Report: CPC and World Marxist Political Parties Forum

On July 28, Friends of Socialist China Co-Editor Keith Bennett joined more than 300 delegates from more than 100 Marxist political parties and organisations from more than 70 countries at the CPC and World Marxist Political Parties Forum held online with the theme, Adapting Marxism to the National Conditions and the Times of the 21st Century, organised by the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

In the opening ceremony, delegates were informed that Comrade Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and President of the People’s Republic of China, had attached importance to the event and his message of greetings to all participants was then read. This was followed by the messages of greetings from Nguyễn Phú Trọng, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam; Miguel Díaz-Canel, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic of Cuba; and Gennady Zyuganov, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

Xi Jinping pointed out that Marxism is an open ended theory that never ceases to develop. And it can only thrive when adapted to national conditions. Socialism with Chinese characteristics had been created by integrating Marxism with China’s specific conditions and fine traditional culture. Faced with changes unseen in a century, Marxism lights up the way forward for humanity and the Communist Party of China wishes to exchange experiences with Marxist parties worldwide.

In the plenary session, a keynote speech was given by Liu Jianchao, Minister of the CPC International Department, who stressed that the ‘end of history’ will never happen and that the contradiction between socialism and capitalism on a world scale was tipping in favour of socialism.

He was followed by Comrade Pany Yathotou, Member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) and Vice-President of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic; leading comrades from the Cuban and Vietnamese communist parties; Solly Mapaila, the newly-elected General Secretary of the South African Communist Party; Jeronimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the Portuguese Communist Party; and Rossana Cambron, Co-Leader of the Communist Party of the USA.

Following the plenary session, two parallel sessions were held, in which, besides representatives of the CPC, leaders of the following parties presented their contributions:

  • Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova
  • Communist Party of Argentina
  • Communist Party of Belarus
  • Communist Party of Brazil
  • Communist Party of Chile
  • Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia
  • Communist Party of India (Marxist)
  • People’s Party of Kazakhstan
  • Communist Party of Kenya
  • Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan
  • Labor Party of Mexico (PT)
  • Communist Party of Uruguay
  • Communist Party of Australia
  • Communist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist-Leninist)
  • Worker’s Party of Belgium
  • Socialist Party of Egypt
  • Iraqi Communist Party
  • Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center)
  • Palestinian People’s Party
  • And-Jëf/African Party for Democracy and Socialism (Senegal)
  • Vatan (Patriotic) Party of Türkiye
  • Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

This was an extremely important and inspiring event – a potential landmark in strengthening the unity and cohesion of the international communist movement around the advanced experience of the socialist countries and their theoretical innovations. We are pleased to republish the following four reports. The first from the Xinhua News Agency reports on the message sent to the forum by Comrade Xi Jinping. This is followed by a report carried on the website of the CPC International Department and then reports from Nhan Dan, the main newspaper of the Communist Party of Vietnam, and from the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina, highlighting their countries’ contributions to the event.

Xi says Marxism shows new vitality in 21st century

First published in Xinhua.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday that Marxism has been showing new vitality in the 21st century, calling on all Marxist political parties to make the theory more relevant to the national conditions and the times.

Continue reading Report: CPC and World Marxist Political Parties Forum

Xi Jinping sends message of condolence on the death of José Eduardo dos Santos

José Eduardo dos Santos, who served as President of Angola from 1979-2017, passed away on July 8. Born in 1942, he joined the MPLA liberation movement in his early years. Sent by the MPLA to study in the Soviet Union, he obtained degrees in petroleum engineering and radar communications from Baku’s Oil and Chemistry Institute in Soviet Azerbaijan. He subsequently participated in the armed struggle against Portuguese colonial rule for several years and also represented the MPLA in a number of countries, including China and Yugoslavia. 

China and Angola established formal diplomatic relations in 1983, during President dos Santos’s term of office, and he went on to develop close political and economic relations with Beijing, with, according to 2021 figures, Angola now established as China’s third-largest trading partner in Africa. 

The following report of President Xi Jinping’s message of condolence on the death of President dos Santos is translated from the Portuguese language service of China Radio International.

On July 12th, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message of condolences to Angolan President João Lourenço on the death of the former president of the African country, José Eduardo dos Santos.

Xi Jinping offered deep condolences on behalf of the Chinese government and people. He stated that José Eduardo dos Santos was an excellent leader of Angola and an old friend of China, as he made important contributions to the development of Sino-Angolan relations.

According to Xi Jinping, the Chinese side highly values ​​the traditional fraternal friendship with Angola and wants to work together with the Angolan side to expand and deepen friendly cooperation in all areas and generate more benefits for both peoples.

Li Mingxiang attends the 15th National Conference of the South African Communist Party

The South African Communist Party (SACP), Africa’s oldest communist party, held its 15th National Congress from July 13-16. Solly Mapaila was elected as the new General Secretary, replacing Blade Nzimande, who had held the post since 1998. Nzimande was elected Party President. Congress heard that the Party now had well over 330,000 members.

Li Mingxiang, Assistant Minister of the Communist Party of China’s International Department, attended and addressed the congress via video link, presenting greetings from the CPC Central Committee. He spoke positively of the SACP’s contributions to ending apartheid, founding and developing a new South Africa, and advancing the exploration of socialism in South Africa over the past century and more. Also addressing the congress were Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the African National Congress (ANC) and of the Republic of South Africa, representatives of the ruling parties of Cuba, Venezuela and Palestine, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and others.

The following report was carried on the website of the CPC International Department.

Li Mingxiang, Assistant-minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee (IDCPC), attended here today the 15th National Conference of the South African Communist Party (SACP) via video link upon invitation, and read out the congratulatory letter of the CPC Central Committee to the SACP Central Committee.

In his speech, Li spoke positively of SACP’s contributions to ending apartheid, founding and developing a new South Africa, and advancing the exploration of socialism in South Africa over the past century and more. Li introduced the historic achievements of the CPC Central Committee, with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, in pushing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era against the backdrop of profound changes unseen in a century, and briefed on the upcoming 20th CPC National Congress and the fourth volume of “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China” which was released recently. Li said, the CPC is willing to work with the SACP to conform to the trend of times, march towards the right direction of building a community with a shared future for mankind, and open up a future together.

Themed on “Together, Let’s Build a Powerful, Socialist Movement of the Workers and Poor”, the 15th National Conference of the SACP was held from July 13th to 16th in Johannesburg, South Africa. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the African National Congress and the Republic of South Africa, major leaders of the coalition, representatives from international friendly parties such as Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the Communist Party of Cuba, and some diplomatic envoys in South Africa attended the conference upon invitation.

My Impression: the CPC in the new era – report

On Wednesday May 25th, the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China organised an online meeting with comrades in Britain around the theme ‘My Impression: the CPC in the new era’.

According to the letter of invitation: “In 2021, the Communist Party of China (CPC) solemnly celebrated its centenary and convened the Sixth Plenary Session of its 19th Central Committee, through which we took stock of the major achievements and historical experience of the Party’s endeavours over the past century… In 2022, the CPC will hold its 20th National Congress, which is a major political event for both the Party and the country. As the changes of the times combine with the once-in-a-century pandemic, the international landscape is evolving at a faster pace, and the world finds itself in a new period of turbulence and transformation. As far as China itself is concerned, we are committed to upholding the CPC leadership, putting people first and sticking to the new path to modernisation of socialism with Chinese characteristics. In this process we look forward to strengthening communications and dialogues… and to understanding your take on China’s development as well as your expectations on China and the CPC in the new era and the upcoming 20th CPC National Congress.”

A delegation from Friends of Socialist China participated in the meeting, where the keynote address was given by Comrade Guo Yezhou, Vice-Minister of the CPC International Department.

Co-Editors of Friends of Socialist China, Keith Bennett and Carlos Martinez both delivered speeches, which we publish below.

Speeches were also made by Comrades Robert Griffiths, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), Ella Rule, Chair of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGBML), Andy Brooks, General Secretary of the New Communist Party of Britain (NCPB), and Jacob Maseyk of the Young Communist League (YCL) of Britain.

The CPC International Department carried the following report on its website: International Department Central Committee of CPC (idcpc.org.cn)

Also embedded below is a short video produced by the International Department featuring clips from different ‘My Impression: the CPC in the new era’ meetings held with comrades in various countries. The video includes clips of the speeches made by Friends of Socialist China co-editors Keith Bennett and Carlos Martinez, as well as advisory group member (and Communist Party of Britain General Secretary) Robert Griffiths.

Speech by Keith Bennett

Dear Comrades

First, on behalf of Friends of Socialist China, I would like to thank the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China for their kind invitation and express our full support for this meeting. We are very pleased to join with all the other comrades participating here.

In the time available to me, I am choosing to focus on one of your suggested themes, namely important and most memorable moments of your interactions with the CPC and China. We are talking about several decades so I can only touch on a few aspects.

I suppose that my first contact with China was at the age of about 12 or 13, when I rang on the bell of the Chinese Embassy in London and asked to be given a copy of the Red Book and a badge with Chairman Mao’s portrait – which they were pleased to do.

Probably my first formal interaction with the CPC was around the 11th National Congress of the Party in August 1977. I proposed to the National Committee of the organisation I was a member of at that time that we send greetings to the congress, which I then drafted. Considering that I had celebrated my 19th birthday just days before, and considering that then, as now, I considered the CPC to be the most important party of the world communist movement, I was so thrilled when I saw the message printed in full in the Daily Bulletin of the Xinhua News Agency.

Since that time, although generally not sent in my own name, I have drafted messages of greetings to most, if not all, of the subsequent congresses. For the last, 19th Congress, I wrote my draft in the port of Gwadar, where I was able to see for myself how the China Pakistan Economic Corridor has the potential to transform not just Pakistan but the wider region as a flagship of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.

From the 11th Congress to the eve of the 20th is a long road. So much has changed in China, Britain and the world. But one thing that has remained constant is my friendship with the Communist Party of China and my support for socialist China. That is why I believe it is fair and accurate to describe ours as an all-weather friendship and as a relationship of good friends, good comrades and good brothers and sisters, united by the same ideals and beliefs and committed to the same cause, although the concrete circumstances of our struggles differ radically.

My first visit to China was made in April and May 1981, with the last week being as a guest of your department. In those days, from the centre of Beijing one had to drive through quite a bit of countryside to reach your guest house. I had travelled quite extensively in China before reaching Beijing, including seeing the early days of the household responsibility system in Anhui province. To reach Beijing we made a long train journey from Nanjing. The days when China would be covered by the world’s biggest network of high-speed rail seemed far off. I was still only 22 and this was my first time in Asia, so my memories of that visit are abiding ones. It was a time of taking pride in China’s immense achievements since Liberation, but also of summing up mistakes, rectifying errors, learning everything that was useful and charting a new course. One could sense the people’s aspirations for a better life and felt that China was on the cusp of great change. But still one could not have imagined how far and how fast China would develop in the ensuing decades.

The most abiding impression I took away with me, from which I have never wavered, is that whatever the obstacles they might face, and whatever the twists and turns, the Chinese people, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, will succeed in their goal of building a strong, modernised and prosperous socialist country and in making a greater contribution to humanity.

Another very memorable aspect of that visit is that it was a time for reassessment, not only with regard to China’s socialist development, but also with regard to the international communist movement and the international work of the party more generally. Naturally this was reflected in our discussions and I still recall the following words of one of your comrades:

“We deeply feel that the question of how to make a revolution in the countries of Western Europe remains an unanswered one.”

I am sure that he was trying to give me a message in a very polite, diplomatic and comradely fashion. I hope that it has been well received.

As part of this reassessment, the CPC was starting to move away from the policy it had hitherto followed for some years of overwhelmingly confining its relations to what were then termed the “genuine Marxist-Leninist parties and organisations”. One of the first developments was the resumption of relations with mass communist parties in Europe that displayed a degree of independence. Indeed, shortly before my own visit, Comrade Enrico Berlinguer had led the delegation of the Italian Communist Party, then well over a million strong and a very major participant in national political life. This was followed by the resumption or establishment of relations and exchanges with communist parties of various kinds, revolutionary democratic, national democratic and national liberation parties and movements throughout the Global South, socialist and social democratic parties, and then significant political parties without regard to ideology or differences in view. The culmination of this process has seen the CPC come to play an indispensable part in China’s overall diplomacy and external work and in global political affairs generally, as well as in steadily strengthening the unity, cohesion  and effectiveness of the world communist movement, of which today’s meeting is but one example. I am so proud to have accompanied you on that journey, enjoying and benefiting from our friendship at every step.

In November 1989, speaking with Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, Comrade Deng Xiaoping said: “So long as socialism does not collapse in China, it will always hold its ground in the world.”

Today, under the bold and wise leadership of Comrade Xi Jinping, socialist China is steadily marching towards the centre of the world stage.  As Comrade Xi  said at the 19th Party Congress, the new era will be one “that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to humanity.” Socialism with Chinese characteristics, he further pointed out, “offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence; and it offers Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing humanity.”

It is in this spirit and against this background that a small group of us formed Friends of Socialist China a year ago this month. We did so for two distinct reasons that together form an integrated whole: To support and defend the People’s Republic, especially in the context of the new Cold War being waged by the USA, Britain and other imperialist countries against China and other socialist and independent countries; and also to promote understanding of Chinese socialism, because, in the words of our founding statement:

“The global advance to socialism is indispensable if humanity is to survive and to flourish; humanity needs socialism in order to prevent climate breakdown, end poverty, establish global peace and work towards dismantling structural discrimination and oppression.”

We applaud Comrade Xi Jinping’s resolute opposition to historical nihilism with our statement that: “We believe that the record of the socialist countries is overwhelmingly positive; that socialism has been able to – or has the potential to – solve many of humanity’s most burning issues; that the most impressive advances in people’s living conditions have occurred under socialist systems; that socialist states and movements played the decisive role in the defeat of European fascism and Japanese militarism; that the socialist world was pivotal to the dismantling of colonialism; that the socialist states have made historic strides in tackling discrimination based on race, ethnicity and gender.”

The gains made by working people in the capitalist countries, for example our National Health Service, have always been inseparable from the strength, example and inspiration of the socialist countries. Equally, it is no coincidence that the setbacks encountered by global socialism, particularly around 1989-91, fuelled neoliberalism and savage attacks on working people everywhere that the socialist system did not exist. China’s historic elimination of extreme poverty, its advance to the front ranks of the world economy, its building of an ecological civilisation, its transition to a high income country, and the building of a China that is, in Comrade Xi’s words, “a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful” is decisive not only for the destiny of the Chinese people but also for that of global socialism and therefore humanity.

We need to study, disseminate and apply Xi Jinping Thought as 21st century Marxism and continue the long march with our Chinese comrades towards a bright socialist future for the whole of humanity.

Thank you once again for your initiative in organising this meeting and for inviting us. We wish every success to the 20th National Congress of the great Communist Party of China!


Speech by Carlos Martinez

China’s progress over the last decade has been truly inspirational.

At the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, General Secretary Xi Jinping put forward the Two Centenary goals: to achieve a “moderately well-off” society by 2021, and a “great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful” by 2049.

In pursuit of the first centenary goal, millions of cadres were mobilised in a targeted poverty alleviation campaign, with the goal of eliminating extreme poverty. At the start of that campaign, eight years ago, just under 100 million people were identified as living below the poverty line. By late 2020, the number was zero.

And it’s important to note that rising out of poverty in China means more than just surpassing an income threshold. It also means having assured access to adequate food and clothing, along with guaranteed access to medical services, safe housing with drinking water and electricity, and nine years of free education.

Meanwhile, the land ownership system in China means that the rural poor have rent-free access to land and housing – putting them in an entirely different category to the rural poor elsewhere in the world.

As Xi Jinping has observed, “thanks to the sustained efforts of the Chinese people from generation to generation, those who once lived in poverty no longer have to worry about food or clothing or access to education, housing and medical insurance.”

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 was one of the poorest countries in the world – characterised by widespread malnutrition, illiteracy, foreign domination and technological backwardness – is a truly extraordinary achievement, and it’s an achievement of socialism. It is possible because of the leading position of the working class and peasantry.

As Deng Xiaoping put it in 1987, “only the socialist system can eradicate poverty.”

Poverty alleviation is part of the DNA of the Communist Party of China. It’s a thread that runs throughout the history of the Chinese Revolution, starting with the land reform measures in the liberated areas before 1949, and continuing with the dismantling of the feudal system after the founding of the People’s Republic, then Reform and Opening Up, and now the targeted poverty alleviation program.

Meanwhile in the West, where the bourgeoisie is the ruling class – and where neoliberal economic theory has dominated for several decades – the last ten years have witnessed an alarming rise in poverty and inequality.

In 2019, I visited two important cities for the first time: Beijing and New York. New York is unquestionably a wonderful city in many respects, but the levels of deprivation and inequality, the widespread homelessness, along with the crumbling infrastructure and simmering social tensions, are quite stark – certainly when compared with Beijing, which stands out as a very modern, harmonious, well-organised city, in which the problems of homelessness and extreme poverty have been solved.

Another key area in which China has made outstanding progress in the last decade is in the fight against climate breakdown and in promoting biodiversity, clean air and clean water.

In 2017, Xi Jinping introduced the concept of ‘ecological civilisation’, putting environmental sustainability at the heart of Chinese policy-making. And in 2021, China committed to reaching peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, and has already developed systematic programs for reaching these goals.

China is already by far the world leader in renewable energy, with a total capacity greater than the US, the EU, Japan and Britain combined. China’s forest coverage has doubled in the last four decades. Meanwhile it also leads the world in the production and use of electric cars, trains and buses.

China has led the way in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. Its dynamic Zero Covid strategy has saved millions of lives in China. Furthermore China has provided extensive assistance to countries around the world, particularly in the Global South, supplying enormous quantities of medical supplies, as well as more than 2 billion vaccine doses.

The Belt and Road Initiative, first advanced in 2013, has transformed the global investment landscape for infrastructure and connectivity, particularly in the developing world. Over 140 of the world’s 195 countries have formally affiliated to the Belt and Road, assisting them in addressing their substantial needs in terms of physical infrastructure, telecommunications, transport, and energy production and transmission.

Meanwhile China is playing a crucial role in international organisations, promoting peace, dialogue, multilateralism and multipolarity.

American politicians sometimes refer to the US as “the indispensable nation”. But if we look at what country is contributing the most to poverty alleviation, to global development, to the construction of a more peaceful world, to the fight against the pandemic, to the fight against climate breakdown; and if we contrast that with the US’s record of non-stop war, unilateral sanctions, destabilisation and bullying; we would have to conclude that China is much closer to meeting the definition of “indispensable” than the US is.

Looking to the future, with the first centenary goal now achieved, the second goal is coming into sharp focus. Building a great modern socialist country in all respects implies taking on relative poverty, improving per capita GDP, reducing inequality between regions and groups, and developing in an ecologically sustainable manner.

Common prosperity will be a key theme: reducing inequality, increasing the size of the middle income population, and improving the lives of the least affluent.

The CPC and the government it leads are not in the habit of making empty promises, and significant progress has already been made on tackling the disorderly expansion of private capital, housing speculation, extreme income inequality, and excessive power of tech companies and private education providers.

In the coming years and decades, Chinese people will increasingly come to enjoy a standard of living and quality of life comparable to, or indeed ahead of, working people in the advanced capitalist countries. And unlike in the advanced capitalist countries, this shared wealth won’t have its origins in historic colonialism and ongoing hegemonism, but in the hard work of the people and the sustained wise leadership of the CPC.

China’s successes since the founding of the PRC, and the successes it will surely achieve on the path to becoming a great modern socialist country in all respects, should serve to inspire working people around the world as to what can be achieved under socialism.

And for this reason, the Western ruling classes are working round the clock to ensure that ordinary people know nothing about China’s progress. The mass media barely mentions China’s successes in poverty alleviation. Rather than commending China for its handling of the pandemic, newspaper headlines talk about how “oppressive” and “authoritarian” the dynamic Zero Covid strategy is. Politicians and journalists accept that millions of lives have been saved as a result of China’s Covid suppression efforts, but they never fail to ask: “but at what cost?” As if human life had a quantifiable cost, and as if millions of deaths might have been “worth it” for the sake of smoother-running supply chains and corporate profits.

In order to pull the wool over people’s eyes, the West is waging a systematic propaganda war against China. Consuming mainstream media in Britain or the US, what you hear about China is that a “cultural genocide” is happening in Xinjiang; that pro-democracy students are being attacked by the Hong Kong police; that China is trapping African, Asian, Latin American, Caribbean and South Pacific countries in “debt traps”.

This web of lies is serving to keep people ignorant about the reality of Chinese socialism, and therefore it is extremely important to debunk these fabrications.

The slander that there is a “genocide” or “cultural genocide” against Uyghur Muslims, or that there are “concentration camps” in Xinjiang, has been repeated a thousand times. And yet, anyone visiting Xinjiang can see the total falsehood – indeed the utter absurdity – of this slander.

I personally went to Ürümqi in January 2020, with a group of friends. We walked around freely and certainly didn’t see any evidence of religious persecution or ethnic oppression. In fact we saw hundreds of Uyghur Muslims, wearing Uyghur clothing, going about their normal lives and practising their culture, religion and traditions.

We ate in Uyghur restaurants, where the food was halal and where alcohol wasn’t available. We heard the Uyghur language being spoken everywhere. All road signs have both Uyghur and Chinese writing. You see Uyghur language newspapers and magazines everywhere.

It’s notable how many mosques there are. Indeed Xinjiang has one of the highest concentrations of mosques in the world. And this is what the Western media calls a “cultural genocide”!

One of the reasons we formed Friends of Socialist China, just over a year ago, was to systematically oppose this propaganda war – a propaganda war that serves the interests of the imperialist ruling classes, and that runs directly counter to the interests of the working classes and oppressed communities.

As Marxists, as communists, as people working to popularise and promote socialism, we consider it crucial to spread an understanding of the remarkable successes of socialist China.

We deeply value our relationship with the CPC International Department, and we look forward to expanding our work together with you and with the other organisations represented here today.

Arise, Africa! Roar China! Interview with Gao Yunxiang

‘Arise Africa, Roar China’ is an important book exploring aspects of the historic linkages between progressive African Americans and the Chinese revolution. Published by the University of North Carolina Press in December 2021, the author, Dr. Gao Yunxiang was born and grew up in the People’s Republic of China and is now Professor of History at Canada’s Toronto Metropolitan University.   Her book explores the close relationships between three of the most famous twentieth-century African Americans, W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Langston Hughes, and their little-known Chinese allies during World War II and the Cold War—journalist, musician, and Christian activist Liu Liangmo, and Sino-Caribbean dancer-choreographer Sylvia Si-lan Chen. Charting a new path in the study of Sino-American relations, Gao Yunxiang foregrounds African Americans, combining the study of Black internationalism and the experiences of Chinese Americans with a transpacific narrative and an understanding of the global remaking of China’s modern popular culture and politics. Dr. Gao reveals interactions between Chinese and African American progressives that predate those that flourished in the 1960s and early 1970s in particular.

To introduce the book, we are pleased to republish this two-part interview with Dr. Gao conducted for the popular Sixth Tone website by Liu Zifeng, a doctoral candidate in Africana Studies at Cornell University in the US.  

Liu Zifeng: How did you get interested in the ties between Chinese and African Americans? What inspired you to write “Arise Africa! Roar China!”?

Gao Yunxiang: While conducting research on my first book, “Sporting Gender,” I came across laudatory articles on W. E. B. Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois in The People’s Daily. They reminded me of some things I read in my childhood: specifically, an old newspaper article and a propaganda poster.

In my childhood home in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, our ceiling was a flat lattice of wooden boards pasted over with old newspapers purchased in bulk. After I learned to read and write, I was confronted every night by a headline pasted right above my pillow — until it was covered by a new layer of old newspapers the following Lunar New Year. Since I read those words daily, they were inscribed in my brain: “Robert Williams and Madam Du Bois Fervently Acclaim Chairman Mao’s Statement Supporting Black Americans’ Struggle Against Violent Repression.”

That title is in turn connected to the memory of a poster that hung in our little classroom for 18 students between grades one to three. Advocating solidarity in the liberation struggle, the poster featured indignant men and women of various ethnicities, all dressed in vibrant clothing and charging forward, with a muscular Black man holding a gun at the center.

“Sporting Gender” was released in 2013. Around the same time, I published an article in the journal Du Bois Review that explored how W. E. B. and Shirley Graham Du Bois’ endeavors in Maoist China added new dimensions to Sino-American relations and Black internationalism. Working on that article, I naturally came across Paul Robeson, a close ally of the Du Boises. Then, while researching the fascinating yet unknown dynamics between Paul Robeson and China, I came across his Chinese allies: Liu Liangmo and Sylvia Si-lan Chen.

Of course, I was immediately curious about who they were. While looking into Chen, I learned that Langston Hughes was her lover. So, I traced these figures just like interlocked chains.

Liu: What attracted African American intellectuals, artists, and activists to China? How did they encounter Chinese and China? What were their impressions of these encounters?

Gao: Solidarity between people of color globally and their shared destiny of anti-racism and anti-colonialism attracted these figures’ attention to China. As a minority facing overwhelming state-imposed systematic racism and white supremacy, Black intellectuals and activists looked toward the similarly oppressed China for inspiration and strength.

These figures’ ties with leftist Chinese and China were built on a profound emotional and intellectual foundation. They shared a faith in Sino-Afro racial, linguistic, philosophical, and artistic kinship. Hughes observed Chinese to be “a very jolly people, much like colored folks at home”; Du Bois lauded Chinese as “my physical cousins.”

Both Du Bois and Robeson consistently articulated the linkage between African and Chinese civilizations and cited famous Chinese cultural giants such as Confucius and Laozi to argue for the sophistication of African civilization, counter negative stereotypes associated with perceived African “primitivism,” and debunk white supremacism.

Cultural kinship necessitated a political alliance. By embracing China’s revolutions as vehicles for the social and economic uplift of nonwhites, Black intellectuals directly linked the struggles of African Americans with those of nationalist Chinese. Hughes’ 1933 journey to “incredible” Shanghai made him the first Black intellectual celebrity to set foot on Chinese soil. He was profoundly sympathetic to China’s suffering under colonial oppression, especially Japan’s latest aggressions. Hughes would pen a passionate poem, “Roar, China!” following Japan’s full-scale invasion of China in 1937, lionizing China’s resistance.

The Communist victory in 1949 made China a pillar of nonwhite peoples’ revolutionary struggles and a model for millions to beat colonialism. Robeson romantically imagined that the nonwhite world would view the rising China as a “new star of the East… pointing the way out from imperialist enslavement to independence and equality. China has shown the way.”

During his epic China trip in 1959, Du Bois repeatedly proclaimed Chinese and African dignity and unity in the face of Western racism, colonialism, and capitalism: “Africa, Arise, and stand straight, speak and think! Turn from the West and your slavery and humiliation for the last 500 years and face the rising sun … China is flesh of your flesh and blood of your blood.” He predicted that the “darker world” would adopt socialism as “the only answer to the color line,” and that the status of African Americans would thereby be elevated.

Despite withdrawing from radicalism due to anti-Communist hysteria in the United States, Hughes nevertheless remained confident of the power of the People’s Republic of China. His suppressed inspiration, drawn from the Chinese Communist Party, resurfaced in his fury at the brutal racial violence African Americans suffered. “Birmingham Sunday,” Hughes’ eulogy to the four Black girls killed in the dynamiting of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday, September 15, 1963, connected his rage with the rage one once felt by oppressed Chinese.

Liu: How about the Chinese intellectuals and activists you profile? Who were they? What prompted them to reach out to African Americans and what did they do to build Sino-Black solidarity?

Gao: The Chinese intelligentsia had, through literature and drama, long connected the shared “enslavement” of the Chinese nation as a semi-colony state and the enslavement of African Americans. In the introduction to their 1901 translation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Lin Shu and Wei Yi argue that the tortures “yellow” people faced were even worse than those endured by Black Americans. Chinese people needed to read the book, Liu and Wei write, because “slavery is looming for our race. We had to yell and scream to wake up the public.”

In the face of harassment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, as well as racial terror and segregation, Liu Liangmo’s and Sylvia Si-Lan Chen’s brave journeys to the United States brought Sino–African American cultural alliances into new historical settings. Liu was a talented musician, prolific journalist, and Christian activist who initiated the trans-Pacific mass singing movement for war mobilization during World War II. He was a pioneer among Chinese for his close collaboration with African Americans, lauding Black greatness without reservation and later facilitating the reception of the Du Boises and Robeson in the People’s Republic. Among the numerous areas in which Liu and Robeson collaborated, they helped to globalize the signature piece of the mass singing movement: “Chee Lai” or “March of the Volunteers.”

In 1941, Robeson, Liu, and the Chinese People’s Chorus, a group Liu had organized among members of the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance in New York City’s Chinatown, recorded an album for Keynote Records titled, “Chee Lai: Songs of New China.” Liu’s liner notes for the album relay that he saw the collaboration as “a strong token of solidarity between the Chinese and the Negro People.”

Robeson’s notes read: “Chee Lai! (Arise!) is on the lips of millions of Chinese today, a sort of unofficial anthem, I am told, typifying the unconquerable spirit of this people. It is a pleasure and a privilege to sing both this song of modern composition and the old folk songs to which a nation in struggle has put new words.”

The song would be adopted as the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Chen was the world’s first “modern Chinese/Soviet dancer-choreographer” with an international reputation, according to contemporary American media accounts. She was a daughter of Eugene Chen, China’s foreign minister in the 1920s, and his French Creole wife. She was also a cousin of Dai Ailian, the acclaimed “mother of China’s modern dance.”

The Chens and Dai were all born in Trinidad and barely spoke Chinese. Chen encountered Hughes romantically in Moscow, fanning his interest in China, connecting him with the international Communist network, and helping to propel him into Shanghai’s leftist cultural circles. Chen captured the fanciful imaginations of Hughes and Robeson, who saw her as personifying the “perfect” union of Black and Chinese. Meanwhile, her own journey to choreograph and dance ethnicity, war, and revolution around the globe illustrates the complex racial and political twists of such an interracial union.

Liu: How did the African American intellectuals profiled in your book shape Chinese perceptions of Blackness and visions of the world order? And how did China’s engagement with the Africana world, at least in the cases of Liu Liangmo and Sylvia Si-Lan Chen, inform African American understandings of Chinese politics and culture and Black radical thought more generally?

Gao: W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and Paul Robeson’s presence in China and their alliances with Chinese sojourners helped facilitate a shift in the dynamics of Pan-Africanism and Pan-Asianism and ultimately inspired the “color line” of Mao Zedong’s Third World theory.

The transformative process started with gradual changes in the images of Blacks in the Republic of China (1912-1949). Stung by its humiliating reputation as the “sick man of Asia” and alarmed by Nazi racism and Japan’s imperialist ambitions, China was acutely frustrated by the repeated defeats of Chinese athletes at the 1932 and 1936 Olympics. Thus, Chinese media celebrated the “natural” physical prowess of the boxer Joe Louis and track-and field athlete Jesse Owens on behalf of the world’s people of color.

The front cover of an issue of China’s leading cartoon magazine, Modern Sketch, devoted to the 1936 Olympics, drew inspiration from Owens’s triumph. The magazine’s back cover featured a drawing of a muscular Black woman resembling the American chanteuse Josephine Baker, clad in a banana skirt, captioned, “Victory of Colored People at the Olympics.”

Those two images exemplified Chinese portraiture of African Americans. Du Bois, who visited China around that time, announced that the race “must be represented, not only in sports, but in science, in literature, and in art.” Jazz musicians in nightclubs, who were dismissed as “foreign musical instrument devils” — yangqin gui — or else caricatured in advertisements for toothpaste and white towels, dominated Black representation in Republican Chinese media. The presence of Du Bois, Hughes, and Robeson, whose intellectual capacities Chinese critics described as “genius,” started to alter such stereotypes.

During his trip to Shanghai, Hughes was quickly embraced by the city’s leftist cultural circles, led by the author Lu Xun. Their magazines hailed him as the “first established Black revolutionary writer,” who was “howling and struggling for the oppressed races.” Hughes’ visit triggered ongoing interest in his work and Black literature in China.

The final step of connecting Blackness with revolution occurred during the People’s Republic of China. The narrative on the globally famous Robeson was quickly transformed from that of an exotic entertainer to a heroic model and inspiration for the country’s socialist citizens. He was introduced in state media as “the Black King of Songs” for the oppressed masses in the world, who “embodied the perfect marriage between art and politics.”

After Du Bois shifted his favorable gaze from Japan to the People’s Republic of China as the new pillar of the colored world, he was treated as an icon by a China aspiring to leadership in the “Third World.” During their visits, he and his wife received unprecedented state hospitality. The couple frequently rubbed shoulders with China’s top leadership, became the first Westerners to grace the Tiananmen Square podium during the country’s National Day celebrations, and frequently occupied the front pages of major newspapers. Du Bois’ birthdays were celebrated as major state events.

Liu and Chen, meanwhile, linked the burning issues facing Chinese Americans and African Americans — such as the poll tax, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Jim Crow laws, and the lynching of African Americans — while urging their abolition.


Liu Zifeng: How did the Cold War international order, Sino-Soviet relations, and shifts in Chinese and U.S. foreign policy impact relations between Chinese and African Americans?

Gao Yunxiang: Following its rough birth amid the intensifying Cold War atmosphere, the infant People’s Republic of China was forced to confront a superpower armed with nuclear weapons in the Korean War. By this point, the singer, actor, and activist Paul Robeson was enshrined as a fearless and reliable friend of China, and for Robeson, China was a strong source of support that he sorely needed.

April 20, 1949 marked the start of Robeson’s political downfall in the United States. On that day, he famously told the International Congress for Peace in Paris that it was “unthinkable that American Negroes would go to war on behalf of those who have oppressed us for generations against the Soviet Union.” That statement quickly drew widespread condemnation, including from Jackie Robinson, the famous African American baseball star, whom Robeson had helped to integrate the game.

Joining W.E.B. Du Bois in standing firmly behind Robeson was the Chinese Communist Party. The People’s Daily condemned Robinson and defended Robeson. The paper reported Robeson’s speech, highlighting the standing ovation the star received from the event’s 2,000 attendees, including Nobel Laureate and nuclear scientist Frederic Joliot-Curie and Robeson’s friend, the artist Pablo Picasso. Treating the organized regional and world peace movement as a powerful popular rebuke of U.S. involvement in China’s Civil War and later the Korean War, Chinese state media reported intensively on the involvement of Du Bois and Paul Robeson in the pacifist movement.

The United States quickly accelerated its attacks on Robeson. The most significant and ugliest example was the so-called Peekskill riots, in which right-wing mobs brutally attacked a Robeson concert in August 1949. Soon, the U.S. State Department cancelled Robeson’s passport and stalled his brilliant career. As is well documented in both Robeson’s writings and Chinese state media coverage, Robeson and the People’s Republic lent each other unyielding support during their most trying moments.

By the late 1950s, in the wake of the disastrous Great Leap Forward, China had immediate reasons to welcome public support from African American cultural giants. The CCP needed a new domestic perspective to reinvigorate the revolution and socialize the nation. In addition, it required new diplomatic defenders and tactics as it contested Soviet dominance of world communism and aspired to leadership of the “Third World” that bound the destinies of China with former agricultural colonies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

The CCP was already reaching out to Africa, but the newly independent African states met Chinese overtures with caution and reserve. The stature of these African American figures among the African diaspora helped China open doors for alliances across the continent. Du Bois’ reputation and endorsement particularly meant a great deal. Chinese outreach to Africa through diplomatic exchanges, aid, and propaganda peaked following the Du Boises’ 1959 visit to China. For diplomatic and economic reasons, China continued to maintain a large presence in Africa, which the Du Boises helped to foster.

During the 1960s, Mao Zedong was interested in contacts with radical Blacks, who he valorized as true revolutionaries. Influential Black activist Robert Williams, author of “Negroes with Guns,” was mentioned in a People’s Daily headline plastered on the ceiling of my childhood bedroom, for instance. At the same time, Black Americans were impressed by Mao’s anti-American imperialism as well as his emphasis on violent struggles and cultural change as a revolutionary force.

Liu: As often happens in cases of transnational exchange, the intellectual and cultural interactions between China and African America that you chart were fraught with misunderstandings, ambiguity, and conflict. What were some of the complexities and contradictions of the internationalist politics of the five central figures in your book?

Gao: Caught in between the murky, sometimes treacherous, and shifting trans-Pacific political and ideological waters, all five citizens of the world I profile — W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Liu Liangmo, and Sylvia Si-lan Chen — experienced their share of ambiguity and conflict. For instance, in 1962, state media and publishers in the People’s Republic of China suddenly fell silent on Robeson, who had been promoted as a heroic revolutionary model for China’s socialist citizens throughout the 1950s. After the Sino-Soviet split came into the open, Robeson’s position of advocating for peaceful coexistence fell on the wrong side of Chinese politics amid a shift in dynamics between the trans-Pacific powers.

The official press took an alternative approach toward Hughes. Outlets awkwardly remained silent on Hughes’s public renunciation of his radical past at the peak of McCarthyism and the Korean War; instead, they fixed their gaze on the writer he was in the 1930s, an “established Black revolutionary writer,” as if he were preserved in a time capsule. Liu and Chen, meanwhile, were marginalized and even attacked during the radical Maoist years by a regime they had long idealized.

W.E.B Du Bois’ treatment of imperial Japan — which brutalized China and Asia — as a pillar of “the darker word” turned out to be the most controversial. Du Bois visited the segregated treaty port of Shanghai in 1936. Pampered by the Japanese authorities, he stayed at the luxurious Cathay Hotel on the Bund. At the University of Shanghai, Du Bois “occupied a seat on the dais,” listening as a Rockefeller Foundation representative spoke about scholarships to the United States.

“I said to the president that I should like to talk to a group of Chinese and discuss frankly racial and social matters,” Du Bois recalled. He soon “plunged…recklessly” into a luncheon at the Chinese Bankers’ Club at 59 Hong Kong Road on November 30. He wanted to know, in his own words, “Why is it that you (Chinese) hate Japan more than Europe when you have suffered more from England, France, and Germany than from Japan?” If Japan and China worked together, Du Bois continued, perhaps Europe could be eliminated permanently from Asia. Du Bois calmly reported, “There ensured a considerable silence, in which I joined.”

His dismayed hosts responded that whatever problems China suffered, Japan’s militarism hindered any progress. Unconvinced, Du Bois commented later that “the most disconcerting thing about Asia is the burning hatred of China and Japan (for each other).” As he sailed from Shanghai aboard the S. S. Shanghai Mari to Nagasaki on December 1, 1936, Du Bois hurled a final insult, claiming that the Chinese Nationalists were “Asian Uncle Toms,” likening them to the willing Black menials of white racism in the United States.

Du Bois repeated his belief in the virtues of Japanese rule and firmly urged a Sino-Japanese alliance, which would “save the world for the darker races.” He steadfastly maintained such views even after Japanese forces occupied Beiping (today’s Beijing) and Shanghai. To the news of the Nanjing Massacre, Japan’s genocidal occupation of China’s then-capital in late 1937 and early 1938, Du Bois responded that few of the white Americans expressing horror at the killing had said much about Italy’s recent depredations in Ethiopia.

Liu: What lessons do the stories recounted in your book offer for understanding China-U.S. relations?

Gao: While most scholarship on Sino-American relations treats the United States as default white, “Arise, Africa! Roar, China!” cuts a new path by foregrounding African Americans. It allows us to reimagine Sino-American relations by decentering Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon in the discourse, understanding Afro-Asian history as central to world history, and focusing on global anti-imperialism and popular movements which are still relevant today. My book combines the study of Black internationalism and the experiences of China and Chinese Americans with a trans-Pacific narrative. It reveals earlier and widespread interactions between Chinese and Black leftist figures prior to the better-known alliance between Black radicals and Maoist China in the 1960s.

It also shows the global remaking of China’s modern popular culture and politics. The book traces China’s transnational entanglements even during periods when the nation has commonly been regarded as insular and unconnected to the wider world.

The intertwined lives of these five citizens of the world, usually perceived as inhabiting non-overlapping domains, stand as powerful counters to narratives that foreground racism and alienation. Their endeavors across racial, national, cultural, and linguistic boundaries illustrate that the world always remains connected despite political, legal, immigration, and diplomatic hurdles. Their stories offer a view into the power and potential of Black internationalism and Sino–African American collaboration. “Arise, Africa!” and “Roar, China!” as articulated by Du Bois and Hughes, respectively, match the shared struggles of a nation and a nation-within-a-nation. Their power and promise resonate to this day.

The enduring friendship between China and Zambia

Two significant events on May 31st underscored the deep, traditional friendship between China and Zambia.

In a phone call with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out that China and Zambia are “all-weather friends” enjoying traditional and amicable relations and unbreakable friendship. He stressed that China and Zambia are both developing countries, and promoting solidarity and cooperation with Zambia and other African countries is China’s long-term and firm strategic choice and went on to suggest that they deepen cooperation in healthcare, poverty mitigation and agricultural development, trade and investment, green development, digital economy and other fields, help boost economic recovery and sustainable development in Africa, and promote the building of a China-Africa community with a shared future.

For his part, President Hichilema thanked China for its long-term and significant support for Zambia’s national development. Zambia, he said, is ready to strengthen exchanges with and learn from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and consolidate and deepen the traditional friendship forged by the elder generations of leaders of Zambia and China.

The same day, the Kenneth Kaunda International Conference Centre, an ultra-modern facility financed by China, with its main hall having a 2,500 seating capacity, and built to host the next mid-year summit of the African Union (AU), was opened in the Zambian capital Lusaka.

At the opening ceremony, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema thanked China, saying his government was grateful to the support given to the country’s infrastructure development which dates back to the 1970s through the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA).

“This was a critical point in our history, when Zambia had no access to oceans and, therefore could not import or export goods due to the blockade in Southern Rhodesia,” he said.

Kenneth Kaunda, who passed away on June 17th last year at the age of 97, was the father of independent Zambia, the pioneer of Zambia/China friendship and an outstanding leader of the African liberation struggle. He made numerous visits to China from the 1960s to the 2010s and forged deep friendships with generations of Chinese leaders from Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and Comrade Deng Xiaoping to their successors, including President Xi Jinping. As one of the ‘frontline states’, Zambia under Kaunda’s leadership made great sacrifices to support the liberation struggle against apartheid, racism and colonialism throughout southern Africa. For example, the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa maintained its headquarters in Lusaka through many years of exile and underground struggle. The TAZARA railway played a significant role in making this possible.

The following reports were originally published on the websites of the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Xinhua News Agency.

Xi Jinping Speaks with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema on the phone

On the afternoon of May 31, 2022, President Xi Jinping had a phone conversation with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema.

Xi Jinping pointed out, China and Zambia are “all-weather friends” enjoying traditional and amicable relations and unbreakable friendship. In the past year, China-Zambia relations have maintained a positive momentum of development, with two-way trade volume hitting a record high and Zambia becoming the country attracting the most Chinese direct investment in Africa. The cooperation between the two countries enjoys huge potential and bright prospects. China attaches great importance to China-Zambia relations, and stands ready to work with Zambia to consolidate and deepen the China-Zambia friendship, and push bilateral ties to higher levels and broader areas.

Continue reading The enduring friendship between China and Zambia

Poor People’s Campaign and China’s anti-poverty program

We are pleased to reproduce this article by Sharon Black, originally carried by Struggle/La Lucha in the United States. Sharon begins with moving personal recollections of her participation, as an 18-year-old working-class woman, in the Poor People’s Campaign initiated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in May 1968, and goes on to outline the very different approaches to poverty by the US and China. Having outlined the steadily worsening situation in the US, she states: “All this contrasts with the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government, which made eradicating poverty one of its major goals.”

According to Sharon, China’s historic eradication of extreme poverty is not solely due to China’s economic growth, as important as this has been. However: “Without a conscious effort by the Chinese government, economic growth in [and] of itself would not have solved the problem.”

Having outlined the concrete steps taken by China, including young urban students and professional workers giving up relatively comfortable lives to go and participate in the anti-poverty campaign in rural villages, Sharon likens this to Cuba’s literacy campaign. Of course, comparisons could also be made with the millions of Chinese youths, including future President Xi Jinping, who went down to the countryside in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sharon concludes: “What cannot be argued is that socialist China is going in the opposite direction of the capitalist West… Our challenge is to learn from what China has done.”

On May 12, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign officially began with a Mother’s Day march led by Coretta Scott King and welfare mothers.

I was barely 18 years old. Pregnant with my son and filled with the kind of hope that only the young possess — who know little of the hardships ahead — I participated in the Poor People’s Campaign.  

My neighbors were from Appalachia; my mother from the coal mining area of eastern Pennsylvania. As much as I was motivated by empathy for the people I loved who were my family and neighbors, it was the civil rights movement that lit a fire inside of me.  

So when I saw a flier posted by a group of Vista workers soliciting people to go with them to the D.C. Poor People’s Campaign, I called immediately.

I lied to my parents and pretended to stay with a friend, then left for Washington with a small group of older, certainly more sophisticated, participants. Most of them were graduates from the University of Delaware. 

I was the youngest, the only woman at the time. I was awkward; I couldn’t accompany them to bars because of my age, had no money and had never eaten in a restaurant. 

Continue reading Poor People’s Campaign and China’s anti-poverty program

Why doesn’t more of the Western left support the People’s Republic of China?

At a webinar of the International Manifesto Group on the theme of Anti-imperialism and the Western Left, Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez gave this talk about the Western left’s failure to meaningfully engage with Chinese socialism.

The focus of my presentation is: why doesn’t more of the Western left support the People’s Republic of China? Why doesn’t more of the Western left engage in a serious way with Chinese socialism?

There are lots of things about modern China that seem worthy of support, from a socialist point of view.

Poverty alleviation. Reducing poverty is a decidedly leftist objective. If there was no poverty under capitalism – if there were no homeless, no people without sufficient food to eat, without access to education and healthcare, without work or the possibility of earning an income – most people on the left would probably find something better to do with their time than struggling for a new society.

So the fact that China has achieved so much in the realm of poverty alleviation should obviously be something that we study and celebrate.

Not everyone trusts the Chinese government’s statistics, not everyone is convinced by the claim that China in 2020 eliminated extreme poverty. Fine. But it is absolutely beyond question that, in the period from 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed, the Chinese people have experienced an unprecedented and extraordinary improvement in their living standards and their level of human development.

Continue reading Why doesn’t more of the Western left support the People’s Republic of China?

Foreign friends reflect on the CPC’s success over the past century

We’re pleased to republish this piece about several generations of foreigners that have supported, or contributed to, China’s development. The article, originally published in Xinhua in June 2021 (in the run-up to the CPC’s centenary celebrations), mentions historic friends of China such as Edgar Snow, Isabel Crook, George Hatem, Israel Epstein and Hans Muller, as well as contemporary friends such as British academic Martin Jacques and Sudanese journalist Yahya Mustafa.

“Never leave China,” Dr. Hans Muller repeatedly told his wife before he passed away in 1994.

In 1939, World War II broke out. Muller, a young German with a medical degree from Switzerland, arrived in Yan’an in northwest China and fought side by side with the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese people in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, and later in the War of Liberation. He devoted himself to China’s socialist construction after the founding of the New China in 1949.

Since its founding in 1921, the CPC has attracted many foreign friends like Muller during different periods of revolution, construction and reform. Their interactions with Chinese Communists over the past century have opened a window through which the world can better understand the CPC.

Today, the CPC is the world’s largest political party with more than 90 million members. The CPC has over the past century led the Chinese people to achieve national independence, bid farewell to a humiliating history of being arbitrarily exploited by foreign powers, and transform China from an impoverished country into the world’s second-largest economy, which enjoys all-round moderate prosperity.

Continue reading Foreign friends reflect on the CPC’s success over the past century

Ambassador Ma Hui: China and Cuba are bound together by common experiences and beliefs

On 19 March 2022, China’s ambassador to Cuba, Ma Hui, spoke at our event 21st Century Socialism: China and Latin America on the Frontline.

Ambassador Ma discusses the nature, development and trajectory of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics; the history of China-Cuba relations; Cuba’s remarkable progress in pursuing its own form of socialism; and the importance of ending the criminal US blockade against Cuba.

Dear friends:

I am delighted to join you at this very important webinar. The topics are wide-ranging. I will first share two points on what socialism with Chinese characteristics is and what it is not, then two points on Chinese-Cuban relations, and then my observations about Cuba.

First, socialism with Chinese characteristics is the result of the Chinese people’s painstaking trials and great sacrifices. It just doesn’t come easy to us.

Since the 1840s, through successive aggression such as the two Opium Wars, the Sino-French War, the First Sino-Japanese War, and the Eight-Allied Powers invasion, the Western powers bullied China into signing a series of unequal treaties, gradually reducing China from a world power to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal state. As a result, the Chinese people embarked on the arduous quest for survival and rejuvenation. China tried constitutional monarchy, parliamentary system, multi-party system, presidential system, you name it, but all failed.

Continue reading Ambassador Ma Hui: China and Cuba are bound together by common experiences and beliefs

Interview: China’s democracy represents people while Western-style democracy serves the interests of monopoly capitalism

This interview with Friends of Socialist China co-editor Danny Haiphong was published in Global Times on 7 March 2022. Global Times reporter Yu Jincui asks Danny’s opinion regarding the 2022 ‘Two Sessions’, the evolution of China’s whole-process people’s democracy, the comparison between Chinese and Western democracy, and the motivation for setting up Friends of Socialist China.

GT: What’s your expectation for the Two Sessions this year and how do you view its significance concerning China’s future development?  

Haiphong:
 China is holding the two sessions in a moment of unprecedented global crisis. The resurgence of COVID-19 due to the Omicron variant has dampened the economic forecast in China and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has certainly raised questions about the future of international stability and China’s role in helping secure it.

Despite the gravity of these developments, China will use the two sessions to begin discussions on a number of policies that embody the spirit and mission  of the 14th Five-Year plan. At the top of the agenda is the dual management of COVID-19 and economic growth targets. Issues and policies relating to China’s goal of achieving “common prosperity” on the road to fully building a modern socialist country by 2050 will undoubtedly be the subject of deliberations at the two sessions. 

My expectation is that the two sessions will reaffirm China’s capacity to lead by example through whole-process democracy. China is the only world power at the moment in a position to chart a development plan that meets the interests of the people for a better life. Through direct consultation and participation of grassroots deputies representing all levels of society, China possesses a mechanism in the two sessions which can chart a clear path toward meeting concrete development goals.

GT: How do you understand whole-process people’s democracy? Compared with Western-style democracy, what do you think is the biggest difference?

Haiphong:
 Whole-process people’s democracy is a governance system congruent with socialism with Chinese characteristics. Whole-process people’s democracy establishes a system of consultation and grassroots mobilization which takes into account China’s specific conditions of development. Direct elections are held at the village level and corresponding deputies at higher levels are subsequently elected by lower levels of the governance system based upon a record of service to the people. Whole-process democracy is bidirectional, meaning that regular consultation occurs between higher levels of the governance system such as the NPC and provincial and local authorities to ensure policies properly balance national priorities and local considerations.Whole-process people’s democracy is different from Western-style democracy in several areas. The biggest difference is that whole-process people’s democracy is structured to meet the goals and plans set forth by the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics while Western-style democracy is structured to serve the interests of monopoly capitalism. Unlike Western-style democracy, whole-process people’s democracy does not view procedure as an achievement in and of itself. A major measure of success is how well deputies and governance structures serve the desire of the people for a better life. Western-style democracy, on the other hand, views the election of representatives itself as the highest achievement. The question of whether this system serves the needs of the broad masses of people is generally ignored in order to obscure the fact that powerful corporate interests set the policy agenda well before votes are cast.

GT: Over 5,000 deputies of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference are gathering in Beijing. They come from all walks of life across the country. How do you see the difference between Chinese lawmakers and American lawmakers? A view holds that US lawmakers are more adept at playing electoral politics rather than solving real problems facing the country. How do you view this? 

Haiphong:
 US lawmakers are generally selected by wealthy elites first and elected by the people second. The majority of representatives in the US Congress are millionaires who accumulated their wealth through satisfying the interests of monopoly corporations and private financial institutions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, has achieved a net worth of about $100 million during her more than 30-year career in Congress. US lawmakers and their staff often move from government positions to the corporate boardrooms of their donors and lobbyists. Several former aides to Democratic Party Senator Joe Manchin currently work for energy lobbies that played a key role in stymying increased investment in infrastructure and renewable energy development.

The immense influence of private wealth over the political careers and policies of US lawmakers incentivizes procedure over solving real problems that impact the lives of the impoverished and oppressed. Unlike China, where the government is structured to enact people-centered development plans, the US governance system is designed to reproduce policies that reinforce the status quo. This explains why despite rhetorical differences on certain issues, Democrats and Republicans from Joe Biden and Donald Trump to members of Congress often carry out a similar policy framework of increased war spending, subsidies for the wealthiest corporations, and austerity measures that negatively impact the livelihoods of ordinary people.

Another stark difference between lawmakers in the US and China is their social character. Poor workers in the US generally do not have the means or wealth to compete in elections that require massive financial expenditures to run successful campaigns. Furthermore, the interests of ethnic and racial minorities are only given attention when social conditions, such as the Black Lives Matter protests, demand it. It’s clear, however, that Joe Biden’s key role in writing legislation that led to an enormous rise in the African-American prison population and his support of militarizing police departments that exacerbate racial tensions indicate that the interests of racial minorities are treated as an afterthought.

In China, ethnic minorities are not only provided representation at the highest levels of governance but their economic, cultural, and political interests also find expression in policy discussion and implementation. Furthermore, wealth is not a determinant of political participation. Lawmakers come from all walks of life and are judged by their service to the village, municipality, province, and the nation at large.

GT: China insists that countries with different political systems can coexist, and it emphasizes win-win results in the development process. However, the US and some Western countries want to divide the world into democracy vs autocracy. What risks and consequences will this bring to the world?

Haiphong:
 Viewing the world from the prism of “democracy” and “autocracy” is indicative of a new Cold War mentality. The US describes China, Russia, and a select number of countries as “autocratic” to justify its policy of unipolar aggression. The label “autocracy” comes with an equally aggressive propaganda campaign that influences public opinion to support war. Furthermore, Americans and citizens of the West are taught to blame their problems on a foreign “adversary.” Major threats to humanity such as war, climate change, and poverty become increasingly difficult to address when so-called “democracies” in the West pursue narrow self-interests and divide the world instead of win-win cooperation. This is the true character of Western-style “democracy:” endless militarism and domestic policies that favor a small, wealthy minority of the population.

GT: Friends of Socialist China is aimed at spreading an understanding of Chinese socialism. Why do you choose to engage in such a work? Being an editor of Friends of Socialist China, What are the difficulties in promoting the understanding of Chinese socialism in the Western world?

Haiphong:
 Friends of Socialist China was conceived by myself and colleagues of mine amid great dissatisfaction with the low level of solidarity with China that exists even among the most progressive-minded journalists and activists in the West. 

It is important to us that the New Cold War being led by the US is challenged not just on the basis of its irrationality and negative consequences for humanity, but also from the standpoint of an endless stream of misinformation about China.

Much of the propaganda spread by Western media is based on a Cold War understanding of China that negates the important achievements of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the modern era. This is a great disservice to people in the West. People in the West are denied the right to learn from China’s successes in poverty alleviation, renewable energy, high-technology, COVID-19 containment, infrastructure development and more. We hope to change that in the interest of peace. People in the West need to know the real China if they are to develop the empathy and solidarity required in the development of world peace. 

The biggest impediment to this work is the highly concentrated private media in the West and how it acts as a lever of misinformation for US-led cold war policies. Public opinion on China has declined significantly, and anti-China propaganda has led to a spike in racist incidents toward Chinese and people of Asian descent in the US and the West. All of this creates inevitable hostilities to our work, but we have also seen an increasing number of people take interest in China and want to do their part to reverse these troubling trends.

GT: Under the crisis of capitalism and democracy in the US, what changes have occurred in the attitudes of young Americans toward socialism? Is socialism becoming more attractive?

Haiphong:
 Rampant inequality and dim prospects for the future have indeed increased interest in socialism in the US, especially for young Americans under the age of 35.

This is a massive shift in the post-Cold War status quo in the US which argued that the world had entered the “end of history”, meaning capitalism would forever remain hegemonic. The collapse of the Soviet Union paved the way for an unprecedented expansion of US aggression and wars on Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and several others. Finance capital also found ample room to expand to the point where it became “too big to fail” after causing the biggest global economic crisis since the Great Depression in 2007-08. 

Amid increased spending for war and decreased spending on social needs, young Americans have become frustrated with low wages, diminished job prospects, high costs of living, blatant racial injustices, and the hypocrisy of political officials spending enormous resources on massive defense budgets, fossil fuel subsidies, and stimulus packages for the wealthiest financial institutions responsible for their problems. Young Americans desire a kind of “common prosperity” that takes their interests into account. They believe that socialism is worth exploring as a possible way forward. However, the debate over what socialism would look like in the US remains unresolved. We at Friends of Socialist China understand that while China’s model of socialism cannot be exported to the US, its commitment to improving the lives of the people certainly deserves more attention.

The legacy of Edgar Snow: an interview with Professor Ken Hammond

Edgar Snow, a lifelong friend of the Chinese people and proponent of US-China friendship, died 50 years ago, on 15 February 1972. His pioneering book Red Star Over China, written in 1937, was the first introduction to the Chinese Revolution for millions in the English-speaking world. It remains essential reading today, and Snow’s life continues to inspire those that live by the principles of solidarity, international friendship and peace.

Interviewed by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez, Ken Hammond – professor of history at New Mexico State University and an expert in Chinese history, politics and language – discusses Edgar Snow’s early life, his political development, his relationship with the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the impact that ‘Red Star Over China’ had in the West, the relationship between US progressive circles and China over the decades, and the importance of getting US-China relations back on track.

Speech of W.E.B. Du Bois in Beijing University in 1959

On the 154th anniversary of his birth, we are pleased to republish this speech given in Beijing by the great African-American communist, Pan-Africanist, scholar and freedom fighter W.E.B. Du Bois on the occasion of his 91st birthday.

By courtesy of the government of the 600 million people of the Chinese Republic, I am permitted on my 91st birthday to speak to the people of China and Africa and through them to the world. Hail, then, and farewell, dwelling places of the yellow and black races. Hail human kind!

I speak with no authority; no assumption of age nor rank; I hold no position, I have no wealth. One thing alone I own and that is my own soul. Ownership of that I have even while in my own country for near a century I have been nothing but a “nigger.” On this basis and this alone I dare speak, I dare advise.

China after long centuries has arisen to her feet and leapt forward. Africa, arise, and stand straight, speak and think! Act! Turn from the West and your slavery and humiliation for the last 500 years and face the rising sun.

Continue reading Speech of W.E.B. Du Bois in Beijing University in 1959

Claudia Jones – fearless fighter for Black, women’s and colonial liberation

Today we celebrate the 107th birth anniversary of Claudia Jones: a communist and anti-imperialist; a fearless fighter for Black, women’s and colonial liberation; and an unwavering supporter of the Chinese Revolution.

Edgar Snow, a lifelong friend of the Chinese people

On the 50th anniversary of his death, we celebrate the life of Edgar Snow, a lifelong friend of the Chinese people and proponent of US-China friendship. Snow’s pioneering book Red Star Over China, written in 1937, was the first introduction to the Chinese Revolution for millions in the English-speaking world. It remains essential reading today, and Snow’s life continues to inspire those that live by the principles of solidarity, international friendship and peace.

The CPC at 100 – An exemplar in the innovation and adaptation of Marxism

The 12th World Socialism Forum was held on December 21st 2021, hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and organised by the World Socialism Research Centre, the Academy of Marxism and the Research Centre of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era of CASS. It was held in the Chinese Academy of History of CASS, with both offline and online participation.

The theme of the event was the Preservation and Innovation of Marxism in the 21st Century, with a key focus on:

  • The Major Achievements and Inspiring Experience of the Communist Party of China over the Past Century
  • The Contribution of the Path of Socialist Political Development with Chinese Characteristics to Political Civilisations of Humanity
  • Lessons and Insights from the Downfall of the Soviet Communist Party and the Dissolution of the Soviet Union
  • Upholding and Developing Marxism in the 21st Century

The Forum heard a total of 23 presentations, including 13 from leading Chinese Marxist thinkers and theoreticians as well as from the Cuban Ambassador to China; Egon Krenz, former leader of the German Democratic Republic (GDR); two speakers from Russia, including the Vice Chair of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF); Keith Bennett, Co-Editor of Friends of Socialist China; and speakers from Argentina, Italy, Cameroon, Venezuela and Vietnam.

We print below Keith Bennett’s speech to the Forum.

Dear Comrades and Friends

On behalf of Friends of Socialist China, a platform established earlier this year to support the People’s Republic of China and spread understanding of Chinese socialism on the basis of Marxism, I’d like to extend our thanks to the World Socialism Forum for inviting us to attend this important meeting and to submit a paper. We also extend warm greetings to everyone participating and hope that we can find concrete ways of working together in the future.

Continue reading The CPC at 100 – An exemplar in the innovation and adaptation of Marxism

Danny Haiphong: The West distorts the China-Africa relationship in order to justify its own imperialism

In this speech to a recent webinar entitled Africa/China Relations: Challenges of Cooperation and Development (organized jointly by the International Manifesto Group and the Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa), Danny Haiphong explores the evolving win-win relationship between China and Africa, and exposes the West’s distortion of this relationship. The full webinar can be watched on YouTube.

Then and now: Proletarian internationalism and Friends of Socialist China

What follows is a presentation on the Western left’s solidarity with the Chinese Revolution and the People’s Republic of China over the years, and the motivation for setting up Friends of Socialist China. It was delivered at the the Fifteenth Forum of the World Association for Political Economy (hosted by the Shanghai International Studies University, China, and held online on 18-19 December 2021), and was jointly written by Friends of Socialist China’s co-editors.

The accompanying slides can be found at SlideShare.

Dear Comrades

On behalf of Friends of Socialist China, I would like to express our thanks to the World Association of Political Economy for inviting us to participate in this important conference and to extend our greetings to all our fellow participants.

Friends of Socialist China was formed in May 2021 by a small group of activists in Britain and the USA with a long record in the progressive movement and specifically of solidarity with the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese revolution. 

Our analysis of our tasks and our understanding of our work flow from the basic tenets of Marxism, starting from the observation by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto that, unlike other parties in the working-class movement, communists bring to the fore the interests of the working class as a whole, independent of all nationality. This premise was further elaborated and developed by Mao Zedong, who noted that the people of countries yet to win their liberation have a duty to support the socialist countries, whilst the socialist countries have the responsibility to support the countries and peoples who are still struggling for their liberation.

Continue reading Then and now: Proletarian internationalism and Friends of Socialist China

China plays a crucial role supporting progress and sovereignty in Latin America

This article by Carlos Martinez, which first appeared in the Morning Star of 4 December 2021, discusses China’s economic engagement with Latin America in recent decades; debunks claims that this engagement is a form of neocolonialism; and concludes that China’s solidarity with Latin America is an important support for sovereign development in the region.

In the last two decades, economic links between Latin America and the People’s Republic of China have been expanding at a dizzying rate. Bilateral trade in 2000 was just 12 billion USD (1 percent of Latin American’s total trade); now it stands at 315 billion USD. In the same time period, China’s foreign direct investment in Latin America has increased by a factor of five.

Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, 19 of the 33 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region have signed up to the China-led global infrastructure development strategy. Infrastructure projects have been a particular focus for Chinese firms. Writing in Foreign Policy in 2018, Max Nathanson observed that “Latin American governments have long lamented their countries’ patchy infrastructure.” China has “stepped in with a solution: roughly $150 billion loaned to Latin American countries since 2005.”

Continue reading China plays a crucial role supporting progress and sovereignty in Latin America

Chinese and international experts discuss China’s progress and vision for the future

On 19 November 2021, the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held a briefing in Beijing about the recently-concluded 6th Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee. Friends of Socialist China’s co-editors were among the several hundred international guests attending via video link.

The speakers from the CPC gave an overview of the Plenary Session and the Resolution of the CPC Central Committee on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century it adopted. The key message of the Plenary and Resolution is a reaffirmation and further definition of China’s evolving socialist path in the present era, central elements of which include: a strong emphasis on sustainable development and the construction of an ecological prosperity; tackling relative poverty and building common prosperity; continuing to develop whole-process people’s democracy; continuing the party’s self-reform and the fight against corruption; expanding the Belt and Road Initiative, upholding multipolarity and working towards a human community with a shared future; and moving confidently towards the CPC’s Second Centenary Goal: “to build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful.”

Continue reading Chinese and international experts discuss China’s progress and vision for the future