The Chinese Paradigm of Globalization

Image: Zhang Kaiyv


Chinese “peaceful development” and the other globalization: possibilities for world socialism

“I never thought that the Chinese had renounced their socialist goals, despite their openness to the West…” (Fidel Castro).

The new imperialism and the difficulties of peaceful coexistence

Fidel Castro's statement with which we opened this article on the theme of diplomacy in the peaceful development China and its contribution to world socialism, was made in a dramatic moment, of great changes and risks for the revolutions that emerged from the great transformation operated by October 1917. It was the year 1988, and Gorbachev appeared on the world stage as the great reformer of the socialist system, waving with economic reforms (perestroika) and transparency (glasnost). Castro welcomed the idea of ​​economic restructuring, saying that it “resembled what was being carried out in Cuba”, but not without warning of the “schemes that risked” making the USSR “collapse into absolute chaos” (FURIATI , 2016, p. 600).

In the midst of these observations, in all proof balanced, a great distrust as to what was proposed in the scope of the efforts of “reconciliation with the West” of which Gorbachov spoke. In the mid-eighties, the Soviet leadership defended the “suspension of all nuclear tests and a 50% reduction in strategic armaments, to facilitate dialogue with Reagan”, but Castro did not escape the fact that it was the North American president himself. American who “explained reservations, arguing the natural right of countries to independence regarding their defensive means” (FURIATI, 2016, p. 599).

And, yet again, in a meeting with representatives of the socialist common market, Castro spoke about this effort to resume “peaceful coexistence”: “how the USSR thought to configure the desired balance between the two antagonistic social systems, with another unequal world and intolerable underdevelopment, in which 'dirty wars' against Nicaragua, Angola and Mozambique, the debacle of the apartheid, and the tragedy of the Palestinians?” (FURIATI, 600, p. 600).

The perception of the problems of the great Cuban revolutionary is clear. The heavy inequalities that mark the Third World are very present, while the imperialist forces, in no way give evidence that they intend to abandon the violence that provoked and even reaffirms this inequality. In fact, we are actually in a context in which the imperialist form is gaining new contours, a “new imperialism”, both more belligerent and unilateralist. One fact is enough here to bring to everyone's memory as a demarcation of the new form. The practice of so-called “humanitarian” bombings dates back precisely to the Reagan administration, such as the one carried out in Grenada in 1983, “without a UN Security Council resolution” and above all “in violation of the Charter of the United Nations” (LOSURDO , 2019, p. 127).


The Chinese construction of peaceful development

At the time the debate narrated above was under way, the People's Republic of China was carrying out its policy of reform and opening, whose expression in the field of international relations was the diplomacy of the “peaceful development”. At the heart of the changes, however, is a very clear awareness of the inequalities between countries, or blocs of countries. The abandonment of “the pretension and rhetoric of exporting the revolution” is clear, but alongside the central objective that now arises, namely, “to ensure an international environment favorable to the support of the modernization process”, the “cardinal principle ” of “solidarity with third world and developing countries” (BERTOZZI, 2015, p. 53).

Strictly speaking, the prospect of “peaceful development”, as well as the awareness of international inequalities, the product of correlations of forces that were the expression of a profound imbalance favoring the great powers, goes back to the 50s. from Tibet, will propose the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence”, founded on “mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, integrity and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence” (JINPING, 2019, p. 37).

Let us remember the context of this formulation, which is not limited to border problems with India. Three conflicts threaten the Asian country in the field of international relations, with tensions that are felt even within the socialist field: (1) the support given by the USSR to India in the aforementioned dispute, the same India that refused to “negotiate in a peaceful way a border agreement”, believing to be able to impose its will with the force of the arms”; (2) a proposal by the USSR to form a “joint Sino-Soviet naval force”, which in practice “would deprive China of an autonomous naval force”; (3) the conflict, which opened in 1954, with the province of Taiwan around the islands Quemoy and Matsu, recognized as legitimately Chinese even by the highest levels of Western diplomacy (as recalled by a letter from Churchill to Eisenhower in February 1955), and in the face of which the USSR limited itself to providing support that did not go beyond the mainland, with the aggravating factor that Taiwan presented itself as a bridgehead of an invasion of China by the army of Chiang Kai-Shek, armed by the USA (LOSURDO, 2004, p. 146-7).

To the above table, one must add the impact that the great Asian country was already feeling, at the end of the 1950s, the Truman Doctrine, which advocated submitting China “to an economic war” capable of “leading it to a 'catastrophic economic situation', 'disaster' and 'collapse'” (LOSURDO, 2017, p. 152).

There will be two paths to follow from a geopolitical point of view: a move away from the USSR and, a little later, a rapprochement with Japan and the USA. However, this movement, although marked by conflict within the socialist camp, did not change the basic perception of international hierarchies. The most threatening capitalist country continues to be the United States, and from this perception emerges the theory of the “Three Worlds”, formulated by Deng Xiaoping in 1974:

alongside a first world composed of the two superpowers, USA and USSR (with hegemonic projects and in struggle to exploit the poorest countries), there is a second, constituted by intermediary forces represented by industrialized countries (Japan, Europe, Canada, Australia ) and a third composed of those less developed and non-aligned: the alliance between the second and the third would guarantee the success of the fight against hegemonism, the main objective of the Chinese leadership and a more peaceful international order (BERTOZZI, 2015, pp. 53 -54).

As can be seen, this is a “less ideological and more flexible” (BERTOZZI, 2015, 53) conception of international relations, clearly disposed not to apply the category of imperialism indistinctly to any and all countries or even regions of the most advanced capitalism. , but still also unequal on the inside. Its first formulation, in fact, already refers to the observations of Mao Zedong in the early 60s, who, when pronouncing on the “general line of the international communist movement”, established a clear distinction between “the American imperialists” and what would be a “intermediate zone”, situated between this imperialism and the “socialist camp”, including “the advanced capitalist countries of western Europe” and “Japan”, a geographical zone for which the “strategic objective” of US imperialism “always was that of invading and dominating”, in addition to seeking to “stifle the revolution of the oppressed peoples and nations and the destruction of socialist countries” (LOSURDO, 2019, pp. 25-26).

A conclusion is required. When the time for the four modernizations arrived, the theory of international relations that accompanied it, fundamentally concentrated around the idea of ​​“peaceful rise”, was therefore already elaborated, giving a clear sense of continuity to Chinese diplomacy. It is also Deng Xiaoping who explains it: “Our international role also depends on what we can do in terms of economic development. If our country becomes more developed and prosperous, we will be able to play a greater role in international politics. (…) Like other peoples of the world, we have a real need for a peaceful environment. Thus, the objective of our foreign policy is – from the point of view of our interests – the construction of a peaceful environment that allows the realization of the four modernizations. We say it sincerely, not for saying it. This is a vital issue that corresponds not only to the interests of the Chinese people, but also those of the peoples of the rest of the world” (XIAOPING, apud BERTOZZI, 2015, p. 53).

The practical effect of this formulation, confirmed by participation in the main international organizations, and already harvested when the first steps were taken in the 70s, through joining the United Nations – against the will of the Truman Doctrine, it is worth remembering (LOSURDO, 2017, 152) −, now extends to the IMF and the World Bank in the year 1980 (BERTOZZI, 2015, p. 53). But also, at the start of the new millennium, and proving the continuity we mentioned earlier, in institutions such as the World Trade Organization, whose meaning is not that of integration into “capitalist globalization”, but precisely that of circumventing the economic blockade imposed by the USA to socialist and non-aligned countries, in order to have the “right to normal trade relations” (LOSURDO, 2004, p. 192).

From a geostrategic point of view, the results of these movements will be far-reaching. Just think of the fragility of the east coast in the face of – even today – incomparable US naval power.[I]In fact, it is the same movement that will carry out the “Sino-British agreement” for the return of Hong Kong to China (1984), as well as the successive one established with Portugal for the return of Macau to the motherland. Expressions of a diplomacy that, since the revolution, knew how to operate with “firmness”, but at the same time with “moderation” (LOSURDO, 2004, p. 143), these agreements will still have the meaning of a demonstrative effect of the formula “one country two systems”, understood as a “universal example for the peaceful stabilization of the international situation”, and “an indispensable solution to guarantee China those 'twenty years of peace' useful for concentrating on its own internal development” (BERTOZZI, 2015, p. 54 ).


Shared future community and world socialism

          The construction trajectory of the “peaceful development” narrated above is the basis from which Beijing's diplomacy today speaks of a “community with a shared future”. Central to it is the critique of the old-fashioned “zero-sum game mentality”, the basis from which a theory of “convergence of interests” emerges, basically guided by a “model of reciprocal advantage and win-win (JINPING, 2019, pp. 302 and 360 and JINPING apud BERTOZZI, 2015, pp. 68-9). A Belt and Road Initiative is entirely conceived on the basis of these principles, which is equivalent to proposing to the world, “both from the economic and political point of view”, a true “democratic reform”, based on “respect for state sovereignty” and on the “autonomous choice of the path of development”. ” (BERTOZZI, 2015, p. 68).

In the center of attention, still the intermediate zones and the Third World countries, precisely the areas left aside in the Gorbachovian bet of “peaceful coexistence”. And this is how it can be understood that this “international democracy”, presenting itself in the form of “multidimensional and multi-level international cooperation” (JINPING, 2019, P. 377), capable of “feeding relationships of consensus and community of destination between different powers”, is directed, however mainly to the reinforcement of “multidimensional networks” that “do not see the participation of the USA: BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization e Asean” (BERTOZZI, 2015, p. 69).

In the North American view, and even from its alignments in the Asian region, the Belt and Road Initiative it is presented as a neo-imperialism (CARRER, 2019). A more attentive reading, however, will have no difficulty in concluding that this is only an ideological view, in the deteriorated sense of the term, that is, “aimed at creating confusion, deluding and submitting potentially antagonistic energies” (LIGUORI, 2009, p. 400). After all, if there is something against which the Belt and Road Initiative marks a clear antagonism, this is the mentality of the Cold War, reissued by Washington even in practical terms with the aim of “provoking confrontation between different groups and blocs to feed geopolitical competition”, as recently said by the foreign minister Wang Yi, referring to the informal forum Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), meeting of the US, Japan, Australia and India bloc, which intends to present itself as a kind of “Indo-Pacific NATO” (TAINO, 2020, pp. 2-3)[ii].

Without a doubt, Lenin's classic book already allows us to throw the idea of ​​Chinese imperialism to the ground. For the great Russian revolutionary, what “is characteristic of imperialism is not precisely industrial capital, but finance capital”, and “precisely the particularly rapid development of finance capital”, coinciding with “a weakening of industrial capital”, leads to to “an extreme intensification of the (colonial) annexationist policy” (LÉNINE, 1981, p. 643). Indeed, it is clear to any minimally informed observer that neither of the two conditions – namely, the predominance of financial capital over industrial capital and annexationism – applies to the global expansion of the Chinese economy. The investment pattern in Africa is a good example of what we are saying. As the study by Deborah Brautigam (2015, pp. 155-6) has shown, it is basically focused on financing agro-industrial production in borrowing countries themselves, and this without being associated with the re-export of food products or even the direct purchase of lands on the African continent, an argument so often repeated by the ideology mentioned above. In fact, China holds less than 1% of all arable land on the African continent (BRAUTIGAM, 2015, p. 152).

And in Belt and Road Initiative it is nothing more than a confirmation of this pattern of investments, which is totally cooperative. In the words of Xi Jinping, pronounced on the occasion of the China-Arab Countries Cooperation Forum − a region subject to repeated aggression by the US-Israel axis −, it is basically about “connecting” Chinese development “with the development of Arab countries, supporting them in offering jobs, industrialization and economic development”, in a word, strengthening the “endogenous forces of growth” (JINPING, 2019, pp. 378-9).

          Indeed, noting that China was not historically formed as a colonial power, international relations scholar Parag Khanna recently insisted that the Belt and Road Initiative it is strictly speaking a clear demonstration of the extinction of colonial power (KHANNA, 2019, p. 19). It is the expression that China's international insertion only aims at markets and supplies, never at colonies, and its external military incursions should also be observed from this angle (KHANNA, 2019, p. 19), limited to a single base abroad, installed in the Horn of Africa in 2017, in a clear difference with the dense network of US military bases (DOSSI, 2020, p. 2). And it is the same Parag Khanna who invites us to distance ourselves from the Western view that thinks of the Chinese rise in terms of a new “number one” or even accepting the “trap of the simplistic postulate” that thinks of a “G2”, when in fact the Chinese position tends to be not that of a “hegemon” global or Asian, but the anchor of an Asian megasystem, itself already in strong cooperative connection with other regional systems (KHANNA, 2019, pp. 13, 18 and 20)[iii].

A coherent system not only due to geography (if we limit ourselves to the traditional notion of the term), but due to its own structure of diplomatic coordination, capable of regulating military issues, “trade, infrastructure and capital flows”, in order to safeguard an extraordinary “ geopolitical stability”, which has been the rule in Asia in recent decades, “more than hierarchy” (KHANNA, 2019, pp. 6-9, 11 and 16). Nothing resembling an implosion under the “tensions of nationalist rivalries”, as thought centered in London or Washington supposes, but a system that, certainly having China at the forefront, but not representing all of Asia[iv], has been able to “affirm the multipolarity of the world” (KHANNA, 2019, p. 15 and 19-20).

And behold, with the question of the multipolarity of the world − a reality certainly still under construction[v], but which is already well under way − we come to the subject of perspectives for the development of socialism on a world level. One premise here is, however, necessary to retain.

Let us follow the reasoning of the philosopher Domenico Losurdo. Since the “history of the communist movement is dominated” by the “fundamental problem” that the “revolution did not take place at the high points of capitalist development”, and once discarded “the (social-democratic) 'solution' of trusting permanently”, or even return “political power to the bourgeoisie, or even worse, to the dominant classes of a semi-feudal or semi-colonial type” (LOSURDO, 2004, p. 195), there are not many possibilities that history offers to revolutionaries. Due even to the “relationships of power that at the international level came to be realized in the economic and military planes”, the alternatives of “extending the revolution” from the “country in which the communists conquered power”, or that circumscribed to the construction of the “new mode of production” in this same country, “result today completely impracticable” (LOSURDO, 2004, 195).

However, this does not mean that the possibilities posed by history have been exhausted. As the “first president of the People's Republic of China, Liu-Shao-chi, already observed”, after the “victory of the revolution, the main task of the new people's power consists in the development of obsolete productive forces”, a perspective that in China “ended up triumph from the third plenary session of the XI meeting of the Central Committee in 1979” (LOSURDO, 2004, p. 195). In a word, the perspective of market socialism, regulated by five-year plans and based on a “gigantic and prolonged NEP” (LOSURDO, 2004, p. 67)[vi].

But if what we want is to discuss the possibilities of world socialism, the premise raised above has a “greater” ramification. We continue with Domenico Losurdo. One of the first authors to discuss the implications of the new reality for revolutionaries, noted Losurdo, was the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, for whom once “dispelled” the “initial hopes of a radically new society and the 'disintegration of the state apparatus ', a conclusion was imposed: 'communism borders progressivism today'", and progressivism cannot "ignore the concrete conditions of the country or area" in which the "political action" takes place (LOSURDO, 2017, p. VII). Indeed, in countries or areas of the globe where the productive forces continue with varying degrees of obsolescence – Castro's concern with the underdeveloped world, let us remember once again −, multipolarity, appearing as a barrier to aggression – economic and political – of the imperialism, as well as the perspective of strengthening the “endogenous forces of growth” proposed by Belt and Road Initiative, offer an enormous possibility for the transformation program of all progressive forces.

We are facing a new paradigm of globalization, noted Parag Khanna (2019, p. 22). A paradigm potentially open to the possibilities of “active and conscious co-participation”, to remember the words used by Gramsci when referring to the “plan” economy or “directed” from the era of the great “mass parties” and “collective organizations”, a way to question “individual leaders” “or charismatics” (GRAMSCI, 1975, p. 1430). The same charismatic leaders, it is worth noting, who, today, under the rhetoric of “populism” and “sovereignism”, are once again dominating international politics, and this even at the core of the imperialist center, when they present themselves with strongly particularists, point from which they sustain a staunch economic protectionism – when not an open economic blockade – and/or international relations limited to bilateral agreements (AZZARÀ, 2019, 76).

The Chinese paradigm of globalization is, in effect, of a different nature. Not only does it propose trade and investment agreements for a wide range of countries in Europe and Asia (RAMPINI, 2020; FUBINI, 2020), but it is also open to the Western institutional framework, proposing a kind of synthesis between Asian positions and those of the West (KHANNA, 2019, p. 23) − as in the example of adherence, rejected even by the US, to the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (SACHS, 2021, p. A-9). A globalization, in short, that presents itself in a much more universalist way.

A reality “constituted from the bottom up”, as the geographer Milton Santos proposed when he spoke of “another globalization” (2009, p. 54), capable of giving rise to relationships that, going beyond those of a “merely commercial” nature, , put themselves in a position to “reach a higher stage of cooperation”, and thus “allow social, cultural and moral concerns to prevail”.

* Marcos Aurélio da Silva is a professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina. PhD in Human Geography from FFLCH-USP, with a postdoctoral internship in Political Philosophy at the Università degli Studi di Urbino (Italy).

Extended version of the article published in the collection A Century of the Communist Party of China: statements from 100 foreign communists. 2 Vol. Hui, Jiang (ed.). Beijing: Academy of Marxism; Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 2021.



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[I] The USA has 110 cruisers, destroyers and frigates, against 83 from China and 32 from Russia, while operating 14 nuclear submarines, against 10 Russians and only 4 Chinese. But the big difference is in nuclear aircraft carriers, with the US having 14 of them, while Russia has only 1 and China has only traditional aircraft carriers. See about Gielow (2020, p. A-12). In fact, the USA is the country that controls all the oceans, not by chance where 90% of Chinese exports and 80% of the hydrocarbons consumed by the world pass. Asian country(FABRI, 2018).

[ii] Collaboration under the Quad has recently unfolded in Aucus, the military pact between the USA, Great Britain and Australia for the production, by the latter country, of nuclear-powered submarines − capable of guaranteeing “in fact the control of ocean routes because this is one of the few technological fronts that Beijing seems to be behind ” (MOLINARI, 2021).

[iii]Trade between Europe and Asia is already vastly greater than that between Europe and North America (US$1,6 trillion versus US$1,1 trillion), as well as surpassing the latter's trade with Asia (US$ 1,4 trillion) (KHANNA, 2019, p. 13).

[iv] China concentrates less than half of Asia's GDP, and only 1/3 of the population of the Asian continent, which reaches approximately 5 billion people, if we take a region that covers 53 countries and extends from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, passing through 2 /3 from the Eurasian continent to the Pacific Ocean (KHANNA, 2019, pp. 1 and 19).

[v] Isolated observation of economic data may lead one to think that multipolarity is a ready-made reality. It is, however, a process subject to the law of uneven development. Strictly speaking, from the geopolitical point of view, US imperialism has an openly threatening force, as can be seen by the control of the oceans referred to in note 1. Furthermore, Domenico Losurdo's observation remains valid according to which, in the ideological field, “ power relations are unbalanced in favor of the USA” (LOSURDO, 2019, p. 116).

[vi] It was Deng Xiaoping himself who referred to the Leninian NEP at the time of economic opening, recalled Losurdo (2013, p. 317).

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