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Issue #1769      March 15, 2017

Culture & Life

China and the Morning Star

The article by Jenny Clegg in last week’s issue of this paper, “China talks trade”, was not only interesting but also very timely. Reprinted from Britain’s Communist daily the Morning Star, the article was a report on the contribution by China’s President Xi Jinping to the World Economic Forum in January.

Chinese Red Guards, high school and university students, wave copies of Chairman Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book as they parade in Beijing’s streets at the beginning of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in June 1966.

“Highlighting the lack of fairness in the international order, Xi called for priority to be given to job creation, innovation, green growth and, above all, tackling poverty.” Among those attending the Forum were many representatives of countries whose governments are committed to the needs and wishes of capitalist corporations. Xi is not so naive as to think that they would willingly take his priorities on board. But he knew that most of the other delegates would, even if for some of them the ability to act on his priorities would be limited at best.

As for the confirmed capitalists, well even our own Malcolm Turnbull has claimed to be in favour of “job creation and innovation”. Unlike Xi, however, Turnbull has no policies that are likely either to create jobs or foster innovation. And, of course, the Turnbull government is resolutely opposed to developing green growth and has no interest whatsoever in tackling poverty. As far as Turnbull, a filthy-rich merchant banker, is concerned, as long as the rich get richer then some small part of their riches will inevitably spill over and “trickle down” to the poor people. Everyone wins! Hurrah for capitalism!

Xi however does not see it that way. “Over 700 million people in the world are still living in extreme poverty,” he told the Forum. “For many families, to have warm houses, enough food and secure jobs is still a distant dream. This is the biggest challenge facing the world today.” In Australia, a developed capitalist country generally acknowledged to have a high standard of living, many pensioners would love to have warm houses in the winter and enough food at any time, while most workers would welcome a secure job. All those workers in hospitality and fast food whose wages have just been slashed would have welcomed some security in their terms of employment I am sure.

China itself is no stranger to extreme poverty, especially in the undeveloped region of Western China. Absence of industry or in fact any form of development meant extreme poverty was endemic in Western China. So the CPC and the Chinese government took a bold step: to use capitalist greed to develop the neglected West of the country. Their method was simple: foreign companies wanting to establish factories or assembly plants on the prosperous Chinese sea-board, where all Western companies want to have their facilities so they are handy to transport abroad, were only given approval to do so on condition they also built and operated a similar plant in Western China.

In 2015, China was able to report that extreme poverty had successfully been eliminated in Western China. Poverty – ordinary poverty – is still a problem in China, of course, but compared to the conditions that had previously prevailed, life has improved for millions of people. Even in the ranks of our own Party, there are too many people who have glibly declared that “China is going capitalist”, because of the latitude that the CPC has given for the pursuit of profit in China without examining the actual policies and statements of the Chinese Party and without studying the history of modern China.

When the victorious Chinese Red Army swept into Beijing in 1949, China was poverty-stricken, backward, wracked by famines and epidemics and plagued by internecine warfare between local war-lords. The Communists put an end to the civil wars and the famines and countered the epidemics. The result: the population exploded, from 400 million towards a billion in only a few years. The economic strain of that enormous population growth is almost unimaginable.

After some abortive attempts to earn foreign currency by undertaking infrastructure projects in other countries using Chinese labour, which did not go down well with workers in those countries, the CPC realised that the only way they could acquire the capital they needed to urgently raise China’s standard of living was to get it from those who had plenty of it and were always looking for ways to invest it profitably: the Western capitalists.

Western firms were allowed to establish factories in restricted economic zones within China. Labour was cheap, so profits were high, but actually wages in these zones were higher than in other areas of China, so the people benefited too. More importantly, to be permitted to set up a factory in China, a Western manufacturer was required to train his Chinese employees in all aspects of the complete production process, including designing, marketing and research. Contracts for manufacturing in China were finite: 20 or 25 years, after which the factory reverts to China and the workforce that has been trained in all aspects of the production process takes over the running of it.

The Communist Party of China has always been aware that to build Socialism they had first to develop not only industry but an industrial workforce: you cannot develop a workers’ state without workers. In 1949 they were a very long way from being able to begin building Socialism. They were barely at the stage of beginning to lay the foundations for preparing to build Socialism. And they didn’t have time to spare.

They have performed a remarkable balancing act, utilising the resources (and the greed) of capitalists to fund and develop the basis of a Socialist society, uneven and beset with innumerable difficulties – as only to be expected with an undertaking on such a scale – and instead of whining that they are not building Socialism as we would have done it if we’d been in charge, we should be celebrating their extraordinary achievement.

I thought the Morning Star article was right on the money and would repay further study.

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