China is close

Image: Jiawei Cui


The Chinese advance and its capitalist economy

China is close [China is close], a landmark film by Marco Bellocchio, from 1967, addressed the Italian bourgeoisie's fear of Maoism during the Cultural Revolution (1965-68), which caused an enormous leftist frenzy in the country. Beautiful country, especially among radicalized youth. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution drove crowds of young Europeans crazy, strangely proposing to encircle the cities by the countryside, with emphasis on France, Italy and, later, Portugal. They took to the streets with the little Red Book with the Thoughts of Mao Tsé-Tung in hand, fist raised and clenched, shouting "Long live Marx, Long live Lenin, Long live Stalin, long live Mao Zedong".

The revolution of barefoot poor peasants, victorious in 1949, very soon enchanted and galvanized important parts of the world left, since it was seen as an alternative to the class collaboration policy of post-Stalinism (1956), then in the direction of the first State nationalized and planned economy that was consolidated in the world. The proposed revolution in stages, with initial respect for the so-called “nationalist bourgeoisie”, also enchanted fractions of the reformist left. The Chinese revolution became a source of inspiration for Maoist movements, especially in rural countries. Within Trotskyism, the Cultural Revolution in particular aroused hopeful assessments, such as those of the ever-hurried Ernest Mandel (1923-95) and Livio Maitan (1923-2004), who had done the same when, in 1948, the rupture of Yugoslavia with USSR, without having learned anything.

Capitalist restoration in China, the official policy of the CPC since late 1978, preceded the dissolution of the USSR and the “countries of real socialism” in 1989-1991 by just over ten years. A landmark historical success that made the world of work, its organizations, parties, programs, ideology, etc., go back enormously in the face of the triumphant capitalist counter-revolution. China, identified as a mega-exporter of trinkets and a super-exploitator of workers, initially lost prestige and interest, especially in the eyes of the left.

The general half-concern with China has changed as the Oriental Dragon, which only half-asleep sniffing smoke, has awakened as a great exporter of technological and capital products and an insatiable importer of raw materials. To everyone's surprise, China emerged as an imperialist nation that now also exported capital and services and conditioned foreign investment in the country, demanding with emphasis the transfer of technologies, which was and is its right. To the astonishment of many, China was disputing with the USA the “straight court” of the first world capitalist economy. In search of high profitability for its investments in China, imperialist capital western hatch the dragon's egg. China was now close to the world as a whole.


The US-China confrontation in Brazil

In the last two decades, the new China is also getting closer to Brazil. However, in the country discovered by Cabral, unlike Italy during the Cultural Revolution, instead of scaring, it brings joy to important sectors of small, medium and large capital, by buying and investing in Brazilian territories. It has become the “apple of the eye” of entrepreneurs in soy farming, mining, energy and players, middlemen, lobbyists, politicians and everyone involved in the sale at cheap prices of large national public properties. China also makes the joy of propagandists and ideologues defending the benignity of the capitals of the “Middle Empire” invested in the world and in Brazil.

Of the great imperialist nations, China was the last to disembark, suitcase and bowl, in what was once the land of Parrots. From 2004, when the first PT federal administration (2002-2005), exports of raw materials to China took off, increasing in 2011, to, after relative stabilization and regression, explode, reaching 67,7 billion dollars in 2020. Six years later, during the first administration of Dilma Rousseff, we experienced the true year of the “Chinese Discovery of Brazil”, with important investments of Chinese capital in the country, in the amount of US$ 13 billion, through 12 “projects”. These capital inflows followed one another, somewhat in a “sawtooth” fashion, with no intention of abandoning the rich South American hunting ground. What displeased, and much, the imperialist eagle, with an aged beak, already grappling with the young dragon of Pantagruélica hunger, expelling fire through its nostrils.

The US-China inter-imperialist confrontation, exacerbated during the administration of the Republican Donald Trump (2017-2021) and radicalized by the Democrat Joe Biden, settled in Brazil, starting to also determine our economy and politics. The Chinese buying frenzy of companies in Brazil broke out at the end of the first PT federal administration and heavily irrigated the second. One of the objectives of the 2016 Coup, promoted by the Democratic administration of Barack Obama, was to stop the Chinese advance in Brazil and Latin America. Guidance followed with canine obedience especially by the second coup president.

However, at that moment, big Chinese capital, already with solid roots embedded in the Brazilian economy, had conquered important positions in the very support base of the coup and the Bolsonaro administration. The recent opening for Huawei, at the time of the 5G auction, in November 2021, registered the limits of US pressure on large national and international capital installed in Brazil, China's business partners with regard to equipment and networks for telecommunication .


The Peking Dragon - Decipher Me or I'll Devour You!

The metamorphoses of the People's Republic of China, since the victory of the Revolution in the civil war (1946-49), under the leadership of the Communist Party, and its impressive development in recent decades, already in full capitalist restoration, caused great interest and fluvial analytical literature. in the world. The reasons are multiple: a Marxist revolution carried out by peasants, in 1949, without the intervention of the urban proletariat; a socialist construction that remained faithful to the recipes of the USSR bureaucracy, until the resounding clash of plates in the 1950s between Mao and Khrushchev; the economic, political and human disaster of the Great Leap Forward (1958-60) promoted by Maoism; the resounding and colorful Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, by mad university students, under the leadership of the Maoist faction of the CCP, and without the participation of the proletariat that gave it its name.

The “Great Leap” and the “Cultural Revolution”, two initiatives of the Maoist leadership, constituted true and powerful “shots in the foot”. The first undermined the authority of Maoism and its bureaucratic socialist version, opening space for the strengthening of pro-mercantile leadership in the CPC. The second, convulsed the country and its economy, by defending the pro-bourgeois faction, completely handing over the direction of the Central Committee to Mao and the Maoist faction.

Not advancing any change in the social and economic order, it allowed the consolidation and advancement of social and political restorationist segments. The Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution ended up strengthening the immense small-mercantile economy that dominated Chinese society, in indissoluble contradiction with the effort to build a socialist order. That is, in opposition to the movement for the construction of a society supported by public ownership of the means of production and general planning of the economy. An initiative that had as its necessary development the growing setback and extinction of large private property and the anarchic determinations of the market, the latter disciplined by centralized social planning.

Those two immense failures and the strengthening of commodity production in China were followed by Nixon's surprising trip to China, in 1972, which established the alliance of the "Middle Empire" with the USA, its arch-enemy until then, in an anti-government bias. -USSR. A convergence desired and driven by Mao Zedong. The unnatural alliance and the immediate abandonment-betrayal of the armed Marxist-Leninist peasant movements supported by Beijing hit the international Maoist hard, who in part sheltered temporarily in the shadow of Enver Hoxha (1908-85), the exotic chief bureaucrat of Albania who populated the miserable country with tens of thousands of reinforced concrete micro-bunkers. Everything so that the tiny Albanian red bastion could resist the invasion of imperialist or revisionist armies arriving from the “desert of the Tatars” now transferred to the Balkans.

The death of the “Great Helmsman”, in 1976, and the explicit reorientation towards the market economy and international capital, commanded by Deng Xiao-Ping, at the end of 1978, was the logical unfolding of the mercantile-capitalist impulse of the previous decades . Definitively, the consolidation of the capitalist restoration movement did not arise from the monocratic decision of Deng Xiao-Ping or other enlightened characters, as proposed by Chinese historiography and much sinophiles, in Brazil and worldwide. Capitalist restoration was born from the historical defeat of the socialist revolution, objectified through a hard and silent class struggle. Defeat of the workers who were never able to build their own leadership that would emancipate them from the brakes of the Maoist bureaucracy.


Awakening the Dragon – from trinkets to 5G

In the context of capitalist restoration, China undertook an accelerated industrialization process, supported by global and national private capital. It came about through the mega privatization movement; the super-exploitation of hundreds of millions of workers; the end of the central and regional planning of the economy, replaced by the heel of the market. According to official data, between 1998 and 2002, more than 26 million workers in state production units had been fired, losing their rights. In 2005, only 15% of small and medium-sized state-owned enterprises had not been restructured or privatized. Capitalist restoration gave birth to a Chinese national bourgeoisie of enormous size and speed, on the one hand, and a mega-proletariat, heavily exploited and controlled, on the other.

Capitalist restoration and the construction of a mega market economy were supported by the enormous influx of international capital; in the fructification of capital, especially rural capital, accumulated and treasured in previous decades; in the investment of indemnities, often significant, of the “patriotic bourgeois”, after 1949; in the repatriation of capital from the very rich Chinese emigration, with very strong contradictions with socialism. A pattern of development that has made private capital advance relatively and incessantly in relation to state capital, which began to occupy a large part of the less profitable branches of production. In 2021, China (with Hong Kong) had around a thousand super-billionaires, in front of the USA, which occupied the second position, with just under 700.

China's initial incorporation into the international division of capitalist production, as a producer and exporter of low-technology goods, was favored and supported by the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton (1993-2001). It produced fantastic profits for big international capital, especially the US, super-exploiting Chinese workers and resources and enjoying itself in the eastern Amazonian market. Capital accumulation in China unfolded naturally into the production of increasingly refined goods, favored by the semi-forced — and legal — absorption of international technology.

A process that led, inexorably, to the formation and super-accumulation of Chinese public and private monopoly capital, now obliged, by its nature, to export capital, and no longer just goods. This process of production and accumulation of capital circumscribed the birth and consolidation of powerful monopoly capital that embodied the indisputably imperialist character of the country, in the Leninist sense of the term.

A nation takes on an imperialist character when its state becomes essentially or substantially determined by monopoly capital, forced by its nature to export capital — through loans, purchases of assets abroad, joint ventures, company foundation, etc. The size of monopoly capital allows for super profit, which feeds it, through the submission of smaller capital. It expands incessantly, necessitating the colonization of new territories, in order to value its mega-capitals, as we need air to breathe. If you don't, you succumb. The imperialist character of a country does not necessarily depend on the violent or peaceful behavior of a nation's actions — military interventions, etc.

Switzerland, Holland, Italy, Japan are imperialist nations, subordinated to US capital, which have not invaded anyone in recent decades. The Marshall Plan (1947-51) was subordination soft of the European economy and society by US imperialism. The “New Silk Road” [Belt and Road Initiative] is a kind of almond-eyed world Marshall Plan. It seeks to create an economic world where all roads now lead to Beijing and no longer to New York, imperial Rome in the XNUMXth century.


The birth and hardening of the China-US conflict

China has become the “factory of the world”, as were England and the USA, and a mega global buyer of raw materials and exporter of capital. It received the support of globalized capital, while it integrated in subordinate form the international division of capitalist production. However, from a nation open to foreign capital, with the strong support of the USA, it began to produce goods and technological services and to export capital. It also tightened the demand for technology transfer by globalized companies established in the country. What is an internationally recognized right. From a minority partner in international capital, it began to compete for a wide and growing place in the sun throughout the world, starting to bask on beaches where its former major partners exclusively sunbathed.

Overcoming the dependence of the Chinese capitalist economy on world imperialist capital gave rise to a response, albeit belated, from Yankee imperialism, equally representing its allies-subjects. The China-USA inter-imperialist confrontation expresses an unavoidable dispute for the dominance of living space, in the broadest sense of the term. Mutadis mutandis, he repeats the conflict between France and England in the 18th and early 19th centuries; of Germany against France-England-USA, in the two world wars. The same dispute that led the USA to peacefully replace England in dominating the world economy in the 1985th century. Or clipping Japan's wings, in XNUMX, demanding appreciation of the yen that put an end to a dynamism that threatened Yankee supremacy. (Plaza Accords in New York). England and Japan accepted submission as they were incapable of any military resistance. Which is not the case in China.

The USA currently lives off the plunder allowed by imperialist supremacy. They accumulate monstrous fiscal and trade deficits. They spend more than they earn and import more than they export. Playing the globalization card, tens of thousands of Yankee companies left the country, de-industrializing it. The USA continues to live above all on the financial hegemony that the dollar guarantees them as a world currency of exchange and refuge. Practically all international commercial exchanges, payments, etc. are used in this currency. National, bank and even individual reserves are primarily held in dollars. The USA literally issues paper currency and exchanges it for real amounts. The aging of the US productive apparatus and the relative deindustrialization of the country circumscribe its manufacturing decline.

China's industrial hegemony and its advancement in the technological sectors, where it still lags behind US imperialism and its allies, narrows the window of time in which the US can use its current superiority, above all military, financial and diplomatic, to push back -disorganize the Chinese state. Movement to be carried out through all types of pressure, with emphasis on possible localized military conflicts, which can turn into general confrontations. USA and succubus nations undertake the same action against Putin's Russia, seeking to return it to the times of Yeltsin, which has consolidated the China-Russia alliance.


pretend communism

Reacting to this general offensive by US imperialism, China invests in the strategic technologies in which it is lagging behind; it imposes control over Chinese mega-monopolies that tend to become autonomous in relation to the general interests of the country's economy; it strengthens its armed forces, building aircraft carriers, the weapon par excellence of imperialist nations; invests in the domestic production of imported goods and strategic goods — “Made in China 2025” program. He outlines an essay on the construction of an alternative international financial circuit to the dollar, which would give him a very hard blow. The launch of the digital yuan, currently underway, if it achieves global success, will allow the Chinese mega-commerce to abandon the dollar as a currency of exchange and reference.

This reaction, in defense of Chinese monopoly capital, took place under the command of the PCC, which, keeping its initials and some symbolic references, commanded the capitalist restoration in China. The same metamorphosis was known in the USSR, where capitalist restoration was also commanded from within a Bolshevik Party that maintained only symbolic ties with the revolutionary Marxist organization that seized power in 1917, won the Civil War in (1918-21 ) but succumbed to the Stalinist and post-Stalinist bureaucracy in the mid-1920s. Today, the CPC is a national-capitalist party, which primarily expresses Chinese monopoly capital. However, in order to maintain its hegemony over China, and defend the national state, it is obliged to ensure the growth of the average conditions of existence of the Chinese population. If he does not, he will be removed from power, eventually in the context of major social upheavals and national disorganization in the country.


The US-China struggle in Brazil

China debuted in Brazil, first, as a mega buyer of raw materials and, later, as a major investor of capital. An advance that, as we have seen, motivated a strong campaign by US imperialism to at least hinder the penetration of Chinese capital in a country that it considers, like the rest of the continent, to be a semi-private space of intervention. One of the objectives of the 2016 coup was to stop the important activism in the country of the capitals of the “Middle Empire”. The second coup government unfolded in this orientation, unconcerned with the consequences of its Sinophobia with regard to national and international capital invested in Brazil, as also noted.

The risk of the semi-monopoly that China enjoys in Brazil as an importer of primary products has been highlighted, especially soybeans, iron ore and oil —80% of exports. Governments and producers commonly propose an almost structural dependency, of a semi-eternal nature, from buyer to seller, that is, from China to Brazil. However, even the partial diversion of purchases made in Brazil would cause strong sequels to an economy increasingly dependent on primary exports. The buyer semi-monopoly determines a strong capacity for Chinese pressure on the Brazilian government, economy and society.

Unlike exports, direct investments by Chinese capital in Brazil receive less attention from analysts, especially regarding their volume and profile, which also have a strongly pathological meaning. The awakening of interest of Chinese monopoly capital in Brazil, as an investment destination, took place around 2002-4, at the beginning of the first PT administration, with continuous growth and explosion, in 2010, during the first Dilma Rousseff administration, with an investment of US$ 13 billion, through just 12 “projects”. Thereafter, investments would remain more moderate. (CARIELLO, 2021, p. 10-14.)

In the last thirteen years, big Chinese capital invested around 66,1 billion dollars, through 176 “undertakings” carried out — just under 50% of total Chinese investments in South America. In this process, China became the second “main investor, in terms of stock, between 2003 and the third half of 2019”, capturing 30,9% of investments made in Brazil — 0,3% behind the USA. (CARIELLO, 2021, p. 10, 17 and not.)

Foreign capital investments take the form of mergers and acquisitions; joint ventures and the so-called greenfields. The merger is the association of foreign and domestic capital in the country. The acquisition constitutes the simple purchase of enterprises established in Brazil. A j it is a partnership of foreign and domestic capital in launching national enterprises. And finally, greenfield is the establishment of new ventures by capital. Of the 66,1 billion Chinese dollars that entered the country in recent years, 46,3 billion — 70% — were through “mergers or acquisitions, through the total or partial purchase of Brazilian or foreign companies operating in the country. Of this value, the electricity sector had the most relevant participation, with a slice of 41%”. The ventures greenfields accounted for 24% and the joint ventures, by only by 6%. (CARIELLO, 2021, p. 10, 11, 17, 29, and not.)

From 2007 to 2020, Chinese mega-investments were concentrated in the “electricity sector –(…)–, followed by oil and gas extraction (28%), metallic mineral extraction (7%), manufacturing industry (6% ), infrastructure works (5%), agriculture, livestock and related services (3%) and financial services activities (2%).” Large Chinese public companies, with emphasis on state-owned companies State Grid Corporation e China Three Gorges, with the macro-decisions taken in Beijing, control today, at least, the “equivalent to 10% of the national total” of transmission and distribution of electric energy in Brazil. Roughly speaking, it was a matter of transferring ownership of national public and private companies, with or without national control, to the domain of Chinese monopoly capital. Movement that constituted part of the radical denationalization and internationalization of the Brazilian economy. The purchase and control of profitable companies, at low prices, is the preferred imperialist pattern, especially when dividing up a country. Reality driven by past federal administrations, including the PT ones.

As for their quality, Chinese investments are made mainly with large unitary contributions, in strategic companies installed with high profitability, through the transfer of control of the same. A reality aggravated in the Chinese case by the fact that 82% of the investments were made by only sixteen of the so-called “central state-owned companies” of the Middle Kingdom, subordinated to the State Council of that nation, through the Commission for Supervision and Administration of State-owned Assets of China, SOEs, with an increase in net income of 29,8% in 2021. These are not external private investments with atomized control, but massive centralized acquisitions carried out by the Chinese government.

Another little-remembered issue, which is decisive for Brazilian national autonomy, is that Chinese investments currently cover 23 of the 27 states of the federation, with emphasis on São Paulo (31%), Minas Gerais (8%), Bahia (7,1%) , Rio de Janeiro (6,7%), Goiás (5,4%), Pará (4,6%). (CARIELLO, 2021, p.10 and not.). We did not find estimates of the repercussion of Chinese investments in relation to the destruction of employment, due to privatizations, licensing, national impoverishment due to the export of dividends, royalties, etc. Chinese imperialism is also a vector for the production of national misery. Chinese capital invested in Brazil, with a centralized decision-making center in China, above all by the central government, has a capacity for economic and political interference spread across virtually the entire country. Bolsonaro was right when he denounced that “China was not buying in Brazil, but it was buying Brazil”. But he wanted and wants to reserve that right for the USA!


China – a sickle and machete debate

In Brazil, the new analytical interest in China was roughly divided into two strands. An academic, interested in analyzing, especially from an economic point of view, the birth and development of China as a great power. The aim is, in large part, to understand the process in order to better insert oneself in it. This is a trend, in no case devoid of ideological determinations, but which produces works of value, fundamental for a critical reading of the Chinese reality, in general, and its relations with Brazil, in particular.

The second strand, poorer in content, was organized around the political problem posed today by China. Through different interpretations, it was divided particularly around the defense or opposition of the proposal of “transition from the centrally planned system to the market economy with Chinese characteristics”. Market economy, said in a socialist sense, proposed as a hundred-year NEP, which would precede a future transition to socialism, at an imponderable date. In it, political-ideological narratives prevail.

The political-ideological roots of this strand are clear. With the historic victory of the capitalist counter-revolution, marked by the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the world of work receded and became smaller as an alternative to the world crisis in which humanity was submerged. The conservative tide gave rise to the retraction of visions born of work and strengthened the departures for capital. On this conservative wave surfed the defense of capitalist restoration in China as a new modality of a very long transition towards socialism, through the market and capital, to be followed from now on by the left.

In Brazil, the poster child for this transition was the Italian Domenico Losurdo, a Marxist-Leninist who followed the Chinese lead when it embraced US imperialism in 1971 — the Nixon-Mao agreement. At the time, the Italian professor proposed an alliance between the left and the workers with US imperialism, Christian Democracy, the fascist party and the Italian army. All to face a proposed imminent invasion of Italy by the … USSR, supported by the PCI. He was almost lynched!

According to Losurdo, the rebirth of the socialist program and movement would take place under the sign of neo-Stalinism. The latter proposes the reign of the market, of capitalist investments and the exploitation of workers, that is, the “Chinese way” of “market” socialism, which claims to be proven to be “successful”. Losurdo and this proposal are defended by the PCdoB and have wide influence in the PCB.

The debate on the “capitalist” or “socialist” character of China intensified, in Brazil and in the world, with the offensive of US imperialism against the “Middle Empire”, from the Donald Trump administration, an initiative radicalized by Joe Biden , as we saw. In the new context, interpretations of China were divided around some essential questions. There are those who defend a non-imperialist, neo-socialist China, a promoter of harmonious global economic and social development and a bastion of the struggle against the hegemony of Yankee imperialism and its allies-subjects. A China that would invest its capital abroad practically with philanthropic objectives. Geographer Elias Jabour is the main advocate of this pious reading of China's action in the world, which proposes unconditional support for the Chinese Dragon.

There are those who, even defending the capitalist character, contest the proposal of a Chinese imperialism, due to the still large dimension of the public sector of the economy of that country; the backwardness of some of its regions; the recent insertion of China as an exporter of capital, etc. It is even asserted that China would experience “imperialism in the making”, with an as yet undefined future. In general, the defenders of this position highlight the eventual importance of the eastern nation in the fight against the world hegemony of the USA. In a way, they raise the white flag for the action of Chinese capital in the world, and propose an attack on the Yankee “headquarters”.

There are those who defend the neutrality of the world of work in the inter-imperialist confrontation between Yankee and Chinese, in the style “let them kill each other, we have nothing to do with this fight”, it does not concern us. It is a vision that ignores the international imperialist offensive against that nation, just like what was done during the Yankee attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Cuba. They justify the refusal to defend the national independence of those nations due to the authoritarian and bureaucratic governments of those countries. On the fringe of eggs, they support US imperialist action.

The defense of China, as a nation, against the current Yankee attack, without forgetting the deleterious action of Chinese capitalism and imperialism, inside the country and abroad, constitutes a minority position, which we share. We agree with those who point to China's transformation as a major exporter of capital, which made it an imperialist nation, in the Leninist sense of the term. Without necessarily entailing the use of measures of force, unnecessary at that moment and impossible to be applied, in general, under the still current hegemony, even decreasing, of US imperialism.

Secondary, but no less important, debate is held over the inevitability and temporal proximity of the US-China military confrontation. A reality on which we can only explain the possible dominant trends, which, in our understanding, point to serious local armed conflicts promoted by the USA and NATO against Russia and China, in the near future.[1]

* Mario Maestri is a historian. Author, among other books, of Revolution and counter-revolution in Brazil: 1500-2019 (FCM Publisher).

Test presentation The Dragon's Awakening: birth and consolidation of Chinese imperialism. (1949-2021). The USA-China Conflict in the World and in Brazil. Porto Alegre, FCM Editora, 2021. 142 pages.



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MAESTRI, Mario. The Dragon's Awakening: birth and consolidation of Chinese imperialism. (1949-2021). The USA-China Conflict in the World and in Brazil. Porto Alegre: FCM Editora, 2021. 142 p.

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[1] Thanks for reading the linguist Florence Carboni.


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