Translated «O Militante» article by Albano Nunes, member of the Central Control Commission and member of the International Department
On October 1st, seventy years will have elapsed since the foundation of the People's Republic of China.
The victory of the Chinese revolution constitutes, after the Socialist Revolution of October, the greatest revolutionary event of the 20th century. The communists, revolutionaries and progressive men and women throughout the world should not forget the extraordinary epic, full of abnegation and unprecedented revolutionary experiences, that was the struggle led by the Chinese communists against the reactionary regime of Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese occupation. After the foundation of the Communist Party of China in 1921 by the working class of Shanghai, the epic went through the heroic resistance to the bloody fascist coup of 1927; the «Long March» of the People's Liberation Army, along more than 10 000 kilometres from the centre to the north of China, and about one year of permanent fighting; the establishment of a solid revolutionary base, in 1935, in Yan’an, in the remote province of Shensi; the liberation of vast territories, establishing popular power and undergoing an agrarian reform and other revolutionary transformations; the great military operations that, part of an unstoppable offensive, shattered the forces of the Kuomintang, which took refuge in Taiwan under the protection of US imperialism.
The struggle of the Chinese communists «against feudalism, bureaucratic capitalism and imperialism» and for a «new democracy» (in the definitions of the CPC) achieved a spectacular victory. Precisely when US imperialism implemented its strategy of «containing communism» and unleashed the «cold war», a revolution led by a Communist Party triumphed in a large country. On October 1st 1949, in Tiananmen Square, Mao Zedong proclaimed the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese people finally rose up, ending the «century of humiliation» that followed the Opium Wars and the situation of semi-colony following the «unequal treaties» imposed upon the Chinese imperial power by the imperialist powers of the United Kingdom, France and the United States. (1)
Since then, the path followed by the People’s Republic of China had a rough road, involving violent confrontations and changes in political direction. After the first years of close cooperation, ideological divergences and sharp conflicts developed between China and the Soviet Union that seriously affected the international communist and revolutionary movement. There were fears for the destinies of the revolution, but the CPC found forces to surpass serious crises, as after the dramatic consequences of the Cultural Revolution. (2) The decisions, by the Central Committee of the CPC, in 1978, on the policy of «Reform and Opening» constituted a daring turn, involving polemic choices and raising contradictions –manipulated by the counter-revolutionary forces and imperialism, with the events of Tiananmen, threatened the socialist direction of the process–, allowed the development of productive forces, high rates of economic growth and the solution to colossal problems of social order.
In a short span of historic time, the People’s Republic of China, despite the subsisting delay and underdevelopment of part of the country, became a powerful global economic power. And China, which a decade ago was seen by capitalism as a privileged source of cheap labour and a «paradise» for foreign investment (3) – the «world’s factory», characterized by extensive production of low added value – became a country with an industry and an advanced scientific and technological development that has surpassed the more developed capitalist countries in multiple domains. The violent US offensive against Huawei is quite revealing of the achievements that concern imperialism, as they threaten its hegemony in particularly sensitive domains. And it is notable, as recently revealed by Fortune magazine, that among the ten largest companies in the world today there are three Chinese state companies, surpassing for the first time the US in the ranking of the 500 most profitable companies. In an unstable international context, of unpredictable development, when capitalism’s response to the deepening of its structural crisis entails the largest dangers for humanity, the PRC objectively represents a hopeful factor of stability, peace and social progress.
The «Chinese miracle» is particularly impressive when we consider the point of departure of the immense country that had around 500 million inhabitants in 1949 and now has 1.4 billion, with more than 50 ethnic groups, great geographic diversity and borders with numerous countries. China has a history of over five thousand years, and for centuries was the most advanced country in the world, but at the time of the revolution was a dependant, backward, and impoverished country, ruined by the Japanese invasion and civil war.
Seventy years afterwards, the advances are notable. According to official data, the illiteracy rate was 80% in 1949, but has now been practically eradicated and 25% of the labour force has a higher education. Unemployment was down to 4.9% in 2018. Life expectancy, which was 35 years in 1949, is now 75 years. The results of the fight against poverty are justly indicated as a historic achievement, only possible with the socialist direction of the People’s Republic of China. More than 700 million Chinese were lifted out of poverty and the government has the objective of completely eradicating the social scourge that in the 21st century continues to affect many hundreds of millions of human beings, constantly segregated by the capitalist relations of production. According to the United Nations, China contributed more than 70% to the reduction of poverty worldwide.
After a period when the central objective of developing the productive forces was subordinate to social advancement, over the last years there has been significant progress in important domains such as wages, the right to health and social security, which is being expanded to the whole population. By improving the standard of living and purchasing power of the Chinese people, this progress is allowing, in contrast to the first years of «Reform and opening», the internal market to become the main leverage for economic development in China. A particularly important issue in the configuration of the «Chinese model» is strengthening the role of the Unions and CPC organizations in the companies and workplaces, namely private or foreign capital companies. The reinforcement of the leading role of the Party and its identification with the interests of the people is a direction that, over the last years, has been particularly stressed by the CPC leadership. (4)
Meanwhile, despite the high growth rates and already being the second largest global economy in terms of GDP, China still classifies itself as a country under development, for its 18 140$ GDP per inhabitant in purchasing-power price is still quite low (63 390$ in the US), there are great inequalities between the coastal regions, with highly urbanized and industrialized centres, and the interior regions, predominantly rural where, despite central support, there is a recognized delay.
Regarding its economic and social system, the CPC considers that China is still in the «primary stage» of socialism, but that with the achievements of the last years it has entered a «new era» on the way towards becoming a «modern socialist» country and that the main contradiction is no longer with the backward productive forces: «what we face now is the contradiction between uneven and inadequate development and the increasing aspirations of the people for a better life» (Xi Jinping in the 19th Congress of CPC).
Among the perspectives indicated by the CPC, «two centenary» goals are highlighted: until 2021 (then CPC’s centenary), build «a moderately prosperous society» that will end what remains of poverty (rural, 40 million people); and until 2049 (centenary of the Chinse revolution) the «transformation of China into a modern, prosperous, democratic, civilized and harmonious country». Midway, around 2035, the aim is to transform China into a «modern socialist society».
Today, the eyes of the world are upon China. The development of the international situation will depend decisively on the evolution of «socialism with Chinese characteristics», its evolution and consolidation towards a new society without exploiters nor exploited (reiterated programmatic aim of the CPC), or its degeneration and capitalist recovery (as imperialism always sought and seeks).
The CPC, the Chinese workers and people must choose, without foreign interference, their path towards achieving the aims of their liberating revolution. The profound transformation of the Chinese society raise admiration, respect and solidarity, but also questions and even concerns. Respect, because the chosen unprecedented path is indeed «rising the Chinese people», resolving economic and social problems of a colossal dimension, turning China into an unsurpassable factor that constrains imperialism and the global evolution. Questions and concerns, namely because of the increase in the private sector’s weight in its economy and the accelerated class stratification – with an increase in social inequalities and the emergence of a materially powerful bourgeoisie that sooner or later will attempt to determine political power –, as well as the problems raised by the phenomena of corruption and a certain liberal and consumerist ideology, phenomena recognised and fought by the Chinese government, but inevitably segregated by the capitalist element of the Chinese mixed economy, characterized as a «socialist market economy». As stated by the CPC’s general secretary in his commemorative speech on the Bicentennial of Marx: «… the contradictions, risks and challenges, and the tests to our ability of govern are at an unprecedented level».
With the policy of «Reform and Opening», China not only opened its immense internal market to foreign commodities and capital, but also projected itself internationally, developing political relations and particularly audacious economic initiatives. In this process of necessary participation in the international division of labour, China and its large (state and private) companies inevitably compete with the large capitalist multinationals. But it is a gross mistake to therefore infer that China’s international behaviour doesn’t differ from the great capitalist powers. It is nonsensical to frame the economic war between the US and China as part of increasing «inter-imperialist contradictions»; that the growing relations of China in Africa, against which the US and EU have declared war, aim the appropriation of this martyred continent’s wealth; or that the project «One Belt, One Road» (better known as the «New Silk Road») is simply an aim to dominate the world. (5)
Undoubtedly, the projection of China in the international arena involves problems and contradictions. This is unsurprising given the predominance of capitalist relations in the modern world. But PCP, despite the differences regarding its own socialist project for Portugal, has long seen the rise of China as an important factor in international relations, a growing force in containing the hegemonic policies of the US and imperialism in general, proposing to actively contribute towards an international economic and political order of peace and cooperation. An ample group of international organizations promoted by China, or in which China has an important role – political, economic or military organizations, such as BRICs, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (which already involves 100 members), or the project «One Belt, One Road» – are considered in this perspective by the Chinese leadership.
Given the questions regarding the nature and perspectives of changes in Chinese society over the last seventy years and the role of China in the enormous process of rearranging forces internationally, it is worth contemplating what the world would be without the contribution of the PRC for global economic growth, how graver might have been the social consequences of the crisis of capitalism unleashed by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008 if China had not maintained its high growth rates. And how the world would be with a powerful China that espoused an imperialist foreign policy and not, as defined by Chinese comrades, a policy based on the principles of peaceful coexistence, a policy of mutually advantageous exchange based on the sovereignty of States, a policy respecting the United Nations Charter opposed to relations of colonial and neo-colonial exploitation and oppression by big powers and their multinationals.
An important theoretical and practical issue is how China’s participation in international economic relations influences internal Chinese processes, in a context that is still that of hegemony of the capitalist system. Only the future can clarify this issue, raised in unprecedented terms, as the foreign relations of China are of coexistence, but also interdependency, particularly considering China is already the main economic partner of a large number of countries. It is no accident that regarding this issue, and in general regarding problems and contradictions that arise in the process of «socialism with Chinese characteristics», contradictory opinions are expressed in China. There are even, namely among Chinese academics, those who defend abandoning the determinant character of the socialist-property sector and completely liberalizing the economy, which would entail a surrender to capitalism. There are reasons to trust these conceptions will be defeated. The official position of the CPC leadership, in particular in Congress resolutions and the authorized voice of the General-secretary Xi Jinping, affirms the communist ideal and the project of a socialist society, and took important decisions regarding the communist identity of the CPC, its ideological and organic reinforcement, a tighter relation with the masses, a work style «in the service of the people». (6)
China’s amazing leap in its development is an event that was completely unexpected and unwanted by the capitalist world and, foremost, by US imperialism who claiming to be the owners of the world after the defeats of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe and having always sought to submit China to its economic and geostrategic interests, sees its global hegemony objectively questioned by the extraordinary success of the PRC in its internal economic and social development and its international relations.
Evidently, this represents a crude blow for US imperialism’s calculations. In the US offensive against China, in almost all spheres –economic, technologic, political, military, ideological–, there is visible evidence of retaliation by a poor loser and the pretension that it will lead not only to the contention of the internal development and the international influence of the «Chinese dragon», but also to the inversion and degeneration of the Chinese process of building a socialist society, developing its known strategy of «peaceful evolution», in the framework of growing military pressure and threat.
The history of US-China relations is a history of colonial-style interference and support for the worst anti-communist Chinese reaction. Hostility towards the Chinese revolution, before and after its triumph, was frontal. It was with its committed support that the cronies of Chiang Kai-shek, defeated and scattered, took refuge in Taiwan, which is still today the base of intervention against the PRC and a dangerous focus of regional and international tension. Only one year after the revolution, the PRC became involved in a deadly war in Korea, from 1950 to 53. The US only recognised the PRC in 1971, in an anti-soviet platform, and until then had imposed that China’s place in the UN be refused to the PRC and attributed to Taiwan/«Republic of China». There are recurring campaigns on «human rights» over the issues of Tibet and other ethnic minorities. In the recent events in Hong Kong, there is an evident stimulus to destabilizing China and hostility to its complete unification.
Henry Kissinger’s «On China» (7), defending and whitewashing US imperialism’s policy and revealing its sinister anti-soviet game, eventually constitutes a useful demonstration of the US policy of «stick and carrot» with China, a policy whose results are recognisably small regarding the «carrot», where the use of the «stick» is now privileged by the extremist hawks that flock the White House (8). China is defined in official documents as an adversary and even strategic enemy, and the trade war and the war on Chinese high tech companies is accompanied by a genuine military siege upon China. Invoking the most varied pretexts, the Trump administration demands the abandonment of planning mechanisms or supports for state companies, calling into question the action of Party organizations and Trade Unions in foreign capital companies; attacks the political system and CPC leadership and accuses the socio-economic and political Chinese system of constituting a «danger to the security of the US», as it can serve as an example for other countries to follow. From economic and technologic disputes to military conflicts, it is significant that the imperialist offensive against China increasingly, and explicitly, assumes an ideological character and of confrontation between opposing systems. (9)
China cares for its defence. China’s military budget, although incomparably smaller than the US’s, has been increasing, as well as its military cooperation with Russia and other countries. But its strategy of national security does not have an offensive character and China actively intervenes in defence of disarmament, relieving international tension, defence of peace. Accused of aspiring to global domination, China, who obviously hasn’t given up achieving the highest standards of development, proposes to place its economic power and political prestige at the service of building a more equitable and just international order.
Marking the 70th anniversary of the Chinese revolution of 1949 and the complex path since then, we are well aware of the fundamental theses and principles of Marxism-Leninism regarding the global revolutionary process in general and the revolutionary overcoming of capitalism in particular. We are also aware there are no «models» of revolution; that building socialism, obeying general laws, involves specificities in each country; that, as practice has demonstrated, building a new society without exploiters and exploited is a more complex and lengthy process than expected. (10) Therefore we look upon the path of the PRC not as «teachers of the revolution», but as revolutionaries committed to the liberating cause of workers worldwide, ready to learn from the lessons of experience, towards adjusting our intervention in our own country. And wishing the Chinese communists, workers and people the greatest success in achieving the noble patriotic and socialist ideals of their liberating revolution.
(1) The Opium Wars were started by the United Kingdom: the first between 1839 and 1842, and the second between 1856 and 1860. The first «unequal treaty» was the Treaty of Nanking, signed between China and the foreign invaders.
(2) «The Cultural Revolution, that lasted from May 1966 to October 1976, is responsible for the most severe failures and the most serious damage suffered by the Party, the State and all our People since the foundation of the People’s Republic…» – From the Resolution of the CC of the CPC of June 1981, on issues of the history of CPC, quoted by Henri Alleg, The Century of the Dragan, Caminho Ed, 1994.
(3) «The US multinationals saw China as an essential part of their business strategies, and at the same time as a place of production and with money market increasingly in their own right». Henry Kissinger, On China, Quetzal Ed., 2012.
(4) According to the last assessment, the CPC has 90.59 million members and 4.61 million base organizations, where 80% of members joined the party after 1978.
(5) The «New Silk Road» is considered the largest investment and infrastructure project (roads, railroads, harbours, etc.) in history, already involving 68 countries, 65% of the population and 40% of the global GDP.
(6) Xi Jinping’s speech at the ceremony commemorating the Bicentennial of Karl Marx (May 4th of 2018), entails great importance confirming Marxism as the theoretic basis of the CPC and its role in global development: «Marxism not only deeply transformed the world, but also deeply changed China».
(7) Henry Kissinger, op cit. A single quote exemplifies this, namely a statement by Bill Clinton, in 1992, following the disappearance of the Soviet Union: «China won’t be able to resist the forces of democratic change forever. One day it will go the way of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The United States should do what they can to encourage that process» (pp. 494-5).
(8) The fascist falcon Steve Bannon, while denying the reality of China’s extraordinary development to stir his base («China is not an ascending power. The United States are not a declining power».) preaches the need to fight the «Chinese threat», affirming the «two systems are incompatible».)
(9) This is evident in the analyses of the US strategists in resuscitating a relic of McCarthyism and the ideological war against the USSR, now called the «Committee on the Present Danger: China», but also the European Union that in its recent «UE-China – A strategic outlook» considers that «China is, simultaneously, in different political areas, a cooperation partner… and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance».
(10) «... building a new society –a socialist society– has revealed itself as more difficult, more complex, more irregular, more rugged and lengthy than we communists foresaw and announced» (Álvaro Cunhal, in Conference «Comunism today and tomorrow », Ponte da Barca, May 21th 1993).