Cracks in "iron ricebowl" may signal danger for globalists
Why Not China?
By Andrew Redmond
The globalist tendency of US and other Western corporations to offshore operations and seek cheap goods in Communist China may hit a world-historic slump if hardliners within and around the ruling Communist Party have success in wresting power from the dominant "capitalist roaders" in Beijing, or manage to force top mandarins to steer a more traditionally Marxist course for the Middle Kingdom to appease a fractious populace.
Recently, Beijing's dreaded cyber-police briefly shut down yet another website; while they usually target "pro-democracy" advocates or mystical kung fu cults, this site was significant because it upholds the ideals the ruling elite also claim to uphold and which are at the base of their power: the "science" of "Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought."
The site, MaoFlag.net had published a blistering screed seen as a challenge to current party leaders as the major Communist Party of China congress prepares to meet this fall. The twice-per-decade conclave decides policy for the nation and names key cadre to leading positions. Perhaps reflecting powerful backers within the CCP, the site quickly went back up shortly after AP did a story on the subject.
The MaoFlag.net letter stated that "Party secretaries have become capitalists and capitalists join the party, while workers and farmers have lost their status." Ominously for Wal-Mart and other Western-based companies, the letter maintained that "foreign corporations are plundering domestic markets and crushing our national economy," playing on an anti-foreign theme that long-predates the 1949 Communist seizure of power. "Our socialist cause has been severely hindered and lost its direction," the letter continued. "We're going down an evil road. The whole country is at a most precarious moment."
The letter, site and interlocking political circles they represent are seen as a challenge to the rule of Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao, whose "pro-market" policies have been cheered on by Western business interests who turn a blind eye to the mass repression and social dislocations and distortions fuelling the apparent boom and papering over huge social problems inside China.
While Westerners are usually presented with news of crackdowns on weak "pro-democracy" campaigners who have little political clout inside China, the orthodox-leftist Maoist dissidents present a much larger challenge to both the current Chinese ruling elite and to Western corporations. China has never had anything approaching a Western-style government, and appeals for reform have historically been cloaked in the name of a revered figure. Since Mao Zedong is officially seen as the George Washington of modern Red China, the Maoist dissidents' appeal to his legacy -- which Hu Jintao and his cronies must formally support -- is a powerful one, particularly since the present government has indeed abandoned Mao's Marxism for their own pro-business "socialism with Chinese characteristics."
MaoFlag.net is not a fly-by-night enterprise but a serious pole of opposition. Organized by the China Historical Materialism Study Institute's Sun Yongren, the Mao Zedong Flag Net Executive Council has been in existence since 2003. As a ploy to stave off repression, it has made a demand to have Mao's December 26 birthday declared a national holiday, attracting the support of "untouchables" like Li Min, Mao's daughter. Such connections also signal important links deep within the party apparatus. The history of Chinese communism has been marked by ideological power struggles between rival factions, all of which have made a claim to orthodoxy.
Apart from demands for internal change, the hardliners call for a return to the "Theory of Three Worlds" of Mao, which holds that the Third World, led by China, must be revolutionized and eventually wage war on the First World -- the West. To this end it has openly supported Maoist insurgencies in India -- long a rival of China -- as well as the very serious uprising in Nepal. There the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has waged a "people's war" against the monarchy in the Himalayan kingdom that is close to winning. The Chinese hardliners are in direct opposition to the official Beijing stance, which has said that the Nepalese CPN(M) insurgents "misuse the name of Chairman Mao, which impairs the image of the great leader of China and could serve as an excuse for the international anti-China forces to create troubles." Beijing is especially paranoid about "anti-China forces" attacking its human rights record, ongoing occupation of Tibet, threats to Taiwan, organ harvesting, widespread abuse of animals and various ecnomic problems, such as the recent food scares and use of slaves.
The Mao Zedong Flag Net Executive Council is part of a network that includes even more hardline groups, such as the International Communist Movement (Guoji Gong Yun), which calls for the co-ordination of international Maoist forces, from India, Nepal and the Phillipines to Turkey and Peru. Another publication in the Chinese hardline network is China and the World, which attacked the government for not living up to accusations of arming the Nepalese Maoists, a plan advanced by Chinese hardliners eager to increase China's regional role. "This line [of abandoning the Nepalese guerillas] amounts to showing red flag against red flag and is a betrayal of the CCP’s declared policy of supporting the people of the world in defeating the US aggressors and their running dogs. Why an armed revolution can not end in victory in Nepal when the same had been successful in Russia, China, Korea, Cuba and Vietnam? Why only China can hold aloft the Mao banner, why not other countries like Nepal can do so?"
While China's Maoist hardliners have "internationalist" goals, they would tend ideologically to view the West as a potential victim, not hothouse, of revolution. Even at the height of the so-called "Cultural Revolution" of the 1960s, Red Chinese support for Western "co-thinkers" was at best half-baked. They called for "support" to the Black Panthers and inner-city blacks who rioted in the period, but no serious Maoist movement got off the ground in the US or Europe. One "successful" Maoist group in the Netherlands was simply a front set up by Dutch intelligence as a finger on the pulse of Chinese government thinking. Westerners like Maoist hagiographer Edgar Snow, who thought of themselves as "loved by the Chinese people" were actually considered to be CIA agents by Mao and his cronies.
A US-based Revolutionary Communist Party today claims to be Maoist, but is mainly an anti-racist gang with little theoretical depth and few if any links to the genuine Chinese article. Nevertheless, the RCP has recently taken out a full page ad in the Nation magazine to "defend" their leader, Bob Avakian, from supposed government harassment. Avakian is the son of a former US federal judge, and would, in the wake of the 1949 Chinese Revolution, have been subjected to persecution and barred for life from any leadership role, if he were Chinese.
The battle within the Communist Party of China is based on very serious problems China faces, as well as on ideological divisions going back decades and longer. Chinese once were able to depend (theoretically) on the "iron rice bowl" -- a guaranteed standard of living with employment, housing, healthcare and education as the stated goals of the regime. As a socialist nation, the gap between rich and poor was not supposed to exist, while in practice social difference was limited to privileges accorded the ruling caste and the petty corruption that went along with it. Since the "opening" of China, which began with the death of Mao, a middle class has grown -- poor by Western standards but wealthy by Chinese standards. There has also grown up a fabulously wealthy upper crust consisting of both corrupt officials and bona fide business people. With market liberalization there has come unemployment and a growing sense of social dislocation among millions. Adding to the problem is the "one child policy" inaugurated by Deng Xiaoping, who led China from 1978-1992. He kicked off the "socialist market economy" with the slogan "To Get Rich Is Glorious." He initiated the "one child policy" to get a handle on China's economy-sapping overpopulation crisis. Now, however, the law of unintended consequences has kicked in: the "one-child generation" is now coming of age, and by mid-century one person will be working for every person too old or young to work, and many families with two adult children supporting four elderly parents. Not only does Chinese culture make children the social safety net for elderly parents, but China will reach first-world age demographics long before reaching first world economic levels needed to support a pension system, even as the Chinese life-expectancy grow thanks to modern medicine. Thus a vast immiseration looms for China in the decades to come. Similar uneven development is a problem across the system. Boom areas in the overpopulated southeast draw migrant workers to inadequate housing or other infrastructure, while Beijing seeks to colonize remote areas like Tibet and the far west with ethnic (Han) Chinese.
And what would happen if the Maoists were to overthrow the "capitalist roaders" led by Hu Jintao and his circle? A quick reading of the Mao Flag group's signals shows that ideologically these hardliners are not "Cultural Revolutionaries" like the Gang of Four out to throw China into total chaos; instead they appear to be serious "Dengist" partisans of a strong state and a mixed economy guided by ideology, along the original lines envisioned by Deng Xiaoping. Nonetheless, what would happen to the tens of millions of Chinese employed in making toys and other junk for Western markets if China were in the hands of ideologues committed to a command economy for the benefit of China? The re-employment and re-tooling problems alone are enoromous, as are the implications for vast numbers of globalized Western corporations. The ideological rearmament that would go along with such changes within China would have global implications as well.
There is also a brewing ethnic crisis in China, which is actually an empire. The dominant Han Chinese far outnumber other populations, but tensions persist, especially in fringe regions. In Tibet, the conquered Tibetans are open to the influence of the "anti-China" Dalai Lama, who the Chinese are convinced wants to "break up China." (In fact, the Dalai Lama's demands have been limited to calls for religious pluralism and human rights for his people). In Xinjiang (or East Turkestan), the Muslim Turkic Uyghur population is influenced by growing Turkic nationalism and Islamism, fuelled by open discrimination at the hands of the Han. So potentially lethal is the Uyghur/Turkestan issue that Beijing banned depictions of pigs at the new year, which is the Year of the Pig, hoping not to offend "Chinese Muslims." Ethnic Koreans are a very prosperous group, having taken advantage of the market economy, but have attracted resentment from ethnic Han. Geographic issues are also at stake with Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a rebellious province, and with North Korea. China fears US influence on the peninsula, while the inevitable collapse of the Stalinist Pyonyang regime will lead to a huge refugee crisis in northeast China, with the probable international intervention China has long feared.
There are other forms of social dislocation. The Falun Gong (Falun Dafa) sect is led by an exile who lives in the United States and has caused a level of paranoia in Beijing approaching panic. Any pole of loyalty outside of the Communist Party of China is a threat to the regime, which has cracked down hard on the Falun Gong, so-called Christian "house churches" (which meet without official sanction) and others. Similarly, the government maintains a roving "internet unit" which tracks web use and shuts down "illegal" sites. Political dissidents (euphemistically tagged in the West as "pro-democracy") are routinely detained and harrassed. Such behavior is a sign of weakness at the top and a mark of how much the regime fears its own people. This mood mirrors similar developments in other communist systems immediately prior to their collapse, something the Chinese government is well aware of.
The Maoist ideological backlash shown by the Mao Zedong Flag Net Executive Council taps into deep wells of Chinese hatred of "foreign devils," which reflects a Han inferiority complex. China has long been subject to foreign control. From 1644 to 1911 China was ruled by the Qing Dynasty, non-Han from today's Manchuria. The long foreign rule deeply humiliated the Chinese; our word "pigtail" comes from the long queues Chinese males were legally required to wear by their Manchu overlords, who referred to Han as "pigs." At various points China was exploited by foreigners, including the Japanese, who subjected them to a savage war, which finally ended with the victory of Mao's Communists. The twinning of Maoism's support for the "iron rice bowl" with appeals to nationalistic sentiment in the opposition to "foreign corporations...plundering domestic markets and crushing our national economy" is a potentially powerful one.
The struggle inside the Communist Party of China has global ramifications. China's political scene has periodically been rocked with massive upheavals, from the Great Leap Forward of the 1950s (which starved millions) to the Cultural Revolution (which nearly destroyed China's cultural legacy) to the arrest of the Maoist Gang of Four in the wake of Mao's demise. While these displacements were contained by China's isolation, with the growth of Western capitalist reliance on China's pro-business economy, a similar upheaval will send shockwaves across the world.