After 90 Years, Which Way Next for the Chinese Communist Party?

by Anna Chen

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I’ve just read this in Stalin’s British Victims (pub: Sutton) by Francis Beckett: “In theory, communism is a generous and fair-minded creed, which rejects, for good reason, the poverty amid plenty which is the hallmark of capitalism.”

That just about sums up my sympathy for a system which was supposed to have eradicated poverty and a class system that privileges a tiny bloated section of humanity at the expense of everyone else. This is an ideal worth fighting for but I’ll get onto the provisos later on.

An article by Heiko Khoo has just been published marking the Chinese Communist Party at 90, in which the author goes back to basics and attempts to provide an accessible overview of the present economic crisis in the West.

Forged in the fire of the early 20th century when China was a third world nation on its knees having suffered numerous invasions by imperialist powers — and with the fledgling Soviet Union appearing to be a progressive force in the world that would liberate the international proletariat from capitalism — the Chinese Communist Party was formed in 1921. Like so many communist parties around the world, it took its confidence from the Soviet model. However, it eventually split from the Soviet template and avoided disintegrating as the USSR did after its fall in 1989. China’s subsequent embrace of a hybrid communism with a capitalist engine, something George Orwell might have dubbed one of his “Barnum & Bailey monstrosities”, was a deft turn that allowed China to powerhouse its economy but at great immediate cost to the workers and peasants it was supposed to represent.

The current onslaught on Western working and middle-classes to pay for the crisis of the banks is persuading many of us through hard experience that a planned economy such as China employs is preferable to the chaos of the free market. Our pensionable age is rising, rail commuters are having to pay a third of their salary just for the privilege of getting to work despite a worsening service, public housing stocks have shrunk or stagnated while lowered welfare payments means an expected exodus of the poor from our cities as they are priced out of the housing market. And as one radio interviewee put it, Nye Bevan got the doctors on board for the creation of the NHS by stuffing gold into their mouths — the ConDem coalition is prising the gold from their teeth and stuffing it into the pockets of NHS privateers.

As Khoo writes:

Capitalist states, no matter how democratic, systematically favor the private sector out of ideological choice, which corresponds to the material interests of the ruling class. Thus widespread fraud and recklessness by private banks before 2008 was rewarded by transferring their debts onto the shoulders of the working classes of Europe and the United States.

It’s not as if the money isn’t there. At the same time as we are daily assailed by the “Big Society” lie that it we are all in together, and that our rights and share of national wealth have to be carved up, we see reports of a Bernie Ecclestone daughter buying a £56 million house, Hyde Park flats going for tens of millions, the Sunday Times rich list revealing the accelerating wealth of the super-rich, supermarkets posting record profits, and so on. Britain is a haven for low or non-tax payers while the tax burden grows for the rest of us.

Without a successful communist model to tempt western workers, the gloves are off and the capitalist elite is clawing back everything we gained after World War II. Yet China’s example seems to reinforce the capitalist argument. A bloated Chinese ruling class may be emerging from the work done by their communist predecessors, but the proletariat is also gaining, albeit at a slower rate than the yuan billionaires now hoovering up the national wealth.

Khoo goes on to write, and this is one area where I take issue :

What the CPC has shown since Deng Xiaoping initiated reform and opening of the economy is that capitalist forces can be kept in check by the increasing strength of the working class. For every capitalist born there are tens and hundreds of workers. A key question confronting modern Chinese communism is how can workers exercise democratic control over productive forces and realize their constitutional rights as masters of the state?

The CCP, whatever its origins and noble intentions, is not synonymous with the Chinese working class. Many would argue it never was. There seems to be a major contradiction in the first sentence of the paragraph: capitalist forces can be kept in check by effectively strengthening it? Where is the “checking” coming from? Although China attempted to relax its trade union rights in 2006, lobbying by the American Chamber of Commerce, supported by the EU, and I’m sure to the satisfaction of swathes of the Chinese leadership, terminated the reforms. It is only recently that strike action outside the official trade unions have exerted enough pressure to gain concessions.

Chinese workers and peasants have lost many rights under the auspices of the CCP. Job security, housing and health have all suffered, as well as the all-round emotional, intellectual development that socialism was supposed to bring, although the new sweatshop factories are slowly raising wages and leading to a burst in consumerism. The straight-jacketing of thinking through the imprisonment of dissident intellectuals, the abandonment of political ideals and an adherence to feudal Confucian attitudes have hamstrung Chinese society. The mega-blogger Han Han is held up as an example of freethinking in China, but how much of what this racing-driver playboy has to say is an expression of an old dispossessed elite flexing its muscle and getting ready to displace what little vestigial socialism there is left?

If we are to build a society that is fairer to all, crucial problems need addressing. The Chinese communists were right to combat imperialist aggression as well as aiming for the construction of a classless society. They have succeeded in raising an estimated 600 million people out of absolute poverty and doubled life expectations. Khoo’s document is a sharp reminder that there is a better way to be, but it remains a Platonic ideal while there is such a disjuncture between stated aim and actuality.

The CCP represents the new ruling class. I do not agree that “some have to get rich so everyone can get rich”, as espoused by the Deng Xiaoping group who welcomed Milton Friedman into their midst in 1989, shortly before cracking down on the protests in Tiananmen Square. Neither am I impressed with the vast accumulation of wealth by the children of the former apparatchiks who ran state assets and who are now billionaires. China was one of the most hopeful social experiments ever conducted in the crucible of war, famine and a host of calamities and yet its leadership now presides over an increase in inequality. How to get it back to its ideals so that it is serving all its people and not just the few is the big challenge. A redistributive tax to make the new wealth work for the whole population, welfare protection for the poorest, and a curb on obscene syphoning off of wealth made from what were once state assets and labour exploitation would be a good start. Let’s hope the working class, all 450 million of them, starts to flex its muscles.

Right now, China does not fire the imagination of international movements looking to build a better world. It does not represent a model for workers across the globe, only for the capitalist class who are looking on the new superpower with envy and resentment.

Professor Gregor Benton adds:

A report released by China’s central bank said corrupt Chinese officials smuggled an estimated $123.6 billion out of the country over a 15-year period. Apparently 17,000 Communist party cadres, police, judicial officers and state-owned enterprise executives fled the country between the mid-1990s and 2008. Higher-ranking officials who absconded with money had the ÛS as their favourite destination, followed by Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. Those who couldn’t get visas went to eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa, to await a chance to remigate to a ‘better’ destination. Lower-ranking officials went to countries bordering China, or to Hong Kong. For those who read Chinese, the report is abridged here.

Is China a “responsible Stakeholder”

by Anna Chen

Amitai Etzioni asks in the Chatham House-run International Affairs website, if China can be trusted as a “responsible stakeholder” in world politics.

You may remember that “stakeholder” was a term much used by Tony Blair and New Labour after economic guru Will Hutton began popularising the business term and applying it to their aspirations for a section of the population. Not all of them, mind. Just enough harbouring the delusion that they’d be granted an interest in society (rather than posessing an inbuilt interest on account of their being a member of society already) to ensure they’d vote for their benefactors.

Who can forget how responsible New Labour were in power: a veritable model of democracy, altruism and benevolence.

This was the same New Labour, not old Labour in opposition to Capital, that took Britain to war against the wishes of its people including many of those would-be stakeholders. The government under whom the poverty gap grew for the first time under Labour helmsmanship, a landslide victory notwithstanding.

Etzioni quotes American commentators:

China ‘is refusing to be a responsible stakeholder in the international political system, cultivating, as it has been, good relations with some of the world’s most odious regimes’, according to Robert Kaplan, writing in The Atlantic.

Which is rich considering America’s interests in Saudi Arabia and almost the entire Middle East, along with every other commie-killing despot that ever took a Yankee dollar. In 2005, the Bush Jr administration echoed the fear that China would not be a responsible stakeholder, even as they bombed Iraq. And Condoleeza Rice had America on paranoia standby when she declared China to be “not a status quo power”, meaning the US could not be certain that its own interests would remain untouched by the new kid on the block.

Whether that kid would turn out to be an even bigger bully or a cohort prepared to carve up the world along new lines suitable to the old masters remains to be seen. But some have argued that China is indeed a “status quo power” and plead for its induction into the international community (of business).

China itself has been eager to demonstrate that it is not a “revisionist” power seeking to upset the current geopolitical balance too much:

President Jiang Zemin stated that ‘China needs a long-lasting peaceful international environment for its development’, and in 1997 he initiated China’s ‘New Security Concept’, which stresses ‘mutual respect’ and ‘peaceful coexistence’. Since then, Chinese leaders such as Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have declared that they are seeking a ‘peaceful rise’ and that they seek to focus on domestic development, not international expansion.

Why bother with armed conflict, a Western enthusiasm, when you can buy what you want?

Since then, Chinese leaders such as Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have declared that they are seeking a ‘peaceful rise’ and that they seek to focus on domestic development, not international expansion. The concept was developed by Chinese scholar Zheng Bijian, who wrote in a Foreign Affairs article entitled ‘China’s “peaceful rise” to great power status’, ‘for the next few decades the Chinese nation will be preoccupied with securing a more decent life for its people … China’s emergence thus far has been driven by capital, technology, and resources acquired through peaceful means … China’s peaceful rise will further open its economy so that its population can serve as a growing market for the rest of the world … China’s development depends on world peace — a peace that its development will in turn reinforce.’

So far, so “responsible”.

However, the John Milius school of Red Dawn politics rages that China is only pretending to be peaceful and that she’ll reveal herself in full gory glory in true Fu Manchu fashion once all her plans and capabilities are in place. I saw Team America, I know how this one plays out.

Although Etzioni piece is published on the (British) Chatham House website, it overlooks a vital state of affairs when it asks if China is a “good citizen of the international community”. Hey, we Brits aren’t citizens of anything, being subjects of the Royal Parasites. In seeking to distinguish between the behaviour expected from communitarian “stakeholders” and upstanding “citizens”, it seems we are the Disappeared.

According to Etzioni, a stakeholding community member does everything a citizen does — paying taxes (unless you can afford the accountants), serving on juries (and paying for superinjunctions if you can afford it), submitting to the laws (unless you can afford not to).

A good community member—aside from being an upstanding citizen—also contributes to the common good by volunteering, making donations, heeding the informal norms of the community and helping to enforce them by exerting informal social controls over those who do not.

Hmm, did I see some sort of power wielded there?

In place of a global state, Etzioni sees, “a non-trivial and growing body of established international laws and institutions which nations are expected to heed”. He examines whether China is a good citizen or stakeholder.

Chiming with a tidal wave of claims that China is not pulling its weight, Etzioni cites a parsimonious foreign aid policy. After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, I remember foreign media reporting the rapid arrival of fully tooled-up Chinese rescue teams complete with dog-handlers on the stricken island before many Western nations, including Britain, could muster their forces. However, China was criticised for being stingy with their relief aid, donating only a miserly US$1.5 million, against US$350 million from America, but rising to US$60 million for the 2004 tsunami fund. He doesn’t mention the pledges made by the G8/20 rich nations in a drunken bout of “my wallet’s bigger than yours … isn’t is Angela?” and then forgotten as the hangover wore off. What Etzioni doesn’t clarify is the state of the African debt, once thought to be a never-ending problem, which China has alleviated through various deals (open to a slew of criticism), thereby mercifully saving us from Bono’s never-ending career as messiah and right royal pain

Of the list of examples of Chinese aggression throughout the past decades, I’d ask: where’s the cut-off point? At what time can’t you phone someone? Nine o’clock? Ten o’clock? Ten-fifteen if they don’t have kids? Likewise, when’s the cut off point for bad behaviour? How come deliberate acts of aggression such as the opium wars and sending gunboats up the Yangtze don’t count but accidents such as the 2001 collision of a Chinese and an American plane do? Are we mentioning the deliberate downing of an Iranian airliner by the US in 1989?

It’s hardly surprising that the Chinese get arsey about Japan when the Rising Sun invaders held beheading contests of its citizens in the streets of Nanking and experimented on people, all within living memory. How should they respond to a nation that has now rewritten the history books to forgive itself. Comfort women? Shrines to fascist murderers?

How do the Western powers fare when comparing environmental destruction and global deaths resulting from climate change?

At least Etzioni throws a sop to fairness when he writes:

… China is properly criticized for doing little to stop genocides. However, while the US and its allies are credited for stopping the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, they failed to do so in Cambodia, Rwanda, the Congo and Sudan.

And he quotes Bill Gates as saying, ” … the trend is clear that China is becoming a more responsible stakeholder.”

Who can blame China for maintaining a discreet distance from America’s conflicts?

From China’s perspective, for example, it is in China’s interests for the US military to be mired in a war in Afghanistan (and before that in Iraq) and to be further occupied with a proliferating Iran, especially given statements by American military officials that define China’s military as a major threat to the US, implying that China is an adversary.

Would you rush to the aid of superpower generals eager to make you a target?

This blogpost is not a plea for ignoring China’s faults. I’m angry at the way the wealth gap is soaring in China; the number of executions; the corruption; the clampdown on free expression and imprisonment of dissidents. But instead of raising issues of international concern in a way that leads to change and understanding, much of the report seems to present yet another skewed “look over there” job while allowing the West to get away with much the same. After all, how much of the Haiti tragedy, in America’s back yard, was due purely to natural forces, and how much — with continuing poverty, disease and corruption, before and since — was set in motion years ago. Presumably prior to the cut-off point, whose location only Amitai Etzioni and his friends know.

The latter part of the report does note areas where China is improving: slow but steady recognition of human rights even if Ai Weiwei is still in prison, and despite double standards being applied to US allies such as Saudi Arabia.

I see Western capitalists on the wane looking enviously at the new Eastern capitalists and studying how to do the same. By all means criticise China’s policies but all too often this looks like the skunk damning the pig for smelling bad.

UPDATE 22 May 2011: Henry Kissinger’s book, On China, is out.

… my first question, which concerns the treatment of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who, like Mr. Kissinger, is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. “I have not read his writings,” he answers. … I press on. Does he denounce Mr. Liu’s treatment? “My policy on this,” he replies, “is to talk to them [Chinese leaders], but my personal view is not to denounce it publicly.”

Ye-e-es. Just as well so few Westerners have read them. Lui Xiaobo’s award of the Nobel

CHINA REVEALS USA’s HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD

The Information Office of China’s State Council, or cabinet, issued the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010 on Sunday.

Following are some facts and figures from the report:

— In 2009, an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes, 15.6 million property crimes and 133,000 personal thefts were committed against U.S. residents aged 12 or older, and the violent crime rate was 17.1 victimizations per 1,000 persons.

— In 2009, weapons were used in 22 percent of all violent crimes in the United States, and about 47 percent of robberies were committed with arms.

— More than 6,600 travelers had been subject to electronic device searches between October 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010, nearly half of them American citizens.

— By 2011, America will have more than 1.7 million men and women in prison, an increase of 13 percent over that of 2006.

— On June 24, 2010, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, which will give the federal government “absolute power” to shut down the Internet under a declared national emergency.

— The U.S. unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent in November 2010, and the number of unemployed persons was 15 million in November, among whom, 41.9 percent were jobless for 27 weeks and more.

— A total of 44 million Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, four million more than that of 2008. The share of residents in poverty climbed to 14.3 percent in 2009, the highest level recorded since 1994.

— 14.7 percent of U.S. households were food insecure in 2009, an increase of almost 30 percent since 2006.

— The number of families in homeless shelters increased 7 percent to 170,129 from fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2009.

— The number of Americans without health insurance increased from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009, the ninth consecutive annual rise, which accounted for 16.7 percent of the total U.S. population.

— Out of 6,604 hate crimes committed in the United States in 2009, some 4,000 were racially motivated and nearly 1,600 were driven by hatred for a particular religion.

— 90 percent of U.S. women have suffered some form of sexual discrimination in the workplace; some 20 million women are rape victims in the country; One in four women is a victim of domestic violence.

— Nearly one in four U.S. children struggles with hunger; every year over 3 million children are victims of violence reportedly and the actual number is three times greater.

— More than 93,000 children are currently incarcerated in the United States, and between 75 and 93 percent of children have experienced at least one traumatic experience, including sexual abuse and neglect.

— At least 109,000 people were killed in the Iraq war, and 63 percent of them were civilians from March 2003 through the end of 2009; the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops had caused 535 Afghan civilian deaths and injuries in 2009.

— During the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the record on November 5, the United States received a record 228 recommendations by about 60 country delegations for improving its human rights situation.

From Xinhua

China Calls for Libya Ceasefire

From Xinhua

History has repeatedly shown that the use of force is not the answer to problems, but only makes them more complicated, Chinese President Hu Jintao said in Beijing on Wednesday in reference to recent events in Libya.

“Dialogue and other peaceful means are the ultimate solutions to problems,” Hu said during a meeting with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Libyan situation has captured international attention and China is greatly concerned about the situation, Hu said, adding that China believes that the UN Security Council’s resolution on Libya was to quell violence and protect civilians.

“If military action brings disaster to civilians and causes a humanitarian crisis, then it runs counter to the purpose of the UN resolution,” Hu said.

“We have noticed that some countries and regional organizations have raised proposals and suggestions in solving the Libya crisis, which did not lack constructive ideas,” Hu said.

Hu said China believes it is in the interest of all concerned parties to positively respond to those proposals.

Stressing China’s support of political efforts to ease the tension in Libya, Hu said China has called on relevant parties to immediately cease fire, seek peaceful ways to solve problems and avoid more civilian casualties so as to restore stability in Libya.

Hu said China believes that the independence, sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity of a country should be respected.

Respect Tibet’s Cultural Traditions

Who said, yesterday?

“We must respect the historical institutions and religious rituals of Tibetan Buddhism. I am afraid it is not up to anyone to abolish the reincarnation institution or not,”

Did you guess right? That was Padma Choling, chairman of the Tibet autonomous regional government in the Peoples’ Republic of China.

 The instititution of Tibetan Buddhism has a history of more than 1,000 years, and the specific reincarnation institutions of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama have been carried on for several hundred years. They are an integral part of the religious life of Tibet. Tibetan national and religious traditions are protected in China, where Tibet is an autonomous region, the picture above shows the traditional celebration of the Tibetan new year which happened yesterday. Indeed, earlier this week, Gyaincain Norbu, the Panchen Lama – the second highest Tibetan Buddhist leader – expressed the view that

“The Tibetan people now enjoy religious freedom and are much better off, People can freely choose to start a business, study or become a Buddhist monk. They are free to do whatever they aspire to, which was impossible in old Tibet. The peaceful liberation of Tibet has made people the real master of Tibet”

So who wants to abolish the reincarnation ritual.? You guessed it, Tenzin Gyatso himself, the 14th Dalai Lama, who has declared that once he dies, there should be no reincarnation. Is it not odd that a political leader who claims to want to preserve Tibetan cultural heritage now wants to overturn traditions for short term factional advantage? He wants there to be an “elected” leader for the self-styled “government in exile”; an “election” that would by-pass the Tibetan population, and only include exiles.

We should remember that when the Dalai lama ruled Tibet, serfs, who accounted for more than 90 percent of the population of old Tibet, were treated as private property by their owners, including the family of the Dalai Lama. The feudal class owned some 80 percent of Tibet’s wealth. Serfs were classified into three categories in accordance with their possessions — Tralpa, Duchung and Nangsan, with the third one being the most miserable who could be sold by his owner as cattle.

The family of the current Dalai Lama were slave owners.

On March 10, 1959, the Dalai Lama and some of the feudal owners instigated an armed rebellion to postpone abolition of the thousand-year-old serfdom system in Tibet. He then fled the country to India, taking with him most of the desperately poor nation’s gold reserves, which he expropriated as his personal property.

When the Dalai lama ruled Tibet, average life expectancy was just 35.5 years, it has risen over the five decades of being part of the peoples’ republic to 67 years, mainly due to rising health care standards and an improving social security system

Today Tibet is prospering, its economy grew 12.3 percent in 2010 to 50.7 billion yuan (7.7 billion U.S. dollars), and has expanded 79.5 percent over the past five years. The per capita net income of farmers and herdsmen increased to 4,139 yuan in 2010 from 2,078 yuan in 2005. The per capita disposable income of urban residents in the region jumped to 14,980 yuan in 2010 from 6,569 yuan in 2005, statistics show.

“In Lhasa, the economy is growing rapidly, the society is harmonious and stable, and the people are living and working happily,” says Dorje Tsedrup, mayor of Lhasa.

John Wight: China’s Role in Managing America’s Decline

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Chinese President Hu Jintao’s summit with President Obama in the US this week has come at a critical time in relations between both countries. The rise in Sinophobia within the US establishment marks a worrying trend whereby China is being blamed for America’s economic woes due to its refusal in the eyes of US politicians, economists and political commentators, to raise the value of its currency in order to stem the flow of exports to the US which continue to cripple US manufacturing. As a result the whiff of protectionism is in the air.

The essential point to be made, however, is that despite the rise in hostility being directed towards China from within the United States, and the West in general, the relationship between both countries remains interdependent, with the fortunes of each inextricably linked to that of the other.

China’s economic growth over the past decade has been simply staggering, averaging 10-12 percent annually. In 2010, in the midst of a global recession, China’s growth succeeded in confounding economic experts, registering over ten percent when most predicted it would plateau at around 6-8 percent. The latter would still have been impressive compared to other industrialised economies. Consider for example that US growth in 2010 was just 2.8 percent.

But what most commentators in the West fail to understand is that China’s accelerated rate of economic growth is essential in order to meet the rapid transformation taking place within China itself. As millions continue to migrate from the countryside into the city each year, in a process that shows no hint of slowing down, China’s priority is ensuring its economy is able to meet the increased demand for jobs within its urban centres. Huge capital investment projects have been undertaken over the past few years to offset the drop in demand for exports, with the Chinese taking advantage of its unique position in the world of being deposit rich as a consequence of an economic model which has placed a priority on saving over consumption. The lack of social protection provided by the state is largely responsible for this high level of saving within the Chinese economy, a situation which the Chinese government is currently in the process of alleviating, especially in light of the global recession and the fear it could precipitate a spike in unemployment. Without a viable system of social protection in place large scale unemployment could be the catalyst for widespread social unrest.

Added to the rapid increase in urban population and new jobs to meet the demand incurred, increased social protection is having the effect of slowly but steadily increasing domestic consumption. This is the main reason why China has been able to protect itself from the global downturn to the extent it has, offsetting the reduction in global demand for its exports. Regardless, the global share of Chinese global exports in 2010 came to £1.5 trillion. This means that China continues to export more than any other single major economy, with only the European Union in is entirety exporting more. Germany comes second on the list of the world’s major exporters with $1.3 trillion, while the US is third with $1.2 trillion worth of exports in 2010.

The non convertible status of the renminbi has lent further stability to China’s economy, giving it protection from the sudden and often sharp fluctuations suffered by convertible currencies. That said, there are both positives and negatives when it comes to maintaining the renminbi’s non-convertibility status. Allowing its currency to float would enhance China’s role in the world by making it easier for Chinese companies to invest abroad. More significantly, it could see the renminbi rival the dollar and the euro as an international reserve currency, especially throughout the developing world where China’s economic activity has seen it begin to weaken US domination.

The downside of course would be the possibility of opening the currency up to the kind of speculation which so afflicted its neighbours during the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s, precipitating a mass exit on the part of investors and savers as they seek a better return on their investments.

For the US – a declining economic power relative to China, though still some way ahead in terms of overall GDP – the danger is that China’s economic growth will inevitably progress to it growing as a military power in order to protect its accumulating global interests and economic alliances. This is particularly the case when it comes to East Asia, though is increasingly also a factor throughout the developing world. This strategic threat, as perceived within the US, is reflected in a staggering US defence budget of over $600 billion in 2010 under an Obama administration which came to power in 2008 perceived as progressive relative to the preceding Republican one. Compare this to China’s 2010 defence budget of $77.9 billion (though this does constitute a 7.5 percent increase). To put this disparity in even greater context, the US defence budget constitutes 46.5 percent of the entire world’s military budget, whilst China’s constitutes around 7 percent.

China’s role as the world’s major creditor to the US, currently to the tune of $908 billion, in effect funding US domestic consumption, is one half of the reason why the relationship between both countries will remain a mutually dependent at least in the short term. For China, its main priority lies in continuing to ensure the viability of US domestic consumption in order to maintain the US as its largest export market.

China’s role in the developing world has also come under much scrutiny in recent years. This is especially the case when it comes to Africa, where China’s influence has grown rapidly. This should come as no surprise. Africa is a continent richly endowed with natural resources, while China by comparison suffers from a lack of natural resources. With its economy expanding at the phenomenal rate it is, China’s need for oil, gas, iron ore, timber etc., has therefore forced it to look abroad. The result has been a doubling of trade between Africa and China between 2005 and 2010. Chinese aid to the continent has steadily increased over the same period. A development fund in the region of $5 billion has been established to encourage Chinese companies to invest in the continent; a zero tariff has been placed on more than 440 export items from the least developed African countries; and additional billions in preferential loans and trade credits have been granted.

Unlike the impact of the West throughout the African continent, first during the colonial period and latterly under as a consequence of neoliberalism under the auspices of the IMF and World Bank, China’s impact in Africa has thus far been positive. It has trained over 15,000 African professionals, sent over 100 agricultural experts to the continent, and built 30 hospitals and 100 schools in rural areas. In addition, China by 2009 had increased the number of annual academic scholarships to African students to 4,000.

Currently China imports 23 percent of its oil from Africa compared to 38 percent from the Middle East, while overall Chinese imports of primary commodities have grown more rapidly from Africa than anywhere else in the world, making China now the continent’s third largest trading partner after the US and France with the gap rapidly closing.

Cultural differences are evident in China’s approach to Africa when compared to the West also. Whereas the West insists on political influence to go along with economic assistance and investment, China does not. Respect for national sovereignty runs deep in the Chinese psyche as a direct result of its own colonial history at the hands of the western powers. Further, Chinese assistance typically comes in the form of a package, consisting of road, rail and building projects along with the provision of technical expertise.

Taken together, the alternative provided by China’s arrival as a competitor of the West has undoubtedly been beneficial to the African continent in lessening its prior dependency on the western powers along with the harsh terms and conditions traditionally attached to that dependency.

Over the past week of his visit to the US, President Hu Jintao’s priority will have been to try and head off the possibility of a damaging fracture in US-China relations. He and the rest of the Chinese government are aware that with the US economy in decline, US foreign policy shifts are likely to become increasingly sharp under pressure from within. The US establishment has grown increasingly vocal in its demands for China to allow the value of its currency to appreciate by removing state control over currency transactions. However, mindful and fearful of the huge shocks which bedevilled the so-called Asian tiger economies in the 1990s, and still at the stage of developing its economy to meet the growing needs of 1.3 billion people, the Chinese are not likely to succumb to US pressure to do so anytime soon.

China’s emergence and growing influence means that as things stand the days of US cultural, economic, and political hegemony around the world are numbered. The danger comes however in how this process unfolds. America’s fixation on the deployment of hard power since 9/11 presages the dangerous prospect of future military conflict with China. Meanwhile, US support for Taiwan is considered a provocation by the Chinese, while US encouragement of an increasingly belligerent South Korean stance towards North Korea is considered reckless.

Yet more evidence of the extent to which China’s growth is perceived as a threat in Washington comes in the shape of increasingly vociferous attacks on China’s human rights record, lack of democracy, and so on. The arrogance and hypocrisy involved in such criticisms being mounted by an imperialist behemoth like the US is apposite.

Regardless of increased US hostility towards China, it seems clear that Beijing’s overriding priority over the coming decade will be managing America’s decline in a way which ensures stability and lessens the possibility of military conflict in the years ahead.

The consequences involved in failing to do so are too grave to contemplate.

Don’t Take Wikileaks at Face Value

bkoreay Mark Seddon, from Left Futures

There is a very real danger that some analysts, diplomats, commentators and politicians are taking all that is revealed by Wikileaks at face value, without questioning the veracity of some of the information gleaned from third sources and some of the information transmitted back by US diplomats, believing as they did that they were doing so under the cloak of anonymity.

Take for instance the views of US diplomats who had met with their South Korean counterparts and who had apparently discussed China’s attitude to North Korea with Chinese officials. We learn from Wikileaks that the more sophisticated Chinese foreign policy officials (and there I was thinking that all Chinese foreign policy officials are sophisticated – it goes with the terrain) believed that North Korea was increasingly behaving “like a spoilt child”. Furthermore, the Chinese had apparently told the South Koreans that their patience was “wearing thin”, that North Korea was behaving in a “belligerent manner” and that actually China would prefer to see the two Koreas united under the aegis of Seoul. Click to continue reading

An Unlikely Advocate of Physical Fitness?

Philosophy Football have often gone with the quirky; producing T-shirts emblazoned with comments from famous philosophers and thinkers about the noble past-time of association football. They have now uncovered a 1917 article by Mao Zedong on the need to encourage physical fitness .

It is actually an interesting article, where Mao criticises the prevailing Chinese student culture of anaemic academicism; and stresses the need for physcal education as well as mental health, not only for personal development; but also in order to recover a martial capability for the Chinese nation to throw off the yoke of foreign domination.

It is impossible to overstress the degree to which the Chinese Communist Party’s victory over the forces of imperialism, colonialism and warlordism, and to reunite the nation was a progressive achievement. It was the precondition for all the social and economic progress which has subsequently been made.

Political critics often assume that liberal parliamentary democracy was a viable alternative to the form of government established by the Chinese Communist Party. This is not true: parliamentary democracy requires a culture of respect for the rule of law, and economic and social stablity. These were not the conditions in China, emerging out of a nightmare of grinding poverty, illiteracy, and disease; the dismemberment of the nation by colonialism and warlordism; and they faced alternative military and political force of the Goumindang, with its powerful foreign support. Click to continue reading