As things stand the argument is not so much about the current [S]tate of affairs; not many would argue that China is a fully functioning communist utopia. Rather, the discourse is about the direction of travel and whether the reforms of Deng Xiaoping were a brilliant masterstroke or a complete sellout akin to perestroika. On the one hand, the global capitalist economy is seen as inevitably dragging China into its clutches:
The direction of a country with state capitalism and a minimal system of welfare is of course better than the neoliberal hellhole of the current western system. The main question is will such a system be stable enough for the party to push forward full socialism or would such a system be corrupted back into privatization due to its inability to resolve the internal contradiction of being apart of the global capitalist economy which has proven to be true in every similar case in history be it the Keynesian economics of the US and post-Marshall plan Europe, the Nordic social democracies or Gorbachev’s USSR. To this date we have nothing in Dengoid countries to disprove this materialist trend toward the increasing power of the bourgeois class aside from a few empty promises that western larpers lapped up from Xi’s asshole. Both here and China the respective CP have been opening up the method of being party members with increasing numbers of bourgeois and liberal members this is a clear fact with the increasing leniency in the ban of religious beliefs, the ownership of businesses and private property for party members. -anon
On the other hand, there is an argument of historical and cultural institutionalism that sees the Chinese State as unique (as all states are) and thus sees a possible trajectory towards mass ownership of a thriving economy:
The Chinese government has control of the material inputs and outputs of the bourgeois class, and this has institutional momentum that cannot be overcome. So while it’s probably possible for members of the bourgeoisie to use corruption in the system to extract wealth, it will not be possible for them to change the structure. Consider that the 20th century socialist states had to go through a rupture to install or restore a bourgeois system. There is no possibility for a rupture in China as long as American imperial bourgeoisie runs it’s systemic attacks against China, because that evokes the memory of imperial subjugation of the 19 century and that causes universal agreement that stability is holy.
We also have to make a class analysis, the capitalist class in China bases it’s power on the ability to sell Chinese labour for-tech transfer, and that rising wages in China as well as the shrinking purchasing power of the western world will make this harder. So their systemic influence will likely shrink. Next we have to look at China’s contradictions, their primary and secondary contradiction in the 70s was the technology-gap and lack of local resources. The contradiction of the technology-gap is shrinking and in some sectors has been resolved. So this will likely go away in the next 10 years. That leaves the resource import dependency. This requires them to have commodity production for trade. I think that it’s likely that there will be a crisis caused by a sabotage of Chinas energy imports, that will cause among other things a mega project for energy autonomy, where they divert something like 10% of their economic output towards brute-forcing this. There also is the thing where their installed party representatives with veto powers into the private sector, which negates a capital strike of the sort that happened with the neo-liberal counter-revolution in the West. And then lastly their poverty reduction campaign reduces the pressure on the proletariat and it increases the number of people that will be able to get a education and hence the labour-aristocracy will stratify less. I don’t necessary see how the bourgeois class is supposed to have gained much ground here.
Obviously China runs a capitalist mode of production and they too will be subject of the laws of motion of capitalism, and will cause the bourgeois sector to go after privatization hard. I would guess that the falling rate of profit will drive this some times in the mid 2030’s. Where we lack theory is how struggle in the information sphere will play out. The CCP could become a party of apps while the bourgeoisie moves-in to the halls of power of yesteryear. It wouldn’t be the first time the Dengists outmanoeuvred capitalists. There are quite a number of people that are predicting that the meaning of buildings will fade away for institutional structures. It’s questionable to what extend monetary logic would be replicated. Consider that once this is inside the digital systems there is nothing that forces them to replicate capitalist social relations, people look at the screens and use the numbers they see on those screens to guide their actions, you can have a completely planned socialist economy at the back-end that defines what the numbers say. People will not care as long as they get products and services with this and this system could replicate it self no matter what capitalist do.
Consider that the material reality of the economy is human labour time, and that time-benefits of increasing technological automation can disproportionally benefit the interests of workers. This is the part of simulating money relations while not replicating the systemic dynamics of it. But there also is the possibility that people get material rewards for certain actions with interaction systems that no longer simulate money. There also is the potential do find feedback systems that effectively function as democratic polling, just without any of the spectacle. I don’t want to base the potential of these developments on revolutionary will that is established with ideological purpose. I think that the systemic pressures to bypass an increasingly obstructionist will of a late stage capitalist bourgeoisie will push this, as well as problems with finances like increasing-debts, as well as increasing social harmony via removing people from the insecurities of residual unplanned market structures. Keep in mind this just is a potential direction things can develop in. I don’t think you can predict this. And I’m very skeptical with regards how resilient the digital system are going to be. -anon b
Overall it seems that the Dengist/Xi side of things is built a lot on hope and the idea that the infrastructure of capitalism can be re-purposed by the multitude.
China is probably the most fruitful place for future socialist revolution, in spite of their government. The CPC is an instrument of class collaboration and an impediment to revolution; anything stating otherwise is just Dengist cope. However, China has a large, militant industrial proletariat and is a critical manufacturing hub in the global capitalist economy. The ongoing consequences of the coronavirus quarantine are a perfect example of this. If the Chinese proletariat independently organized and pushed for a revolutionary transformation, they’d have massive leverage to compel recognition from the rest of the world. This is unlike the post-industrial west, where the working class is atomized across small service jobs that are peripheral to the main currents of capitalist production. -anon c
China is not neoliberal. Some see an inevitable clash between the State and the new bourgeois, in which the State will emerge victorious in the final outcome.
Chinese workers are exploited, some of the surplus they produce does not return to them in one form or another this lost surplus tends to accumulate in the hands of china’s proto-bourgeois class, transnational corporations, the upper strata of other countries, and also imperial financial power.
But Dengists are not neo-liberals. Consider that for Chinese workers wage-labor in special economic zones meant a higher and increasing living standard for their labour time, consider that no neo-liberal government has actually managed to reduce poverty, let alone in as dramatic ways as china has, but rather tendencially increased poverty. consider that also the Chinese state is using this to emancipate china from a subservient international position that allows the extracted surplus from Chinese workers to flow outside the country. The neo-liberals in subservient countries usually do not do that they tend to be despots loyal to their foreign masters, not undermine them in the long run. China will eventually overcome the last remnants of the imperial subjugation, and then the Dengists will have to change their position with regards to the Chinese proto-bourgeois class which will have served their purpose. This means that the Chinese proto-bourgeois class will start pushing for the immiseration of the Chinese population and de-industrialisation just like the neo-liberals did in the west in their class-war activity, and the Dengists will have to show their colours, and crush them.
To get the timing for this you have to understand that China currently is dependant on food and energy imports as well as various other resources, and they do have to become at least energy and food independent in order to not be subjected to effective encirclement. They also have to gain strategic parity in terms of military deterrence, in 2 ways first in terms of capacity and second in terms of ratio of the economy it requires to produce the deterrence capacity. The second point is about preventing a ruinous arms-race like in the cold-war, where the USSR could match in terms of deterrence capacity but not in terms of doing this with the same ratio of economic expenditure. Another thing here is that in order to be able to move against the proto-bourgeoisie class they have to wait for a down-turn of capitalism that sharpen the internal class contradictions, so that changing economic relations results in immediate benefits that the population can notice. Right now the effective wages of Chinese workers are still rising and hence changing the economic relations is made very difficult. If the capitalist sector no longer is capable of allowing for rising wages, this would change. Other contradictions are the technology gap, they almost have overcome this. -anon d
An interesting take, though the critical question to this is how exactly do we know what the ‘true colours’ of the Chinese State are? Occasionally the rhetoric of the Dengist side ventures into 4d chess territory. Isn’t it also true that Western states pay homage to the noble ideals of the enlightenment, while simultaneously ripping them up each time they exploit a worker or drone a innocent? Can we rely on Marxist rhetoric alone to assume that things will be alright in the end?
What’s clear from these debates is that while no state is alike, China does occupy a unique position in the international state system and hosts a special ensemble of state institutions and power relationships. It’s too crude of an analysis to say that China is becoming just another neoliberal state. Indeed, China in the 21st century may put Fukuyama to bed once and for all. Yet it also feels naive to say that the path to socialism is set in stone and not one of many possibilities.
It seems that we are next to that clichéd fortune-teller who can see the future of everything except that which is most pertinent. There is a uncertainty over China’s future; it could be a Marxist utopia, or it could be something much worse than neoliberalism. But for the would-be revolutionaries at the end of history, uncertainty is enough right now to dream of capitalism’s rupture.
An Adequate State– interview with Lao Xie from the excellent Chuang journal. This is a series of interviews with a pseudonymous member of an activist group in China. The outlook is somewhat bleak for socialism and there is a lot said about the growing power of the bourgeoisie of both State and private capital. That said, Lao Xie himself is proof that leftwing attitudes still exist in China today and neither he nor many others continue to organise the workers’ struggle.
Seven Currents of Social Thought in People’s China by Cheng Enfu. Article on different political currents in contemporary China by University scholar Cheng Erfu who includes his own current, ‘Innovative Marxism’. It’s a theory article, so it’s quite dry and lacks insight into the feasibility of these different schools of social change within China’s political economy, but nevertheless an interesting read of ideology within the Chinese academy.
-This article was a collaboration between anonymous contributors.
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