Reflections on the latest stint in China and a couple of things that have changed and a couple that haven’t.
Deng Xiaoping’s pronouncement that Mao was 70 per cent right and 30 per cent wrong still reflects the official view. Of course, despite the CCP catergorically stating that the Cultural Revoluton was a“total mistake” how could that be any different? The main man is still on all the bank notes and the party has its legitimacy.
Therefore, Lucy Hornby’s article, “China’s Xi denounces ‘other-isms’ in eulogy to Marxist roots” (FT, 2/3 July 2016) in this weekend’s ‘Financial Times, which I read on the flight from Hong Kong to London, was interesting, not because of its news value, which in considering the restrictions imposed by Beijing on reporting by the foreign media has to be minimal, but rather due to the fact that Xi Jinping actually deems it necessary to stress ideological purity. According to the Chinese President, China was, is, and will always be a Marxist country and it is almost a bit like Tony Blair telling you he is a socialist.
Still, while waiting for “the never was a socialist” Tony to get up in front of an audience and show a raised fist would be a wait in vain, here is Xi telling all and sundry that the “aping of the West” economic model is building socialism with Chinese characteristics. Of course, the economic model that capitalism provides, as has been mentioned elsewhere in this blog, is nothing more than disaster capitalism and with the dirty heavens above China’s mega cities getting dirtier , the poor getting poorer and poorer and the rich getting richer and richer, Xi, although possibly less of a hypocrite than Tony, is, to put it mildly, full of shit.
And what has changed? Well, firstly, back in Qingdao in 2007 students would tell you how they had to get a good degree, so that they can look after their parents later and that narrative could still be heard in 2011 in Zhengzhou. It still might hold true for most Chinese. However, that class where daddy has millions and millions has got a bit bigger and we now have a increasing percentage of the population whose sole objective is to spend their parents money. Money that for the most part is a product of that system of rentier capitalism, which is plaguing the whole planet and money which invariably contributes to asset stripping at home and outrageous property prices both there and elsewhere. The bubble is waiting to burst..
Privileged young men and women and with their parents invariably cultivating their guanxi through the party, they too are invariably members of this very pseudo communist party, even if they will never attend a meeting of their local branch. Moreover, with them and the majority of thepopulation in the major urban areas staring into their iPhone 6s, while accessing an internet which is both heavily censored and in many other respects limited, it appears that there can be no cognitive processing on their part of what is really happening. If something has changed then at least superficially there is less dissent than there was four years ago. The flat white at Costas, the trips abroad, the BMW ….. and in another country they would be singing, “The working class can lick my ass, I’ve got the bosses job at last” to the tune of the ‘Red Flag’
Fortunately, Xi himself either ignores, or has long since forgotten, his “Marx” and an educational revisiting dialectical materialism might show this “capitalist roader” the error of his ways. For every action there has to be a reaction and, with our being in society determining our consciousness, a little tête-à-tête with richie rich and his mates in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, or elsewhere, will inform us that a party which seeks its legitimacy in some sort of pseudo marxist ideology is already seen as a joke by the majority of those who have the money and time to chew the cud while the masses still chase the dream.
That can only be good news for the planet, even if it is to the masses that we must ultimately look if there is to be real change. The contradictions of capitalism do not have room for socialism with Chinese characteristics, or any pseudo Chinese road to socialism. 1989 and Tiananmen might have been the death knell for socialism in the PRC but the narrative continues and it is an narrative that will conclude either with socialism or some sort of dystopian brave new world, not only in China, but all over the planet. For the time being the pseudo socialists and make believe marxists, the suffocating skies, and the feeble fetishists, have the upper hand, but the big wheels keep on turning and it is difficult to disagree with David Harvey when he says that if capitalism is still around in twenty years, we would be better off not being here.