X. Revisionist Whitewashing: China and Russia are Semi-Colonies rather than Great Powers (LIT / UIT / FT)




Note of the Editorial Board: The following Chapter contains several figures. For technical reasons these can only be viewed in the pdf version of the book which can be downloaded here.





A number of organizations adhering to the ideology of Trotskyism refuse the reactionary nonsense that capitalist restoration in Russia and China has not been completed. They rightly reject such Stalinist whitewashing of the ruling classes in China and Russia. Nevertheless, they don’t share our characterization of China and Russia as imperialist powers. This, in our opinion, contains the danger of objectively opening the door to lending support to these states in the Great Power rivalry.


Let us take for example two, larger, Trotskyite organizations standing in the centrist tradition of Nahuel Moreno which are both based mainly in Latin America: the “International Workers League - Fourth International” (LIT-CI) and the “International Workers Unity - Fourth International” (UIT-CI). [1]


As we observed in our recently published pamphlet on the Syrian Revolution and the Great Power rivalry, they correctly oppose both the military interventions of Russia as well as the U.S. in Syria. However, in their statements on this issue, they characterized only the Western powers as “imperialist” but refrained from doing so for Russia. [2]


These were not accidental oversights but a logical result of their theoretical analysis. The leaderships both of the LIT as well as of the UIT have repeatedly stated in theoretical articles that they consider China and Russia not as imperialist powers but rather as large semi-colonial countries like Brazil, Mexico, and India.




LIT: Is China Comparable with Brazil, India or Mexico?




Let us first look to the arguments of the LIT comrades.


This example goes to prove that Chinese economy is being used by the multinationals to super-exploit the world, while turning China into a semi-colony of world imperialism, a condition of submission which leads to immense contradictions that will explode in the forthcoming years. (…) And then a myth cropped up: China is to be the new global superpower, followed by new regional powers: Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico, South Africa, etc. It is true that these countries have a privileged relation with imperialism; however, this relation presupposes their subordination to the transnationals: they are part of the process of recolonisation.[3]


They view China as a kind of subsidiary of U.S. imperialism as the following quotes demonstrate.


So, an unprecedented historical combination occurs: the Stalinist apparatus, that had led the revolution and built the Bureaucratized Workers’ State, restored capitalism and remained in power after doing so. But now they no longer defend the economic and social basis of a Workers’ State, they are in the service of imperialist capitalism. (...) We have referred to the “tandem mechanism” of the Chinese and U.S. economies. But they are not equal and equivalent “locomotives”. One was the main and dominant (U.S.), the other was subsidiary and dominated (China). China turned into the “factory of the world” not as a dominant potency, but as a subordinated country in an accumulation model dominated by imperialist capital. From this point of view, the model’s global mechanism is similar to strong semi-colonial countries, like Brazil. (...) It is capitalist because of the accumulation model dynamic that we have analyzed. It is also a dependent capitalism because imperialist capital controls both ends of the process (investments and exports).[4]


Is China an Imperialist Country?


The reality we have described leads many analysts to consider China as the “emerging power of the XXI Century”. From the perspective of many Marxists it is a new imperialist or sub-imperialist country (imperialist but dependent on a stronger imperialism). This latter characterization is based on the following reasoning: given that Lenin (on his famous book on the subject) has defined the main characteristic of imperialism as the export of financial capital, countries that have companies that do so (and therefore extract surplus value from others) acquire an imperialist character. This logic is applied not only to China, but also to other countries like Brazil.


We believe this characterization is mistaken because it focuses on only one element (the existence of capital exporting companies) to mechanically define the whole character of the country and its location in “international hierarchy”. But if we observe it more deeply, we will find that at the current stage of capitalist development, there are companies like that in countries nobody can characterize as imperialist. (In what follows, the LIT comrades refer to examples of companies in Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil; Ed.) These companies act as multinationals (similar to imperialist companies). They extract surplus value from their investments abroad. In many cases, they plunder natural resources and send most of their profit to their head offices. But this reality must be understood in the whole context of the country of origin. We must analyze whether this surplus value obtained abroad is the main axis of the country’s economy, or on the contrary, it only represents a contradictory (and privileged) element in a more general process. A process in which a country turns in most of the surplus value to the main countries (through imperialist companies’ profits repatriation, foreign debt payment, plundering of natural resources, etc.). For us this is clearly the situation of Peru, Chile, Argentina and also Brazil.


China’s case is more complex, because the State and bourgeoisie have a significant volume of capital and make large investments abroad, which allows them to have a relative autonomy, which we have already referred to. However, the Chinese economic model does not work around the surplus value obtained abroad. On the contrary, they turn in most of the surplus value obtained in the country to imperialist financial capital. If we analyze Chinese investments, we will see that most of them are used to support their monetary reserves, or guarantee the supply and transportation of the commodities and food they import. Secondarily, they seek relief for the overproduction of steel, construction and mechanical products in the country. They are subsidiaries, subordinated to the accumulation model as a whole, and at its service. In other words, they ultimately ensure imperialism’s surplus value.[5]


The LIT maintains this position even now when the Global Trade War between the U.S. and China has begun.


We talked about the “tandem mode” of the US-China economies. But both roles are not equal or equivalent. One is the main and controlling one (the US) and the other is a subsidiary, the dominated one (China). China became the “world factory” but not as a dominating power but as a subordinated country, in a model of accumulation controlled by imperialist capitals. From this point of view, the global economic model of China is similar to those of the strongest semi-colonial countries, like Brazil.[6]


So, in summary, the LIT imagines that China is a semi-colonial country which is super-exploited by U.S. (and other) imperialist powers.




UIT: China is Super-Exploited by Imperialism?




The comrades of the other major Morenoite tendency, the UIT-CI, basically share the same methodological approach. The UIT, as the quote below demonstrates, also characterizes both China and Russia not as an imperialist power but as a semi-colony.


The definition of China as a capitalist country has its peculiarities, on the basis that it is a country where capitalism was restored and is still governed by the CPC, a Stalinist party. It is not an imperialist country because it is a country that has been semi-colonized by the large multinationals of imperialist world (U.S. and European), which dominate it, and its total dependence on exports to those countries. China is a large semi-colony with respect to imperialism, such as, for example, Brazil, India and Russia, minding the differences[7]


And, like their comrades from the LIT, the UIT also maintains this position even now, when the Global Trade War demonstrates that China is indeed able to challenge the biggest imperialist power on earth!


China and its insertion in the global market


(...). Forty years later, the Chinese economy went from representing 1.8% of the world market to 18.2%, but the cost of associating with large multinationals and subordinating themselves to imperialist plans was paid for the loss of those historic gains and the a return to a brutal social inequality, megacorruption and superexploitation, with strenuous workdays and miserable salaries under a regime of a single-party capitalist dictatorship. Successive worker strikes in recent years, such as the one in Dongguan in 2014, the largest in the history of the People's Republic of China, call into question the exploitation model of the Chinese dictatorship and its false "socialism with Chinese characteristics".[8]


As we have shown above (as well as in many other studies), the Morenoite assessment of China and Russia as subordinated and super-exploited countries under the mercy of U.S. imperialism is a caricature of reality. China has become the most important challenger of the US as the world’s hegemonic power. It has already overtaken all other imperialist powers (like Japan or the Western European states). While foreign capital did play an important role in the past, this has been strongly reduced. While the share of foreign direct investment in China’s fixed capital formation was about 17% in 1994, it has been only about 2.5% by 2014. [9]


Russia, while economically weaker than China, has also proven capable of challenging the Western domination in the Middle East. So, we ask the leading comrades of LIT and UIT: how do you explain that Russia and China, these supposed semi-colonies of U.S. imperialism, manage to challenge the supremacy of Washington?! How do they explain that Putin has succeeded to bring Syria under his control and expand Moscow’s influence at the expense of the U.S.?! How do they explain that China is becoming one of the, if not the, largest foreign investor in Africa, Asia and Latin America and that its political weight is constantly rising to the strong irritation of the U.S. Administration?!


Unfortunately, all these fundamental changes in world capitalism in the past one, two decades seem to have gone completely unnoticed by the LIT and UIT leaders! Trotsky once remarked: „What characterizes a genuine revolutionary organization is above all the seriousness with which it works out and tests its political line at each new turn of events.[10] It would be very helpful for the comrades of LIT and UIT to take this advice into account!


Any equation of semi-colonies like Brazil or India with Russia or China is completely absurd. As we have shown in other works Russia’s economy is dominated by domestic monopolies. [11] Key sectors like oil, gas, banking, and metal are controlled by a few large corporations which are usually closely linked with the state. According to a calculation from 2004, the 22 largest Russian monopolies employ 42% of the labor force and account for 39% of sales, while the capitalist state (both regional and federal combined) employ another 21% of the labor force and account for an additional 36% of sales. On the other hand, foreign corporations employ only 3% of Russian workers and sell only 8% of the goods and services produced in the country. [12]


China, as we have demonstrated in detail, is home of the second-largest number of multinational corporations in the world (only behind the U.S.). At the same time, the share of foreign capital in the Chinese stock market is only around 5% and around 2% in the Chinese bond market. [13] Arthur Kroeber, author of a major study of China’s economy, concludes “that [state-owned enterprises] account for about 35 percent of GDP (...), domestic private firms account for about 60 percent of GDP, and firms controlled by foreign investors account for the remaining 5 percent or so.” [14] In short, China is not dominated by foreign capital but rather dominates other countries.


In contrast to Russia and China, Brazil has always been dominated not by domestic but by foreign monopolies. We have described this in more detail in our book The Great Robbery of the South. A study of Brazil in the 1960s demonstrates that 31 of the 50 largest private enterprises were controlled by imperialist capital. Out of 276 large companies, more than half were controlled by foreign owners. [15]


Since the time of these studies, the picture has not changed. Today, imperialist corporations control nearly half of Brazil’s foreign trade and more than half of the largest 500 private Brazilian companies: “The high FDI inflows have meant an increase in the foreign share in the Brazilian economy. (…) Foreign corporations also increased their share of the country’s foreign trade, reaching 41.3% of exports and 49.3% of imports. The role of the foreign capital is even stronger when we consider only large companies. Among the largest 500 private Brazilian companies, those under foreign control accounted for 41.2% of sales in 1989. This share increased to 49.9% in 1997 and, by 2003, reached 51.7%.[16]




FT: Russia and China can not become Imperialist without a Major War?




The Trotskyist FractionFourth International (FT) whose main force is the Socialist Workers' Party (PTS) in Argentina, also rejects the characterization of Russia and China as imperialist. Like the statements of other centrists, the FT declaration on the recent events in Syria uses the term “imperialist” only when it comes to the actions of the US and Western powers but not when they mention Putin’s war of aggression. [17] Again, this is no accident as one can see from more elaborated documents of the FT.


This becomes evident from a statement of Philippe Alcoy, a leader of the FT in France. This comrade wrote in April 2018:


With the international economic crisis of 2007-2008, this situation started to change. The failure of the US-led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan marked a relative but real decline in the world hegemony of the north-American imperialist, even if today there is no new imperialist power to challenge the USA.


It is in this context that we must understand this new offensive of Western powers against Russia. Not that Russia is challenging USA hegemony (it is really far from that). We are not in a “new Cold War”. In the end, the conflict is not even between Russia and “the West”. It is a move from the USA to prevent any international power, or international alliance from challenging its hegemony as the main imperialist power. (...)


Russia is not really an imperialist power but a regional power able to influence some international affairs. Its military power and its positions in international organisations (inherited mainly from the Soviet period) create the “illusion of world super power”. But since the end of the Cold War, the Russian economy has become almost completely dependent on production and export of gas and oil (which technology is largely imported form imperialist countries); its main area of influence is the former Soviet space; the central role it plays in Syria today is mostly the result of the huge blow it received in Ukraine in 2014. Moreover, with the Western offensive Russia is becoming a “pariah state”.[18]


This statement is completely nonsensical and reflects the FT’s failure to understand the fundamental dynamics of the current historic period. While in fact the accelerating rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers and, in particular, the challenge of the U.S. hegemony by Russia and China are key features of the world situation, the FT simply denies this reality. It states: “today there is no new imperialist power to challenge the USA


Well, if there is supposedly no challenge to the U.S., we ask the comrades, how do they explain that there is a looming Global Trade War between the U.S. and China?! If this is not a challenge, what than is a challenge?! And do the FT comrades want to deny the fact that Russia has effectively outmaneuvered the U.S. from the negotiations in Syria – a key area of the political dynamic in the Middle East. (The FT’s explanation of Russia’s role in Syria that this “is mostly the result of the huge blow it received in Ukraine in 2014” lacks any logic. If Russia was weakened by the events in the Ukraine why should it, as a result of that, be able to dominate Syria?!) Likewise, it plays an influential role in other key powers in the Middle East like Iran and Turkey. And in Eastern Europe and Central Asia Russia is also able to challenge the U.S.


Similarly with China. While the FT concede that China has certain “imperialist features” it claims that neither Russia nor China have created an “independent capitalist class”. [19] Hence it talks, in the case of China, not about the “ruling class” but about the “ruling bureaucracy”. The following quote, taken from the central political document adopted at their recently held international conference, demonstrates that the FT claims Russia and China are much too weak and backward to challenge the U.S. They explicitly deny that China can become an imperialist power “on a peaceful road”, i.e. without a prior major and victorious war against U.S. imperialism.


In the past years, the imperialist features of China have deepened. (…) Briefly, China can not challenge today the global supremacy of the U.S. which will remain the most important imperialist power in the next years. The GDP per capita of China is much to low (...), the differences in the military field are still huge, and the same holds true in the technological sector. Furthermore, neither in China nor in Russia could an independent capitalist class consolidate itself given the peculiarities of capitalist restoration. Hence, the role of the state is still dominant. (....) There exists a double challenge: China wants to get out of the limitations which the imperialist world economy imposes on it and at the same time the U.S. tries to break China. (...) This demonstrates that there is no possibility of a “peaceful road” towards an imperialist development of China.” [20]


Surely, China and Russia are “backward”, compared with the U.S. and other Western powers, when we look at their GDP per capita. But, as we have demonstrated in several studies as well as in this book, such discrepancies between imperialist states have often been the case and do not contradict the imperialist nature of such “backward” Great Powers. We remind the FT comrades that such unevenness between the Great Powers always existed in the epoch of imperialism.


It is true that U.S. imperialism is, in principle, still superior to its rivals including Russia and China. But the truth is always concrete as Lenin liked to say. Yes, the U.S. is the biggest economic and military power. However, at the same time it is overburdened by the global responsibilities as the former absolute hegemon of the world. Contrary to Russia and China, the ruling class of the U.S. is bitterly divided.


To make a comparison: the U.S. is like a big beast which is wounded. Russia and China are like smaller tigers which are, contrary to their rival, fit and fast. Under such conditions, the superiority of the U.S. becomes more relative and limited.


The thesis that China (or Russia) can not become imperialist powers “on a peaceful road” is not new. It has already been raised against the RCIT by another Latin American group. As we did reply already to these comrades, we consider such a position as fundamentally wrong. Of course, there has never been and there can never be a peaceful coexistence between imperialist powers in the long run. This is a pillar of Marxist theory as we have always pointed out.


But why do the FT comrades insist that there must be a war before a state can become an imperialist power? Where did Lenin or Trotsky say such a thing? The US, Japan, and the EU have declined in the past decades without a world war. (See e.g. Figure 30 which demonstrates the decline of the Western Great Powers U.S., Germany and Japan in the past decades.) In the same period, new great powers can and have emerged.




Figure 30. Share in Global Merchandise Exports, 1948–2017 (in Percent) [21]






Furthermore, we would like to remind the comrades that Lenin himself explicitly pointed out the possibility of the emergence of new imperialist powers: “Capitalism is growing with the greatest rapidity in the colonies and in overseas countries. Among the latter, new imperialist powers are emerging (e.g., Japan).[22]


The failure of the FT comrades to understand the rivalry between the US and China as the rivalry between two imperialist Great Powers becomes also apparent in another recently published article. This article, titled “21st Century Economic Nationalism”, deals with the rising tensions between the two powers on the issues of trade. However, despite the length of the article the author fails to mention a single time the word “imperialist” or “imperialism”! [23]


We see the same failure in the FT’s analysis of the Global Trade War. In a recently published article they fail to understand the tensions as an inter-imperialist conflict between Great Powers. Consequently, while they name the US, as well as the European Union, “imperialist”, they refrain from such a characterization of China. [24]


It is clear that the development of reality is far more advanced than the empty, wooden schemas of centrism. While they deny the imperialist nature of Russia and China, the reality is marked by the challenge of Western imperialism by the new Great Powers of the East. The centrists are, to paraphrase Lenin, prisoners of old formulas. [25]


[1] For the RCIT’s characterization of Morenoism see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Summary of our main differences with the UIT-CI, October 2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/critique-of-uit-ci/; LRCI: Barbaric Trotskyism: a History of Morenoism (1992), Part 1 and 2, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/morenoism-part-1/ and https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/morenoism-part-2/

[2] See e.g. “The leader (Trump, Ed.) of a coalition that, since 2014, killed thousands of civilians, is suddenly horrified because of the “barbarianism” of his Syrian counterpart. “What happened is barbaric and inadmissible. We are studying the response. Nothing is discarded so far,” he said. Then, he announced “important decisions” in the next “24 to 48 hours.” There is a concrete threat of a military attack on a bigger scale than the current one – characterized by some analysts like “imminent.” From the IWL-FI, we repudiate any type of military intervention by imperialism against Syria. That is not the solution to oppression and to the atrocities of al-Assad’s regime. In the Syrian case, [an intervention] will always pursue to defeat the revolutionary process, not the dictator. Washington uses its missiles serving a policy: better conditions to control the country in a future political “transition”. He does not care about the lives or aspirations of the Syrian people. (...) The Syrian people have lost too much blood already, confronting Assad’s dictatorship. A victorious imperialist military intervention, even under the hypothesis of overthrowing Assad’s regime, will be nothing but a new dictatorship, for the people. It would be the dictatorship of imperialism, the greater genocide of human history.” (Daniel Sugasti: We repudiate Trump’s threats on more attacks to Syria! LIT-CI, April 10, 2018 https://litci.org/en/we-repudiate-trumps-threats-on-more-attacks-to-syria/)

Ordered by the ultra-reactionary Donald Trump, the US, UK and France launched a criminal attack with missiles over places near the capital Damascus and Homs, in Syria. (...) Our socialist current, the IWU-FI, has spent years repudiating Bashar al Assad dictatorship and his genocidal actions against Syrian people, military supported by reactionary Putin and the Ayatollahs regime of Iran. (...) IWU-FI has been reporting on the permanent imperialist intervention of the US, together with the NATO and their allies, the petrol Arab monarchies and the Zionist State of Israel. (...) Now we repudiate the bombing ordered by Trump. We do not acknowledge imperialism any right to pretend "justice" is served in this way. Yank imperialism is the largest killer in history, with invasions and aggressions everywhere in the world. (...) Their actions are a smokescreen to show they are the world police and to hide that, in fact, they support al Assad, together with Russia and Iran. They have been years negotiating and agreeing military actions with Russia with the argument of "defeating terrorism" in order to support the dictator Bashar al Assad who, since March 2011, saw his power at risk as hundred of thousand of Syrian people took to the streets. We call the people of the world and the political, union, students and left organisations from around the world to express their disapproval to the imperialist bombing. We also call to repudiate Assad regime and Putin and to express solidarity with the Syrian people.” (IWU-FI: We repudiate the imperialist shelling on Syria! No to Trump's killer missiles! April 14, 2018, http://uit-ci.org/index.php/news-a-documents/1985-we-repudiate-the-imperialist-shelling-on-syria-no-to-trumps-killer-missiles)

[3] Nazareno Godeiro: The validity of Lenin's imperialism theory, LIT-CI, International Courier, 09 October 2014, http://www.litci.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2568:the-validity-of-lenins-imperialism-theory&catid=729:international-courier&Itemid=39. In another, more recent article, the LIT leaders repeat their schema that China’s ruling class is a servant of the (Western) imperialist powers: “So, an unprecedented historical combination occurs: the Stalinist apparatus, that had led the revolution and built the Bureaucratized Workers’ State, restored capitalism and remained in power after doing so. But now they no longer defend the economic and social basis of a Workers’ State, they are in the service of imperialist capitalism.” (Alejandro Iturbe: Capitalist Restoration in China, September 7, 2017 https://litci.org/en/capitalist-restoration-in-china-special/)

[4] Alejandro Iturbe (LIT-CI): Certainties and questions raised by China’s economic crisis – Part 1, March 30, 2016 https://litci.org/en/certainties-and-questions-raised-by-chinas-economic-crisis-part-1/

[5] Alejandro Iturbe (LIT-CI): Certainties and questions raised by China’s economic crisis – Part 2, March 22, 2016 https://litci.org/en/certainties-and-questions-raised-by-chinas-economic-crisis-part-2/

[6] Alejandro Iturbe: Trump’s trade sanctions against China, March 29, 2018 https://litci.org/en/trumps-trade-sanctions-against-china/

[7] Global Policy Theses, discussed and voted at the Fourth Congress of the IWU-FI, Chapter “VI. China: Towards a new hegemonic power?”, http://uit-ci.org/index.php/mundo/2018-04-05-19-24-25/1912-vi-china-towards-a-new-hegemonic-power

[8] Mariana Morena: Sanciones cruzadas entre Estados Unidos y China: ¿Hacia una "guerra comercial global"? http://www.uit-ci.org/index.php/noticias-y-documentos/crisis-capitalista-mundial/2071-2018-07-13-01-07-42

[9] Arthur R. Kroeber: China’s Economy. What Everyone Needs To Know, Oxford University Press, New York 2016, p. 53

[10] Fourth International: Imperialist War and the Proletarian World Revolution; Manifesto adopted by the Emergency Conference of the Fourth International in May 1940; in: Documents of the Fourth International. The Formative Years (1933-40), New York 1973, p. 343

[11] See Michael Pröbsting: Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, Special Issue of Revolutionary Communism No. 21 (March 2014), https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/; Michael Pröbsting: Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism, August 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialism-theory-and-russia/

[12] Sergei Guriev and Andrei Rachinsky: Oligarchs: the past or the future of Russian capitalism? July 2004, p. 11

[13] Wang Yanfei: China should reduce restrictions on foreign capital, senior economists say, China Daily, 2017-09-25, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2017-09/25/content_32448925.htm

[14] Arthur R. Kroeber: China’s Economy. What Everyone Needs To Know, Oxford University Press, New York 2016, p. 101

[15] See Celso Furtado: Economic Development of Latin America. Historical Background and Contemporary Problems, New York 1984, pp. 204-206

[16] Celio Hiratuka: Foreign Direct Investment and Transnational Corporations in Brazil: Recent Trends and Impacts on Economic Development, April 2008, pp. 5-6

[17] Stop Bombing Syria! Nothing good can come of this bombing or any other imperialist military intervention, April 14, 2018 http://www.leftvoice.org/Stop-Bombing-Syria

[18] Philippe Alcoy (FT in France), in: Rossen Djagalov: We Asked: Geopolitics and the Left (Part I: Russia & the West), LeftEast April 19 2018, http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/we-asked-rusia-and-the-west/

[19] The FT comrades have also published an interview with Au Loong Yu, a socialist Chinese academic living in Hong Kong. As they published the interview without any comment one can assume that they view his positions as in broad agreement with their analysis of China’s capitalism. And indeed, Au Loong Yu shares the FT position that China is not an imperialist state. We note as an aside that the Mandelists published exactly the same interview with a title which rather suggests that the text would rather confirm the characterization of China as an imperialist Great Power! (See http://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article5758) Anyway, here is the relevant excerpt of the interview published by the FT comrades:

Question: In your book China’s Rise: Strength and Fragility, you give an account of the impressive growth of Chinese transnational corporations up to 2007. In the 10 years since, the pace of Chinese foreign investment in Latin America, in Africa and elsewhere has increased even more. Can we speak of China as a new imperialism? If so, does it have specific characteristics? How does the One Belt One Road initiative fit into this project?

Answer: (...) China’s bureaucratic capitalism necessarily carries with it a global expansionist logic, first in economic terms and then increasingly also in political and military terms. If one measures the degree of monopoly and the fusion between financial and industrial capital—made possible through bureaucratic capitalism, and also the degree of outward investment—then surely China already carries strong elements of modern imperialism, that is, a kind of imperialism that, with the backing of military power and surplus capital, seeks to dominate weaker countries but does not necessarily seek direct political domination over them as it did before.

This also explains the change of foreign policy from Deng Xiaoping’s tao guang yang hui (meaning “not to show off one’s capability but to keep a low profile”) to Xi Jinping’s more assertive stand in relation to the United States and Japan, known as fen fa you wei (meaning “striving for achievement”).

But it is important to identify the actual stage China is now passing through. If we are simply satisfied with putting name tags on a complicated and crazily rapid-changing country with such a long history and then putting it on par with all the other imperialist countries, then one may make a big mistake. There are two factors we must consider. First, it is the colonial legacy that still weighs heavily on the party state.

If we say China is imperialist, then it is the first imperialist country that is formerly semicolonial, and one that has been repeatedly invaded by multiple great powers many times throughout a century. This necessarily makes Chinese people particularly sensitive to national self-defense. One must differentiate this legitimate concern from the party’s aggressive expansionism.

Another facet of this colonial legacy is the Taiwan and Hong Kong issue. The United States sees Taiwan as its protectorate. I do not support the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) stance on Taiwan, since we believe in the latter’s right to self-determination, which the CCP denies. (...)

In comparison, all other imperialist countries are free of a colonial legacy but rather benefit from their imperialist past (contributing to both their sharp and soft power). China’s rise is still burdened by its colonial legacy, which acts against its interest. This asymmetry defines our choices of different tactics when dealing with the U.S.-China rivalry.

China’s expansion is increasingly imperialistic, but we also need to take into account the fact that China is deeply contradictory, possessing a logic of expansion but itself being checked by its dependent accumulation—both dependent on the West’s market but also its technology, hence it must accept a low-value-added status in the global value chain. Surely, China is an accomplice with imperialist countries over the management of the global value chain, but it is still a minor player in comparison. This asymmetry needs to be considered as well if we want to develop a wise enough tactic for dealing with Taiwan issue.” (Strength and Contradictions of the Chinese Economy: An Interview With Au Loong Yu, September 13, 2018, http://www.leftvoice.org/Strength-and-Contradictions-of-the-Chinese-Economy-An-Interview-With-Au-Loong-Yu)

[20] As we could not find an English-language translation of this document, we have translated this quotes ourselves from the Spanish-language respectively the German-language version. (XI Conferencia De La FT: Tensiones económicas e inestabilidad política. Documento sobre situación internacional discutido en la XI Conferencia de la FT, 22.3.2018, 2018, http://www.laizquierdadiario.com/Tensiones-economicas-e-inestabilidad-politica; FT: Die Welt im Jahr 2018 (Teil 1): Wirtschaftliche Spannungen und politische Instabilität, https://www.klassegegenklasse.org/die-welt-im-jahr-2018-teil-1-wirtschaftliche-spannungen-und-politische-instabilitaet/)

[21] UNCTAD: Trade and Development Report 2018, New York and Geneva, 2018, p. 37

[22] V. I. Lenin: Imperialism. The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) ; in: LCW Vol. 22, p. 274

[23] Juan Cruz Ferre: 21st Century Economic Nationalism, March 26, 2018 http://www.leftvoice.org/21st-Century-Economic-Nationalism

[24] Simon Zamora Martin: Neue Eskalationsstufe im Handelskrieg der USA gegen China, 19. Sep 2018, https://www.klassegegenklasse.org/neue-eskalationsstufe-im-handelskrieg-der-usa-gegen-china/

[25] As a side-note, we draw attention to a particularly extreme example of such sterile dogmatism resulting in refusing to recognize the social-historical developments: the so-called Fracción Leninista Trotskista Internacional - Colectivo por la Refundación de la IV Internacional”. This is a small international grouping in the tradition of Morenoism with it’s headquarter in Argentina. While these comrades take a correct side in important current issues of the international class struggle (like the Syrian Revolution), the miserable fail to understand the main features of the world situation. They not only deny the imperialist character of China and Russia. Stating that these are semi-colonies, they carry this nonsense to its extreme conclusions. Instead of recognizing the rise of Russia and China as the most serious capitalist challenge for Western imperialism since many decades, the FLTI recasts the reality and characterizes Putin and Xi as “hitmen of U.S. imperialism” (See e.g. „Down with the Vienna Summit the Peace of the Cemetery prepared by Obama and his Hitman Putin!“ (FLTI: Vienna Summit with US, Putin, Iranian Ayatollahs, the genocidal Al Assad, Zionism, Qatar, Turkey taking in its hand bourgeois generals of FSA, the chiefs of ISIS of Saudi Arabia, the Kurdish bourgeoisie… Under the command of Obama, all the executioners of the revolutions in the Maghreb and the Middle East are meeting, 4.11.2015, https://www.flti-ci.org/ingles/medio_oriente/noviembre2015/proclama_viena03nov2015.html) For a critique of the FLTI analysis of China see e.g. chapter 10 of our book The Great Robbery of the South. For an overview of our critique of the FLTI we refer to: Michael Pröbsting: Summary of Our Main Differences with the FLTI, October 2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/critique-of-flti/