected.

full: http://tinyurl.com/2t5re4

> It seems that only some on the left are desperate to affix the "capitalist"
> label to the People's Republic of China. And they fight hard for a seemingly
> abstract point, with few apparent practical consequences. But if it's not a
> mere terminological dispute, what IS involved? Well, those who label China
> "capitalist" (an erudite term which in practice means "bad place") tend to
> oppose Chinese foreign policy in general, and to ignore, disregard or else
> to downplay, the aspects of which are favorable, such as its support to 
> Cuba. 

You are repeating yourself, Walter. We get it. Countries that Cuba has 
positive relations with should not be criticized. I don't happen to 
agree with this kind of crypto-Stalinist horseshit myself. In 1968, 
Fidel Castro did not say a single word about the massacres in Mexico. We 
can understand why. There are powerful economic and political 
considerations involved for an isolated socialist nation under the gun. 
But there are none for revolutionaries in the US or elsewhere. We have 
an obligation to denounce such massacres and also to develop an analysis 
of Chinese society. For those, of course, who are too lazy or too 
uneducated to pursue such an analysis, the WSJ opinion pages might be 

> My own approach to the world might be called a "Cuba-centric" framework.

As Claude Rains said in "Casablanca," I'm shocked, shocked to learn that.

> Were I to think that there was a left-wing, pro-socialist, pro-working class
> opposition then I would feel more sympathetic toward them.

How would you know they exist or not? You studiously avoid any source of 
information that is not part of the International Cuba Fan Club approved 
reading list. For those who are curious about the socialist movement in 
China, which is far larger than ours in the US I would add, go to 
Stephen Philion's website: http://stephenphilion.efoliomn2.com/. Here's 
an excerpt from one item you will find there--an interview with Chinese 
Economist Han Deqiang on "The Social Costs of Neo-Liberalism in China" 
in the July, 2007 edition of Dollars and Sense.

PHILION: How has the WTO affected large state-owned enterprises?

HAN: State-owned enterprises (SOEs) fall into two categories. The first 
are SOEs, like Shenyang Machine Factory or Luoyang Tractor Company, that 
are subject to competition with private companies. These quickly went 
bankrupt. Monopoly-sector SOEs, such as petroleum producers, are less 
directly affected by China’s membership in the WTO.

PHILION: The Chinese leadership seems to be working under the assumption 
that as long as the SOEs that produce the greatest revenues remain 
vital, Chinese socialism can be sustained.

HAN: First of all, China’s not socialist now.

PHILION: Yes, right. I mean in their sense of the phrase, so-called 
“socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

HAN: Not likely either. It is true that in terms of tax contributions 
and profits, the small and medium-size SOEs are not great, but in the 
absolute numbers they employ, they are considerable. Their influence on 
local employment and finances is pretty substantial. So, in the 
aftermath of the near complete collapse of these small and medium-size 
SOEs, for the central state to rely on large enterprises alone for 
maintaining the subsistence of China’s population of 1.3 billion becomes 
extremely difficult.

PHILION: It seems as though the leadership’s hope is for local and 
foreign private capital to replace these small and medium-size companies 
as the source of investment and to resolve the unemployment problem in 
the process.

HAN: What I would contend is that for every one job saved by foreign 
capitalist investment, three to four will be lost unless the foreign 
investment produces for foreign export alone. This situation does exist, 
assuredly. Right now 60% of our export is fueled by foreign companies’ 
investment. However, the potential for foreign investment to instigate 
future Chinese economic growth is weak. It can only largely resolve a 
segment of the unemployment problem. It can’t do much in terms of 
advancing the upgrading or expansion of China’s industrial system. And 
its use to resolve the fiscal crisis facing China is even more 
problematic. From ’49 on, we built our nation by using state enterprise 
to supplement or replace foreign enterprise’s contribution to the 
economy. The idea of doing the opposite is a fantasy.

> That's why my inclination is to be cautious in relation to such elements.

Cautious is not the word I would use. Close-minded is more like it.

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