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The ‘China Shock’ of Trade in the 2000s Reverberates in US Politics and Economics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/01/2022 - 1:55am in

Belatedly learning from how trade losses to China damaged communities to determine how to shore them up.

Undermining US Global Hegemony Is Good, Actually: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/01/2022 - 1:07am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

China and Russia are right to try to undermine US unipolar hegemony. The planet is not America’s property and efforts to stop it being treated as such are good.

It’s not okay to be a grown adult in 2022 and still believe the US is a force for peace and justice in this world.

The belief that China is trying to become the next unipolar global hegemon is premised on the idea that Beijing has been watching the floundering US empire burn itself out and get crushed under its own weight after just a few decades and thinking “Oh that looks awesome! Let’s definitely do that!”

“No no you don’t understand, the US needs to keep bombing and starving civilians and engaging in nuclear brinkmanship and arming extremist militias and supporting dictators and destroying any nation who disobeys it. Otherwise the world might be taken over by a tyrannical regime!”

You could very easily fill a list with one thousand things Americans should care about more than the one year anniversary of a few wingnuts wandering around the Capitol Building for a bit and then leaving.

Americans have always had a special love for fake fighting. Civil War reenactments. Pro wrestling. Jerry Springer. Democrats vs Republicans.

Biden is a better Trump than Trump was; he’s advancing all Trump’s policies more effectively than Trump and actually doing things that Trump only talked about. If Trumpers had any actual ideological consistency instead of vapid partisan hackery they’d all be Biden supporters.

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Please consider the possibility that it’s not a coincidence that Democrats have done literally exactly what those who oppose “vote blue no matter who” said they would do when they took power.

Nobody gets censored for “covid misinformation”; that’s just today’s excuse. Before that it was the so-called Facebook whistleblower, before that it was domestic extremism, before that it was election security, before that it was Russian disinfo and fake news. The reality is much simpler: people are being censored on the internet to normalize censorship on the internet.

Don’t underestimate how badly our rulers need to regulate speech on the internet. Their very survival depends on preventing awareness of the exploitative and oppressive nature of the status quo from spreading into the mainstream. They’d do literally anything to stop it.

Leaving mainstream social media platforms for fringe social media is just marginalizing yourselves. It’s doing the narrative managers’ job for them. By all means join alternative platforms also, but don’t quarantine yourself from the mainstream crowd as long as that’s where the people are. That’s just giving the bastards what they want.

The whole objective of internet censorship via de-platforming and algorithm manipulation is to quarantine the mainstream herd away from wrongthink. Leaving is just doing exactly what they want you to do. You need to stay and disrupt establishment narratives where you can be seen.

Sure you maybe have free speech on those small fringe platforms. You have free speech on a desert island, too. It doesn’t matter what you say if people don’t hear your words. If you oppose the status quo, you need to oppose it wherever your voice can influence people.

There is no “human nature” apart from our immutable physiological features. What we’re dealing with in matters of societal organization is the human condition; conditioning by propaganda, by early childhood trauma, by generational trauma. And we can heal all of that conditioning.

People who cite “human nature” to argue that society must necessarily be organized a certain way are only ever talking about their own conditioning. If they think it’s human nature to be selfish and competitive, they’re just telling you how they’ve been conditioned to be.

The narratives about what’s going on in our world had already become unsustainably shrill and muddled before Covid; now it’s gotten so bad it affects the decisions people make in their everyday lives. Humanity is approaching a white noise saturation point with narrative itself.

Which could end up being a good thing, in the long run. All of humanity’s problems ultimately boil down to an unwholesome relationship with mental narrative. If that relationship becomes so strained that it snaps, maybe we can replace it with something healthier and more truthful.


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The Triumph and Terror of Wang Huning

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/10/2021 - 6:26am in

Grey Eminence, or Theory at the Top

By N. S. Lyons
October 2021

One day in August 2021, Zhao Wei disappeared. For one of China’s best-known actresses to physically vanish from public view would have been enough to cause a stir on its own. But Zhao’s disappearing act was far more thorough: overnight, she was erased from the internet. Her Weibo social media page, with its 86 million followers, went offline, as did fan sites dedicated to her. Searches for her many films and television shows returned no results on streaming sites. Zhao’s name was scrubbed from the credits of projects she had appeared in or directed, replaced with a blank space. Online discussions uttering her name were censored. Suddenly, little trace remained that the 45-year-old celebrity had ever existed.

She wasn’t alone. Other Chinese entertainers also began to vanish as Chinese government regulators announced a “heightened crackdown” intended to dispense with “vulgar internet celebrities” promoting lascivious lifestyles and to “resolve the problem of chaos” created by online fandom culture. Those imitating the effeminate or androgynous aesthetics of Korean boyband stars—colorfully referred to as “xiao xian rou,” or “little fresh meat”—were next to go, with the government vowing to “resolutely put an end to sissy men” appearing on the screens of China’s impressionable youth.

Zhao and her unfortunate compatriots in the entertainment industry were caught up in something far larger than themselves: a sudden wave of new government policies that are currently upending Chinese life in what state media has characterized as a “profound transformation” of the country. Officially referred to as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Common Prosperity” campaign, this transformation is proceeding along two parallel lines: a vast regulatory crackdown roiling the private sector economy and a broader moralistic effort to reengineer Chinese culture from the top down.

But why is this “profound transformation” happening? And why now? Most analysis has focused on one man: Xi and his seemingly endless personal obsession with political control. The overlooked answer, however, is that this is indeed the culmination of decades of thinking and planning by a very powerful man—but that man is not Xi Jinping.

The Grey Eminence

Wang Huning much prefers the shadows to the limelight. An insomniac and workaholic, former friends and colleagues describe the bespectacled, soft-spoken political theorist as introverted and obsessively discreet. It took former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin’s repeated entreaties to convince the brilliant then-young academic—who spoke wistfully of following the traditional path of a Confucian scholar, aloof from politics—to give up academia in the early 1990s and join the Chinese Communist Party regime instead. When he finally did so, Wang cut off nearly all contact with his former connections, stopped publishing and speaking publicly, and implemented a strict policy of never speaking to foreigners at all. Behind this veil of carefully cultivated opacity, it’s unsurprising that so few people in the West know of Wang, let alone know him personally.

Yet Wang Huning is arguably the single most influential “public intellectual” alive today.

A member of the CCP’s seven-man Politburo Standing Committee, he is China’s top ideological theorist, quietly credited as being the “ideas man” behind each of Xi’s signature political concepts, including the “China Dream,” the anti-corruption campaign, the Belt and Road Initiative, a more assertive foreign policy, and even “Xi Jinping Thought.” Scrutinize any photograph of Xi on an important trip or at a key meeting and one is likely to spot Wang there in the background, never far from the leader’s side.

Wang has thus earned comparisons to famous figures of Chinese history like Zhuge Liang and Han Fei (historians dub the latter “China’s Machiavelli”) who similarly served behind the throne as powerful strategic advisers and consiglieres—a position referred to in Chinese literature as dishi: “Emperor’s Teacher.” Such a figure is just as readily recognizable in the West as an éminence grise (“grey eminence”), in the tradition of Tremblay, Talleyrand, Metternich, Kissinger, or Vladimir Putin adviser Vladislav Surkov.

But what is singularly remarkable about Wang is that he’s managed to serve in this role of court philosopher to not just one, but all three of China’s previous top leaders, including as the pen behind Jiang Zemin’s signature “Three Represents” policy and Hu Jintao’s “Harmonious Society.”

In the brutally cutthroat world of CCP factional politics, this is an unprecedented feat. Wang was recruited into the party by Jiang’s “Shanghai Gang,” a rival faction that Xi worked to ruthlessly purge after coming to power in 2012; many prominent members, like former security chief Zhou Yongkang and former vice security minister Sun Lijun, have ended up in prison. Meanwhile, Hu Jintao’s Communist Youth League Faction has also been heavily marginalized as Xi’s faction has consolidated control. Yet Wang Huning remains. More than any other, it is this fact that reveals the depth of his impeccable political cunning.

And the fingerprints of China’s Grey Eminence on the Common Prosperity campaign are unmistakable. While it’s hard to be certain what Wang really believes today inside his black box, he was once an immensely prolific author, publishing nearly 20 books along with numerous essays. And the obvious continuity between the thought in those works and what’s happening in China today says something fascinating about how Beijing has come to perceive the world through the eyes of Wang Huning.

Cultural Competence

While other Chinese teenagers spent the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) “sent down to the countryside” to dig ditches and work on farms, Wang Huning studied French at an elite foreign-language training school near his hometown of Shanghai, spending his days reading banned foreign literary classics secured for him by his teachers. Born in 1955 to a revolutionary family from Shandong, he was a sickly, bookish youth; this, along with his family’s connections, seems to have secured him a pass from hard labor.

When China’s shuttered universities reopened in 1978, following the commencement of “reform and opening” by Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping, Wang was among the first to take the restored national university entrance exam, competing with millions for a chance to return to higher learning. He passed so spectacularly that Shanghai’s Fudan University, one of China’s top institutions, admitted him into its prestigious international politics master’s program despite having never completed a bachelor’s degree.

The thesis work he completed at Fudan, which would become his first book, traced the development of the Western concept of national sovereignty from antiquity to the present day—including from Gilgamesh through Socrates, Aristotle, Augustine, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Hegel, and Marx—and contrasted it with Chinese conceptions of the idea. The work would become the foundation for many of his future theories of the nation-state and international relations.

But Wang was also beginning to pick up the strands of what would become another core thread of his life’s work: the necessary centrality of culture, tradition, and value structures to political stability.

Wang elaborated on these ideas in a 1988 essay, “The Structure of China’s Changing Political Culture,” which would become one of his most cited works. In it, he argued that the CCP must urgently consider how society’s “software” (culture, values, attitudes) shapes political destiny as much as its “hardware” (economics, systems, institutions). While seemingly a straightforward idea, this was notably a daring break from the materialism of orthodox Marxism.

Examining China in the midst of Deng’s rapid opening to the world, Wang perceived a country “in a state of transformation” from “an economy of production to an economy of consumption,” while evolving “from a spiritually oriented culture to a materially oriented culture,” and “from a collectivist culture to an individualistic culture.”

Meanwhile, he believed that the modernization of “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” was effectively leaving China without any real cultural direction at all. “There are no core values in China’s most recent structure,” he warned. This could serve only to dissolve societal and political cohesion.

That, he said, was untenable. Warning that “the components of the political culture shaped by the Cultural Revolution came to be divorced from the source that gave birth to this culture, as well as from social demands, social values, and social relations”—and thus “the results of the adoption of Marxism were not always positive”—he argued that, “Since 1949, we have criticized the core values of the classical and modern structures, but have not paid enough attention to shaping our own core values.” Therefore: “we must create core values.” Ideally, he concluded, “We must combine the flexibility of [China’s] traditional values with the modern spirit [both Western and Marxist].”

But at this point, like many during those heady years of reform and opening, he remained hopeful that liberalism could play a positive role in China, writing that his recommendations could allow “the components of the modern structure that embody the spirit of modern democracy and humanism [to] find the support they need to take root and grow.”

That would soon change.

A Dark Vision

Also in 1988, Wang—having risen with unprecedented speed to become Fudan’s youngest full professor at age 30—won a coveted scholarship (facilitated by the American Political Science Association) to spend six months in the United States as a visiting scholar. Profoundly curious about America, Wang took full advantage, wandering about the country like a sort of latter-day Chinese Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting more than 30 cities and nearly 20 universities.

What he found deeply disturbed him, permanently shifting his view of the West and the consequences of its ideas.

Wang recorded his observations in a memoir that would become his most famous work: the 1991 book America Against America. In it, he marvels at homeless encampments in the streets of Washington DC, out-of-control drug crime in poor black neighborhoods in New York and San Francisco, and corporations that seemed to have fused themselves to and taken over responsibilities of government. Eventually, he concludes that America faces an “unstoppable undercurrent of crisis” produced by its societal contradictions, including between rich and poor, white and black, democratic and oligarchic power, egalitarianism and class privilege, individual rights and collective responsibilities, cultural traditions and the solvent of liquid modernity.

But while Americans can, he says, perceive that they are faced with “intricate social and cultural problems,” they “tend to think of them as scientific and technological problems” to be solved separately. This gets them nowhere, he argues, because their problems are in fact all inextricably interlinked and have the same root cause: a radical, nihilistic individualism at the heart of modern American liberalism.

“The real cell of society in the United States is the individual,” he finds. This is so because the cell most foundational (per Aristotle) to society, “the family, has disintegrated.” Meanwhile, in the American system, “everything has a dual nature, and the glamour of high commodification abounds. Human flesh, sex, knowledge, politics, power, and law can all become the target of commodification.” This “commodification, in many ways, corrupts society and leads to a number of serious social problems.” In the end, “the American economic system has created human loneliness” as its foremost product, along with spectacular inequality. As a result, “nihilism has become the American way, which is a fatal shock to cultural development and the American spirit.”

Moreover, he says that the “American spirit is facing serious challenges” from new ideational competitors. Reflecting on the universities he visited and quoting approvingly from Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, he notes a growing tension between Enlightenment liberal rationalism and a “younger generation [that] is ignorant of traditional Western values” and actively rejects its cultural inheritance. “If the value system collapses,” he wonders, “how can the social system be sustained?”

Ultimately, he argues, when faced with critical social issues like drug addiction, America’s atomized, deracinated, and dispirited society has found itself with “an insurmountable problem” because it no longer has any coherent conceptual grounds from which to mount any resistance.

Once idealistic about America, at the start of 1989 the young Wang returned to China and, promoted to Dean of Fudan’s International Politics Department, became a leading opponent of liberalization.

He began to argue that China had to resist global liberal influence and become a culturally unified and self-confident nation governed by a strong, centralized party-state. He would develop these ideas into what has become known as China’s “Neo-Authoritarian” movement—though Wang never used the term, identifying himself with China’s “Neo-Conservatives.” This reflected his desire to blend Marxist socialism with traditional Chinese Confucian values and Legalist political thought, maximalist Western ideas of state sovereignty and power, and nationalism in order to synthesize a new basis for long-term stability and growth immune to Western liberalism.

“He was most concerned with the question of how to manage China,” one former Fudan student recalls. “He was suggesting that a strong, centralized state is necessary to hold this society together. He spent every night in his office and didn’t do anything else.”

Wang’s timing couldn’t have been more auspicious. Only months after his return, China’s own emerging contradictions exploded into view in the form of student protests in Tiananmen Square. After PLA tanks crushed the dreams of liberal democracy sprouting in China, CCP leadership began searching desperately for a new political model on which to secure the regime. They soon turned to Wang Huning.

When Wang won national acclaim by leading a university debate team to victory in an international competition in Singapore in 1993, he caught the attention of Jiang Zemin, who had become party leader after Tiananmen. Wang, having defeated National Taiwan University by arguing that human nature is inherently evil, foreshadowed that, “While Western modern civilization can bring material prosperity, it doesn’t necessarily lead to improvement in character.” Jiang plucked him from the university and, at the age of 40, he was granted a leadership position in the CCP’s secretive Central Policy Research Office, putting him on an inside track into the highest echelons of power.

Wang Huning’s Nightmare

From the smug point of view of millions who now inhabit the Chinese internet, Wang’s dark vision of American dissolution was nothing less than prophetic. When they look to the U.S., they no longer see a beacon of liberal democracy standing as an admired symbol of a better future. That was the impression of those who created the famous “Goddess of Democracy,” with her paper-mâché torch held aloft before the Gate of Heavenly Peace.

Instead, they see Wang’s America: deindustrialization, rural decay, over-financialization, out of control asset prices, and the emergence of a self-perpetuating rentier elite; powerful tech monopolies able to crush any upstart competitors operating effectively beyond the scope of government; immense economic inequality, chronic unemployment, addiction, homelessness, and crime; cultural chaos, historical nihilism, family breakdown, and plunging fertility rates; societal despair, spiritual malaise, social isolation, and skyrocketing rates of mental health issues; a loss of national unity and purpose in the face of decadence and barely concealed self-loathing; vast internal divisions, racial tensions, riots, political violence, and a country that increasingly seems close to coming apart.

As a tumultuous 2020 roiled American politics, Chinese people began turning to Wang’s America Against America for answers. And when a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021, the book flew off the shelves. Out-of-print copies began selling for as much as $2,500 on Chinese e-commerce sites.

But Wang is unlikely to be savoring the acclaim, because his worst fear has become reality: the “unstoppable undercurrent of crisis” he identified in America seems to have successfully jumped the Pacific. Despite all his and Xi’s success in draconian suppression of political liberalism, many of the same problems Wang observed in America have nonetheless emerged to ravage China over the last decade as the country progressively embraced a more neoliberal capitalist economic model.

“Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” has rapidly transformed China into one of the most economically unequal societies on earth. It now boasts a Gini Coefficient of, officially, around 0.47, worse than the U.S.’s 0.41. The wealthiest 1% of the population now holds around 31% of the country’s wealth (not far behind the 35% in the U.S.). But most people in China remain relatively poor: some 600 million still subsist on a monthly income of less than 1,000 yuan ($155) a month.

Meanwhile, Chinese tech giants have established monopoly positions even more robust than their U.S. counterparts, often with market shares nearing 90%. Corporate employment frequently features an exhausting “996” (9am to 9pm, 6 days a week) schedule. Others labor among struggling legions trapped by up-front debts in the vast system of modern-day indentured servitude that is the Chinese “gig economy.” Up to 400 million Chinese are forecast to enjoy the liberation of such “self-employment” by 2036, according to Alibaba.

The job market for China’s ever-expanding pool of university graduates is so competitive that “graduation equals unemployment” is a societal meme (the two words share a common Chinese character). And as young people have flocked to urban metropoles to search for employment, rural regions have been drained and left to decay, while centuries of communal extended family life have been upended in a generation, leaving the elderly to rely on the state for marginal care. In the cities, young people have been priced out of the property market by a red-hot asset bubble.

Meanwhile, contrary to trite Western assumptions of an inherently communal Chinese culture, the sense of atomization and low social trust in China has become so acute that it’s led to periodic bouts of anguished societal soul-searching after oddly regular instances in which injured individuals have been left to die on the street by passers-by habitually distrustful of being scammed.

Feeling alone and unable to get ahead in a ruthlessly consumerist society, Chinese youth increasingly describe existing in a state of nihilistic despair encapsulated by the online slang term neijuan (“involution”), which describes a “turning inward” by individuals and society due to a prevalent sense of being stuck in a draining rat race where everyone inevitably loses. This despair has manifested itself in a movement known as tangping, or “lying flat,” in which people attempt to escape that rat race by doing the absolute bare minimum amount of work required to live, becoming modern ascetics.

In this environment, China’s fertility rate has collapsed to 1.3 children per woman as of 2020—below Japan and above only South Korea as the lowest in the world—plunging its economic future into crisis. Ending family size limits and government attempts to persuade families to have more children have been met with incredulity and ridicule by Chinese young people as being “totally out of touch” with economic and social reality. “Do they not yet know that most young people are exhausted just supporting themselves?” asked one typically viral post on social media. It’s true that, given China’s cut-throat education system, raising even one child costs a huge sum: estimates range between $30,000 (about seven times the annual salary of the average citizen) and $115,000, depending on location.

But even those Chinese youth who could afford to have kids have found they enjoy a new lifestyle: the coveted DINK (“Double Income, No Kids”) life, in which well-educated young couples (married or not) spend all that extra cash on themselves. As one thoroughly liberated 27-year-old man with a vasectomy once explained to The New York Times: “For our generation, children aren’t a necessity…Now we can live without any burdens. So why not invest our spiritual and economic resources on our own lives?”

So while Americans have today given up the old dream of liberalizing China, they should maybe look a little closer. It’s true that China never remotely liberalized—if you consider liberalism to be all about democratic elections, a free press, and respect for human rights. But many political thinkers would argue there is more to a comprehensive definition of modern liberalism than that. Instead, they would identify liberalism’s essential telos as being the liberation of the individual from all limiting ties of place, tradition, religion, associations, and relationships, along with all the material limits of nature, in pursuit of the radical autonomy of the modern “consumer.”

From this perspective, China has been thoroughly liberalized, and the picture of what’s happening to Chinese society begins to look far more like Wang’s nightmare of a liberal culture consumed by nihilistic individualism and commodification.

The Grand Experiment

It is in this context that Wang Huning appears to have won a long-running debate within the Chinese system about what’s now required for the People’s Republic of China to endure. The era of tolerance for unfettered economic and cultural liberalism in China is over.

According to a leaked account by one of his old friends, Xi has found himself, like Wang, “repulsed by the all-encompassing commercialization of Chinese society, with its attendant nouveaux riches, official corruption, loss of values, dignity, and self-respect, and such ‘moral evils’ as drugs and prostitution.” Wang has now seemingly convinced Xi that they have no choice but to take drastic action to head off existential threats to social order being generated by Western-style economic and cultural liberal-capitalism—threats nearly identical to those that scourge the U.S.

This intervention has taken the form of the Common Prosperity campaign, with Xi declaring in January that “We absolutely must not allow the gap between rich and poor to get wider,” and warning that “achieving common prosperity is not only an economic issue, but also a major political issue related to the party’s governing foundations.”

This is why anti-monopoly investigations have hit China’s top technology firms with billions of dollars in fines and forced restructurings and strict new data rules have curtailed China’s internet and social media companies. It’s why record-breaking IPOs have been put on hold and corporations ordered to improve labor conditions, with “996” overtime requirements made illegal and pay raised for gig workers. It’s why the government killed off the private tutoring sector overnight and capped property rental price increases. It’s why the government has announced “excessively high incomes” are to be “adjusted.”

And it’s why celebrities like Zhao Wei have been disappearing, why Chinese minors have been banned from playing the “spiritual opium” of video games for more than three hours per week, why LGBT groups have been scrubbed from the internet, and why abortion restrictions have been significantly tightened. As one nationalist article promoted across state media explained, if the liberal West’s “tittytainment strategy” is allowed to succeed in causing China’s “young generation lose their toughness and virility then we will fall…just like the Soviet Union did.” The purpose of Xi’s “profound transformation” is to ensure that “the cultural market will no longer be a paradise for sissy stars, and news and public opinion will no longer be in a position of worshipping Western culture.”

In the end, the campaign represents Wang Huning’s triumph and his terror. It’s thirty years of his thought on culture made manifest in policy.

On one hand, it is worth viewing honestly the level of economic, technological, cultural, and political upheaval the West is currently experiencing and considering whether he may have accurately diagnosed a common undercurrent spreading through our globalized world. On the other, the odds that his gambit to engineer new societal values can succeed seems doubtful, considering the many failures of history’s other would-be “engineers of the soul.”

The best simple proxy to measure this effort in coming years is likely to be demographics. For reasons not entirely clear, many countries around the world now face the same challenge: fertility rates that have fallen below the replacement rate as they’ve developed into advanced economies. This has occurred across a diverse array of political systems, and shows little sign of moderating. Besides immigration, a wide range of policies have now been tried in attempts to raise birth rates, from increased public funding of childcare services to “pro-natal” tax credits for families with children. None have been consistently successful, sparking anguished debate in some quarters on whether losing the will to survive and reproduce is simply a fundamental factor of modernity. But if any country can succeed in reversing this trend, no matter the brute-force effort required, it is likely to be China.

Either way, our world is witnessing a grand experiment that’s now underway: China and the West, facing very similar societal problems, have now, thanks to Wang Huning, embarked on radically different approaches to addressing them. And with China increasingly challenging the United States for a position of global geopolitical and ideological leadership, the conclusion of this experiment could very well shape the global future of governance for the century ahead.

N.S. Lyons is an analyst and writer living and working in Washington, D.C. He is the author of The Upheaval.

Democracy and Human Rights: China vs USA

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/10/2021 - 7:46am in


China, Democracy


Friends of Socialist China
October 6, 2021

We are republishing this insightful article in LA Progressive by Dee Knight (member of the DSA International Committee) comparing human and democratic rights in the US and China, and challenging the lazy, Eurocentric assumptions that China is ‘authoritarian’ and that the only valid system of governance is Western capitalist democracy.

The leaders of the USA and China faced off at the United Nations General Assembly in late September, in a dramatic verbal conflict over peace, democracy, and human values. Biden said “The authoritarians of the world, they seek to proclaim the end of the age of democracy, but they’re wrong.” He added that the U.S. will “oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate weaker ones, whether through changes to territory by force, economic coercion, technological exploitation or disinformation… But we’re not seeking a new Cold War or a separation of the world into rigid blocs…”

The UN delegates listened as Biden proclaimed the United States “is not at war” for the first time in two decades – weeks after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. He did not mention continued U.S. military occupations in Iraq, Syria, and Somalia – all of which have been deemed failures – or U.S. military presence in at least thirteen other African countries and hundreds of bases across the globe.

Biden also offered no explanation for the recent agreement with Australia and the United Kingdom to develop and deploy nuclear submarines in the Indo-Pacific region, or the “Quad” alliance with Japan, South Korea and India to threaten China with war ships and nuclear missiles. The question of U.S. sanctions against targeted enemies across the globe also was not mentioned. Neither were the activities of the National Endowment for Democracy and the Alliance for Progress to try to control internal affairs in numerous countries, including China.

Xi Jinping responded that “China has never and will never invade or bully others to seek hegemony… A world of peace and development should embrace civilizations of various forms and must accommodate diverse paths to modernization. One country’s success does not have to mean another country’s failure,” Xi continued. “The world is big enough to accommodate common development progress of all countries.”

Xi emphasized that “Democracy is not a special right reserved for any individual country but a right for the people of all countries to enjoy.”

The U.S. president did not mention his difficulties getting bills through Congress to upgrade the country’s infrastructure and provide improved basic services to people – services like health care, child care, housing and education, which are guaranteed in China, often free or at minimal cost. The “Build Back Better” bills are supported by a decisive majority of the U.S. population, but are fiercely opposed by recalcitrant right-wingers in Congress, along with “moderate” Democrats beholden to big oil and big pharma. These bills – dubbed “enormous” and unaffordable by Congressional opponents – pale in cost when compared with the military budget. At $743 billion for one year, while the infrastructure and budget reconciliation bills are for ten years, the military budget is nearly double their total for each year. (This doesn’t include military-related items, such as intelligence and veterans’ services, which bring the annual military total up above a trillion.)

An effort to pare off just ten percent of the military budget was crushed in Congress in September: a sign of the political power of the military-industrial complex, which combines with big oil, big pharma, big banks and insurance companies to dominate the U.S. political process. These same forces are helping right-wingers in both Congress and many states to quash voting rights, reversing the historic gains of the mid-century Civil Rights movement.

While the U.S. economy struggles to recover, levels of inequality reach historic proportions, and the political system is ever more polarized, Xi could point to China’s success in helping 800 million people lift themselves out of extreme poverty. A recent report noted that “In 2019, as China entered the last stages of its poverty eradication scheme, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, ‘Every time I visit China, I am stunned by the speed of change and progress. You have created one of the most dynamic economies in the world, while helping more than 800 million people to lift themselves out of poverty – the greatest anti-poverty achievement in history’.”

Average wages for urban workers in China doubled between 2010 and 2020.”>China’s economic success – growing at an average rate of 9.5 percent per year, growing in size by almost 35 times (according to China’s Great Road, by John Ross), building railroads, highways, subways, even entire cities, to become the second largest economy in the world – didn’t happen without strain. Inequality increased, and some worried that the new “market socialism” was a lot like capitalism. The poverty eradication campaign was essential, just as efforts to restrain big capitalists were as well. These efforts were possible in large part due to the Chinese approach to democracy. As Xi said:

What we now face is the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life… The needs to be met for the people to live better lives are increasingly broad. Not only have their material and cultural needs grown; their demands for democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice, security, and a better environment are increasing.

How China’s leaders intervened is an illustration of China’s democratic path. A report from Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation finds over 90% of the Chinese people like their government, and “rate it as more capable and effective than ever before. Interestingly, more marginalized groups in poorer, inland regions are actually comparatively more likely to report increases in satisfaction.” It says Chinese people’s attitudes “appear to respond to real changes in their material well-being.”

This contrasts with people’s attitudes in the United States, which are polarized politically, racially, and economically. Public trust in the U.S. government is in crisis. There are very real human rights concerns, with police killings, homelessness and mass incarceration at pandemic proportions. A new report says police killings in the U.S. have been undercounted by more than half during the past four decades. Of nearly 31,000 people killed by police during that period, more than 17,000 were unaccounted for in official statistics. Black people were 3.5 times as likely to be killed by the police as white people. Latinx and indigenous people also suffered higher rates of fatal police violence than white people.

Chinese democracy
The Chinese revolution itself was fundamentally democratic – abolishing feudalistic hierarchy and privilege, equalizing gender differences, and enabling poor workers and farmers to be involved in national administration. The Ash Center study includes an important essay, “Democracy in China: Challenge or Opportunity?” by Yu Keping, director of the China Center for Comparative Politics and Economics. Yu Keping says “Western scholars use their democratic standards, such as a multi-party system, universal suffrage, and checks and balances, to evaluate Chinese political development,… and conclude that Chinese reform is more economic than political.” This, he says, is an unnecessary bias and misunderstanding.

The basics of Chinese democracy are people’s congresses at local, provincial and national levels. A Global Times report says “according to the State Council, ‘Deputies to the people’s congresses of cities not divided into districts, municipal districts, counties, autonomous counties, townships, ethnic minority townships and towns are elected directly by their constituencies. Deputies to the NPC [National People’s Congress] and the people’s congresses of the provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the Central Government, cities divided into districts, and autonomous prefectures are elected by the people’s congresses at the next lower level.’ These elections are all competitive.”

There are also regular consultations between government officials and the people at all levels. Key principles are “people-oriented government, human rights, private property, rule of law, civil society, harmonious society, government innovation, and good governance,” Yu Keping wrote.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is at the core of all this. Its 95 million members make it a preponderant factor in Chinese society. There are eight non-communist political parties, with which the CCP consults regularly. But CCP members lead society. The guiding slogan is “serve the people.” The story of the poverty eradication campaign provides a good example:

The targeted phase of poverty alleviation required building relationships and trust between the Party and the people in the countryside as well as strengthening Party organization at the grassroots level. Party secretaries [were] assigned to oversee the task of poverty alleviation across five levels of government, from the province, city, county, and township, down to the village… Three million carefully selected cadres were dispatched to poor villages, forming 255,000 teams that reside there. Living in humble conditions for generally one to three years at a time, the teams worked alongside poor peasants, local officials, and volunteers until each household was lifted out of poverty. In this process, many cadres were unable to return home to visit families for long stretches of time; some fell ill in the harsh natural conditions of rural areas and more than 1,800 Party members and officials lost their lives in the fight against poverty. The first teams were dispatched in 2013; by 2015, all poor villages had a resident team, and every poor household had an assigned cadre to help in the process of being lifted, and more importantly, of lifting themselves out of poverty. At the end of 2020, the goal of eliminating extreme poverty was reached.

The study says the “cadres and officials who have mobilized in the countryside have been essential in building public support for and confidence in the Party and the government.”

The government’s effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic continued to build public support. Shortly after Wuhan emerged from the COVID-19 lockdown, York University Professor Cary Woo led a survey of 19,816 people across 31 provinces and administrative regions. Published in the Washington Post, the study found that 49 percent of respondents became more trusting of the government following its response to the pandemic, and overall trust increased to 98 percent at the national level and 91 percent at the township level.

“The Chinese way of political development,” Yu Keping says, “is extremely different from the Western democratic tradition… Consequently, it is almost dead-end to explain the Chinese way of democratic politics through using existing Western democratic theories.” Democracy means “government by the people,” the professor says. So “the fundamental criteria to judge whether a country is a ‘democracy’ or not is government’s responsiveness to its citizens… As long as a country has formal institutions to guarantee that government policies can effectively reflect the public’s opinions, that citizens can participate in political life, and the incumbent political regime has to respond to people’s interests, it can be considered democratic regardless of the particular party systems, election procedures, or power separation mechanisms.”

Western Challenges
Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted in 2019 that “We lied, we cheated, we stole… It’s part of the glory of the American experiment.” Pompeo’s claims that the Chinese Communist Party is “the greatest danger” to democracy in the world, and that China’s to blame for the COVID-19 pandemic have served to discredit the U.S. position rather than strengthen it. Biden, Secretary of State Blinken and most in Congress, to their shame, are continuing Pompeo’s infamous campaign. Despite hundreds of millions of U.S. funds to support protests in Hong Kong, that effort has fizzled. Hong Kong ranks in the top three on the Fraser Human Freedoms Index, while the U.S. is in 17th place. (An earlier LA Progressive article provides additional information.)

Regarding claims of “genocide” in Xinjiang, Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs, a special advisor to the UN Secretary General, says “The US government has offered no proof, and unless it can, the State Department should withdraw the charge.” Code Pink webinars have demolished U.S. anti-China claims. Using these lies and false accusations, the U.S. has imposed sanctions and launched an international boycott of products made in Xinjiang. The main result has been to hurt the people of Xinjiang. But the smear campaign has also confused many progressives and so-called “leftists” in the U.S., who have fallen victim to the continued repetition of these lies in the mainstream media.

China has answered the U.S. slander campaign with claims of its own. In late September it called on the UN Human Rights Council to “work to eliminate the negative impacts of colonialism on people around the world.” The statement, issued with 21 other countries, said “Economic exploitation, inequality, racism, violations of indigenous peoples’ rights, modern slavery, armed conflicts and damage to cultural heritage are among the legacies of colonial repression.” In a separate statement, China “called for nations that have conducted illegal military interventions to pay reparations. Without naming any states, he pointed out that such action had severe consequences for social and economic development.”

“A democratic system is a marriage of universality and particularity,” Professor Keping says. “We cannot make arbitrary conclusions that democracy has only one model merely based on the assumption that democracy is a universal value and has common features… The nature of democracy is government by the people or ‘people become their own masters,’ which is reflected in a series of institutions and mechanisms that guarantee the citizens’ democratic rights… Chinese democracy, growing out of Chinese tradition and society, will not only bring good fortune to the Chinese people, but also contribute greatly to the advancement of democratic theory and practice for all mankind.”

A Parliament of Subversives and Traitors

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/10/2021 - 12:51pm in


China, Nuclear War

[Published at Independent Australia 6 Oct as ‘AUKUS nothing more than a re-election stunt’. A more petty and partisan headline than mine. Oh well.]

Only once has Australia been actually threatened with military invasion, and the bellicosity of an Australian Prime Minister played a significant part in bringing on that threat. Now another Prime Minister’s provocations will put us in harm’s way again. Whose interests are served by such blind animosities?

At the 1919 Paris peace conference Australian PM Billy Hughes argued loudly against a Japanese proposal to insert an anti-racism clause into the charter of the League of Nations. Its rejection ensured the League would be a white man’s club, which suited the European powers whose dirty work Hughes was unwittingly doing. Humiliated, the Japanese declined membership of the League and began to prepare for war.

The United States, true to character, is responding to the rise of China with unsubtle military threats. Barely out of its latest Asian debacle it is charging into the next one, with yapping little Australia joining the rush to confrontation.

The United States’ foreign policy record is one of counter-productive blundering. Its invasions of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan all ended in inglorious retreat and humiliation, in which we dutifully shared.

What does the US think it can achieve, short of an old-fashioned nuclear apocalypse? What would Australia have to gain? Losing our trade and being sharply smacked down are among the smaller risks.

China is alleged to be an expansionary aggressor, but it has always moved cautiously and its military-backed moves have only been within its historic sphere of influence. The US, on the other hand, has military bases all over the world, has used its military on more than 160 occasions just since 1991 and has interfered in 81 foreign elections since 1946, according to Brian Toohey. It has also overthrown several democratically elected governments in that time and been almost continuously at war throughout its history.

Talk of shared values among the US, UK and Australia, including liberal democracy, is nonsense. US democracy is teetering and ours and the Poms’ are in poor shape. US society is more divided, more fearful, more deluded and more violent. The ‘shared values’ are more about financial elites and the re-emergence of the white man’s club, which our neighbours will not fail to notice.

AUKUS guts most of Australia’s remaining sovereignty. The US is to be given a blank cheque to use Australia as a military staging ground, making us a target. Our strategic posture and operations would be largely determined by the US. Industrial support for complex nuclear power technology would be heavily dependent on US. We would be a colony. 

According to defence expert Hugh White the ocean approaches to Australia would be better defended by a larger number of less expensive, quieter, conventionally-powered submarines than by a few long-range nuclear subs, which are for attack. The nuclear powered subs would be capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and adversaries would be forced to assume they were. The move would provoke a nuclear arms race.

Who are the people taking us into this monumental folly? Michael West Media have documented that many of the Coalition and their senior staffers have direct ties to mining, arms, finance and gambling. They, along with some social reactionaries and ideologues, have hijacked the Coalition so it bears little resemblance even to what it was in Malcolm Fraser’s day, let alone Menzies’. Fraser resigned from the Liberal Party, and Menzies would be thrown out of the party he founded.

These are the people who have been steadily removing our civil and human rights under the guise of combatting the terrorism they provoke in their foreign adventures. They are the people who have been, with increasing flagrancy, flouting the conventions of governance, judicial rulings and even the law as it stands.

Labor has been complicit in much of this erosion of our democracy, and many Labor members are also compromised by association with special interests. Many explicitly associate themselves with US interests. It was recently revealed that Bob Hawke was passing intelligence to the US while he was a prominent unionist, deceiving his followers as to his real sympathies and intentions.

The US has tentacles throughout our defence and political systems, and former diplomat Bruce Haigh reminds us its customary mode of influence is to bully. Gough Whitlam threatened the future of the Pine Gap spy station and it is plausible this was a factor that triggered his dismissal, according to Haigh. Certainly the US was concerned and would have been relieved he was gone. Morrison is inviting them to tighten their grip, and we would struggle to break it.

The sad truth is that Australian governments have rarely moved beyond their colonial mentality. With few exceptions they have served the interests of foreigners, for their own personal benefit but not necessarily for the benefit of their country. If we look past the myth making there are clear instances when Australia was very badly served. The AUKUS proposal is a stark example. It is, in substantial part, a gigantic re-election stunt.

We should call out these people for what they are. They are traitors. They betray Australia’s sovereignty to enhance their own power and that of their sponsors, at our expense. They betray us and future generations with their resolute obstruction of action to mitigate global warming.

They are also subversives, subverting our democratic system from within, moving it steadily towards fascist autocracy.

The post A Parliament of Subversives and Traitors first appeared on BetterNature Books.

Book at Lunchtime: China’s Good War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/06/2021 - 5:09pm in

A TORCH Book at Lunchtime webinar on ‘China's Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism’ by Professor Rana Mitter. Book at Lunchtime is a series of bite-sized book discussions held weekly during term-time, with commentators from a range of disciplines. The events are free to attend and open to all.

About the book:

For most of its history, the People’s Republic of China limited public discussion of the war against Japan. It was an experience of victimization - and one that saw Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek fighting for the same goals. But now, as China grows more powerful, the meaning of the war is changing. Professor Rana Mitter argues that China’s reassessment of the World War II years is central to its newfound confidence abroad and to mounting nationalism at home.

China’s Good War begins with the academics who shepherded the once-taboo subject into wider discourse. Encouraged by reforms under Deng Xiaoping, they researched the Guomindang war effort, collaboration with the Japanese, and China’s role in forming the post-1945 global order. But interest in the war would not stay confined to scholarly journals. Today public sites of memory—including museums, movies and television shows, street art, popular writing, and social media—define the war as a founding myth for an ascendant China. Wartime China emerges as victor rather than victim.

The shifting story has nurtured a number of new views. One rehabilitates Chiang Kai-shek’s war efforts, minimizing the bloody conflicts between him and Mao and aiming to heal the wounds of the Cultural Revolution. Another narrative positions Beijing as creator and protector of the international order that emerged from the war—an order, China argues, under threat today largely from the United States. China’s radical reassessment of its collective memory of the war has created a new foundation for a people destined to shape the world.


Professor Rana Mitter is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford. His books include China’s War with Japan: The Struggle for Survival, 1937-1945 (Penguin, 2013), [US title: Forgotten Ally] which won the 2014 RUSI/Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature, and was named a Book of the Year in the Financial Times and Economist, and China’s Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism (Harvard, 2020). His recent documentary on contemporary Chinese politics "Meanwhile in Beijing" is available on BBC Sounds. He is a regular presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking/BBC Arts and Ideas Podcast.

Professor David Priestland is Professor of Modern History at St Edmund’s College Oxford. His research specialises in communism and market liberalism, especially in the communist and post-communist worlds. His publications include a comparative history of communism, The Red Flag:

Communism and the Making of the Modern World, and Merchant, Soldier, Sage: A New History of Power, a study of the history of market liberalism and its place in global history.

Professor Vivienne Shue is Professor Emeritus of Contemporary China Studies and Emeritus Fellow of St Anthony’s College Oxford. Her current research examines certain distinctively 21st century Chinese governance techniques and practices, including high-tech national development planning. Her publications include The Reach of the State: Sketches of the Chinese Body Politic, and most recently To Govern China, co-edited with Professor Patricia Thornton. She is the former director of Oxford’s Contemporary China Studies Programme.

Socialism Has Not Failed China

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/06/2021 - 1:14am in

By Xuan Tan
People’s Daily
June 07, 2021

General Secretary Xi Jinping profoundly pointed out at the Party History Study and Education Mobilization Conference that the belief in communism and the belief in socialism with Chinese characteristics is the political soul of the Communists and the spiritual pillar for the Communists to withstand any test. He emphasized the centuries of the party. The course of struggle and great achievements are the most solid foundation for us to strengthen our confidence in road, theory, system, and culture. The words of the general secretary are loud, firm and heroic, deeply revealing the inner relationship between socialism and communism, and a century of struggle and struggle, and demonstrates the perseverance and perseverance of the Chinese Communists to advance along the only correct path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Over the course of a hundred years, many people and things are still vivid, and many shouts and singing are still in my ears. After going through the wind, frost, snow and rain, and creating miracles on earth, we have the obligation to comfort the martyrs with victory: Socialism has not failed China! We have the responsibility to let history tell the future: socialism will not fail China!


The accidents of history often carry certainty. In the 1840s, ancient China was opened by the powerful ships and guns of the great powers, and China’s destiny has since entered an unprecedentedly miserable situation. In almost the same era, in Europe where capitalism was in the ascendant, Marx and Engels began their great explorations of scientific socialism and the cause of human liberation and progress.

After the Opium War, China was poor, weak, and at the mercy of others. “Forty million people shed tears, where is China in the End of the World”. This poem by Tan Sitong is full of blood and tears and hesitation. The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the Reform Movement of 1898, the Boxer Movement, the Revolution of 1911… the Chinese struggled in the dark to find a way to save the nation and survive; reformism, liberalism, social Darwinism, anarchism, pragmatism… all kinds of Western theories and doctrines have been Introduce as a prescription to strengthen the country and enrich the people. I have tried every plan, but they have repeatedly come to nothing. Every road was explored, but he was battered. “Countless heads and blood, poorly bought fake republics.” Great powers were rampant, warlords fought, and the people were in dire straits. The First World War pierced the seemingly beautiful illusion of capitalist civilization. Countless people with lofty ideals use their lives and souls to ask questions again and again: Where is the way out for China? Where is the hope of the nation?

The blast of the October Revolution brought Marxism-Leninism to China. This is a great historical agreement, this is a solemn historical promise! The shackles of feudal society for thousands of years are too tight, and the old cannot be replaced without a thorough social transformation. The oppression imposed by imperialism on the Chinese is too heavy, and it cannot be resisted without the mighty power of mobilizing tens of thousands of toiling people.

Li Dazhao praised: “The alarm bell of humanity is ringing! The dawn of freedom is here! Try to see the future of the world, it must be the world of red flag!” Chen Duxiu declared: “The political revolution in France in the eighteenth century, and the social revolution in Russia in the twentieth century. People are all swearing at them; but later historians will regard them as the key to the change and evolution of human society.” The young Mao Zedong exclaimed: “The time has come! The tide of the world is getting more urgent! Dongting The gate of the lake moved and opened! The mighty new thoughts have surged on both sides of the Xiangjiang River!”

In 1920, when it was warm and cold, the 29-year-old Chen Wangdao spent two months in the firewood room in his hometown of Yiwu, Zhejiang, and forgot to eat and sleep for two months. For the first time, he translated the “Communist Manifesto” completely, and the first 1,000 copies were sold out immediately. By 1926, it was reprinted and republished 17 times. The advanced and unyielding Chinese have chosen Marxism as the way to save the country and the people after repeated comparisons and repetitions, as their unswerving ambition.

In July 1921, the Communist Party of China, a political party with Marxism as its guiding ideology and communism as its goal, was born, with faith, entrustment and dreams in mind, resolutely in the rising sun of Shanghai Shikumen and the blue waves of Nanhu Lake in Jiaxing set sail. Since then, the fire of socialism has been ignited in the East, and China, once troubled and hopeless, has a direction!


After the failure of the Great Revolution, the Communist Party member Xia Minghan was arrested in Hankou and wrote a farewell to his wife before his heroic death: “Tossing his head and shed blood, Minghan has long been taken care of. Everyone needs what he needs, and the revolutionary cause will be passed on from generation to generation. Hong Zhu Keep the thoughts of each other, and the red cloud hopes for perfection. Persevere in the revolution and follow my will and vowed to pass on the truth to the world.” In those stormy years, like Xia Minghan, he did not regret nine deaths for his communist belief and firmly believed in the revolutionary ideals. There are more than tens of thousands of martyrs who have realized it. Once they recognized their beliefs and doctrines, they never hesitated or wavered, and did not hesitate to water the “communist blossoms” with youth and blood.

This belief and doctrine is shining with the light of ideals. The “Communist Manifesto” described: “Instead of the old bourgeois society where there are classes and class antagonisms, there will be such a union, where the free development of everyone is the condition for the free development of all people.” In the new world, the value of human beings comes first. There is no exploitation or oppression, labor is glorious, labor is supreme, everyone is equal and prosperous, and close to each other… This is a new world that transcends the capitalist world, and it is also the Chinese nation since ancient times. The longing for “Great Harmony in the World” has attracted countless advanced elements who are excited, fascinated, and practiced.

This belief and doctrine reveals the law of social development and evolution. The general trend of the world is huge, and those who follow it will survive, and those who go against it will perish. The Communist Party of China is the vanguard of the working class, represents the direction of advanced productive forces, and represents the trend of historical progress. Armed with scientific theories and mastering the laws of social development, the party has the consciousness to lead social changes and advance the cause of justice, and it has the power to be invincible and indomitable.

This belief and doctrine guide the revolution to victory. The Chinese Communists, with Mao Zedong as the main representative, used Marxist standpoints and methods to analyze China’s national conditions and solve China’s problems. They clearly stated that the task of the Chinese revolution is to overthrow the oppression of the “three mountains” of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism. China The road of the revolution is to encircle the cities from the countryside and seize power by armed force. The power of the Chinese revolution is the working class, the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie under certain conditions. The proletariat is the leading force and the people are the true heroes. The Chinese revolution must It is divided into two stages: the democratic revolution and the socialist revolution… These scientific understandings are shining with the brilliance of Marxist truth everywhere, leading the Chinese revolution to surging forward.

The revolutionary ideal is higher than the sky. It was under the torch of ideals and beliefs that our party mobilized the masses of workers and peasants, dared to make surprise charges, and successfully advanced the Northern Expedition; it was under the torch of ideals and beliefs that the surviving Communists buried the bodies of their companions slaughtered by the reactionaries and took them. Raising weapons, walking into the mountains and forests, and embarking on new battles; it was under the torch of ideals and beliefs that the Red Army soldiers rushed through the natural dangers, fought strong enemies, climbed the snowy mountains, and crossed the grass. “The harder the bones of the wind and rain, the stronger the ambition of wild vegetables to satisfy their hunger.” , Completed the 25,000-mile long march that shines through the annals of human history; it was under the torch of ideals and beliefs that the party and the people used perseverance and bloody battle to the end, wrote the national song of resisting Japanese militarism, and achieved resistance to foreign aggression. Victory in the end; it was precisely under the torch of ideals and beliefs that the heroic People’s Liberation Army defeated the Kuomintang reactionary forces of 8 million in only three years, demonstrating what is meant by “if the sky is sentimental, the sky is also old, and the righteous world is the vicissitudes of life.”

“Critical weapons can’t replace the criticism of weapons. Material power can only be destroyed by material power.” 28 years of bloody battle and 28 years of hard work, our country has changed from a bullying “sick man in East Asia” to an admiration for the world. In the “Oriental Lion Awakening”, our people have changed from being slaves to cattle and horses to masters with high spirits. The victory of the Chinese revolution is the great practice of the Chinese Communists in using Marxism to save China, and the great course of scientific truth showing its strength!


On June 30, 1949, Mao Zedong published “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” and stated that we must pass through the People’s Republic, from an agricultural country to an industrial country, and from a new democratic society to a socialist society and a communist society. The founding of the People’s Republic of China is the historical result of combining the principles of scientific socialism with the reality of the Chinese revolution. It also marked the development and growth of the cause of human progress and the forces of socialism, and ushered in the great era of socialism in the East of the world.

This is an era of innovating and changing the world. In the face of many difficulties and tests, the Chinese Communist Party led the people to quickly heal the wounds of war and restore the national economy, and realized the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts, and capitalist industry and commerce in a unique form in China, and creatively completed the transition from the new democratic revolution. The transformation of the socialist revolution successfully achieved the most profound and greatest social transformation in Chinese history. The vigorous land reform enabled more than 300 million peasants to obtain 700 million mu of land and production materials free of charge; the 1954 Constitution fixed the principles of people’s democracy and socialism in the form of a fundamental law; the People’s Congress system and the leadership of the Communist Party of China The system of party cooperation and political consultation, and the system of regional ethnic autonomy have built the “four beams and eight pillars” of the socialist system…In this ancient and youthful country, the Chinese people are building towering socialist buildings and savoring the taste of a happy life.

This is an era of vigor and passion. “Every second is working to create a socialist society.” The Chengdu-Chongqing Railway, planned in the late Qing Dynasty, was still a dotted line on the map for more than 40 years before the founding of New China. After the official start in 1950, it took only two years to complete the line; 156 key projects and 694 construction projects during the “First Five-Year Plan” period The completion has laid a solid foundation for socialist industrialization; the treatment of the Huai River and the Yellow River and the Yangtze River have achieved significant results, and the construction of farmland water conservancy has been spreading nationwide; the national urban and rural health care network has basically formed, smallpox, cholera, schistosomiasis, malaria, plague, etc. Diseases may be eradicated or effectively prevented… The new people’s regime has awakened tremendous productivity, and the new socialist system has activated the people’s energy and promoted the people’s well-being.

This is an era of heroes and high morale. For peace, Volunteer soldiers went abroad to fight and wrote a majestic epic with “less steel, more gas” and “more steel and less gas”; to remove the “poor oil and less oil” hat, “Iron Man” Wang Jinxi led the drilling team to fight against the sky. I would rather live less than 20 years, and desperately want to win big oil fields”; in order to change the face of poverty and backwardness, Jiao Yulu, the role model of the county party committee secretary, led the people of Lankao to rectify the “three evils”. To lay a solid foundation for the country’s self-reliance, Qian Xuesen, Qian Sanqiang, Deng Jiaxian and a large number of scientific researchers sprinkled their sweat and blood on the vast Gobi, creating the miracle of “two bombs and one star”… There are countless named heroes and no one. The hero who left his name, with flesh and blood and strong arms, shoulders the responsibility of the nation and the glory of the Republic.

“The roads and blue strands lead to mountains and forests.” Building socialism in a large eastern country with a relatively backward economy and culture and a large population is like climbing an unreached mountain. There are no straight roads to walk and no ready-made paths to follow. We rely on the power of “the people to create history” and the advantage of “concentrating our strength to do great things” to create one after another miracle that can be recorded in the history of the Chinese nation and humanity. With the spirit of “revolution and desperation”, with the courage of “ten thousand years too long, fighting for the day and night”, we painted the most beautiful picture of socialist new China on a land of more than 9.6 million square kilometers. We have also suffered serious setbacks like the “Cultural Revolution” on the road of exploration and exploration. The painful lessons are worth learning forever.

Whether it is flat or rugged, whether it is sunshine or wind or rain, the party leads the people in exploring the path of socialism. History has proven: “Not only are we good at destroying an old world, we will also be good at building a new world”!


“What is socialism? How to build socialism?” The Chinese Communists have never stopped answering this historical question that echoes over China. From profoundly revealing the “ten major relationships” between socialist construction and socialist transformation, to promptly making the important conclusion that the main social contradiction in our country has been transformed into “the contradiction between the advanced socialist system and the backward social productive forces”, to the clear presentation To correctly handle the contradictions among the people is precious exploration and difficult progress.

The Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Party was a great turning point in the history of the Party and the history of New China. Stop using “class struggle as the key link”, shift the focus of the work of the whole party to socialist modernization, and re-establish the ideological line of emancipating the mind and seeking truth from facts…In order to build socialism, the Chinese Communist Party leads the people to promote a great new revolution. Started the great voyage of reform and opening up.

Poverty is not socialism! Deng Xiaoping pointed out: “The essence of socialism is to liberate the productive forces, develop productive forces, eliminate exploitation, eliminate polarization, and ultimately achieve common prosperity.” In order to adapt production relations to the development of productive forces, the household contract responsibility system with joint output has been widely implemented, and special economic zones have been implemented first. In the first test, township and village enterprises have sprung up, reforms in the scientific and technological system are intensified, the pattern of opening to the outside world has been accelerated, and the vitality and creativity hidden in the broad masses of people are fully bursting out.

Take your own path and build socialism with Chinese characteristics! We are deeply aware that our country is and will be in the primary stage of socialism for a long time. We propose the party’s basic line in the primary stage of socialism, actively develop a basic economic system with public ownership as the mainstay and the common development of multiple ownership economies, and constantly improve the socialist market economic system. , Put forward the goal of a well-off society and a step-by-step strategy of modernization, and created and developed socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Adhere to the socialist direction of reform and opening up! Adhere to reform and opening up and adhere to the four basic principles. These two basic points are closely linked and cannot be partial or neglected. We adhere to the socialist material civilization and spiritual civilization “to grasp both hands and both hands must be hard”, firmly promote the new great project of party building, comprehensively promote the construction of socialist economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological civilization with Chinese characteristics, and let the people Share the fruits of reform and development and put realistic wings on the ideals of socialism.

Over the past 40 years of reform and opening up, China’s economic aggregate has surpassed Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan, ranking second in the world; China’s people’s living standards have continued to improve and have entered the ranks of middle- and high-income countries; , Dense railways, west-to-east gas transmission, south-to-north water transfer, towering dams, towering bridges, and the transformation of the sky; China also defeated historically rare major natural disasters such as floods, rain, snow and freezing, earthquakes, and major epidemics such as SARS, and withstood Asia The financial crisis and the international financial crisis have been severely tested, and they have become more calm and upright after the storm.

Advance by grasping the logic of historical advancement, and develop in conformity with the trend of the development of the times. The surging great practice of the turbulent land of China shows that only socialism can develop China, and only reform and opening up can make China catch up with the times in great strides and let the people live a happy life. The road of socialism with Chinese characteristics is getting wider and wider!


The majestic and majestic cause of socialism has condensed the arduousness and dedication of generations of Communists, and it carries the sustenance and aspirations of many sages and heroes. When the baton of history was passed on again, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s words were sonorous: The task of our generation of Communists is to continue to write down the great essay of upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics!

The 19th National Congress of the Party solemnly declared to the entire party, the country and the world: “After long-term efforts, socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. This is a new historical direction for my country’s development.”

In the new era of China, the ideal banner is bright and high. In the face of the world without major changes in a century, General Secretary Xi Jinping led the entire party and the people to take the overall situation, respond to the situation, and initiate new situations. The party and the country have made historic achievements and realized historic changes. The Chinese nation is more than ever before in history. Close to the great goal of national rejuvenation. The Chinese people’s belief in Marxism and communism has become stronger, their belief in socialism with Chinese characteristics has become stronger, and their confidence in realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has never been higher.

In the new era, China has a strong and strong driving force for development. From the comprehensive and deepening reforms of the Third Plenary Session of the Eighteenth Central Committee, to comprehensively governing the country according to law and building a well-off society in an all-round way, to comprehensively administering the party strictly and promoting social revolution through the party’s self-revolution, from adhering to and improving the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, to Based on the new development stage, implementing new development concepts, building a new development pattern, promoting high-quality development, and building a socialist modern country in an all-round way, the strategic layout of socialism with Chinese characteristics is becoming more and more perfect, and the direction and goals of modernization are becoming more clear.

In China in the new era, the status of the people is fully demonstrated. “The country is the people, and the people are the country”, the echo of the original intention travels through time and space. “The people’s yearning for a better life is our goal”, the sonorous declaration hardened the iron into a nail. In order to realize the millennium long-cherished wish of the Chinese people to get rid of poverty, the party led the people to fight poverty. The broad masses of cadres and the masses in poverty-stricken areas worked tenaciously. The first secretary and cadres in the villages devoted all their efforts to the precise alignment of cooperation between the east and the west. With efforts, families of poor folks feel the warmth of the big socialist family, and the silent mountains are full of vitality and hope.

In the new era of China, the strength of unity has never been ahead. Faced with the peak of technology, we never back down. Chang’e flew into the sky, the dragon enters the sea, sky-eye gazing, and the Beidou network. Not long ago, the “Zhurong” rover successfully landed on Mars after a 295-day journey. In the face of bullying and suppression, we have never succumbed. The whole party and the whole country have the courage to fight and win, to gather strength and twist into a rope. The unprecedented new crown pneumonia epidemic has closely linked the destiny of each of us with the destiny of the country and the collective. 1.4 billion Chinese people are connected with their hearts, guarding their homes and protecting the country, creating a great miracle in the history of human anti-epidemic struggle…Socialism The advantages of the system have been greatly demonstrated.

There is righteousness in the heaven and the earth, and Cang Ming is awe-inspiring. If socialism, as the just cause of mankind and the pursuit of lofty values, endows the new era with the most distinctive background and the heaviest confidence; then, with its most magnificent practice, the new era has endowed scientific socialism with newness. Ideological dimension, a new historical height.

In April 2021, General Secretary Xi Jinping made a special trip to Quanzhou, Guangxi to pay homage to the Red Army’s Long March Xiangjiang Battle Memorial Park. He said emotionally that once the fire of ideals and belief is ignited, great spiritual power will be produced. We must cherish the memory of revolutionary martyrs and continue the Communist Party. People’s spiritual blood, firm ideals and beliefs, and forge revolutionary will.

Looking back at 87 years ago, on the Long March road and on the banks of the Xiangjiang River, countless Red Army soldiers fought fiercely to preserve the fire of the revolution. They dyed the long journey and rolled the river with blood. These fighters, who are mostly in their twenties, or even fifteen or sixteen, are optimistic and tenacious because they have the belief in the victory of the revolution and their longing for a better society of socialism and communism. This is the eternal gene of a party, and the code of a nation’s prosperity from decline.

Today, we can comfort all the ancestors and heroes of the century: at this moment, the sun of socialism is shining in the shadows of the strugglers and the smiling faces of children, and the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics is leading the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. An unprecedented bright prospect. We will surely create even greater miracles that will admire the world, and will surely realize the most lofty and great ideals of the Communists!  (Translated by Google Translate)

Beyond the Sprouts of Capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/03/2021 - 7:09am in


Capitalism, China

Comic on “The Opium Ban in China” from the weekly De Amsterdammer, December 2 1906

Toward an Understanding of China’s Historical Political Economy and Its Relationship to Contemporary China

By Ken Hammond

March 3, 2021 – The contemporary political economy of the People’s Republic of China, the nature of the Chinese system, has been the subject of much discussion and debate in mainstream academic, media, and political circles, as well as on the left.1 Since the end of the 1970s, China has pursued policies of “reform and opening” (gaige kaifang,) to develop its economy, a process that has resulted in the massive growth of production, China’s emergence as a major player in global trade, and the lifting of around 800 million people out of poverty, while at the same time generating serious problems of inequality, corruption, and environmental stress. At the heart of this project has been the decision by the Communist Party, originally under the guidance of Deng Xiaoping, then carrying on through successive changes of leadership, to use the mechanisms of the marketplace to develop the productive economy. How should this situation be characterized? Is it capitalism, state capitalism, market socialism?2

One can only make sense of contemporary China with a clear understanding of the country’s economic history.3 A historical materialist analysis of the nature of China’s political economic order over the course of history, especially the last thousand years, can illuminate critical aspects of the present. A serious engagement with the complexities of China’s historical economic systems must take into account knowledge about the Chinese past that was not available to Karl Marx, allowing us to go beyond the vagaries of the Asiatic mode of production and transcend the limitations of earlier theorizations of the “sprouts of capitalism” (ziben zhuyi de mengya) by historians in China in the 1950s and ’60s.4 Applying categories and modes of analysis derived from Marx’s Capital and other writings to the understanding of China’s early modern history and exploring the relevance of that history to contemporary China are the main tasks of this essay.

From the period of the Tang-Song transition, roughly the ninth and tenth centuries, China developed a commercial capitalist economy that encompassed a largely urban manufacturing sector and also reshaped agricultural production in much of the empire. A ruling class evolved that was a hybrid of the long-established landowning elite and the early modern commercial stratum, which managed the economic affairs of the country through a blend of private agency and the operations of the imperial state. Through much of China’s imperial past, the state maintained a complex, not always consistent, role in economic affairs, seeking both to support the livelihood of the people, promote prosperity, constrain the pursuit of private profit, and regulate the functions of markets. This historical relationship has inflected the developmental itinerary of the country and is reflected in the deployment of the theory and practice of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” and the “socialist market economy.”

China’s recorded history goes back more than 3,200 years and can be usefully divided into four major periods: (1) antiquity, from the beginning to the end of the third century BCE; (2) the middle period, from the second century BCE to the tenth century CE; (3) the early modern period, from the tenth through the eighteenth centuries; and (4) modern China, from the end of the eighteenth century to the present.5 Throughout antiquity, China was ruled by an elite of warriors who controlled the land, collecting tribute from their subjects. Economic activity was largely locally self-sufficient, with a small layer of high-value elite trade centered on the royal court(s). Over time, a professional administrative elite developed, often referred to as the literati because of their mastery of the written records of history and their shared literary culture. These administrative officials were often rewarded with grants of land, and over time these became hereditary property, though the sovereign always retained ultimate ownership.6

The middle period began with the unification of the empire and the consolidation of the imperial system under the Han dynasty (202 BCE–220 CE). During this period, private ownership of land became a practical reality, while in theory the empire continued to belong to the ruler, now the emperor. Many officials in government service built up significant land holdings, while other great families emerged based on their local acquisition of agricultural assets. This was a complex, long-term process, with large landed estates forming by the later Han, which became the underpinning for the political influence of the landowning class. Over the centuries of the middle period, China developed an aristocratic elite, with quasi-official status and a strong transmission of wealth across generations. China went through periods of internal division after the collapse of the Han dynasty in 220, and then renewed imperial unification under the Sui and Tang dynasties (589–618 and 618–907, respectively). Recruitment for service in the imperial government, which was largely pursued through a process of recommendation by serving officials, allowed established families to place their sons in careers in official life and perpetuate the power of the elite. This aristocratic class effectively dominated the state, which served to promote and protect its interests.7

Alongside the estates of the great families there was a sector of agricultural production organized around small holders, managed through a system of land tenure maintained by the imperial state, which regularly redistributed land to male heads of village households who, in turn, were taxed in grain and cloth products. The system varied in its specifics in different parts of the empire but was a clear example of state oversight and management of economic activity. This oversight also extended to urban centers and markets. Imperial law restricted the number and location of markets and established strict controls over their operations. This blend of aristocratic estates, state-managed distribution of small holdings, and tightly regulated urban markets was not in any sense feudal in its economic or political organization and functioning.8

By the ninth century, changes began to emerge in China’s cities and countryside. The Tang dynasty had been deeply shaken by the An Lushan Rebellion in 755–63, and the long-established aristocracy began to decline. But even before this, the very success of the imperial system of economic management had given rise to contradictions within the economy. Its potential for growth and development exceeded the parameters of state oversight, and new forces began to push beyond the regulations of the government. The power of the dominant elite and the control of urban space by official overseers weakened. Markets began to spread outside areas that had been designated and monitored by the state and to become more integrated into residential areas. Private ownership of farmland expanded beyond the great estates and the land subject to government distribution. The imperial court maintained a role in the production and distribution of certain key commodities through government monopolies, a practice that had its roots centuries earlier in the Han dynasty. But the overall role of the state in economic affairs declined, just as the class basis of imperial rule was itself dramatically altered.

In the later ninth century, further rebellions destroyed much of the elite’s wealth and the institutional infrastructure that had legitimized and maintained its power and prestige. Rebellious peasants attacked the estates of the wealthy, killed many members of the elite, and burned the documents that validated their status and power. The fall of the Tang in 907 led to the chaos of the Five Dynasties and Sixteen Kingdoms, with small regional states contending for power through chronic warfare and further destruction, until the Zhao brothers established the Song dynasty in 960 and reunified the empire over the ensuing decade. The warfare of this age of transition cleared the way for the further transformation of China’s economic and political order. The old aristocracy was gone, but the ownership of land and the control of agricultural production was still the primary mode of wealth accumulation.9

As the Song dynasty (960–1279) consolidated its power, a new elite emerged, formally based on the attainment of merit through education, but practically grounded in the riches produced on their estates. These provided the resources to support the education of sons in the Confucian classical traditions that formed the basis of the imperial civil examination system, which became the main vector for entry into service in the bureaucratic administration of the empire. Not all landowning families produced examination graduates or government officials. The class of landed wealth was more extensive than the group of literati who staffed the imperial state, and relations between members of this class in their capacity as local elites or as representatives of imperial power could be complex. This larger class is often referred to as the gentry, and the overall landowning class may be designated, perhaps somewhat awkwardly, the literati/gentry.10

This reconfiguration of the landholding elite took place in tandem with the further development of a commercial economy in China. Markets proliferated, woven together by networks of long-distance trade spanning the empire and linking up with larger global systems. New forms of capital valorization and accumulation took shape within an increasingly monetized economy. Division of labor both within productive enterprises and on a regional geographic basis, as well as ongoing technological innovation, drove enhancements in productivity. New developments in banking and financial operations facilitated the mobilization and allocation of capital.11 This is the key to understanding the early modern period that began in the ninth and tenth centuries and continued, with dramatic advances and retreats, throughout the following eight hundred years, across several dynastic transitions, down to the beginning of the modern era at the turn of the nineteenth century. It is the emergence of China’s early modern capitalist commercial economy and its development over the following years that must be understood to enable a better comprehension of China’s recent pursuit of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

China’s “commercial revolution” in the Song dynasty has long been recognized, beginning with the work of Naito Konan and the   Kyoto School of Marxist historians in Japan in the 1930s.12 But the intellectual constraints imposed by the orthodoxies of Soviet economic and historical thought, with the centrality of a stagist sequence of development that had to be applied to all societies around the world, meant that China could not be seen as having had a capitalist system before the arrival of European imperialism in the nineteenth century. China was either viewed as part of the Asiatic mode of production, which had remained essentially static and unchanging in a primitive form of feudalism over three millennia, or was assimilated into the succession of historical eras enshrined in Joseph Stalin’s 1938 Dialectical and Historical Materialism.13 Marx’s original formulation of the Asiatic mode of production was primarily concerned with India and was based on partial and often faulty information. His knowledge of China was severely limited by both the imperialist biases of most writers and the minimal access to Chinese-language sources available then. It is time to place China’s early modern political economy in a clearer perspective. Let us consider the organization and functioning of production and circulation in early modern China in Marxist terms.14

In volume one of Capital, Marx investigates and delineates several key features of capitalism as it had developed in Europe, most particularly in England. In his preface to the first edition, he makes clear that while he is relying primarily on the analysis of the dynamics of capital as it developed in the West, he sees the characteristics that he discerns in that context as applicable to a broader definition of capitalism as a system.15 Beginning with the commodity and commodity production—that is, production for exchange on the market—he goes on to discuss money as the universal commodity, the process of the valorization of capital (M-C-M’) based on the exploitation of labor power, the mechanisms of wage labor, the division of labor as the means of maximizing that exploitation, and the ongoing imperative of accumulation of capital. These are key defining elements of a capitalist mode of production.16

All of these are present in China from the Song dynasty on. Markets flourished and proliferated, woven together into networks of exchange that spanned the empire and linked up to larger regional and global systems. Commodity production, with sophisticated divisions of labor both across space and within enterprises, expanded dramatically. The growth of China’s capitalist system of manufacturing—which ranged from the elaborate putting-out system of the silk and cotton textile industries to the massive complex of ceramic kilns at Jingdezhen, the largest industrial center in the world before the nineteenth century—also reshaped the sphere of agricultural production.17 China had a sophisticated system of private property in land, and the buying and selling of real property was carried on and documented through the use of legally binding contracts enforceable through the imperial judicial system.18 Farming became increasingly commercialized, with production for national market distribution coming to form significant portions of production in provinces like Sichuan and Hunan. Tenant farming and agricultural day labor grew in importance. Wage and contract labor were central to the manufacturing sector in Jiangnan and elsewhere, from spinners and weavers to ceramics workers and carvers of woodblock printing boards. Strikes and other forms of labor unrest were recurrent in cities like Suzhou and Wuxi.19

China is a large and complex geographic space, with considerable variation and distinctive regional subunits, called macroregions, as theorized by G. William Skinner.20 Each of these is as large as a major European state. Early capitalism in China was by no means equally developed across the empire. Some regions, such as the northwest or the southwest, were much less commercially developed than others, such as the Jiangnan area of the Yangtze River delta, the southeast coast, the corridor along the Grand Canal, or the long valley of the Yangtze. China’s early capitalism was most highly evolved in Jiangnan, where networks of urban production and distribution facilitated sophisticated systems of capital accumulation and deployment. In European history, given the fragmentation of political authority into small and conflicting territorial spaces, the consideration of the economy of England as a discrete unit of analysis, as opposed to a larger European whole, has been the norm. Given China’s vast territorial extent and complex internal macroregional variation, the understanding of early Chinese capitalism as a distinctive formation within the overall expanse of imperial space seems like a more useful approach than attempting to fit the empire as a whole into a monolithic categorization.21

The point is not that China was just like Europe (or, more properly, the other way around, given the chronological sequence of developments), but that the fundamental attributes of capitalism, as explicated in Capital, were also present there, in their own historically and culturally specific forms. China’s early modern political economy, a distinctive form of early capitalism, emerged in the Song dynasty and persisted through periods of growth and contraction across the following Yuan and Ming eras and into the final Qing dynasty. Two aspects of this historical trajectory are of particular interest in understanding the distinctive course of development that characterized China’s early modernity in contrast to the later path of European experience. One is the span of time, which extended over some eight centuries; the other is the nature of class formation and interaction.

Early modernity in China was not a linear process of development leading to a fully modern industrial economy. Early Chinese capitalism, despite going through periods of dynamic growth and transformation, remained essentially commercial capitalism at the level of manufacture, as described in chapter 14 of the first volume of Capital.22 This was a more sophisticated system of production than simple handicraft activities by individual households, but, other than in the special case of the kiln city of Jingdezhen, was not organized into large-scale industrial enterprises. Production was carried out through complicated networks of social relations, in workshops and households, while distribution was largely managed by networks of merchants spanning multiple provinces in interconnecting webs of commerce. Financial mechanisms of credit and banking facilitated long-distance trade.23 These structural features first arose in the Song dynasty and were elaborated and refined in the Ming and Qing dynasties. But the course of economic life, as of China’s history overall, was not one of smooth and tranquil progress. In the twelfth century, the Song lost control of the northern half of the empire to invaders from the northeast called the Jurchen, who established their own dynasty. In the thirteenth century, the rise of the Mongols plunged the remnant Southern Song into a decades-long war of resistance that ended in the collapse of the dynasty and the creation of the Mongol-ruled Yuan as its successor. These wars, and the often anticommercial policies of the Mongols during their century of rule, caused great destruction to China’s population and economy. The Mongols engaged in high-value international trade, but the domestic commercial economy declined during their time in power, though the most highly developed Jiangnan region seems to have fared better than other parts of the empire. When the Ming dynasty was founded in 1368, after central China had been further devastated by disease and the rebellions that overthrew the Yuan, the first emperor was actively hostile to merchant wealth and promoted a physiocratic vision of society based on small landholding and local self-sufficiency, although the empire-spanning network of roadways that he developed for imperial communications also facilitated the revival of long-distance trade.24

The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries saw a dramatic revival of China’s early capitalism, as production and trade across the empire flourished and the international demand for Chinese goods such as tea, porcelain, and silk and cotton textiles drew increasing amounts of silver, first from Japan and then from the mines of the Spanish New World empire via the Manila galleon trade, into China.25 Ongoing technological innovations drove improvements in productivity and quality that made Chinese manufactures ever more popular in global markets. But by the mid–seventeenth century, contradictions within Ming society and politics led to the collapse of the dynasty, and yet another invasion by a non-Chinese coalition led by the Manchus seized power and installed the Qing dynasty in 1644. In the eighteenth century, China recovered from the traumas of the dynastic transition, and a final era of early capitalist prosperity ensued.26

In 1793, the British king George III sent a diplomatic mission to China, led by Lord George Macartney, to seek new trade relations. Foreigners were allowed to trade with China in a regulated system at the port of Guangzhou, known to Westerners as Canton, in the far south of the empire. The British, imbued with the new ideology of free trade and on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, wanted China to open more ports and allow a permanent diplomatic presence in Beijing. The Qianlong emperor declined these requests and reminded the British, in a letter to King George, that China had all it needed within its own borders and had no wish for the inferior products of the West. But while this remained the case, a combination of domestic and international factors was about to bring an end to China’s early modern capitalist age. Limits on the capacity of agriculture to sustain continuing population growth began to erode material standards of living. The rise of England’s modern industrial economy brought both inexpensive goods to compete with China’s domestic products and the military capacity to force the Qing government to open the empire to Western imperialism. A new era was beginning.

Early modern capitalism in China endured across many centuries, with periods of expansion and contraction, but with a persistent drive toward greater sophistication and productivity, and with the accumulation of wealth derived from the extraction of surplus value from labor power reviving after each era of destruction. This generated a wealthy stratum of merchants and investors, largely urban in residence, and distinct from the more traditional elite of landowning households that, through their domination of the Confucian civil service examination system, controlled the operations of the imperial government. Within the discursive field of Confucian thought there was a strong tradition of aversion to commercial wealth and disrespect for those who lived on the profits of trade. Merchants and their sons (and sometimes grandsons) were legally excluded from participation in the examination system, and thus effectively from political power. With the rise of early capitalism and the emergence of a wealthy commercial elite, these ideas began to be challenged and changed by some thinkers. While merchants never came to be fully entitled to an equal role in the examination system or to a political status matching that of the literati/gentry elite, a convergence of interests drove a slow process of cultural adjustment that created a hybrid class more complex than either a purely land- or commerce-based elite. This change in attitude, in political culture, was driven by the convergent material interests and actions of both agricultural and manufacturing producers.27

As China’s economy became more differentiated, with regional specialization in the production of certain commodities and the attendant growth of long-distance trade in both manufactured goods and foodstuffs, commercialized farming became increasingly profitable and landowning families sought new ways to invest their wealth. Merchants and investors in manufacturing activities also were generating wealth and seeking to further expand the valorization and accumulation of their capital. At the same time, many members of the commercial elite sought to position themselves socially as the equals of the literati/gentry in status and prestige by engaging in patronage of religious establishments, cultural pursuits such as the collecting of art or the assembling of libraries, or the building of elaborate mansions and gardens.28

The intersection of the interests and ambitions of landowning and commercial elites came about through the process of investment in economic activities. Members of the literati/gentry elite directed some of their wealth into the businesses of merchants and manufacturers, and shared in the profits of those enterprises. These economic strategies resulted in a convergence of interests rather than a relationship of antagonism. This is in some ways a stark contrast with the later history of class conflict between the rising bourgeoisie and the older feudal aristocracy in Europe, but it is not without parallel. Indeed, in an 1850 review of a book on the seventeenth-century English Revolution by the French politician François Guizot, Marx described a similar convergence of class interests:

This class of large landowners allied with the bourgeoisie…was not, as were the French feudal landowners of 1789, in conflict with the vital interests of the bourgeoisie, but rather in complete harmony with them. Their estates were indeed not feudal but bourgeois property. On the one hand, they provided the industrial bourgeoisie with the population necessary to operate the manufacturing system, and on the other hand, they were in a position to raise agricultural development to the level corresponding to that of industry and commerce. Hence their common interests with the bourgeoisie: hence their alliance.29

The convergence of interests between the landed literati/gentry and the largely urban commercial/manufacturing elite in China persisted, and perhaps deepened, across the span of early modern times. Both sides of this ruling-class collaboration of course remained dedicated to the extraction of surplus value from the labor of workers, whether on farms, in workshops, households, or the marketplace. This hybridity was also reflected in economic thought and government policy. The imperial state was not a strong advocate for commercial interests, but nonetheless often played a role in economic life that benefitted both manufacturing and exchange. The construction and maintenance of roads and canals facilitated the growth of long-distance trade. Government intervention in some critical commodity markets, especially grain, often served to stabilize prices and buffer the extremes of market fluctuations, thus protecting both the livelihoods of consumers and the ongoing operations of merchants.30 The interplay of elite interests and state policy varied over time but was always complex and could certainly be contentious. Fundamental to China’s Confucian political culture was the idea that the state’s primary purpose was to create and maintain conditions of stability and security that would allow the people to pursue their livelihoods in a moderately prosperous society. Debates as to how best to achieve this ideal could be sharp, and different policy orientations predominated at various times, but the active role of the state in economic life was always a part of the mix.

This process of intellectual and cultural change went beyond the purely economic realm. In the preface   to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, written in 1859, Marx notes that, in the social production of their existence, men enter into definite, necessary relations, which are independent of their will, namely, relations of production corresponding to a determinate stage of development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation on which there arises a legal and political superstructure and to which there correspond definite forms of social consciousness.31

In China, as early capitalism developed from the Song dynasty onward, new “forms of social consciousness” reflecting these new material realities also took shape. This became especially apparent by the Ming dynasty as a new merchant culture, drawing on particular elements within the broad discursive field of Confucian thought, articulated the hybridity of China’s elite society. The integration of elite elements based in manufacturing and trade with the long-established land-based literati/gentry yielded new ideas that revealed the mutual influence of new realities and older cultural beliefs and behaviors. Merchants engaged in practices of cultural patronage and aesthetic consumption in emulation of existing “gentlemanly” norms, endowing Buddhist religious institutions, building gardens, and assembling library collections. Confucian thought was influenced by market culture, as exemplified by the emergence of “ledgers of merit and demerit,” a form of moral accountancy in which individuals produced balance sheets for their conduct, or in the production of manuals of business practice that sought to navigate the complex relationship between the pursuit of profit and the maintenance of proper social relationships of community and stability. Imperial Confucianism remained the dominant ideology of the state, and within social elites, but it was adapted and adjusted to fit with the new material realities of commercial and manufacturing capitalism.32

The form of capitalism that emerged in China during the early modern period was marked by distinctive forms of power relations. Rather than evolving an antagonistic contradiction between an urban bourgeois class of merchants and manufacturers and a conservative feudal aristocracy of landowning great families, China developed a hybrid elite in that landed and commercial interests converged and functioned as the ruling class through the instrumentality of the imperial state. China’s historical itinerary did not lead to a bourgeois revolution taking power, but rather yielded a balance of elite forces and interests that remained hegemonic across repeated transitions in dynastic rule and that endeavored to shape the policies and practices of the imperial state in its own interests.

The government was tasked at a minimum with providing the security and stability needed to allow people to pursue their livelihoods, though the state could also play a more proactive role in economic life from time to time. Imperial dynasties built and maintained important infrastructure that facilitated long-distance trade, such as the Grand Canal and other water transport systems, or the imperial post roads that spanned the empire. Government monopolies in certain critical commodities were used to buffer some of the extremes of market supply and demand and curtail excessive profit seeking by private capital. Interventions in the all-important grain markets were deployed to sustain consumers in times of bad harvests and shortages. The imperial state was hardly a mercantilist actor, but it did contribute to the development and flourishing of China’s commercial capitalism.

This understanding of China’s past can help illuminate some aspects of the country’s contemporary economic and political formations. China today is a society emerging from a long period of humiliation and oppression at the hands of Western imperialism, and from the turmoil and devastation of decades of revolutionary conflict and the Japanese invasion and occupation from 1937 to 1945. China’s early modern order proved unable to transcend its own limitations and was incapable of meeting the challenges of foreign intrusion and domination. By the late eighteenth century, the Qing empire had begun to face serious economic challenges, with population growth pushing against the limits of agricultural production within the established systems of land tenure and productive technologies. While the Qianlong emperor could still reject Britain’s overtures for free trade in 1793 based on China’s superior economic position, contradictions within the existing mode of production were intensifying.

The Industrial Revolution unleashed both immense productive capacities and powerful new military capabilities that, combined with the ideology of free trade promoted by the competitive imperatives of capitalist production and the ideas of Adam Smith and other political economists, transformed first the British and then other Europeans’ relations with the rest of the world in a wave of colonialist expansionism that fundamentally reconfigured the global economic and political order. China was subordinated to Western imperialism. Its long-vibrant commercial capitalism, already under pressure from internal difficulties, rapidly succumbed to foreign competition. European industrial capitalism reconfigured global relationships, creating a planetary division of labor within which China, though never made a colony of an individual Western power, assumed a subordinate role as a source of raw materials and as a market for European manufactured products. New Chinese capitalist elements began to appear in the late nineteenth century, but they struggled against the dominance of foreign businesses and finance. Western capital and the national governments that served it developed and maintained their power based on a monopoly of industrial productive technologies. The colonial system, which included China’s semicolonial position, preserved this monopoly until the Soviet Union began to develop its own industrial capacity in the 1920s.

In the countryside, the landed elite maintained much of its power and cultural preeminence, but, even there, wealth dwindled and prolonged instability eroded social cohesion. The imperial system staggered to its final collapse in the early twentieth century, and nearly four decades of political conflict and foreign invasion followed, destroying countless lives and further impoverishing the country. In the absence of a coherent national government, the extraction of surplus from agricultural production by local elites intensified and was exacerbated by warlord taxation and the corrupt practices of the nationalist regime. The Japanese invasion of 1937 and the war of resistance that lasted until 1945 brought further hardship and destruction to both urban and rural China.

Only with the victory of the revolution led by the Communist Party and the Red Army could the construction of a new modern China get underway. Land reform between 1948 and 1952 swept away the last vestiges of the old gentry landowning class in the countryside and created the conditions for building a new agriculture based on collective ownership and planned development.33 The industrial economy was nationalized in stages in the early 1950s, then began to grow through the deployment of capital from surpluses in both agriculture and manufacturing according to a series of five-year plans developed from the mid–1950s onward.

Experiments with varying forms of industrial management sought new ways to contribute to the development of a modern socialist economy.34 Aid and technical assistance from the Soviet Union and the Eastern European socialist states was crucial in the first decade of the People’s Republic. China was able begin developing a modern industrial sector distinct from the Western monopoly.

The path of socialist construction was contentious and deep divisions over how best to advance led to decades of struggle and conflict within the party and in society. The years from 1949 to 1979 saw successes and failures, advances and retreats. Dramatic improvements were made in public health, with average life expectancy rising significantly while infant mortality fell. National infrastructure in transportation and communication was massively expanded, as were reservoirs and other hydraulic resources, and overall economic growth averaged over 3 percent per year. Basic social services were provided and education was extended to most of the country’s young people.35

Nonetheless, by 1979 China remained a poor country as population growth negated some of the increases in production and a focus on heavy industry and infrastructure kept household consumption at basic levels. In a series of decisions at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the ’80s, the Communist Party decided to embark on a path of “reform and opening to the outside” (????) aimed at rapidly developing the economy and reorienting production both to meeting the needs of domestic consumers and to creating an export sector that would generate further growth through profits and the accumulation of foreign exchange. At the heart of this process was the decision to use the mechanisms of the market to develop the productive economy. In other words, a certain amount of private capital would be allowed to function within the economy, in tandem with or parallel to the continuing operations of state-owned enterprises and other forms of socialist industry and agriculture. Foreign capital would be welcomed in joint ventures, initially limited to special economic zones but eventually spreading to the country at large.

This was not a blank check written to a new capitalist class. The decision to embrace the use of markets as a driver of development was premised on the ongoing key role of the Communist Party in China’s political and economic system. The party would continue to be the guiding force shaping policy and practice, and would oversee the country’s progress toward a level of prosperity where the needs of all people could be met and where a more equitable social order could be engendered. This is the vision that is characterized as socialism with Chinese characteristics, (Zhongguo tese shehui zhuyi, ????????).36

Though not without shortcomings and contradictions, China’s economy entered into an era of remarkable expansion as a result of these policies and practices. The Chinese economy’s growth rates often exceeded 10 percent over the next three decades and, in the pre-COVID years, were still growing by more than 6 percent annually. Productive capacity expanded rapidly and modern technologies were acquired, in part through joint venture partnerships with foreign capital. China also began to invest heavily in research and development to be able to pursue technological innovation with reduced reliance on foreign inputs. Hundreds of millions of people were lifted out of poverty, material standards of living rose dramatically, and China emerged on the world stage as an increasingly important player in global economic life.

China’s economy today is a hybrid of state and other collectively owned enterprises, ranging from huge national entities to county or township level factories or workshops (about 45 percent of asset ownership), and a private sector that includes both domestic businesses and international joint ventures (about 35 percent of asset ownership). Another 20 percent of businesses fall into an intermediate zone, with a blend of public and private ownership.37 State-owned enterprises, at both the central and local levels, form the core of the productive economy and infrastructure, predominate in banking and finance, and are the single largest source of government revenue, but the private sector has also assumed major proportions, with a number of world class corporations playing leading roles and an ever-growing number of billionaires. The private sector currently accounts for a little over half of all employment in industry, though more than 40 percent of China’s people still live and work in the agricultural sector, where land is owned by the state and leased to households. Production in both the industrial and agricultural sectors, by both public and private enterprises, is geared to a system of domestic and international markets. Much of China’s growth has come through its exports to the global economy, but domestic consumption is being increasingly expanded.

The rationale for the reform policies can be understood in part within the theoretical parameters of Marxist and Leninist experience. In the Communist Manifesto and many other writings, Marx and Frederick Engels were very clear on the power of capitalist markets to drive innovation and development. V. I. Lenin turned to market mechanisms under the New Economic Policies in the dark years after the Civil War in Russia to jumpstart the growth of the new Soviet economy. The creative power of markets always threatens to become a reckless monstrosity, like the demons conjured by the sorcerer’s apprentice. This is why the careful oversight of the party is critical to China’s future.38

In a discussion of the development of reform policies in November 2013, Xi Jinping set out the party’s position: “In 1992 the Party’s 14th National Congress stipulated that China’s economic reform aimed at establishing a socialist market economy, allowing the market to play a basic role in allocating resources under state macro control.” He noted that “there are still many problems. The market lacks order, and many people seek economic benefits through unjustified means.” He also emphasized that “we must unswervingly consolidate and develop the public economy, persist in the leading role of public ownership, give full play to the leading role of the state-owned economy, and incessantly increase its vitality, leveraging power and impact.”39 Over recent years, the party and the government have pursued an aggressive campaign against corruption, expanded regulatory oversight of industry and finance in both the public and private sectors, and promoted ideals of social responsibility and socialist values. These policies and practices suggest the complexity and dynamism of the relationship between the party, the state, and private economic actors.

Under the policies of reform, China now has capitalists, but it does not have a capitalist class that can control the state and shape it to its own interests. The practical effects of the leading role of the party can be seen in the ways in which the most dangerous aspects of capitalist economics are being buffered and constrained today. China continues to devote major resources to eliminating poverty, a key benchmark of which was achieved in November 2020 when the last few counties, in Guizhou province, that had lagged behind the internationally recognized definition of absolute poverty were finally designated as having emerged from that status. China must further improve the livelihoods of its people, but it is making steady progress in that direction. The serious environmental problems, which peaked in the first decade of the twenty-first century, are being addressed, and China’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2060 is a clear statement of the priority of ongoing engagement with the ecology of the country.40 China is also developing a culture of what are sometimes called “patriotic entrepreneurs”— capitalists who understand that, in socialism with Chinese characteristics, they have a place within a unique social system, a hybrid of markets and planning, a blend of public and private ownership, and that they have a responsibility to contribute to the development not only of their own enterprises, but to the enhancement of the people’s livelihoods.41 The operations of the United Front Department of the party have been expanded in recent years as another means of managing the relationship between the party and other social and political elements.42 The party and the state thus are pursuing practical policies and actions to direct social resources to further development, and a program of cultural politics to ensure that the operations of private capital are integrated within the overall goals of socialist development.

The political and legal infrastructure of the People’s Republic, in particular the public ownership of land and the system of household registration, ensures that, just as there is no bourgeoisie, there is also no true proletariat. Workers in China are not compelled to sell their labor power in the marketplace because they have no property. The system of socialist ownership means that everyone in China has economic resources for their maintenance. Individuals are registered in their native places and have access to land as a place to live and to at least minimal social services such as education and health care. The importance of this was clearly demonstrated during the financial crisis of 2008 and beyond, when, with the downturn in demand for goods produced in and exported from China, some twenty million workers were laid off from factories in places like Shenzhen and Shanghai. These workers were not simply cast out and left to their own devices, but instead could return to their home villages, where they remained entitled to the support of the socialist system. As China adjusted to the new demand structure of the global economy, and as productive activity revived in the following years, workers could return to their former employment or seek new opportunities without having been reduced to poverty and immiseration. The provision of dibao (??), the basic level of support in rural China, is not enough to maintain a truly comfortable way of life, which is why so many young people from the countryside have sought better economic opportunities in factory or construction work in the cities, but it did serve to bridge the period of unemployment caused by the global crisis.

Workers have also been able to use the mechanisms of socialist legality to pursue their economic interests within China’s rapidly developing economy. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions has represented workers across the country, and workers and citizens in general have exercised their rights to protest, petition, and litigate through the courts to address issues from wages and working conditions to corruption and abuse of power by officials to the dangers of environmental pollution. Beyond the operations of the union federation, Chinese workers have been militant in pursuing their interests through protests and wildcat strikes. Workers and other citizens take the law and their rights seriously and regularly engage in direct action to pursue their interests. This can be portrayed as a sign of alienation, but may perhaps more properly be seen as indicating their understanding and application of their civil powers.43 China’s socialist government and the Communist Party thus serve both to restrain the potential excesses and abuses of new capitalist elements and to maintain the central role of the working class within economic and social life.

This is not to say that workers who leave their native villages to seek employment in factories or on constructions sites are not acting out of economic motivations, nor that their labor power does not generate surplus value that is, at this stage in the developmental process, appropriated by private capital or even state-owned enterprises and other kinds of collectively owned enterprises. This is part of the bargain, part of the experiment on which the Communist Party embarked to develop China’s productive economy and accumulate wealth that leads first to a socialism of a “moderately prosperous society” (????) and eventually to the level of material abundance that is the threshold and foundation of a communist future. There are risks and challenges along this path. The growth that has been achieved has not come without costs. The use of market mechanisms implied the acceptance of certain contradictions that are inherent in their operations. Inequality in the country has increased sharply, as, to paraphrase Deng Xiaoping, some people got rich first. Environmental stresses became a serious problem, with pollution of the air, water, and soil damaging people’s health and undermining the quality of life. Corruption became a critical legal and political issue. The Communist Party has made great efforts to address these contradictions, but also remains committed to the path of reform. The process of experimentation and innovation that has unfolded in the course of the reform era is sometimes called “crossing the river by feeling the rocks” (mozhe shitou guohe, ??????) and perhaps constitutes a course of “two steps forward, one step back” as history advances.

In her book The Transformation of Chinese Socialism, Lin Chun writes that “it is no easy task to ‘join the market in order to beat it’ via relinking, borrowing, and embracing.” She goes on to ask:

Might “private” capital be simultaneously “social” in a socialized market to serve public interests? Could such a market survive and eventually overcome the capitalist world market, and on what historical and institutional basis? Imposing these questions, we can recognize the truism that even a socialist society cannot avoid being “structurally dependent on capital.”… On the other hand, however, the preserved demarcation between capital and capitalism indicates the feasibility of preventing the logic of profit from colonizing the political, social, and cultural spheres—that is, if the right agency and institutions can be put in place.44

The historical outcome of China’s experiment with building a socialist market economy, “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” remains an open question. China’s remarkable success at coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and mobilizing social resources to address public health as a human right, in contrast to the catastrophic failures of capitalist, profit-seeking health care systems in the United States and the West, suggests that, while much work remains to be done, the country may indeed be on a path to socialist modernity. Looking at the history of the People’s Republic since 1949 provides one view of the complexities of China’s pursuit of a modern industrial, socialist system.

Another way to consider the current reform era and the nature of China’s twenty-first-century political economy is in the longer perspective of China’s early modern capitalist history. The “Chinese characteristics” of China’s socialism can be understood in part as a structural and cultural redeployment of features we have seen in the Song-Qing era. The complex dialectic of the state seeking to both encourage and constrain the dynamism of capitalist markets that was pursued by imperial bureaucrats, to varying degrees at different times, resonates with the hybridity of public and private economic agents in China today. The shaping of a culturally specific political and economic consciousness through the interplay of market dynamics and select themes and currents within the broad field of Confucian thought and values, subordinating the single-minded pursuit of short-term profit to a longer perspective of socially responsible accumulation, perhaps foreshadowed today’s evocation of the ideal of “patriotic entrepreneurs.”

This does not mean that the People’s Republic is simply a new version of the old empire, old wine in new bottles, but rather that both the interplay of market forces and government policy in later imperial China and the present system of market socialism, or socialism with Chinese characteristics, constitute distinct modes of production that can be best understood in a historical materialist analysis that recognizes both their relationship to broader global processes of economic history and their developmental linkages to deep currents of continuity in Chinese material and cultural life. The key difference is of course the class nature of the state, which in imperial times was the instrument of class rule by the hybrid landed-commercial ruling elite, but is today, with the leading role of the Communist Party, the management committee for the building of a new social order, at least aspirationally, and to a significant extent, practically, based on the interests and wishes of the working class. This remains a work in progress, as history continues to move.

Appreciating the specificities of China’s history and its present path within the overall framework of a historical materialist perspective allows us to move beyond trying to assimilate all forms of capitalism, all paths toward socialism, all versions of early modernity, to a single universal template. It is the mode of analysis that must be universal, and the data must drive the conclusions. The analytical perspective derived from Capital and Marx’s other writings does not mean we need to seek and find the exact same totality in every place to be able to apply a precise definition of capitalism, and to fit the experience of different peoples in different places into a monolithic narrative flow. A nuanced application of Marx’s methods to the particularities of place and time will yield results of greater practical utility in both the understanding of the past and an engagement with contemporary developments.

1. See, for example, Yan Xuetong, Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019); Zhang Weiwei, The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State (Hackensack, NJ: World Century Publishing, 2012); Yukon Huang, Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom is Wrong (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017); Wang Hui, China’s Twentieth Century (London: Verso, 2016); Charles Horner, Rising China and Its Postmodern Fate (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2009).
2. The argument that China has capitulated to a capitalist system has been made many times since the beginning of the reform era. See, inter alia, William Hinton, The Great Reversal: The Privatization of China, 1978–1989 (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1990); Eli Friedman, “Why China Is Capitalist: Toward an Anti-Nationalist Anti-Imperialism,” Spectre, July 15, 2020.
3. A basic overview is provided in Richard von Glahn, The Economic History of China: From Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).
4.  For a good account in English of Chinese writing about the Asiatic mode of production through the 1980s, see Timothy Brook, The Asiatic Mode of Production in China (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1989). Chinese scholarship on economic history and the question of the “sprouts of capitalism” includes, inter alia, (1250–1850)
5. Much writing on Chinese history continues to be organized on the basis of imperial dynasties. Broader categories are useful for understanding long-term trends and developments, yet there is not a consensus on the appropriate terminology. Most scholars accept the term antiquity, but some continue to refer to the middle period as medieval, while the term early modern is adopted by a growing number of scholars, but with varying period definitions. Some continue to prefer the term late imperial for this period. For a critical discussion of periodization and a characterization of the last thousand years of Chinese history, see Richard von Glahn, “Imagining Premodern China,” in The Song-Yuan-Ming Transition in Chinese History, ed. Paul Jakov Smith and Richard von Glahn (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2003), 35–70.
6. Hsu Cho-Yun, Ancient China in Transition: An Analysis of Social Mobility, 722–222 BC (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1965).
7. Zhang Chuanxi, “Growth of the Feudal Economy,” in The History of Chinese Civilization: Qin, Han, Wei, Jin, and the Northern and Southern Dynasties (221 BCE–581 CE), ed. Yuan Xingpei, Yan Wenming, Zhang Chuanxi, and Lou Yulie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 139–95. The use of the term feudal in this chapter title reflects the continuing influence of Soviet-era orthodoxies.
8. Joseph P. McDermott and Shiba Yoshinbu, “Economic Change in China, 960–1279,” in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 5, part 2, Sung China, 960–1279, ed. John W. Chaffee and Denis Twitchett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 321–436.
9.  Nicolas Tackett, The Destruction of the Medieval Chinese Aristocracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2014).
10.  The use of the term gentry is problematic, given its derivation from European social history, but is conventionally established in Anglophone Chinese history and is retained here in tandem with literati to delineate the dual nature of the landowning elite as both local and imperial.
11.  Shiba Yoshinobu, Commerce and Society in Sung China (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, 1992); William Guanglin Liu, The Chinese Market Economy, 1000–1500 (Albany: SUNY Press, 2015); McDermott and Shiba, “Economic Change in China, 960–1279.”
12,  Joshua A. Fogel, Politics and Sinology: The Case of Naito Konan (1866–1934) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984).
13.  Joseph Stalin, “Dialectical and Historical Materialism” and Other Writings (Graphyco, 2020).
14. Earlier efforts to situate China in relation to the European development of capitalism are summarized in Timothy Brook and Gregory Blue, eds., China and Historical Capitalism: Genealogies of Sinological Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). See also David Faure, China and Capitalism: A History of Business Enterprises in Modern China (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2006). For an exploration of the history of capitalism on a global basis, using non-Marxist definitions including private property rights, contracts enforceable by third parties, markets with responsive prices, and supportive governments, see Larry Neal and Jefferey G. Williamson, The Cambridge History of Capitalism, vol. 1, The Rise of Capitalism: From Ancient Origins to 1848 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
15. Recent scholarship has highlighted the ways in which Marx also articulated, in Capital, the Grundrisse, and elsewhere, a recognition that the course of European economic history and development was not the only or inevitable path for all societies around the world. Kevin B. Anderson, Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Non-Western Societies (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016); Marcello Musto, The Last Years of Karl Marx, An Intellectual Biography (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2020).
16. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, vol. 1 (London: Penguin Books, 1990).
17. On the industrial complex at Jingdezhen, see Anne Gerritsen, The City of Blue and White: Chinese Porcelain and the Early Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020).
18.  Valerie Hansen, Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China: How Ordinary People Used Contracts, 600–1400 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995); Madeleine Zelin, Jonathan K. Ocko, and Robert Gardella, eds., Contract and Property in Early Modern China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004).
19.  Michael Marmé, Suzhou: Where the Goods of All Provinces Converge (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005).
20.  G. William Skinner, ed., The City in Late Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1965).
21.  For an incisive discussion of the question of comparability, see Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).
22.  Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 455–91.
23. These features of commercial capitalism in China are comparable to those in Europe, as outlined in Jairus Banaji, A Brief History of Commercial Capitalism (Chicago: Haymarket, 2020).
24. Timothy Brook, “Communications and Commerce,” in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 8, The Ming Dynasty, 1368–1644, part 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 579–707.
25. Arturo Giraldez, The Age of Trade: The Manila Galleons and the Dawn of the Global Economy (Boulder: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015).
26. Jie Zhao, Brush, Seal, and Abacus: Troubled Vitality in Late Ming China’s Economic Heartland, 1500–1644 (Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 2018); Timothy Brook, The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).
27.  Margherita Zanasi, Economic Thought in Modern China: Market and Consumption, c. 1500–1937 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020).
28. Timothy Brook, Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in Late Ming China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard-Yen-Ching Institute, 1996).
29. Karl Marx, Surveys from Exile (London: Verso, 2010), 254.
30. William T. Rowe, Saving the World: Chen Hongmou and Elite Consciousness in Eighteenth Century China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002).
31. Karl Marx, preface and introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1976), 3.
32. Cynthia Joanne Brokaw, Ledgers of Merit and Demerit: Social Change and Moral Order in Late Imperial China (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016); Richard Lufrano, Honorable Merchants: Commerce and Self-Cultivation in Late Imperial China (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997).
33. William Hinton, Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village (New York: Vintage, 1966).
34. Franz Schurmann, Ideology and Organization in Communist China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966).
35 Jean Chesneaux, China: The People’s Republic, 1949–1976 (New York: Pantheon, 1979).
36. The phrase “socialism with Chinese characteristics” has itself gone through a process of transformation. It was originally developed in the 1950s in the context of Mao Zedong’s efforts to promote his vision of economic development as distinct from the Soviet experience. Deng Xiaoping redeployed the term in the 1980s and it has continued to be adapted to China’s ongoing policy developments. Under Xi Jinping, it has been expanded to become “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.”
37. Nicholas Borst, “State-Owned Enterprises and Investing in China,” Seafarer, November 2019.
38. Domenico Losurdo, “Has China Turned to Capitalism? Reflections on the Transition from Capitalism to Socialism,” International Critical Thought 7, no. 1 (2017): 15–31.
39. Xi Jinping, The Governance of China, I (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014), 83–86.
40. Barbara Finamore, Will China Save the Planet? (Cambridge: Polity, 2018).
41. “Chinese Entrepreneurs Urged to Show Patriotism,” Apple Daily, December 14, 2020.
42. Takashi Suzuki, “China’s United Front Work in the Xi Jinping Era: Institutional Developments and Activities,” Journal of Contemporary East Asian Studies 8, no. 1 (2019): 83–98.
43. Ching Kwan Lee, Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).
44. Lin Chun, The Transformation of Chinese Socialism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 251–52.

About Ken Hammond
Ken Hammond is a professor of East Asian and global history at New Mexico State University. He is the author of five books and numerous articles on Chinese political and cultural history, as well as a thirty-six-lecture series, From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History. He has been an activist since he was in Students for a Democratic Society as an undergrad at Kent State University from 1968 to 1971. He is currently working with Pivot to Peace, an organization dedicated to promoting better understanding and avoiding conflict between the United States and China. He can be reached at khammond[at]

Don&#8217;t worry, Trump: Chinese firm provides U.S. coal miners w/ wind energy jobs

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/07/2017 - 3:20pm in



CGTN | (Video News Report) | – –

“For years, coal and oil and gas have been Wyoming’s bedrock. 40% of U.S. coal is still produced in the state but the industry is in decline. 1,000 coal jobs have been lost here in the past few years. But now, wind energy is making its presence felt. Several large wind farms will soon be built in Wyoming.”

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Shadow Banking and Alternative Finance in China

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/05/2016 - 9:54am in


Events, China, finance

The recent growth in the scale and different forms of shadow banking and alternative finance mechanisms in China poses many questions of understanding, from its sustainability; different forms of credit growth; to the role of local government financing, and the tensions between financial reform policy and practice.

While shadow banking and alternative finance are not new in China, its growth in scale and diversity after 2009 poses old problems of understanding economic, social and political relations in China in new ways. This is because informal financial relations in China, much like the concept of state capitalism, cuts across many of the traditional dualisms of state and market, formal and informal, official and unofficial relations in China.

The workshop, to be held on 27 May at the University of Sydney, will act as a forum for researchers from across various disciplines to share their perspectives and research on questions arising from these topics.


8:30am – 9:00am Welcome and introductory remarks

Jeffrey Riegel (China Studies Centre, Director, USYD)

9:00am – 10:00am China’s rising leverage challenges

Opening keynote by Guonan Ma (Bruegel, EU-based think tank & ACRI-UTS)

10:00am – 10:30am Morning break

10.30am – 12.30pm Panel 1

Too important to fail? The politics of banking reform in China

Stephen Bell (University of Queensland) & Hui Feng (Griffith University)

Digital disruption with Chinese characteristics: Internet Finance and regulatory dilemma

Hui Feng (Griffith University)

Implications of the internationalisation of the RMB for banking in China

Kathy Walsh (ANU)

Towards a Money View of liquidity relations in China

Michael Beggs & Luke Deer (USYD)

12:30pm – 2:00pm Lunch

2:00pm – 3:00pm China’s shadow banking and small and medium enterprises

Afternoon keynote by Kellee Tsai (HKUST) Discussant: Vivienne Bath (USYD)

3:00pm – 3:30pm Afternoon break

3:30pm – 5:00pm Panel 2

China’s informal finance, an enterprise perspective

Hans Hendrischke (USYD) and Wei Li (USYD)

Shadow banking and underground banking in China

David Chaikin (USYD)

Microcredit, (under)development and (de)marginalisation in rural China

Nicholas Loubere (ANU)

5:00pm – 6:00pm Concluding remarks and discussion about publication plans

Luke Deer (USYD) to lead the discussion

Tickets are available HERE

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