[Marxism] The class nature of the Chinese state

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Thu Oct 25 05:45:45 MDT 2007

Paula writes:

"To pick one example, I mention there a recent report estimating the size of
China's manufacturing workforce in 2002 at 109 million, compared with 53
million for *all* of the G7 countries put together."

And how much value is imputed to that Chinese labor by the world market?
Some 8% of the world manufacturing total. And how much to the G7 countries?
About 56%. (See chart here:

This means that the world market recognizes 14 times as much value added by
one worker in the imperialist countries as in China, taking your figure of 2
Chinese workers per worker in the imperialist countries. The actual hourly
relation is even higher because Chinese workers have longer workweeks and
less vacation than workers in imperialist countries. That is, the market
recognizes each Chinese worker's work-week as creating roughly the same
value as 3 hours of work in the imperialist countries.

This unequal exchange is one of the main ways through which imperialism
exploits the colonial and semicolonial world.

"China is increasingly dependent on Africa for raw materials, markets and
investment opportunities; Africa, in turn, is increasingly dependent on
Chinese capital. How do we characterize this inter-dependence between China
and Africa? If it is a form of imperialist domination, should we cover it

The amount of direct foreign investment in Africa by China is miniscule --
less than $2 billion. By your lights, the United States would be a colony of
Mexico and Venezuela, since Carlos Slim and the Cisneros family have many,
many, many times that amount invested in the U.S.

You need to look at the totality of economic and political relations, as
well as the insertion of the countries/regions with the world market, to
make the case, not just point to some relatively minor foreign investments.
(And the investment is minor: Africa received in remittances in 2006 more
than 20 times the *total* of Chinese "imperialist" investments in Africa --
about $39 billion. Not that year's investment, I emphasize, but the TOTAL.
See this write-up on a recent report on remittances by two international

This report underscores that one of the main ways colonial and semicolonial
countries are exploited is through the export of labor power whose value is
not fully recognized in the importing countries. 

"[T]his transformation from oppressed to oppressor is a normal result of
capitalist development, as we saw with Japan a century ago."

There is nothing "normal" or "automatic" about it, contrary to what you
imply. Precisely the difference that Lenin emphasized between the
imperialist epoch and the preceding one is that the entire world had already
been divided up, and that what we call today transnational corporations had
begun to put together world-wide cartels. 

Hence the significance of the dependence of the Chinese auto, consumer
electronics and toy sectors --to mention just three-- on their imperialist
partners in those branches of production.

"Russia was an imperialist nation in her own right, even though she would
have had to repay French loans with the value produced by Russian workers
(in this case, through taxation)."

I think you should look at the pre-1917 Russian case more closely. Russia
was a marginal case, with characteristics of BOTH an imperialist nation and
a semicolonial one. What made the imperialist side decisive was the
political role Russia played, not the economic relations.


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