A Very Self-Confident Imperialist Great Power


Some notes on China’s self-image as a leading actor of the global order


By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 13.12.2019, www.thecommunists.net




We have often pointed out that the acceleration of the rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers – the U.S., China, Russia, the EU and Japan – is one of the most important characteristics of the present historic period. This is particularly the case because the long-time hegemon – the U.S. – is obviously in decline while China, as its most important challenger, is rising. [1]


It is well known how the American ruling class is paralyzed with its domestic problems symbolized in the impeachment inquiry against the reactionary dumbass in the White House. This is a nation whose President hysterically shouts “Make America Great Again” but, in real life, struggles to get even built a wall at its own border with Mexico.


China, on the other hand, is in a completely different position. It has experienced a period of rapid economic grown and, as a result, has become a global player in the world economy as well as in world politics. It is expanding its global influence via the so-called Belt and Road Initiative, its loans as well as other means.  [2]


History has seen such periods before. One feels reminded to the period of decay of the Roman Empire in the 5th century where retarded emperors ruled over an ever-shrinking territory while, at the same time, new powers like the Huns, the Western Gotha and the Vandals mobilized their forces to overrun the self-proclaimed “center of the world”. Another example would be the challenge and eventual defeat of the late Byzantine Empire by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century or, to give a more recent analogy, the challenge of the British Empire in the early 20th century by Germany and the U.S.


Ignoring these developments of inner-imperialist rivalry and cynically justifying the regimes’ brutal oppression of the Chinese workers and peasants, the Muslim Uyghurs and the protest movement in Hong Kong, Stalinist and Bolivarians praise China as a kind of progressive or socialist power. Various self-proclaimed Trotskyists claim that the rising Asian power represents not an imperialist state but rather a semi-colony or a “sub-imperialist” country. [3]


Hence, it is not without interest to observe how leading ideologues of the Stalinist-capitalist regime in Beijing view their country themselves. Global Times – the international English-language edition of People's Daily (the central organ of the ruling “Communist” Party of China) – recently published an article which reflects the enormous self-confidence of the emerging Great Power. In an article titled “China will lead new Asian order, ‘Asian century’” the Global Times compares the decaying West with the rising Asian power. The author of the article states:


Back in the 19th century, Europe regarded the then backward Asia as the opposite of civilization. But in the 21st century, the UK's decline seems to reflect Asia's rise. As Asia rises, global wealth and power will accelerate to transfer to the continent. The Financial Times published an article in March titled "The Asian century is set to begin," in which it said 21 of the world's 30 largest cities are in Asia, and Asian economies will be larger than the rest of the world in 2020. Indeed, people are now looking eastward because Asia shows a strong momentum in economic growth. [4]


And the Global Times concludes that now the “real ’Asian century’ will begin” with China as “the most important and the fastest-rising country in Asia”: “China and other Asian countries should seize the historic opportunity, focus on their own development and try to let Asian countries have a larger say in the world. When Asian countries stop following the West, the real "Asian century" will begin. China is the most important and the fastest-rising country in Asia. As the world's second largest economy, China will play an important role in building a new Asian order and maintaining peace and stability in the future.


We see, China’s leadership is fully aware of its increasing power and its opportunity to shape the imperialist world order. The Stalinists and centrists might ignore it, but China has become a very self-confident imperialist Great Power!


In the coming period we will observe an acceleration of the inter-imperialist rivalry which will inevitable result in more sanctions, trade wars, diplomatic crises and military saber-rattling. In the end, the struggle for global dominance will provoke the danger of a World War III – posing once more the alternative “socialism or barbarism” (Rosa Luxemburg).


In such a period it is crucial for Marxists to have a clear analysis of the world situation and to draw the necessary conclusions for strategy and tactics. This means in particularly to fight for a program of revolutionary defeatism against all Great Powers in East and West. It also means to oppose intransigently all social-imperialist forces within the workers movement which lend direct or indirect support for one or the other Great Power. [5] And it means, most of all, that authentic Marxists around the world must unite in a single international organization on the basis of an action program for the revolutionary tasks in the current period. [6]


[1] The RCIT has published numerous documents on this issue. See e.g. the book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, January 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/anti-imperialism-in-the-age-of-great-power-rivalry/

[2] Our documents which analyse China’s capitalism and its rise to a new imperialist Great Power in detail are collected in a special section on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/. All publications can be read online or downloaded for free at these links. In particular we refer readers to a major study by 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), http://www.thecommunists.net/publications/revcom-number-4

[3] For a critique of these views see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry.

[4] Li Qingqing: China will lead new Asian order, ‘Asian century’, Global Times, 2019/12/12 https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1173323.shtml

[5] See on this, in addition to the above mentioned new book on Great Power rivalry: RCIT: Theses on Revolutionary Defeatism in Imperialist States. Resolution of the International Executive Committee of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 8 September 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/theses-on-revolutionary-defeatism-in-imperialist-states/

[6] See on this the RCIT program: Manifesto for Revolutionary Liberation (2016), https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-program-2016/; see also Six Points for a Platform of Revolutionary Unity Today. A Proposal from the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), February 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/6-points-for-a-platform-of-revolutionary-unity-today/