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Is China what capitalists want

China's capitalist success story

Without the "reform and opening up" after 1978, China's rapid economic rise in the last few decades would not have been conceivable, nor would the Communist Party (CCP) remain in power. After the civil war-like clashes of the Cultural Revolution and a more general decline of the "anti-imperialist liberation movements of the Third World", the leadership around Deng Xiaoping was ready to open China to international capital.

Initially, the country assumed a position at the lower ends of the global production chains as the “workbench of the world”. However, as early as 1978, the long-term goal was to overcome its own economic backwardness through a technology transfer from the West and Japan. The US was benevolent towards the Chinese rise. Both countries had already converged under anti-Soviet auspices with the Nixon visit to Beijing in 1972. While the Soviet-led camp was cut off by an economic embargo, for example from the superior US computer technology, China was able to take over.

"Reform and opening up" were by no means peaceful. In February 1979 the People's Liberation Army attacked socialist Vietnam in order to "punish" it for overthrowing the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. For China and the USA, Vietnam was then seen as the "puppet of Soviet expansionism" in Southeast Asia. After more than three decades of conflict with the USSR, China was economically decoupled from the socialist camp in Eastern Europe. The "Middle Kingdom" was not dragged into the abyss by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. By joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, the Chinese leadership finally accepted the rules of the game of global capitalism. It no longer tries to change the capitalist system, but rather to become a high-tech country in the global production chains.

Many of the economic reforms of the CCP of the 1980s had already been tried out by some socialist states in Eastern Europe: the decollectivization of agriculture, the introduction of competition and profit criteria in state-owned companies, the gradual release of prices or the promotion of joint venture companies with foreign capital.

Private companies were allowed under the control of the "command heights of the economy" by the state. Only in China (and partly in Vietnam) were these measures able to spark a sustained economic boom and give the CCP new legitimacy. Deng announced in 1985 that the reforms should be viewed as failed if a "new bourgeoisie" emerged. Today it is clear that it is impossible to use market mechanisms as neutral instruments for increasing efficiency without producing the capitalist class relations that go with them.

In contrast to "market socialism" in Yugoslavia and Hungary, the Chinese comrades did not shy away from smashing the "iron rice bowl", the socialist welfare state, and allowing mass unemployment. Between 1998 and 2002, the government shut down large parts of the state industry and floated key companies on the stock exchange. Labor became a commodity. In the city centers, almost all traditional workers' settlements have been demolished and replaced by condominiums for the new middle class and the super-rich. The backbone of the state socialist working class has been broken by the CCP.

This upheaval met with relatively little resistance, since at the beginning of "reform and opening up" 80 percent of the population were farmers. They had never had access to the "iron rice bowl" like the city state workers. In the 1980s, the income, mobility and food situation of the rural population improved enormously. When large parts of the urban population took to the streets against corruption, inflation and for political reforms in the summer of 1989, things remained calm in the villages. Since the 2000s, however, millions and millions of farmers have lost their land and provide the cheap labor for the "workbench of the world".

China has succeeded in becoming the new world power. 40 years of “reform and opening” are a capitalist success story with all the social and ecological upheavals that go with it.

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