China is not Socialist: A Response to Ajit Singh

A disturbing new trend has emerged recently, the idea that China is socialist. While there have always been those poor in theory that have asserted that it is, this idea has begun to spread recently. I think there are two major contributing factors. The first is the ideological bankruptcy of first worldism. This degeneration in theory has opened the door to all kinds of nonsense including identity politics. First worldism is so desperate to cling onto its dying ideology that it will grasp at straws.

The second is a post on Telesur by Ajit Singh which claims that China today is socialist. The use of an anti-imperialist news source lends great credibility to the claim – even if it is completely wrong.

Singh insists that the Communist Party of China “continues to lead the country and maintains its commitment to socialism and Marxism.” This claim is wholly facetious. China is not only a capitalist country today, but it reverted to capitalism decades ago. Its turn towards reaction was even earlier with Mao’s reactionary Three World’s Theory (not to be confused with Third Worldism. This is a constant problem we face. China is not a socialist country, it has not been one for decades. Claiming that it is, does a great disservice to Marxism.

Singh’s article for Telesur which attempts to paint China as socialist is wholly without merit. In fact, the entire article can be seen as pre-supposing the very thing he’s trying to prove. He begins from the premise that China is socialist, he does not prove that China is socialist.

In Singh’s view, the market reforms of 1978 were not a turn towards capitalism. Evidently the promotion of private property, the elimination of public services including the “Iron Rice Bowl” is socialism. The dismantling of such lead to the Tiananmen Square riots in ’89. Although the situation was complex, people took to the streets demanding that the needs of the people be served once again. They demanded that the policies of old were returned. Perhaps he has some other view of these events which would negate these facts.

The meat of his claim is that China developed quite well, which is true. He also says “the commanding heights of the economy remain under public ownership and the firm control of the socialist state.” This doesn’t show that China is socialist. Even if we take him at his word (an exaggeration really), simple state ownership of something doesn’t make it socialist. By such logic, we’d conclude that Western Europe is socialist. Such is the anarcho-capitalist view.

He even continues with such nonsensical statements:

“If these reforms constituted the overthrow of socialism, one would expect to see a significant reduction in Chinese living standards. In Eastern Europe, capitalist counter-revolution led to the greatest population loss in modern history.”

The problem here is that an economic disaster is not proof of something being socialist or not. It merely means whether or not an economic disaster took place. In fact, one of the failures of the Great Leap Forward was a minor reduction in living standards as the policy failed. By his logic, we’d assume that it was capitalist. Another point he makes is that China is now the second largest economy in the world. Of what relevance is this in determining the mode of production? The US is the largest and it’s capitalist. By his logic, because of economic success, the USA is socialist. This is the line of thinking used.

(I’d like to make a side point here using his own logic. The Soviet Union was unaffected by the Great Depression, quite the opposite, it expanded. Then why was China damaged by the Great Recession if it’s socialist? The logic doesn’t follow, but it’s the kind of logic he uses with the economic expansion argument.)

He asserts that class struggle continues to this day because there’s:

“An annual list of China’s richest citizens is commonly called the “death list” or “kill pigs list” because those named often are later imprisoned. Capitalists also regularly get taken hostage by workers to win labor victories with police actively assisting workers.”

The contradiction here should be quite obvious: why are there capitalists in a supposedly socialist country? The whole point of socialism is the elimination of the capitalist mode of production, and the private accumulation of capital which continues to this day. In what view of socialism are there billionaires lording their wealth over the working class?

It is a fact that a middle class has emerged in China from the last ten years or so of development. In what view of socialism is there an increase in class when the objective is to eliminate classes? What kind of “socialism” creates more classes to conflict?

An important point to make: did Singh just not notice the mass repressions of workers striking during the 2008 Great Recession, and decades beforehand? Did these events simply not happen in his view?

Here is a perfect example of the circular reasoning he’s using:

President Xi Jinping has called for efforts to deepen understandings of Marxism, stating that “if we deviate from or abandon Marxism, our Party would lose its soul and direction … On the fundamental issue of upholding the guiding role of Marxism, we must maintain unswerving resolve, never wavering at any time or under any circumstances.”

We know he’s Marxist because he’s preserving the current Marxist order. And we know the current order is Marxist because they’re trying to preserve it. The logic does not follow.

The final point he tries to make to justify claiming that China is socialist is so-called solidarity with the third world. He claims that China is comitted to defending it: “…China works with nations in the Global South, providing beneficial alternatives to imperialism and promoting greater representation for developing countries in global governance.” Helping economically develop a country does not equate to socialism. Extracting oil from Africa to be used in the Chinese market, paying pennies on the dollar for it does not equate “solidarity”.

If China was truly interested in a socialist principal, why would it be siding against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with regards to its nuclear program? Why does China oppose the DPRK having a deterrent against invasion? Sure, they have said they won’t allow the US to conquer the DPRK, but why won’t they support a deterrent against it? Because it’s not about defending the DPRK, but about preventing a US-friendly regime from existing on their border.

China is expanding its influence around the world to counter US influence. What we see is two superpowers manoeuvring against each other. This does not equate to China being socialist. This is presupposing the very thing he’s trying to prove. Simply being against US foreign policy and influence does make you socialist, by that logic Russia is. By that logic, the struggle between the US and British empire is… well, one of them would supposedly be socialist in that case.

To finish this line of argumentation, a quote by Castro doesn’t prove anything. An opinion without argument is not an argument. I can quote Ronald Regan on communism, that doesn’t make him right.

Can we see China as socialist? Absolutely not. China is wholly capitalist. The capitalist mode of production is predicated on the private ownership of the means of production, with the goal of extracting surplus value by the owning class to carry out capital accumulation. Wage labour is prevalent insofar as it is dictated by the market for it.

Socialism does not produce commodities for exchange, they produce them for use. The socialist economy produces to fill a need in society, not produce for the act of exchange for profits as a goal. China’s status as the workshop of the world certainly contradicts this socialist principal. It literally produces mass amounts of goods to be sold in the imperialist countries for a profit, not to fulfil a need.

Singh is completely wrong in his claim that China is revolutionary socialist today. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a poison that has infected the Marxist community. First worldism is so intent upon having something to claim as socialist that they are willing to accept almost anything as such. This can be made manifest in the claim that China and the DPRK are socialist, or inventing new groups in the first world to be seen as proletarian. The bar continues to be lowered as Marxist theory continues to degenerate. This anti-Marxist thinking must be squashed now before it spreads any further.

I will never accept a day when having billionaires constitutes socialism.

China: A Revolutionary Present by Ajit Singh