I’ve been skeptical of this claim that China is an imperialist power. I reserved judgement until I saw something sustentative. The US has been quick to call China an imperialist power in a wholly hypocritical move. Far left so-called Marxists have also been quick to call China imperialist when their modus operandi has been to attack everything that does not conform to their holier-than-thou utopian views. I saw it proper to wait and see if China takes an imperialist path. I believe that we have seen such evidence now.
China is poised to confiscate the Mombasa port from the Kenyan government over unpaid loans made by China. This is standard capitalist practice, one that is used primarily on lower-income business and individuals. If Kenya was to default on those loans, socialist internationalism would see fit to forgive the debt. Instead, China would be taking control of a very important port. They gave Kenya a loan they knew they probably wouldn’t be able to pay.
In other words, Kenya would need the permission of China to use their own port. The Kenyan workers in the country would now be under the management of Chinese creditors. Any revenue from the port would go directly to China for the servicing of an estimated 500 billion shillings. This money should be going to the Kenyan government to pay for public services. Instead, Chinese bankers will be pocketing the cash in the traditional exploitative finance capital mechanism.
Some would be quick to deny that this would happen. Unfortunately, it already has. Sri Lanka has already suffered at the hand of such actions. In December 2017, China seized the Hambantota port from the Sri Lankan government for a lease period of 99 years. Their mistake? They lagged in their commitment to pay the billions of dollars in loans. Even more significant in this situation is the fact that it’s a strategic position along a critical commercial and military waterway.
Now, China made it a part of the Kenyan agreement that they provide “minimum volumes required for consignment”. In other words, if Kenya doesn’t provide enough business for the port (and associated rail project) it is in violation of the agreement. Failure to do so places the port in the hands of the Chinese creditors. This has been confirmed by an audit which determined that Kenya surrendered their “sovereign immunity”. The auditor found, “…any proceeding(s) against its assets (KPA) by the lender would not be protected by sovereign immunity since the Government waived the immunity on the Kenya Ports Assets by signing the agreement.”
How is this socialist internationalism? I certainly understand that loans need to be repaid, but there is no need to violate the sovereignty of Kenya to do so. If the loans weren’t paid back fast enough, they could easily extend the amount of time they have to do so. They SHOULD be flexible. Instead, China deliberately wrote into the contract that Kenya surrenders “sovereign immunity”. Meaning China deliberately undermined the sovereignty of Kenya, while claiming to be of assistance.
This is predatory lending in the same realm as the International Monetary Fund uses for US imperialism. There is no excuse for these actions by China. They are blatantly anti-socialist and have no intention of acting in good faith. China has claimed that they are socialist, and at other times claimed that they’re building socialism. This idea should have been dismissed long ago. A society filled with market relations private property, stock markets, capitalist exploitation, world-leading luxury spending could not be considered socialism.
Of course, many Marxists would deny this straight out with odd rationalizations, mental gymnastics, and apologetics. The mistake they make is that imperialism need not be solely a military endeavour. This view has become common in the face of the highly militaristic US imperialist empire. In truth, Lenin, the creator of the theory of imperialism, wrote that it’s systemic exploitation of a poor economy by monopoly capital primarily found in the rich economies. He also states this clearly, “If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism. Such a definition would include what is most important”.
Finance capital, the loans taking control of the Kenyan port is significant here when we consider how Lenin described how finance capital merges with industrial capital:
A steadily increasing proportion of capital in industry…ceases to belong to the industrialists who employ it. They obtain the use of it only through the medium of the banks which, in relation to them, represent the owners of the capital. On the other hand, the bank is forced to sink an increasing share of its funds in industry. Thus, to an ever greater degree the banker is being transformed into an industrial capitalist. This bank capital, i.e. capital in money form, which is thus actually transformed into industrial capital…[is] “finance capital”… Finance capital is capital controlled by banks and employed by industrialists.
These countries which China claims to be helping are in severe danger of losing their sovereignty to Chinese finance capital, and thus, the Chinese bourgeoisie in conjunction with the “Communist” Party of China. There is enough here to show that China is indeed a capitalist-imperialist country.
 Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich, 1963 , Imperialism: The Highest Stage of