China week and the former British colony

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Gilberto Maringoni*

This was China week

The main milestone was the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Revolution that transformed an almost medieval country into the second power in the world. As a counterface, we had another gigantic protest against the Beijing government, in Hong Kong. 

The achievement of the Chinese communists is equal in grandeur to its main architectural landmark, the Great Wall, a stone fortification that extends over 21 kilometers and built over almost a thousand years. Setting up a socialist regime in a peripheral, multiethnic and semi-feudal country is not a walk in the park. There were disastrous attempts – the Great Leap Forward (1958-60) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) – and a new effort, from the genius of the main Chinese leader after Mao Zedong (1893-1976), which was Deng Xiaoping (1904-97).

The country presents a powerful development project with national sovereignty in times of hardening imperial aggression. It makes technological progress and industrial innovation the cornerstone of its guidelines. It managed to carry out its industrial revolution and resolve the technological development/innovation/employment equation without significantly discarding the workforce in the capitalist way. As is well known, the industrial revolution in Europe led, between the end of the 100th century and the beginning of the XNUMXth century, to the emigration of around XNUMX million workers who had become obsolete in the face of urbanization and increased productivity in industry and rural activities. China managed to establish competitiveness between state-owned companies in the same field and implemented an economic duality considered heretical by sectors of the left, the dynamic of “one country, two systems”. 

Deng Xiaopiong speaking at the UN

Inclusion productivity

Between 1978-92, Deng sought to solve a crucial problem: how to industrialize, increase the average productivity of the economy and bring in external finance for development? For this, the government established a policy of openness to private property in production, without compromising the political direction of the process. Many have pointed out that the Communist Party was applying an expanded version of what Lenin did in 1922, by allowing the return of private enterprises in industry and agriculture, without relinquishing Soviet power. The initiative, which was bitterly opposed by orthodox communists, was called the New Economic Policy (NEP). 

It was a desperate way to solve productive bottlenecks in a country cut by hunger and devastated by war and internal and external sabotage.

It is frivolous to treat China in the narrow way of “state capitalism”, since the social appropriation of the surplus is real, through a policy of raising the average standard of living of the worker. The country stopped being an export platform for knick-knacks with tight wages almost twenty years ago to place itself at the center of the global arena.

A socialism is being built in China that does not abandon market practices, in a time of open defense by the world left. At least 13 years ago, the helm of the economy was radically inverted. The export sector ceased to be the dynamic hub of the economy in favor of expanding the domestic market.

This bold change gave rise – from the 17th. Congress of the CPC, in October 2007 – the increase in real wages by up to three times in some branches of labor activities, as attested even by the Economist magazine. The average income of Chinese workers is higher than the Latin American average. At the same time, the rise of unemployment is beginning to worry public administration.

Hong Kong protesters wave British flag

Problems in the former colony

Hong Kong's problem is extremely delicate. A British colony since 1841, it was only incorporated into China in 1997. It is one of the most expensive cities in the world – it remains a capitalist enclave – and has numerous social imbalances. One of the most serious is housing. There are serious tensions, which have been exacerbated as China has tried to enforce its legal system – including criminal laws – in the territory. It would be something perfectly normal, which, however, is not accepted by the movement that calls itself democratic.

If there are objective reasons for protests – and the Chinese government has met some of the demands, such as a legal institutionality in the city – there are plenty of reasons for distrust of their real purposes. The open use of symbols and flags of former colonizers, the burning of Chinese pantheons and the request for help from Donald Trump – not disallowed by the leaders – show that the process may have been captured by the right, as occurred in massive mobilizations in other parts of the country. world since 2010.

Socialism is not a dream, daydream or utopia. This last concept is foreign and harmful to politics. Utopia, in Tomas More's work, was an idealized island, for which there were no routes or paths. There's no way to get to it. The syncretism of the literary metaphor for politics could translate into objective without program, or strategy without tactics, almost an oxymoron.

Socialism is the work of real people, in the real world, dirty, ugly and sometimes disgusting. It is rugged and hard construction, but concrete and objective.

Even the biggest critics cannot dispute something perceived by any analyst of international politics. Thanks to the emergence of China as a major global player, the US imperial unilateralism, which emerged with the end of the Eastern European regimes, from 1991 onwards was broken. It may not seem like it, but the world has improved a lot with the arrival of a worthy competitor . The years of the Lula government's haughty and active foreign policy (2003-11) could only exist in this new era of the international context.

*Gilberto Maringoni, is a professor of International Relations at UFABC

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