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Is China Socialist?

Is China Socialist?


say, for the sake of argument, you’re an
alien tasked with studying human behavior by the great galactic committee. Now, due to your species’ xenobiology, you
cannot, and will never be able to understand human language. The only thing you can do is to observe humans,
and nothing else. Now, because you can’t talk to humans, you
can’t ask them what they think they’re doing, so everything you’d know about humanity
would be about the structure of their society. Now, let’s say the galactic committee drop
you off somewhere here, near a major metropolitan area. Since your presence would freak people out,
the committee also gave you a stealth nanosuit, and because nobody really likes walking, they
also gave you a teleportation device capable of jumping small distances. So, you do your job and observe these weird
creatures. One thing you immediately notice is that humans,
when procuring items to stuff their big upper orifice, would trade them for these thin rectangles,
usually with ornate drawings of other humans, usually made out of shredded plants or processed
underground liquid hydrocarbons. You wonder how it works, so you start following
these thin rectangles. You find out these humans, up to thousands
of them, would gather in these large hollow polygonal structures, and, after doing some
tasks for a certain amount of time, would be given the thin rectangles. Light cycles after light cycles, the humans
would move back and forth between their own small hollow polygonal structures and the
bigger ones. Then, you also start to notice that humans
have some sort of hierarchy. The humans that give out the thin rectangles
are usually nestled in a different area within the big polygonal structures. You call these humans boss. Sometimes bosses would meet with the humans
underneath them, flap their meat sound maker, and the other humans would change their behaviors. But the bosses are not at the top of the hierarchy,
because there are other humans who meet with multiple bosses and are able to change the
bosses’ behavior and the humans underneath them. With this in mind, you start to chart the
human hierarchy. And, after observing tens of thousands of
humans across hundreds of light cycles, you figured out that the human hierarchy is really
quite tall and really rigid. The progenies of humans at the top of the
hierarchy never go below a certain level within it, usually still pretty close to the top. Humans near the bottom of the hierarchy live
in much smaller polygonal structures, receive much less nourishment, live shorter lives
and seem to be in more distress. You conclude that where humans are in this
hierarchy determines what resources they can acquire. As time goes on, you end up observing millions
of humans, and when you graph the hierarchy, the chart is extremely wide near the bottom,
with a really really tall middle and vanishingly small top. Plus, you keep seeing the same humans over
and over again at the top, even across vast distances. And the humans atop the hierarchy are able
to direct considerable resources to suit their needs just by flapping their meat sound maker. You also notice something else interesting. You wanted to figure out why these humans
are accumulating so much stuff, not just the thin rectangles and their digital representation,
but also real tangible stuff. You couldn’t make sense of it because it
seems like there’s no rhyme or reason to production, humans just keep on churning stuff
out like they’re trying to destroy the planet. Then, one day, you figured it out. The people at the top accumulate stuff so
they can accumulate even more stuff in the future, and the humans who can’t accumulate
stuff fast enough would keep on losing, moving down the hierarchy, though not very much,
but enough to make them seem distressed. Everyone else is sort of just along for the
ride. You keep studying these humans until one day,
the great galactic committee calls you to end this imaginary scenario because something
something. I don’t know, make something up. I really need to start talking about China,
or risk boring people to death, or worse, people would close the video. Anyways, you might be wondering why I’m
telling you this imaginary alien scenario. Well, let me ask you this. Where did the alien land, do you think? Like, given their data, would you be able
to tell where the alien landed, intelligibility notwithstanding? I mean think about it like this, if there
were two aliens sent to earth, one landed in China and the other landed in Japan, and
they compare notes after their observation is over, would these aliens conclude that
these two countries have the same economic system? If these two aliens landed in, say, 1955,
would the result be different? Like, if an animal quacks like a duck, walks
like a duck and looks like a duck, can it be a giraffe? To truly answer that ridiculous question we
gotta dig deep and look at the history of China, how it evolved over time, how we got
to where we are and what it looks like today. So let’s jump in, and talk about… Before we begin, there are a couple of things
I want to say. First, most of the stuff I will talk about
here I lifted from Chuang, which is a Chinese leftist collective/journal. Check them out because they’re really great,
especially since most of the stuff online about China is either Chinese government propaganda
or American government propaganda. So if you’re looking for information that
doesn’t come from either, go check it out. Second, the title of the video is sort of
a clickbait. I mean like, I’ll eventually answer the
question, but that’s not going to be the focus of this video. Rather, as I’ve said earlier, the focus
is more on the history and evolution of China. And I’m going to compress 70 years of history
in this video, so there are a lot of details that I won’t be covering because otherwise
this video will be like 400 hours long. So again, if you want to know more, check
out Chuang. Like seriously they’re really really good. Third, if you haven’t noticed, this video
is really long. So like grab some water and go pee now or
something. There will be a break later though. And also, because it’s really long, I’m
not going to do my usual schtick with tons of articles on screen, and do more like Shaun’s
or Three Arrows’ videos with articles interspersed between this screenshot of my desktop. The references will still be at the bottom
of the screen though. Fourth, I’ll be using a lot of acronyms
and a couple of Chinese words, so there should be a glossary in the description. I mean I don’t know if you’ll actually
need it, but just in case you can’t remember certain words and need to look it up, you
can just pause the video and scroll down. And finally, please be nice. I know you might disagree with what I have
to say, but like, just chill. I’m not one of those confrontational acerbic
debate bros, so just like, don’t be a dick, yeah? If you think I’m wrong somewhere, comment
down below with complete citation and just like, y’know, chill. Also, if you’re a Chinese intelligence agent
who happens to come by this video…just…y’know don’t hurt me, I guess? I swear I mean no harm to anyone. Alright, with that out of the way, let’s
really start. Let me tell you a story my dad used to tell
me when I was a little kid. My grandfather was in the army. He was some sort of a commander who would
end up fighting the Japanese at the end of World War 2. But this story happened before that, during
the Japanese occupation of the country. The story goes, one night, one of his underlings
told him the Japanese were about to raid his house because they found out he was conspiring
against them, which was absolutely true. He was working for the liberation of the country. And so, he told his wife, my grandmother,
to leave the house. Then, he grabbed one of those big ass Rambo
style machine gun and a bandolier with dozens of hand grenades. And let me reiterate, this is not my story,
this is my dad’s story. Anyways, with a machine gun in hand and grenades
slung all around his body, he made his way to a room in the middle of the house. He was prepared to fight to the death with
guns a blazin’ if necessary. He waited a couple of minutes and then he
started to hear quiet footsteps from afar. The footsteps got louder and louder, and suddenly,
the door flung open, but he didn’t fire. But neither did they. Everything stayed quiet. A Japanese soldier entered the room, looked
around and then left. Are you confused? It is at this point that my dad would reveal
the twist. For you see, my grandfather was wearing an
amulet that made him invisible. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t
think that story actually happened. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Japan did invade
Southeast Asia in the 1940s but my dad’s story is most definitely not what happened. But he’s not lying, he’s telling a story
with a certain narrative in his mind. One that is designed to make my grandfather
seems almost magical, if you will. This kind of narrative building is part of
our human nature. But sometimes it obscures the reality of the
situation, often leading us to the wrong conclusion. But enough foreshadowing, let’s go back
to the history of Asia. Both of my grandfathers did fight Japan, that
much is true. Japan invaded the whole Southeast Asia under
the pretense of freeing us from European colonialism. But of course, they only wanted to replace
it with their own colonialism, and establish what they called “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity
Sphere”, essentially a hierarchical system with them at the top. Now, if we want to understand China, this
is where we have to start. While Japan’s imperial ambitions started
with the occupation of the Korean peninsula in 1910, for our purposes, we’ll jump straight
to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. See, at the dawn of the 20th century, Japan
was able to industrialize rapidly and transformed itself into a capitalist powerhouse. Along with this, a fervent militarism developed
and fascist/hyper-nationalistic politicians were able to take power. And just like other capitalist countries,
Japan eventually hit an economic crisis of declining profitability due to rising wages
and market saturation. This was exactly what happened in the west
in the 1970s, which resulted in neoliberalism, but here, due to Japan’s colonial, militaristic
and fascistic policies, they decided to invade Manchuria instead, build a new industrial
base and forcefully open a new market there. Essentially, this expansion was an attempt
to reduce labor costs and expand their market. But this also meant that Japan invested heavily
in Manchuria, building factories and infrastructure, exporting capital goods (that is, goods that
are used to produce other goods), and establish industrial structure in the region. They did it to exploit cheap Chinese workers
using a feudal-ish labor structure, and combined, the industrial production in these areas were
twice as much as the entirety of China’s pre-war industry, mostly driven by the war-time
production. After Japan lost the war, the region was returned
to China, but it was to the hands of Guomindang (GMD). See, before the invasion, China was stricken
by a civil war between the nationalist GMD and the Communist Party of China (CPC), but
only GMD was recognized by the world, due to, y’know, the whole communism thing. So after World War 2, Manchuria was handed
over to the GMD, who promptly lost the civil war and Manchuria was eventually handed to
CPC. But, after the invasion of Japan and the civil
war, much of the Chinese economy was obliterated. With the American invasion of mainland East
Asia seeming to loom over the horizon, CPC’s first priority was to rebuild the industrial
base of China. But there were a couple of problems. First, the only existing heavy industrial
production facilities were located in the Northeastern region, where Manchuria is, built
by Japan and inherited from GMD. The problem was that there was no infrastructure
connecting Manchuria to the rest of China, making it impossible for goods to flow south. Second, even if there was infrastructure connecting
Manchuria, they still needed technical assistance to operate the machinery and establish the
bureaucracy required to manage these factories. Third, even before the war, China was mostly
a rural country, with decentralized production of goods spread over a large area in the countryside. On top of that, most of the economy, outside
of Manchuria, was made up of self-sufficient, localized and geographically dispersed artisans,
handicraftsmen and small farmers in rural areas, while the coastal cities had small
light industries that survived the war. China would need to unify all of these disparate
regions if it were to industrialize. Fourth, industrialization requires boatloads
of grain to feed the people building all the stuff. After the war, grain production was barely
able to feed the population itself, so agricultural production would need to increase, but without
increasing the number of farmers since labor was needed to build the industrial base. That’s only ever possible if agriculture
is modernized and mechanized, which won’t happen until the 1970s in China, but we’ll
get to that later. All of these meant that the state had to refocus
its development efforts in urban areas, where industries could actually be established. As Mao Zedong himself said in March, 1949,
“the center of gravity of the Party’s work has shifted from the village to the city”. He needed to stitch together a national economy,
connecting urban areas with each other and with rural areas. One that lined up with the goals of communism,
and, due to his Marxist-Leninist heritage, this was to be accomplished through central
planning. This meant that industries in coastal cities
would have to be seized by the state. Well, that was the theory, in reality the
central state couldn’t just seize them. Unlike with land appropriation from landlords,
they’d need to rebuild the necessary bureaucracy and management from the ground up, and there
was not enough manpower in the Party for that. Essentially, they had to keep the pre-existing
capitalist structure in urban areas for a little bit longer. So the state came up with a two-pronged approach
to get the industries running again: Sino-Russian friendship for fixed capital and technicians,
and capitalist appeasement in urban areas. The first one involved $300 million loan from
the USSR to rebuild the heavy industrial base in Manchuria. On top of that, the USSR also sent technicians
to get the production up and running as fast as possible and train Chinese engineers. The second approach essentially boiled down
to utilizing the elements of capitalism the Party thought were beneficial and not harmful
to the national economy. In other words, they wanted to control and
not eliminate capitalism, at least for now. See, after the civil war, in many southern
port cities, private owners and non-state managers remained present, using their technical
skills and access to foreign credit in exchange for favorable treatment by the party. It made sense then for the Party to utilize
them to get the industries running back up. In fact, “by 1953 approximately 80 percent
of the managerial personnel were of bourgeois background and 37 percent of these were pre-1949
graduates, returned overseas Chinese students, or factory owners.” While some parts of capitalism were allowed,
the government reigned in on the volatility of the market. The only stock exchange in Shanghai was closed
down and all government funds were concentrated in the state banks. But this ended up slowing down production
and the closure of about 10% of all commercial establishment. In response, the government provided a massive
stimulus, which, coupled with the Korean war, were able to jump start production again. Now, if you think this looks like capitalism
starting up again, well you’re not alone. By the early 1950s, the coastal factory workers
were not happy with the capitalist-esque development, and worried that this would lead to China
transitioning to capitalism. So the state responded to this dissatisfaction
by increasing wages and creating mass organizations, including new unions and a national Labor
Board to provide less disruptive means to solve workplace grievances. Finally, after higher wages and other concessions
could no longer be given, the Party responded with the “Democratic Reform Movement”. That reform movement took the form of mobilizing
millions of workers to denounce their employers, which provided catharsis for the workers. But the mass mobilization ended up disrupting
production. Obviously, if you’re being mobilized all
day to attack your employers, nothing will get done, hence disrupting the production. The campaign also resulted in many private
enterprises closing down, effectively crippling the influence of private capital in China. But what the state feared the most was that
it also set a precedent for giving workers power over their managers and enterprise owners,
which they did not want. Fearing demands of seizures of enterprises
by workers, the state began rolling back the reform movement. So capital lost power and the economy was
reoriented around the state. It became central to production, and they
were able to create a commercial infrastructure to replace the privately-owned market. State retail stores and corporations increased
massively between 1950 and 1952. Rural production and marketing were connected
to urban consumers’ coops, state stores and other coops. Essentially, they succeeded in creating a
single “socialist commercial network”. Now, let me ask you this. Have you heard all of these before? If you live in the west, you probably didn’t
realize how the Chinese economy actually functioned under Mao. You’ve probably been told that Mao was an
authoritarian or even a totalitarian, but that’s not exactly correct. The government, at that time, was pretty responsive
to people’s demands, especially the urbanites. In fact, this whole thing was widely accepted
among the workers, despite disappointment and agitations here and there. Most workers actually limited their attacks
to the enterprises and managers themselves instead of the state. So, just like my dad’s story, the narratives
about China created by western governments and the media were made to sell you certain
points of view. But instead of making my grandpa seemed like
a cool dude, these narratives only serve the interests of capital, making it seem like
this era of socialism was a failure. But this goes both ways too, because the modern
Chinese government narrative about the era isn’t accurate either. It makes it seem like what the government
did was solely driven by ideology, while in reality, they had to contend with material
limitations and was mostly driven by the material conditions on the ground. And there was one especially important material
limitation they couldn’t fix. Namely, the agricultural production problem. The solution they came up with would end up
haunting China, even to this day. So let’s move on and talk about… Now if you go to my Twitter, my bio says that
I’m a “some-sort-of-socialist”. There are two reasons for this. First, I actually appreciate adroit alliterations. They’re totally, transcendentally thrilling
to think through. Second, I’m still unsure what metaphorical
toppings my socialism pizza should have. I believe in workers and communities owning
the means of production for use instead of for profit, but how that should be done, what
count as workers and communities, what means of production are, how can production for
use be stable etc etc, are a matter of debate. For example, Marxists-Leninist-Maoists (MLMs)
believe that a vanguard party or the state can be the representative of the people, and
as such, them owning the means of production still falls under socialism, though that usually
pertains more to industrial production. On the other hand, they believe land should
be owned collectively by the people who are using it. There are other metaphorical toppings for
MLM pizza, but this is enough for our purposes. The question, then, was China following their
own standards of socialism? Did they have socialist policies? Well see, what was supposed to happen, what
they wanted to do, was to collectivize agriculture and nationalize industry in stages, and it
kinda happened but it didn’t exactly cohere into a complete, consistent and reproducible
modes of production. Instead, a mish-mash of different modes of
production sort of organically developed by itself in certain areas, while other modes
were imposed on other regions by the central government, more so in the countryside. Alright, let’s start with the industries. The government aimed to nationalize production
in 5 stages. In the first stage, the so-called “bureaucratic
capital” and foreign enterprises were seized. In this instance, “bureaucratic capital”
consisted of the important industries necessary for development. So stuff like electricity, iron, steel, coal,
cement [zizek]. In the second stage, banks are nationalized. After the civil war, private banks were indeed
nationalized. 52% of all private banks were closed, and
the rest were consolidated into one national bank. The third stage, nationalizing private firms
and factories, was implemented by turning the enterprises into official joint enterprises
between the state and the private owner. Before, the state would contract them for
production, but now production was guided by state-planned targets and the ultimate
authority was transferred from investors and owners to the state. To soften backlash from the former owners
of these enterprises, the state reimbursed them at a fixed rate of interest out of future
revenue. The implementation of the third stage involved
three million private firms and factories, and directly affected seventy million people,
completely restructuring the industrial organization from the ground up, mostly in coastal cities,
where there were a lot of private enterprises. It was hoped that this nationalization would
stop China transitioning to capitalism, and it kinda worked for a little bit. The fourth stage was the formation of co-ops
for handicraftsmen and artisans in rural areas. It was implemented by encouraging small rural
businesses to first join co-ops called “supply and marketing co-operatives”, and then “producer
co-operatives”. These co-ops would see the handicraftsmen
pooling their labor together to obtain cheaper raw material, marketing their products, and
pooling their profits and collectively manage it. The produced goods were directly sold to the
state, essentially abolishing private merchants. After the first 4 stages were implemented,
the state became the sole driver of production through planning because the law of value
could not dictate investment, goods distribution and people’s movements anymore. See, to make an economy work, a complex system
of coordination is absolutely essential. In a market economy, that coordination comes
in the form of…well, the market itself. Private individuals buy and sell goods for
profit, which forms networks of trade and distribution that coordinate production. So during this era in China, money, wages,
profits and bank still ostensibly existed, but they only served as ways to plan and quantize
the economy and coordinate production, and capital accumulation was not the primary directive
of the economy. The state essentially had to replace a ginormous
private trade network with a planned one so goods can be distributed to make sure production
ran smoothly. However, if that sounds really difficult to
make it work smoothly, well you’re right. Perverse incentives led to wastes, inefficiencies
and corruption, where, for example, managers would inflate production numbers to satisfy
the central planners. The state tried to fix this by allowing the
workers to participate in planning and supervise production. It was thought that by including workers in
management, production numbers would actually increase so that the managers wouldn’t have
to inflate production numbers. But it didn’t really work. Workers and machinery still had to work to
their breaking point because the problem was poor equipment and lack of training, which
only investment can fix. Another side effect of central planning was
the ballooning of the number of party bureaucrats, because, again, managing a planned economic
system over a vast area was incredibly difficult and would be impossible without a shit ton
of people. This increase in bureaucrats was driven by
two competing methods of industrial organization developing in China: the Soviet model and
the East China model. To put it simply, the Soviet model favors
large-scale heavy industries managed by technicians, mostly Soviet or Soviet-trained Chinese, and
party members, with some input from the workers through workers’ councils, while the East
China model favors distributed production, wherein many small to medium-sized industries
supported a few large industries, with distribution between those enterprises managed by the local
party apparatus. These two organizational methods competed
with one another and ended up influencing and modifying each other, along with future
organizational methods. And as the name suggests, the East China model
was implemented in coastal cities, whereas the Soviet model was implemented mostly in
Manchuria. But having said all of that, from 1952-1957,
that developmental push was, well…developing the economy pretty nicely. From a baseline of abject poverty due to wars
and conflicts, China was able to vastly increase national income and industrial production. The groundwork for sustainable future growth
was also laid through massive investment in education and training, which led to rapid
mobility as farmers urbanized and students entered college. But after people’s income rose, so did inflation. To combat it, the state provided food and
basic necessities to urban workers. This was the start of danwei, or translated
as “work-unit” in English. It provided food and basic necessities to
workers, and functioned to reduce labor turnover, stave off inflation, and make workers directly
dependent on the central state’s allotments of resources rather than monetary wages. Danwei can be seen as an attempt by the state
to decommodify labor, and as such, its removal later would signal an economic transition. But we’ll get to that later. For now, just remember that it’s called
danwei and it means the provision of basic necessities to urban workers with stuff like
housing and food. If you forget later, it should be in the glossary
in the description. However, by 1957, there were unrest in coastal
cities. See, because the state invested heavily in
developing new industrial areas, already existing cities were left underfunded. On top of that, these cities’ industrial
outputs were mostly focused on light industries, such as textiles and consumer goods, while
the state was focused on developing heavy industries to further accelerate industrial
development. The workers in these areas also saw the benefits
they had wrested from factory owners over the past decade gradually stripped away, which
meant they had to deal with less workers’ management, long working hours and falling
wages, though some of the falling wages were offset by danwei. Meanwhile, management and bureaucracy expanded
greatly, which was seen by workers as unproductive. Workers’ anger, especially young and migrant
workers, spilled onto the streets as strikes became widespread. This led the government to launch “Hundred
Flowers” campaign, where workers were allowed to air their grievances against the state
and the management. But when the demands became untenable and
workers started to echo the Hungarian rebellion of 1956, the government turned around, repressed
the strikes and rolled back the campaign. People who were too harshly critical of the
state was severely punished, and, due to the divisions among the workers, a seed of yet
another revolution was quashed. The thing is though, the government couldn’t
actually fulfill all of the workers’ demands because there was a structural economic problem
underneath all of this mess. See, this type of planned economy required
a gigantic number of bureaucrats, which drained the resources out of the state’s budget. On top of that, focusing on industrial development
meant that most investment would have to be funneled to either building those industries,
or other infrastructure required to build those same industries, instead of being used
to increase wages for example. This actually led to over-investment which
caused a bottleneck in production and caused shortages. On top of on top of that, there was a massive
migration from the countryside to the cities, so China had a lot of pissed off workers the
government had to appease or, more realistically, repress. The problems in the urban areas would eventually
converge with the problems in the rural areas, so let’s shift gears and talk about the
rural areas. Simply put, the state policies resulted in
the destruction of the previous modes of production in the countryside. Many small handicraft industries that had
been existing for hundreds of years were wiped out because the goods they were producing
could not be sold on the market anymore as it was dismantled by the state. Trade networks that had existed for centuries
were destroyed and the state couldn’t replace them completely. This essentially pushed many former handicraftsmen
and artisans into agriculture work or migrate to the cities. See, the state wanted to boost agricultural
output, so rural production was collectivized, and this was to be done in 4 stages. In the first stage, mutual aid teams of 6
or more households were formed with the aim of assisting production on individual farms. This usually amounted to sharing work animals,
utilities and other scarce resources, and was largely a local and voluntary response
after the landlord class was abolished. In the second stage, most mutual aid teams
were consolidated into “lower agricultural producers’ cooperatives”, consisting of
groups of about 20 households. It’s important to note that this wasn’t
forced on the peasants. Rather, the government used financial credit
and technical aid as incentives to join. By 1956, 98% of rural households were members
of the cooperatives. Anyways, at this point, agricultural output
was growing, but slower than expected. There were two factions with two different
ideas on what to do next. The majority of the CPC Central Committee
seemed to favor slower collectivization, and were worried that things would be disorderly
if cooperatives expanded too rapidly. Mao Zedong, on the other hand, favored rapid
collectivization. There were two reasons for this. First, to develop industries, the government
needed to feed the people building said industries, which required the extraction of grain surplus
from the rural areas. With a growing urban population and thus a
growing grain requirement, the government needed to modernize agriculture, but there
was a problem. See, much of the Chinese countryside lacked
the necessary infrastructure to support modern agriculture. Roads, rails, electricity, [zizek] did not
exist in many areas in rural China, so heavy industries were needed to develop them. But to build those heavy industries, you need
people supported by modernized agriculture, so they were caught in a catch-22. Mao believed that accelerating industrial
development would enable them to break through that catch-22. Second, this was around the time the Sino-Soviet
relations were deteriorating, which meant that China was getting less assistance from
the USSR. But more than that, it also meant China had
to beef up its military, which required industrial expansion, just in case a war breaks out,
either with the USSR or the US. But Mao was able to push the policies through
the government, and from 1956 to 1957, the third stage of rural collectivization was
implemented. The “lower-stage producers’ cooperatives”
were turned into collectives, in which individual households gave up their ownership of land,
livestock and agricultural implements to collectives of between 40-200 households. Essentially, this was done to increase the
amount of grain surplus the state could wring out of the peasants so it could accelerate
industrial development. The government also started to implement the
hukou registration system. Hukou is a residency registration system that
essentially locks people into either rural or urban areas. Its main purpose is to control rural-to-urban
migration since rural hukou holders cannot migrate to the cities without authorization
and don’t get the same social services offered to people with urban hukou. Note that I’m using the present tense here. This, along with danwei, will be really important
later, so let’s put that in our glossary. Remember, hukou is a residency registration
system, and an individual can either hold rural hukou or urban hukou. So this is where the urban and rural problems
converged. Remember, there were unrests in urban areas
and over-investment led to a production bottleneck. To escape the bottleneck, they wanted to accelerate
industrial development even further, while at the same time meeting some of the urban
workers’ demands. Both of these required an increase in grain
extraction from rural areas. And so, the state enacted the Great Leap Forward,
or GLF for short, which was aimed at accelerating industrial development by decentralizing production
and increasing grain surplus extraction by building rural agricultural infrastructure. It’s an important acronym so it should be
in the glossary. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of GLF. It caused a famine that killed between 15-45
million people in 3 years, a significant number of people in such a short time. What happened? See, after the third stage of collectivization,
even larger communes sprung up locally and organically in many rural areas. Whereas the third stage collectivization units
consisted of between 40-200 households, these communes encompassed a whole town and its
surrounding villages, with tens of thousands of members. Originally, these communes were not planned
centrally, but rather arose as a response to local conditions and the need to deploy
large scale labor force to build massive agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation and reservoirs,
which was necessary for increasing productivity. After seeing this, the central government
adopted the practice and spread it to the rest of China. They also set up Commune and Brigade Enterprises
(CBEs), which were essentially big collective co-ops spanning many villages with thousands
of people consolidated from many smaller co-ops. CBEs will be quite important later on in our
story, so it should be in the glossary. These communes were portrayed as a quick way
to communism, as stated by the Central Committee, “The realization of communism in our country
is not far off. We should actively exploit the People’s
Commune model and discover the concrete means by which to make the transition to communism.” But here’s a problem. These communes were established to build large
scale infrastructure projects and develop rural industries. And they did exactly that. Around 100 million peasants were moved from
agricultural work to building rural infrastructure and industrial projects. I mean imagine a third of America, all of
whom are farmers, suddenly stop working on agriculture and do something else. You see the problem now, right? fewer agricultural
workers led to decreasing grain production which led to the famine. But even then, the worst of the famine wouldn’t
have been so catastrophic had the government just like, chilled the fuck out a little bit. See, when the government collectivized land
in the fourth stage, they really collectivized it. Before the fourth stage, peasants actually
had small private plots of land that could be used as a buffer against bad harvest, but
the Party put that under the control of the collective. And worse, many communes and their production
were controlled by people whose main goal was to appease the central government instead
of the local people, which led to over-extraction. This was unlike the earlier stages of collectivization,
where peasants’ collectives at the village level had control over their land. What’s left of the private market for grain
and agricultural goods completely disappeared, replaced with communal dining halls, with
some offering free food. These dining halls and the large size of the
communes made it almost impossible for peasants to see how their labor affected their own
subsistence, and thus led to the breakdown of accounting and remuneration system. All of these led to crop yields reduction
in 1959 and famine began to ravage the countryside, which drove peasants out of the rural areas. Sidenote, there’s an article written by
Twitter user ICE must be destroyed (nice name)/FrightfulHobgoblin/itmechr3, focusing more deeply on GLF and the peasantry. I highly recommend it if you wanna know more
about the dynamics between the governments, whether local or central governments, and
the peasants. What’s surprising to me is the fact that
the peasants didn’t revolt against the Party this time, even though it was mostly the peasants
that manned the communist revolution. It’s a great read, really in-depth. Alright, let’s talk about GLF policies in
urban areas. I don’t know if you noticed, but earlier
I said nationalization was to be done in 5 stages, and yet I’ve only described 4. Well, like in rural areas, the fifth stage
of nationalization is the establishment of urban communes. This entailed extending danwei provisions
by, for example, setting up tens of thousands of dining rooms to serve meals to millions
of people. On top of that “approximately 50,000 nurseries
provided accommodations for some 1.46 million children,” and, “in the beginning of March,
1960, there were 55,000 service centers rendering assistance to approximately 450,000 people.” These service centers provided “laundry,
tailoring, repairing, hairdressing, bathing, house-cleaning and health-protecting services.” Essentially, housework was socialized, which
freed up women workers for production. To appease restive workers, CPC forced the
supervisors and party cadres to participate in manual labor, and gave workers some voice
in management. Migrant and new urban workers were incorporated
into regular employment with access to danwei benefits. Extending danwei also meant they had to build
new housing, and new medical and educational facilities, but this strained the state’s
resources, which necessitated more grain extraction. But the most important thing GLF did in urban
areas was the decentralization of industrial governance. Control of some industries was shifted down
to more local levels, like to the city. Targets from the central government were not
absolute anymore. Instead, local authorities were allowed to
set, and even speculate, their own output targets, though the bulk of their profit still
had to be sent to the central government. Nonetheless, that little bit of profit incentivized
local leaders to compete against one another, ramp up production, and sometimes, even over-report
actual production numbers. The decentralization also allowed enterprises
to recruit from society directly. Before, recruitment was controlled by the
central government, who had complete authority over labor allocation. This led to a boom of the urban population,
mostly migrants from rural areas. In the span of several months, beginning in
1958, around three million peasants migrated to urban areas, starving the countryside of
much needed agricultural labor. But, while GLF urban policies were effective
at appeasing workers, output target speculations eventually led to an economic crisis. Without a reliable way to quantify production,
investment became unstable and production was disrupted. This was made worse by the chaotic nature
of the decentralization as different segments of local authorities competed for control
over the new industries. Essentially, the central state had lost control,
and with a famine ravaging the countryside, they had to do something and reign in the
chaos. Before we move on to the government’s response
to this mess, let’s ask ourselves, was this socialism? I mean, one thing for certain is that this
wasn’t capitalism because capital accumulation couldn’t happen. Instead, it was a mishmash of different modes
of production, usually unstable and kept changing over short periods of time. Different regions would have multitudes of
different modes of production, and a region could have 2 different modes of production
in different time periods. You can argue it was tending towards some
sort of socialism, but it was never completed. The only driving force behind the economy
was the push for development. To quote Chuang, “China between the 1950s
and 1970s was neither a replication of Russian socialism, nor was it “state capitalist,”
nor was it simply a process of government-facilitated, proto-capitalist original accumulation as
in the other developmental states of the region, nor was it a continuation of some age-old
“oriental despotism.” It was also not a period in which lingering
tendencies toward capitalism wrestled with nascent tendencies toward communism in a situation
of “two-line struggle,” requiring a “permanent revolution” to complete, as certain factions
within the Party would argue. It was an uneven, constantly changing regime
of development cobbled together from inconsistent elements. Its only true unifying factor was the developmental
push itself, founded on the siphoning of grain surplus from countryside to city.” As we go forward in time, it’ll become clear
that China’s economic evolution was never intentionally planned. There was no grand plan put forth by its leadership,
no coherent strategy that would’ve led China to one economic system, whatever it may be. Decisions were made due to historical inertia
on one hand, the momentum of masses of people on the other, and material limitations on
the other other hand. Essentially, the China that we know today
is the result of cobbled together haphazard and contingent policies, with chaotic transitions
mixed in every now and then. Speaking of which… Let’s take a break real quick, yeah? Grab some water or something, we’re like
halfway there. You can pause the video if you want, but I’m
just gonna ramble for a minute before we continue on. So uh…you like chicken? Here’s a chicken who roams around my neighborhood. It’s really goddamn aggressive and it’s
just so mean. Like if I walk too close to it, the thing
would just chase me and shit. I guess it used to be a dinosaur or something
so the angry genes are still there. Y’know what’s interesting about chicken
though? Chickens, and really all birds in general,
actually evolved feathers before they could fly. I mean just look at dinosaurs, they had feathers
too. Feathers were actually used for heat regulation
at first, but when some birds evolved to fly, this already existing structure really helped
them master the skies. it’s a phenomenon called exaptation, in which an evolved trait
used for one function ended up beneficial for other functions unrelated to the first
one. Pretty interesting, right? Now, why did I tell you this? Idk, maybe it’ll be relevant later, we’ll
see. Anyways, breaks over, let’s recap. Unrest in urban areas, caused by a structural
problem within the Chinese economy, led the government to accelerate industrial development,
which led to the over-extraction of grain from the countryside. Due to the governance structure of rural areas,
peasants and local authorities were not able to control the flow of grain, nor were they
able to see how their labor affected grain production, which contributed to the problem
of over-extraction. Infrastructure and industrial projects mobilized
hundreds of millions of agricultural workers, significantly reducing the available labor
for agriculture, which led to the problem of food under-production. As grain was siphoned off of the countryside
to cities, a famine started which would end up killing tens of millions of people. This led to even more people fleeing the countryside
to urban areas, worsening the agricultural labor situation. While this was happening, decentralization
had caused a crisis of over-speculation in urban areas, disrupting investment and industrial
production. So, I think it’s fair to say GLF was an
abject failure. Its goal of accelerating development did not
materialize, and Chuang argues this was the starting point in what would become the collapse
of the communist project in China, and thus starting its transition into capitalism. Through the famine, the government began to
lose their popular mandate among the peasantry. And “As its popular mandate was lost, the
communist project was torn up at the roots to feed the developmental regime. The opposing potentials that arose did so
within the Party, becoming factional conflicts and, later, purges. If the first step in the dissolution of the
communist project was its absorption into the body of the [CPC], the second step was
the purification of this body in the name of securing development.” But first things first, the government had
to fix the famine and the crisis. First, basic necessities were rationed for
obvious reasons, and resources were funneled back to the countryside. Additional food was bought from the international
markets, while domestically, limited grain markets were reopened with the hope of increasing
food supply. Agricultural production management was devolved
back down to the village level from the commune level, though it was still collectivized. Most of rural economic activities were dropped
in favor of agriculture, which closed down most CBEs. Agricultural remuneration system kept changing,
as the government experimented with many different types of compensation systems to increase
production until it settled on household contract system. This system contracted grain production to
groups of households, and sometimes even individual households, with specific quotas attached
which were exchanged for cash and workpoints. By 1962, agricultural production slowly began
to grow again, though it remained not mechanized and investment remained low. Sidenote, as I was editing this, I realized
I never actually defined what workpoints are, so I’m just going to do it here. I mean the name is descriptive enough, but
essentially they were used to track how much labor a person has done over a period of time. The workpoints can then be traded for cash,
grain or other products. It’s like money, but you can only trade
it with the government. Or like those tickets you get from the arcade. In urban areas, control over the industries
was recentralized, while danwei provisions were reduced. That last part meant that welfare was reduced,
workday was limited to 8 hours and the wage system was restored to how it was before the
GLF, among other things. And though ostensibly called recentralization,
it wasn’t exactly a complete centralization. Management over the economy didn’t actually
go back to the central government, but rather to the provincial level, which is the equivalent
to states in the US. During GLF, decentralization led to power
shifting chaotically all over the place, including to the city level, the county level, the district
level, etc. In this case, then, recentralization meant
that the management over the economy was middle heavy, with provincial governments holding
the most power in how to manage the economy, while the central government just set the
targets. And to this day, it’s still more or less
like this. Next, the government needed to stem the tide
of migrants fleeing rural areas, so the hukou system was modified. Now, peasants can’t move to urban areas
without proper authorization which was difficult to obtain, and even if they get it, they don’t
get the same danwei privileges as urban hukou holders. The industrial workforce was significantly
scaled back by sending literally tens of millions of people back to their villages in the countryside. And again, this was possible due to hukou
registration system. One important thing to note also is the fact
that hukou status is heritable through the mother, meaning a child would have the same
hukou status of their mother. And like recentralization, to this very day,
the hukou system has more or less stayed the same and remains a central feature of class
division in China, but we’ll touch on it later. Facing the risk of stagnating productivity
due to a massive reduction in workforce, CPC leadership encouraged factory managers and
local officials to recruit back temporary workers. Y’know, the same workers that were just
deported, but this time, due to their rural hukou, with reduced wages, no danwei provisions
and could be sent back during the growing season. And, again because these workers had rural
hukou, they could be sent back at any time, effectively reducing the bargaining power
they had. By 1964, things had stabilized somewhat, allowing
the state to start a new investment drive. Around the same time, America was ramping
up its wars to contain communism and Sino-Soviet relations had completely broken down. Increasingly isolated, China became heavily
focused on self-sufficiency and started to invest in regions with geostrategic importance,
mostly in the interior, far from the coast or the China-USSR border. On top of that, after realizing agricultural
production wouldn’t increase without some sort of modernization, the state decided to
revive and expand CBEs and county-level state enterprises to produce modern agricultural
machinery along with cement, iron, and energy, but, y’know, gradually this time. At the same time, urban production became
increasingly militarized, especially post 1969 as conflict with the USSR seeming to
loom on the horizon and political power and day-to-day
managerial functions increasingly concentrated in the local Party branches. That last part would eventually ensure the
merge of the technical and the political class, as those who want to hold power were incentivized
to be both “red” and “expert”. Actually, this fusion, along with the rural-urban
divide, was how class would eventually come back to China, but we’ll get there later. Alright, at this point, I’m going to jump
to the 1970s. I’m going to skip the Cultural Revolution
because if I did this video will be like 4 hours long, so if you want to know more about
it, go read Chuang’s article “Sorghum and Steel” part 3 and 4. For our purposes, just know that the Cultural
Revolution was supposed to be a social movement to uproot the remaining Chinese capitalist
elements from the society, but it ended up with heavily suppressing the “ultra-left”
faction, whose ideas were similar to that of left-communism and anarchism. and that
the Cultural Revolution mostly happened in urban areas, and as such, it disrupted urban
production. Because of that disruption, cadres in some
villages near big cities retooled their CBEs production to serve neighboring urban markets
while the urban production was in chaos. On top of that, many workers and technicians,
who were punished for participating in the unrest, were sent down to the countryside,
which ended up helping develop these CBEs. More importantly, local branches of the People’s
Bank of China, the only bank back then, heavily lent to these CBEs, with lending to collective
industries increased as high as 75% in one year. It kinda starts to look like capitalism, doesn’t
it? I mean it’s not, but sure does look kinda
like it. Nonetheless, despite the growth, people’s
wages continued to stagnate. Surplus from that growth was funneled to the
relatively undeveloped interior parts of China to build industries and infrastructures in
investment drives, which sucked money out of the coastal cities. Though, it made sense why they picked the
interior. After all, it’s far from the China-USSR
land border, and far from the coast, where the US would have likely invaded from. And, due to stagnating wages and shrinking
welfare, coastal workers weren’t happy. In 1974, a new wave of industrial unrest swept
through urban areas, but, because the “ultra-left” faction of the populace was heavily suppressed
in the cultural revolution, the demands were mostly of liberal nature, demanding democratization
and marketization. The current regime, still Mao Zedong at that
time, was now explicitly named in the critiques due to his harsh treatment of dissidents,
his cult of personality, and the rising “new nobility” of the bureaucratic class. Interestingly, the protestors started to compare
China’s development with nearby capitalist countries such as South Korea and Japan, and
wondered why China lagged behind. Eventually, these protests would allow for
the ascendancy of the market-oriented leaders after Mao’s death by the ousting of his
faction out of the government. What’s worse, it became increasingly clear
that isolation was fundamentally unsustainable economically. Before, China could depend on the USSR for
capital goods, that is goods that are used to make other goods, but after the complete
breakdown of the China-USSR relations (which was teetering closer and closer to war), the
increasing demand for capital goods kept unfulfilled, which hampered development. Now what would you do if you’re the leader
in that situation? And let me remind you the USSR didn’t particularly
care for the US either, to say it mildly. Well, around the same time, seeing it as a
way to drive a wedge in the socialist sphere, Nixon tried to soften the US’s relationship
with China, which China saw as a way out of isolation and further development. And so, China started to open its market to
international capital. It started really slow. The first opening was via informal channels,
beginning with the exchange of ping-pong players. No, really, that’s how it started, which
was cool I guess, I mean ping-pong is really fun to watch, but whatever. This was followed by a series of secret meetings
between Zhou Enlai, China’s then-premier, and famed war criminal Henry Kissinger, who,
on an unrelated note, killed millions of people. By the end of 1971, the US embargo against
China was lifted, and the next year famed crook Richard Nixon and famed war criminal
Henry Kissinger both formally visited China, which marked the first time a sitting US president
visited the country. The meeting laid out the future policies in
the region, y’know, stuff like “the US isn’t seeking hegemony in the region”,
and “there’s only one China, the PRC. Huh? Taiwan? Never heard of it”. Domestically, the thawing of the relationship
was seen as an extremely limited program of liberalization aimed at solving the capital
goods problem. The leadership hoped it would preserve and
revitalize the developmental regime, and there was never any long-term plan for a transition
to a market-based economy, which was exactly what would eventually happen. Instead, everything just kinda fell into place,
with the rural industrialization through CBEs and the diplomatic opening converging with
the capitalist economic crisis of the 1970s, all of which would eventually lead to the
complete marketization of the Chinese economy. Okay, let’s unpack that last sentence. After Mao’s death in 1976, the paramount
leadership, which is like the highest political office in China…sort of, but it’s informal,
I don’t know it’s weird. Anyways, the paramount leadership was passed
to Hua Goufeng and then passed again to Deng Xiaoping in 1978. Now, I’m going to focus on Deng Xiaoping
because he’s much more important for this video. See, he was a market reformer and he did something
no Chinese leadership did before him, he significantly increased agricultural investments, and surprise
surprise, it finally led to growth in production. Interestingly, the growth occurred even as
the total sown area decreased, meaning that agricultural production per person was increasing
which then led to an increasing rural per capita income. But these investments only lasted a couple
of years because they were getting really expensive and contributed significantly to
state deficit. On top of that, the increasing rural income
also caused inflation, even in the cities. So by the early 1980s, state investment in
agriculture was cut, and investment was left to the local levels, specifically by shifting
production to contracting peasant households, who’d use their own profit for investments. This system is called Household Responsibility
System (HRS), put that in the glossary, and essentially the way it worked was that the
government would significantly reduce their quota and peasants could now sell whatever
they have left on the market at an unregulated price. So now, instead of the government eating all
of the profits and losses, it was now the farmers that did so. And as the agriculture was marketized, inequality
started to rise. Note that the intention was never marketization,
but rather to reduce state deficit and control inflation. It just kinda fell into place. This marketization of rural production was
matched by the decollectivization of rural administration. The institutional functions of the commune
were replaced by the township government and the brigade level was replaced with village
leadership. The land was ostensibly still owned by the
village collective, but individual farmers could produce what they wanted on it as long
as they filled the low quota set by the central govt, and even then, eventually they just
ignored the quota altogether because there was no strong collective system to enforce
it. By 1985, the government got rid of the quota
system for most agricultural products. As rural production increased, CBEs too started
to grow rapidly. Remember CBEs? The commune and brigade enterprises that were
set up during GLF? Well, as agricultural production was marketized,
the government called upon these enterprises to process the agricultural output, essentially
turning them into value-added goods. But more importantly, they also recommended
urban factories to outsource part of their component processing to CBEs, which formed
trade networks between rural and urban areas. Eventually, CBEs would be renamed to Township
and Village Enterprises (TVEs), and these TVEs would become the main suppliers of components
for urban state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Alright these two terms are mighty important,
so let’s put them in the glossary. Remember, TVE is Township and Village Enterprise,
which are enterprises converted from CBEs, mostly in rural areas, while SOE is state-owned
enterprise, mostly in urban areas. Around this time, the government also reoriented
the economy towards consumer-oriented growth and emphasized the light industry. As such, to drive that growth, investments
became decentralized. Now, anyone with cash could invest in some
TVEs, and, as these TVEs grew, they began to be more and more privately owned, as joint-stock
owners replaced commune or brigade ownership. TVEs also played a central role in China’s
re-integration into the global capitalist market, especially TVEs in the coastal regions. See, China didn’t open its market everywhere
at once. International capital could only operate in
Special Economic Zones (SEZs) at first, usually in coastal areas with proximity to the global
shipping lanes. Enterprises in these regions would then reoriented
their production towards export. For example, in Guangdong province, local
officials began reorienting local agriculture and rural industries toward export to Hong
Kong. Before long, Hong Kong began to invest in
these areas by supplying equipment in return for industrial products. TVEs in this region became so highly dependent
on Hong Kong’s economy that a recession in Hong Kong shook the area’s economy. I also want to note that in this time period,
most of the investments didn’t come from western countries directly, but rather from
the so-called Bamboo Network. The Bamboo Network formed when the Communist
revolution kicked out the bourg capital owners, who then fled to Taiwan and Hong Kong. When those places boomed economically because
America invested shitloads of money there, those capitalists became really wealthy. So when they needed to invest their money
in the 1970s, right around the time when investing in Hong Kong and Taiwan started to be unprofitable
and the global economy was shaken due to an oil crisis, it was serendipitous that China
was beginning to open itself to foreign capital. This meant they could park their money in
China in the hopes of continuing accumulation. These foreign-invested TVEs were deemed successful,
and in fact, this Guangdong model was promoted throughout China by Premier Zhao Ziyang. He emphasized that now production should be
thoroughly focused on foreign trade, and pushed for TVEs to play a more pronounced role in
China’s foreign trade precisely because of their flexible ownership and management
which allowed them to more readily adapt to market changes. And, by the late 1990s, most of these TVEs
were fully privatized and operated according to the capitalist imperative of accumulation. Do you remember when I talked about birds’
feathers and exaptation? Why does that sound so…relevant right now? Anyways, let’s talk about how the urban
areas were doing. Unlike other neoliberal market reforms in
places like Chile, the opening of China to the international capital didn’t involve
the privatization of state-owned enterprises, at least not initially. The output of the planned sector was, for
the most part, kept the same because the leadership still envisioned urban SOEs to be the backbone
of the Chinese economy. But, as the economy was reoriented towards
consumption, investment was slowly shifted from SOEs’ producer goods to TVEs’ consumer
goods, housing, and services, which led to a significant decline in the importance of
SOEs over the 1980s. This would’ve caused urban unemployment
because most urbanites were employed by SOEs, but the government eliminated the state’s
commercial monopoly, allowing for a massive expansion and diversification of trading and
retail collectives, along with urban private peddlers, which employed millions of people. This greatly expanded the role of the market,
even while large enterprises were ostensibly state-owned. And actually, SOEs became even more and more
dependent on the market and thus found themselves competing with other SOEs, as well as newly
formed TVEs and foreign firms. Competitions also meant that state investments
became increasingly reliant on firms’ own retained funds instead of centrally-budgeted
allocations, and profitability became the main decider on where to invest. So, let’s bring urban and rural areas together. I’ve already mentioned that SOEs would outsource
some of their production to rural TVEs, but their relationship went much deeper than that. Because value accumulation was now the main
incentive for production, SOE managers were driven to expand their enterprises. One way they could accomplish this was by
going to the countryside and build their own TVEs specifically tailored to produce what
they needed at a much lower price, and sometimes the TVEs would even just produce the whole
final product while letting the SOEs sell them to the market. In return, the township or village would receive
loans, equipment and technicians to train the TVE personnel, which in turn would increase
the area’s revenue and employ its people. And the economy was booming. These networks expanded so rapidly that people
just assumed it’d go on forever, growing infinitely without ever saturating the market. See, before this boom, demand exceeded supply
by a wide margin, and shortages were common. So it made sense that people didn’t expect
supply to eventually exceed demand, which was exactly what happened. The economy crashed, some TVEs and SOEs were
closed down, the rest were privatized, people lost their jobs and capital finally truly
ascended. Then, many institutions and enterprises established
in the name of socialism by the previous governments, like TVEs and SOEs, were morphed and reformed
to serve capital accumulation, and actually helped China transitioned into capitalism. These institutions and enterprises were exapted,
became a sort of scaffolding for the spread of capitalism. Hukou system became an essential tool for
controlling labor, and, with a relatively high human development index due to its socialist
healthcare and education policies which produced high quality labor that capital didn’t have
to pay for, China was able to outcompete other developing countries and became the juggernaut
that we know today. See? The chicken was relevant after all. And there’s one event that would solidify
capital’s ascendancy in China. An event in 1989 that solidified the ruling
class into a coherent political authority whose directives are indistinguishable from
that of capitalists. Before we jump into Tiananmen Square protests,
there’s one question we have to answer, and it’s a really basic question. What is capitalism? See, this is actually much harder to answer
than you think. Is the defining characteristic of capitalism
private property? Or is it market? Or both? I ask because these things existed before
capitalism arose in Europe, in places like the 14th-century middle east with traders
trading goods from China. But we wouldn’t call that capitalism, now
would we? Alright, what about the private control of
the means of production? That’s a lot better, but what’s the definition
of “private” here? Like, let’s say a dictatorial government
controls the day-to-day production of the economy. All of the profit made from that production
is funneled to the ruling class, and they decide to use that capital for more capital
accumulation. That’s still capitalism, right? Even if the government says they’re doing
it in the name of the people. See, this is why I like the definition of
capitalism that looks at the relationship between production, accumulation, and capital. In my humble opinion, capital accumulation
should be the very center when defining capitalism. It’s not merely that production is in the
hands of private owners, but also that their imperative is to accumulate even more capital
so that they don’t get smothered by the competitions. This means the flow of money and commodity
is largely driven by that imperative. In capitalism then, investments are made for
the sole purpose of getting even more capital in the future, embodied in either commodities
or cold hard cash. And from here, everything just falls into
place. Wage labor with garbage pay, exploitation,
inequality, hierarchical management, compounding growth, [zizek], all done in the name of accumulation. Capitalism is essentially a self-expanding
system that reforms anything outside of it, shapes them according to its imperatives,
and consumes them. Alright, I’m pretty sure all of this talk
about capitalism isn’t going to be relevant AT ALL, so let’s go back to the Tiananmen
Square protests. By the mid-1980s, marketization led to a small
but growing number of urbanites breaking out of danwei and jumping into the private sector
created by an expanding consumer market selling cheap goods produced by TVEs and migrant labor. As the marketization expands, SOEs, which
were the primary provider of the danwei system, became increasingly unable to compete with
the private market, straining the danwei system itself. Coupled with high inflation and bureaucratic
corruption, these factors led to urban dissatisfaction which would eventually explode in the 1989
Tiananmen Square protests. At first, from 1986-1987, it was only the
university students that protested, but that was easily suppressed by the government. Eventually, specifically in 1989, workers
were pissed off enough that they’d join the protests. But here’s the thing, these two groups didn’t
exactly see eye-to-eye on the issues. These students represented the rising class
of entrepreneurs and managers in the expanding market economy. I mean, they were university students for
a reason. The students were mostly critical of the way
that the reforms were being implemented, not the content of the reforms itself, and were
connected to a faction in the government led by Zhao Ziyang. They wanted the reform to move faster, be
better organized and more efficient, and feared corruption was going to weaken the reform. The workers, on the other hand, were critical
of the content of the market reform itself. They’ve lost out in the reform sweeping
China at the time, with socialist institutions like danwei dying, rampant inflation, and
stagnating SOE worker wages. Workers wanted the reform to be slowed down
or significantly redesigned, and they saw corruption as the emergence of a new form
of class inequality. On top of that, the workers and the students,
while both calling for democracy, had two very different ideas of what it should look
like. The students were more or less liberal in
their view of democracy, in that intellectuals and elites representing the people. And, weirdly enough, some students actually
wanted Zhao Ziyang to be a sort of dictatorship who’d implement market reforms, but like
Marxist and democratic…or something, I don’t know, it’s weird. Look up neoauthoritarianism. The workers meanwhile wanted democracy in
the sense of democracy in the workplace, similar to the demands of the workers decades prior
in China. These two factions did not like each other,
and it should be pretty obvious why, right? Their goals were diametrically opposed to
one another. In the beginning, the students controlled
the protests, and were able to organize a widespread boycott of university classes and
occupied Tiananmen Square, while workers were sidelined. Eventually though, they realized they couldn’t
accomplish much without the help of the workers, especially after martial law was declared,
so they called for workers to do a general strike, and the workers obliged. But even then, the workers were still acting
in a supporting role instead of at the front and center of the protests. I’m pretty sure you know the rest. The government deployed forces to quash the
protests, suppression followed and thousands were killed. But here’s the thing, workers were hit the
hardest in terms of prison sentences and executions in the days and weeks that followed, with
students getting more lenient sentences. Some of these students would even ended up
being absorbed by the Party, which means that they actually won, though it hella slow and
gradual. See, after 1989, the economic interests of
students and workers diverged even further. In the 1990s, new middle and entrepreneurial
classes emerged in China, mostly filled by the same students who protested. I mean, they became university students precisely
because it would allow them to benefit from the market reforms. Workers, meanwhile, were eventually laid-off
from SOEs, finally creating a proletariat dependent on wages living precariously within
the global manufacturing system. In the mid-1990s, workers and peasants protested
their living conditions, but the students, in general, did not support them. Why would they? They were actually successful in reshaping
China to their interests. The student protests, in a way, were a demand
for their incorporation into the ruling party. They were the new rich, highly-educated urbanites
and intellectuals who supported liberalization, privatization, and marketization. The difference between them and Deng Xiaoping
was that Deng was in power, and they were not. That and plus they wanted to accelerate liberalization,
which would benefit them immensely. And in a way, they got their wishes. The managerial class would eventually be fused
with the Party and crystallized into a coherent ruling class. See, there was this question among the Party
throughout the 1980s as to how much power and political leverage the private capitalist
should be allowed to hold because there were a large number of private capitalists who
stood entirely out of the Party’s control. But the Tiananmen Square protests made it
clear that there could be no tolerance for reforms that were out of the control of the
government. So an easy fix for that was to just absorb
those private capitalists into the organs of the Party by opening itself to managers,
intellectuals and the newly rich. And thus, a new bourgeoisie was born. This new bourgeoisie functions as the de-facto
management of the state’s economy with only one directive: growth at all costs, or else
risk China be outcompeted and falters. This means intense resource extraction (which
oftentimes paired with environmental destruction), lowering labor costs through any means necessary
(including workers repression) and developing high-tech production methods. To quote Chuang again, “The defining activity
of the bourgeoisie as a class…is the perpetual maintenance of the material community of capital. It is in this sense that the Chinese Communist
Party ultimately became a party of capital, acting as both the attendants of original
accumulation and the intraclass managerial organ for the domestic bourgeoisie.” And note that none of these were intentional. There was no person who conspired to turn
China capitalist or formed the bourgeois class. Rather, it just fell into place as the country
took the path of least resistance. The economy morphed slowly but surely, from
a mish-mash of arguable socialist modes of production into a definitely capitalist one. The ruling class formed out of an alliance
between the political and technical elite, which eventually led to their fusion in the
form of “red experts” or “red engineers”. As such, when large-scale privatization of
SOEs and TVEs occurred, the ownership of those enterprises oftentimes fell into the hands
of the party officials who managed them before, ostensibly under the authority of the “people”,
and this basically folded them into the ruling class. By the 1990s, these large-scale privatizations
were in full swing. Do you remember when I said TVEs were growing
rapidly? That was actually a bubble, fueled by massive
debts owned by a decentralized and out of control financial sector, and much of the
TVE sector was actually not productive at all. And when the debt could not be repaid, a recession
started, which saw consumption declined along with investment. The unemployment level increased, especially
in the countryside, which, serendipitously for capital, provided a large pool of labor. So when the bubble burst, the market reformist
faction, who was in power, recentralize the financial sector to bring it under the central
state control. The government consolidated the financial
sector and spun it off into “big four” banks: Industrial and Commercial Bank of China,
Agricultural Bank of China, Construction Bank and Bank of China. Don’t worry, these banks aren’t really
important for this video, so you don’t have to memorize them. For our purposes though, just know that these
banks tried to salvage all of the bad investments made during the bubble by doing some financial
magic shit, but failed and resulted in the Chinese financial system being really prone
to even larger speculative bubbles for the sake of maintaining investment. The TVEs in the countryside, meanwhile, were
either forced to close down or privatize. This meant that the dividends from the profit
of the enterprises, along with their ownership, were transferred from the village and township
itself into the hands of private individuals, usually the existing managers or non-local
capitalists. The hope was to make TVEs more responsive
to market forces, and be less restricted by nepotism, petty corruption, and collective
regulations. That last part, collective regulations, included
the requirements to employ local residents instead of cheaper migrants. So now, a labor market formed because enterprises
could hire and fire people at will. Alright, let’s talk about the urban areas
now. The state reformed SOEs with the aim of making
them globally competitive and open to foreign investment, though as minority owners. They did this by restructuring the SOEs from
a mess of disaggregated planning units into something more resembling modern corporations,
and consolidated many of them into a few large enterprises called jituan or “conglomerates”
in English. What arose is very similar to that of Korean
chaebol or Japanese zaibatsu, which are these gigantic conglomerations of companies that
make up most of their economies. Not all SOEs survived, however, as some were
forced to close down. With that restructuring also came the abolishment
of the danwei system. Now, SOEs employees wouldn’t get housing,
healthcare or food anymore, thus making them solely dependent on wages to survive. Many underperforming SOEs, mostly in the Northeast
region like Manchuria, which was where we started, were closed down or privatized, and
thus the workers were laid off, with most of them being older workers. But it wasn’t all bad for them. Now that enterprises didn’t have to house
their employees anymore, the housing units were sold off and the older laid-off workers
would buy most of them, who’d turn around and rented them out, essentially turning them
into landlords. The remaining workers were mostly migrants
from rural areas fleeing the economic downturn there. See, because they hold rural hukou, employers
can just deport them if they started to act out. Hukou, then, became an essential tool for
controlling labor, as it gave employers way more power in the relationship. It made it difficult for migrant workers to
strike or even ask for better pay. So hukou ended up becoming yet another policy
exapted from the socialist era that supported China’s transition to capitalism. Matter of fact, to this day, most people in
China still hold rural hukou, even if they live in urban areas. Class then arose out of this arrangement,
with rural hukou holders at the bottom. Before, urban hukou holders had danwei and
rural hukou holders had collective land as the alternative subsistence methods, but after
the reform, all of those things were abolished or privatized, and those who are not in the
ruling or capitalist class had to work for wages without any sort of alternative. The hukou system also allows the state to
divide the workers into several different groups, making collective actions harder to
accomplish. And thus, the proletarianization of China’s
working class was complete. With privatization in full swing, the state
then reoriented its economic policies. Now, GDP growth became the primary goal as
the economy grew ever more dependent on constant injections of gigantic investment packages
to continue said growth. Capital accumulation, also known as growth,
then became the prime imperative of the state, surpassing other considerations, with most
of the institutions and policies established during the socialist period gobbled up and
exapted to serve that ever-expanding system. Now, you might argue China was able to lift
hundreds of millions out of poverty, which is true. But so what? The question is whether China is socialist
or not. And I mean, if you’re using income as the
metric for poverty, then of course poverty was decreasing. The driving force behind capitalism is accumulation,
both of commodities and capital, which allowed for compounding growth. Income levels skyrocketed right around the
time the state reoriented its economy towards accumulation, which should tell you something. But should you use income as the end-all-be-all
metric, though? In a world with accelerating environmental
degradation, shouldn’t we at least use metrics that are best for, y’know, not destroying
the world? See, the strongest predictors of a country’s
CO2 emissions are affluence and population size, which correlates with GDP per capita,
which meant that the richer a country gets, the more CO2 it emits. But what if the metric was environmental conservation,
calories, education, and health? I’d argue capitalism, in all of its forms,
cannot deliver us good standards of living if we use that metric, especially relating
to environmental conservation, especially especially with growth at the center of it. I don’t know…just a thought. Alright, let’s jump to the 2000s. We really can’t talk about the decade if
we’re not going to talk about THE event. An event in the early 2000s that changed the
world and reshaped the relationships between countries in ways that we’ll see unfold
in the next hundreds of years. I’m of course talking about Yao Ming’s
draft into the Houston Rockets. See, Yao Ming’s move to the NBA was not
just a symbol of the complete opening of China’s economy, but also their complete integration
into the global capitalist system. With rapidly increasing income, a bigger and
bigger portion of the Chinese population now has extra cash to spend. Obviously, being capitalists that they are,
western companies would like to get some of that sweet sweet yuan. Thus, they started to market their products
to the Chinese market. I mean hell, that’s what Marvel is doing. All of that stuff really started with Yao
Ming’s draft, which was essentially a really big marketing campaign to sell NBA products
to China. Now, that is not to say that that was the
sole purpose of drafting Yao Ming. From what I can gather, he was a pretty good
player. Not like a GOAT candidate or anything, but
pretty good. I’m just saying the stars aligned, if you
will, in that NBA could kill two birds with one stone by getting this dude. A good player and increasing Chinese market
share? They’d be really stupid to not take that
deal. A year before Yao Ming was drafted, China
finally joined World Trade Organization (WTO), making it easier to trade with other countries. Though China’s export sector was growing
in the previous years, it was around this time that the economy truly exploded. By this time, the Chinese economy has already
been definitively transformed into a capitalist one, with the private sector making up the
bulk of it, but with strong government control through the managers and financial instruments. As China was signing trade deals left and
right, investment from other countries started to pour in, eager to exploit the newly proletarianized
cheap labor. And the economy fucking skyrocketed like…uhh…like
a rocket. That explosive economic growth was mostly
driven by rural hukou labor. Essentially, before this whole shenanigans,
ruralites were underutilized in a capitalist sense. That is, their labor wasn’t creating surplus
value for the economy. Thus, there was a gigantic pool of cheap labor
with relatively high human development standards ready to be exploited by capital. Chinese transformative growth then, was driven
by that gigantic pool of labor finally being utilized to create surplus value. Of course, just like any other capitalist
country, the massive amount of investment, and y’know the fact that it’s a market,
would create its own boom and bust cycles, though the state control of the economy has
made these cycles less volatile and severe. See, what they would do when a recession is
about to hit is to spend an incredible amount of money through a massive government stimulus
program building construction projects and infrastructure, similar to what FDR did during
the New Deal. This essentially buffered the economy so that
it keeps on growing. On the other side of this stimulus though,
is a rising mountain of debt, not in the central government mind you, but local governments
and SOEs. This meant that the economy has to keep growing
indefinitely, or else risk not being able to pay the debts, and thus be forced to sell
off assets, lay workers off and other bad stuff, which would lead to massive unrest. That, and because, y’know, if they want
to make any profit the economy has to keep on growing. To pay back those debts, local rural government
sold the remaining collective land to developers, which oftentimes results in unrest. The thing though, the unrest wasn’t caused
by ruralites losing their means of production or subsistence (i.e. farming), most of them
actually live in the cities and don’t know how to farm, but, because they hold rural
hukou, they are supposed to get the money when their collective land was sold. Of course, because the profit motive is the
main driver, the local governments bought the land for really cheap and sold it for
exorbitant prices to the developers, and the ruralites have no say in the process. Thus, the unrest was caused by that discrepancy
in price. This capitalist expropriation completed the
decollectivization of rural areas, making wage labor the only way to subsist for ruralites. Now, what happens when the country runs out,
or nearly runs out of cheap rural hukou labor? Well, as wages rise, industrial production
becomes less competitive, essentially increasing the price of goods produced in China. Now, increased price would lead to lower demand
which eventually leads to slowing growth or even an economic contraction. If this happens, if China were to suddenly
become less competitive, well, let’s just say they’d be in a gigantic trouble. And wages have been going up since the 2010s
through increasing numbers of strikes, riots and other workers actions. While all of these collective actions have
resulted in increased wages, with the state acquiescing to the workers’ demands, those
wages can’t keep going up forever, and will eventually lead to high inflation, higher
prices, lower profit, or all of the above, which would be catastrophic for Chinese growth. Overall this has slowed GDP growth in China,
from an insane average of about 10% each year between 2000-2010 to around 6-7% since 2012. For every other country on earth, this is
still a respectable, if not great, growth rate. But for China, it signifies that the economy
is starting to crack. This is why China is trying to move up the
production ladder, so to speak. Instead of producing cheap low-tech labor-intensive
products, China is trying to expand to expensive high-tech goods to keep itself competitive
and continue the growth gravy train going. That’s why the 13th 5-year-plan, the most
recent one, really emphasizes the high-tech industry, and that’s why China’s manufacturing
sector is becoming a smaller and smaller part of the economy while the service sector is
growing. See, this results in two things. First, China is now looking for cheaper sources
of labor, hence the Belt and Road Initiative. If you didn’t know, the Belt and Road Initiative
(BRI) is an ongoing Chinese infrastructure project spanning the whole globe, along with
massive investments in hundreds of countries. The price tag for the project is around $4-8
trillion, which is just insane. What this does is essentially the same as
what western countries did to China, pouring in a massive amount of money so that unproductive
rural labor in those countries can be utilized to produce surplus value, except for China
this time. Essentially, China has to be a hegemonic power,
or else risk imploding by economic contraction. Now, you can argue whether this is a good
thing or not, but two things you cannot argue against are that China didn’t do this out
of the goodness of their hearts, and that China is essentially doing a neoliberalism
to other countries, but maybe nicer this time. Just like other investments, China is looking
for returns on those investments or control over certain strategic areas. Didn’t some famous bald guy say something
about how the export of capital is the highest form of capitalism or something like that? And how capital exportation is a form of imperialism? Something something imperialism the highest
form of something? Idk something to think about, I guess. Second, this is why China tries really REALLY
hard to keep its territory together, by all means if necessary. For example, Xinjiang is an important source
of natural resources in China, especially that sweet sweet oil and coal. Domestic reserves of strategic resources like
this would allow China to depend less on the international market, which can be both unstable
and expensive. Meanwhile, Hong Kong represents a financial
nexus in which investment flows through. Control over the island would ensure that
investments can and will continue. To maintain all of this sprawling
system, someone has to keep everything in check. This is where the current paramount leader
Xi Jinping comes in. Essentially, China needs a strongman leader
to keep everything together, willing to dish out violence when necessary and be vicious
to anyone threatening the project. See, this is precisely what’s happening
in Xinjiang. Now I’m not going to go too in-depth into
it because Chuang actually has a really really good article on the suppression of Uyghurs
and I highly recommend it, but there’s a couple of things I want to point out. First, yes, Uyghurs are being repressed. They face discrimination and fucked up policies
set by the central government. Second, repression really started after the
proliferation of capital in China. See, to dig up all that coal and oil, the
state needed to invest in infrastructure first. Instead of hiring the local people, the state
decided to incentivize Han Chinese to move to Xinjiang, and millions of them moved there. That investment led to inflation, and due
to discrimination, made life much harder for the native Uyghurs. Most high paying jobs are controlled by the
Han, while Uyghurs are left to do the low paying jobs. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that Uyghurs
are way more likely to live in poverty. More importantly, the reason why the government
didn’t hire the local people was because it feared separatism and didn’t want to
give them too much power. See, after the fall of the USSR, the whole
region of Central Asia was reopened after being cut off due to the Iron Curtain. People in Xinjiang were able to reconnect
with their neighboring countries and saw that they were more culturally connected with them
than the central state. In a sense, they rediscovered their own heritage
through cultural and religious exchanges with their neighbors, which added to the whole
separatist sentiment. The central government, on the other hand,
needs to crush that sentiment so they can control the area’s natural resources, hence
the repression. So you can see why there is discontent among
Uyghurs, right? This led to high strung racial tension, in
which violence was done by both sides, including mass killings. As a response, the central state implemented
draconian laws against the Uyghurs in 2014. Now, almost any crime involving an Uyghur
and a Han is deemed terrorism for the Uyghur, in a similar vein to America’s War on Terror. And if you’re wondering what the criteria
for being sent to re-education camps are, read this. Pause the video if you want. Now, don’t get me wrong, ethnic conflict
had been prevalent before 2014. What’s different this time is that now the
laws are racialized, in that being an Uyghur, especially a muslim-practicing Uyghur, while
not illegal by itself, carries a negative weight in the eye of the law, if you will,
tipping the scale against the Uyghurs. And the Uyghurs aren’t the only people being
suppressed. China is doing their hardest to keep Hong
Kong on a short leash. After the handover of the city in 1999, Hong
Kong has maintained its relative autonomy. But when a bill that would allow a person
in Hong Kong to be extradited to China almost passed through its legislative body, well…let’s
just say shit really hits the fan with protests and unrest. The protesters in Hong Kong have 5 demands:
the withdrawal of the extradition bill, retraction of the riot designation for the June 12th
protests, amnesty for arrested protesters, inquiry into police conduct, and implementation
of universal suffrage. Here’s the thing though, Carrie Lam, the
chief executive of Hong Kong, can’t actually fulfill any of those by herself. Her boss is the central government and it’s
up to them to grant that. And there’s no way in hell they’d meet
those demands. See, as I have said earlier, Hong Kong is
of high importance to China as it’s the main financial interface between China and
the outside world, at least it used to be. Now, cities such as Shanghai competed as that
interface. Nonetheless, Hong Kong is still an important
city for China. It funnels cash and credit from the bamboo
network and the west into China itself, and vice versa. So losing its grip on such an integral part
of the economy is just unacceptable for the government. Oh one more thing, these protests aren’t
monolithic. That douche who asked for Trump support? Yeah, he’s part of a minority of a minority. The movement is diverse and undeveloped, without
a single prevailing ideology in control. There are right-wingers, liberals and anti-authoritarian
leftists in the movement and they all fight for
different end goals. So no, you can’t generalize the protestors
because, besides the 5 demands, there’s not really a coherent goal uniting them all. If you want to learn more about the protests,
there’s a leftist Hong Kong collective called Lausan who runs a blog which I highly recommend. Alright, it’s also important to note that
the reason why China is trying so hard to keep its territories together goes way beyond
economic reasons. There’s a nationalist sentiment brewing
across the populace and the state itself, which legitimizes Xi’s action in Xinjiang
and Hong Kong under the banner of Chinese sovereignty…or something like that. This is usually paired with Han hegemony and
ethnic subsumption, but I’m not going to get into that so let’s just move on. Anyhoo, do you remember when I said China
is trying to move up the production ladder by becoming a high-tech manufacturer? Well, guess who else is currently the top
producer of high-tech goods and feel very much threatened by that? That’s right, it’s Greenland! Just kidding, it’s obviously America. If you look at it from this perspective, then
this whole trade war thing going on between America and China makes complete sense. On the one hand, China is facing its own profitability
crisis, with increasing wages eating up said profit and a need to move up the production
ladder. On the other hand, America doesn’t like
competition and would like to be the world’s sole superpower, so… Stuck in the middle of this is Hong Kong. The city becomes a sort of proxy for this
21st century cold war, with America exerting its soft-power by supporting some protesters
on the ground and China deploying police forces to quash the protest. And actually, the rest of the world, especially
developing countries, are caught in the middle of this newly brewing cold war, with gigantic
amount of money in the form of investment promises being used to buy support by both
sides Chinese investments don’t only come from
the government either. After finding themselves with shitloads of
money, Chinese companies have now invested or straight-up owned other companies, western
or otherwise, integrating them even further into the global capitalist economy. In a way, this is also done to solidify Chinese
hegemony, since there’s no clear line dividing the Chinese government and Chinese companies. I mean, just recently, China flexed its muscles
and was able to make Activision-Blizzard, a full-blown western capitalist company, bent
its knees. This is the kind of power China seeks to expand,
utilizing capitalism’s own weaknesses for its own benefit. And this period really started with the draft
of Yao Ming some dozens of years ago. This is the future we all will face. Stuck between two states trying to stave off
their own demise by extending their power as far away as possible. Growth will eventually meet its own limitations,
where accumulation is no longer possible, whether due to rising energy cost, technological
stagnation, complete environmental destruction, or all of the above, or something else. And we’re barreling towards that, with two
hegemonies duking it out on the global stage. If it feels like the last gasp of a dying
economic system trying to claw its way out of the grave, well that’s because it is. After all, infinite growth on a finite planet
is just infinitely stupid. So, what now? So what does the future hold? Believe it or not, there’s a strong current
of right-wing fuckery growing in China right now, just like everywhere else on earth. Young Chinese people are being pulled more
and more towards the right. While, yes, there have been true marxist movements
in China supporting workers, they are always harshly opposed by the government. As such, the right-wing can recruit more readily. And it makes sense, right? I mean, for example, there were leftist students
who supported workers’ strikes, but they were disappeared by the government because
they threaten the growth gravy train, while right-wing fuckery doesn’t. In fact, right-wing ideologies support the
current Chinese imperative of infinite growth. So if you want to imagine how future Chinese
political landscape would be like, just look at literally any right-wing nationalist countries
whose policies emphasize strength over everything else. And I mean like…look at this *cop support
tweet* Now let’s talk real quick about all of those
investments China made around the world. See, there’s a reason why the IMF and the
World Bank impose austerity on developing nations. More money for the people means less money
for the creditors. So, while yeah, those Chinese investments
and loans are more forgiving in their terms, in the end, if they’re not profitable, what
do you think will happen? China is already taking ownership of the infrastructure
it built in developing countries when debts cannot be repaid. If that turns out to be unprofitable, then
what? Would China start to impose austerity measures
in other countries? If not, then how would it recoup all the losses? If they can’t, what do you think will happen? Do you think hundreds of billion dollar holes
can just be swept under the rug? Do you see where I’m coming from? Now, I’m not saying China will disintegrate
or anything (though to be honest, I don’t think our current concept of “countries”
will survive past the 2100s but that’s another video). What I’m saying is that China has been completely
subsumed by capital, and has to play by its rules. See, this is the trap that all capitalist
countries see themselves fall into. Do you remember when I mentioned how strikes
and such increased wages in China? Well, you have decreasing profits on one side,
and angry workers demanding wage increases on the other. Fixing one makes the other worse. America, and pretty much the rest of western
world, quote unquote “fixed” this problem with neoliberalism, exporting industrial production
to, ironically, China and destroying unions and workers ability to bargain. Japan never got out of this problem, and now
China is inching closer and closer to that point too. So now we have a country with 1 point something
billion people marching into a crisis (and I haven’t even mentioned the Chinese demographic
time bomb). Coupled with rapid environmental degradation,
it wouldn’t be surprising to see an existential crisis happening in China in the next, like
30 years. With right-wing fuckery growing in online
spaces among Chinese youth, well…let’s just say I don’t think it’s going to be
pretty. Alright, after all of this you might argue
“but China is building socialism”, which, okay, sure. But what policies are they enacting towards
building socialism? From my perspective, China is becoming more
and more capitalist, not less. What once was an extremely regulated financial
sector is now full of the same arcane financial instruments that are used in America. What once was a labor system that tried to
not commodify people now exploits them through wage. Now, the main economic imperative is capital
accumulation. Remember my dad’s story from the beginning? Just because someone tells you a story, doesn’t
mean that it’s the truth. The Chinese government can say they’re socialist,
or I guess Socialist with Chinese Characteristic, but what does that mean? Would a socialist government commodify their
workers? Would a socialist government export so much
capital to developing countries? Would a socialist government have capital
accumulation as its main imperative? After all, if an animal looks like a duck,
walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it might be a chicken, but it sure as hell
ain’t a giraffe.

33 comments on “Is China Socialist?

  1. Maupin won't like this.
    I guess if I had to play devil's advocate is that unless one can accumulate enough financial and political clout globally, any socialism where production is geared to use will be squashed or quarantined, which keeps capitalism safe. So, in theory, you're supposed to get to the top of the current system, crush the competition and then do a complete 180 and impose global socialism where all production is democratically owned and geared for use.
    In a way, you're damned if you don't play capitalism and you have an extremely high chance of being damned if you do.
    The system truly is insidious, and we may need a few hundred years before all predictable decent investment has been dried up.

  2. You forgotten about the dictatorship of the proletariat

    Both Mao, Deng & Xi has the dictatorship of the proletariat in China

    If they didn’t why Chinese billionaires getting arrested?

    Also China is fighting climate change, that why they planted so many trees and putting up solar panels

  3. This is an absolutely necessary explanation and conversation needed when people want to speak about China. Thank you. But, on a side note, your speaking is super quick with a TON of information to process (not a criticism of you. There's a hell of a lot of info to cover and it still took an hour, so I understand), so do you maybe have a transcript we could read at a more digestible pace?

  4. totally no sense. CHINA will break again (into seven parts). as when Manchuria rose, Ming Dynasity broke.
    Manchuria will reunite with Mongolia, Korea and part of far east of Russia. the new nation will be called "BOBO"

  5. holy crap, is China complicated to understand! thanks for the valuable info, the video and the shoutout! youtube walkout FTW!

  6. good video, but I’m looking through your references and i don’t see a link to Playboi Carti’s song “Yah Mean”. in the song he states “money sitting tall, Yao Ming” which of course is a allusion to china’s integration into the global capitalist market (which you mention in the video). You clearly got that info from the song, and it’s important to cite ALL your sources when making videos like these. Just bit of advice 😏

  7. China a victim of colonization by Japan is now colonizing Africa in the words of Harvey Dent "You die a hero or live long enough to become a villain"

  8. China is a capitalist country run by a communist one party government, that is why they are so economicly successful, millions or billions of dollars are not wasted changing the names of things in two party systems like America everytime their is a useless change of government, instead of firing useless people and creating a successful one party government 🙂

  9. Wow, that basically summed up a whole lot of a semester for me. Great detail and analysis!

    I always get real hung up about Clinton's role in getting China approved by the WTO.

  10. I think I see what you're saying — that although China started with a socialist revolution of planned economies and widespread welfare, its early instability led it to a sort of economic survivorship mentality, making a prioritization of internal growth; this slowly opened the gates for capital colonization in a process that later grew into privatization of these planned economies, and repealing or abuse of those established welfare laws, under the need to prolong economic growth. And of course, sustaining this inevitably means destabilizing more countries for the sake of privatizing them, perpetuating the imperialist cycle of capitalism. There's more fine details in how people are getting screwed, but I think that's the jist.

    I think this is where Anarcho-Communism gets its importance, in that beyond the sake of instigating revolution, writers like Krepotkin are very focused on building a revolution where the stabilizing element is providing for people, rather than an element of growth, especially now the way we've seen the ways that revolutions like China's have backslid. At any rate, I'd love to see similar deep dives into other revolutionized states like Vietnam, Cuba, etc and what their post-revolutionary histories are like.

  11. Sounds like they're just gonna become today's U.S. America within the next couple generations tbph. Because they sound similar to the USA of a couple generations ago. It really is wild how an economy that arrived to such a position through slavery (USA), ostensibly arriving "from the right", can be similar to China which arrived there "from the left" (the somewhat federated, shifting collectivised organs of eras past).

    Truly, neoliberalism is a malthusian trap from any direction and requires radical restructuring and strategic multi-national alliances, or complete isolationism, to avoid.

    If China could fall into this trap, I don't see why Vietnam or Sweden couldn't be next. :/ I'm not trying to be deterministic, though. China was under unique pressure to perform that countries that aren't superpowers may not face.

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