No to chauvinist war-mongering by Japanese and Chinese imperialism!

Chinese and Japanese workers: Your main enemy is at home!

Stop the conflict on the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands in the East China Sea! No to chauvinist war-mongering by Japanese and Chinese imperialism!

By Michael Pröbsting (Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, RCIT), 23.9.2012,


1.            War threat is looming in East Asia. A group of five islands in the East China Sea – which are called Senkaku islands in Japan and Diaoyu islands in China – are at the centre of the most recent outburst of Japan’s and China’s drive for hegemony. Behind the dispute over the claims on the islands lurks the drive of the imperialist ruling classes of the second and third biggest world economic powers – China and Japan – to control the rich resources in the region. The present chauvinist war-mongering also serves to divert the working class from the sharpening social problems at home and to rally them behind their rulers.

2.            The RCIT calls socialists and class conscious workers to oppose the chauvinistic warmongering and turn the workers and popular hatred against their imperialist rulers. There must be neither support for Japan nor for China in a possible conflict in the East China Sea. Both are imperialist powers. Both pursue imperialist hegemonic interests in the region. Both are deadly enemies of the working class. The RCIT says that in any military conflict between the two powers socialists must strive to convince soldiers to direct the guns not against their brothers in uniforms of the enemy country but against their real enemies – the reactionary governments in their own country. The goal is to transform the imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war. The same position applies to US imperialism in case it should intervene in the conflict.

3.            It is uncertain if the present conflict will transform into an economic or even military war in the short term. However it is clear that even if the two Great Powers reach a compromise for the moment this means nothing more than a postponement of future clashes including wars. We say clearly that in the coming 10 years or so war between the imperialist powers China and Japan is inevitable. It is equally inevitable that US imperialism will intervene sooner or later since it considers the region as an area which it must dominate to keep its position as the world’s strongest power.

4.            The correct position in the conflict between Japan and China cannot be derived from the question, who formally possess a given territory first or who fires the first shots. The decisive point is which kind of class rules the given country and what are the consequences of such a conflict for the working class and the oppressed. While for Marxists Japan’s class character as an imperialist country is a longstanding and undisputed insight, Chinas character is often misunderstood. This is not surprisingly given the profound transformation which China underwent in the past two decades. Therefore the war danger in East Asia shows once more that a correct and scientific position of China as an imperialist power is of utmost importance for any socialist organization. Without a clear understanding of the class character of China, it is impossible to take a correct position in any economic or military conflict involving China and hence it is impossible to show the working class a revolutionary way forward.


Historical background


5.            The Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands are located about 370km to the East of China’s coast and about 410km to the South-West of Japan’s most southern island Okinawa. While Japanese nationalist historians claim that the islands were terra nullis (no man’s land) until 1895, Chinese nationalist historians claim that they were incorporated much earlier in the empire’s map. It is however an established fact that neither Japan nor China effectively controlled and possessed the islands before 1895. When emerging Japanese imperialism started its first war against China in 1894 it occupied the islands (along with Korea and Formosa). Several of these islands were sold in 1932 to private Japanese citizens. However Japan lost control of it with its defeat in the World War II in 1945. Thereafter the USA took the islands over. It returned them to Japan in 1972 as part of its withdrawal from Okinawa. Since then the islands are in formal possession of Japan. In September 2012 the Japanese government bought several of these islands from private Japanese citizens.


Imperialist interest behind both Japan’s and China’s claims on the islands


6.            The real reasons of Japan’s and China’s claims on the islands are of course not related to any historic claims but rather the economic and geo-strategic importance of the islands. While the rocky islets are not inhabited and very small (the biggest one is only 4.3km2), control over the islands allows the occupying power a number of economic advantages:

a.            The East China Sea – as well as the South China Sea (or East Sea as Vietnam calls it) – is a key international shipping route for world trade. About 60.000 ships deliver – via the Straits of Malacca and the East China Sea – 80% of the oil to Northeast Asia. In 2009, the top five world trade routes originated in East Asia. In 2010, seven of the world’s top ten container ports were in East Asia, with the port of Shanghai in the East China Sea holding a firm first place. (1)

b.            Huge natural energy resources are estimated under the seabed in the East China Sea. China-estimates oil reserves of about 160 billion barrels. It expects also quite high natural gas reserves of about 175 to 210 trillion cubic feet. The Chunxiao/Shirakaba field is the most promising field with gas reserves of 168 billion cubic feet. (2) The China National Offshore Oil Corp.'s 2011 annual report said the firm had 384.6 million barrels of proven crude oil reserves in the whole of the East China Sea and natural gas reserves of 303.7 billion cubic feet. (3)

c.             The Sea also contains important fishery resources. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries reported that the total fishery catch in the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea was about 9.2 million tons in 2004. It is most particularly important for China which got 8 million tons, with 1 million tons for South Korea and 0.2 million tons for Japan. (4)


Increasing economic and political contradictions in China and Japan


7.            Control over the East China Sea is important and indeed necessary for the world’s second (China) and third (Japan) biggest economic powers. In a period of world capitalism’s decline the rivalry between these two powers is increasing substantially. When the total cake gets smaller, Great Powers who have the means available, will do whatever they can keep their share as big as possible and at the cost of their rivals if necessary. This is particularly true in a situation where the world economy is close to another recession after hardly any substantial upswing after the 2008/09 recession. This is a very serious danger for Japanese capitalism which already saw in the decade 2001-2010 a decline of its industrial production of annually -0.4% in average and similarly a negative “growth” of its Gross Fixed Capital Formation of annually -1.9%. (5) While China is still in a period of rapid capital accumulation and economic growth, even here a slowdown seems to be ahead. Premier Wen Jiabao recently announced a 7.5% growth target for this year, which would represent the slowest growth for China in 22 years. (6)

8.            This economic crisis can easily translate into a sharp political crisis given the increasing political and social contradictions inside these two imperialist powers. China’s growth is built on the super-exploitation of its numerically growing working class and the brutal dictatorship over its people. As a result inequality and poverty is rising dramatically. While China has the fastest growing millionaires' club, nearly 30% of its population lives on less than $2 a day. The country's top 10% earners get 23 times more income than the lowest 10%. (7)

9.            While the Stalinist-capitalist ruling class strengthens its repressive state apparatus, the class struggle of the workers and the rural poor is massively rising. Popular protests, officially called “mass incidents”, rose from 60.000 (2006), 80.000 (2007), 90.000 (2009) to 180.000 (2010). (8) The Commune in Wukan, created as a result of a popular insurrection at the end of 2011, is only the most outstanding example. Wu Zhong, the China Editor of the Journal Asia Times correctly observed: “To a certain extent, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may not be unhappy to see the rise of patriotic sentiments. In past decades, the Party has devoted great efforts to introduce patriotism to Chinese youths in the hope of filling the ‘ideological vacuum’ orthodox Marxist believe was abandoned to pave the way for economic reform and opening up advocated three decades ago by Deng Xiaoping. In practice, anti-Japanese protests could help divert the attention of Chinese people from worrying about the slowdown of economic development and other domestic problems.” (9)

10.          Against this background, a power struggle has erupted inside the Stalinist-capitalist ruling class for the first time since two decades. This is reflected in one of the biggest corruption scandals and the spectacular downfall of powerful former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai. Bo, who had hoped to get a seat on the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee at the upcoming party congress, was removed from his Chongqing post and, soon thereafter, suspended from the Politburo. His wife, Gu Kailai, received a suspended death sentence after she was convicted of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011. Bo’s right-hand man in Chongqing - former police chief Wang Lijun - was also tried for his alleged part in a failed plot to cover up of Heywood’s murder and for his later attempt to defect at the US consulate in Chengdu. This power struggle seem to have reflected the conflict with a more state-capitalist faction – for whom Bo was a leading figure – and a faction closer related to private capitalists which seem to have won for now. Current Premier Minister Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao as well as their likely successors, Li Keqiang and Xi Jinping, must take care of not being accused by the more state-capitalist faction as being “unpatriotic” and “weak” towards arch-enemy Japan. So against this background, China’s rulers are eagerly looking for a foreign adventure to raise their profile as “strong defenders of the nation”.

11.          To summarize, Chinas Stalinist-capitalist ruling class faces growing social and political domestic problems in an environment of a global capitalist crisis. At the same time, as the world’s second biggest power, it possesses the means to push its imperialist hegemonic interests abroad to counteract these growing domestic difficulties.

12.          Japanese imperialism is – in relation to the size of its population – much wealthier than China and hence has more resources to retain political stability. Nevertheless the country has seen in the past two decades a massive increase of unemployment and poverty. The horrible Tsunami and the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima in 2011 and the reckless management of the consequences by the government have shattered the society.

13.          Against this background Japan see now its biggest mass mobilizations since decades. In a summer of discontent tens of thousands of protesters march every Friday evening in Tokyo against the nuclear policy of the government. According to the organizers sometimes up to 100.000 or 200.000 people joined the demonstrations in the past months. While the workers movement remains still relatively weak – with some exceptions like the rail way workers – these recent mass mobilizations represent an important turn in Japan’s politics.

14.          In this situation right-wing chauvinist forces – like the Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara – try to utilize this situation to initiate a turn of the country’s foreign policy. While Japanese imperialism – after its defeat in WWII – developed already in the 1960s and 1970s into one of the worlds biggest economic powers, it could not gain a similar status as a political or even military power. In this sphere it remained under the hegemony of US imperialism which came out as the main victorious power of WWII. Even now the USA has a major military basis in Okinawa. Japan has the worlds 7th biggest military budget which however is less than 1% of its annual GDP. The right-wing chauvinist forces represent a growing sector in Japans ruling class who wants to overcome it’s supposedly “pacifist” foreign policy in subordination to the USA and instigate a more aggressive, militarist policy which would make Japan more independent of the USA.

15.          To summarize, Japanese capitalist ruling class is faced with economic stagnation and a looming recession and a growing political polarization. While on one hand sectors of the working class and the lower middle class enter the streets en masse for the first time since decades, the right-wing chauvinist forces push for a turn to a more aggressive foreign policy to divert the attention from domestic problems. While Japan’s development of its military has to overcome certain historic limitations as a result of its defeat in WWII, it certainly possess the economic means to build a very powerful military in a few years so that it can pursue its imperialist hegemonic interests abroad independently without the USA.


Japan as an old imperialist Great Power


16.          To develop a correct position in the conflict between Japan and China socialists and class conscious workers need to have a clear analyzes of the class character of these two countries. Why? For Marxists the decisive criterion in a looming war is not, who formally possess a given territory first, nor who fires the first shots. What is decisive is which kind of class rules the given country and what are the consequences of such a conflict for the working class and the oppressed.

17.          Japan clearly has an imperialist class character. Since the late 19th century the ruling class waged a series of colonial wars in Asia and battled with US imperialism for hegemony in the Pacific region during WWII. While it suffered a setback after 1945 Japanese monopoly capital gained in strength relatively quickly and became one of the worlds’ major economic powers. Hence Japan is an imperialist country ruled by a monopoly bourgeoisie. It pursues imperialist interests towards China and all other Asian neighbors.


China as a new, emerging imperialist Great Power


18.          The class character of China is more complicated to determine because it underwent important changes in the past decades as the RCIT showed in a major study on China’s emerging imperialism. (10) China transformed in the early 1950s from a semi-colonial capitalist country into a Degenerated Workers State. This means it became a country where the bourgeoisie was expropriated and where the economy was (bureaucratically) planned on the basis of post-capitalist, proletarian property relations. At the same time however the working class was politically expropriated and oppressed by a Stalinist bureaucracy. The heroic uprising of the workers and students in 1989 ended in a historic defeat on 4th June with the Tienanmen Square massacre. This opened the road for the Stalinist bureaucracy to restore capitalism in the early 1990s under its continuing political regime.

19.          Since then the transformed Stalinist-capitalist ruling class successfully initiated a rapidly progressing accumulation of capital based on major super-exploitation of huge sectors of the numerically growing Chinese proletariat. Utilizing its old household registration system (the so-called hukou system) most workers moving from the countryside into the cities lack any social or political rights – which is why they are called “migrants” despite the fact that they are often of the same nationality like the urban citizens. On this basis China’s new bourgeoisie could abolish most social achievements of the past, push down the wages and raise their profit rates enormously.

20.          Given this super-exploitation, the rapid capital accumulation and the continuing dictatorship, as well as the US decline (and Japans and EU’s stagnation), China’s ruling class could increasingly strengthen its position. This was clearly visible when China proved a strong economic power during the Great Crisis in 2008/09. By the end of the 2000s it became an emerging imperialist power. Today China produces 14.3% of the world’s global output; it is the globally biggest exporter as well as manufacturing producer. Amongst the top 500 global corporations, China is home of 73, only to be superseded by the USA. China has developed a huge financial capital which plays an important role on the world’s bond market as well as at the loan market. It is also increasingly exporting capital to other countries to exploit the working class there. China became the world’s fourth-largest outward investor in 2010.

21.          This of course cannot hide the fact that China is an emerging imperialist power which in terms of labor productivity and spread of modern technology is still much behind the old imperialist power. As we have already pointed out in our study, it is exactly because of its “historic deficit” as a late-coming imperialist power that China is forced to act as an aggressive and rapidly arming Great Power. It is surrounded by areas which are already in the sphere of influence of other hegemonial powers. To its North and West the rival is mainly Russian imperialism, while to its South and East it is the USA and Japan. This means China can only create its (semi-)colonial sphere of influence by openly confronting other Great Powers. In this respect its fate is not dissimilar to the historic situation of Germany in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century which could only create its empire by challenging the existing Great Powers like France, Britain and Russia.

22.          Nevertheless the economic relations between Japan and China demonstrate the strong position of the later. China is a major trade partner for Japan, accounting for 20.5% of its imports and 18% of its exports. While Japan has huge investments in China of about $83.97 billion, China on the other hand is a major lender of loan capital to Japan. China holds short-term and long-term Japanese government bonds worth $230 billion (end of 2011) and became the largest creditor of Japan in 2010. This is of major importance given the fact that Japan is highly indebted – in relative proportions more than the USA or the EU countries ($12.81 trillion or 2.2 times the value of Japan's national economy!). (11)

23.          Chinas imperialist character is demonstrated by the fact that today it has the second-biggest military expenditures, only to be superseded by the USA. It needs such a huge military since imperialist China has ambitious hegemonic plans for the East Sea and South China Sea. China’s military strategist developed the concept of the two Island Chains – an area which they desire to dominate and control. The first line – also called “nine-dashed line” – claims complete control of the South China and the East China Sea, leaving only the coast area for all other neighboring countries like Vietnam, Malaysia or the Philippines. The second line goes further till the Guam Island (including most of Japan) and therefore obviously clashes with the interests of imperialist Japan. So to summarize, China is in no way a socialist country, nor is it still a Degenerated Workers State or a semi-colonial capitalist country. It is an emerging imperialist power. The RCIT therefore totally rejects open or semi-open support for China by (petty-) bourgeois forces around the world which describe themselves as socialist (like various Stalinist parties, Chavez, Castro and the Bolivarian movement).

24.          Socialists and class conscious workers therefore must neither support Japan nor China in a possible conflict in the East China Sea. Both are imperialist powers. Both pursue imperialist hegemonic interests in the region. Both are deadly enemies of the working class.


On the mass protest in China and Chinese chauvinism


25.          While in Japan the chauvinist mood has not found articulation on the streets in form of militant mass demonstrations, this is different in China. Here, a sector of the masses – many of them young – is fully sized by rabid anti-Japanese, Chinese chauvinist sentiments. According to reports, protests had spread to at least 108 cities across China. These demonstrations turned in many cities into anti-Japanese riots – like Shenzhen, Guangzhou (former known as Canton) and Dongguan (in Guangdong province); in Changsha, Hunan's provincial capital; Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province; and Qingdao, in Shandong province. According to many reports, demonstrators often shouted chauvinist slogans like "Down with Japanese devils!" "Boycott Japanese products!" "Diaoyu Islands belong to China!" "Declare war on Japan!" or “For the respect of the motherland, we must go to war with Japan!” Numerous Japanese cars and shops were attacked and set on fire and also the Japanese embassy was the target of massive protests. As a result Japanese corporations like Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Canon, Panasonic or Uniqlo temporarily halted their operations in China. There are even reports of notices posted on street lampposts in Beijing to recruit a "dare-to-rape" team of men to rape Japanese women, according to a Hong Kong paper. (12)

26.          While these protests initially certainly had the support by the regime they possessed a certain spontaneous dynamic and went in a number of occasions out of control. This was particularly the case in Shenzhen. There protesters besieged a Shenzhen government building demanding the immediate release of arrested demonstrators and throwing objects into the building. They confronted the police and turned a police vehicle upside down. At one time, some protesters even shouted: "Down with the People's Liberation Army", for not taking any action in the face of Japan's provocation.

27.          This shows several things. First it demonstrates the effects of the strong nationalism which was preached by the Stalinist bureaucracy for more than nine decades. This chauvinism was intensified in the past two decades when the ruling Chinese Communist Party put “Marxism” and “Communism” even rhetorically in the background and filled the "ideological vacuum" with patriotism, i.e. chauvinism.

28.          On the other hand one also has to recognize that given China’s history of aggression and occupation by Japanese imperialism, a material basis for nationalist rage in the society exists. Since 1894 Japan waged repeatedly attacks against China and committed a number of horrible massacres. The Communist International in Lenin’s time and later Trotsky’s Fourth International unconditionally defended China as a semi-colonial country against Japanese imperialism.

29.          Finally these protests show that China’s Communist Party at the moment seems to successfully divert the mass unrest fueled by increasing social inequality into a chauvinist movement. However, this is a risky game for the Stalinist imperialist rulers. They are now under pressure to transform words into deeds, i.e. to challenge Japans control over the islands. The sending of first a number of Chinese navy patrol ships and in mid-September of nearly 2.000 Chinese fishing boats towards the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands – accompanied by Chinese navy patrol ships – is a reflection of this.

30.          Naturally Chinese chauvinism is fuelled by the memory of the repeated imperialist attacks and the justified national liberation struggle. The Yihetuan (called by the West “Boxer”) Rebellion in the turn of the 20th century and the civil war against the Japanese occupiers are the most prominent example of this. However, as many things in politics, relations between classes and people change and with it the character of a given ideological current. With the constitution of the Stalinist state under Mao’s CP, Chinese nationalism became an instrument of the new ruling caste. Since then it served to justify the oppression of national minorities in China – first and foremost the Uyghurs in East Turkestan (called Xinjiang by China’s rulers) and the Tibetans. It was also used to legitimate the reactionary foreign policy of Chinas Stalinist bureaucracy when it collaborated with US imperialism against the Soviet Union or when its army attacked Vietnam in February 1979.

31.          So while Chinese nationalism had a certain progressive element in the time of the national liberation struggles against Western and Japanese imperialism until 1945, this has fundamentally changed since then. Today Chinese chauvinism is nothing but an ideological instrument of the Stalinist-capitalist ruling class of emerging imperialist China. While it was the ideology of the country’s oppressed petty-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie (with strong support in the working class) before, it became the ideology first of the ruling Stalinist caste and later of the Stalinist-imperialist ruling class. So while many ordinary Chinese people might associate the present conflict with the past national liberation struggle against Japan, Marxists must warn against such an ideological trap and point out the change in class relations. Such a change of the class content of nationalist ideology is nothing new or exceptional. To name a few examples, we refer to German nationalism which had a progressive element in the 1850s and 60s till the national unification in 1870 but later became deeply reactionary. Or one can point to Algeria where nationalism against the French colonial power had a progressive element, but after the country gained independence in 1962, it was increasingly used to justify the oppression of the Berber minority.

32.          While China’s Stalinist-imperialist ruling class utilizes anti-Japanese chauvinism for its purpose, this is a risky game. As it happened to the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century, popular sentiments against Japan could turn into anti-government anger when the regime is seen as to weak or incompetent to drive Japan from the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands or on the numerous other issues of conflict with its neighboring states. In such a case the regime could easily face a domestic revolutionary crisis.


Sooner or later war between the imperialist powers China and Japan is inevitable


33.          Naturally it is difficult to speculate about the possible course of the conflict. The Chinese government openly threatens that is will not shy away from a “little war”: Yu Zhirong, a senior official of the State Oceanic Administration who was formerly with the People’s Liberation Army Navy, is quoted by The Asahi Shimbun: "We will have to chase off Japan Coast Guard vessels from Chinese territorial waters. We are not fearful of risking a minor conflict." (13)

34.          While a war in the short term is in no way unavoidable, it can also not be excluded. James Holmes, an associate professor at the US Naval War College, characterized the situation accurately when he said: "The situation reminds me a bit of the (1962) Cuban missile crisis.” (14) However it is clear that even if the two Great Powers reach a compromise for the moment this means nothing more than a postponement of future clashes including wars. We say clearly that in the coming 10 years or so war between the imperialist powers China and Japan is inevitable. This is in fact what the ruling class in both countries expects too which is why both sides have started major modernization programs of its military. China recently put in summer 2011 its first aircraft carrier into operation (the “Liaoning”) and plans to build several more. However exactly because both sides are just at the beginning of major armaments programs they do not intend to go to a full war now.

35.          However as it is known history develops primarily along class contradictions and not according to plans of rulers. Given the global economic crisis and the domestic political and social contradictions, an “accidental” skirmish could get its own dynamic and provoke a war between the two powers before they have finished their armament programs. China Daily, the English language state-controlled daily newspaper which serves as a semi-official mouthpiece of the Stalinist-imperialist ruling class, threatened openly with military measures against Japan in an editorial:

China's maritime enforcement will then serve as a strong deterrent against Japanese right-wing activists who seek to land on the islands. The situation would further change if China seized Japanese nationals who illegally enter China's sovereign waters. China should seek to gather momentum toward such a direction and achieve these objectives. The consequences of China strengthening its law enforcement within 12 nautical miles of the islands include possible confrontation with the Japanese Coast Guard. As China firmly stands determined to safeguard its own sovereignty, Japan is more than likely to change its mind. (…) Intense friction entails high geopolitical risks and the possibility of negative impacts to both economies. But with a high level of support from the public, China is gaining the upper hand psychologically in such a contest. (…) It is clear that Japan touched probably the thorniest issue in bilateral ties, which in turn serves as an opportunity for China. We should seize the chance and make historic advancements in safeguarding our sovereignty by breaking Japan's "administration" of the islands. China should be confident about strategically overwhelming Japan. The People's Liberation Army's Navy and Air Force, as well as its Second Artillery Corps, are advised to increase their preparation and intensify their deterrence against Japan's Self-Defense Forces. China will not shy away if Japan chooses to resort to its military. As friction escalates, it is more likely for Japan to retreat in the face of unreliable US security assurances and China's strengthened strategic combat capabilities. (…) For China, triumphing will cement cohesion and public confidence in the country. We cannot back off and we must win.” (15)

36.          However even if there will be no war in the immediate future, there are a number of forms of conflict below an open warfare which could take place soon. In particular it is possible that an economic war between China and Japan could start very soon. In fact this is already openly discussed and advocated by circles in the Chinese regime. China Daily published on 17th September an article by Jin Baisong, deputy director of the Department of Chinese Trade Studies at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation affiliated to the Ministry of Commerce. In this article the author suggested a number of sanctions against Japan. (16) He argues that Japan is in its trade much more dependent on China than the other way round. And while Japan has much more foreign investment in China than vice-versa, Japan is increasingly dependent on Chinese loan capital – as we showed above. As we already mentioned the call for boycott of Japanese commodities is also widely popular in China.

37.          It is clear that an escalation of the conflict even below an open war – like sanctions or small skirmishes – will have major consequences for East Asia and the whole world. It would make the already approaching recession even deeper given its disastrous effects on industrial production and world trade. It will massively increase oil price – which is already rising because of the looming Israeli/US-attack on Iran – given the fact that the Seas to the South and East of China are essential shipping routes. In short, it would add another important factor to a specific world political conjuncture which is characterized by sharply increasing contradictions expressed in the wave of anti-Western demonstrations in the Middle East, the civil war of the Syrian workers and peasants against the Assad regime, the class struggle upswing in Southern Europe against the austerity packages, the miners’ strike in South Africa and the threats of a new imperialist war against Iran. This proves once more that we are living in a historic revolutionary period since the beginning of the Great Crisis in 2008/09. The world is increasingly becoming a powder keg.


The role of US imperialism


38.          While Chinese and Japanese imperialism are the direct rivals in the conflict over the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands, US imperialism is another Great Power in the region. As the RCIT showed in its study, the US-American ruling class is determined to gain control over the South China and East China Sea given their strategic importance. The USA has already close alliances with regional states which enable it to control military bases in Japan, South Korea, Guam, Australia, Singapore or the Philippines. It recently announced its plan to position 60% of its navy in the region by 2020. (17) In one of its latest strategy documents the US Pentagon formulates its desire to keep its hegemonial status in the Pacific in the typical diplomatic words, which however should blind no one of the imperialist motives behind them: “Over the long term, China’s emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the U.S. economy and our security in a variety of ways. Our two countries have a strong stake in peace and stability in East Asia and an interest in building a cooperative bilateral relationship. However, the growth of China’s military power must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region.” (18)

39.          Japan is an ally of US imperialism, albeit a complicated one. The USA could and did make sure that Japan – as a defeated power in WWII – could not develop as a strong military power until today. At the same time it supported Japan as its ally and is obliged by treaty to defend its territory. One of the biggest US military basis in Asia is in the southern Japanese island Okinawa. Unsurprisingly Japanese government officials praised the US plan to position 60% of its navy in the region by 2020. A senior Defense Ministry official is quoted of saying: “Deterrent power throughout the entire western Pacific will be stronger.” (19) Naturally this is a complicated relationship because Japan’s bourgeoisie prefers to have its own military power and not being dependent of the USA willingness to support it. This is even more the case since Japan is also an economic rival of the USA on the world market.

40.          The Pacific region is pregnant with military conflicts and wars. In the end it will be an arena where the Great Powers will fight for hegemony. It is clear that sooner or later there will be an imperialist war between the USA and China. However this does not mean the USA does necessarily wish such a war already today. They would rather prefer to strengthen first its forces as its plans for 2020 indicate. This was also indicated by the remarks of US ambassador to China Gary Locke who recently stressed his country’s neutrality in the current disputes: "We take absolutely no position on who is right, and we do believe that both sides need to try to resolve this." (20) This is not surprisingly since the US military is already over-stretched by its wars and interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan. Add to this the present wave of anti-American protests in the Middle East. On the other hand they might be dragged in a military conflict earlier than they wish by it Japanese ally.


Japanese Communist Party: social-imperialism in pacifist clothes


41           While the historic Stalinist party in China has transformed itself successfully from being the political expression of a ruling bureaucratic caste into the political expression of a ruling imperialist class, its Japanese sister party is in a very different position. It never was part of a coalition government let alone a ruling party. While it had a revolutionary character in its early phase under the leadership of its founder Sen Katayama it degenerated together with the whole Communist International under Stalin’s leadership in the 1920s. Similar to its brother Stalinist parties it became first a centrist and finally a reformist formation. This was particularly obvious after 1945 when it could operate openly. Under the leadership of Nosaka Sanzo (who was educated by the Stalinist apparatus as the Japanese delegate at Comintern headquarters in Moscow during the 1930s) the JCP declared as its goal to become a "lovable" (!) Communist Party and propagated a peaceful and parliamentary road to power. In short it followed the classic Stalinist reformist programme. It is still a reformist party today with a certain basis in the working class. It claims to have 318.000 members and has 9 seats out of 480 seats in the House of Representatives (in the 2009 general election, the JCP received 4.94 million votes, or 7%).

42.          Its rotten reformism is demonstrated by its fundamental support for Japans ruling class against its neighboring states in all the disputed territorial claims. Already in 1972, when US imperialism handed the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands over to Japan, the JCP on 31.3.1972 issued a statement, “The Senkaku Islands – Japanese Territory” to state its position: “The Okinawa Legislature, in the March 3 plenary session resolved that ‘It is clear that the Senkakus are Japanese territory and there is no room for dispute over their territorial right’. The opinion of our party is that this claim is correct. We would again like to make clear our party's view on the Senkakus question. For some time now our party has carried out investigations and studied the historical background and relations under international-law in connection with this. Our investigations have made it clear that the Senkakus are Japan's territory.” (21) It reiterated this position in a statement in 2010: “Even with historical documents made available after the publication of the statement, no finding which makes it necessary for the JCP to revise this view has been introduced. Under international law, a country can exclusively exercise its sovereignty within its territorial waters. Therefore, it is a matter of course for the Japan Coast Guard to crack down on illegal operations of foreign ships.” (22) And again, in the midst of the recent escalation with China, the reformist JCP insisted on 21.8.2012: “Regarding the Senkaku Islands, Ichida referred to the JCP’s 2010 statement which made clear that Japan’s possession of the islands is legitimate based on history and international law.” (23)

43.          As we already said, the JCP supports also all other disputed territorial claims of its “own” imperialism against its neighboring states. So it defends Japans claims over the Dokdo/Takeshima Island, despite the fact that Japanese imperialism robbed it form Korea in 1905 and that is also claimed since long by South Korea. The party leadership stated in 1977: “… the JCP in 1977 expressed its view that Japan has the historical legitimacy to claim Japan’s sovereignty over Tkashima Island” (24) This viewpoint was repeated in August 2012: “Regarding Takeshima Island, Ichida referred to the JCP’s 1977 statement which stated that Japan has historical grounds to claim its sovereignty over the island.” (25)

44.          Even in the time when the Soviet Union was a Degenerated Workers State before 1991 (or a “socialist country” as the JCP even claimed), it openly supported Japanese imperialism demands against Moscow for the Kurile/Chishima Islands as well as the Habomai Islands and Shikotan Island. It attacked the Soviet Union for its “unlawful practice of the Soviet territorial expansionism” and justifies its claims by referring to the Karafuto (Sakhalin)-Chishima (Kurile) Exchange Treaty concluded in 1875 between imperial Japan and Tsarist Russia! (26) Still today in its official programme, it “seeks to achieve the return to Japan of the Chishima (Kurile) Islands as well as the Habomai Islands and Shikotan Island, which are historically part of Japan.” (27)

45.          All in all we see that the so called Japanese Communist Party is a loyal defender of the expansionist goals of its “own” imperialist ruling class. Of course it always stresses that these goals should be achieved not with militaristic means but by peaceful negotiations. But this is helpless and reactionary pacifism. With its support for Japan’s territorial claims it strengthens the imperialist ruler’s ideological influence and legitimacy amongst the working class. It creates a consciousness which identifies with the imperialist goals. This weakens the workers resistance against the ruling class. It strengthens the capitalist’s legitimacy to argue if these the rightful claims cannot be achieved by negotiations or if they are threatened by another state, the state “unfortunately” must resort to militaristic means to defend its rights. The JCP hence acts as the bourgeoisie’s agency in the ranks of the workers movement. Its policy is nothing else than shameful social-imperialism, i.e. support for its own imperialist ruling class under the cover of “socialist” phrases.


What should be the internationalist working class position in the conflict between Japanese and Chinese imperialism over the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands?


46.          We of the RCIT believe that the fundamental task of the socialists and class conscious workers in China and Japan consists in opposing the chauvinist wave in their countries and in fighting against their own ruling class and their imperialist goals. We say: Chinese and Japanese workers: Your main enemy is at home! The task is to denounce the expansionist war drive as goals which are fundamentally in contradiction with the interests of the working class and the oppressed. The Chinese workers are not poor because their rulers don’t control the Diaoyu-islands. To fight unemployment in Japan and nuclear catastrophes it doesn’t help in any way if its government possesses the Senkaku islands. The Chinese and Japanese millionaires are rich and want to get richer. This is why they want to expand their empires. China doesn’t exploit the Japanese workers – it is the Japanese bourgeoisie. And Chinas workers and peasants are not so much exploited by the Japanese but rather by their own rulers. It has to be shown that the only interest of both the Chinese and the Japanese ruling class is to increase their influence and their profits as Great Powers. Of course the same is true for US imperialism. Socialists and class conscious workers in China and Japan must show that their rulers deliberately utilize the crisis around the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands in order to divert the masses attention from the explosive class contradictions in their countries and that they try to diffuse the growing mass protests which accumulated in the recent period.

47.          It is obvious that the possibilities for revolutionaries in China are very different from those in Japan since they have to work in strict illegality. But ways can always be found if they are desired. The precondition for revolutionary propaganda agitation is a revolutionary analyzes and programmatic conclusions. Despite these difficulties it would be important if progressive activists and organizations both from China and Japan could join forces to produce a common declaration protesting against chauvinism and any economic or military war between the two countries.

48.          Socialists and class conscious workers in China and Japan should actively oppose any chauvinist campaigns of boycott foreign commodities. They should oppose any chauvinist riots against other nationals or foreign companies. They should reject any economic sanctions against the “rival” country.

49.          In Japan – in addition to agitate for the above mentioned positions – is seems important to us to organize a mass campaign against the right-wing chauvinist forces which are the driving force in organizing propaganda stunts by travelling towards the islands and which call for a “strong and self-confident Japan”. These right-wing extremists are playing with the fire of a war and have to be stopped by any means necessary. In addition one has to point out to the absurdity in spending huge sums of money for armament in a period where the people are facing rising unemployment and the consequences of the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima. If the government and the super-rich want to be patriotic, they should give their money for their own people! Japanese workers: Take the money from the rich to finance a public works program to rebuild the areas devastated by the effects of the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima! No money for war but to create jobs for the unemployed and to reduce the working hours!

50.          Another important issue is the demand for substantial and immediate compensation payments to those millions of people (respectively their descendants) in China, Korea and other Asian countries who became victims of the horrible occupation by Japanese imperialism in WWII. This is particularly relevant to the hundreds of thousands of sex slaves (so called “comfort women) who were systematically raped and tortured by the Japanese soldiers in military brothels (a fact still not officially acknowledged by Japan). It is also necessary to call for Japans full diplomatic recognition of North Korea and the overdue massive reparation payment to the country for the colonial rule in 1910-1945. Such reparation payments must be paid not out of the pockets of the Japanese workers but by an extra-tax of the super-rich Japanese monopoly capitalists.

51.          While joint actions with reformist and pacifist organizations are necessary in order to broaden the resistance, Bolshevik-Communists sharply criticize the social-imperialist policy of organizations like the JCP. It is high time for the formation of a revolutionary workers party in Japan!

52.          In China opposing patriotism faces the challenge to explain the difference of the justified national liberation war before 1945 and the reactionary patriotism today. If the government really cares about the Chinese people they should give them higher wages, proper housing and social security instead of spending huge sums for armament. If the rich want to wage war, they should give their money and fight it alone!

53.          To counter-act the chauvinistic wave it is important to point out how “unpatriotic” the Chinese bosses are themselves. Bolshevik-Communists draw attention to the fact that imperialist China spends huge sums for foreign investment of which the capitalists hope for extra-profits and also armament while at the same the people are poor and living in social insecurity. In addition it is important to point out that while China’s rulers whip up the memory of Japan’s past colonialism, they act as colonial powers today in Tibet and East Turkmenistan. In these provinces China act as foreign power as Japan did 70 years ago in China! Internationalism begins at home – not against Japan about the uninhabited Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands but by supporting the will of the national minorities in Tibet and East Turkmenistan for independence!

54.          In any military conflict, the Bolshevik-Communists call for a revolutionary defeatist position both in China and in Japan. In the RCIT’s programme, we say: “In imperialist wars, we reject any support for the ruling class. We advocate the defeat of the imperialist state. Our slogan is that of Karl Liebknecht: ‘The main enemy is at home’. Our goal is to transform the imperialist war into a civil war against the ruling class.“ (28) Such a Marxist position applies in our opinion to any possible military conflict between China and Japan (and/or the USA).

55.          For the Chinese proletariat the defeat of “its own” imperialist rulers in any conflict with Japan (or any other country) would be the lesser evil. Why? Because a weakened regime in Beijing would mean a weakened enemy for the workers who are struggling higher wages, better working conditions, democratic freedoms and finally for taking the power in their own hands. A weakened Chinese ruling class can easier be pressed for reforms and finally be toppled by a working class revolution. The same is true for Japan: A weakened or defeated Japanese bourgeoisie is a weaker enemy for the Japanese workers and oppressed.

56.          For such a policy of turning the guns against our own ruling class, it is important – despite the obvious difficulties – to organize illegal work amongst the soldiers both in the Chinese and the Japanese army.

57.          With the escalation of the conflict it is likely that various reformist and pacifist forces will call for peace, disarmament, UN mediation and peaceful coexistence between the states. We Bolshevik-Communists say that such propaganda is utopian, empty and harmful. As we wrote in the RCIT’s program: “The rulers with their talking shops as the UN or its hypocritical international courts can never abolish war from the world. This can only be achieved by the working class and the oppressed peoples themselves through the uncompromising class struggle – including the armed struggle.” (29)

58.          The only lasting solution for peace is the consistent class struggle – which must inevitable culminate in a civil war – against the ruling classes in China, Japan, the USA and all the other Great Powers. As difficult as it might be, the only lasting solution is a wave of socialist revolutions in East Asia which would lead to the formation of a workers and peasant republics in China, Japan, Korea and other countries. This again could form the basis for a Socialist federation of workers and peasant republics in Asia. Under such conditions the wealth of resources of the Sea could be jointly exploited and used for the welfare of all peoples of Asia and beyond.

59.          As we have shown an economic or even military conflict about the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands will affect not only China and Japan but the whole Asian region and indeed the whole world. It is therefore an issue of the international workers movement too. International anti-imperialist campaigns including against any additional interference of other Great Powers are an urgent issue.

60.          The need for a consistent revolutionary and anti-chauvinist position in the looming China-Japan conflict demonstrates the urgent need for an organized internationalist force to develop and spread such a policy. This can only be an international revolutionary workers party – the Fifth International. The RCIT is an organization of Bolshevik-Communists to bring forward the formation of such a world party of socialist revolution! Join us!



(1) Alessio Patalano: The East China Sea, Maritime Strategy and Sino-Japanese Security Relations (2012)

(2) Disputed Claims in the East China Sea, An Interview with James Manicom by Chris Acheson, National Bureau of Asian Research, 25.7.2011

(3) Japan-China tensions, over oil or just rocks? 19.9.2012

(4) Koichi Sato: China’s Territorial Claims at Sea: The East China and South China Sea (Part I); in: Eurasia Border Review Vol 3, No 1 (Spring 2012), p. 23

(5) European Commission: Statistical Annex of European Economy, Spring 2012, p. 53 respectively p. 69

(6) See Brendan O'Reilly: Beijing more sensitive to war tremors, Asia Times Online, 18.9.2012,

(7) Kent Ewing: China's gilded age, Asia Times Online, 20.9.2012,

(8) See China Labour Bulletin: A Decade of Change. The Workers’ Movement in China 2000-2010 (2012),, pp. 9-10 and Edward Wong: China’s Growth Slows, and Its Political Model Shows Limits, New York Times, May 10, 2012,

(9) Wu Zhong: Beijing faces protests dilemma; Asia Times Online 19.9.2012;

(10) See Michael Pröbsting: China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power; in: Revolutionary Communism No. 4 (2012), p. 4-32, See this study for the numerous facts and figures to show China’s character as an emerging imperialist power of which some are mentioned in this statement.

(11) Jin Baisong: Consider sanctions on Japan, China Daily, 17.9.2012,

(12) Wu Zhong: Beijing faces protests dilemma; Asia Times Online 19.9.2012;

(13) Kenji Minemura: China willing to risk 'conflict' as it claims waters around Senkakus, The Asahi Shimbun, 15.9.2012;

(14) See Jens Kastner: Uneasy crowd control in East China Sea, 9.19.2012,

(15) Backing off not an option for China, Global Times, 15.9.2012;

(16) Jin Baisong: Consider sanctions on Japan, China Daily, 17.9.2012,

(17) Jim Garamone: Panetta Describes U.S. Shift in Asia-Pacific; American Forces Press Service, Singapore, 1.6.2012,

(18) US Department of Defence: Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense (2012), p. 2

(19) U.S. to expand marine bases in W. Pacific, The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 22, 2012,

(20) Quoted in Brendan O'Reilly: Beijing more sensitive to war tremors, Asia Times Online, 18.9.2012,

(21) The Senkaku Islands--Japanese Territory. Press Conference by Tomio Nishizawa, JCP Standing Presidium Member, Akahata, 31.3.1972;

(22) How to solve the issue of the Senkaku Islands: Japan justifiably claims sovereignty; 20.9.2010, ( is the website of the JCP paper Japan Weekly Press)

(23) Calm diplomatic efforts needed to solve territorial issues: JCP Ichida; 21.8.2012,

(24) Takeshima issue should be solved through diplomacy: JCP chair; August 11, 2012,

(25) Calm diplomatic efforts needed to solve territorial issues: JCP Ichida; August 21, 2012,

(26) Fuwa Tetsuzo: Two Centuries and Japanese Communist Party, Speech by the JCP Central Committee Chair at the Assembly to mark the 80th Anniversary of the Japanese Communist Party; July 8, 2002, Japan Press Weekly Special Issue - October 2002

(27) Program of the Japanese Communist Party; Adopted on January 17, 2004 at the JCP 23rd Congress;

(28) Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT): The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto, published in 2012, p. 62; online on the RCIT website at

(29) Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT): The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto, published in 2012, p. 62; online on the RCIT website at