Some Thoughts on Socialism in China

Houston Rockets star, Yao Ming carries the Olympic Torch under Mao Zedong's portrait in Beijing.

Houston Rockets star, Yao Ming carries the Olympic Torch under Mao Zedong's portrait in Beijing.

The Beijing Olympics have raised a lot of questions in the minds of people about Chinese socialism. In the lead up to the Olympics, the issue of Tibet was pushed hard by the bourgeois media. Now a lot of people are saying that China has given up its socialist ideals and is a thoroughly capitalist country, coming to terms with Western ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ (read: the Free Market). Thats what the imperialists and their mouth-pieces say, and it really isn’t new. That’s what the Trotskyists and many ‘Maoists’ have long argued as well.

Let me say clearly that I think China is a socialist country. I don’t think it is perfect, but I don’t think some idealistic and utopian conception of socialism is very healthy, either. I think there are real contradictions in Chinese society due to the Market Reforms of the 1980s. These contradictions, in one way or another, go back to before the Cultural Revolution, when Mao started talking about two lines, and two roads.

In “On Krushchev’s Phoney Communism and its Historical Lessons for the World” Mao says the following.

Socialist society covers a very long historical period. Classes and class struggle continue to exist in this society, and the struggle still goes on between the road of socialism and the road of capitalism. The socialist revolution on the economic front (in the ownership of the means of production) is insufficient by itself and cannot be consolidated. There must also be a thorough socialist revolution on the political and ideological fronts.

I would encourage people to closely study this important article.

What Mao is describing is, of course, still happening in China, and it is becoming accute. In my opinion, we need to look at revisionism and capitalist restoration dialectically. Part of dialectical materialism is an understanding that change occurs as a process including quantitative accumulation followed by a qualitative leap.

Stalin puts it this way in “Dialectical and Historical Materialism“:

Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics does not regard the process of development as a simple process of growth, where quantitative changes do not lead to qualitative changes, but as a development which passes from insignificant and imperceptible quantitative changes to open’ fundamental changes’ to qualitative changes; a development in which the qualitative changes occur not gradually, but rapidly and abruptly, taking the form of a leap from one state to another; they occur not accidentally but as the natural result of an accumulation of imperceptible and gradual quantitative changes.

The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development should be understood not as movement in a circle, not as a simple repetition of what has already occurred, but as an onward and upward movement, as a transition from an old qualitative state to a new qualitative state, as a development from the simple to the complex, from the lower to the higher:

It is clear that there is a lot of metaphysical thinking going on in relation to this question of capitalist restoration in China. I would argue that the Chinese experience of the Market Reform period includes such a quantitative accumulation on the part of revisionism, that is, on the capitalist road, but the qualitative leap (something like Gorbachevism) has not happened. Furthermore, the Chinese CP learned well from the experiences of the revisionist degeneration and capitalist restoration of the USSR and are cautious about all of this. For more on the lessons of this process in the USSR, I would suggest people read the 1999 declaration of the International Communist Seminar. The 1999 declaration makes it clear that capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union was a process initiated by Krushchevand completed by Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Furthermore, it is clear that two line struggle is still taking place in China, and is sharpening.

This is exactly what Lenin was talking about when he described the political economy of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. “This transition period has to be a period of struggle between dying capitalism and nascent communism—or, in other words, between capitalism which has been defeated but not destroyed and communism which has been born but is still very feeble.” That is what socialism is, and China is dealing with all of this in a hostile, imperialist world, where socialists took heavy set-backs and real defeats.  

Finally, I would like to suggest a good article:

Friedrich Engels and scientific socialism in contemporary China by Peter Franssen

I would also encourage people to examine the articles on Socialist political economy in my Marxist-Leninist study guide.

35 responses to “Some Thoughts on Socialism in China

  1. wow, really? look how they treat there peasant classes. how dissenting labor activists are treated. no one can deny there is no free press in china. china is capitalist to the bone these days. in most ways its more capitalist due to the lay of regulation.
    todays communism really is conservative if this is the line they are playing.

  2. Again, I’m not saying it is ideal, or something that we should seek to emulate in the U.S. I’m just calling it what it is and saying that given the cards they were dealt, they’ve made some very real accomplishments. Clearly their greatest accomplishments were made in the Mao era, when China was transfomed from a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country to a strong and prosperous socialist state. This meant litteracy, rights to jobs, women’s liberation, vastly increased democracy, and so much more. The main accomplishment in the Reform era, it seems clear to me, is survival when so many others, including the USSR, found that impossible.

  3. The simple fact is that after sixty years of communist party rule conditions for workers in China are far, far worse than they are in any nasty old capitalist country. There is far more exploitation in China after 60 years of Communist Party rule than in capitalist economies. For example, recently there have been instances of child slavery uncovered, factories and mines collapse all the time killing workers because corrupt party cadres would rather line their pockets than protect workers.

    There are far more limitations on exploitation, dangerous working conditions, underpayment or nonpayment of wages etc. in ‘capitalist’ democracies than in communist China.

    Here in Hong Kong communist party officials from China have openly stated that the reason Hong Kong cannot have democracy is because people might ask for more protection for the poor which would damage the business environment for big business. By far the most enthusiastic supporters of the Communist party in Hong Kong are the big business owners and property cartels, precisely because they know that the Communist Party’s main aim is to preserve the status quo so that they, and their friends in business, can continue to line their pockets at the expense of the people without even the inconvenience of having to deal with the competitive pressures of a genuinely free market.

  4. I think there are lots of ‘nastly old capitalist countries’ with ‘genuinely free markets’ (I take it you don’t think capitalism is so bad?) that are significantly worse. In fact, I think if you want to compare them, the honest thing would be to compare countries with similar historical conditions. I think if you want to compare labor conditions in China to labor conditions in Thailand or Singapore, for example, you’ll see things are not quite as you say.

    Not to say that there isn’t corruption in China today. Of course there is. The CPC has said so and has instituted campaigns against it. But I don’t dispute the fact of corruption in China. That’s not my argument here. But the reality is that in China you have the conscious move from foot-binding, confucianism and rural serfdom to the guaranteed right to a job, housing, medical care, scientific education and so on. China has moved from a poor, semi-colonial and semi-feudal backwater to major industial nation in at a very rapid pace, due to unleashing the masses energy for socialist construction. Very much of this has continued to the present day.

  5. Or how about we compare what’s happened to the standard of living, the economy, and even basic national integrity in China between 1991 and today (with the Communist Party still in power), compared with what’s happened to the standard of living, economy and national integrity in the former Soviet Union between 1991 and today (after the Communist Party lost power)? Would you argue that the people of the former Soviet Union are better off today than the people of China?

    The real issue is the direction they are both going — China forward, ex-USSR backward.

  6. china forward? modernization wasn’t due to “socialist construction”. it was due to modernization of any country socialist or capitalist country. with technology, the worship of efficiency and bosses. (oh and a willing exploited consumer society to export its good too) have you seen the workhouses the people who work in the factories are forced to live in? or how their apartments are owned by the same company. you say serfdom is gone? they’ve just changed masters.
    chinese unions are a joke, and are not intended to raise worker rights, much less shop floor democracy. the unions leaders are not even selected by the workers, but by party bureaucrats. things suck in the united stated, and i hope one day we overthrow the motherfucker. but hope the chinese people overthrow their “communist” country first. the people deserve it.

  7. oh as just a side note. its nothing personal comradezero, i just disagree. thanks for posting your thoughts.

  8. Will, I’m glad to be having this discussion. As long everyone is respectful, I’m quite happy to be disagreed with. I disagree with some of your points there, but let me ask you this, since you say “they’ve just changed masters”: Do you think the Chinese revolution led by the Communist Party was progressive, something to be supported, at any point?

  9. okay, what has happened here is a digression. we thing that was initially being discussed was whether china is still socialist or whether its gone/going capitalist. comradezero was arguing that, though in a bad condition, china is still socialist. others seem to disagree with this assertion, and have provided some examples as to why they think so.

    i think its best that we discuss the present: what does china look like now. why, comradezero, do you say that china is still socialist? you have presented some quotations by mao and stalin on the theory of dialectical materialism and two-line struggle as they pertain to the economical development of a nation (from capitalist to socialist and then on to communism), but what material evidence do you have to prove that china is still socialist?

  10. I think my argument is pretty simple and straight forward. I don’t think it particularly ‘bad’ as you say. Maybe a little theoretical.

    It comes from a Marxist perspective, and assumes that we unite on dialectical materialism. It also assumes that we believe that China has been, at one point or another since the 1949 seizure of power by the Communist Party of China, socialist. The argument is simply that socialism has characteristics of both capitalism and communism, and that qualitative change in the relations of production has not occured since then, despite the sharpening of contradictions between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat since the market reform period initiated by Deng Xiaoping.

    So that’s the arguement I made in my post. It is a theoretical argument. Lets get concrete.

    The majority of business is still state owned, the country has not undergone a crisis of overproduction since 1949 nor does it undergo the basic fluctuations of the capitalist business cycle, at least not to the degree that one sees under countries who’s economies are fundamentally capitalist. The economy has seen almost steady growth, at a very rapid rate.

    At the end of the post, I suggested an article by Peter Franssen. That article says,

    “In this phase, which began in 1978, the economy grew on average by 9.5 % a year. That is eight times the figure for Germany and three times more than in the United States. Consumption and thus the standard of living of the average Chinese rose by 7.5 % a year.

    “Chinese society as a whole at present enjoys moderate welfare. Between 1978 and 2004, the number of people living in dire poverty dropped from 250 million to 26 million. In 1949 a Chinese could hope to live on average until he was 40. Today, life expectancy is 71 years and in Beijing even 80. In 1949 90 % of the population could neither read nor write. The figure is now less that 10 %.

    “The mode of production and the structure of the economy have in the last 25 years taken big steps towards the level where social ownership of all important means of production will once again become necessary. When the revolution took place in 1949 agriculture and individual craft industry made up 90 % of the economy. There were scarcely 3 million industrial workers, 0.6 % of the population. Agriculture has since dropped to less than 20 % and will according to plan make up only 10 % in 2010. The proportion for industry will then be 50 % and for the tertiary sector 40 %.”

    I suggest, once again, that folks take a look at it. It can only help our discussion. Anyway, that’s how things basically stand now.

  11. first things first, this sentence : “comradezero was arguing that, though in a bad condition, china is still socialist.” is worded in an awkward fashion. what i meant by that sentence was that you were making the argument that china is still a socialist state, despite its bad condition as one. i should have done a better job phrasing the sentence.

    as far as the quotations from the perter franssen article; i feel like i could take most of those figures and then plug them into a “china is actually a capitalist nation” argument. see what i mean?

    for example:

    “Between 1978 and 2004, the number of people living in dire poverty dropped from 250 million to 26 million.”

    that’s after mao died. thats after xiaoping introduced market reforms that were basically capitalist in nature.

    “In this phase, which began in 1978, the economy grew on average by 9.5 % a year. That is eight times the figure for Germany and three times more than in the United States. Consumption and thus the standard of living of the average Chinese rose by 7.5 % a year.”

    once again, these figures speak of economic prosperity after the mao years.

    while there’s no doubt that the quality of life (in virtually every facet) for the average chinese person rose tremendously after the revolution of 49, it seems to me that the prosperity they are enjoying now are due more to the capitalist reforms than the workings of existing socialist institutions (not to say that they don’t contribute at all).

    i would like to add that i understand that china couldn’t have what it has now, couldn’t be undergoing the prosperity that it currently has had it not been for the communist revolution of 49 and the subsequent victories in development that followed afterwards. however, it seems to me that what the years of socialist construction essentially did was lay a steady foundation for the development that is currently thriving throughout china.

    is this not so?

  12. Pieter, thanks for the clearification.

    You say, “it seems to me that what the years of socialist construction essentially did was lay a steady foundation for the development that is currently thriving throughout china,” and certainly I agree.

    You also quote the Franssen article back at me and say that “these figures speak of economic prosperity after the mao years.” Is your argument that economic prosperity can only occur under capitalism?

    Look, I certainly don’t dispute, and I think I’ve been clear about this, that Deng Xiaoping’s reforms did indeed open up the country to capitalism more. Certainly that’s what the Chinese say, so it would be silly of me to argue against it. What I’m saying is that, despite that, the country is still fundamentally socialist.

    Mao said in 1953 that China was building “a state-capitalist economy of a new type.” He said that “It exists not chiefly to make profits for the capitalists but to meet the needs of the people and the state” and that “this state-capitalist economy of a new type takes on a socialist character to a very great extent and benefits the workers and the state.”

    The quotes I cited from the Franssen article above are also perfectly in line with such a notion.

    The entire arguement I’m making is about the difference, dialectically, between quantitative and qualitative change. So I’m arguing that the market reforms bring quantitative change to Chinese socialism in terms of its relationship to capitalism, not a fundamental qualitiative leap, that is, not capitalist restoration.

  13. “Is your argument that economic prosperity can only occur under capitalism?”

    no, history clearly shows otherwise, but capitalist reforms introduced by xiaoping has brought china much economic prosperity. i am not making a pro-capitalist or anti-socialist argument, depending on how you look at it, here. i’m just stating what i think is.

    okay, given mao’s words on china being a “new type” of socialist-capitalist economy then the franssen figures make sense.

    “I’m arguing that the market reforms bring quantitative change to Chinese socialism in terms of its relationship to capitalism, not qualitative, that is, not capitalist restoration.”

    you’ve mentioned that most of the factories are still state-owned, that it does not undergo typical capitalist economic fluctuations, i.e. the “business cycle”, and has not undergone a crisis of overproduction (it seems to me as though it will soon undergo a crisis of overconsumption which is a symptom of capitalist nations).

    okay, so how exactly has capitalist restoration not taken place?

    also, besides the things mentioned above, what makes china “still fundamentally socialist”? be as detailed as possible.

  14. It seems clear from all of the above that China is still socialist. It is clear from the history of the USSR that capitalist restoration is a dialectical process, involving quantiative changes over a long period of time, culminating in a sudden, fundamental change, a qualitative leap. This is what happened in the Soviet Union from the institution of revisionist policies that ate away at both the economic base and the political superstructure by Krushchev and on to the outright overthrow of proletarian dictatorship by Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Those are the lessons of history, and they deserve consideration on the question of China. Furthermore, I don’t want to just repeat myself again about the clear lack of characteristic capitalist crisis, socialized industry, guaranteed rights to a job, housing, health care, scientific education, and so on, carried out under the leadership of the party of the proletariat and with communism as the goal. That’s what China has today, and if that’s not socialism, then I don’t know what is.

    To me, your line of argumentation, asking me to prove that capitalist restoration has not taken place, is a lot like asking me to prove that God doesn’t exist. I’m not foolish enough to assert that God exists, so I don’t hold the burden of proof on that one.

    It is you (and the other capitalist restorationists out there) who are making a claim (this post was inspired by claims to that effect coming from the bourgeois media in relation to the Beijing Olympics) that relations of production have fundamentally changed in China, from socialist to capitalist. I’m attempting to refute that claim based on an understanding of the nature of Chinese socialism, both during the Mao era and the reform era, from the perspective of Marxism. I’m not making a positive assertion, I’m saying rather that something (capitalist restoration) did NOT take place. So the burden of proof is not on me, but rather on those that are making that assertion.

    I’m saying that the arguments that are being made to advance the ‘capitalist restoration’ argument don’t hold up from a dialectical materialist perspective. If you want to say that they do, then the burden of proof is on you.

  15. hey, no offense man. i don’t mean to put you on the defense here.

    i think you’re reading into my assertions and questions to much, i.e. you called me capitalist restorationist. like i said before, i’m not here to make arguments in favor of capitalism or socialism, or, conversely, to denounce either. all i wanted to understand was why you think china is still socialist; sure, i played devil’s advocate a bit, but that was to advance my understanding, not to upset or annoy anyone here.

    okay, so do i feel like i have a better understanding? yes, i do think i have come to a better understanding about china’s situation.

    this assertion seems a little ridiculous though:
    “To me, your line of argumentation, asking me to prove that capitalist restoration has not taken place, is a lot like asking me to prove that God doesn’t exist. I’m not foolish enough to assert that God exists, so I don’t hold the burden of proof on that one.”

    a little odd. capitalist restoration is a material thing; god, an immaterial thing. i don’t get it.

    another thing, you say that you can’t prove whether or not capitalist restoration has taken place in china yet you confidently assure me that china is still socialist. your train of thought seems a little wobbly.
    surely if china is undoubtedly materially socialist (as you shown by the examples you gave) then one must be able to materially prove that china has not undergone capitalist restoration. is this not so?

    PS: enough with the name-calling and inferences that i’m actually a supporter of capitalism. thats not necessary here. this is about communication, about gaining an understanding.

  16. I’m not saying that I “can’t prove whether or not capitalist restoration has taken place”. If it were true, I assume that it could certainly be proved. I’m not making that assertion, so I’m certainly not obliged to prove it.

    Then you say, “if china is undoubtedly materially socialist (as you shown by the examples you gave) then one must be able to materially prove that china has not undergone capitalist restoration.”

    You say I’ve shown that China is “undoubtedly materially socialist”. Well, I would say that showing that pretty much “materially proves that china has not undergone capitalist restoration”. Don’t you?

    Anyway, I’m not trying to infer you that you are a supporter of capitalism. I intend the term ‘capitalist restorationist’ as a rhetorical device, more than anything. I didn’t mean by it someone who thinks capitalism should be restored, capitalist-roader, or anything like that. To me it is short hand for ‘someone who thinks capitalism has been basically restored’ which seemed to me to be the argument you were putting forward. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. Furthermore, I enjoy these discussions. I’m not offended, and you shouldn’t be either. I’m glad we are both coming to a better understanding.

  17. “I’m not saying that I “can’t prove whether or not capitalist restoration has taken place”.”

    Yes, you were. You said, “…asking me to prove that capitalist restoration has not taken place, is a lot like asking me to prove that God doesn’t exist.” In other words, “I can’t prove whether or not capitalist restoration has taken place in China.”

    If one makes the assertion that “the market reforms bring quantitative change to Chinese socialism in terms of its relationship to capitalism, not a fundamental qualitative leap, that is, not capitalist restoration” then I think a burden of proof is required. You are saying that a qualitative leap towards capitalist restoration has not taken place and then you say that you can’t prove it. Weird, huh?

    “You say I’ve shown that China is “undoubtedly materially socialist”. Well, I would say that showing that pretty much “materially proves that china has not undergone capitalist restoration”. Don’t you?”

    Well, thats what I was thinking you were saying, but the whole reason I asked was because you seemed to be separating the two. On the one hand you were saying that China is still socialist and then on the other you saying that you couldn’t prove that capitalist restoration had not taken place because that would be like trying prove that God doesn’t exist. That sounds like a split in your thinking about this issue.

    Also, I’m not the one that thinks china is undoubtedly socialist. In the phrasing of my sentences, I may have unintentionally conveyed that. For example: “surely if china is undoubtedly materially socialist (as you *have* shown by the examples you gave)…”. Okay. Bad phrasing. You seem to have interpreted that as me thinking that also. No, what I think you have done is shown me that China is more socialist than I initially thought it was (this I am convinced of), but not that it is undoubtedly fundamentally socialist. I still think you ought to prove that. You have given examples of China still having socialist characteristics, but (and this what I’d like to know) which ones point to (or prove that) China still being fundamentally socialist?

    “Furthermore, I enjoy these discussions. I’m not offended, and you shouldn’t be either. I’m glad we are both coming to a better understanding.”

    Okay, I’m glad we’re on the same page.

  18. OK, now you say that I’ve convinced you that China is more socialist than you initially thought it was but not that it is undoubtedly fundamentally socialist. You say that I have given examples of China still having socialist characteristics, but you ask which ones point to (or proves that) China still being fundamentally socialist?”

    Lets look at that dialectically. We agree that in socialism there is a contradiction between capitalist and communist aspects. That is perfectly evident from an examination of socialist society, and it is certainly what Lenin says in the quote I gave at the end of my post. Furthermore, Mao says that the principal contradiction in China is between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

    What does that mean, dialectically, and how do we get from that understanding to an understanding of whether or not China is fundamentally socialist or fundamentally capitalist.

    In his main work on dialectics, On Contradiction, Mao says the following:

    “In any contradiction the development of the contradictory aspects is uneven. Sometimes they seem to be in equilibrium, which is however only temporary and relative, while unevenness is basic. Of the two contradictory aspects, one must be principal and the other secondary. The principal aspect is the one playing the leading role in the contradiction. The nature of a thing is determined mainly by the principal aspect of a contradiction, the aspect which has gained the dominant position.”

    My argument here is as followes:

    Currently in China, the majority of industry is socialized, the majority of profits from industry goes to serve the people, to deal with the peoples needs in terms of health care, education, housing, infrastructure and so on. It terms of the two line struggle in the Communist Party, is also quite clear that the Party leadership is moving more to the Left. All of this would indicate that, understanding principal and secondary aspects of contradiction, China is fundamentally socialist.

  19. “Currently in China, the majority of industry is socialized, the majority of profits from industry goes to serve the people, to deal with the peoples needs in terms of health care, education, housing, infrastructure and so on. It terms of the two line struggle in the Communist Party, is also quite clear that the Party leadership is moving more to the Left. All of this would indicate that, understanding principal and secondary aspects of contradiction, China is fundamentally socialist.”

    Okay, I’m glad we have reached this point. This is where I wanted this discussion to go. This, to me, conveys your assertion that China is still socialist much better than in your previous posts.

    Okay, what I am now interested in is the assertion that, in the context of two-line struggle within the Communist Party of China, it is “…also quite clear the Party leadership is moving more to the Left.” By left, I presume you to mean that the party is moving more towards socialism again. Is my understanding correct?
    Also, what makes is so clear that there is movement towards the left within the party? What is the evidence for this assertion? I’d like to know because I don’t know.

  20. A thoughtful and insightful comment.

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  21. China since 1949 has been on an unstoppable march towards progress. China, like every other socialist country today, has undertaken reforms to further develop the means of production in order to consolidate socialism. Land ownership is completely state owned, there is no private ownership of land. Agriculture is the occupation of 43% of China’s labor force, the largest single sector. The “commanding heights” of Chinese industry are state owned. The financial and currency regulatory systems are state controlled. The party represents the interests of the workers and peasants of China. China is investing its resources into the infrastructure of the country. They have eliminated all fees for rural schools. They have increased literacy, PPP per capita, and life expectancy by leaps and bounds.

    As comradezero said, there has been no crisis of overproduction in the decades that China has been led by the Communist Party. Name one capitalist country in which you can say that.

    The “liberal-left” and “socialists” of various stripes like to talk about how they care about workers and want poverty eradicated. What country has done more to eradicate poverty in the past 50 years than any other? China. China is the reason why despite the economic mess the world is in right now, global poverty is still declining. What other developing country has such a high workforce participation rate by women? China only a short time ago had a highly hierarchical orientation in terms of rights for women, and today it is a model of gender equality. Rape and violence against women is low. In fact all types of crime are low. Ethnic equality and rights for national minorities is again, a model for all countries.

    And I’d like to see evidence of Chinese unions being a “joke”. Chinese trade unions protect the rights of workers, promote the democratic management of industry, and help provide important job training skills to help workers become re-employed. 134 million Chinese workers are members of the trade unions. Do you insult the intelligence of 134 million people by saying they are participating in a “sham” organization? If they were such a joke, why are employers in China afraid of their workforces becoming unionized? http://www.china.org.cn/english/MATERIAL/76123.htm

    Finally, look at the response by the Chinese authorities to natural disasters and catastrophes, like the floods and the Sichuan earthquake. While capitalist countries like the US allow poor people to die and do nothing to help, China mobilized the entire country to help its people. Wen Jiabao personally visited the site of the earthquake many times to help out in the rescue efforts. He did so also with the floods. It’s clear the Chinese leadership represents the people of China.

  22. Pieter,

    I agree with Brian’s comments above. Along similar lines, I’d like to suggest another article by Peter Franssen: Is the evolution of China favorable to the Third World?

    I’ll say a bit in response to your questions about the Leftward motion in the CPC.

    I don’t follow Chinese Communist Party politics very closely, so I can’t tell you much. By ‘moving to the Left’ I don’t mean that there there has been a decisive break with the more Rightist politicies of the last 20 + years. It doesn’t appear to me that this has occured in a very fundamental way. However, Hu Jintao and the current Central Committee is much more vigorous in curbing the strength of capitalists and rooting out corruption. He also seems more apt to deal with sharpening contradictions in Chinese society that are a result of reform and opening up.

    In his Report to the 17 Party Congress, Hu said,

    “Our society has become evidently more dynamic, but profound changes have taken place in the structure of society, in the way society is organized and in the pattern of social interests, and many new issues have emerged in social development and management. China is opening wider to the outside world, but international competition is becoming increasingly acute, pressure in the form of the economic and scientific dominance of developed countries will continue for a long time to come, both predictable and unpredictable risks are increasing, and the need to balance domestic development and opening to the outside world is greater than ever.”

    This indicates a clear understanding of the sharpening of contradictions as a result of reform and opening up. The Report to the 17 Party Congress is vastly more progressive than any made by a past leader since Deng Xiaoping instituted the process of market reform and opening up. If you are interested in this then I would suggest you read it.

    I think saying that the CPC is “moving toward socialism again” is too simplistic. The reform period is very complicated, and so was the New Democratic Revolution led by Mao. Both have used capitalism under the guidance of the proletariat and its party to “move toward socialism”. What I would say is that Hu Jintao and the Central Committee around him seems to have a better understanding of the contradictions in Chinese society and how they are being made more accute by the long standing path of reform and opening up than many of the previous leaders since reform was initiated.

  23. I wrote an analyse of the article “Friedrich Engels and scientific socialism in contemporary China by Peter Franssen to prove that this is an example of modern REVISIONISM.
    Peter Franssen is cadre of the Workers Party of Belgium (I was militant for years in the WPB) and the WPB had an evolution from revolutionary and communist to a REFORMIST party.
    There was an development of a revisionist faction in the WPB leaded by Boudewijn Deckers. He profited from the fact that Ludo Martens (who was always fighting against revisionism) had increasing fysical and psychical problems.
    You can read my analysis, beginning at
    http://wetenschappelijksocialisme.blogspot.com/2008/07/revisionism-bourgoisie-inside-communist.html

    You can post any comment on my blog. I promess to answer
    Greetings, Nico (“Paul Vermeer”)

  24. Thanks for the responses. They are most interesting.

  25. Tibet is used as a achilles heel by the capitalist media to bash China on issues of democracy. But then again its not the capitalist media that occupies Tibet but China. I am no apologist for the DL and I support the role the CCP played in overthrowing feudalism and slavery and tibet. The people of tibet are better for the changes made through sheer firepower. But these changes werent democratic then or now.

    Today we have a legacy of an uneven “revolution” in Tibet. The Chinese imported a Han minority to take the reigns of the communist rev in Tibet at the expense of any kind of people’s power for Tibetans. Sure on paper Tibet is autonomous and socialist but in practice neither have ever existed for anyone but Han CCP party members. Heck Tibetans are rarely even served dinner at Tibetan restaurants owned by Hans.

    Lastly I agree that socialism is not dead in China it is alive in the struggles of the people. Sadly the people’s movements have faced opposition and counter-revolution from within the party. Mao’s insight into the continuation of class struggle within socialism may be his greatest contribution.

  26. Explain how a country in which workers have no say or control over their workplaces or communities. Where the average worker puts in a 12 hour 6 1/2 day week for just enough money to sustain themselves while a handfull of bureaucrats and new capitalists become filthy rich is still on the socialist road? Especailly when all signs point to further privitization and deregulation by the government. The question is not whether the “communist” party remains in power, but the nature of the party, its organic link to the working class, and the nature and direction of the economy.

    The party has legislated for privite property, inshrining it in law, is now part of the WTO, and has privitized and is privitizing industry and even discussion on privitizing banks. They abolished universal health care, job security and minimum food and housing guarentees. Workers, even in state owned companies are subject to harrassment and abuse. For example, my father in law works for a coal company which is state owned. The manager makes over 1million US a year, while workers are actually paid below what is legislated that workers of that company are supposed to make. They can do nothing about it because they do not have any democratic organizations which they can participate in. The union, which is not worker run or independent, is actually run by the managers son! Then the company cut workers pentions they tried to organize to protest, and the company sent thugs which broke up their meeting and threatend their lives. This was all orchestrated by party officials! The manager of the mine is a high ranking party member in Liaoning province. Without workers democracy, their is no control by the workers, but of the workers. The party, except for a few honest activists has degenerated to the point of being no better than the convervatives!

    We Marxists must wake up to the reality which is taking place in China. This is no longer socialism, this is a capitalist dictatorship, not of the proletariat, but of a corrupt bureaucracy, and increasingly a capitalist one.

  27. furthermore, the unions are a sham in China not because the workers are stupid, exactly the opposite is true. Chinese workers are very smart, and thus if they want to organize strikes or other workplace action they avoid the union like a plague because it is NOT DEMOCRATIC! The workers have no say in the union, officials are appointed from above, not elected by the workforce. In many cases, the manager of the company is also the president of the union or at least a party official or member.

    Before I went to China I had a lot of optomistic ideas as well. I felt that although it was obviously not a perfect socialist society, that there was the intention there, that just some mistakes had to be corrected. I was wrong! Go to china, live with the working class (not the middle class party officials) for a year and hear their thoughts and feelings and experience their life. Examine the real situation from a Marxist perspective.

    Reread the clasics of Marx, Engles and Lenin while in China, heck even mao, you wont even be able to get three pages before realizing the truth.

  28. Sorry for so many repeat posts, but I just keep noticing comments on here which are fundementally false.

    Currently in China, the majority of industry is socialized, the majority of profits from industry goes to serve the people, to deal with the peoples needs in terms of health care, education, housing, infrastructure and so on. It terms of the two line struggle in the Communist Party, is also quite clear that the Party leadership is moving more to the Left. All of this would indicate that, understanding principal and secondary aspects of contradiction, China is fundamentally socialist.

    This is false to the very core, and the author of these words is either misinformed, or is spreading misinformation. While it is true that there is still a majority of socialised industry, this is in no way a desicive majority, and is being decreased steadily all the time. In addition, the way in which the nationalized industry is being run is on a captialist basis, no different from south Korean companies in the 1970’s, or even nationalized industry in Europe or Canada.

    The second point is that the Chinese government spends less of its GDP on healthcare than the United States. 5.55% of GDP goes to healthcare, and from 1980 to 2004, household payments for medical costs increased from 21.6% to 53.6% of the total health expenditure(1). Furthermore, since 1985 the healthcare service has been running under complete privitization and is hardly monitored at all for quality or fairness. Corrupt doctors frequently give tretments people do not need, or even go so far as to set broken bones improperly if the patient does not tip sufficiently.

    We Marxists must not make excuses for the Chinese Communist Party. We stand with the workers and oppressed of the world, and we must stand shoulder to shoulder with the workers and peasents of China, which unfortunate as it may be, is not on the same side of the fence as the majority of party officials.

    1 (Houli Wang, MD; Tengda Xu, MD; Jin Xu, MD Factors Contributing to High Costs and Inequality in China’s Health Care System)

  29. My opinion on the discussion if the CCP is still revolutionary or not and if China is now (again???) capitalist.
    As a marxist you have to analyse the policy of a CCP leading een socialist country. You have to study on the marxist analyse the CCP made themselve to defend their policy. Then you can judge if their policy is really ment to strenghten socialisme or to weaken the socialist development and thus promoting the development of capitalism.
    So you have to study the development of the political line of the CCP wich is the product of struggle between prolatarian revolutionary line and bourgeois revisionist line.
    You have to made a historical materialist study of the development of the revolution in China.
    And a marxist do this, to made a contribution in the development of the knowledge: how to made revolution and how to buil a socialist society on the way to communism.
    So you can also see if there are made mistakes or if their has to be a solution for existing problems in a real revolutionary practice based on a revolutionary line OR the problems that are ocurring comes from a wrong development based on a revisionist line.
    I thing that I have made some study and that I have made some analysis that I can say (I will prove this very concretely on my weblog) that since the death of Mao Zedong their was a development of revisionism in the leading organs of the CCP.
    The line that Deng Xiaoping and Co developed is a retake of the line that Liu Chaochi developed in opposition of the line developed by Mao Zedong.
    The whole line of “reform and opening” is in fact a big step backward to the national democratic (bourgeois) revolution where capitalist development is protected, and stimulated.
    At the same time is the power taken out the hands of the proletariat (in alliance with the peasants). “Reform and opening” has to PROMOTE commodity-production, there where socialist planeconomy step by step diminish the influence and the importance of commodity-production. When the economic policy of a leading communist party is PROMOTING commodity-production, it is installing the working UNHINDERED of the law of value.
    Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong and also Che Guevara recognise that the commodity-production and the working of the law of value will exist for a certain (long?) time under socialism. But (as you can read in “state and revolution” of Lenin for example, where he self quotes Marx in Critic on the Gotha program) they recognise that their has an evolution OUT of commodity-production because CAPITALISM is the highiest possible stade of commodity-production –and an economy based on selling commodities for their value -and communism means production in function of NEEDS in a planned economy. And as commodity-production will diminishe than the working of the law of value will diminish. So as Stalin and Mao say that there is no need to abolisch the law of value by law, the working of thelaw of value will disappear.
    So when you ar PROMOTING commodity-production (as the CCP since 1978 does) you are PROMOTING the importance of capitalism. So you are protecting the development of the capitalist class and endangering the dictature of the proletariat.
    Socialism is a situation where capitalism still exists. But that is only to make the conclusion that their has to be dictature of the proletariat AND the continuing of classtruggle. And the development of socialism means to beat capitalism and the capitalist class: when it is possible by discussion, education, persuasion, the good example, but when it is neccesary by repression, expropriation and open classstruggle.

  30. I’m glad to find this tread. I haven’t seen much discussion of the political economy of China from a Marxist perspective on the web. As far as I can tell most socialists and communists of every imaginable stripe see modern China as nothing but the supreme example of class betrayal, a bureaucratically deformed anti-proletarian, autocratic, authoritarian, one-party state capitalist monstrosity. No one seems to be able to put China into its proper context.

    The fall of the Soviet Union was due to many factors, too numerous to discuss in this comment. The subsequent implosion of the eastern bloc was due to many of the same factors plus the whole question of nationalism, which became of overriding concern. China’s revolution was not imposed or imported from abroad. It was a completely indigenous development and it freed China from bondage to the West. China became a free agent and could finally determine its own destiny. Like a geopolitical Rip Van Winkle China awoke to the mid-twentieth century “Cold War” and had to respond to that reality. It had to take sides and given the political tenor of the times Mao put out his famous tract, “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship”, that called for leaning to one side, the Soviet side, in the contention between the capitalist and socialist blocs. This set the tone for the first decade of the PRC, but the contradictions between the Soviet Union’s attempt to impose its geopolitical control on the socialist bloc and the needs of China to reassert its national interests sharpened, particularly after the de-Stalinization initiated by Khrushchev.

    Why was de-Stalinization anathema to the PRC? Primarily because Mao understood that in order for China to amass capital through the process of primitive accumulation, the harsh marshal, collectivist practices of Stalin were necessary. Mao mobilized the revolutionary ardor of the Chinese masses to remake China as quickly as possible. It was of course at times an extremely wasteful, if not brutal but heroic period. It can also be argued that it was absolutely essential for the eventual triumph of the Chinese revolution and revival of the Chinese nation.

    Primitive communist accumulation could not however go on forever as it had served its historic purpose. In little more than two decades the basic infrastructure for China’s resurgence had been laid. How else could China have had its remarkable economic growth rate over the last three decades if it had not been for the selfless efforts of its workers and peasants during the period of initial reconstruction? If China had followed the lead of Khrushchev and renounced Stalin, it would have meant a capitulation to the Soviets and made China’s development subservient to the demands of Soviet leadership. It would have spelled doom for the independent action of the CPC, its transformation into an appendage of the Soviet state and party apparatus and its eventual demise as occurred throughout the Eastern bloc of nations.

    With the changing balance of power that resulted from the Sino-Soviet split and the consolidation of the Chinese Revolution by Mao the stage was set for a rapprochement with the US. Why did Mao endorse it? Mao must have known that this rapprochement would lay the essential groundwork for the next stage of the Chinese Revolution, the transition from primitive communist accumulation of capital to all around capital construction and modernization under the aegis of the socialist market economy, allowing for the socialized extraction of super profits from the working classes.

    This is a necessary stage for the rapid, all around development of the productive forces and an essential condition for the eventual transition to true socialist relations of production based on advanced capitalist production capacity. For this transitional period to succeed, without the reversion to thoroughgoing revanchist capitalism as in Russia, the CPC needs to retain its leading role as the guarantor of the people’s democratic dictatorship, which is an alliance of all patriotic classes including workers, peasants, the petite bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie.

    China at present is going through a period of capitalist development under the leadership of the CPC, not capitalist restoration as in Russia. This is an entirely new phenomenon and has led to a remarkably sustained growth rate. It has also led to all the contradictions of capitalist development, including the extraction of super profits from the peasantry and working class, but under the direction and aegis of the CPC. This is not to be condemned but commended.

    Why do I say this? Because under unfettered capitalism this process of capital accumulation and construction was accomplished by hundreds of years of colonialism, genocide, slavery, and imperialist war that resulted in the death of untold millions upon millions of people and the impoverishment of hundreds of millions more. China has accomplished this process of accumulation and construction by using both foreign and domestic capitalism to develop the means of production at an unprecedented rate without the horrors that accompanied that process in the West..

    The task for the CPC is to manage this transitional process in such a manner that it will lead to the full blown socialization of the advanced capitalist productive forces as envisioned by Marx . This must be accompanied by the growth of an advanced and democratized civil society founded on but superceding the bourgeoisie democracy of the West, again as envisioned by Marx. This will be the next stage in the development of socialism in China for only with the thorough democratization of society can true socialism be achieved, allowing the party and state to become superfluous.

    This is not to say that class struggle is not occurring in China today. It is actually extremely acute. The question is will the CPC retain control and lead the nation to socialism based on advanced forces and relations of production or will the forces of capitalism so unleashed run amuck and lead to revanchist capitalist restoration as in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe?

  31. Great post, and very useful comments from Dennis, although i’m not sure about overloading the term ‘primitive accumulation’, which was used by Marx to describe the process of ruthless exploitation, theft, murder and genocide that characterised the early development of capitalism. As harsh as the Great Leap Forward may have been, it was nothing like as painful as capitalist primitive accumulation, described in Marx’s ‘Capital’ in the following colourful terms:

    “The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population of that continent, the beginnings of the conquest and plunder of India, and the conversion of Africa into a preserve for the commercial hunting of blackskins, are all things which characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of primitive accumulation.”

    It’s also worth mentioning that China has been able to develop on the basis of its own efforts; it has not relied on colonial or neo-colonial domination, unlike *all* the western capitalist countries.

    • I do make a distinction between capitalist and communist primitive accumulation. Capitalist primitive accumulation is a product of the innate structure of the capitalist mode of production based on the unbridled exploitation of the proletariat, peasantry and other underclasses. Communist primitive accumulation is based on the class conscious efforts of those same classes to unleash the latent productive forces of the the nation as a whole.

  32. Some very interesting posts indeed. This discussion has gotten even better!

    Sure, China has accumulated capital and developed to a sophisticated (as described in such detail in the previous posts) all by itself, which is an impressive feat no doubt, but I think which should also remember that China (in 1949 and now) has always had a shit load of people with which to develop itself with. That’s an important differentiation between China’s developmental process and the West’s. Western countries were 1) way smaller, geographically and population-wise and 2) were always furiously competing with each other. Russia and China were never really competing with each other.

    Okay, here’s another thing I just thought about: What about China’s involvement with Somalia government? Aren’t they currently supporting mass murder in Darfur right now? Isn’t it about the oil there? Isn’t that not neo-colonial behavior? Now, just to let you know, I don’t know much about the Darfur situation or China’s involvement with it. These are just things I read or heard about. So if I’ve been misinformed, let me know.

  33. Pieter, I think you have things a bit backward with China’s role in relation to Darfur. Please see these three excellent articles:

    China’s growing role in Africa

    Darfur, imperialist intervention and anti-Arab hysteria

    The U.S. role in Darfur, Sudan

  34. There are three components to the political economy of contemporary China. The first is the political, economic and sociocultural formations inherited from thousands of years of Chinese history. This historic experience cannot be discounted. It is the context, the sea within which China swims. The second is the worldwide development of capitalism and the economic forces and relations of production associated with it. As the demise of the Soviet Union and the eastern bloc demonstrate, it is impossible to go it alone and try to recapitulate the historic development of modern capitalism under the conditions of isolation from the world market. The third component of contemporary Chinese political economy is the history of national democratic and socialist revolutionary movements both in China and worldwide during the 20th century. All three of these components interact with one another to create the socioeconomic, cultural and political reality of China today.

    To answer the question in the heading: Due to the deformations of colonialism and imperialist subjugation, China experienced a new democratic revolution led by a class conscious Communist Party. Under the leadership of the CPC, China regained continuity with its past and entered into a period of socialist reconstruction subject to the conditions of underdevelopment and scarcity. The success of socialist reconstruction allowed China to enter the stage of all around capitalist development under the leadership of the patriotic national bourgeoisie. Only the Chinese people themselves, with their destiny in their own hands, will determine the manner in which their country and nation continues to develop.

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