Let me preface this with a little background. I was an intelligence analyst in the military both during and before the global war on terror. This was a time when intel was beyond short staffed, and the requirement for rapid responses meant that we all sort of got pulled to the top echelons of our intelligence hierarchies. Because of this, I got a good look at imperialism from the inside before I’d ever even heard of Lenin’s book on it.
The United States of America is the primary seat of power in an empire that’s owned and directed by finance capital. To put it in more relatable terms, the U.S. in empire is like New York is to the U.S. We have no more ability to declare independence from Empire than New York could the USA.
And this is important to realize, because it is the framework and lens that Chinese communists see us. And this is also important because I intend to establish how they recognized the material progression necessary to disentangle empire from nation states in order to create breathing room for socialism to emerge – not only in China, but internationally as well.
So, here are a few things that intel taught me about the Chinese.
First: they are a VERY ancient and patient culture. Their culture and philosophy lends itself to planning their course over the span of generations. This is not a stereotype. The Chinese plan for things their current generation may never see come to pass.
Second: they spent 100 years as colonial pawns of the British Empire, a period they refer to as the Century of Humiliation. That colonialism produced in their country a degree of poverty that’s beyond what’s understandable to most of us in the West. So when they had their people’s revolution, its trajectory was extremely limited. They attempted to remedy this by allying with the USSR, their only hope for development capable of sustaining a socialist revolution.
And history is clear about how that went. A schism formed between China & the USSR, exacerbated by the political machinations of western finance capital, and their revolution hit a snag. This is what led to the rise of what they called The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution & the Red Guards. The largest economic plan of the time, called the “Great Leap Forward”, in which they hoped to jump start socialist construction through mass industrialization, did not go as planned. Remember, they were a third world, colonized country that had just fought two massively destructive wars. Conditions were not exactly primed for advancement, and the levels of education among the people were low. Food shortages and a single famine (the last in Chinese history) served to alienate the people from the Communist Party, and the Communist Party from itself. Splits and exiles. Exiles and splits.
In comes Deng Xiaoping. Now I know Deng is a controversial figure, as people think he betrayed communism in exchange for capital investment but I refer you back to Chinese strategic patience. You see, Chinese communists outside of the cultural revolution understood that development, not purism, was the prime hindrance to socialist progression. However, they’d been cut off from the USSR, for better or worse.
Yet Deng Xiaoping and the CPC concluded that in order to sustain the entire population they would have to advance the forces of production to a higher level. They also understood capital cannot be created out of thin air. This meant they would need a long term trading partner. Which is why the only option Deng Xiaoping saw for Chinese socialism was through manipulating the West economically. This is why China chose to enter a trade partnership with the United States.
To enter into a trade partnership Western imperialists demanded access to Chinese markets and the ability to engage in foreign investment. In response China permitted private property and a limited stock market to be created within Communist China under the strictest of measures from the Communist Party to draw in the necessary foreign capital. China needed to build up a productive base. It was the perfect strategy for the time and place, the intersection of imperialism and anti-imperialism.
And here’s where most Westerners, particularly Western Marxists, stop with their analysis. They see only the creation of private property and markets, and they assess the status and politics of China based on the appearance of their current material situation. But there are a few things that must be understood about HOW they developed and continue to develop that requires further analysis. And there’s something to understand about imperialism that applies directly to how the Chinese developed.
Imperialism depends on monopolism. That’s a given. But monopolism relies on suppressing the development of nations outside of its imperial core. These nations are colonies and their status as colonies is dependent on only having the infrastructure necessary to extract wealth and resources. If these countries were to gain the ability to develop their own industries, they would be able to produce commodities for themselves and potentially a surplus. And this means they’d no longer need to purchase from imperial monopolies. Worse, they would even be able to enter the international trade market, thus driving down the prices of all imperial goods.
So in true imperialist fashion, capitalists initially kept their investments into China limited to extraction based infrastructure. However, they still needed to upgrade China’s industries in order to squeeze the maximal value out of China’s labor force. It was for this specific reason Chinese communists played subordinate to Western capital.
- They needed the investment in their infrastructure just to produce the conditions by which they could further socialize.
- But more importantly they intended from the very beginning to use every round of Western investment to conduct industrial espionage.
As early as the late 80’s and early 90’s you can find stories about the Chinese stealing industrial secrets from the West. It’s been a constant complaint among Western capitalists.., and for good reason.
Unlike other third world nations, China had such a large labor force that the West couldn’t afford to leave Chinese markets after all they’d already invested. But on the flip side, China was using the industrial and technological secrets stolen from the West to begin building infrastructure necessary to develop their own production sectors. This is how they became an economy that could no longer be captured by empire.
Why? They became self-sufficient. They became a colony that developed past the limits on development imperialists keep the rest of the third world constricted by. But wait a minute, you might ask, doesn’t that just make them clever capitalists that will eventually position themselves to become the new hegemony?
Now THIS is the big question. And it’s also where the geopolitics of the Belt & Road Initiative enter the analysis. If you piece all of these details together, including how imperial monopolism is entirely reliant on suppressing international development.., then why would the Chinese initiate the Belt and Road Initiative?
Because unlike the West, the Chinese don’t use debt traps to capture or subordinate other nations. In fact, they’ve forgiven the debt of quite a few African nations to the tune of billions. What’s more, they don’t add restrictions to the money they’re lending these countries to develop. If they were truly capitalist they’d be attempting to ascend into the next stage of capitalism, imperialism. Yet instead of colonizing other nations, they’re exporting development. But why is that important? What exactly does exporting development do?
Well, we know that it weakens Western imperialism by driving down profits, eliminating whole markets from which the empire extracts value. The Chinese are not stupid. They are very aware of how western finance capital treats ANY project that seeks to free itself from its yoke. By weakening imperialism they are making the world safer. This is not to say their motives are purely altruistic. This also makes the world safer for Chinese socialism and the Chinese people.
But what would the Chinese project of exporting development do to China itself?
The same things.
In fact, developing other nations creates additional surpluses which only serve to undermine capital on these countries, but even in their own. What else does it do? It reduces the severity of scarcity gradually. In fact, the more other nations develop, the less scarcity there is. And the less scarcity there is.., the less profit anyone can make.
This makes no sense if China intends to expand monopolist control on an international scale, which is an essential step for establishing their own empire. However, if China is trying to advance socialism, THIS creates the opportunity to dissolve privatization once and for all. From the Marxist Leninist perspective, this is a concrete outcome of socialism in existence: socialist geopolitics, otherwise known as internationalism.
Chinese socialism arose out of a very nationally-oriented, peasant revolution, but it has advanced since then. This history is what forms and determines the shape of modern socialist geopolitics. And the Belt and Road Initiative is what I and many other Marxist Leninists around the world see as proof positive, a concrete outcome of the process of socialism. We can look at China’s geopolitical strategy, and & using our understanding of what’s necessary for socialism to progress, we can see obvious intentionality. We can observe & understand what their options are/were and why the Communist Party of China chooses one rather than another.
By analyzing China’s geopolitical activity, we can see that they are deliberately unraveling imperial control over world trade, while also intentionally creating the material conditions to prevent the return of imperialism, and even the possibility of Chinese imperialism.
But let’s not forget BRICS. BRICS is another issue that confuses many Western Marxists.
A LOT of Western Marxists misunderstand BRICS as an attempt at multipolarity, but it’s not. At least not from China, the primary seat of power in that economic alliance. For China, BRICS is more of an ANTI-polar coalition. The existence of BRICS directly undermines the petrodollar, weakening the control imperialism has to suffocate its colonies.
China understands that the only way to break Western imperialism is to provide an alternative financial system in which to trade energy resources. The existence of BRICS directly undermines the petrodollar, weakening the control imperialism has to suffocate its colonies.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s return to the part where I said that Western monopolies prevent their colonies from developing. How?
The West limits the amount of dollars a nation is allowed to purchase over the course of a year. And why is that important? Because oil can only be purchased with dollars (thus why we call it the petrodollar). This creates a geopolitical situation where Western imperialists meticulously control the amount of energy any nation has access to, as well as the global energy markets (as it is western finance capital reaping the profits from these markets). And typically the empire only allows nations to purchase or borrow enough dollars to barely maintain their extraction infrastructure.
Industrialization & development require an intense amount of energy expenditure just to construct and implement infrastructure. Western imperialists know this and deliberately cap the amount colonized nations are able to purchase to keep them perpetually stagnated. Imperialist oil & banking cartels only supply their client states with enough energy to stay on life support while the bulk of that energy is redirected to imperialist extraction infrastructure (enterprise within the colonized country owned by western finance capital). And imperialists use mechanisms like the IMF, World Bank, WTO etc. to snare these nations in debt traps, playing directly on the situation they often-times created, to force these nations to comply with extraction based energy budgets.
Why? Because monopolies NEED buyers. And since industrialism has already advanced to the point of producing abundance, scarcity is required to maintain the value of goods for export. If third world countries were allowed to industrialize, the surplus created would drive the value of goods below profitability, or at least drive profitability margins extremely close to the cost of production. Factoring in the fact that the rate of profits has already fallen so low, this would strip the 1% of their ability to accumulate wealth on a real scale.., which in turn would cause their current wealth to wither. Which, again in turn, leads to loss of power and influence, first internationally, then at home.
So let’s bring this back to China. If China intended to pursue development towards capitalist ends they’d be creating similar financial cartels and infrastructure. But they’re not. They’re deliberately creating the conditions for third world countries to prosper. Which by the way, also gives them the ability to straighten their backs and begin the process of liberation. One very literally IS the other.
Because that’s another thing China has learned. You can’t spread communism through conquest (despite what some alternative schools of communist thought will tell you). A nation must revolutionize itself. It has to have the full organic support of its people or it’s doomed to counter-revolutionary failure. So they’re simply creating the conditions for third world countries to develop into societies which can then decide for themselves how or whether they wish to socialize.
Now, I know how everyone likes to squawk about China being authoritarian in nature, but in what world is China’s geo-political project, the one I just described, authoritarian? Once you’re able to zoom out and see the whole picture, it becomes apparent that China is playing the long game. And they’ve racked up win after win.
The geopolitics of China are socialist, a direct outcome of economic socialist construction. Better than that, their geopolitics alter the material conditions internationally in such a way that it undermines the wealth of their own capital owners. Should the Belt & Road Initiative succeed, they’re dooming their own private industries to compete with a fully developed world that produces such an abundance that their wealthy elite are no longer able to profit.
So you tell me, do Chinese billionaires control China? Are they deliberately sabotaging their own class interests? Or is China a socialist country in the midst of a grand project to transition the world, including themselves, out of imperialism and into a new socialist era?