A small example of what the Chinese bureaucracy wants to ensure never happens again, (Lingxi, 20th April 2014)
Mao’s portrait splattered with red paint – Tiananmen Square 1989
(an action that was betrayed by the official student movement, who handed those who did it over to the state, one of whom spent 20 years insidei)
Format changed 4/3/19. This page is now an introduction with a list of other pages.
A somewhat eclectic collection of bits of information about the situation in China today (going back to 2011), preceded by a theoretical introduction on this page putting things in context, followed by various links to critical articles. Many of these links don’t only point to the increasing repression there but also to many instances of genuine opposition. It needs to be emphasised that China’s growing totalitarianism is being exported, especially in the form of technology aimed at social control, to democratic forms of capital throughout the world. Though obviously China’s development is specific to China and its history, it is also inextricably linked to the future in much of the rest of the world’s development.
It seems illuminating to preface all this with quotes from “Diagnostic of the future – a forecast”, because it gives some kind of theoretical coherence to an understanding of all the recent developments in China:
“The Chinese state is the chief model and proponent of such a system [technocracy], though there have also been frank discussions of such a model in the West. …A technocratic system leaves policy decisions to appointed experts who climb the ranks, ostensibly based on performance; appointments are carried out by the institution itself, as in a university, not by consultation with the public. Most leading members of the Chinese Communist Party, for example, are engineers and other scientists. However, it would be naïve to ignore that they are first and foremost politicians. They simply have to respond to internal power dynamics rather than focusing on performing for the general public….
In recent years, the Chinese state has been arresting, imprisoning, and disappearing billionaires it accuses of corruption, which means acting outside the Party’s control over the market, engaging in alternate or autonomous market planning.
On the geopolitical stage, the Chinese technocratic model has a certain advantage. Country after country and company after company have bowed to Beijing’s demands and stopped recognizing Taiwan as an independent country. Not only is China a major economy, it has a greater ability to leverage access to that economy for political purposes, combining greater centralization with a streamlined strategic approach that repudiates the division of politics and economics.
However, there is a great deal of myth around technocratic governance. You can’t have a purely “scientific” government because “objective interests” is a contradiction in terms. Bare empiricism cannot recognize something as subjective as interests; this is why scientific bodies have to fabricate discreet ideologies masquerading as neutral presentations of fact, since there is no human activity, and certainly no coordinated research and development, without interests. Yet governments are nothing without interests. They are, at their most rudimentary, the concentration of a great deal of resources, power, and capacity for violence with the purpose of fulfilling the interests of a specific group of people. The relationship becomes more complex as governments become more complex, with different types of people developing different interests with regard to the government and with institutions producing subjectivities and therefore molding people’s perceptions of their interests, but the centrality of interests remains, as does the fact that hierarchical power blinds people to everything outside of a very narrow reality, and such insensitivity combined with such great power is a sure recipe for unprecedented stupidity.
One example of this is the Three Gorges Dam, perhaps the greatest construction feat of the 20th Century, and certainly a symbol of the Communist Party’s ability to carry out strategic planning that sacrifices local interests for a perceived greater good. But the dam has caused so many demographic, environmental, and geological problems that they may outweigh the benefits in energy production. The major motivation for building the dam was probably hubris—the state basking in its technocratic power—more than a measured estimation that the dam would be worth it.
Power politics may also play a role in China’s lending crisis. Smaller businesses have a hard time securing loans from China’s established banking system, which has traditionally favored state-owned companies and large or politically connected firms, so these businesses turned to newer peer-to-peer lending platforms, many of which were shut down by the government or otherwise collapsed, causing a huge loss of savings. The problem takes on additional dimensions when one considers how important new businesses have been in the US economy in the past couple decades: think Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook. Arguably, it is only these companies that allow the US to maintain its top spot in the world economy. And while tech start-ups like Didi and Alibaba have been important to Chinese economic growth, and have also succeeded in climbing the ranks to receive vital state support, they have not yet demonstrated the capacity for cutting-edge innovation that would be required of a global leader. Perhaps they can be more accurately perceived as copies of established Western firms that were able to receive financing only after their Western analogues had demonstrated the importance of such companies. If this is accurate, it doesn’t bode well for the ability of Chinese state-capitalism to create a climate that will favor more cutting-edge innovation than Western capitalist states….There is also the question of resistance. The Chinese government is making the bet that it has the technological and military power to quash all resistance movements, permanently. If it is wrong, it risks total political collapse and revolution. Democratic governments enjoy a greater flexibility, because they can deflect dissident movements towards seeking reform, which rejuvenates the system, rather than forcing them to shut up or blow up. …
In fact, the Chinese state makes plenty of claims to democracy, justice, equality, and the common good, every bit as valid as the claims made by Western states. But these claims are validated within a paradigm that is different from the one Western elites use to justify their own imperfections. Chinese democracy draws in roughly equal parts from Leninism and a Confucian science of statecraft. In this model, the CP consults minority parties and interest groups before drafting a consensus position deemed to be in the general interest. This conception doesn’t translate well into a Western liberal paradigm. Western ruling classes cannot be convinced by such a model; they feel threatened by the prospect of Chinese dominance, even as they believe in their own hypocrisy.
The competition between NATO and China is increasingly taking on these cultural overtones. But as geopolitical conflicts between the US, Russia, and China continue to erode existing interstate institutions, the current spats might come to represent a greater shift towards a confrontation between different models of governance on a world scale.
The aforementioned trend, in which multiple countries have changed their diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China, has a significance that extends beyond the fate of the island formerly known as Formosa. Many of the countries that have fallen in line with Beijing’s demands are small Caribbean and Central American countries historically anchored to the US. The fact that they are backing away from US ally Taiwan also symbolizes a certain cooling of their relationship with the US itself. In the emerging system, they have alternatives, and these alternatives erode US dominance, not just in Central America but also in a number of geopolitical hotspots…
If the Chinese state were to become the architect of a new global cycle of accumulation, it would need a system for governing interstate relations compatible with its technocratic model for the state regulation of domestic capitalism. All indications suggest it would seek global stability by explicitly putting state rights over any other kind. This would mean that if Turkey wanted to bulldoze all of Bakur, if Saudi Arabia wanted to virtually enslave its domestic workers, if China wanted to imprison a million Uighurs in concentration camps, that would be their prerogative, and no one else’s business. This is a potentially effective strategy for creating more goodwill and unimpeded economic cooperation between states, with organized military might as the basis for right. It also does not shock us that such a philosophy comes out of the Communist Party, which long ago embraced the Jacobin idea that ends justify means.
The CIA has been intervening in public discourse to warn the world that China wants to replace the US as global superpower. To make this seem like a bad thing, they have to suggest that the world is better off as a US protectorate than as a Chinese protectorate. According to one agent, “I too am optimistic that in the battle for norms and rules and standards of behavior, that the liberal national order is stronger than the repressive standards that the Chinese promulgate. I’m confident others won’t want to subscribe to that.”…
The New York Times describes Chinese debt bondage in Malaysia and lauds the local government for supposedly standing up to the practice. They go so far as to speak of “a new version of colonialism.” There’s nothing inaccurate about this: there has only been one century out of the last twenty (1839-1949) when China wasn’t an active colonial or imperial power with its own brand of ethnic superiority….
China itself is headed to economic disaster. Its stock market is shaking, and the country has massive debt, especially its major companies. China avoided the recession of 2008 with a huge artificial stimulus campaign. Now Party leaders are pushing for a clampdown on riskier lending, but this is leading to a scarcity of credit that is causing economic growth to slow. Take the example of Australia, celebrated because the country hasn’t had a technical recession in 27 years: this has also been in part because of major government spending. But households are slipping more and more into debt and therefore spending less, therefore causing a slowdown in domestic spending, and Australia’s main trade partner is China, where the weakening of the yuan will also hurt the ability of Chinese consumers to buy imported goods such as those coming from Australia. With the economic slowdowns in Turkey and Brazil, where over-investment bubbles are also ready to pop, China is the last strong player standing. If it falls, the economic crash will probably be global, and probably much worse than 2008. All the contradictions of capitalism are converging right now.
To prop up the economy, China is following a similar path to the US: cutting taxes, spending more on infrastructure, and changing the rules so that commercial lenders can put out a greater amount of money in loans in comparison to their actual deposits.
The possibility that China might become the architect of a new global system is not based on economic growth or military power. It doesn’t have to win a war against the US, so long as it has military autonomy in its own corner of the world; all previous global architects won defensive wars against the earlier global leader decades before ascending to the role themselves, and China already did this in the Korean War. Rather, it would have to make itself the center for the organization of global capitalism.”
(much of it in French)
Various radical articles
The Four Modernisations. Life in the Countryside and Peasants Discontent. The MINUS Group ( Lee Yu See & others)
Chinese Takeaway or a slow boat back from China: Western Maoism (1978) (Phil Mailer & the Wise brothers)
A Radical Group in Hong Kong (1978) – Ken Knabb (about the Minus group)
The Explosion Point of Ideology in China (1967) – The Situationist International
The class struggle in bureaucratic China – pages 372 to 391 (1958) – Pierre Brune of Socialisme ou Barbarie
Notes on Communisation and the Great Leap Backwards (from here ):
It seems ironic that the word “communisation” so beloved by those who think of it as the key to the treasure trove of diamond-tipped theory is a word that was often used during Mao’s attempt at highly intensive primitive capital accumulation – “The Great leap Forward” (1958-61). The fact that Roland Simon, whose parodies of “theory” originated the current use of the buzzword “communisation”, has used the term in a similar manner to those who used it during the Great Leap Forward (Into Disaster) – i.e. as the process whereby the proletariat, or at least those who think they represent proletarian desires, forces its perspectives on the rest of the population – makes it worthwhile looking a bit at this period of history…
At the very very least (ie according to Chinese government statistics) 15 million died, with others estimating the famine as causing up to 43 million, though one man (Franz Dikotter) recntly estimated it as at least 45 million. The probable figure is round about 35 million. The man in charge of agriculture at that time was Tan Zhenlin, who in 1958 said, “Communisation is the communist revolution”. What he meant was collectivisation – forcing the peasantry into communes: The People’s Communisation Movement. http://mt.china-papers.com/2/?p=207808 . The Peitaiho Resolution of 1958 called for “communisation”. Chapter 6 of “Eating Bitterness: New Perspectives on China’s Great Leap Forward and Famine” is called “An Introduction to the ABCs of Communization: A Case Study of Macheng County”. At this time there were expressions such as “the spirit of communisation” and “the wind of communisation”. The “wind of communisation” seems more appropriate, as it’s all wind, but sadly, an ill wind that blows nobody good.
Theoretically, communisation meant forcing the merging of small collectives into huge communes, involving the immediate breaking down of the separation between production units, the abolition of property, wages and individual land patches. In practice this meant squads of Communist Party cadres went round smashing up peasant cottages, burning down villages, confiscating all peasant tools and cooking utensils. Peasants were forced into collective slave labour camps. Any independent means to collect, store or even prepare food was taken away and the cadres imposed a monopoly of food supply in the communal dining halls, used as a weapon of social control. Those who didn’t co-operate were deliberately starved to death. In Henan, for instance, from the winter of 1959 to the spring of 1960, at least one million people starved to death – 12.5% of the population.
Dikotter writes in “Mao’s Great Famine” (Bloomsbury, London, 2010): “…Tan Zhenlin, in charge of agriculture, toured the provinces to galvanise the local leadership. He shared Mao’s vision of a communist cornucopia in which farmers dined on delicacies like swallows’ nests , wore silk, satin and furs and lived in skyscrapers with piped water and television. Every county would have an airport. Tan even explained how China had managed to leave the Soveit Union in the dust: “Some comrades will wonder how we manage to be so fast, since the Soviet Union is still practising socialism instead of communism. The difference is that we have a “continuous revolution”. The Soviet Union doesn’t have one, or follows it loosely…Communisation is the communist revolution!”. In fact, the function of this brutal primitive capital accumulation was to force the peasantry into proletarianisation, working on industrial projects or in factories merely to avoid starvation. In this way, over a far shorter period of time from that of the enclosures to the 19th centruy industries of Victorian England, China was able to develop a modern economy so as to eventually compete on the world market and to sustain the class privileges of the Communist Party.
China’s Economic Reforms by Lin Wei and Arnold Chao (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982)
Village China Under Socialism and Reform: a micro-history 1948-2008 by Huaiyin Li
Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 by Yan Jisheng (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
Mao’s Crusade: Politics and Policy Implementation in China’s Great Leap Forward by Alfred L.Chan (OUP, New York, 2001) (for “communisation”, check out especially pages 68-82)
The Chinese Communes by E.Zurcher (1962)
My thanks to Z for all this information and much of the content of this.
Recently leaked internal minutes from a discussion of a speech delivered by Xi Jinping to the Central Party School in 2010, prior to his ascendency to PRC President and CCP General Secretary reveal the following about the Great Leap Forwards:
” …the difficult period from 1959-61, if you officially told the commoners that our Party was in control during this period we’d be responsible for the starvation of 38 million and countless of villages, how dreadful! Even more Chinese people than the Japanese killed, even more efficiently, easily, and without losing soldiers. If the common people learned this truth they would rebel against us. Therefore, we say that Party history has a bottom line, and that crossing this line is a break of the rules and must be punished. This is the meaning of Comrade Xi Jinping’s address. ”
A brief personal anecdote about a visit by Chairman Hua (Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party from October 1976 to June 1981) to Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery in 1980:
Marx’s grave is a Stalinist monstrosity, put there by the so-called “Communist” Party in 1956, the same year that the red fascists of Moscow sent in their tanks to crush the workers’ councils that had erupted in Hungary. Before that the grave had a small tombstone largely indistinguishable from any of the others.
I went there one very rainy night in 1980 at about 2a.m. – a few hours before Chairman Hua (head of the state capitalist country called Red China who’d arrived shortly before to have amicable talks with Thatcher) was due to place a wreath on this ugly tomb. It has “Philosophers have merely interpreted the world in various ways, the point however is to change it” chiseled into it. With a friend I spray-painted, amongst other things, over this inscription – “Leninists have merely re-organised capitalism in various ways; the point, however, is to slit their miserable throats”. Later, in the evening, I read about the visit in The Evening Standard, where they wrote something like “Previously Marx’s grave has been covered with graffiti, but today it was spotless.” I was furious – we’d got soaking wet for nothing. So, the next night, I returned on my own and stole Hua’s wreath – which turned out to be about 250 roses stuck on some wire pinned into something like a tyre (and in fact, it hadn’t been spotless – there were still some signs of the spray-painting). For a week or so my flat was adorned with these roses covering almost every inch of it… And now the repulsive middle class snotty-nosed Friends of Highgate Cemetry charge people to visit; Friends of Death, more like it…Friends of the commodification of everything. “The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as an immense accumulation of commodities” – first sentence from Capital.
iFootnote added 19/4/19:
This report shows that the Chinese state murdered at least 10,000 in Beijing back in 1989. « China’s statement at the end of June 1989 said that 200 civilians and several dozen security personnel had died in Beijing following the suppression of “counter-revolutionary riots” on 4 June 1989. » X writes : « No one went into the working class suburbs where resistance was the most intense. And look at this pic –
– they Luau’d the fuckers in their own APC. That should give some idea of how people fought back against their far better armed enemies. Long live the snipers of working class Beijing. Long live the mutinous soldiers who refused to fight and handed their weapons to people in the crowd. »