The way China is treading diplomatically and strategically meddling in economics and politics of developing and under-developing economies on the one side and competing with the world’s leading neo-liberal capitalist countries on the other. Would this arise new conflicts geopolitically especially with the US? What would be its consequences?
By Sankar Ray
- Mao Zedong’s principal theses for initiating the revolution conformed neither to Marxism, Leninism nor to Chinese reality
- China established itself as the world’s largest power after the USA, at the heart of capitalist globalisation
- Domination is on the rise threatening the economic sovereignty of all Asian countries save Japan and Singapore
- In Namibia, Chinese products have destroyed the local products. Africa is not alone. India too is a victim of Chinese exploitation
The ‘Middle Kingdom’ is treading along a diplomatically cautious but strategically stronger path to meddle into economics and politics ( albeit not overtly) of developing and under-developing economies on the one side and competing with the world’s leading neo-liberal capitalist countries on the other.
The neo-imperial ruling community in Beijing with a prefix ‘communist’ chose especially two strategic regions: Southeastern, Central, and Eastern Europe; and South Asia. China’s economic and political profile has expanded with a breakneck speed in those two regions.
There are in-depth analyses that we see in China today, particularly with the consolidation of power of President Xi Jinping, the hegemonistic PRC is a threat to countries that struggle hard to achieve economic independence and self-reliance. Among them are certainly India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
Undeniably, many countries are yet to achieve the deep bench of local experts to ‘match analysis of the domestic implications of Chinese activism to policy recommendations that reflect domestic political and economic ground truth’.
The path began precisely 44 years ago when Deng Xiaoping took over the mantle at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, held between 22 and 28 December 1978. The era of President Xi Jinping with countervailing authority is the culmination of ‘La Chinois’ anew that puts everything below the sanctity of state sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China, free from even the verbal commitment of ‘communist’ China to liberate countries that were languishing under what the CPC under Chairman Mao Zedong characterised as semi-feudal and semi-colonial countries under the yoke of Yankee Imperialism and later ‘Soviet Social imperialism.’
A copycat –if not stupid- theorisation had for over half a century colonised the cerebra of Maoists who used to worship Mao. The slogan was ‘Victory is a must for us, for the Chairman of China is our Chairman’, coined by Charu Mazumdar in India and parroted by thousands of his blind followers.
China today is beyond recognition to those who were enamoured of Mao’s ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’ which was soberly nailed at the Seventh Plenum of the Eleventh CC in June-end 1981- ‘Resolution on certain questions in the history of our party since the founding of the People’s Republic of China’. That was the beginning of the myth of Mao as the helmsman of billions of Chinese. ‘The history of the “cultural revolution” has proved that Comrade Mao Zedong’s principal theses for initiating this revolution conformed neither to Marxism, Leninism nor to Chinese reality. They represent an entirely erroneous appraisal of the prevailing class relations and political situation in the Party and state’, the document bluntly stated.
Hundreds of Maoists the world over violently disagreed with the formulation by the CPC plenum but it was for the Chinese to decide which path to be taken up and which is to be discarded. The CPC made a strong criticism of GPCR and Mao for taking the country backward by destroying many gains of ‘socialist construction’ during a decade-plus period but showed its tactical wisdom without belittling Mao as the father figure of the Chinese revolution.
Deng’s slogan ‘ To get rich is glorious’ is ridiculed inside China as it is one of the most inegalitarian countries where the richest 10 percent of China’s population owns nearly 70 percent of total household wealth as of July this year.
Externally, China is a hindrance to the struggle of peripheral countries for economic self-reliance and equitable distribution of a gross national product. Communist’ disables domestic manufacturers and traders by flooding of Chinese goods at cheap prices.
In the late 1960s and the 1970s, the main slogan of Nasalizes in India to attract the youth was ‘ Red salute to Peking, the headquarters of the world proletariat’ as if Mao and his followers in PRC alone would lead pro-socialist revolutions on this planet. But only two countries were propped up by Beijing and they turned into shameful symbols of human civilisation with socialism pushed to light years away
Apparently, this China was not known during the era of Chairman Mao Zedong, A Brookings’ study, ‘China’s Role in East Asia-Now and the Future’, released last year, traced the post-Mao trajectory along apparently counter-digit curvatures. It spanned through 44 experimental years that stupefied the economic theoreticians of developed capitalist countries. “China radically altered its approach to the countries of the region. In the Mao era, it had encouraged revolution, helping to create and support communist parties heavily populated by overseas Chinese. These overseas Chinese were viewed with suspicion and sometimes hostility by local populations, who resented their economic success but now had the additional reason for anxiety that they were potentially 5th columns for a foreign power,” the study observed.
For all those years, the policy framers of the People’s Republic of China had been careful enough not to be seen as an imperial and occupational force or power. But although economically, it had been covertly imperial. Political theorists are yet to formulate what it is as it cannot be defined as colonial, neo-colonial or even invisibly imperialist. To quote a paper from The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that illustrates the phenomenal mega-growth. “China is helping to construct mega infrastructure projects in every country in the region, in most cases with money that it has lent them. Its loans to Sri Lanka were at $4.6 billion in 2020, and the overall figure for the Maldives is believed to be between $1.1 billion and $1.4 billion. These economic engagements serve Chinese strategic ends and help expand its influence in a region that has traditionally been considered India’s strategic backyard.
Chinese actors are proactive in seeking opportunities, often approaching public or private stakeholders with suggestions for engagement, and timing project completion to coincide with upcoming elections. This earns them goodwill and increases the possibility of getting projects going” (Deep Paul, ‘China’s Influence in South Asia: Vulnerabilities and Resilience in Four Countries’ 2021).
Nonetheless, there are in-depth analyses that see in China today, particularly with the consolidation of power of President Xi Jinping, the hegemonistic PRC is a threat to countries that struggle hard to achieve economic independence and self-reliance. Among them are certainly India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. On the morrow of the twenty-first century, China established itself as the world’s largest power after the USA, at the heart of capitalist globalisation. It has spread into Continents and all oceans.
For Xi, “In an era of economic globalisation, openness and integration is an irrepressible historical trend. The erection of walls or ‘delinking’ goes against economic laws and market principles”, according to Philip S Glob, professor of international relations at the American University of Paris and author of Power Politics and Prestige. “The party-state has staked out a claim as a champion of free trade and global finance… removing some of the barriers blocking foreign access to segments of domestic capital markets and issuing licences to major US groups to operate wholly- or majority-owned subsidiaries in specialised markets”, he added.
A copycat –if not stupid- theorisation had for over half a century colonised the cerebra of Maoists who used to worship Mao. The slogan was ‘Victory is a must for us, for the Chairman of China is our Chairman’, coined by Charu Mazumdar in India and parroted by thousands of his blind followers
Economist wrote on 5 September 2020, “China is creating opportunities [that foreign capital did not expect, at least not so quickly]”. At the same time, The estimated US capital inflows into China is not really known as “many Chinese companies issuing shares have subsidiaries in offshore tax havens.” China has the largest number of subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, next to the USA. The UK and the Republic of Taiwan.
Beijing’s aim is no dissimilar with the mega MNCs of yesteryears.
MAO TSE-TUNG THOUGHT
In the late 1960s and the 1970s, the main slogan of Nasalizes in India to attract the youths was ‘ Red salute to Peking, the headquarters of the world proletariat’ as if Mao and his followers in PRC alone would lead pro-socialist revolutions on this planet. But only two countries were propped up by Beijing and they turned into shameful symbols of human civilisation with socialism pushed to light years away.
One was Cambodia under the utterly inhumane Pol Pot, Prime Minister and Leng Sary, Deputy PM and Foreign Minister. who massacred millions in the country.
The other was Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe who proved himself as a symbol of misrule that rolled the newly independent country (formerly Rhodesia) many decades backward one, freed from Apartheid. Mugabe was in the 1970s projected as an ‘idealistic young Marxist-Leninist, political prisoner, freedom fighter, lauded icon of pan-African nationalism’, but ultimately degenerated into a ‘ruthless, ageing dictator steeped in corruption and sleaze.’
In contrast, the erstwhile USSR was instrumental as the principal inspirer-in-practice to the victorious transition of Vietcong from guerrilla warfare to modern warfare and liberation struggles in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania, Mozambique and Ethiopia in Africa.
In commercial competition, China’s clear edge over the USA is established. In 2019, the USA exports were valued at $103 billion worth of goods and services to China. In contrast, China exported $429B worth of goods and services to the USA
All such vacuous bravados to prop up the personality cult of Mao ( Naxalite leaders – many of Mao or Charu Mazumdar followers today too – do not address him as ‘Comrade Mao/ but Chairman Mao or just Chairman) were stopped by Deng.
Not known to many, ‘Mao Tse-tung Thought’ was incorporated in the constitution of CPC at its Seventh Congress in 1945 through a resolution, moved by Lio Shao Chi. But was abolished by Teng Tshiao Ping (later Deng) as secretary general of CPC at the Eighth Congress in 1957. However, Mao Zedong Thought was re-incorporated by Lin Biao and the Ninth Congress in 1969.
Deng cut off all support by China for communist parties in other countries, having made it clear that China expected overseas Chinese ‘to be loyal to their country of residence, not proxies for China. That gave confidence to these governments about China’s intentions, and about their ethnic Chinese populations, and rapidly accelerated their normalisation of relations with China.
Deng had in mind the task of reconfiguring China’s relationships with the region and with ethnic Chinese abroad in order to tap the wealth of overseas Chinese, to attract them to invest in the Mainland. It clicked that Overseas Chinese, not only from Southeast Asia but from Hong Kong and ultimately from Taiwan, become Central to China’s economic take-off.
CHINA AMERICA LINKS
In the last years of Mao, the era of animosity with the USA came to an end. Seeds of friendship with China began on 21 February 1972, during the lifetime of Mao and according to his wishes. It was disclosed in February 1982 at the tenth death anniversary of famous American journalist and Mao’s personal friend, Edgar Snow, author of Red Star Over China. Beijing Review carried a piece by Israel Epstein, Editor, China Reconstructs, wrote “ In 1970 he (Snow-SR) was back. In a talk with him, then, Chairman Mao Zedong explained that those officials who had opposed his return to China in 1967 and 1968 ‘had belonged to an ultra-Leftist group that had seized power in the Foreign Ministry for a time, but they were all cleared out long ago, snow reported.
Today China is the largest trading partner for over 100 countries. This is the net outcome of China’s policies that have helped it overtake and lord over global trade as an undisputed challenger
On National Day that year, Snow stood on the rostrum of Tien An Men with Chairman Mao. And on this visit, he was able to contribute, very substantially, to the advancement of his long-cherished hope, equal relations between his native USA and China that could facilitate ties and friendship between their two peoples. It was to him that Chairman Mao, afterwards, publicly expressed readiness to welcome the then President Richard Nixon, to China, for a visit and talks. Thus the long-standing rift between the two countries began to narrow.” It was a deal between US imperialism and Maoist China (see box).
The rest is history.
In no time, it was clear that Beijing was gearing up for an economic and commercial battle with Washington for financial and commercial capture of ‘peripheral economies’. Today, for instance, Africa is virtually a Chinese colony, something beyond imagination even in the 1990s. A well-known American scholar in international relations and a University of Chicago professor spoke of the possibility of Sino-US military conflict but such a possibility seems remote. In contrast to the Middle East, he said that the USA would confront a tremendous challenge in Asia should China continue to rise economically. He added that in such a scenario intense strategic competition would be inescapable alike the Soviet-American rivalry during the Cold War.
In commercial competition, China’s clear edge over the USA is established. In 2019, the USA exports were valued at $103 billion worth of goods and services to China. The main products were Integrated Circuits ($8.47 billion), Soybeans ($7.87 billion), and Cars ($7.34 billion). In contrast, China exported $429B worth of goods and services to the USA Products in the main were broadcasting equipment ($50.5 billion), computers ($41.6 billion), and office machine parts ($15 billion).
THREAT TO ECONOMY
In Asia, domination is on the rise threatening the economic sovereignty of all Asian countries save Japan and Singapore. While it is true that between the 1980s and the 1990s, China’s outreach to Southeast and East Asia was not its principal foreign policy imperative.
Today China is the largest trading partner for over 100 countries. This is the net outcome of China’s policies that have helped it overtake and lord over global trade as an undisputed challenger.
Jean-Marc F Blanchard, a China scholar, finds a close semblance between China today and the European colonial powers’ relations with African and Middle Eastern countries in the 19th and 20th century. “Among other things, we witness countries exchanging their primary products for Chinese manufactured ones; China is dominating the local economy; countries becoming heavily indebted to the PRC; China exerting greater weight on local political, cultural, and security dynamics; and Chinese abroad living in their own ‘ex-pat enclaves”, he stated.
Indeed, production at a very large scale ensures the advantage of economies of scale for which Chinese products are very cheap ( wage rates being low, if not exploitative, inside China). This enables Chinese manufacturers and traders to sell their products at incredibly low prices in their countries where domestic manufacturers are edged out in competition causing harm to the local manufacturing market. In Namibia, for instance, Chinese products have destroyed the local products. Africa is not alone. India too is a victim of Chinese commercial exploitation. Children’s toys, even potties for infants, sold in metropolitan cities in India, are ‘made in China’, let alone mobile phones, computer peripherals, bicycles, and whatnot in the consumer goods sector.
‘Communist’ China is no more is liberator in the Marxian sense. It compels the countries where Mao’s admirers and followers once looked up for getting out of the shackles of backwardness and economic distress are now under imperial threat carrying forward the tradition of Qing and Tang imperial dynasties.
When Mao behaved comradely with President Richard Nixon
President Nixon: The Chairman’s writings moved a nation and have changed the world.
Chairman Mao: I haven’t been able to change it. I’ve only been able to change a few places in the vicinity of Peking. Our common old friend, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, doesn’t approve of this. He calls us communist bandits. He recently issued a speech. Have you seen it?
President Nixon: Chiang Kai-shek calls the Chairman a bandit. What does the Chairman call Chiang Kai-shek?
Prime Minister Chou: Generally speaking we call them Chiang Kai-shek’s clique. In the newspapers sometimes we call him a bandit; we are also called bandits in turn. Anyway, we abuse each other.
Chairman Mao: Actually, the history of our friendship with him is much longer than the history of your friendship with him.
President Nixon: Yes, I know.
Chairman Mao: We two must not monopolize the whole show. It won’t do if we don’t let Dr Kissinger have a say. You have been famous about your trips to China.
Dr. Kissinger: It was the President who set the direction and worked out the plan.
President Nixon: He is a very wise assistant to say it that way. (Mao and Chou laugh.)
Chairman Mao: He is praising you, saying you are clever in doing so.
President Nixon: He doesn’t look like a secret agent. He is the only man in captivity who could go to Paris 12 times and Peking once and no one knew it, except possibly a couple of pretty girls. (Chou laughs.)
Dr. Kissinger: They didn’t know it; I used it as a cover.
Chairman Mao: In Paris?
President Nixon: Anyone who uses pretty girls as a cover must be the greatest diplomat of all time.
Chairman Mao: So your girls are very often made use of?
President Nixon: His girls, not mine. It would get me into great trouble if I used girls as a cover.
Prime Minister Chou: (laughs) Especially during elections. (Kissinger laughs.) Dr Kissinger doesn’t run for President because he wasn’t born a citizen of the United States.
Dr. Kissinger: Miss Tang is eligible to be President of the United States.
President Nixon: She would be the first woman President. There’s our candidate.
Chairman Mao: It would be very dangerous if you have such a candidate. But let us speak the truth. As for the Democratic Party, if they come into office again, we cannot avoid contacting them.
President Nixon: We understand. We will hope that we don’t give you that problem.
Chairman Mao: Those questions are not questions to be discussed in my place. They should be discussed with the Premier. I discuss the philosophical questions. That is to say, I voted for you during your election. There is an American here called Mr. Frank Coe, and he wrote an article precisely at the time when your country was in havoc, during your last electoral campaign. He said you were going to be elected President. I appreciated that article very much. But now he is against the visit.
President Nixon: When the President says he voted for me, he voted for the lesser of two evils.
(From ‘Declassified transcript of the Beijing meeting between China’s leader and America’s. It took place in Chairman Mao’s living quarters. February 21, 1972
Meeting attendees: Richard Nixon; Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung in the transcript); Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai); Wang Hairong (Wang Hai-jung); Tang Wensheng (Tang Wen-sheng); Henry Kissinger; and Winston Lord as the notetaker.
(Excerpt of declassified transcript of the Beijing meeting between China’s leader Mao Zedong and America’s President Richard Nixon on February 21, 1972.It took place in Chairman Mao’s living quarters Source china.usc.edu https://china.usc.edu/mao-zedong-meets-