By Kumar David –
Scholars write learned theses and simple folks like you and I wonder “Is China now some new kind of capitalist state?” Remember that every example of a state is a particular version or variant of a general class; so China may, or may not, be a particular version of capitalism at this point in time. Take the many manifestations of state forms as examples of variance. Slavery manifested itself in numerous forms spread across the world and in various ages – ancient China, ancient Greece, the African Continent (different in the Sahel, Nigeria, the Congo Basin and Eastern and Southern Africa). The economy of most recent great power, the USA remained a slave state till Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1763. Southern US was built on the labour of four million slaves.
The question “What is China?” is an intriguing one. I will argue here that it is an unfinished story. The character of the state in China despite its enormous size is an unfinished story, prone to be pushed this way and that, changeable and fluctuating in the face of greater events on a planetary scale. I first advanced this thesis in a paper entitled “Socialist Market Economy: Oxymoron or valid Concept” at the Hector Abhayavardhana Symposium in 1999 backed by detailed economic data. The thesis remains valid today. A quarter of a century is but the blink of an eye on a scale of historical time. See also Colombo Telegraph for comments on Hector.
The post-WW2, post Brittan Woods world order remained intact despite Nixon pulling the US out of the Gold Standard in 1973, the Stagflation crisis of the Regan period, and Moron Bush and despicable SIR (Shame on you QE2) Tony Blair, flogging wild lies in their rush to conquer Iraq. To come up to date, a dramatic shift in the structure global power is unfolding at this time. The post-WW2 world order, dominated by the United States and its Western European alies is unravelling, superficially as a consequence of a catastrophe in the Middle East (Palestine/Israel) and defeat in the Ukraine. At a deeper level the unravelling if because the post-WW2 epoch of expansion of global capitalism has run its course. The phase of expansion of global capitalism has, objectively, run its course and the economic and political balances have, of their own, evolved to a new stage. If you like fancy terminology you may call it the dialectic, or if you prefer analogies you may recall how Mercantilism evolved into Empire, Colonialism and Imperialism like a Darwinian progression. What I am labouring to say is that the familiar economic, strategic and social order of about the last 75 years is over; now it’s the start of a new world order. The emerging and still not final state form in China is trapped within this ‘problématique’ (sorry for using a fancy French word but the luminaire are familiar with the usage).
Before speculating (which is all one can do) on the big question of what the world will be like after the now disintegrating world order has run its course, let me recount how difficult this is to do even on a national scale for a small country. Allow me to use constitutions as my mileposts. When the Dunmore Constitution was enacted in 1931 who predicted the socio-positional conflicts and changes in economic landscape during the period up the Soulbury Constitution of 1947? Who saw the trajectory of the short-lived Sirima-Colvin Republican Constitution of 1972, or the blood-soaked trail of JR’s brutal 1977 instrument? No one really in his mind’s eye saw it all. Even NM only alerted the nation to dangers inherent in JR’s constitution; he could not predict the future step by step.
Predicting the global future is best left to soothsays, astrologers and charlatans. When Queen Victoria died in 1901 to be succeeded by Edward VII till 1910, who on earth foresaw impending war? And after the Great Imperialist War (the War to end all Wars!), came the Wall Street Crash, the Great Depression, Hitler-Nazism and WW-II. This was followed by a Britten Woods defined, US dominated world. Yes it was foreseeable that post WW-II capitalist boom would last for about half a century. Tell me what’s next? A global Socialist Market Economy, or the end free-markets, or a new dose of liberalism. Who knows?
There is one point that is pertinent. Experience across the world over the last century has proved that leaders must not remain in power for too long. A decade is enough. Lenin a genuine revolutionary, had he not died in January 1924, would surely have stepped-down as head of the Soviet State after about a decade. Mao no doubt felt that his work was unfinished but he would have been wise to step aside for about ten years and let Liu Sao Chi and Chou en Lai have a go. Mao’s overreach contributed to the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. In my view it will be good if President Xi Ping steps aside for five to ten years while state power remains in the hands of the CCP for reasons that I will explain now.
The structural stability that CCP hegemony has provided, despite shortcomings, was essential. China has pulled about 500 or 600 million people out of poverty, the country has not fallen apart into warlord states, it has prospered into an economic great power. Deng Xiao Ping pulled of an economic miracle within two decades thanks to solid Party backing. This could not have happened if the CCP had been ousted. House construction was the domain of private capital leading to disaster. Finance and baking a sophisticated challenge and needs leadership by the Government supported by a Planning Commission not Party directives.
I grant that there has been many a downside; absence of formal electoral democracy except at the county or local (village) level anabhorrence and suppression of other influential ideologies – Confucianism, Fulan Gong and Islam in Xinjiang. Some of these excesses could have been avoided but if the CCP had been overthrown, the country would have descended into chaos (and America’s dreams fulfilled!).
I like to finish off my essays on international topics with a short comment on how what effect they may have on Sri Lanka. I have often commented in these pages that I am of view that the NPP-JVP is likely to win a large number of seats, maybe up to 30 or 40 percent in the next parliamentary election and that the two leading contenders in a presidential election in 2024 would be Anura Kumara and the main UNP contender. The latter may be Ranil, or Sajith as the candidate put up by some consortium his own UNPers also known as the SJB, in alliance with the formal UNP. The poinht I want to make about the newly developing global situation and in particular the topic of this essay which is how things may pan out in China is this. In relation to the JVP it will be very comfortable if China comes out “winner” in the global context. The JVP has had a relationship with China from the Wijeweera days, it had fraternal relations with Shan and the JVP’s mentality is what I will call “orientalist” (with apologies to Edward Saied) for want of a better term.