BRICS and the reconfiguration of the world order

The 37th annual dinner of Third World Solidarity, an organisation that enjoys a close working relationship with Friends of Socialist China, was held on June 4, at the Royal Nawab Restaurant in the west London suburb of Perivale.

Among the guests were Councillor Tariq Dar MBE, Mayor of the London Borough of Brent, Councillor Shakeel Akram, Deputy Mayor of the London Borough of Hounslow, Nisar Malik, prospective parliamentary candidate for Brentford and Isleworth for the Workers’ Party of Britain (WPB), veteran journalist Shafi Naqi Jamie, and many others, from the embassy of Kazakhstan, local government, community activism, the arts, business and other walks of life, including members and friends of Friends of Socialist China from Britain, Luxembourg and Malaysia.

The 135 guests were greeted by Evie Hill of the Znaniye Foundation and its Russian School, who introduced the host, Honorary Alderman Mushtaq Lasharie CBE, the founder and Chairman of Third World Solidarity.

With the ongoing genocidal war of aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza, and with June 14 marking the seventh anniversary of the Grenfell fire, which claimed the lives of 72 people, the first speakers were Palestinian activist for women’s rights, Ahlam Akram, the founder of Basira (British Arabs Supporting Universal Women’s Rights), and Emma O’Connor, a disabled resident on Grenfell’s 20th floor.

The main speaker was Keith Bennett, Co-editor of Friends of Socialist China, who spoke on the BRICS cooperation mechanism and its role in the evolution of a new global order.

A video message of greetings was received from Dave Anderson, former miner, care worker, Labour MP and shadow minister under Jeremy Corbyn, who is now the Chair of Marras – the Friends of the Durham Miners Gala, who was unable to be present.

Following the speeches, Hugh Goodacre sang a song marking the 40th anniversary of the miners’ great strike and this was followed by a virtuoso performance from singer and musician Mubarak Ali to round off the evening.

Keith began his speech by thanking all those who had made the evening possible, especially Mushtaq Lasharie, highlighting his decades of tireless activism and public service.

Referring to the two previous speakers, he expressed solidarity with the struggles of the Palestinian people and the Grenfell community. In the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of thousands of people in India and Pakistan had taken to the streets raising the slogan, “My name, your name, Vietnam”. Today, for people around the world, their rallying cry has become, “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians.”

Grenfell was one of those events where people will remember where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about it. It was an entirely avoidable tragedy, an act of social murder in the memorable words of Friedrich Engels. The council, the government and the companies concerned, knew that the building’s cladding, like that of other residential buildings still standing, was flammable and lethal. The building was known to be a death trap. The fire was one more manifestation, like the Hillsborough football stadium disaster, the Post Office Horizon scandal, the contaminated blood scandal, and the treatment of the Windrush generation, among others, of the ruling class’s contempt for working people. But the multinational working class community of Grenfell, like the others mentioned, is a community that has refused to be silenced and which has courageously persisted in the struggle for justice.

The following is the text of the main body of Keith’s speech.

I’ve been asked to speak this evening about the BRICS and their growing role in the reconfiguration of the world order.

But like a good novel, it takes a while, and there are a few plot twists before things start to fall into place. So please bear with me for a bit.

Let’s start with the origins of our host organization, Third World Solidarity. What world were we living in? What was happening?

The key event that led to the formation of Third World Solidarity was the US bombing, with the support of the Thatcher government here, of Libya on April 15, 1986 – an act of state terrorism in which the adopted baby daughter of head of state Colonel Gaddafi was among those killed.

This was the period when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were turning the cold war hot throughout the Global South. (Or Third World as it was then generally called and from which we derive our name.) This was the case from Afghanistan to Nicaragua to Angola. And from Ethiopia to Cambodia.

It was also, although we did not realise it at the time, the period when the Soviet Union, and its allied socialist countries in central and Eastern Europe, were entering their final days.

Their demise also triggered the collapse, or the retreat, of many socialist experiments throughout the Third World.

Although five socialist countries survived, most notably China, elsewhere, attempts to build socialism, or just to pursue independent development, were often replaced by IMF/World Bank Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), the downgrading of the role of the state, and the decimation of social programs and basic services, including in the vital areas of health and education. Neoliberalism acquired a practically religious aura. In the words of Margaret Thatcher, we were repeatedly told: “There is no alternative.” And for good measure, she added that there was, “no such thing as society, only individuals and their families.”

This neoliberal ideological hegemony was such that US political theorist Francis Fukuyama even proclaimed the end of history. And was catapulted from relative obscurity to intellectual rock star and guru status for his banal observation.

This apparently and now obviously ridiculous claim that history had come to an end meant that the evolution of human society was considered to have reached the destination of its journey with the hegemony of liberal democracy and the free market.

Although if democracy is to have any relationship to people having some measure of actual control over their own lives, and collectively over the evolution and running of their state and society, for hundreds of millions there was plenty of neoliberalism, plenty of economic impoverishment, but precious little democracy.

With the end of history there was also supposed to be a peace dividend. No more wars. And the Soviet Union was effectively persuaded to surrender with US promises that its NATO military alliance would not move one inch further east from a reunified Germany.

Of course, NATO marched inexorably eastwards. Slowly but surely laying the groundwork for today’s Ukraine tragedy.

As for no more wars, even to utter the phrase now can only draw a bitter laugh as we recall Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Palestine and so many other conflicts, together claiming the lives of millions of innocent children, women and men.

Continue reading BRICS and the reconfiguration of the world order

On China’s overcapacity

The article below, written for Friends of Socialist China by Shiran Illanperuma, addresses the latest ideological weapon in the Biden-Trump trade war against China: that of ‘overcapacity’. According to Western politicians and neoliberal economists, China’s industrial subsidies and production capacity are to blame for the US’s trade deficit and its apparent inability to reindustrialise its economy.

Shiran, citing fellow Marxist economist Michael Roberts, observes that the US and EU have sustained trade deficits since decades ago, before China’s emergence as an industrial superpower: “In a previous era, it was Japan and Germany that were the source of the US’s protracted trade deficits.” This rather suggests that “the main problem is the decline in the competitiveness and productive capabilities of the US itself rather than China’s (or, for that matter, anyone else’s) industrial policies.”

The article shows that China’s capacity utilisation and inventory levels almost exactly match those of the US. Hence, according to standard metrics, China is no more guilty of ‘overcapacity’ than the US itself. What is true is that China is actively working to contain excess capacity in mature industries such as coal and steel. However, in emerging technologies – particularly those required for solving the climate crisis – China is leveraging its socialist market economy to rapidly innovate and develop its productive forces. It should be noted that this strategy is responsible for a decrease in solar PV and wind energy costs of around 90 percent over the last decade. From the standpoint of maintaining a habitable Earth, the accusations of Chinese ‘overcapacity’ are beyond absurd.

Ultimately, what’s driving these accusations is that “Western imperialism is in crisis and can no longer sustain the position of its old labour aristocracy.”

The thesis of Chinese overcapacity therefore serves a dual purpose. First, it provides the Western ruling class with a means to deflect criticism of its own neoliberal policies in order to scapegoat China for the destruction of its industrial base. Second, it allows that same ruling class to resort to protectionism and subsidies on behalf of monopoly capitalists.

Shiran concludes:

For its part, China is developing technologies that are crucial for the future of mankind. It has done so while the ruling elite in the West gamble away wealth produced by workers through stock buybacks and real estate speculation. It is up to the Western Left to organise workers against imperialism and anti-China chauvinism, and to fight to liberate the productive forces necessary to address the socioeconomic and ecological challenges of this century.

Shiran Illanperuma is an independent journalist and researcher. He is currently reading for a master’s degree in economic policy at SOAS University of London.

In the last few months, there has been an intensified campaign by Western politicians, academics, and mainstream media to popularise the narrative of “Chinese overcapacity.” Like the disproven narrative of the “Chinese debt trap” before it, this appears to be a coordinated attempt by the West to scapegoat China for structural problems and imbalances in the world capitalist economy.

The thesis of China’s manufacturing overcapacity has been in circulation since at least the global financial crisis. In short, the argument goes that China’s investment-driven growth model creates both local and global imbalances. It is argued that higher investment suppresses consumption (as a share of GDP) and drives income inequality and excess production capacity within China. It is further argued that such imbalances are to blame for China’s excessive exports and massive trade surplus, which is said to be at the cost of the United States’ trade deficit.

In academia, this argument has been popularised by Keynesian economist Michael Pettis, who is a Professor of Finance at Peking University. Brad Setser, a former senior advisor to the United States Trade Representative, has also been a champion of this argument. Notably, the overcapacity thesis has also been a consistent theme of the IMF on China.

In May, the IMF Mission to China published a report stating that in order to ensure growth, China’s key priorities should include “rebalancing the economy towards consumption by strengthening the social safety net, liberalising the services sector, and scaling back distortive supply side policies that support the manufacturing sector [emphasis added].”

The IMF is, of course, a Western-dominated institution, where China controls just 6% of voting shares despite contributing to 18% of global GDP.

The overcapacity thesis has been an increasing source of diplomatic tension. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has attempted to rally the G7 on the issue and coax Global South countries such as India and Mexico into the debate. Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has argued that Chinese industrial policy is distorting the EU market for electric vehicles (EVs).

The Chinese side has reacted strongly to these allegations. Chinese President Xi Jinping said that there was no such thing as a Chinese overcapacity problem. Meanwhile, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson He Yadong has said that the accusation of Chinese overcapacity was a typical Western double standard. More recently, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “Overcapacity is just a pretext the US uses to try to coerce G7 members into creating fences and restrictions for Chinese new energy products.”

Following in Trump’s footsteps, the Biden administration recently threw up a slew of new tariffs against Chinese products, including 25% on steel and aluminium, 50% on semiconductors, 50% on solar panels, and a whopping 100% on electric vehicles (EVs). As the US-led trade war against China intensifies, it is worth reflecting on the facts behind the overcapacity thesis.

Measuring China’s overcapacity

French entrepreneur and analyst Arnaud Bertrand has argued that the concept of overcapacity can be measured with a few standard metrics: 1. capacity utilisation rates; and 2. inventory levels.

In economics, capacity utilisation refers to the share of production capacity that is in use at any given time. Generally speaking, a prolonged period of high capacity utilisation can indicate a need to expand productive capacity. In contrast, a prolonged period of low capacity may indicate a need to reduce productive capacity. Bertrand points out that the capacity utilisation rate in China is 76%, which is around the same as in the United States, which is 78%.

Inventory levels are generally used as a measure of how well sales are doing. A growing inventory of goods might mean a combination of sluggish demand or overproduction, while a shrinking inventory might mean growing demand and underproduction. Bertrand points out that the finished good inventory index PMI for China stood at 49, while a similar index for manufacturing inventory for the United States stood at 50.

Neither of the above numbers suggests that China has any more overcapacity than the US. On the contrary, the fact that Chinese industrial profits continue to grow suggests that there is ready demand for Chinese manufactures. Several analysts have also argued that China’s drive to increase production capacity for new energy products makes it indispensable in the global fight for ecological sustainability.

Continue reading On China’s overcapacity

Quiet please! We’re decolonising

Events in the Sahel region of Africa seldom get the international attention they deserve. However, developments in recent years have started to draw greater attention from anti-imperialists. In Mali in 2021, Burkina Faso in 2022, and Niger in 2023, progressive figures from the military have taken power, dealing a blow to the former colonial power France, which has long continued to maintain its effective domination of the region, and arousing renewed hope among the masses of people for independent development and social progress.

On 16 September 2023, these three countries formed the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) as a mutual defence pact when military aggression was threatened against the new government of Niger. The AES joins a growing number of regional and international bodies formed by the countries of the Global South to strengthen their independence against imperialism on the basis of collective self-reliance.

As part of this process, all three countries are strengthening their ties, in the economic, military and other fields, with China, Russia and other anti-imperialist states.

These developments do not occur in a vacuum. Rather, they have deep roots. Many people in the anti-imperialist movement know something of Thomas Sankara, the inspirational Marxist leader of Burkina Faso. Some know of Modibo Keïta, the first, socialist President of Mali. But probably very few know of the Sawaba Party, its leader Djibo Bakary, and the courageous armed struggle they waged in the 1960s for Niger’s true liberation.  

In this special article, written exclusively for Friends of Socialist China, Dr. Sahidi Bilan, Senior Adviser of  London-based Collectif de la Nigérienne Diaspora (Collective of the Nigérien Diaspora – CND), and Rob Lemkin, award-winning filmmaker, whose BBC2/BFI African Apocalypse documents the 1899 French invasion of Niger, bring the hidden history of the Sawaba Party to life, focusing especially on the strong internationalist support and assistance rendered by the People’s Republic of China to the Nigerien revolution – a relationship of solidarity that dates from 1954.

Bringing the story up to date, the authors conclude:

“It may be that the emancipatory force of history that Sawaba fought so hard to release is now beginning to be realised by the people of Niger. Let us hope that long-yearned-for freedom and justice can at last prevail without negative external interference…

“Today Niger and China have strong economic and political relations.  Sawaba’s little-known history and connection with the PRC is an important foundation in the origins of today’s friendship.”

The struggle of the Sawaba Party was suppressed with extreme cruelty. But, facing execution at the hands of Spanish colonialists in 1781, Bolivian national hero, Tupac Katari declared: “I will return and I will be millions.” 

Today, as their countries embark on the difficult road of building a new society, Thomas Sankara, Modibo Keïta and Djibo Bakary have returned. And they are millions.

When Niger’s military government last year expelled the troops and diplomats of the former colonising power France, some Nigeriens saw it as the resumption of a process rudely interrupted in September 1958. Sixty-six years ago, on the eve of independence, Niger’s first African government council was led by the Sawaba party (Sawaba means ‘liberation’ and ‘well-being’ in Niger’s main language Hausa) and its Prime Minister was a charismatic decolonial trade unionist called Djibo Bakary.

Sawaba’s overthrow in 1958 by France was Africa’s first modern coup d’etat. In no time the party was proscribed and driven underground; it went on to create a resistance movement with the support of African anti-imperialist states like Ghana and Algeria and developed a significant guerrilla training programme with help from the socialist bloc notably the People’s Republic of China.

‘Silence! On decolonise!’ is the title of Djibo Bakary’s great book, at once autobiography and manifesto for the radical decolonisation programme of which he was a principal. We use its title to explore a better understanding of the 26 July 2023 military coup and its unilateral  severing of military accords with France and later the United States of America. It is vital to interrogate why no military coup in Niger’s post-independence history (and there have been eight of which five were successful) has had such popular support as that of the CNSP (Conseil national pour la sauvegarde de la patrie, National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland).

This article gives first a brief introduction to Sawaba’s history and vision for Niger; we then focus on China’s connections, in particular its role in and influence on Sawaba’s remarkably ambitious, but disastrously unsuccessful attempt to invade Niger in 1964; we then outline the intense repression that followed and conclude bringing the story up to the present.

The questions for today include: how aware are Niger’s current rulers of Bakary and Sawaba’s radical decolonial project? Are the recent expulsions of Western military forces part of genuine politics of anti-imperialism or are they merely a populist move by the military government? American and French military presences (Italian and German too) had been justified by the need to combat insurgency. But terror attacks have increased over the last decade. The government is now turning to Russia for military assistance.

 “I believe it is our duty is to inform the representatives of France of the will and thought of the overwhelming majority of the people we claim to work for; to serve the interests of the greatest number and not to use it as a springboard to satisfy desires for luxury and power. For this, we need to grapple with our problems by ourselves and for ourselves and have the will to solve them first on our own, later with the help of others, but always taking account of our African realities (…)

For our part, we have said it again and again: we have been, we are and will remain always for and with the Nigérien “talaka” (peasant)”

Djibo Bakary, Editorial in The Democrat 4 February 1956

Nowadays the history of Sawaba is little known or spoken of in Niger. In fact, it was not until 1991 after the end of the Cold War that the full list could be published of Sawabist political prisoners who had died in detention through the 1960s and 70s. According to Mounkaila Sanda, Djibo Bakary’s nephew and a later leader of Sawaba, there has long been a concerted effort to expunge the memory of Sawaba’s struggle from national consciousness along with the systematic repression of its members.

Continue reading Quiet please! We’re decolonising

China’s modernisation of a huge population: an unprecedented challenge

In the following article, an abridged version of which was published in Chinese in People’s Daily on 31 March 2024, Carlos Martinez addresses the unprecedented scale of China’s modernisation process.

Other countries have achieved modernisation, but never on the scale of China. Furthermore, the process of modernisation in North America, Western Europe and Japan was built to a significant degree on colonialism, imperialism and the oppression of the nations of the Global South.

The article asks: How can we explain China’s successes? Answering that, “above all, they are a function of China’s political system, its revolutionary history, and the leadership of the CPC” – or as Xi Jinping has put it: “Our greatest strength lies in our socialist system, which enables us to pool resources in a major mission. This is the key to our success.”

Carlos continues:

The overall trajectory of China’s economy and the top-level allocation of resources is determined by the government – led by the CPC – rather than being in the hands of a small group of people who own and deploy capital. The interests of the people always come first. This is the ‘secret ingredient’ that allows China to blaze a trail towards modernisation in a country with a huge population.

China’s successful modernisation will double the proportion of the global population living in high-income countries and will, in the words of President Xi Jinping, “completely change the international landscape and have a far-reaching impact on humanity.”

In his speech of February 2023 entitled Chinese modernisation is a sure path to building a great country and rejuvenating the nation, Comrade Xi Jinping observed that “Chinese modernisation is unprecedented in human history in terms of both scale and difficulty.”

Other countries have achieved modernisation, but never on the scale of China. Furthermore, the process of modernisation in North America, Western Europe and Japan was built to a significant degree on colonialism, imperialism and the oppression of the nations of the Global South.

The most important precursors of the West’s modernisation are colonialism, slavery and genocide: the conquest of the Americas, the settlement of Australia, the transatlantic slave trade, the colonisation of India, the rape of Africa, the Opium Wars, the theft of Hong Kong, and more. Meanwhile, Japan’s rapid rise was facilitated first by its brutal expansionist project in East Asia, and then through its adaptation to and integration with the US-led imperialist system in the post-World War 2 era.

Such a path to modernisation is not available to China, and anyway the Chinese people would never walk down that path. China’s commitment to peaceful development is well established, and is enshrined in the country’s constitution. As Foreign Minister Wang Yi has stated firmly: “On how to accomplish this modernisation of the largest scale in human history, China has given an unequivocal and steadfast answer: to unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development.”

Thus there are no precedents for the task that China has set itself. By 2035, China aims to reach a per-capita GDP on a par with that of the mid-level developed countries such as Spain or the Czech Republic; to join the ranks of the world’s most innovative countries in the realm of science and technology; to become a global leader in education, public health, culture and sport; to guarantee equitable access to basic public services; and to ensuring modern standards of living in rural areas. Furthermore, all this should be achieved whilst steadily lowering greenhouse gas emissions and protecting biodiversity, so as to restore a healthy balance between humans and the natural environment.

To achieve modernisation in a country with such an enormous country will be an incredible achievement, particularly since one of the requirements of China’s modernisation is that it should feature common prosperity; it is the modernisation of the Chinese people as a whole, not only the wealthier sections of society.

Even in a small country such as Singapore, with its population of 5.5 million, solving the problems of employment, healthcare, education, housing, childcare and elderly care is complex and difficult. China’s population is 250 times larger, and the level of complexity and difficulty is almost infinitely greater.

Impressive progress

China is still a developing country and there remains a long road to travel before the journey of modernisation can be considered complete. Nonetheless China has already made historic progress in that direction.

Life expectancy has more than doubled since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and indeed has now surpassed that of the United States. China has achieved near-universal literacy. Everybody has access to education and healthcare. The social and economic position of women has improved beyond recognition. In purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, China is the world’s largest economy.

In late 2020, the Chinese government announced that its goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2021 (the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China) had been met. 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, characterised by widespread malnutrition, illiteracy, foreign domination and technological backwardness – is without doubt “the greatest anti-poverty achievement in history”, in the words of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

As a result of the extraordinary efforts of the Chinese government and people, the long-held dream of eliminating extreme poverty has been achieved. In addition to having a guaranteed income level, every single person enjoys sufficient access to food, clothing, housing, clean water, modern energy, education and healthcare. No other developing country, and no other enormous country, has achieved this feat.

With the extensive infrastructure construction programs of the last two decades, China’s development has become more balanced. In the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping introduced a policy of “letting some people and some regions get rich first, in order to drive and help the backward regions.” The Eastern and Southern regions, benefitting from their coastal location, ports and access to investment, did indeed “get rich first”. But Deng also specified that “it is an obligation for the advanced regions to help the backward regions”, and recent years have witnessed the massive expansion of modern infrastructure to the Western and Central regions, following the example and benefitting from the experience of the advanced regions.

With absolute poverty eliminated, China is taking important steps towards reducing inequality and tackling relative poverty, improving per capita GDP, revitalising rural areas, and reducing inequality between regions and groups. It is time for “making the cake bigger and better and sharing it fairly”, as Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin has said.

This progress stands in stark contrast to the advanced capitalist countries, where neoliberal economic theory has dominated for the last four decades, and where people are experiencing an alarming rise in poverty and inequality. Rather than pursuing common prosperity, the US and its allies are drifting towards mass destitution.

China is transitioning away from high-speed growth to high-quality development based on innovation. Already China has become a global leader in telecommunications, renewable energy, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and more. And in spite of the US’s attempts to suppress its development, China is on the cusp of being a major power in semiconductor technology.

Education is another important component of modernisation, and China has made significant strides forward in this area. Every single child receives nine years of compulsory, free education. The high school (15-18) enrolment rate now exceeds 90 percent, and the higher education enrolment rate stands at 60 percent (in Britain it is 35 percent).

The secret ingredient: socialism

How can we explain China’s successes? Above all, they are a function of China’s political system, its revolutionary history, and the leadership of the CPC.

At a meeting of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2016, Xi Jinping made this point very succinctly: “Our greatest strength lies in our socialist system, which enables us to pool resources in a major mission. This is the key to our success.”

Or as Deng Xiaoping famously commented in 1984: “the superiority of the socialist system is demonstrated, in the final analysis, by faster and greater development of the productive forces than under the capitalist system.”

It’s instructive to look at the example of India – the only other country with a population size similar to that of China. There are some important historical similarities between the two. India won its independence in 1947, and China won its liberation in 1949. At that time, both countries were in a parlous state, their populations enduring pervasive poverty and backwardness, ground down by centuries of feudal oppression and colonial occupation and interference.

India has made commendable progress, and yet its record of development falls way behind China’s. Its life expectancy is several years below the global average, whereas China’s is several years above the global average. Millions of children in India still don’t go to school, and its adult literacy rate is 76 percent. Hundreds of millions don’t have access to clean water or electricity. Tens of millions live in slums.

Not having had a revolution, political power in India continues to be monopolised by landlords and big capitalists. China’s political system, in which power is exercised by and on behalf of the masses, allows enormous resources to be consolidated for projects that serve the interests of the people. As such, China is able to effectively solve the problems that face all countries, particularly developing countries.

The overall trajectory of China’s economy and the top-level allocation of resources is determined by the government – led by the CPC – rather than being in the hands of a small group of people who own and deploy capital. The interests of the people always come first. This is the ‘secret ingredient’ that allows China to blaze a trail towards modernisation in a country with a huge population.

A major contribution to the world

Chinese economist Justin Yifu Lin has pointed out that, with China’s successful modernisation, “the global population of high-income nations will double, rising from 15.8 percent to 33.8 percent.” Modernisation has thus far been dominated by a small group of imperialist countries, with a combined population of 1.2 billion. China’s successful modernisation, in the words of President Xi Jinping, “will completely change the international landscape and have a far-reaching impact on humanity.”

China’s development will set an example for other countries of the Global South, and will finally put an end to the myth that there’s an equals sign between modernisation and westernisation. China will continue to share the fruits of its modernisation, via mechanisms such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative, and as such it will provide development impetus for the whole world. China’s modernisation will be a major, historic contribution to global development.

China and the struggle for peace

The following text is based on presentations given by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez at Morning Star Readers and Supporters meetings in Manchester (19 February), Leeds (13 March) and Brighton 24 March), on the subject of China’s global strategy.

Carlos responds to the assertion by Western politicians and media that China is an aggressive and expansionist power, comparing China’s foreign policy record with that of the United States. He shows that China’s foreign policy is based on the principles of peace, development and win-win cooperation, and explains how this approach is rooted in China’s history and ideology, and is consistent with China’s overall strategic goals.

Carlos also takes note of China’s contribution to the global struggle for multipolarity and to the project of global development. He highlights the Belt and Road Initiative and China’s role in the struggle against climate catastrophe.

The text concludes:

On questions of peace, of development, of protecting the planet, China is on the right side of history. It’s a force for good. As socialists, as progressives, as anti-war activists, as anti-imperialists, we should consider China to be on our side… Those of us who seek a sustainable future of peace and prosperity, of friendship and cooperation between peoples, have a responsibility to oppose this New Cold War, to oppose containment and encirclement, to demand peace, to promote cooperation with China, to promote understanding of China, to build people-to-people links with China, and to make this a significant stream of a powerful mass anti-war movement that our governments can’t ignore.

The Manchester event was also addressed by Jenny Clegg; the Leeds event by Kevan Nelson; and the Brighton event by Keith Bennett.

I’m going to focus my remarks on China’s international relations and its global strategy. This is a subject about which there’s a great deal of misunderstanding and obfuscation, particularly in the context of an escalating New Cold War that’s being led by Washington and that the British ruling class is only too happy to go along with.

The mainstream media is full of hysteria about China’s “aggression” or “assertiveness”. When China reiterates its position on Taiwan – a position which in fact has not meaningfully changed in the last seven decades, and which is completely in line with international law – it’s accused of ramping up the threat of war.

When China refuses to go along with the US’s illegal, unilateral sanctions (for example on Russia, Iran, Syria, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, Eritrea and Zimbabwe), it’s accused of “subverting the international rules-based order”.

When China establishes bilateral relations and trade agreements with Solomon Islands, Honduras, Nicaragua and Nauru, it’s accused of engaging in colonial domination.

When Chinese companies invest in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific, they’re accused of imposing debt traps.

And unfortunately much of the left takes a fairly similar position to the ruling class on these issues, considering that China’s an imperialist power, that it’s engaged in a project of expansionism.

This sort of analysis on the left leads inexorably to a position of “Neither Washington Nor Beijing”, putting an equals sign between the US and China; putting China in the same category as the imperialist powers. According to this analysis, the basic dynamic of global politics is today that of inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and China.

And of course if that’s the case, if China’s just another imperialist power, and its only interest is growing its own profit margins and competing with the US, Britain, the EU, Canada and Japan for control of the world’s resources, labour, land and markets, it goes without saying that the global working class and oppressed – the vast majority of the population of the world – cannot possibly consider China to be a strategic ally in the pursuit of a better, fairer, more peaceful, more equal, more prosperous, more sustainable world.

China’s view of international relations

How does China consider its role in the world? What does the Communist Party of China propose regarding China’s foreign relations?

What the Chinese leadership calls for is “building a global community of shared future, with the goal of creating an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity.”

China consistently expresses its commitment to multipolarity; to peace; to maximum and mutually beneficial cooperation around economic development and tackling climate change, pandemics, and the threat of nuclear war; to working within the context of the UN Charter and international law in support of peaceful coexistence.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi, at his recent Meet the Press session, talked of China “advocating vigorously for peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit”, and urged that “countries should rise above their differences in history, culture, geography and system, and work together to protect the Earth, the only inhabitable planet for us all, and make it a better place.”

Xi Jinping often talks about China’s orientation towards peace: “Without peace, nothing is possible. Maintaining peace is our greatest common interest and the most cherished aspiration of people of all countries.”

All of this is of course a pretty beautiful and compelling vision. But to what extent does it line up with reality? To what extent is China actually working towards peace, development and sustainability? To what extent does China diverge from the model of international relations pursued by the US and its imperialist allies?

Continue reading China and the struggle for peace

Why is China’s economy doing so well and why is that a good thing?

In this thoughtful and highly informative article, Marc Vandepitte – an author on international politics from Belgium – uncovers some of the secrets behind China’s remarkable economic success, and explains why this success should be considered favourably in Europe.

Marc starts by debunking the narrative gaining ground among Western ‘China-watchers’ that China’s economic outlook is grim; after all, “the country is still achieving growth rates that we can only dream of”, in spite of a US-led containment campaign and assorted other challenges.

Marc notes that China’s per capita GDP has increased by a factor of 50 in the last four decades, and that since 1990 China’s share of global industrial production has increased from 2.5 percent to 35 percent. What’s more, “in terms of industrial production of the future – green production – China is the absolute leader.”

The article goes on to explain how China’s economic success is based on a combination of factors, including its socialist model of land ownership, its huge investment in education and health care, its focus on science and technology, and its striking blend of state-led planning and decentralisation.

China’s dramatic successes are driving development throughout the Global South – in particular via the Belt and Road Initiative – but the country’s emergence is also a boon for the West. “Western economies are closely intertwined with the Chinese economy and in many areas the West needs China more than the other way around. For example, Europe cannot possibly achieve its climate goals without China.”

Marc concludes:

Europe stands at an important crossroads in history. Will it allow itself to be dragged into a destructive trade war initiated by the US, or will it succeed in charting its own autonomous course and building a constructive economic relationship with China, based on mutual benefit? The stakes are high.

Peculiar media framing

If you believe the mainstream media, China is in bad shape: the economic engine is said to be sputtering, or worse, the economy is in a downward spiral. Bizarre, as the IMF expects economic growth of 4.6 percent in China this year. That is almost five times as much as in Europe and more than three times as much as in the US.

The Western media are apparently struggling with China’s growth miracle, and so they focus blindly on the problems and challenges. By concentrating on what is going less well, they lose sight of what China is very strong at.

Certainly, the Chinese economy is facing some significant challenges, but despite an aging population and increasing hostility from the West, both in terms of investment and trade, the country is still achieving growth rates that we can only dream of.

In this article, we are exploring the reasons for this decades-long spectacular growth. We also look at why this is a good thing and what is the best way for Europe to respond.

Continue reading Why is China’s economy doing so well and why is that a good thing?

Understanding the role of the private sector in the Chinese economy

We are pleased to publish below the text of a speech by Dr Jenny Clegg at a public meeting in Manchester, Britain, organised by the Greater Manchester Morning Star Readers and Supporters Group. The title of the event was China and the Western Left, and it aimed to uncover the nature of China’s political economy and its role in the world. The other guest speaker was Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez.

Jenny’s speech seeks to explain the role of the private sector in the current phase of China’s development. Jenny lays the ground for understanding today’s domestic capitalist class by uncovering the role of the national bourgeoisie in the history of the Chinese Revolution, including in the massive strike wave of the 1920s, the United Front to resist Japanese invasion, and the period of rebuilding during the New Democracy phase between 1949 and 1956. Jenny posits that this group, while not always reliable, “had an anti-imperialist side” and furthermore “was prepared to accept CPC leadership in the right circumstances – something still influencing the CPC’s attitude to today’s private entrepreneurs.”

The speech explains the unusual nature of China’s socialist market economy, in which the public and private sectors have an essentially symbiotic relationship, and where the state maintains overall control.

“The majority of large-scale private enterprises are linked into the state through mixed-ownership arrangements, with the state investing and divesting to shape industrial growth according to overall plans… Around 40 percent of private entrepreneurs are Party members and around half of private enterprises have CPC cells organised within them. Over 40 percent of workplaces so far are unionised, more than twice the rate here in Britain.”

As such, “the relationship then between the socialist state and the private sector is one of unity in developing the economy as well as struggle to ensure public benefit.”

A member of our advisory group, Jenny is a retired academic and an activist in the anti-nuclear, peace and friendship movements. She is the author of China’s Global Strategy: Towards a Multipolar World, published by Pluto Press.

The major stumbling point for the Western Left in understanding China as a socialist country is the question of the growth in recent decades of market relations and the private sector. This question requires in the first place a consideration of the contribution that the domestic capitalist class made in China’s revolutionary process before getting some measure of the private economy in China today.

The historical role of the national bourgeoisie in the Chinese revolution

One hundred years ago – minus one year – in 1925, on May 30, a British officer ordered the police in the Shanghai British concession to open fire on Chinese protestors, killing at least nine of them. The protests were part of a mounting strike wave in which the Communist Party of China (CPC) – founded in 1921 – was very active, and the incident sparked some momentous developments as anti-imperialist feelings surged.

Ayear-long strike in Hong Kong, starting in 1925, dealt a great blow to British imperialism, which from its island base had extended its influence, becoming the leading imperialist power not only in China but across Southeast Asia. The fact that Chinese capitalists supported and funded the strike, showing they too had an anti-imperialist side, was a particular lesson for the CPC.

The Kuomintang (KMT), supported by the CPC in the first United Front, began to prepare its army for the Northern Expeditionwhich set off in 1926to overthrow the feudal warlords and imperialist rule. As it advanced, peasant associations spread like wildfire.

The British Tory government launched a 20,000 strong expeditionary force; and in due course cities along the Yangtze came under British bombardment.

And in Britain, Hands off China became the largest anti-imperialist movement during the General Strike.

The situation in China became highly radicalised as peasants’ moderate demands for rent reductions gave way to land seizures and workers took over the British concession in Wuhan. These developments caused KMT Nationalist army officers to take fright, and what followed was a brutal massacre of communists in Shanghai, ordered by KMT head Chiang Kai-shek. Too late, the remaining CPC activists formed their own Red Army but, failing to capture an urban base, retreated to the mountains to set up worker-peasant soviets.

Over the next ten years, the CPC carried out various land reform policies with limited success. It was Mao who recognised the Leftist errors thatfailed to take capital into account in implementing reforms to eradicate feudal relations. Taking corrective measures, following the Long March (1934-35), by the time the Japanese escalated its occupation of China in 1937, the CPC was ready to meet the new anti-imperialist upsurge by entering a second United Front of resistance with the KMT. 

In the red base areas under its control, the CPC moderated its land reform policies, and the two-class Soviet strategy was replaced with a New Democratic alliance including the national bourgeoisie as well as the petty bourgeoisie.

These adjustment proved a great success: in the eight years to the defeat of Japan in 1945, the red bases grew from a population of one million to nearly 100 million people, almost a quarter of China, and the Red Army from 30,000 to 900,000.

New Democracy was to continue through the ensuing years of civil war (1945-49), the founding of the People’s Republic (1949), up to the 1956 transition to socialism.

In 1949, whilst others fled, some capitalists stayed on to make valuable contributions to China’s recovery. The fact that China was able to stabilise within three years to 1952 after a century of wars and economic ruin was truly remarkable.

Then in 1956, when private enterprises were nationalised, these former owners stayed on as managers, as Mao declared the contradiction with the national bourgeoisie, now antagonistic under socialism, was to be handled in non-antagonistic ways, that is by ideological struggle.

History thus shows the important role the nationalist capitalist class played in the Chinese revolution: if not always reliable, not only did it have an anti-imperialist side but it was prepared to accept CPC leadership in the right circumstances – something still influencing the CPC’s attitude to today’s private entrepreneurs.

Continue reading Understanding the role of the private sector in the Chinese economy

Hugo Chávez, Xi Jinping, and a global community of shared future

The following is the text of the presentation delivered by Carlos Martinez, co-editor of Friends of Socialist China, at a round-table discussion on Venezuela’s foreign policy in a changing world, held on 20 February 2024 at Bolivar Hall in London. The event was organised by the Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the UK in coordination with the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.

The speech discusses Hugo Chávez’s vision of a multipolar world, and explores how that vision overlaps with China’s strategy of pursuing a global community of shared future.

Other speakers at the event included Her Excellency Rocío Maneiro, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the UK; Francisco Domínguez, Secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign; Calvin Tucker, Campaigns Manager of the Morning Star; and Radhika Desai, Convenor of the International Manifesto Group.

Dear friends and comrades, thanks so much for inviting me to today’s important event.

And thank you in particular to Her Excellency compañera-embajadora Rocío Maneiro, who continues to do such a wonderful job representing her country and standing in solidarity with the progressive movement here in Britain and with the working class and oppressed peoples of the world.

Thanks also to the indefatigable comrade Francisco Domínguez for his hard work putting this event together.

I’m going to focus these brief remarks on the connection between Venezuela’s foreign policy and that of China.

As you’re all no doubt aware, Hugo Chávez had an extremely far-sighted worldview. While the Bolivarian Revolution has always aimed to have good relations with the US, its foreign policy has nonetheless been informed by the identification of that country as the principal enemy to sovereignty and to socialism, not just in Venezuela but throughout the world.

And of course the US’s consistently aggressive stance in relation to Venezuela – its campaign of sanctions, of coercion, of destabilisation – has only confirmed what Chávez and his comrades already knew.

Chávez saw Venezuela as part of a global movement challenging half a millennium of colonialism, imperialism and racism; a global movement that included the growing leftist and pro-sovereignty trend in Latin America and the Caribbean, but also China, Cuba, Russia, Libya (until NATO’s war of regime change in 2011), Syria, South Africa, Vietnam, Iran, the DPRK, Belarus and others.

This global movement seeks to put an end to the unipolar era of US hegemony, and to create a multipolar – or as Chávez called it, pluripolar – world, with multiple centres of power, in which countries and regions all have their role in global politics and in which no one power can impose its will on others.

Under the guidance of Hugo Chávez and then Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has become one of the most prominent voices in support of this multipolar project.

Indeed, one of the slogans of Chávez’s 2012 presidential election campaign was: “to develop a new international geopolitics forming a multicentric and pluripolar world to achieve equilibrium in the universe and guarantee planetary peace.”

Continue reading Hugo Chávez, Xi Jinping, and a global community of shared future

Isabel Crook: an appreciation

We are very pleased to publish this touching and informative tribute to the outstanding communist and lifelong friend of China, Isabel Crook (1915-2023), written by her close friend of many decades, Dr. Jenny Clegg.

Jenny, a retired academic, peace activist and member of our advisory group, provides rich insights in the course of summing up Isabel’s lifelong commitment to the Chinese revolution, her unique and path breaking approach to anthropology, her deep empathy for China’s rural poor, and her enduring yet careful optimism regarding the future of socialist China.

We previously reported on Isabel’s death, including here. Among many other obituaries were those published by British newspapers, The TimesFinancial Times, Guardian, and Economist; the New York Times and Canada’s Globe and Mail

“A rare bridge between the West and China”; “a committed communist”; “a peoples’ diplomat”; “a pioneering anthropologist” – so read the obituaries for Isabel Crook (1915-2023). Indeed, she was all of these in one.

Isabel’s 107 years, almost all spent in China, were to span two world wars, two great revolutions, a socialist transition under a Cold War, all through the twists and turns of Mao’s mass campaigns to Deng’s reform and opening up, with China now led by Xi Jinping stepping onto the world stage.

No mere observer, Isabel’s participation in the New China along with husband David saw them personally suffer under the excesses of the Cultural Revolution.  Isabel was kept in confinement for three years by Red Guards, in a room on the top floor of a campus building separated from her boys, still only teenagers, and with husband David in prison. Freed from detention in 1972, both were cleared of all charges in 1973 and, along with other foreign experts, received an apology from Premier Zhou Enlai.

Her commitment was again put to the test with the suppression of the Tiananmen protests in 1989 – the Crooks had called on the government not to use force. Yet despite all this Isabel was to remain optimistic as to China’s future under CPC leadership.

To properly appreciate Isabel’s special contribution to understanding China, and the reasons why she never succumbed to disillusionment, requires both a consideration of her life experiences as well as her anthropological work on rural China.

In particular, through many months spent in the rural areas, living among the people gathering materials on village life, Isabel was to develop a particular empathy for Chinese country folk. Her two separate studies of villages undergoing reform, under first a Nationalist, then a Communist-led government, provided deep insight from a comparison between the failure of one and the success of the other.

Early influences: the Rural Reconstruction Movement

Isabel was born in China, the daughter of Canadian missionary educators.  Leaving for Canada to study, she was to graduate from the University of Toronto with a bachelors and then a masters degree[1] [2] , returning to China in 1939 aged 24 to do anthropological field research in the western province of Sichuan among the Yi, a slave owning society. 

From this remote ‘opium country’, she moved nearer to the wartime capital of Chongqing in 1941 to take part in a year-long ‘action research’ project sponsored by the National Christian Council.  Hired by rural reformer, THSun, Isabel was to carry out a survey of a small market town of 1,500 households.  With the overwhelming majority of its families living in desperate poverty, Prosperity township was decidedly ill-named.

Joining a small team including two experts on cooperatives, Isabel was introduced to the progressive ideas of the rural reconstruction movement.  Founded in 1926 by the influential James Yen, whose work in mass literacy, begun amongst the Chinese labourers in France during World War I, was to gain international acclaim, the movement had a strong following among China’s Christian community and the left wing of the nationalist KMT.

Continue reading Isabel Crook: an appreciation

A tale of two Chinas: Rhetoric on foreign domination and domestic instability

The following original article, submitted to Friends of Socialist China by Nolan Long (a Canadian undergraduate student studying politics at the University of Saskatchewan), shines a light on the absurdly contradictory Western media coverage of China. “First, China is described as a global superpower in terms of its supposedly dominating and exploitative foreign policy; on the other hand, China is represented as an unstable, backward, underdeveloped country, bound to inevitably collapse due to the failures of socialism.”

This portrayal and the various popular narratives associated with it – that China is engaged in “debt trap diplomacy”, or that the Belt and Road Initiative is a form of colonialism, or that the Chinese economy is on the verge of collapse – are promoted as part of an ongoing propaganda war, itself a crucial component of an escalating effort to contain and encircle the People’s Republic. These various claims “exist at the heart of the West’s insecurity about its decreasing relevancy and power in the twenty-first century.”

The falsity of this anti-China hysteria is amply exposed by its contradictory nature; and yet it is unlikely to go away any time soon. As Nolan concludes: “The tale of two Chinas presents a picture of Western insecurity and modern Chinese power, a theme that will increasingly come to the fore as China continues to develop on its own and on the world stage.”

Contemporary rhetoric on the People’s Republic of China, as disseminated by Western corporate media, is made up of contradictory claims about Chinese domination and Chinese instability. It is simple enough to find intentionally missing information or context, exaggerations, and even outright lies in the muniments of most corporate media. But a deeper analysis reveals two competing narratives, both of which have become increasingly (and paradoxically) common over the last few years.

First, China is described as a global superpower in terms of its supposedly dominating and exploitative foreign policy; on the other hand, China is represented as an unstable, backward, underdeveloped country, bound to inevitably collapse due to the failures of socialism.

Notably, the first typified China is used in Western capitalist media to generate fears about China’s development efforts in the Global South, which have largely been at the expense of Western hegemony and financial interests. Despite the positive results of the Belt and Road Initiative, capitalist media portrays China as a rapacious villain running rampant across the globe.

Here, China is described as an economic powerhouse. But when discussing Chinese domestic affairs, Western journalists suddenly think China is a poor, underdeveloped state, sometimes on the brink of complete collapse. These two conceptions of China cannot coexist, and go a long way in demonstrating the irrationality and lack of scholarship among anti-communists and defenders of American hegemony.

Continue reading A tale of two Chinas: Rhetoric on foreign domination and domestic instability

The BRICS and China: towards an International New Democracy

We are very pleased to publish this important discussion article by Dr Jenny Clegg on the interrelationship between the development of the BRICS cooperation mechanism and multipolarity, anti-imperialism and socialism. 

Jenny looks carefully at the contrasting positions of those she dubs BRICS optimists and BRICS pessimists, as well as those occupying a political and analytical space between these two poles. Whilst there is a certain consensus that multipolarity is on the rise, there is a wide divergence of views as to how this relates to anti-imperialism let alone socialism. However, for Jenny, “the challenge for the left is to understand the interconnections: to fail to grasp the threats and opportunities at this momentous international juncture would be to fail spectacularly.”

Having discussed the political standpoint of the BRICS, assessed the prospects for their replacing dollar hegemony, and outlined the anti-imperialist framework of President Xi Jinping’s various global initiatives, Jenny draws attention to Mao Zedong’s and the Communist Party of China’s development of the concept of new democracy during the war of resistance to Japanese aggression, arguing forcefully for its applicability to the international terrain in the current period:

“As China now directs its efforts towards encouraging an international anti-imperialist movement among states of the Global South, with the BRICS as a significant group, the concept of New Democracy can shed light on the thinking behind this. There are three key points to highlight: an understanding that world revolution develops through stages; an analysis of the national bourgeoisie which recognises their potential to resist imperialist subordination and take part in independent development; and the assessment of the overall international situation given the existence of a major socialist state.”

In her conclusion, Jenny writes that: 

“Anti-imperialism and socialism are… not the same but they are inter-related: in the ebb and flow of the international situation the BRICS may swing this way and that, but what does make a difference to the anti-imperialist struggle in its international dimension is the solidity of China’s socialism.

“As a socialist country China is the most firm in its anti-imperialist stance: it has the strength, unity and manoeuvrability to stand up to and resist US pressure; it has its past experience to draw lessons from, failures as well as successes; it can stabilise the vacillations of the BRICS members to foster the group’s collective focus; it has the commitment and the sense of direction for the future to open the way ahead for the wider Global South in its struggle against imperialism.

“Through its own development, China is able to offer an enabling environment for other developing countries to remove those obstacles still constraining their national development.” 

Jenny’s article, which is based on her presentation to a conference hosted by the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in September, represents a profound and original contribution to a vital debate and deserves the widest possible readership and discussion.

A member of our advisory group, Jenny is a retired academic and an activist in the anti-nuclear, peace and friendship movements. She is the author of China’s Global Strategy Towards a Multipolar World, published by Pluto Press.


Over the last year or so the world has undergone a transition: from the all out drive by the US to assert its dominance through the New Cold War on China and Russia, it is now agreed across the international political spectrum – and widely acknowledged in the mainstream press – that a multipolar era has arrived.

When Biden, visiting Latin America, the Middle East, and then Southeast Asia through the summer months of 2022, failed to rally support for Ukraine and for isolating Russia economically, it became clear that the multipolar surge was cresting.  2023 then brought numbers of proposals for peace and offers of mediation from across the Global South – China, Brazil, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the African peace delegation.  Meanwhile, squeezed ever further as Western banks jacked up interest rates, developing countries began to come forward with their own proposals to change the system of debt financing.[1]

The BRICS summit in August was seen to mark the watershed moment with its expanded membership now looking to eclipse the G7 as leaders agreed to explore ways to sidestep the dollar.

With US hegemony fraying and numbers of countries starting to break free from its dominance, what is the left to make of this? What kind of a group is the BRICS with its mix of capitalist countries together with socialist China? 

Reactions to the summit exposed divisions amongst the left.  On the one hand, there are those who welcome unequivocally the rise of BRICS in the multipolar terrain as an advance for anti-imperialism.  Hailing the summit as a ‘giant step for multipolarity’, Pepe Escobar, well-known leftist geopolitical analyst and contributor to the Asia Times, reported its calling to ‘abandon the US dollar,’ whilst Fiona Edwards of No Cold War offered unalloyed support with the summit presenting a new high in the rise of the Global South and the priorities of economic co-operation and peace.[2]  Meanwhile, Ben Norton of the Geopolitical Economy Report website is constantly positive about the BRICS as, with the financial architecture of the world fracturing, the group works ‘to develop a fairer system of monetary exchange’.[3]

At the other end of the spectrum, political economist Patrick Bond has emphasised the ‘sub-imperialist and neo-imperialist tendencies of powerful BRICS members’, claiming this renders them ‘helpless to enact any substantive changes’.[4]  In similar vein, in a recent piece entitled Multipolarity: false hope for the Left, Zoltan Zigedy, a US-based communist, launches an uncompromising critique of left-wing intellectuals and academics who ‘cheer any force that attempts to diminish US power’: warning against the confusion of multipolarisation with anti-imperialism, he claims these analysts have just ‘become observers of a chess game between capitalist governments’.  What he asks, has this got to do with socialism?[5]

Between these BRICS pessimists and BRICS optimists are numbers who bridge both sides of the argument, including Vijay Prashad of the Tricontinental Institute who, seeing the development of the BRICS as part of a long history of struggle against colonialism and imperialism, hails the summit ‘for peace and development’ whilst pointing to a certain neo-liberal influence, as well as Andrew Murray and the editors of the Morning Star for whom BRICS is necessary but ultimately, lacking political cohesion, not enough.[6]

Continue reading The BRICS and China: towards an International New Democracy

On the strategic relationship between Venezuela and China

During a state visit to the People’s Republic of China in September 2023, Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro met president Xi Jinping and both agreed to strengthen the relationship of their countries by establishing seven sub commissions to elevate it to the level of ‘all-weather strategic partnership’. This is the culmination of a relationship that began with president Hugo Chavez’s first visit to Beijing in 1999, the very first year of his presidency.

Chavez’s first visit went well beyond friendly diplomacy since Venezuela’s president and the then president of China, Jiang Zemin, signed fifteen cooperation and commercial agreements. This was followed by President Jiang’s visit to Venezuela in 2001. Trade between the two countries in 1998 amounted to a paltry US$182.8 million, which would grow hundred-fold by the 21st century’s second decade.

In his 1999 visit Chavez described the People’s Republic as “a true model and example of mutual respect”, adding “we [in Venezuela] have developed an autonomous foreign policy, independent from any world power and on that, we resemble China.” After that, high officials from both governments would visit each other’s country to develop a commercial and political relationship, which has grown stronger ever since.

Whilst Hugo Chavez was president of Venezuela, he visited China in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. President Maduro did so in 2013, 2015, 2018, 2021 and 2023. For their part, Chinese leaders also visited Venezuela: after Jiang Zemin’s 2001 visit, Xi Jinping (then vice-president) visited in 2009 and in 2013, president Hu Jintao planned a visit in 2010 (interrupted due an earthquake in China), and Xi Jinping, as president, visited in 2014.

This detailed article by Francisco Dominguez – an expert on Latin American politics, National Secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, and Friends of Socialist China advisory group member – endeavours to chart the evolution of the relationship between Bolivarian Venezuela and the People’s Republic of China and its significance for Latin America as a whole.


Being a consummate strategist, Hugo Chavez understood earlier than other Latin American left-wing leaders, the significance and weight of China in world politics and economics, especially, the rising Asian power’s commitment to build a multipolar world. Chavez, an avid reader, endowed with a formidable intellect, was also aware not only of the significance of the 1949 Chinese revolution and the leading role played by Mao Zedong, but also of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform in bringing about China’s extraordinary economic development. He knew that given the affinities between the Bolivarian and Chinese revolutions, the People’s Republic was a friendly ally.

Chavez communicated as much to his host, China’s president Jiang Zemin, and to the people of China in his first visit to the People’s Republic in October 1999. During the visit he went to Mao’s Mausoleum and declared, “I have been a Maoist all my life”. The 1999 visit to China was part of a tour for markets for Venezuelan and potential commercial partners to help break the overwhelming economic dominance of the United States over Venezuela. The tour included visits to Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Though the tour produced positive results in all the other Asian countries, the outcome of his visit to China went well beyond all expectations: to the already existing eight cooperation agreements between Venezuela and China signed since Chavez coming to office in February 1999, his visit in October produced seven more covering the fields of energy, oil, credits to purchase agricultural machinery, investment, diplomacy and academia.

Chavez combined his strategic political audacity in promulgating an anti-neoliberal constitution in 1999, with a vigorously independent foreign policy seeking to establish strong links of every kind with the People’s Republic of China, as an alternative to Venezuela’s heavy dependence on the US. The Comandante knew Washington had activated all its resources aimed at ousting him and eliminating his government – perceived by the US as an abhorrent anomaly. Chavez’s political courage is even more impressive considering that in 1999, Latin America, with the exception of Cuba, was a sea of neoliberalism.

Washington’s relations with the People’s Republic had begun to sour because in 1996 Clinton had authorised a visit by Taiwan president, Lee Teng-hui, reversing a fifteen-year-old policy against granting visas to Taiwan’s leaders. Worse, in May 1999, NATO, during its war against Yugoslavia, had “accidentally” bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade killing three Chinese journalists. Though for Venezuela and China, the United States was an important trading partner, they both agreed to comprehensive levels of cooperation knowing that over time it would be viewed with hostility in Washington.

Hugo Chavez opened the gates and was a pioneer in the relations with the Peoples’ Republic of China for the rest of Latin America. Chavez was elected in 1999; the second left wing government in this ‘Pink Tide’ to be elected was Lula in 2002 in Brazil, who would be inaugurated in 2003. That is, four years later. Between 1999 and 2003, Chavez’s government faced intense US-led destabilization, which included right wing street violence, a worldwide media demonization campaign, national protests, economic sabotage, a short-lived coup d’état and a 64-day oil lockout that nearly brought about the country’s economic collapse. Though fully aware of this context, president Jiang Zemin paid a formal visit to Venezuela in 2001, occasion in which both countries decided to establish a “Strategic Association for Shared Development” and set up a High Level Chinese-Venezuelan Commission.

Continue reading On the strategic relationship between Venezuela and China

Fish and Chips: microchips and the nuclear contamination of seafoods

In this brief commentary submitted to us, James De Burghe, a British socialist who is a long-term resident in China, takes a look at two current areas of contention between China and the imperialist powers. Fish and chips have both become factors in international relations, but not, he argues without imposing costs on the United States and Japan.

The USA’s attempt to throttle Chinese economic growth by interfering with the supply chain of materials, equipment, and technologies, that are crucial to the development of microchips is a clear breach of both World Trade Organization (WTO) rules as well as of international law generally. It is yet another provocation aimed at China by the US and follows on from a list of other sanctions designed to hamper China’s economic growth. However, the impact of these sanctions has damaged US companies that were based in China developing advanced electronics. The US action went so far as to make it illegal for any US citizen to work in any Chinese company developing microchips. Now after a year of failed diplomacy China has hit back by restricting the sale to the US of rare earths needed to produce microchips. The results are predictable. Janet Yellen, the US Treasury Secretary, rushed to China and loudly declared the ban to be an unfair trading practise. These somewhat childish and certainly hypocritical outbursts by senior US politicians are becoming all too frequent as it finally registers wth the US that they are losing both the propaganda and economic war against China.

Seafood is a key part of the Chinese diet and the country has imported a great deal of fish and other aquatic products from Japan over the last two decades. A significant part of that trade is now in jeopardy as the Japanese government plans to dump radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean. On July 4, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a report announcing that Japan’s dumping plan meets the IAEA’s safety standards.

Within days of the report being released, scepticism was mounting. And it sparked a strong backlash in countries in the Asia Pacific region that will be impacted by the scheduled dumping.

Chinese experts told the Global Times newspaper, that “the risks associated with the dumping of nuclear-contaminated wastewater from Fukushima are real. From the perspective of the interests of all humankind, there should have been better options considered, but Japan has disregarded them and chosen the most favourable approach for itself.

“Deng Ge, secretary general of the CAEA [China Atomic Energy Authority], noted that according to the IAEA report, the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) method used by Japan cannot remove all radioactive nuclides from the nuclear-contaminated wastewater. Based on previous operation results, it has been proven that the ALPS method is ineffective in removing radioactive nuclides such as tritium and carbon-14. The effectiveness of ALPS in removing other radioactive nuclides also requires further testing and verification through experiments and engineering.”

As Japan plans to release hundreds of tons of the wastewater into the Pacific Ocean over the next few years, it is inconceivable that these radioactive nuclides, with their known propensity to cause cancers and other major health hazards, will not enter the human food chain or indeed damage the ocean’s flora and fauna. The trouble is that by the time we find this out it will be too late to do anything about it.

Kerry must understand – the climate crisis lives in a developmental context

In the following article, submitted to us by Keith Lamb, the author argues that the current China visit by John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, provides an opportunity for the two countries to cooperate in an area that is vital for the future, indeed the survival, of humanity. However, he notes that approaching this issue in isolation is not feasible in the long-term. The fight against climate catastrophe has to be combined with that for development as well as against war and for peace. The Global Development Initiative (GDI), proposed by President Xi Jinping, provides just such a holistic template and approach and is already reflected in numerous agreements between China and other countries of the Global South.

“How can we achieve our global climate goals without having Beijing working with us? We can’t, it’s that simple! There’s no way any one country can solve this crisis and particularly if we’re large emitting nations.” This was the answer of US climate envoy John Kerry being interviewed on MSNBC. He went on to claim that China and the US had agreed to separate climate, which affects us all, from the many other bilateral Sino-US issues.

This sensible recognition that there is a wider commonality binding humanity together is a welcome change from the hegemonic “America first” and faux human-rights rhetoric too often emanating from US circles. When it comes to climate and cooperation with China, Kerry went on to say that, “it’s not a question of the US giving away something, by cooperating we all gain something.”

This pragmatic win-win attitude should serve the diplomatic and well-mannered Kerry well on his current July 16-19 trip to Beijing, where he will discuss the climate crisis and hopefully promote a successful COP28 climate change conference, due to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Coming after the recent visit by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, it may also serve to thaw Sino-US tensions.

However, for real climate cooperation, which seeks the salvation of our planet and humanity, the many Sino-US tensions to which Kerry alludes cannot be bracketed off indefinitely. These tensions include the trade war, sanctions, interference in China’s domestic affairs, not least regarding Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the US’ military containment of China.

To illustrate this point, climate talks have been suspended in the past, due to Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. The weather balloon debacle led to Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceling his Beijing visit. The pushing of China’s red lines, the threatening of China’s integrity, and the China threat hysteria all push the world closer to the possibility of environmental annihilation, as the US plays a fool’s game of ‘chicken’, risking nuclear catastrophe.

Even without this dire outcome, according to Brown University, the US military is responsible for twice the amount of greenhouse emissions as all the cars in the US. War causes incalculable damage to the environment due to factors such as fuel infrastructure destruction and the use of depleted uranium.[1] In Ukraine, we have seen how the destruction of energy infrastructure has led to renewed use of coal and the purchasing of expensive and environmentally damaging US fracked gas by Europe.

Continue reading Kerry must understand – the climate crisis lives in a developmental context

Is Japan once again treading the path of aggressive militarism?

We are pleased to publish the below article about the dangers of revived Japanese militarism, and its historical antecedents, which has been submitted to us by James De Burghe, a British socialist long resident in the People’s Republic of China.

James outlines how Shinzo Abe, a former Japanese Prime Minister assassinated in 2022, imbibed far-right, racist and militarist views from his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who had been in charge of economic policy when the Japanese occupied northeast China. Initially imprisoned as a class A war criminal by the American occupation authorities after Japan’s defeat in World War 2, he was soon released in order to play a key part in setting up the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has largely dominated Japanese politics ever since, eventually serving as Prime Minister, 1957-1960.

Abe, who served as Prime Minister from 2006-2007 and again from 2012-2020, followed in the same path as his notorious grandparent, controversially revising school textbooks, declining to apologize for – or even acknowledge – Japanese war crimes, and seeking to repeal or revise Article 9, the supposed ‘peace clause’ of the post-war Japanese constitution.

These revanchist policies are now being pursued with a vengeance under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, leading to fraught relations with Japan’s neighbors, along with increasing resistance from people at home.

There are alarming signs that Japan is once again drifting towards becoming a fascist-led aggressive militaristic state. The legacy of Nobusuke Kishi has borne fruit through the efforts of his grandson, Shinzo Abe, who was Japanese Prime Minister from 2006–2007 and 2012–2020.     

Nobusuke Kishi was the minister who ran Japan’s economic policy in Japanese-occupied Manchuria from 1937 to 1940. He was a convinced supporter of the Yamato race theory that proclaimed Japan as a racially superior nation.  Kishi had nothing but contempt for the Chinese as a people, and he regarded them as “dogs – that need to be trained to obey us without question”. His brutal policies led directly to the deaths of thousands of Chinese civilians forced to work a 120-hour week at gunpoint for meagre food rations. There was no attempt to make working conditions safe, and many slave laborers perished through accidents with molten metals. Thousands more perished from starvation and disease or were executed. Kishi believed there was no point to establishing the rule of law in Manchukuo (as the Japanese called north east China when it was under their occupation) – instead brute force was what was needed to maintain Japanese control.

Continue reading Is Japan once again treading the path of aggressive militarism?

The France-China strategic partnership: towards a different type of international relations?

The recent state visit of French President Macron to China, and his subsequent comments regarding Taiwan and the overlapping relationships between China, Europe and the United States, have led to considerable furore on the part of other imperialist powers and politicians and certainly appear to indicate a significant breach in the coalition that US President Biden has been seeking to construct against China. 

In this thoughtful and incisive analysis, written specially for Friends of Socialist China, Dr Jenny Clegg, author and campaigner, who is a member of our advisory group, takes a deep dive into the issues surrounding the visit and its aftermath, including:

  • To what extent does it indicate a return to a more independent Gaullist tradition in French foreign policy?
  • Does the Sino-French 51-point Joint Statement offer a fresh template for relations between major developed and developing countries?
  • How can all this contribute to the search for peace in Ukraine and to averting the danger of war in the Asia Pacific Region?
  • How does it relate to President Xi Jinping’s recently announced Global Civilisation Initiative?

Jenny concludes with the observation that, “even if the path is twisted, multipolarity is the objective trend – and a work in progress.”


The French President Emmanuel Macron departed for China in early April, apparently on a mission on behalf of the ‘collective West’ to get President Xi Jinping to “bring Russia to its senses”; he came away, however, with quite a different message, calling on the EU to not be too dependent on the US.  It seems it was Xi’s mission to encourage Macron’s Gaullist instinct for ‘strategic autonomy’ that prevailed over the course of the three day state visit.

The fact that Macron was accompanied by a large group of businesspeople suggested that other, more commercial, motives were also at play. Indeed, China’s offer to bulk purchase 140 Airbus aircraft for $17bn was very generous. But this visit was by no means simply just another delegation along the vaunted ‘commerce over human rights’ pattern.

The meeting between leaders of the second and the seventh largest world economies – the largest developing and fourth largest developed respectively –  between two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and officially recognised nuclear powers, was made all the more significant by the exceptional times. 

The summit took place following a few short weeks of intense diplomatic manoeuvres – from China’s Ukraine and Middle East peace initiatives and summitry with Putin to the bizarre Sinophobic ‘balloon incident’ in the US, which saw Secretary of State Antony Blinken call off his visit to China, and, in the Pacific, the AUKUS expansion of nuclear-powered submarine capacity. All this reflected the extremely precarious situation internationally, with the Ukraine conflict on the verge of escalation, and now US provocations over Taiwan, potentially bringing major powers to the point of a Third World War.

The prospect of working towards a lasting Sino-French comprehensive strategic partnership held the promise of injecting some rationality into a chaotic situation in danger of veering out of control.

For China, the summit was a key part of its major power diplomacy aimed at promoting a sound interaction between the world’s main players as set out in its recently released Global Security Initiative Concept Paper.  As major powers, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, as China sees it, China and France have a particular responsibility to address the current situation of growing global deficits in peace, development, security and governance, even as the international community confronts multiple risks and challenges.

The Sino-French 51 point joint statement

US President Biden’s New Cold War China policy formula to ‘compete, confront and cooperate’ carries great risks of muddle and incoherence in practice whilst narrowly and unrealistically restricting cooperation to the window of climate change.

The 51-point France-China Joint Statement in contrast opens up a wide range of areas for cooperation – political and strategic; economic and business; cultural and educational – and not only on a bilateral but also a multilateral basis, setting the frame, as major powers on the world stage, of “a shared view of a multipolar world” with “the United Nations at its core”.

On the vital question of the Ukraine crisis, there was support for “efforts to restore peace…on the basis of international law and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter” and, although there was no explicit call for a ceasefire, acknowledgement of Russia’s legitimate security concerns or opposition to unilateral sanctions – all covered in China’s 12 point proposal on the Ukraine crisis – what was of significance was the call for “no action that could heighten the risk of tension”,  given recognition of the dangers of escalation and even nuclear war.

On bilateral cooperation, from artificial intelligence and the digital economy, including 5G, from the general improvement of market access on both sides, to science and technology cooperation, language teaching, inter-university and cultural exchanges, there is little evidence of the paranoia that now permeates the US, UK and the rest of the Anglosphere over alleged Chinese ‘spying’ and the supposed hidden threat in all these to national security.

Continue reading The France-China strategic partnership: towards a different type of international relations?

The TikTok conspiracy – the Montana connection

In the following article, written for Friends of Socialist China, Keith Lamb uncovers the real reasons behind the move by lawmakers in the US state of Montana to ban the hugely popular TikTok app. 

Keith refutes the suggestion that the app presents any national security threat to the US, highlighting instead the degeneration of much of US popular culture as well as the contrast between a bourgeois government in the US – in hock to capital, including the big tech companies – and a socialist government in China, that prioritizes people’s welfare, including the balanced development of the younger generation. 

He also looks at why Montana is the first US state to take this drastic step.

Montana lawmakers have decided to ban TikTok, the popular app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. Now their decision will go to Montana’s Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, for consideration. The argument for banning TikTok is based on several conspiracy theories. But the real conspiracy theory, which Montana has a role in, isn’t being reported.

The popular conspiracy theory narrative is that China will be able to spy on US citizens, propagandize them, and that China is even using TikTok to dumb down Americans while the Chinese version of the app is used to edify China’s citizens.

First, even the CIA has stated there is no evidence that the Chinese government has access to US TikTok data. Indeed, TikTok stores US data on servers based in Texas. As such, the reasoning for banning TikTok is based on made up and hypothetical situations rather than factual evidence.

Second, it is vacuous to claim that China is using TikTok to propagandize US citizens as US TikTok users overwhelmingly consume homegrown content. Banning TikTok would only mean US content creators would migrate to different apps – this is probably the intention!

In terms of the Chinese version of TikTok, an episode of the 60 Minutes TV show argued that it is more likely to show edifying content to Chinese youth while US children get the dumbed-down version. Thus, the reasoning goes, China is purposely dumbing down Americans!

This dumbed-down argument speaks volumes to the ignorance that masks the real causes for seeking to ban TikTok. Any serious self-reflection on popular US culture would recognize that it has long been dumbed down before TikTok’s advent.

Ignorance and mindless hedonism, combined with the generally illusory prospect of quick wealth added onto a catchy jingle, has long been the background melody that big business has used to propagandize American youth. Without widespread ignorance arguments that combine multiple foreign invasions with notions of “democracy” and “the good guys” would be untenable.

Continue reading The TikTok conspiracy – the Montana connection

Securing US global primacy: how the US prepares for war on China

In this detailed essay, British author and peace campaigner Jenny Clegg provides a comprehensive overview of the US drive to war against China.

Jenny describes the attempts being made to construct a Global NATO, leveraging AUKUS, the remilitarisation of Japan, the undermining of the One China Principle and the prolonging of the Ukraine crisis in order to link the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific theatres of war. Britain and Japan are emerging as the most important partners in this phenomenally dangerous strategy which, taken as a whole, constitutes “a historic restructuring of the international security order: strengthening of the NATO transatlantic military axis against Russia whilst elevating the US-Japan trans-pacific military axis at the core of newly created regional NATO-like multilateral security frame.”

The aim of this strategy is, of course, “to contain the growing multipolar trend”.

We must build a formidable global opposition to this warmongering. Thanks to an already-developing multipolarity, countries of the Global South are “starting to wake up to the real nature of US intentions”, and as such “a non-aligned resistance is taking shape”, with these countries asserting their sovereignty and interests. For anti-war activists in the West meanwhile, as we recall the historic protests against the Iraq War 20 years ago, Jenny writes that the task of playing our part in a worldwide mass movement for peace will require us to “resist the insidious influence of imperialism permeating through social democracy”.

The trajectory of war: Iraq then, China now?

Back in September 2002, Dan Plesch wrote an article in the Guardian entitled ‘Iraq first, Iran and China next’.  Less than a year earlier, George W. Bush had put China on a nuclear ‘hit list’ along with Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and North Korea. Twenty years on, it seems China’s turn has arrived, now identified as ‘America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge’.

Iraq was a turning point for the world as Bush ‘seized the unipolar moment’: ‘shock and awe’ and ‘full spectrum dominance’ in air, land, sea and space presaged a new militarism to secure US global primacy; and, blatantly displacing the UN on the pretext of ‘humanitarian intervention’, the US found a new means of rallying allies in a ‘coalition of the willing’, embedding key NATO partners into ‘out of area’ operations.

All this was in line with the neocons’ Project for a New American Century which had advocated for the US pursuit of hegemony through the preeminence of its military forces.

As Plesch foresaw, the 2003 war set precedents to be used against other states that stood up against US global control.  US militarism has advanced into ‘air sea battle’ plans to wipe out multiple cities across China at a single strike, with trillions of dollars sunk into upgrading ‘full spectrum dominance’ capabilities; ‘humanitarian intervention’ has evolved into a New Cold War of ‘democracies against autocracies’ edging the UN further aside.  And now, using the Ukraine war to subjugate Europe and weaken Russia, the US is starting to assemble a new ‘coalition of the willing’ in the ‘defence of Taiwan’, ordering the global security architecture anew as it sets the stage for a new war on China.

But much has also changed over twenty years with the rise of China and the emergence of a multipolar world: as the economic balance shifts from West to East, countries in the Global South are not so easily influenced to follow US leadership.

What does China want?

US political elites have convinced themselves that China is bent on global hegemony.  Despite Xi Jinping’s assurances to Biden that China ‘has no intention to challenge or displace the United States’, they revert to racialised stereotypes of the Chinese as inveterate liars – recall the words of the popular 1880s music hall song: ‘for ways that are dark and tricks that are vain, the Heathen China is peculiar’ – rather than face history.[1]

That China was its ally in WW2 is something the West conveniently forgets. KMT Nationalist and Communist armies successfully blocked the bulk of the Japanese forces from advancing west, a vital contribution recognised by Churchill and Roosevelt when they signed, with Chiang Kaishek, the 1943 Cairo Agreement.  This stipulated that the territories seized by Japan from China, including Taiwan, be restored, and that Japan be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific seized or occupied since 1914.

As one of the allies, China took part in the establishment of the United Nations, assuming a permanent seat on the Security Council.  But the UN order as based on the Cairo Agreement, confirmed in the 1945 Potsdam Declaration, was not to be.  Instead, the Japan peace settlement was determined at the behest of the US by the 1951 San Francisco Conference from which both the PRC and RoC (Republic of China) and the two sides of the Korean war were excluded, with the USSR refusing to attend.  US power came to prevail over the Pacific through a series of bilateral alliances and an extensive array of US military bases.[2] 

Despite political improvements over time – the PRC regained the UN seat,the US and China established official ‘One China’ ties, the USSR and China reached their own peace deals with Japan – the US-dominated military pattern remained and a number of territorial issues covered by the WW2 agreements affecting the USSR/Russia as well as China were left to fester.

What China wants is to see the promise of the Yalta of the East system realised through reunification with Taiwan and from this the construction of a cooperative security arrangement for the Pacific together with the US.

Militarising the Indo-Pacific

US control over the Pacific was never complete in the face of the armed resistance of the peoples of China, Korean and Indo-China and the non-aligned leanings of South East Asia states.  The US was never satisfied.

Today, claiming the Russian invasion of Ukraine ‘raises the spectre of a Chinese takeover of Taiwan’, the US is creating a new militarised order for the Indo-Pacific.  Increasing its own military capabilities to hem in China’s coastline and reinforce control across the wider oceans, the US is at the same time upgrading the key regional axis of power, its alliance with Japan, now elevated into a major military player.  Taking the Japan alliance and AUKUS as the core, the US is attempting to pull together a group of militarily committed powers covering the whole Pacific to oppose China.

Where previously the US pursuit of a ‘free and open’ Indo-Pacific has focused on the South China Sea, the prospect of a war over Taiwan has become the new focus.

The US is now reinforcing its force structure across the region, increasing manoeuvrability along the first island chain and plugging the gaps in this arc of alliances and bases from Japan in the North stretching down to the Philippines in the South.  The US has now secured agreement with the Philippines for four new bases, three in the Northern island of Luzon, within striking distance of Taiwan. Meanwhile under the terms of the new Japan alliance, the US Okinawa base north of Taiwan is being strengthened whilst the Japanese island of Mage is being rebuilt to serve US forces.  A new base is opening in Guam, the first in decades and a US nuclear submarine base is under construction in Australia.[3]

However it is the rehabilitation of Japan as a military power that is the biggest change in the region’s security pattern just as the US shifts its primary focus to the China challenge.

Japan also now identifies China as the main strategic challenge under a new National Security Strategy, the only US ally to do so. With the endorsement of its new US alliance, the country is undergoing the most radical overhaul in its regional positioning since WW2, vastly increasing its war-fighting capacity as it embarks on its largest military buildup in decades. Military spending is set to double from 1% to 2% of GDP over 5 years – from some $50 bn a year to an accumulated $318 bn – to see Japan leap to the third or fourth largest military power in the world.

Matching Japan in the North, Australia too is reconfiguring itself as a military power in the South Pacific, its military spend set to rise from around $49 bn to $57 bn per year by 2025-6.  Meanwhile Taiwan’s increased budget of $19bn is being backed by the US-pledged $10bn in military aid. 

For the US neocon Right, their long-held aspirations for a remilitarised Japan and an armed Taiwan serving as an ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ – passed from MacArthur and the McCarthyites to John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz and now to Kagan and Blinken – are materialising.

As the US advances plans to catch Taiwan between the pincer of its forces in Okinawa and the Philippines, Biden’s constant vacillations between the One China policy and the defence of Taiwan are highly destabilising.  China is committed to a peaceful reunification, yet states it will never renounce the use of force directed against interference by outside forces.  The military display by the PLA following Pelosi’s August 2022 visit to the island demonstrates it is serious about this.  It has the capacity: in its vast naval fleet capable of imposing a blockade on the island, and with missiles capable of sinking US aircraft carriers and destroying US warships on the far side of the island, as its recent missile overflights demonstrated.

Lying 100 miles to the north of Taiwan and less than 300 miles from the massive US airbase in Okinawa, are the disputed islands known as the Diaoyutai in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese which may become the locus of battle given their critical importance in the event of a Chinese blockade of Taiwan.

These uninhabited islands are claimed not only by China and Japan but also by Taiwan (the Republic of China); they were taken under control by the Japanese government in 2012 and now are increasingly patrolled not only by Japanese and Chinese but also by US forces.

To defeat any move by China, the US would need a coalition of forces – and this is what the Pentagon is seeking to construct.

Towards a Global NATO

With the transatlantic NATO alliance strengthened against Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, and a new Indo-Pacific regional security architecture  emerging, the US is also working to construct a third axis under its control between the European and Asian theatres to serve as a counter to China’s Eurasian Belt and Road initiative.

AUKUS and the US-Japan alliance both offer access points for linking the security of the Euro-Atlantic to the security of the Indo-Pacific in accordance with NATO’s New Security Concept adopted at its 2022 summit.

NATO allies are getting drawn into the Indo-Pacific security pattern step by step.  Military exercises have multiplied in the last year or two as a way of involving outside powers, not only the UK, but also France, which is boosting its military presence in the region. Germany has also sent in warships.  NATO forces made up at least half of last year’s US-led RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) exercises.[4]  Australia, South Korea and Japan are again to attend the 2023 NATO summit, and Japan has become a regular participant in NATO Chief of Staff meetings.[5]

So far, NATO is committed to addressing the ‘systemic competition’ from China, but Stoltenburg’s recent visits to South Korea and Japan were looking for a more strategic undertaking.  Japanese PM Kishida, mirrored by Zelensky’s visits around Europe, had embarked earlier in January on a diplomatic tour to rally support, visiting the UK, France, Italy and Canada as well as the US to gain approval for Japan’s new militarist orientation.

Eliciting statements of stronger support from Macron and Trudeau, Kishida was to agree a form of strategic partnership with Meloni of Italy.

But it was Sunak that took things furthest, signing a Reciprocal Access Agreement to allow the two nations to deploy military forces on each other’s soil. This represents Japan’s first military agreement with a European power.

The UK leads the way

The UK and Japan began to deepen military cooperation with the visit of the Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group in 2021.

This was followed in November 2022 with an agreement on new UK-Japan-Italy partnership – the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) – a hi-tech programme for unmanned aircraft and cutting-edge weapons heralded as an ‘unprecedented international aerospace coalition’.  BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and MBDA are to work together with Leopard in Italy and Mitsubishi in Japan to deliver next generation combat fighter jets.  The Tempest is to replace the Typhoon aircraft by the mid 2030s; its capacity to carry hypersonic missiles will significantly increase Japan’s capabilities in joining a US war with China.[6]

Also in November 2022, a ‘Vigilant Isles 22’ joint exercise simulated the retaking of an island under enemy control.  The new RAA aims to regularise such exercises in ‘island defence’.[7]  This should set alarm bells ringing.

Similar to ones agreed by the US and Australia with Japan, these arrangements gain significance together as providing the US with the means to break a blockade of Taiwan: the RAA could bring British forces into direct conflict with China given the deepening Sino-Japanese island dispute.[8]

The RAA and GCAP are designed to sit alongside AUKUS and with the US and Australia also having access agreements, few barriers remain for Japan to join the ‘Asian NATO’.

For the UK, the deals cement Global Britain’s Indo-Pacific tilt, breaking new ground in military relations with Japan as an example for other NATO members to follow.  As it opens the door for a wider international recognition of Japan’s rehabilitation as a military power countering any residual reluctance to do so given its past history, the UK is playing a significant role in the shift to a new Indo-Pacific security architecture.

At the same time, as the US’s key ally in the West, its links with Japan the US’ key ally in the East create a new global axis linking the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific theatres of war.

As it looks to build a future beyond Brexit, Global Britain follows the US in tying future prosperity to military development – arms manufacture and arms exports.  Here it aims to serve as a new model of Western 21st century power ‘creating jobs, saving lives’ as through GCAP it boosts its ‘world beating defence industry’ to promote high-high-skilled employment, drive innovation, and open up markets in both Europe and Asia.

Aiding and abetting the US, the UK similarly indulges the military aspirations of Japan’s right wingers, long held in restraint by its constitutional pacifism.  Now GCAP subverts Article 9 of Japan’s constitution, the ‘peace clause’, by developing Japan’s counterstrike – that is – offensive capabilities.

Shockingly, the UK Prime Minister’s office was to draw parallels between the RAA and the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902.[9]  Forged to counter Russia’s expansion to the East at the time, the alliance oversaw a twenty year period of Japan’s rapid military industrialisation which then drove its bloody expansion across Asia.

US progress after WW2 on democratising and demilitarising Japan ground to a halt after the CPC victory in China in 1949. Suspected Class A war criminals, such as the grandfather of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, were released from jail to help form the Liberal Democratic Party which has now held power almost continuously over the last 70 years.  Senior political figures in Kishida’s government continue to visit the Yasukuni shrine to the war dead which still memorialises those convicted of war crimes. 

It did not seem to bother either Biden or Sunak in promoting collaboration between Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems respectively with Mitsubishi to restore its role in arms manufacturer, that the company’s owners are yet to meet South Korean demands for compensation for the use of forced labour in WW2.  South Korea and Japan have recently announced some measures to ease these particular tensions.[10]

Constructing a new coalition

The US perceives the ‘security threats of the future’ – China – to be of such an order as to demand an entirely new response.  Learning the lesson from the Iraq war not to alienate allies, the US seeks to secure military pacts and alliances through a fusing of economic and technological resources into their structure.

US Secretary of State Blinken states: ‘whether techno-democracies or techno-autocracies are the ones who get to define how technology is used … will go a long way toward shaping the next decades.’

AUKUS and the UK-Italy-Japan GCAP have both been designed to set the pace in the military use of new technologies, integrating security- and defence-related science and technology as well as arms production bases and supply chains centred on US core technologies.  France, Italy, Germany as well as the UK are mentioned in Japan’s National Defense Strategy as partners with whom the government will work for training and exercises, defence equipment and technology cooperation.[11]

Meanwhile the Quad, falling short of a fully-fledged military alliance, uses Australia and Japan as a means to draw India closer to the US.

Rather, then, than relying simply on formal alliance structures, the US is making good use of unconventional arrangements and linkages to draw others along in the slipstream of its agenda, knitting an array of supporters together around the militarised core – all singing from the same hymn sheet of ‘freedom and democracy’.

Revolutions in technology and communications are opening new opportunities to broaden the more flexible ‘coalition of the willing’ format to a wider range of partners involved in a hybridised warfare.

Short of actual military engagement, support can come in various ways – through the provision of material, arms, logistics, economic and technological assistance, and through participation in economic warfare with sanctions along the lines of the informal groups now aiding Ukraine.  Arrangements involving data- and technology-sharing, and exclusive supply chains can serve as a dragnet to draw ‘democratic’ states away from economic and diplomatic links with ‘authoritarian regimes’.

In this way the emerging pattern of US military hegemony is being underpinned by the globalisation of what former CIA analyst Ray McGovern has called a new Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank (MICIMATT).[12]

Towards a new World War

With the Iraq war underway by March 2003, the US effectively stepped back from a fight on two fronts, agreeing within months to join the six-party talks on Korean denuclearisation. Today, in contrast, it is shifting from the strategy of containment, prolonging the conflict with Russia in Ukraine in order to gear up for war with China.

What is taking place is a historic restructuring of the international security order: strengthening of the NATO transatlantic military axis against Russia whilst elevating the US-Japan trans-pacific military axis at the core of newly created regional NATO-like multilateral security frame.  Meanwhile the UK-Japan military pact together with the increasing presence of NATO in Asia are laying the preliminary groundwork to complete the third axis of its triangle of global power, between the Euro-Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific.

Not since WW2 with the Axis powers of Japan, Italy and Nazi Germany coordinating the worldwide fascist offensive, have these two theatres of war been bridged in this way, and not for want of the US trying.

Through these three axes of a Global NATO, the US aims to contain the growing multipolar trend.  A key here is to block the Eurasian link: the prolongation of the Ukraine war is helping to drive China and Europe apart, as China maintains neutrality whilst Europe demands it take a position on what it sees as its existential priority.

The US is applying immense pressure to achieve this, endeavouring to break the remaining post WW2 pacifist restraints in the Indo-Pacific as it has been doing in Europe so as to achieve these goals. 

Actually it is NATO that is being positioned to cover and play the coordinating role between the two theatres, with the US pushing plans at the next summit to prepare for fighting on the home front and beyond NATO borders simultaneously.  Europe will be under great pressure to increase spending on weapons procurement to free the US to move more of its assets closer to China.[13]

The major world powers are close to a stand-off – the last time this happened it ended indeed in world war.  The UN has become a battleground for the New Cold War as US-influenced motions are designed to divide the ‘democracies’ from the ‘autocracies’. The UN Charter represents the deep learning from the horrors of the two world wars, lessons which are embodied in its institutional design built to maintain world peace.  The UN is now under existential threat. Should war break out directly between the permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US and UK versus Russia and China – this would finally finish off the organisation. What then is left to prevent another word war?

One cannot help but wonder at the key players following the US into this deadly situation: the Anglosphere AUKUS pact intervening in an Asia becoming accustomed to managing its own affairs and a remilitarised Japan with its dark past to lead the region, partnering up in Europe with Italy, its former fascist ally and a Britain deluded by fantasies of past imperial glory.

But countries in the Global South are starting to wake up to the real nature of US intentions – to perpetuate its own and the West’s supremacy – and a non-aligned resistance is taking shape as they refuse to take sides over Ukraine. 

More and more developing countries will be looking to China and others in the BRICS for economic stabilisation with the prolongation of the war further damaging further the prospects of world economic recovery after COVID.

The Iraq war unleashed over a decade of disruption for the Middle East, leaving the region even further divided: the countries of East Asia hardly want to see this happen to them.  US plans to remilitarise and divide East Asia threaten to derail their promising prospects of further economic development, destabilising a region vital to the world’s future prosperity and the battle against climate catastrophe and not least at risk of nuclear proliferation.

Nor is Japan’s rearmament welcome in the region: not only China and the Koreas remain sceptical as to the sincerity of Japan’s apologies for its past, but other Asian nations, whose memories of Japan’s WW2 brutality and military-colonial occupations live on, may also be wary.  Indications are that the Japanese public themselves will not support increased taxes to cover the proposed rise in military spending.

Meanwhile, new US proposals that allies host more intermediate range missiles in the region are being met with reluctance not only Thailand and the Philippines but also Australia, South Korea and Japan.[14]

Ahead of the G7 summit, planned to take place in Hiroshima and built up by Kishida’s January tour of the Western powers, is intended to send a strong signal of their unity both to Russia and China.  A visit by Kishida to Kiev is also on the cards.

With the Ukraine crisis threatening to escalate into a direct clash between major powers, China has stepped forward with guidelines for a political settlement backed by a concept paper for a new global security. It may be that the Global South, still rather disorganised, will find direction under China’s proposals and start to set a limit to the US-led wider war preparations.[15]

The world is changing very fast indeed.

Peace and anti-war activists in the West seek to draw inspiration from the massive protests against the Iraq war, but to resist the insidious influence of imperialism permeating through social democracy requires a deeper historical and international understanding to unite a new worldwide mass movement for peace and common security.

[1]  E.Ayketin “China has no intention of challenging the US: Xi Jinping” Nov 15, 2022

[2] John W. Dower, The San Francisco System: past, Present and Future in US-Japan-China Relations, Asia Pacific Journal February 23, 2014, Vol. 12, Issue 8, No. 2

[3] For details on the US military build up in the Pacific see Michael Klare, The Pentagon prepares for island combat in the Pacific as US-China tensions rise

[4] A. Wright “Largest ever US-Nato naval war drills in Pacific a Threat to Peace and Marine Life”, June 22, 2002

[5] R. Nemoto, “Japan’s top uniformed officer to attend 1st NATO military chiefs meeting” May 17, 2022

[6] K. Inagaki, L. Lewis and S. Pfeifer, “The fighter jet that could create a new alliance between the UK and Japan” Financial Times Nov. 27, 2022

[7] A. Chuter, UK, Japan ink agreement to enable bilateral troop deployments, Defence News, Jan 11, 2023

[8] The US is also now pushing the Philippines into a similar arrangement so that not only could Philippines’ forces be deployed in Japan but Japanese forces be deployed say in Luzon.

[9] Downing Street Press release, Jan 11 2023

[10] A. Jung-a and K. Inagaki “US hails thaw between Seoul and Tokyo” Financial Times March 7 2023

[11] National Defense Strategy Dec 16, 2022

[12] R. McGovern US-Russia Talk About Where Not To Place Missiles, Jan 11, 2022


[14] Rand Corporation, Ground-Based Intermediate-Range Missiles in the IndoPacific: assessing the positions of US Allies

[15] China’s Foreign Ministry Proposals for a Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis

Why is China’s battle against corruption grave and complex?

In this original article, Keith Lamb explains that, whilst China has scored enormous achievements in the battle against corruption, it still faces an uphill task in preventing new cases and rooting out existing ones.

Because the CPC is a Marxist party, Keith explains, with the historic mission to usher in socialism, it has to hold itself to higher standards than those political parties which operate within the framework of capitalism. However, when working towards socialism, utopian action will fail. Therefore, China took the pragmatic road by adopting a socialist market economy, which has advanced the forces of production and technology necessary for socialist development. However, this also creates a series of class and material contradictions that need to be navigated.

Achieving China’s goal of becoming a prosperous and modern socialist country by 2049, the author notes, not only requires a constant battle against corruption, but also provides part of the remedy for corruption.

Recently at the second plenary session of the 20th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) it was noted that the corruption situation, in China remains grave and complex. The Communist Party of China (CPC) faces an uphill task in preventing new cases of corruption and rooting out existing ones.

In recent years, there have been enormous achievements in the battle against corruption at all levels of officialdom, which is encapsulated in the slogan “striking tigers and swatting flies.” In 2018, Lai Xiaomin the former state asset manager was executed for taking $277 million in bribes, and Sun Zhengcai, the former Chongqing Party Chief, was given life imprisonment for taking $27 million in bribes.

As of June 2022, a total of 4,516,000 corruption cases were handled by disciplinary authorities, and 4,439,000 people were punished for violating discipline. Just over a month after the closing of the 20th CPC National Congress, more than 10 officials who were suspected of severe violations of discipline and laws had turned themselves in.

Considering such successes, one may ask why the corruption situation still remains grave and complex. First, the massive anti-corruption campaign launched after the 18th National Congress was unprecedented in size, due to corruption becoming so deep-rooted. Consequently, considering the magnitude of the problem, no matter the achievements already accumulated, there is still much to do.

Continue reading Why is China’s battle against corruption grave and complex?

Has China succumbed to the pandemic or not?

We are pleased to publish below the English version of an article by Adnan Akfirat, Chairman of the Turkish Chinese Business Development and Friendship Association (and member of the Friends of Socialist China advisory group), countering Western propaganda about China’s evolving strategy against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having lived through 63 days of quarantine in Shanghai in 2022, and then contracted Covid for the first time upon travelling to Türkiye, the author has witnessed at close quarters the accomplishments of China’s Dynamic Zero Covid policy, which saved many millions of lives while China bought time to develop and deploy vaccines and treatments, and to bolster its healthcare system. He notes that China’s extraordinary mobilization of resources for the protection of human life against Covid is testament to the superiority of the socialist system.

Adnan further observes that there has been a positive side-effect of the Covid-19 pandemic in China, in that it has accelerated the improvement of the public healthcare system and stimulated a return to the development of comprehensive, state-funded, high-quality healthcare for all.

The article was originally published in Aydınlık and has been translated into English for us by the author. A shorter version has also appeared in Global Times.

The People’s Republic of China’s policies against the Covid-19 pandemic have been a major concern for US governments. The strict controls and quarantines required by China’s Dynamic Zero Covid policy were denounced as human rights violations. Towards the end of 2022, China determined that the virus was no longer so lethal and adopted a strategy of loosening restrictions. This time, the Atlantic camp accused China of “endangering humanity” and began to impose restrictions on Chinese tourists.

In his New Year’s speech at the start of 2023, President Xi Jinping emphasized that “since the COVID 19 pandemic, we have always put people and life first.” Xi said China has entered a new phase in its fight against the epidemic and “we have adapted our COVID 19 response in light of the evolving situation to protect the lives and health of the people to the greatest extent possible.”

For the last two months, US and European leaders and Western media have been accusing China of spreading disease and making the Chinese people miserable. Unfortunately, the Turkish media has also joined this campaign without questioning it. If you look at Turkish newspapers and TV channels, especially on social media, you will see that “China is collapsing from the disease!”

Continue reading Has China succumbed to the pandemic or not?