[News] Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 21 13:06:09 EDT 2019


  Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?

by Horace G. Campbell <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/br8ph/> - 
October 21, 2019


On October 1, 2019 the peoples of China celebrated 70 years of the rule 
of China by the Communist Party (CPC). There was much to celebrate in so 
far as over the seventy year period the Chinese society had risen from a 
poor, underdeveloped society to be the second most important economy in 
the world, in the process lifting the living standards and confidence of 
hundreds of millions. Central to the transformation of Chinese society 
were the sacrifices made by the Chinese people to overcome warlords, 
exploitation, economic backwardness and imperial domination. In period 
since 1949, the state squeezed more work out of the workers and peasants 
in order to accumulate surpluses that could be invested for the 
diversification of the economy. The economic and political choices over 
this seventy year period produced many twists and turns, ups and downs 
in the process of unleashing a great leap forward, a cultural revolution 
and then a ‘reform ‘ agenda. It is in this fourth stage after the 
‘reforms’ where the challenges of militarism, financialization and 
environmental degradation will test the mettle of Chinese socialism.

The choice of the label of socialist to mark the nature of the Republic 
was made in October 1949 by the political leadership when they seized 
power and announced the formation of the People’s Republic of China at 
Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949. In order to penetrate the social 
content of this declaration towards socialist construction, it will 
always be necessary to understand the survival of the CPC in relation to 
the internal and external contexts. Today, in the midst of a prolonged 
capitalist crisis and a collision course with the military management of 
the international system, the working peoples of China are now 
confronted with a new stage of the struggle for a new order. This 
commentary seeks to place the celebration of 70 years of the socialist 
revolution in the context of the rise of a social stratum in China whose 
intellectual and ideological subservience to neo liberalism is laying 
the foundations to the erosion of the positive gains of the Chinese 
people since 1949.

*Emerging from the Long March – Coming to Power of the Chinese Communist 
Party *

On October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China was formally 
established, with its national capital at Beijing. Standing before the 
people at the gates of the old imperial palace Mao, Chairperson of the 
CPC had declared that, ‘the Chinese People have stood up.’ The Chinese 
peoples had been humiliated by western imperialists from the middle of 
the 19^th century when Britain, France, Germany, the USA and Japan 
extracted concessions from the Chinese imperial state and occupied 
Chinese territory. The leaders of the decaying Qing ruler ship had to 
open the port cities to the monopoly capitalists and also granted them 
legal and territorial concessions. It was in the period of the first 
Opium War, in 1842, when the Chinese emperor ceded Hong Kong to the 
British.^[1] Chinese youths, students and workers opposed imperial 
domination and formed organizations imbued with ideas of the 
self-determination of China. One such organ was the small party that was 
started in Shanghai in 1921 and called itself a Communist Party. 
Influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin and the victory 
of the Bolsheviks in the Great October Revolution of 1917 in the USSR, 
the Communist Party of China set about unifying with other anti-colonial 
forces. One of these forces was the nationalist elements of the 
Guomindang, led by Chiang Kai-shek. Urged on by the Soviet Union to form 
an anti-colonial alliance with the Guomindang, the Communist Party had 
worked with national capitalists, but by 1927 the stark differences in 
objectives were clear with the contradictions between the comprador 
classes and the masses. In 1927, the Guomindang massacred hundreds of 
Communists in Shanghai and the surviving leaders fled to the rural areas 
of China rooting themselves among the peasantry.

After crushing the Communist Party in Shanghai, between 1930 and 1934 
Chiang Kai-shek launched a series of military encirclement campaigns 
against the Chinese communists in an attempt to annihilate (them 
politically and militarily) especially in their base area in 
southeastern China. The Communists successfully fought off major 
campaigns using tactics of mobile infiltration and guerrilla warfare 
developed by Mao. In the fifth campaign, Chiang mustered about 700,000 
troops and established a series of cement blockhouses around the 
communist positions. The Chinese communist Central Committee, which had 
removed Mao from the leadership early in 1934, abandoned his guerrilla 
warfare strategy and used regular positional warfare tactics against the 
better-armed and more-numerous Nationalist forces. As a result, the 
communists suffered heavy losses and were nearly crushed. It was in 1934 
when surviving communists now under Mao’s leadership embarked on the 
Long March (1934–35). This historic 6,000-mile (10,000-km) trek of the 
Chinese freedom fighters, which resulted in the relocation of the 
communist revolutionary base from southeastern to northwestern China and 
in the emergence of Mao Zedong as the undisputed party leader. Fighting 
Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-shek throughout their journey, the 
communist troops crossed 18 mountain ranges and 24 rivers to reach the 
northwestern province of Shaanxi. The heroism attributed to the Long 
March inspired many young Chinese to join the Chinese Communist Party 
during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Mao’s base in Yunan became a 
center of resistance to the Nationalists and the Long March decisively 
established Mao’s leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. It was 
under the leadership of Mao where the Party organized poor farmers and 
peasants in the countryside.

By 1937 when the Japanese carried out genocide in Nanking and occupied 
most of China, the communists led the fight for Chinese sovereignty. Mao 
Zedong had emerged as the theoretician of the Chinese path to socialism 
by developing new ideas about revolution. Where in the classical Marxist 
texts, the vanguard of socialist change was supposed to be the workers, 
Mao studied the Chinese reality and set about the building of peasant 
soviets. It was from these social forces that Mao and the communists 
forged a Red Army that fought a long and brutal battle for power. ^[2] 
Emerging from a long march in the late thirties, the Maoists had fought 
the Japanese and the Goumindang and emerged victorious in 1949. From 
their base at Yunan, the communists grew in strength and eventually 
defeated the Nationalists in the struggle to control mainland China.

*There was no blueprint to build socialism.*

When the Communist Party acceded to power in 1949 there was very little 
industry left after foreign occupation and Civil War. The new Chinese 
state looked to Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union for assistance but 
even before there was any agreement, about socialist planning, the 
Chinese society was thrust into another war in Korea in June 1950 less 
than one year after assuming power. The United States had opposed the 
Communists and even after the victory in 1949 had recognized the exiled 
Republic of China government in Taipei as the ‘legitimate’ government of 
China. Anti- communists in the USA and their allies kept up this farce 
from 1949 until 1973 when the nonaligned movement forced the acceptance 
of China as the legitimate representative of the Chinese people at the 
United Nations. During this period of anticommunist provocations, the 
United States aggressively opposed the People’s Republic of China. China 
was sucked into the Korean War when the aggressive strategy of the 
Eisenhower administration pushed the western forces (fighting under the 
flag of the United Nations and the leadership of General Douglas 
MacArthur) right up to the border of China. The Communist Party of China 
and its leadership mobilized millions of Chinese workers and peasants in 
the Chinese People’s Volunteers Force (CPVF) to repel the US occupation 
of Korea. After more than a million combat casualties had been suffered 
on both sides, the fighting ended and in a stalemate in July 1953. 
Negotiations in 1954 produced no further agreement, and the front line 
has been accepted ever since as the de facto boundary between North and 
South Korea.

It was in the midst of this war situation when the leaders of the CPC 
launched the period of the ‘transition to socialism’ with the 
announcement of the First Five Year Plan (1953-1957) with the goal of 
achieving industrialization, collectivization of agriculture and 
political cohesion of the state. In 1949, 89% of China’s population 
lived in the countryside, with agriculture accounting for about 60% of 
total economic output. The backbone of China’s economy, agriculture and 
industry together employed more than 70% of the China’s labor force and 
accounted for over 60% of the country’s GDP. By 1956, over 90 per cent 
of the land had been collectivized and the government nationalized 
banking, industry and trade. Private capitalism was virtually demolished 
and the leading capitalists sought refuge in Taiwan, Hong Kong and 

*Great Leap Forward - First Major twist*

The next period of the Chinese revolution is one that has been the most 
controversial; this was the period when the Party launched the Great 
Leap Forward. It was from this era where the state developed planning at 
the national level and key to this were measures to keep consumption 
down among the producers in order to amass surpluses for investment. 
With rising tensions between the Soviet Union and China in the late 
fifties, the political leadership had calculated that it would be 
optimum to put their large rural population to work to hasten the 
transition to socialism. Building on the experiences of the soviet 
communes of the period of the Long March, the party undertook a new 
campaign called the Great leap Forward between 1958 and early 1960 to 
organize its vast population, especially in large-scale rural communes, 
to meet China’s industrial and agricultural problems. The plan was to 
develop labor-intensive methods of industrialization, which would 
emphasize human power rather than machines and capital expenditure. The 
Great Leap Forward approach was epitomized by the development of small 
backyard steel furnaces in every village and urban neighborhood, which 
were intended to accelerate the industrialization process.

Politically, the Great Leap Forward strengthened the Communist Party in 
robbing the landlord class of social power in the rural areas and 
strengthening the collective ownership of land. Under the commune 
system, agricultural and political decisions were decentralized and a 
commitment to socialism rather than expertise was emphasized. The 
peasants were organized into brigade teams, and communal kitchens were 
established so that women could be freed for work. Millions of women 
were freed from domestic work and joined agricultural fieldwork, 
pasturage, mining, foundry, irrigation, communication, transportation, 
all kinds of factories, commerce, shop work, and various other public 
services. One other great achievement of this period was the integration 
of modern medicine with Chinese traditional medicine (TCM). “Due to the 
call by Mao Zedong, as well as the practice of the combination of 
Western medicine and TCM by the first group of Western doctors with a 
training in TCM, medical circles paid more attention to integrating 
Western medicine and TCM. It became more popular among doctors of 
Western medicine to study TCM.” ^[3]

 From the many scholarly reports from sources that were not influenced 
by the Cold War, the program for socialization in the rural areas was 
implemented with such haste by overzealous cadres that implements were 
often melted to make steel in the backyard furnaces, and discontented 
peasants slaughtered many farm animals. The challenges in the 
implementation of the Great Leap Forward were compounded by drought, 
natural disasters and the withdrawal of Soviet technical support. The 
social and economic dislocation led to inefficiency, sabotage and 
internal struggles within the party. With the disruption of agriculture 
where peasants were exhorted based on moral incentives, diversion of 
farm labour into small-scale industry disrupted China’s agriculture 
seriously, and three consecutive years of natural calamities added to 
what quickly turned into a national disaster. There are diverging 
estimates on how many peasants perished during the period of the Great 
Leap Forward and one of the tasks of a future socialist regime in China 
will be to develop clear records on what happened during these years. 
This period coincided with hunger, famine and the deaths of millions. 
Since that time, the debates have not been able to separate the truth 
from the anticommunist claims that Mao oversaw the death of millions of 
Chinese peasants. ^[4]

Joseph Ball and Samir Amin in separate commentaries have been able to 
locate the challenges of the Chinese society at that period within the 
context of the agrarian question in semi colonial societies. Both have 
been able to analyze the goals of achieving the economic and technical 
transformation of the society. Both acknowledged the successes and 
setbacks of the process of transformation underlining the reality that 
transformation in a society never proceeds in a linear process, or in 
liberal terms, clear ‘progress.’^[5] Joseph Ball’s essay in Monthly 
Review on “Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward” has 
added to the debates on the complexities of this bold attempt by the 
Chinese Communist Party. He had noted that,

‘the approach of modern writers to the Great Leap Forward is absurdly 
one-sided. They are unable to grasp the relationship between its 
failures and successes. They can only grasp that serious problems 
occurred during the years 1959-1961. They cannot grasp that the work 
that was done in these years also laid the groundwork for the continuing 
overall success of Chinese socialism in improving the lives of its 
people. They fail to seriously consider evidence that indicates that 
most of the deaths that occurred in the Great Leap Forward were due to 
natural disasters not policy errors. Besides, the deaths that occurred 
in the Great Leap Forward have to be set against the Chinese people’s 
success in preventing many other deaths throughout the Maoist period. 
Improvements in life expectancy saved the lives of many millions. ^[6]

*The Great Cultural Revolution and the Left Turn*

The struggles within the Communist Party of China in the first twenty 
years of the revolution were compounded by imperial encirclement and 
differences with the USSR over the paths to socialist reconstruction. 
Inner party struggles had led to Mao stepping down in 1959, but by 1966, 
Mao had recovered his position within the party by launching a movement 
to rejuvenate the party. Identifying himself with the ‘left’ trend 
within the Communist Party, Mao launched the Great Proletarian Cultural 
Revolution in May 1966, soon calling on young people called the Red 
Guards to ‘bombard the headquarters’ and proclaiming ‘to rebel is 
justified.’ Mao charged that bourgeois elements had infiltrated the 
government and society and that they aimed to restore capitalism. The 
Red Guards were directed to root out those among the country’s 
population who were not ‘sufficiently revolutionary’ and those suspected 
of being ‘bourgeois.’ In the process of this revolutionary upsurge there 
was the humiliation and shaming of those leaders in the Party who had 
been designated as ‘rightists’ and capitalist roaders.

The Cultural Revolution in China had coincided with the international 
left wave of 1968 when youths in all parts of the globe were protesting 
for better conditions. In the case of France and Germany, the 
convergence of the cultural revolution and worker protests had been a 
high point in anti-capitalist activities with demonstrations, major 
general strikes, and occupations of universities and factories. In the 
USA, the struggles for Black liberation had reached a new high and in 
response even nonviolent leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was 
killed. In China Mao had proclaimed, that, ‘revolution is not a dinner 
party. Revolution means rebellion. It means violent action with one 
class overthrowing another.’ The Maoist faction of the Communist Party 
compared the Cultural Revolution armed struggles to war between the 
Chinese Communist Party and the Goumindang.

The Red Guards had little oversight, and their actions led to anarchy 
and terror, as ‘suspect’ individuals—traditionalists, educators, and 
intellectuals, for example—were persecuted and killed. The Red Guards 
were soon reined in by officials, although the brutality of the 
revolution continued. In a sympathetic assessment of the Cultural 
Revolution, Amin noted,

‘while the Cultural Revolution met Mao’s expectations during the first 
two years of its existence, it subsequently deviated into anarchy, 
linked to the loss of control by Mao and the left in the party over the 
sequence of events. This deviation led to the state and party taking 
things in hand again, which gave the right its opportunity. Since then, 
the right has remained a strong part of all leadership bodies. Yet the 
left is present on the ground, restricting the supreme leadership to 
compromises of the “center”—but is that center right or center left? ^[7]

Within China, the limited summing up of the twists and turns of the 
revolution has led to the formulation that the Great Cultural Revolution 
and the Greta Leap Forward were mistakes of Mao. Yet, the same analysis 
that designated Mao’s mistakes have not yet acknowledged the reversal 
for progressive politics in the Sino Soviet rift during this period.

*Errors of analysis of Soviet Social Imperialism*

The Chinese peoples were alert to imperial provocations from 1949. At 
the end of the Korean War, the skirmishes between Beijing and Taiwan 
over the Quemoy and Matsu islands had seen the threats of the United 
States that it was considering using nuclear weapons to defend the 
Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek. After negotiations that 
threat receded, but provocations in Tibet were only compounded by the 
Sino Indian War of 1959 and the withdrawal of Soviet Advisors in 1960. 
For the Chinese revolutionaries, Nikita Khrushchev and the leaders of 
the USSR had embarked on a ‘capitalist road’ and the radicals in China 
designated the USSR as a social imperial state. In this analysis, the 
Maoists declared that social imperialism was a bigger threat to 
socialism than US imperialism and in the process; Moscow replaced 
Washington as China’s biggest threat.

This line of the Chinese leadership proved disastrous for those fighting 
wars of national liberation. There were many liberation movements in 
Asia, Africa and Latin America that came to adopt the tactics and 
strategies of peoples war as advocated by the thoughts of Mao. From 
Nepal to India (Naxalites) and from Peru to Zimbabwe, freedom fighters 
adopted the ideas of Mao. In practice, the Chinese leaders decided that 
any liberation movement that received assistance from the USSR or 
COMECON countries was a lackey of social imperialism. The Sino Soviet 
spilt fostered opportunism among Third World Leaders who were anti 
communist. A leader such as Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo who had been 
complicit in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba was received with pomp 
by the Chinese leadership. Similarly, opportunists such as Jonas Savimbi 
of Angola represented himself as a Maoist fighting against Soviet 
imperialism and her ’Cuban’ lackeys. This position of China was 
manipulated by the United States and Henry Kissinger openly boasted of 
the intrigue involved in this manipulation in his book, */On China/*. 
Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security advisor of President Jimmy 
Carter, went one better and mobilized over 80,000 tons of weapons for 
the apartheid regime via Jonas Savimbi in this period of the rhetoric of 
Soviet Social imperialism. This period is so shameful in the annals of 
the Chinese revolution that in 2013, when Nelson Mandela joined the 
ancestors, the leader of China was the only significant head of state 
absent at the celebration. The Chinese Leaders had erroneously branded 
the African National Congress of South Africa as a puppet of the Soviet 

One of the continuing mysteries of the Chinese revolution is the extent 
to which many Chinese intellectuals and communist party leaders view 
Henry Kissinger as a friend of the revolution. In the past, the Chinese 
had been astute in working with sections of the US state machinery to 
end political isolation. In July of 1971, Secretary of State Henry 
Kissinger had made a secret trip to China. With pressures from the 
nonaligned movement for the USA and the UN to recognize the government 
in Beijing as the legitimate representative of over a billion people, 
the US opened diplomatic relations after President Nixon traveled to 
China in 1972. Nixon who had been a staunch opponent of China spent 
eight days in China in February 1972, during which he met with Chairman 
Mao Zedong and signed the Shanghai Communiqué with Premier Zhou Enlai. 
The communiqué had set the stage for improved U.S.-Sino relations by 
allowing China and the United States to normalize relations.

This normalization of state-to-state relations confused the political 
leadership in China and has become a consistent source of contradictions 
within China’s leadership class. For example, after the brutal assault 
against the Chilean peoples in 1973 and the massive bombing of the 
Vietnamese peoples, the leadership embraced Henry Kissinger as a friend. 
This embrace was to reach its most obscene position when under the 
banner of combating social imperialism, China fought a brief war with 
Vietnam in 1979.  In the brief border war fought between China and 
Vietnam in early 1979. China launched a punitive expedition in response 
to Vietnam’s invasion and occupation of Cambodia in 1978 (which ended 
the rule of the Khmer Rouge). Similarly, the initial inability of 
China’s political and economic leadership to deal with President Trump 
was a result of their failure to fully understand the shift which had 
taken place in how America’s political, economic and defense elites 
viewed China, from a strategic competitor to a strategic national 
security threat. This failure was partially a product of China’s gradual 
adoption of neo-liberal financial liberalization reforms in the early 
2000’s and the strong friendships between China’s capitalists and 
government with the leaders of Wall Street (Black Stone,  Goldman Sachs, 
JP Morgan, etc.) and subsequent over reliance on their views and 
lobbying influence over the USG’s economic policies towards China.  But 
this is to anticipate.

*The Reform Period and pragmatism in China*

After the death of Mao in September 1976, the Cultural Revolution was 
brought to an end by the removal of the allies of Mao from the 
leadership of the Party. The faction of the Communist Party led by Deng 
Xiaoping emerged as the driving force of the Chinese revolution. It was 
in this period after 1978 when China embarked on the era of ‘reforms.’ 
The first stage of this process involved the relaxation of the state 
centered approach to agriculture with the de-collectivization of 
agriculture, the opening up of the country to foreign investment, and 
permission for unleashing the capitalists who had been underground 
inside China since 1949. These reforms did not minimize the central role 
of the state in the economy. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the reform 
twist involved the privatization and contracting out of much state-owned 
industry and the lifting of price controls, protectionist policies, and 
regulations, although state monopolies in sectors such as banking and 
petroleum remained. The private sector grew remarkably, accounting for 
as much as 70 percent of China’s gross domestic product by 2005. From 
1978 until 2013, unprecedented growth occurred, with the economy 
increasing by 9.5% a year.

Western social scientists, international financial institutions and 
pundits attributed the phenomenal growth in China to the opening to the 
West and adoption of “free market forces.” For no society which has been 
universally acknowledged for lifting more human beings out of poverty in 
human history and which helped sustain the global economy following the 
last two capitalist financial crises, could have done so via socialism. 
However, Samir Amin noted that one cannot understand the massive growth 
in the economy without grasping the transition and changes that were 
laid in the period of the Great Leap Forward. In short, ‘lifting 600 
million human beings out of poverty cannot be attributed to the market 
but to socialization of the society’ and the fact that the commanding 
heights of the economy were still in the hands of the state. In Amin’s 

    “The results of this choice are, once again, simply amazing. In a
    few decades, China has built a productive, industrial urbanization
    that brings together 600 million human beings, two-thirds of whom
    were urbanized over the last two decades (almost equal to Europe’s
    population!). This is due to the Plan and not to the market. China
    now has a truly sovereign productive system. No other country in the
    South (except for Korea and Taiwan) has succeeded in doing this. In
    India and Brazil there are only a few disparate elements of a
    sovereign project of the same kind, nothing more.

He continued

    To say, as one hears ad nauseam, that China’s success should be
    attributed to the abandonment of Maoism (whose “failure” was
    obvious), the opening to the outside, and the entry of foreign
    capital is quite simply idiotic. The Maoist construction put in
    place the foundations without which the opening would not have
    achieved its well-known success. A comparison with India, which has
    not made a comparable revolution, demonstrates this. To say that
    China’s success is mainly (even “completely”) attributable to the
    initiatives of foreign capital is no less idiotic. It is not
    multinational capital that built the Chinese industrial system and
    achieved the objectives of urbanization and the construction of
    infrastructure. The success is 90 percent attributable to the
    sovereign Chinese project. Certainly, the opening to foreign capital
    has fulfilled useful functions: it has increased the import of
    modern technologies. However, because of its partnership methods,
    China absorbed these technologies and has now mastered their
    development. There is nothing similar elsewhere, even in India or
    Brazil, a fortiori in Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, and other

Lin Chun’s work on the changes in Chinese society since 1978 takes the 
same position as Amin. In the book, */the Transformation of Chinese 
Socialism/*, the question was posed thus, Were the seeds of the present 
planted long ago, only germinating so slowly that at the time it was 
difficult to see or imagine the shape of things to come? ^[9] The answer 
of Lin Chun was that in order to understand what is happening in China 
forty years after the ‘reform’ period it is necessary to go further back 
in history than 1978 and the pragmatism of Deng Xiaoping. In 1949, the 
decision had been made that the political leadership of the CPC would 
rationally coordinate the planning of an entire national economy of 
China in such a way as to transform the major economic choices of the 
society into political choices, responsive to the will of the people. 
Central to this process were the sacrifices made by the Chinese people 
to overcome economic backwardness. In that period the state squeezed 
more work out of the workers and peasants in order to accumulate a 
surplus that could be reinvested for the diversification of the economy.

*Future of socialist transformation or the recomposition of capitalism 
in China*

One of the outcomes of the emphasis on the ‘development of the 
productive forces’ has been the massive increase in the 
industrialization without regard to the health and well being of the 
population. The levels of ecological degradation in China as a result of 
a form of industrialization without regard for the population has led to 
China having one of the worst air qualities in the world. In all major 
industrial areas of China, the quality of the lives of the peoples have 
been impaired by pollution. Beijing and industrial areas of northern 
China have the worst levels of Sulphur dioxide pollution on the planet 
earth. China is home to 16 of the world’s 20 cities with the worst air 
pollution. The drive to urbanize and industrialize had been so intense 
that in the three-year period 2011 to 2014, China poured more concrete 
in three years than the US did in the entire 20^th century. ^[10] 
Research by the Chinese Academy on Environmental Planning, revealed that 
100 million people live in cities where the pollution reaches “very 
dangerous” levels.

This level of pollution is most extreme is a city such as Shijianzhuang, 
in Hebei province where the coal barons have a base in the Communist 
party. The environmental crisis in China is also an expression of the 
alliance of capitalists in China with international capitalists. Since 
1978, the leaders of China marketed the society as a space of cheap 
labor and a society where environmental standards were ignored. There is 
enough scholarship on the environmental crisis in China that outlined 
how western capitalists located polluting industries in China. ^[11] 
Many of the polluting factories sell their cheap goods to richer 
nations. Throughout the reform period (1978 to present), local officials 
have been evaluated and promoted primarily based on their ability to 
meet economic development and family planning.^[12] In 2011, the Party 
launched National “12^th Five-Year Plan” for Environmental Protection 
with ambitious targets to reverse environmental degradation. That plan 
has been caught in the class struggles in the party between the coal 
barons and other sections of Chinese capital and by 2016 the Party 
announced th13th Five year plan announcing that the old forms of 
industrialization had run its course..

The leadership in China launched another plan to transcend the old 
polluting industries with the China 2025 project. Labelled as */Made in 
China 2025/*, this new turn seeks to engineer a shift for China from 
being a low-end manufacturer to becoming a high-end producer of goods. 
To centralize this vision, the government’s Ministry of Industry and 
Information Technology released a Made in China (MIC) 2025 document in 
2015 – pushing for leadership in robotics, information technology, and 
clean energy, among other sectors. These sectors are central to the 
so-called next generation technologies (nexgen), which refers to the 
integration of big data, cloud computing, and other emerging 
technologies into global manufacturing supply chains. “Chief among these 
are electric cars and other new energy vehicles, next-generation 
information technology (IT) and telecommunications, and advanced 
robotics and artificial intelligence. Other major sectors include 
agricultural technology; aerospace engineering; new synthetic materials; 
advanced electrical equipment; emerging bio-medicine; high-end rail 
infrastructure; and high-tech maritime engineering.”^[13] The 
foundations for this pace of scientific transformation had been laid in 
the seventies when there was the project of science walking on two 
legs.^[14] In terms of science policy, it referred mainly to the balance 
China has sought to achieve between “pure” science and applied technology.

The China 2025 program has since become a bone of contention for US 
capitalist’s administration, and has partly been responsible for the 
increased competition between the US and China. The US policy leaders 
have been alarmed by this new turn in China and the current tensions in 
the trade war is linked to the threats that sections of the US military 
industrial complex sees from this new direction of China. Presenting 
this new direction of China as a threat to global trade, the Council of 
Foreign Relations (CFR) of the USA and other think tanks have been 
effusive in outlining the dangers to US hegemony from this new direction 
in China. Anticommunist scholars of the USA such as Peter Navarro who 
made a name out of China bashing rose to the position of being an 
adviser to President Trump on trade. His coauthored book */Death by 
China: Confronting the Dragon – A Global Call to Action/*, had been a 
staple among those in the US policy circles who carried forth the old 
anti-communism of the Cold War era. His assessment on China is that 
“China is basically trying to steal the future of Japan, the U.S. and 
Europe, by going after our technology.” Of course such a paradigm also 
conveniently obscures the myriad of political, social, and economic 
impacts causing a decline in the structural competitiveness of the US in 
numerous ‘nexgen’ industries and sectors which is being produced by the 
increasing financialization of capitalism in the US.

*The so called Thucydides Trap.*

Realist scholars in the USA have also been raising the ‘alarm’ about the 
rise of China. John Mearsheimer in his 2014 book, */The Tragedy of the 
Great Power Politics/*, argued in the last chapter, ‘Great Power 
Politics in the twenty first century,’ that, if the China continues 
growing rapidly, the US will once again face a potential peer 
competitor, and great-power politics will return in full force. Trapped 
by the history of realism, and visions of hegemony, Mearsheimer argued 
China cannot rise peacefully. In this understanding, there can only be 
one major power and the emergence of alternative centers of economic and 
political power will inevitably lead to warfare. Professor Graham 
Allison of Harvard University has added to this militaristic 
understanding of history with the study, */Destined for War: Can America 
and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?^[15] /*In this book, Allison argued 
that in 12 of 16 past cases in which a rising power has confronted a 
ruling power, the result has been bloodshed. This kind of rhetoric has 
been backed up by a new direction of the planning for war against China. 
The 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States has been 
explicit that the US needs to be prepared for war with China. ^[16] 
Mainstream scholars of International Relations have not yet fully 
grasped the */Meaning of the Second World War/* and the argument made 
that capitalist competition will lead to war. The more developed the 
capitalist state, the more deadly the competition. Historical 
materialism and an understanding of imperialism will reveal the impulse 
of capital to seek to resolve economic challenges by military means. 
Since the end of the Cold War the western leaders have attempted a 
military management of the international system with implications for 
West Asia in the invasion of Iraq and war drums against Iran, and in 
Africa in the creation of the US Africa Command. In Asia, this 
militarism over the past decade has been manifested under President 
Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’ and currently under President Trump’s ‘Free and 
Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’.^[17]

When Thucydides was writing about the Peloponnesian War, he was writing 
about small societies that were not enmeshed in global value chains. 
Moreover, these wars were limited in geographical scope and did not 
arise out of competition between capitalist powers. Nuclear power, the 
rise of the Global South and the tremendous importance of the rising 
states renders the kind of analysis that refer back to 19^th century 
imperial rivalries, out of date. The political leader of China 
communicated this reality to the leaders of the USA in 2015 when he noted,

    “There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides Trap in the
    world. But should major countries time and again make the mistakes
    of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for

*Imperial Two Track Strategy on the Chinese Revolution*

While one section of the US bourgeois is planning for war with China, 
the other section is working hard to strengthen the capitalist classes 
in China so that they can become fully compliant and subservient allies 
of international capital. Since the ‘reform’ era, thousands of western 
corporations have invested in China to profit from the cheap labor and 
absence of environmental regulation. Whether it is companies (such as 
Walmart and Apple) who profit from the cheap labor conditions or General 
Motors, Boeing, Microsoft and Google, western capitalists operating in 
China have developed a strong alliance with Chinese capitalists. The 
leaders of the US-Chinese business Council have been most aggressive in 
strengthening the Chinese capitalist class. The Officers and Directors 
of the US-China business Council reads like a who’s who of corporate 
America. ^[18]

While one faction of international capital complain of theft of 
intellectual property and piracy of Chinese state corporations, another 
faction has set about strengthening neo liberal capitalist ideas among 
the Chinese intelligentsia. This has become most evident with the 
activities of private capitalists such as Stephen A. Schwarzman, CEO and 
Co-Founder of Blackstone group of Wall Street. In 2013, Schwarzman 
founded an international scholarship program, “Schwarzman Scholars,” at 
Tsinghua University in Beijing to educate future leaders about China. 
The US$350 million program is modeled on the Rhodes scholarship that had 
been started by Cecil Rhodes at the start of the twentieth century to 
train loyal servants of empire. It is one indication on the ideological 
subservience of the top intellectuals in China as to the operations of 
the world system that they would agree to work with known international 
capitalists in their premier university such as Henry Paulson and 
Stephen Schwarzman. It means that the Chinese do not care that they will 
be training their future leaders to be imperialists such as Cecil Rhodes.

*Chinese education and imperialism*

J P Morgan and Blackstone are the ones with the money they will finance 
institutions to promote individualism and the accumulation of capital 
for a few. These Wall Street magnates invest in University education in 
all parts of the world to reproduce the most conservative ideas about 
society. The current Chinese political leadership at all levels see the 
training of their children in the USA and capitalist Europe as the basis 
of the future ideological and intellectual development of China. Very 
rich Chinese donate to keep top Ivy League colleges in North America as 
thriving centers of capitalist scholarship at precisely the moment when 
a generation of youth are looking for resources to redirect education 
and social planning.

 From the most recent reports in the financial papers, there are close 
to 300,000 Chinese students in higher education in the USA, this does 
not include Community colleges. In the spirit of internationalism, it 
will be important for Chinese students to study in all parts of the 
world, but the question, is, what do they study? Which Professors do 
they gravitate towards? Do they study imperialism, contemporary class 
struggles, reparative justice, environmental science to support 
environmental repair in China or the physics of the future to alleviate 
the suffering of workers everywhere?

The reality is that many Chinese students overseas see themselves as 
being apolitical, while the 70 per cent that study economics, business, 
entrepreneurship or the other offerings of schools funded by the 
bankers, they study and internalize the most conservative brand of 
neo-liberal capitalism. This training of neo conservatives for China has 
been supported by the new foreign policy of China based on ‘harmony’ 
that promotes Confucius Institutes in all parts of the world. The 
Confucius Institutes are the embryo of the 21st century Chinese imperial 
project that stands against the rights of workers, women and oppressed 
nationalities. Ironically, conservative elements of the USG are leading 
efforts to close these institutes in the United States, along with 
prohibiting investments into the United States by Chinese private 
capitalists, because both have been labeled as new threats to America’s 
national security.

Side by side with these Confucius institutes, the current Chinese state 
has unleashed hundreds of thousands of rapacious capitalists (and would 
be capitalists) to Third World societies. The very negative social 
impact of these ‘investors’ has led some western commentators to label 
China as the new imperialist state.^[19] Some in the left have offered a 
specious thesis of China as a ‘sub imperial state’ ^[20] while some 
former Marxists pontificate /When China Rules the World: The End of the 
Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order./ ^[21]

*Whither the Chinese Revolution*?

The capitalists from North America have used their military power to 
dominate the global trading, currency and financial system. In the last 
capitalist depression and subsequent war 1929-1945, one of the triggers 
of war was the competitive devaluations. Today the devaluations and 
currency wars have been accompanied by trade wars, information warfare 
and cyberwarfare. The Chinese peoples are trapped in the old 
international trading system and currently the state of China holds more 
that US3 trillion outside China, mostly in US Treasury. Paul Craig 
Roberts suggested that China simply pull out their money from western 
securities. This is not a realistic alternative in the short run. The 
alternatives must be internationalist and rooted in what is good for 
everyone, especially in the Global South. Unfortunately, projects of the 
political leadership in China to diversify their holdings of US Treasury 
point to building /One Belt One Road/ to Europe.

In the throes of the financial crisis, the leadership pivoted to the 
Global South with the initiative called Brazil, Russia, India China and 
South Africa (BRICS). However, the underdevelopment of the study of 
capitalism influenced the thinkers behind the BRICS bank to accept 
neo-liberal principles of economics while US imperialists sought to 
suborn Brazil and India out of the new initiative for South -South 
Cooperation. It is in the spirit of 1949 where there is now another 
opportunity for Chinese society to come up with real alternatives that 
are protracted and will avoid outright warfare. In this delicate 
balancing, the Chinese leadership can either be socialist and 
internationalist or based on strategic planning and alliances for China 
to be the co imperialists with the USA in the so called G2 as proposed 
by Zbigniew Brzezinski among others. In the short run, the ASEAN plan 
for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is proposing 
a form of economic partnership that can neutralize the plans of the US 
capitalists for war in Asia. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank 
(AIIB) and the BRICS bank can carry out aggressive swap arrangements to 
support Iran, Russia and Venezuela in this current geo-political and 
economic war.

*Socialist reconstruction and transformation*

It was within the womb of capitalism in Britain and Germany where Karl 
Marx developed a critique of capital. Vladimir Lenin of Russia deepened 
this initial study of capital with his grasp of the changes from 
industrial capital to monopoly capital or the era of imperialism. The 
important contribution of Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg was to grasp the 
centrality of militarism in modern imperialism. The attempt to build 
socialism in the USSR imploded after 74 years. Western triumphalism 
after the fall of the Soviet model proclaimed that there was no 
alternative to capitalism. However, workers and poor people in all parts 
of the world are revolting against the oppressive conditions of 
Financialization, the new era of imperialism. Three hundred million 
workers in China trapped by the Hukou system want freedom of movement 
and the ‘right to the city.’ From Egypt to Ecuador and from Wukan in 
China to Iraq, workers, students, poor farmers, oppressed women and 
unemployed are in combat against capitalism. Many Chinese youth agree 
with the global youth movement for a clean environment.

Capitalism is a global system and we know that the transition to a new 
system will be long. However, while those opposed to capital are on this 
road, they will have to clean up the environment. This is the number one 
task so that the workers and small farmers can have a good quality of 
life. We have to have clean water and food that does not kill children. 
These are basic rights of humans in all parts of the world. Those who 
believe in the linear conception of socialist transformation argue that 
China will have to industrialize and urbanize further in order to move 
to a true socialist path. Linearity in thought in China from the 
‘reformers’ merge with the plans of those who promote the silencing of 
the workers and peasants.

Imperial intellectual cultures serviced by corporations provide 
information and organization for the capitalist classes using the 
moribund Breton Woods Institutions to enforce onerous conditionalities 
on working peoples. World Bank and western concepts of democracy, human 
rights and governance reinforce western liberalism and cannot serve the 
interests of Chinese peoples. It is for this reason why many progressive 
scholars are confounded when they hear the formulation of ‘socialism 
with Chinese characteristics.’ When one conceptualize 21st century 
socialism, the progressive forces of the world are excited by the 
prospects for socialist reconstruction and a new science that supports 
research to strengthen the organization of workers and to build a new 

We are in the midst of a very exciting future. New technologies in 
solar, biotechnology, robotics and information technology opens up vast 
opportunities for the socialist project. Instead of promoting Henry 
Paulson, Henry Kissinger, Stephen Schwarzman and titans of empire, 
Chinese communists should be energized by the anti-capitalist project in 
a way that inspires the Chinese youth to be self-confident and be 
internationalists. The project of western capital in Taiwan, Singapore 
and Hong Kong is to propagandize the Chinese youth to strengthen 
international forces and the local real estate capitalists who are 
called ‘developers.’

The task of building internationalism in the social sciences is also 
linked to building an anti-racist curriculum in China. This will have to 
be carefully thought out to avoid the excesses of the past. Intellectual 
and ideological struggles are deadly and those with power will not give 
up power easily.

In the celebration of the 70 years after coming to power, China can be 
constructive by working directly with Cuba to halt the counter 
revolutionary forces in Venezuela. This will entail an even bigger 
social investment in education and social questions in a place such as 
Venezuela. The future cooperation between Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina and 
Bolivia will give the socialist forces internationally the intellectual, 
financial and political leverage in a moment when imperial intervention 
will get desperate.

Internationalism will require solidarity with the most oppressed. I will 
again draw from Samir Amin’s analysis when he noted,

    “My central question is this: is China evolving toward a stabilized
    form of capitalism? Or is China’s perspective still one of a
    possible transition to socialism? I am not asking this question in
    terms of the most likely “prediction.” I am asking it in altogether
    different terms: what inconsistencies and struggles have emerged in
    China today? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the approach
    adapted (to a large extent capitalist in fact)? What advantages do
    the (at least potentially socialist) anticapitalist forces have?
    Under what conditions can the capitalist approach triumph and what
    form of more or less stabilized capitalism could it produce? Under
    what conditions could the current moment be deflected in directions
    that would become a (long) stage in the (even longer) transition to

    The fact that the Chinese project is not capitalist does not mean
    that it “is” socialist, only that it makes it possible to advance on
    the long road to socialism. Nevertheless, it is also still
    threatened with a drift that moves it off that road and ends up with
    a return, pure and simple, to capitalism.”


1. Orville Schell and John Delury, /Wealth and Power: China’s Long March 
to the Twenty-first Century/, Random House , New York 2013 ↑

2. One of the most sympathetic noncommunist account of the Long march is 
in the book, by Edgar Snow, /Red Star over China: The Classic Account of 
the Birth of Chinese Communism,/ Grove Press, New York 1994 ↑

3. H E N K E J I a n d XU HAO, “The integration of traditional Chinese 
medicine and Western medicine,” /European Review;/ Cambridge Vol. 11, 
Iss. 2, (May 2003): 225-235 ↑

4. Joseph Ball, “Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap 
Forward?” /Monthly Review/, September 21, 2006


6. Samir Amin, “China 2013,” /Monthly Review/, 
https://monthlyreview.org/2013/03/01/china-2013/ ↑

7. Ball ibid. See also the analysis of Lin Chun, The Transformation of 
Chinese Socialism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996). ↑

8. Samir Amin, /Theory is History/, Springer, 2013, page 126 ↑

9. Samir Amin, China 2013, 
https://monthlyreview.org/2013/03/01/china-2013/ ↑

10. Lin Chun, The Transformation of Chinese Socialism (Durham, NC: Duke 
University Press, 1996). ↑

11. Figures are to be found in the article by Bill Gates, “Have You 
Hugged a Concrete Pillar Today?” Gates Notes, June 12, 2014 
https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/Making-the-Modern-World ↑

12. Jim Watson and Tao Wang, “Who Owns China’s Carbon Emissions,” 
(Sussex: Tyndall Centre, 2007) ↑

13. Darrin Mage, “China is my Backyard: China’s environmental 
degradation in a global context, /Georgetown Journal of International 
Affairs/, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Summer/Fall 2011),pp. 120-128 ↑

14. James McBride and Andrew Chatzky, “Is ‘Made in China 2025’ a Threat 
to Global Trade?” Council on Foreign Relations, May 2019 
https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/made-china-2025-threat-global-trade ↑

15. Dan Connell and Dan Gover , eds, /China: Science Walk on two legs/ 
Avon Books, 1974 ↑

16. Graham Allison, /Destined for War: Can America and China Escape 
Thucydides’s Trap?/ Mariner Books, New York 2018 ↑

16. National Defense Strategy of the United States, 2018, 

17. Kurt Campbell and Brian Andrews, Explaining the US “Pivot to Asia,” 
Chatham House, London, 2013, 

18. US- Chinese Business Council, 
https://www.uschina.org/about/board-of-directors ↑

19. Howard French, /China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are 
Building a New Empire in Africa/, Random House, New York, 2015 ↑

20. Patrick Bond, ‘The Rise of Sub imperialism,’ Counterpunch, 2012, 
https://www.counterpunch.org/2012/11/23/the-rise-of-sub-imperialism/ ↑

21. Martin Jacques, /When China Rules the World: The End of the Western 
World and the Birth of a New Global Order,/ Penguin Books, London, 2012 ↑

/*Horace Campbell* is Professor of African American Studies and 
Political Science, Syracuse University. He is the author of Global NATO 
and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya 
Monthly Review Press, 2013. / */Notes./*

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