Three-Body Problem: science fiction for China’s ‘New Era’?

The following article by David Peat – Iskra Books editorial board member and secretary of the Friends of Socialist China Britain Committee – discusses the new Netflix adaptation of Liu Cixin’s novel The Three-Body Problem, comparing it with the original book and with last year’s Chinese television adaptation by Tencent.

While describing the Netflix adaption as “admirable in many respects”, David considers that the series is somewhat let down by “poor scriptwriting and ham-fisted characterisation”. Compared to the Chinese adaptation, the Netflix version is too fast-paced, packing too much into a small number of episodes. “With more room to breathe, the novel and the Tencent series also bring out other elements” not covered by the Netflix series, including ecological themes.

David writes: “It has been noted that recent Western science fiction, particularly in cinema, is based either on simplified superhero narratives or extremely pessimistic dystopian/post-apocalypse scenarios, and this reflects a spiritual and ideological absence in late capitalist culture.” Liu Cixin, by contrast, “focuses on proactive and creative responses to long-standing and seemingly intractable problems affecting the whole of humanity.” As such, “Liu Cixin’s stories are fitting science fiction for China’s ‘New Era’ period of continuing socialist construction, undertaking (and more importantly achieving) its own enormously complex and profound projects of poverty elimination, green transformation, and high-quality development.”

David concludes that the Three-Body Problem has the potential to foster cultural understanding and people-to-people exchange between China and the West, “opening a door to the captivating world of Chinese science fiction for a global audience.”

This article contains no spoilers for any of Liu Cixin’s works or their adaptations.

The Three-Body Problem (三体), a science fiction novel released in 2006, counts as perhaps the major cultural ‘crossover’ success of China in the last decade. This was true even before the release of the new Netflix television adaptation of the book, released on the 21st of March 2024, and produced and written for the screen by Game of Thrones show creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, alongside Alexander Woo.

That the creators of arguably the largest television ‘phenomenon’ of recent years saw fit to choose Three-Body as their next project is testament to the cultural impact of this work within China and, increasingly, in the wider world. All the more interesting since the author Liu Cixin, a cultural icon in the PRC, refuses to repudiate his country’s revolutionary history, including its current governing party, the Communist Party of China. As such, he cannot easily be co-opted as a ‘dissident’, and those seeking to market and adapt his works in the West find themselves in the awkward position of having to promote an author who is proud of his country’s achievements and is able to critically engage with the historical path of the Chinese revolution in a productive way, avoiding what Xi Jinping refers to as “historical nihilism.”[1]

This article will look at the original book series, as well as a Chinese-made (Tencent) adaptation from 2023, and compare them with the recently released US-made (Netflix) adaptation. It will assess the relative merits of each version, different audience reactions to these series, as well as some wider considerations of the differences between contemporary Western and Chinese science fiction.

Three-Body Problem was published in China in 2006. The book is the first of a trilogy, with subsequent volumes titled The Dark Forest (黑暗森林) and Death’s End (死神永生), with the trilogy collectively known as Remembrance of Earth’s Past (地球往事). It achieved broad commercial and critical success domestically, with Liu’s works accounting for 2/3rds of the Chinese science fiction market, and abroad, with translations into more than 20 languages. In English, the first volume of the trilogy, translated by Ken Liu, received the coveted Hugo Award for ‘Best Novel’ in 2015, the first non-English speaking writer to do so. Liu Cixin’s dominance of modern Chinese science fiction can also be seen in the enormous domestic (and moderate international) success of film adaptations of his Wandering Earth novel, with China selecting the second instalment in this film series as its submission for this year’s Oscars.

The plot of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series is difficult to summarise, especially when trying not to spoil anything. In general, the action initially takes place in a near-contemporary era with the deaths by suicide of various theoretical and applied physicists around the world, many of them leaving cryptic notes suggesting something along the lines of “Physics doesn’t exist.” The first book also jumps back to Mao-era China and follows Ye Wenjie, herself a gifted physicist, during the Cultural Revolution and subsequent work at a radio telescope base in Inner Mongolia. In the broadest possible strokes, the series can be considered an ‘alien contact’ story, but it also touches on themes such as ecology and human development, ‘game theory’, the capacity for ideological groups to form depending on external circumstances, global cooperation to overcome multi-generational problems, and high-level physics concepts.

The books were extremely well-received, with many praising their creative and inventive use of scientific concepts, enormously ambitious ‘high-concept’ action sequences, and philosophical themes. Equally, however, some readers critiqued the series, suggesting that these overwhelmingly abstract ‘ideas’ take centre stage, to the detriment of any focus on interpersonal drama and character development. As such, for years it was considered that the novels were ‘unfilmable’.

There had been a few abortive attempts at adapting the book series in China, in animation, or even video game form. Eventually, the Chinese company Tencent succeeded and released a 30-episode series in January 2023. This covers the events of the first novel, Three-Body Problem,,in exhaustive detail, and is considered a highly faithful adaptation, often with dialogue taken straight from the novel. On release, it was praised by fans of the book, with strong performances, excellent cinematography and impressive special effects, especially for its budget and the fact it was a Chinese television drama. However, there were also some criticisms, from both domestic and international audiences, which criticised the show’s irregular pacing, poor performances by non-Chinese actors, and the ‘old-fashioned’ CGI of the ‘video game’ section of the story.

Continue reading Three-Body Problem: science fiction for China’s ‘New Era’?

Disappointing “rush to judgment” on China’s role in the Congo

The article below, written by Dee Knight and republished from Black Agenda Report, responds to a recent review by Ann Garrison of Siddharth Kara’s 2023 book Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives.

Garrison had written, also in Black Agenda Report, that “huge Chinese corporations so dominate Congolese cobalt mining, processing and battery manufacture that one has to ask why a communist government, however capitalist in fact, doesn’t at least somehow require more responsible sourcing of minerals processed and then advanced along the supply chain within its borders.”

Dee Knight responds with a comradely criticism – while recalling Garrison’s “strong record of incisive anti-imperialist reporting on Africa” – that the book review (and the book under review) ignores some important facts about Congo’s mining industry and China’s role in it.

Referencing the work of Isabelle Minnon, a lawyer and activist in Belgium, and others, Dee observes that “China’s role has been to bring new, large-scale investment on a new basis: combined financing for industrial mining and public infrastructure – roads, railroads, dams, health and education facilities.” The effect of this has been to reverse the trajectory towards de-industrialisation of Congo’s cobalt economy, and to provide much-needed infrastructure for development.

Furthermore, “China cancelled the DRC’s interest-free loans worth an estimated $28 million, promised to fund more infrastructure projects and also give $17 million in other financial support as the DRC joins the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).”

The win-win nature of the China-DRC relationship – as opposed to some sort of neo-colonial dynamic – is what has provoked the ire of Western commentators.

Based on her reading of Cobalt Red, Ann Garrison writes that “Huge Chinese corporations so dominate Congolese cobalt mining, processing and battery manufacture that one has to ask why a communist government, however capitalist in fact, doesn’t at least somehow require more responsible sourcing of minerals processed and then advanced along the supply chain within its borders.” [emphasis added]

Garrison has a strong record of incisive anti-imperialist reporting on Africa, so it is necessary to consider her question seriously. Unfortunately, the result of such consideration suggests Garrison rushed to judgment about China’s role in the Congo, and failed to look beyond Cobalt Red for facts and analysis of the DRC’s rapidly changing mining industry.

Others have researched the issue more fully and accurately. One is Isabelle Minnon, a lawyer and activist in Belgium. Her research report, “Industrial Turn-Around in Congo?” appeared last October in Lava, a Belgian magazine of social criticism and Marxist analysis.

Minnon shows that China has been part of the solution, not of the problem. “China has responded to the DRC’s need to have partners who invest in industrialization,” she writes. Western colonists had bled Congo dry through onerous debt, leaving it “weighed down by a burden that prevented it from developing economically. In 2001 industrial production was at a standstill, mining sites deserted.”

When the DRC turned to the World Bank and IMF for help, they insisted on privatizing the mining sector, laying off thousands of mine workers. Hundreds of mines were sold with “dormant mining titles” to foreign companies – “not to produce but to resell them at the right time” for big profits.

The measures didn’t wipe out the mining industry, but they pushed thousands of laid-off mine workers and their families to fend for themselves as artisanal miners, and then sell the minerals to processing companies. That was the situation described in Cobalt Red.

China’s role has been to bring new, large-scale investment on a new basis: combined financing for industrial mining and public infrastructure – roads, railroads, dams, health and education facilities. The result was “After decades of almost non-existent industrial production, the country became and remains the world’s leading producer of cobalt and, by 2023, became the world’s third largest producer of copper.” The new deal “puts an end to the monopoly of certain Western countries and their large companies whose history shows that this exclusivity has not brought development to the country.”

The arrangement has dramatically reduced the role of artisanal mining. “Since the enormous increase in production in the mining sector in Congo, 80% of mining production is done industrially. Sicomines [China-Congolese Mining Co.] has built the most modern factory in the DRC for processing raw copper.” The same is true for cobalt, replacing artisanal mining with organized, industrial production. Industrial mining is a reversal of artisanal mining.

“Resource-for-Infrastructure (RFI) deals like this all over Africa have helped China foster strong relations with several countries,” writes Halim Nazar of India’s Institute for Chinese Studies .

Western competitors are not happy. “The IMF publicly criticized the DRC for taking on too much debt,” Nazar writes. But it has been a “debt-investment” based on real growth.

A Peace-for-Concessions Swap?

Avril Haines, US Director of National Intelligence, visited Kinshasha airport last November 20, to meet with DRC President Tshisekedi, together with Molly Phee, Undersecretary of State for Africa, the State Department’s most senior official for Africa. It was the first day of Tshisekedi’s presidential campaign, reports Tony Busselen , author of Congo for Beginners. The top US officials focused on peace between the DRC and neighboring Rwanda, offering help in difficult upcoming elections. Tshisekedi won the heavily contested elections in a landslide .

December 1 report in Politico suggests it may have been a peace for concessions swap. “The meeting with Haines comes at a time when Washington is trying to counter China in Africa. Congo is home to about 70 percent of the world’s cobalt reserves and China is the largest producer. Beijing is Kinshasa’s largest trading partner and has acquired important mining rights since the 2000s. Control of the market gives the country a big lead over the US in the race for crucial parts for electric vehicle batteries.”

Did Haines press for Tshisekedi to review Congo’s contracts with China? Politico quotes Cameron Hudson, a former CIA intelligence analyst for Africa: “If anything, this administration has already shown that it is willing to review contracts with China.” Last February 16, Tshisekedi’s administration published a highly critical report on the China contract. The President ordered an audit of the contract, and called on China to revise it on a “win-win” basis.

When President Tshisekedi was invited to China last May, he gave an interview on Chinese TV in which he distanced himself from the policy of condemnation and interference against China. China had cancelled the DRC’s interest-free loans worth an estimated $28 million , promised to fund more infrastructure projects and also give $17 million in other financial support as the DRC joins the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Isabelle Minnon cites Franz Fanon’s observation that “Africa has the shape of a revolver whose trigger is in the Congo.” She adds that “those whose finger is on this trigger have the power to build or destroy the DRC and all of Africa.” She says this is how, following the 1961 US-and-Belgium-backed coup d’état and assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the colonialists were able to install Mobutu Sese Seko, who governed for 31 years, and cooperated with them in destroying the Congolese economy by miring it in debt. After the DRC and China agreed on a resource-for-infrastructure deal, the situation has improved – so much that the deal “fueled the fury of Western countries to the point that” the World Bank and IMF tried to force a 50 percent reduction in the infrastructure budget.

The Wilson Center published a report in September 2021, that “Artisanal miners produce 20% of the country’s cobalt output. The remainder comes from foreign-owned firms, primarily Chinese, whose rechargeable battery industry accounts for around 60 percent of global cobalt demand.” [emphasis added] Note that industrialized mining is many times more productive than artisanal mining, so even producing 20% of output, there are more artisanal miners than industrial mine workers.

Who likes Cobalt Red, and who doesn’t

Ann Garrison acknowledges criticism of Cobalt Red – she says Open Democracy “called it a sensationalistic, self-aggrandizing ‘White Saviour’ exposé.” OD said Cobalt Red “simply rehashes old stereotypes and colonial perceptions of the DRC, with indulgent use of dehumanizing rhetoric, lack of research ethics, and ignorance and/or erasure of local knowledge.” Perhaps most telling, the OD critics say Cobalt Red’s author “is intent on portraying the DRC as an unchanging, suffering world out of time.” But times are changing, and much of this change can be traced to the innovation of the resource-for-infrastructure deal with China.

Garrison notes that “Kara (the author of Cobalt Red), “has been interviewed on countless podcasts, on Democracy Now, and at the Foreign Policy Association. This last – along with bestseller ranking in the NY Times and Publishers Weekly and shortlisting for the Financial Times Best Business Book of the Year – suggest approval from questionable sources. There is questionable honor sharing glory with such “heroes” of the Foreign Policy Association as Antony Blinken and Madeleine Albright, General David Petraeus, journalists Robin Wright and David Sanger, and foreign policy titans like William Burns and Fiona Hill.

It may be that Ann Garrison didn’t notice that China’s role in the Democratic Republic of Congo was a significant change. In one sense that’s understandable. Change has not manifested itself completely, and the process may well be far from perfect. But in her article she rushed to judgment too quickly, without making appropriate comparisons.

The East is Still Red – and green

In the following book review of Carlos Martinez’s The East is Still Red – Chinese socialism in the 21st century, Stefania Fusero provides a detailed summary of the chapter on China’s environmental record (China is building an ecological civilisation), including a discussion of China’s trajectory on ecological issues, its commitment in the last two decades to renewable energy development, its record on afforestation, and its leadership in eco-friendly transport.

Stefania also sums up the book’s position as to why China, of all countries, has emerged as the uncontested world leader in renewable energy and biodiversity protection:

China’s economic development proceeds according to state plans, not market anarchy. As a result, the interests of private profit are subordinate to the needs of society.

Unfortunately, the Western world remains oblivious to China’s advances, on the one hand because of a racist assumption that ‘civilised’ European-origin peoples should be leading the way on such matters, and on the other hand because “China’s successes in this and other areas risk demonstrating the fundamental validity of socialism as a means of promoting human progress”.

This book review was first published in Italian in La Città Futura and has been translated into English by the author.

The East is Still Red can be purchased in paperback and digital formats from Praxis Press.

Carlos Martinez’s book provides us with a wide-ranging overview of 21st century China, but in this article, I am going to focus exclusively on the chapter entitled “China is Building an Ecological Civilisation.” Although ecology is rightfully one of the most debated topics both among policymakers and at a grassroots level, we know hardly anything about the environmental policies pursued by and in the People’s Republic of China. Through Martinez’s book we get an exhaustive and detailed picture of them.

With the proclamation of the PRC on October 1, 1949, China began the long journey of emancipation of its people from poverty and underdevelopment, which would lead it to pull hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty a few years ago.

The economic development of the PRC, just like previously that of Europe, the US and Japan, was mainly based on coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, which until two decades ago made up around 80 percent of China’s energy mix. Faced with the choice between economic development resulting in environmental degradation or underdevelopment with environmental conservation, the Chinese leadership chose development.

“The abundance of cheap fossil fuel energy enabled China to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, whilst simultaneously establishing itself as a global leader in science and technology, thereby building a foundation for the construction of a modern and sustainable socialist society.”

It is thanks to that choice that China, although still a developing country, is no longer poor. At the same time, however, the effects of the industrialisation process have amplified and aggravated China’s natural vulnerability to climate change – it is one of the countries most prone to ecological disasters, with 200 million people exposed to the effects of droughts and floods; with nearly a quarter of the world’s population, China has only 5% of the planet’s water resources and 7% of the arable land.

Environmental issues have therefore become a top priority and the CPC has focused, especially in the last decade, on the transition to a green development model. If in the 1980s they made GDP growth one of their top priorities, at the 19th Congress of the CPC in 2017 Xi Jinping announced that the main contradiction that Chinese society now faces is that between unbalanced and inadequate development and the needs of people for an ever-better life.

Already in 2014 Xi Jinping wrote in The Governance of China: “We must strike a balance between economic growth and environmental protection. We will be more conscientious in promoting green, circular, and low-carbon development. We will never again seek economic growth at the expense of the environment.”

If the concepts of growth and development remain a priority on the Chinese leadership’s agenda, “innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive” growth and development opportunities that preserve nature are now being pursued. Such a view shifts the development goal “from maximising growth to maximising net welfare”, in the words of influential Chinese economist Hu Angang.

Continue reading The East is Still Red – and green

‘The East is Still Red’ an able defence of People’s China

In this concise review of Carlos Martinez’s The East is Still Red, Graham Harrington summarises the book’s main arguments, describing it as a “very readable and able defence of the current People’s Republic of China.”

Graham notes that, while the socialist market economies of China and Vietnam are controversial among many Marxists in the West, it is important to recognise these countries’ achievements – particularly in relation to poverty alleviation – and to assess them from a position of humility. “Given the lack of any revolution in the West, we should perhaps not be so dismissive of what has been achieved in China, or look at China from an ivory tower.”

The review originally appeared in Socialist Voice, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI).

The CPI is hosting book launches for The East is Red at Connolly Books, Dublin, on Wednesday 27 September 2023, and Cultúrlaan Mac Adam Ó Fiach, Belfast, on Thursday 28 September 2023.

For those based in the EU, Connolly Books is the best place to order a paperback copy. Elsewhere, we recommend buying from Praxis Press.

The East Is Still Red is a very readable and able defence of the current People’s Republic of China. The basic argument of the book is that China is on the right path with regard to building socialism, despite the controversy a statement like this causes among the Western left.

The Chinese Revolution of 1949 put an end to what Chinese call their “century of humiliation,” the period of the Opium Wars, Japanese colonialism, famine, and warlord rule. It was also the culmination of decades of struggle by the Communist Party of China, which had endured massacres and guerrilla struggle before the revolution.

The new People’s Republic managed to unite the country, double the life expectancy of China’s people, end horrific misogynist practices such as foot-binding in some areas, and eliminate landlordism and inequality. This was despite failures and mistakes, such as the Great Leap Forward.

For the author, China’s achievements are not just historical but in fact continue to this day. The reform and opening-up period did not mark a break with socialism in China. At the time of Mao’s death the People’s Republic had achieved many advances. Its economy had impressive successes in heavy industry, but the majority of its people continued to languish in objective poverty, and it was this fact that made the CPC examine the direction of the country.

Essentially, the argument of the CPC for reform was that if poverty remained in the country it would threaten socialism. In the 1970s China’s neighbours, including Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia, were experiencing economic booms, while China’s citizens lived on state rations. The leadership felt that this was a threat to the existence of the People’s Republic. Foreign investment was encouraged, as was a domestic private sector. The rest is history. China is now the world’s second-largest economy.

Despite the huge increase in inequality, the author argues that the reforms were still necessary for development and people’s needs. The strongest argument for this is that China has taken some 800 million citizens out of absolute poverty. The reforms did indeed create billionaires, but they also eliminated absolute poverty. If China is capitalist, then this presents major challenges to the Marxist understanding of capitalism.

We may add the existence of the second economy in the socialist states, past and present, as documented in Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny’s book Socialism Betrayed (2010). The second economy incorporated the black market, those who hoarded state-subsidised goods and in effect provided the material basis for the destruction of socialism in the country where it was born. In no country today is there a perfect socialism, where there is no private sector or markets. Martinez writes how carefully the Chinese leadership analysed the defeat of the USSR.

Along with several quotations from Mao in the PRC’s early days, Martinez gives a quotation from Lenin in 1921 to show how the CPC’s post-reform thinking was not something new: “What we must fear is protracted starvation, want and food shortage, which create the danger that the working class will be utterly exhausted and will give way to petty-bourgeois vacillation and despair.”

While China’s recent trajectory is not popular among leftists in the West, the author believes it should perhaps give us some reason to examine how Western leftists can over-idealise socialism into a utopia, while countries such as China or Vietnam have to provide for their people’s basic needs after decades of imperialist underdevelopment. Given the lack of any revolution in the West, we should perhaps not be so dismissive of what has been achieved in China, or look at China from an ivory tower.

The environment, and specifically China’s response, is looked at in a very important chapter of the book. While China’s economic boom produced much pollution, China now produces more solar panels than any other country, and is first in investment in renewable energy. It has also doubled its forest coverage.

Additionally, it is noted that China’s pollution cannot be compared with historical pollution by the likes of the United States and Britain. Per capita, China’s emissions are similar to those of Ireland and Austria. A huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions is in fact caused by production for Western consumption: American and Canadian households emit nine times the emissions of the average Chinese household. In effect, the West has exported its polluting to China, leaving it with the blame.

The book does not pretend to be a comprehensive overview of China, nor a justification of every policy taken. It seeks to examine China and explain why we need to examine it seriously, not rating it out of ten but instead seeing how China has remained much closer to its original path than Western leftists believe it to be.

Book review: China and America’s Tech War from AI to 5G

In this review of China and America’s Tech War from AI to 5G: The Struggle to Shape the Future of World War, the new book by AB Abrams, Will Podmore notes that China has major advantages in five crucial areas of strategic and economic significance, namely artificial intelligence, quantum computing, green and nuclear technologies, telecommunications, and semiconductor chips. China is also, he notes, the world’s largest R&D investor and accounts for nearly half of all patent applications lodged worldwide.

Podmore writes that its unaffordability deters many US citizens from university study, but in China the numbers are rising fast. Moreover, the Chinese percentage of STEM graduates among its student cohort is double that of the US. China has also overtaken the US in the number of peer-reviewed papers published in scientific journals. 

The US response, Podmore observes, has been to step up its attacks on China’s Huawei. But, as Abrams notes: “By initiating hostilities the US may only have accelerated its own decline by pressing China and its suppliers to phase out reliance on both American inputs such as software as well as on US chips.”

Britain’s decision to strip out Chinese equipment from its 5G network within seven years will cost over £7 billion and delay 5G rollout by at least three years. Podmore evokes a famous aphorism of Mao Zedong when he describes all this as “lifting a rock, only to drop it on your own feet.”

For their part, the editors of the MIT Technology Review write: “It’s becoming increasingly clear in the West that while the venture capital model is good at building things people want, it’s less good at producing things society needs in order to solve hard, long-term problems like pandemics and climate change.”

Abrams’ book is published by Lexington Books. However, at £96, it is beyond the reach of all but a handful of individual readers. A Kindle edition is currently available at a slightly more affordable £38. It may also be possible to order it through your library.

This review was originally published by the Morning Star.

China has major advantages in five key broad areas of technological competition with high strategic and economic significance — artificial intelligence, quantum computing, green and nuclear technologies, telecommunications and semiconductor chips — due to its greater home market scale, flexible regulatory environment and faster product integration loop.

China is the world’s largest overall (public and private) R&D investor. And China is not producing copies, as is commonly alleged: China files nearly half all the patent applications submitted worldwide.

The unaffordability of higher education in the United States means that fewer US citizens are going to university, but in China the numbers receiving higher education are rising fast. In 2013, 40 per cent of Chinese students graduated in STEM subjects, under 20 per cent in the US.

In the period 2016-2018, China overtook the US in the number of peer-reviewed papers published in scientific journals. The 2019 PISA (the OECD Programme for International Student Assessments) found that Chinese students were the best educated in the world.

The US responded not by upping its investments in high tech but by stepping up its attacks on China’s Huawei.

By 2019, 40 per cent of the world’s population used telecoms that passed through Huawei equipment. The US government alleged that Huawei was using its equipment to spy on other countries.

Nevertheless, the US House of Representatives intelligence committee had concluded in 2012 that there was no evidence that the firm was installing back doors in its equipment for espionage purposes.

Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security found no evidence of any security threat or malpractice from Huawei. And, as Abrams points out, “It was the NSA, not a Chinese government agency, which sought to install back doors into Huawei equipment for espionage purposes.”

The NSA made US tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Apple assist its surveillance efforts.

Continue reading Book review: China and America’s Tech War from AI to 5G

Arise, Africa! Roar, China!: Black and Chinese citizens of the world in the twentieth century

We republish below a review by Joel Wendland-Liu of the important and fascinating 2021 book Arise, Africa! Roar, China! Black and Chinese Citizens of the World in the Twentieth Century, which explores aspects of the historic linkages between progressive African Americans and the Chinese revolution.

As noted in the review, the book “documents the experiences of five individuals – W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Liu Liangmo, Si-lan Chen Leyda, and Langston Hughes – through the lens of their relations to China, with African America, racism, U.S. government persecution, and anti-imperialist working-class struggles for freedom.”

Joel’s review, originally published in People’s World, summarizes some of the key themes in the book, including the extensive work carried out by Liu Liangmo to promote understanding of China in the US; Paul Robeson’s longstanding and consistent support for the Chinese Revolution; the extraordinary life of Afro-Chinese dancer Sylvia Si-lan Chen Leyda; and W.E.B Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois’s eight-week trip around China in 1959, of which W.E.B. Du Bois wrote: “We saw the planning of a nation and a system of work rising over the entrails of a dead empire.”

Also discussed is Langston Hughes’ famous trip to Shanghai in 1933:

Hughes differed from most Western visitors by refusing to stay within the racist cocoon that comprised the international concession zone in the city. He ate street food, enjoyed Chinese theater, and interacted with working-class Chinese people like humans. While these activities may seem normal today, at the time they set him apart from Euro-Americans who spread racist stereotypes about Chinese people, enforced Jim Crow rules, and typically viewed Chinese people as diseased, dangerous, and untrustworthy. Hughes’s experience in China, along with his political support for the revolutionary struggle, impacted his poetry, novels, and short stories over the next decade or so.

Joel observes that the book “gives new insights into the interactions and political relationships of revolutionary Chinese and African-American intellectuals, pointing frequently to new connections across cultures and languages that deserve even more scholarly scrutiny.”

We have previously carried an interview with the author, Gao Yunxiang.

When the slender, affable Chinese man took the podium in Harlem’s posh Golden Gate ballroom on a late autumn afternoon to denounce three recent lynchings in Mississippi, the audience’s FBI informant perked up. Liu Liangmo, a public speaker employed by United China Relief, a non-partisan charity that raised funds to aid China during a brutal Japanese invasion, proceeded to denounce racism as a system: lynchings, poll taxes, and Jim Crow apartheid. He highlighted white supremacy’s links to fascism and imperialism and called for equality and self-determination for all peoples. The bespectacled Liu took his seat to the applause of several hundred at an event sponsored by the Negro Labor Victory Committee, the Negro Quarterly, and the actor Orson Welles. As a professional public speaker, Liu’s task was to promote a deeper understanding of China to American audiences. In the age before television, public speaking events were among the most important ways an organization that couldn’t afford to make a movie or publish a newspaper could share its ideas. In his nine years in the U.S., Liu believed he had traveled 100,000 miles across most of the country.

Historian Gao Yunxiang is a Professor of History at Ryerson University in Toronto. In this original and well-researched book, Arise Africa! Roar, China!: Black and Chinese Citizens of the World in the Twentieth Century, she documents the experiences of five individuals—W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Liu Liangmo, Si-lan Chen Leyda, and Langston Hughes—through the lens of their relations to China, with African America, racism, U.S. government persecution, and anti-imperialist working-class struggles for freedom. Liu, persecuted by the FBI and the immigration regime, left the U.S. in 1949 to serve as a leader of the Chinese Democratic League, one of the several non-communist parties that continues to serve in the country’s National People’s Political Consultative Conference. He also helped to mobilize the Chinese Christian community in support of resistance to Japanese occupation and the ultimate revolutionary transformation of the country.

Continue reading Arise, Africa! Roar, China!: Black and Chinese citizens of the world in the twentieth century

China: socialist or capitalist?

This presentation by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez was given to the Communist Party USA on 20 August 2023 as part of its Marxist Classes series.

Introducing his book, The East is Still Red – Chinese Socialism in the 21st Century, Carlos goes into detail as to the class character of China today.

The book is available in paperback and ePub formats from Praxis Press, and is also available for Kindle. The voucher code ‘Carlos’ provides a site-wide 10 percent discount on Praxis Press.

Report: Online launch of The East is Still Red

On Sunday 13 August 2023, Friends of Socialist China, the International Manifesto Group, Midwestern Marx and Critical Theory Workshop jointly held an online book launch for Carlos Martinez’s The East is Still Red: Chinese Socialism in the 21st Century.

Speakers included Carlos Martinez, Ben Chacko (editor of the Morning Star), Chen Weihua (China Daily EU bureau chief), Amanda Yee (writer and podcaster), Dan Kovalik (author of NICARAGUA: A History of US Intervention and Resistance), Sara Flounders (author of SANCTIONS – A Wrecking Ball in a Global Economy) and Charles Xu of Qiao Collective. The event was chaired by Professor Radhika Desai.

In Carlos’s introduction, he focused on debunking the notion that China has become an imperialist country, describing this as a powerfully demobilising idea at a time when we should be uniting the broadest possible forces against the US-led New Cold War. Carlos posed the following questions about China: Does it seek to dominate foreign markets, land, labour and resources? Does it use its economic strength to dictate policy or assert hegemony over poorer countries? Does it go to war in pursuit of its economic interests? Does it engage in regime change, destabilisation, unilateral sanctions and economic coercion, in pursuit of its economic interests?

Carlos argued that the answer to all these questions is a resounding no. He pointed out that China has not been involved in a war in over four decades, and does not have a global infrastructure of military bases or troop deployments. He also pointed out that China does not engage in regime change, destabilisation or unilateral sanctions, and has never used its economic strength to dictate policy or assert hegemony over poorer countries. He contrasted this with the record of the US and its allies – a record of military, economic and political imperialism.

Ben Chacko pointed out that it is crucial to develop a better understanding of China at the current time, in the context of rising US hostility and an emerging New Cold War. Highlighting the Biden regime’s extreme inconsistency in its China policy – on the one hand saying that it wants a cooperative relationship, and on the other hand undermining the One China Principle and escalating attempts at containment and encirclement – Ben noted that the US isn’t at all sure of its ability to actually win a Cold War against China. As such, it is making preparations for a potential hot war on China, which would clearly be disastrous for humanity.

Continue reading Report: Online launch of The East is Still Red

‘The East Is Still Red’ a necessary read

In this review, first published in Workers World, John Catalinotto commends Carlos Martinez’s recently-released The East is Still Red as a valuable contribution to the discussion among Marxists regarding the class character of the People’s Republic of China. John considers that the book “arms anti-imperialists with the truth” about China, and convincingly argues the need for those in the West to resolutely struggle against the calamitous US-led New Cold War.

The East is Still Red can be purchased in paperback and digital formats from Praxis Press.

With his recently published book, “The East Is Still Red,” Carlos Martinez has clarified the role of the Chinese revolution in improving the lives of a fifth of humanity. The book is a contribution to the discussion among Marxists regarding the class character of the People’s Republic of China.

As the title implies, Martinez argues that the PRC is still socialist and that anti-imperialists worldwide should defend People’s China against U.S. and world imperialism.

The book’s six chapters are based on articles published in 2021 and 2022, organized into a succinct and well-sourced presentation of Martinez’s arguments.

Martinez shows the achievements of People’s China in the chapters, “China’s long war on poverty” and “China is building an ecological civilisation.” If it were just a problem of presenting facts, he would win by a landslide. His challenge is overcoming imperialism’s domination of the worldwide media and miseducation, aka, the Big Lie.

For example, Martinez quotes from international agencies to point out that China’s recent economic growth has moved hundreds of millions of people out of poverty into a stable and secure life: “To eradicate extreme poverty in a developing country of 1.4 billion people — which at the time of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 was one of the poorest countries in the world, characterized by widespread malnutrition, illiteracy, foreign domination and technological backwardness — is without doubt ‘the greatest anti-poverty achievement in history,’ in the words of United Nations Secretary General António Guterres.” (

This should convince anyone. However, imperialism’s Big Lie condemns everything in China, twisting reality into its opposite and imposing a distorted version of the world. This skews perception among much of the population in the imperialist heartlands of North America, Europe, Japan and Australia.

In the chapter, “Manufacturing consent for the containment and encirclement of China,” the author describes how mind-bending weapons of the imperialist ruling class have waged a relentless ideological assault on People’s China, in preparation for war.

What makes the book important is that it arms anti-imperialists with the truth. They can learn from it and repeat this truth to all who will pay attention. This process is a first step to building solidarity with People’s China at a time when the U.S. government wages an economic war and sails warships near the Chinese coast.

Is China socialist?

The big question for those who consider themselves to be on the side of socialist revolution is: What is the class character of People’s China?

Martinez notes that, “[F]or many on the left (particularly in the West), 1978 marked a turning point in the wrong direction — away from socialism, away from the cause of the working class and peasantry. The introduction of private profit, the decollectivization of agriculture, the appearance of multinational companies and the rise of Western influence: these added up to a historic betrayal and an end to the Chinese Revolution [this part of the left argues].

“The consensus view within the Communist Party of China is that socialism with Chinese characteristics is a strategy aimed at strengthening socialism, improving the lives of the Chinese people, and consolidating China’s sovereignty.”

Martinez agrees with the CPC’s consensus. He spends a good part of the book presenting the Chinese experience since 1978. Nearly 100 million party members are defending socialist property rights, even though a capitalist class has grown — it includes billionaires — and great inequalities in wealth exist. Imperialist corporations are exploiting Chinese labor. The CPC’s success in continually improving the daily lives of all China’s inhabitants, he argues, has cemented the working class’s loyalty to the Beijing government and to the CPC. 

That China’s economy has weathered the 2008 capitalist crisis that brought capitalist finance to the brink of collapse is proof that the billionaires are not driving decisions, even though they were allowed to join the CPC. The party stayed in control and built “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

That China came through the COVID-19 challenge, began a shift toward defending the environment and was able to plan industrial development instead of letting the hunt for profit distort its growth are themselves proof of this success. 

In the chapter, “Will China suffer the same fate as the Soviet Union?” Martinez presents in a positive light the CPC’s position of strength, and does it well. One point Workers World disagrees with, however, is attributing the Soviet failure to individual Soviet misleaders, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. These two were representatives of broad sectors within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and their decisions reflected a long process of deterioration of the CPSU, under relentless pressure from the world capitalist class. This point will require further analysis.

An important question worthy of further discussion is the possible consequence of limiting mass mobilizations in the long struggle for communist ideals — such as “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” If sacrifices are necessary to defend the socialist state with Chinese characteristics, for example, from imperialist attack, how does the party fire up ideological commitment from its population without this mobilization? How will the CPC mobilize international support from the masses without an appeal to egalitarian ideals?

Defend People’s China

Martinez convinces the reader in the chapter, “The left must resolutely oppose the U.S.-led New Cold War on China,” of the necessity of this task. In doing this, he performs a service to the worldwide movement for socialism.

Book review: IF Stone – The Hidden History of the Korean War

Written to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement, this book review by Carlos Martinez of IF Stone’s recently re-issued The Hidden History of the Korean War seeks to identify the lessons to be learnt from the so-called “forgotten war”, and to draw out parallels between the original Cold War in the Pacific and the New Cold War in the Pacific.

A shorter version of this review was published in the Morning Star.

The 27th of July 2023 marks 70 years since the signing of the armistice agreement at Panmunjom, finally bringing about a cessation of hostilities in a war that was extraordinarily destructive but which has been largely ignored.

As Bruce Cumings writes in his preface to I.F. Stone’s classic The Hidden History of the Korean War – first published in 1952 and recently reissued by Monthly Review Press – the Korean War is a forgotten war, “remembered mainly as an odd conflict sandwiched between the good war (World War 2) and the bad war (Vietnam).”

For those seeking to build a peaceful and prosperous future for humanity, the lessons of the Korean War must not be forgotten. Indeed re-reading The Hidden History it becomes clear that there are several crucial parallels with today’s world.

Stone’s meticulous investigation provides abundant proof that most of the key players in the US government and military actively wanted the Korean War; that it was the right war, in the right place and the right time in terms of US imperialist interests.

Top US generals have since admitted that their “police action” in Korea gave them just the excuse they needed to construct the military infrastructure of Cold War in the Pacific: a vast network of overseas bases; large-scale, long-term deployments of US troops in Korea and Japan; and the permanent stationing of nuclear warheads in the region.

The Korean War set the whole military-industrial complex in motion. It created the national security state. It was the first major test case for the Truman Doctrine of “support for democracies against authoritarian threats” and helped establish the US in its self-assumed role of global policeman. By forcing through a United Nations endorsement of its invasion, the US was able to establish its dominance of the UN-based international system.

Reading Izzy Stone’s reporting today, it’s striking the extent to which these mechanisms of Cold War still exist and are being used to wage a New Cold War. The military bases, the troop deployments, the nuclear threats that aimed to contain socialism and prevent the emergence of a multipolar world in the 1950s continue to serve the same purposes in 2023.

Stone’s book emphasises that peace was very much an option in 1950.

The Soviet Union of course wanted peace; having lost 27 million lives and sustained incredible damage to its infrastructure in the course of saving the world from Nazism, the Soviets needed space to rebuild. The People’s Republic of China also wanted peace; having only been founded in October 1949 after long years of civil war and struggle against Japanese occupation, the last thing the new state needed was to become embroiled in another war. (In the event, nearly 400,000 Chinese volunteers gave their lives fighting in Korea).

Continue reading Book review: IF Stone – The Hidden History of the Korean War

Online book launch: The East is Still Red – Chinese socialism in the 21st century

Date Sunday 13 August
Time4pm Britain / 11am US Eastern / 8am US Pacific / 11pm China

The new book by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez, The East is Still Red – Chinese socialism in the 21st century, has been published by Praxis Press. It is available to buy on the Praxis Press website in paperback and ePub forms.

The book provides a concise, deeply researched and well argued account that China’s remarkable rise can only be understood by acknowledging its socialist past, present and future. Read details and testimonials for the book.

On Sunday 13 August 2023 (11am US Eastern / 4pm Britain / 8am US Pacific / 11pm China), there will be an online book launch, jointly organized by Friends of Socialist China, International Manifesto Group, Critical Theory Workshop and Midwestern Marx.


Carlos Martinez is an independent researcher and political activist from London, Britain. He is the author of The East is Still Red: Chinese Socialism in the 21st Century (2023), No Great Wall: On the Continuities of the Chinese Revolution (2022), and The End of the Beginning: Lessons of the Soviet Collapse (2019). He is a co-editor of Friends of Socialist China and has blogged for many years at Invent the Future.

Dan Kovalik graduated from Columbia Law School in 1993, and currently teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is the author of NICARAGUA: A History of US Intervention and Resistance (2023) and The Plot to Overthrow Venezuela: How the US Is Orchestrating a Coup for Oil (2019), which includes a Foreward by Oliver Stone. He served as in-house counsel for the United Steelworkers for 26 years. Kovalik has been traveling to Nicaragua since 1987 and has been a friend of Nicaragua and the Sandinista Revolution since that time. He has written extensively on the issue of international human rights and U.S. foreign policy for the Huffington Post, Counterpunch and RT News, and has lectured throughout the world on these subjects.

Sara Flounders is a longstanding political activist and author based in New York City. She is a Contributing Editor of Workers World Newspaper and a leader of the United National Antiwar Coalition, the International Action Center and the SanctionsKill Campaign. She is the co-author and editor of numerous books, including Capitalism on a Ventilator: The Impact of COVID-19 in China and the US (co-authored with Lee SiuHin) and recently released: SANCTIONS – A Wrecking Ball in a Global Economy.

Chen Weihua is the EU bureau chief of China Daily, having previously served as chief Washington correspondent and deputy editor of the US edition of China Daily.

Amanda Yee is the host of Radio Free Amanda, a podcast focused on politics and media criticism from an anti-imperialist perspective.

Ben Chacko is editor of the Morning Star, a post he has held since 2015. The Morning Star is the only English-language socialist daily newspaper in the world.

Qiao Collective is a Chinese diaspora media collective that aims to challenge rising U.S. aggression towards the People’s Republic of China and to equip the U.S. anti-war movement with the tools and analysis to better combat the stoking of a New Cold War conflict with China.

Moderator – Radhika Desai is Professor at the Department of Political Studies. She is the Director, Geopolitical Economy Research Group at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. She is the convenor of the International Manifesto Group. Her books include Capitalism, Coronavirus and War: A Geopolitical Economy (2023), Geopolitical Economy: After US Hegemony, Globalization and Empire (2013), Slouching Towards Ayodhya: From Congress to Hindutva in Indian Politics (2nd rev ed, 2004) and Intellectuals and Socialism: ‘Social Democrats’ and the Labour Party (1994), a New Statesman and Society Book of the Month.

The East is Still Red: a valuable defense of socialism in China

We’re pleased to reproduce below J Sykes’ review of The East is Still Red, originally published in FightBack News. Sykes considers the book to be “a valuable and important defense of socialism in the People’s Republic of China”, addressing an urgent need for people to better understand contemporary China, particularly in the light of an escalating US-led hybrid war against it.

Sykes has also recently published a useful book, The Revolutionary Science of Marxism-Leninism, about which you can find more information here.

The East is Still Red can be purchased in paperback and digital formats from Praxis Press.

The new book, The East is Still Red: Chinese Socialism in the 21st Century, by Carlos Martinez and published by Praxis Press, is a valuable and important defense of socialism in the People’s Republic of China today. As the U.S. ramps up propaganda and aggression against China, this book addresses an important need, for everyone who wants a better world, to understand and defend China.

The book begins by acknowledging that there is a great deal of ignorance and confusion, especially in the imperialist countries, about China. Martinez writes, “Even among socialists and communists, there are misconceptions and important gaps in understanding.” He addresses these issues head on.

The first chapter focuses on the continuities of the revolution in China, from the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1921 until today. Martinez gives an overview of the history of the Chinese revolution and defends that legacy of Mao Zedong, while giving a balanced account of Mao’s more controversial initiatives, such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

For example, while acknowledging that the turmoil and disruption of the Cultural Revolution significantly impeded China’s development, he also points out that it “had a more directly useful outcome” in terms of preventing the “ideological decay that was taking place in the Soviet Union.” According to Martinez it “set the parameters of how far Reform and Opening Up could go” and “laid the groundwork for Deng Xiaoping’s Four Cardinal Principles, which the CPC continues to observe today: 1) We must keep to the socialist road; 2) We must uphold the people’s democratic dictatorship; 3) We must uphold the leadership of the Communist Party; 4) We must uphold Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.

Furthermore, he explains that the movement to send young intellectuals down to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution “was a crucial factor in the development of a new generation of young intellectuals with a close understanding of the needs of the peasantry and the situation in the countryside.” It is noteworthy that Chinese President Xi Jinping was himself sent to the countryside as part of this movement.

Looking at the post-1978 Reform and Opening Up period initiated by Deng Xiaoping, Martinez recognizes that many see this period as “a turning point in the wrong direction.” Martinez argues against this view. Instead, Martinez notes, “Deng Xiaoping’s strong belief was that, unless the government delivered on a significant improvement in people’s standard of living, the entire socialist project would lose its legitimacy and therefore be in peril.”

Continue reading The East is Still Red: a valuable defense of socialism in China

Is the East still red? Interview with Carlos Martinez on Black Agenda Radio

In late June 2023, Margaret Kimberley hosted Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez on Black Agenda Radio to talk about Carlos’s recently-released book, The East is Still Red: Chinese Socialism in the 21st Century.

The two discuss a number of topics, including the rationale for the book’s name; the issue of whether or not China is a socialist country; the reasons behind China’s phenomenal economic rise; the escalating New Cold War; China’s foreign policy; and more.

Review: ‘The East is Still Red’ highly readable and well-researched

In this book review in the Morning Star, Ben Chacko sums up – and strongly recommends – Carlos Martinez’s new book The East is Still Red. Ben writes that “understanding China could hardly be more important for today’s left”, and yet a Neither Washington Nor Beijing position is startlingly common among Western leftists. Ben opines that such a position “is untenable in a context where the US is unambiguously the aggressor in the new cold war while China’s rise is widely welcomed in the global South”, and considers that The East is Still Red provides a powerful counter-narrative.

The book can be purchased directly (in paperback and electronic formats) from Praxis Press.

China looms large in today’s world. Its economy is predicted to exceed the US’s in size within the decade; by purchasing power parity, it is already larger.

It is racing ahead too in diplomacy and trade: it has now replaced the US as the country with the most diplomatic missions overseas, and is the biggest trading partner of a majority of countries globally.

This very success — China’s status as the United States’ only acknowledged “peer competitor”— could be the reason China is now routinely depicted as a menace.

Britain’s BBC dutifully takes up scares over weather balloons and breathless reports on Chinese aircraft or ships’ “aggressive” conduct in encounters with US counterparts — which for some reason always take place just off the Chinese, not the American coast.

Projects like the Belt & Road Initiative, which overtook the World Bank as the biggest development finance lender in 2019, are seen as evidence of a sinister new imperialism.

Understanding China could hardly be more important for today’s left.

The “China threat” is a key justification for a major plank of British state policy: huge increases in arms spending and the first “east of Suez” military deployments in many decades.

This could mean World War III: a serving US general predicts that happening the year after next.

Armageddon could result from current China policy in other ways: sanctions and economic “decoupling” are cutting us off from the world leader in renewable technology and undermining scientific co-operation on global warming or pandemics.

Socialists need to know how we respond to these challenges. Carlos Martinez’s new book The East is Still Red is an excellent guide.

Whether China is socialist, as its ruling Communist Party argues, is a divisive topic but with an eye on history Martinez draws out the consistencies in the country’s course since 1949.

Chapter 1, No Great Wall, looks at how the “reform and opening up” period begun by Deng Xiaoping from 1978 built on achievements of the Mao years, without underrating the huge policy differences that did occur, or whitewashing either era. Later, in Will China Suffer the Same Fate as the Soviet Union, Martinez contrasts the two and points both to underlying strengths in China’s model and the lessons its party leadership has learned from the Soviet collapse.

Many are familiar with impressive headline figures such as China lifting 800 million people out of poverty — but Western accounts tend to imply this is the undirected result of introducing “the market,” though capitalist market economies such as India or Brazil cannot point to similar achievements. Martinez delves into the details and looks at the targets, the plans, the actual measures taken to deliver the greatest improvement in human welfare in recorded history.

For a Western left audience, key chapters are those on how China is making progress towards “ecological civilisation” — and why a “plague on both your houses” position dubbed Neither Washington Nor Beijing is untenable in a context where the US is unambiguously the aggressor in the new cold war while China’s rise is widely welcomed in the global South.

Later, he adopts Noam Chomsky’s famous phrase “manufacturing consent” while looking at the media’s coverage of China and how issues are distorted to build support for our own ruling class’s hostility to it: essential reading here is a demolition of the wild claims made about alleged abuses in Xinjiang and their less than objective origins.

Developed from articles written on different aspects of China and its revolution — many originally published in the Morning Star — this is a highly readable narrative that doesn’t presuppose detailed knowledge of Chinese history or politics.

The thematic character means many chapters work well on their own, and will make it a handy reference point for anyone wanting to brush up on specifics like the anti-poverty campaigns or China and climate change. It’s extensively referenced, and welcome in quoting more Chinese than foreign sources on the country.

Highly recommended.

Can we avoid war with China, and save the planet instead?

In this review of Carlos Martinez’s The East is Still Red: Chinese Socialism in the 21st Century, author and activist Dee Knight decries the US ruling class’s obsession with maintaining its “single-superpower status”. This obsession – shared by both Republicans and Democrats – is the top source of instability and the threat of war. Furthermore, it stands in the way of desperately-needed cooperation to prevent climate breakdown.

Dee writes that, while the US is aggressive in asserting its hegemony, China is “aggressive about saving the planet”, becoming the world’s first renewable energy superpower. It is in the process of shifting its growth model towards high-quality, green growth, based on innovation and emphasizing fairness of distribution. However, China’s path to modernization – built on common prosperity, peace, and harmony with nature – is “viable for a socialist society, but difficult to achieve with capitalism in which growth is the holy grail, no matter at what cost.” Dee writes that “China can indeed have ‘the best of both worlds’ – faster growth through centralized planning in a mixed economy, and better quality development since it doesn’t have to depend exclusively on the profit motive.”

As such, China’s socialism provides valuable inspiration and support for the countries of the Global South.

This article was first carried in LA Progressive on 22 June 2023.

Carlos’s book can be purchased in paperback and electronic formats from Praxis Press.

As US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in China June 18, a NY Times report said “a wall of suspicion awaits him.” In a phone call before the visit, the report said “China’s foreign minister told Mr. Blinken it was ‘clear who bears responsibility’ for deteriorating bilateral relations.” The report added that the US has “issued a barrage of sanctions on Chinese officials and companies, and tried to cut off Chinese access to critical technology globally.”

The next day Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Blinken. Xi said China “respects the interests of the United States and will not challenge or replace the United States,” and that Washington “must also respect China and not harm China’s legitimate rights and interests.” Xi also said what happens between the two countries has a “bearing on the future and destiny of mankind,” and that their two governments “should properly handle Sino-US relations with an attitude of being responsible to history, the people and the world.”

There was a near-war incident in the Taiwan Strait during the second week of June. A Chinese patrol boat intercepted a US Navy war ship. The two vessels came within about 150 yards of each other, according to reports. US officials deemed the Chinese interception an “unnecessary provocation,” claiming its war ship was merely exercising freedom of navigation on the open seas. The Chinese defense minister said such “freedom of navigation” patrols are a provocation to China.

For US officials The Taiwan Strait is “open seas,” but China regards the narrow waterway as part of its internal territorial waters. For comparison, we can imagine what would happen if China sent war ships to exercise freedom of navigation next to the island of Santa Catalina, near Los Angeles, or near Hawaii, or Puerto Rico.

The Taiwan Strait interception is a reminder of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, which led to the nightmare of war in Vietnam. The two incidents are part of a pattern: the US first fosters and fortifies “friendly” elements inside a country it wants to dominate, then deploys its military dangerously close to the chosen enemy’s borders; then it accuses the enemy of “aggression.” The pattern has been at work against both China and Russia in recent years. The results have already been disastrous, and could easily become catastrophic.

Continue reading Can we avoid war with China, and save the planet instead?

The Western left must reject anti-China propaganda and join the progressive global trend

What follows is the text of a speech given by veteran British peace activist and China specialist Jenny Clegg at the launch event in London for Carlos Martinez’s book The East is Still Red: Chinese socialism in the 21st century.

Summarising the key points of the book, Jenny highlights in particular the escalating New Cold War and anti-China rhetoric in the West. “China is being presented as an existential threat to the Western way of life so as to prepare a climate for war.”

Beyond the obvious dangers of preparing a climate for war, Jenny points out that the incessant lies and misinformation about China also serve to cut progressive movements in the West off from a rising multipolarity, thereby leaving them “isolated from potential alternatives, trapped in the cul-de-sac of racist myths of the indispensable West.” And further: “The Western Left risks getting left behind as the multipolar trend begins to shift US hegemonism and imperialism to the margins.”

Jenny concludes by recommending the book as a weapon against the New Cold War; a “tool for activists to get ready to grasp the great changes that are unfolding.”

The East is Still Red – Chinese socialism in the 21st century can be purchased in paperback or digital editions from Praxis Press.

Back in 2017, following Trump’s election, Xi Jinping made a landmark observation that ‘the world is in the midst of great changes unseen in a century’.

At that time, there were only a handful of us on the Left here in Britain seriously following China – connecting now and then to a few other individuals in Europe, in North America.

As Trump went on to unleash his trade and technology wars, disrupting 40 relatively tranquil years of US-China engagement, we found ourselves deluged in hostility, struggling to stay sane in an environment awash with crazy lies and disinformation – about the Hong Kong ‘democracy’ movement, the Uighurs, the so-called ‘Wuhan virus’ – unleashing Sinophobia.  Distinct among racisms, this gives the ‘threatening hordes’ a leader, imagining behind every Chinese lurks a demonic Fu Manchu.  We began to network.

Then came Pompeo’s speech at the Nixon Centre in July 2020 – “Securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time” he declared.  Our networks sprang into action – first No Cold War, then the International Manifesto Group, initiated by Radhika Desai (whose book on Coronavirus, Capitalism and War we launched here just over a month ago), and also Friends of Socialist China. 

Continue reading The Western left must reject anti-China propaganda and join the progressive global trend

New book calls for solidarity with People’s China

The following review of Carlos Martinez’s The East is Still Red – Chinese Socialism in the 21st Century was written by Friends of Socialist China advisory group member and ChinaSquare co-editor Dirk Nimmegeers. It was originally published in Dutch on ChinaSquare and republished on the Belgian alternative media website De Wereld Morgen. It was translated into English by the author.

Taking a positive attitude towards China seems unforgivable today; indeed, these days even those who refuse to attack China are already indignantly criticized. Politicians and journalists show themselves eager to lend a helping hand to the new cold war, with all due risks.

For peace and climate activists, trade unionists and other progressive citizens, it is a tough assignment to go against this flow, and that can be done in many different ways. For instance, there are observers who note that China is different and think it is ‘allowed’ to be so. They recognise that China has found a way, adapted to historical and present circumstances, of creating prosperity, high technology, sustainable energy sources and self-reliance, to the satisfaction of its people. Some publicists believe that China has created its own form of capitalism while respecting its Confucian traditions. Others implore their supporters and the general public that we are condemned to cooperate with China, under the motto ‘if you can’t beat them join them’. This may be the motivation of those who prefer to talk about de-risking rather than decoupling. A more generously positive view ranks China among the emerging economies that deserve support because they claim the right to pursue an independent course and, above all, because they want to prevent a world war.

Continue reading New book calls for solidarity with People’s China

Video: ‘The East is Still Red’ launched in London

On Tuesday 6 June 2023, at Marx Memorial Library in London, we held a launch event for Carlos Martinez’s book The East is Still Red – Chinese socialism in the 21st century. Aside from Carlos, the meeting was addressed by Her Excellency Rocío Maneiro González (Venezuelan ambassador to the UK), Danny Haiphong, Roger McKenzie and Jenny Clegg, and was chaired by Iris Yau.

Carlos opened the session by discussing his purpose in writing the book. He stated that the two key motivations were: to oppose the propaganda war on China such that people’s consent isn’t manufactured for the West’s escalating campaign of containment and encirclement; and to contribute to building understanding of Chinese socialism. Describing China’s extraordinary achievements in the realms of poverty alleviation, green energy development, tackling Covid, and promoting a peaceful, multipolar world order, Carlos questioned why people on the left would want to ascribe such achievements to capitalism. In spite of the introduction of market elements to China’s economy, and its integration into global value chains, the working people led by the Communist Party maintain political power. This is the ‘secret’ of China’s incredible progress and the continuing improvement of people’s living standards.

Roger McKenzie, international editor of the Morning Star, discussed the racist ideology that forms a backdrop to the propaganda war on China and the West’s attempts to disrupt growing economic and political links between the countries of the Global South. Roger further talked about the inspiration the developing world is drawing from China – a country that has directed such massive resources towards improving people’s living standards, which is demonstrating in practice a clear alternative to ‘Washington Consensus’ neoliberalism.

Rocío Maneiro, who was Venezuela’s ambassador to China from 2004 until 2011, and who accompanied Hugo Chávez on his trips to China in that period, described living through a period in which the international balance of power shifted from West to East, principally due to the multipolar strategy promoted by China. Speaking as a representative of Venezuela – a country which continues to suffer due to the sanctions, destabilisation and coercion applied by the Western powers – Rocío stated that China’s international policy is based on equality, on win-win relations, on peaceful cooperation and a collective vision of a prosperous future for humanity. She concluded that, after reading The East is Still Red, “it is almost impossible to describe socialism as a failed political system.”

Danny Haiphong – a popular broadcaster, journalist and co-editor of Friends of Socialist China – focussed on the multipolar project which lies at the heart of China’s foreign policy. The US’s concern with China, Danny pointed out, is not simply about economic factors or the idea that China is becoming economically powerful; more fundamental is that China’s foreign policy – informed by its socialist political system – is offering the global majority a new and far more democratic model of international relations. The Belt and Road Initiative, the BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and other bodies are changing the landscape of international cooperation; are bringing rapid development to the Global South and allowing them to assert their sovereignty and pursue their own development model. This shift constitutes an existential threat to the US-led imperialist world system.

Speaking by Zoom, Jenny Clegg – a longstanding China expert, academic and peace activist – discussed the relentless sinophobic propaganda that accompanies the escalating New Cold War. This propaganda cuts people off from understanding not only China’s internal dynamics but the multipolar project that it pursues. Multipolarity is already opening up space for sovereign development and cooperation in the Global South, and indeed is opening up new paths to socialism, but people in the West find themselves unable to understand and engage with these processes. As long as this is the case, the Western left will continue to struggle to develop its own role in the global struggle against imperialism and for socialism.

The speeches were followed by a lively discussion and Q&A session.

The video stream of the event, hosted by Danny Haiphong, is embedded below.

Introducing ‘The East is Still Red – Chinese socialism in the 21st century’

Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez was interviewed by Sean Blackmon on the Sputnik Radio show By Any Means Necessary about his new book, The East is Still Red – Chinese socialism in the 21st century.

Carlos talks about his motivations for writing the book, the crucial importance of opposing the US-led New Cold War, the necessity for Marxists to understand and defend Chinese socialism, and the ever-contentious question of whether contemporary China is indeed socialist.

The full interview can be viewed on Rumble.

Find out more about the book | Buy the book | Join the book launch on 4 June 2023

Book launch: The East is Still Red – Chinese socialism in the 21st century

Date Tuesday 6 June
Time7pm Britain / 2pm US Eastern / 11am US Pacific
VenueMarx Memorial Library
London EC1R 0DU
And Zoom

The new book by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez, The East is Still Red – Chinese socialism in the 21st century, has been published by Praxis Press. It is currently available to buy on the Praxis Press website in paperback and ePub forms, and will be available more widely from early June.

The book provides a concise, deeply researched and well argued account that China’s remarkable rise can only be understood by acknowledging its socialist past, present and future. Read details and testimonials for the book.

On Tuesday 6 June 2023, at 7pm (Britain), we will be holding a launch for the book, in-person at London’s Marx Memorial Library and online (Zoom and YouTube).


  • Carlos Martinez – author
  • Danny Haiphong – author, journalist and broadcaster
  • Rocio Maneiro González – Venezuelan ambassador to the UK
  • Roger McKenzie – International editor, Morning Star
  • Jenny Clegg – author and peace activist
  • Chair: Iris Yau