Letter from China – the myth of capitalist superiority

Following on from the letter we published a few weeks ago, another reader in China has added his thoughts to the discussion. He highlights particularly the growing disparity between different social layers in Chinese society, a result of the development of capitalism, which is destroying all the gains of the past.

Dear Editor,

I would like to say a few words since I have read the letter from china you posted recently titled Letter from China - What is happening in Chinese society?

Since I am currently living in China and married to a Chinese I would like to add my personal thoughts to this and hopefully add some more clarity to the previous writer’s comments since my native language is English. My name is Adam Fulsom, I am from Canada, and I have been in contact with the Canadian comrades of Fightback for some time now.

Yes, everyone is talking about the rise of China these days. Some have even said that this in fact proves that capitalism is superior to socialism. One can even be led to believe this if all they do is look at the facts as presented to them by the bourgeois media.

However when you open the book of China and look at the real core issues and developments below the surface you can see clearly that, while Stalinism and "Maoism" have indeed long ago been proven folly, in fact capitalism is no solution for the workers of China. Marx said that as the profits for the bourgeois rise, indeed the wages of the workers may also rise, but relatively speaking your wage has actually decreased. This is what is happening in China at a faster pace then anywhere in the world.

The rise of China is the rise of the Chinese bourgeois. While the workers’ wages on average are increasing by about 4-7 percent a year (depending on what study you look at) capitalist earnings are up sometimes by as much as 60-70 percent. No wonder the capitalists are investing in China! They get a cheap, decently educated workforce that will work in absurd conditions for low pay and with the support of the government and no threat from unions, due to the government monopolized union.

Since the introduction of capitalism the state-controlled factories have almost all closed, leaving massive unemployment in some areas, especially in northeast China, the former Communist stronghold. This, mixed with overpopulation, creates a special condition in China, the almost unlimited supply of labour power. Because of this condition the capitalists can maximize their profits because of the oversupply of labour power.

The skilled workers in Northern China have a good level of understanding of socialism and are really not happy about the road the government has taken. I have not come across any person in that group that has ever talked positively about the government. However there is a high level of petty-bourgeois influence among the youth, and many negative characteristics of this influence are appearing within this age group. Drug use, dropouts, destructive and violent behaviour are all becoming much more common and even fashionable.

The city of Guangzhou, that the previous writer from China calls home, is a very backward part of China. It is an area where the class distinction is at its peak, however it is also a place where the people are severely less educated. It is the third largest city in China and also an international trading centre. Typically in the north people are more educated then the south.

The health system in China is horribly underfunded and inadequate. Even on a talk show program I watched the other day a government health official was told by the host that socialism is supposed to look after the basic needs of its people, but that China is spending less on healthcare as a proportion of its GDP then the United States. He pointed out that if China were really following a socialist program it should be providing universal healthcare, pointing out that even Cuba can provide the basic needs for its citizens and it is just a small island with few resources. Healthcare in China is now a complete market commodity, with even some pharmaceutical manufactures owning and running hospitals. This was the reform of Deng Xiaoping. While the wages might have gone up slightly, now the workers must pay high prices for basic medical care, sometimes even fraudulent care (paying for things they don't actually need).

Education is free!!!! Well that is the myth. There are "free" publicly run schools, however they provide very inadequate education. Therefore there is private school dominance because of the lack of funding provided for the state education system. The saying is "Go to state school, and you go nowhere else," in other words: you will never be able to get into post-secondary education. The post secondary education system is highly competitive, and only the best students can get into a university. The average cost for university tuition here is about US$900 per year. However the quality of that education is substantially lower then in western universities. Also, if you consider that workers in China on average normally make US$1000 a year then the cost comes into perspective.

Mysticism, superstition and religion are indeed on the rise in China. Why, just the other day someone who was obviously learning English approached me and wanted to talk about Christianity with me and said he was a Christian. In almost all the rich neighbourhoods there are churches now. Mysticism and superstitions are prevalent trends that can be seen at almost all levels of Chinese society. To be honest they were prevalent before the revolution and Stalinism was completely unable to rid the country of this. It never left China but it is now being reborn under capitalism, which feeds it.

Nationalism in China.... This would need a book to detail. Actually this whole topic of China needs a proper book to detail, but I doubt I shall be the one to write it.

Nationalism is definitely growing in China, but it is not just through email and text messages that it is spreading. It is in fact increasingly state-sponsored. Nationalism is fairly strong now among young people. Even making criticisms of the government when young people are listening can sometimes provoke reactionary nationalism. Nationalism in China is a great tool for the rising bourgeois to maintain stability and control and they are using it as such. Anti-Japanese sentiment is also high, even very high among young people, people whose parents were not even born when the Japanese war took place. This is due both to the state-controlled media and private media. There are many television shows about the Anti-Japanese war. The media is always focusing on Japan and criticizing Japan on everything, with constant bombardment about all Japanese war crimes, etc. The level of Anti-Japanese sentiment is probably not like the level experienced in North Korea but it is still dangerously high. The government and media do not make any clear distinction between the Japanese working class and the government or bourgeoisie. Of course they also do not make any distinction between the actions of the Japanese military 60 years ago and the Japanese working class of the time.

It is common in China to see dirt roads with poor workers living in shacks, while an SUV or BMW drives by; tons of people trying to sell things along the streets to make enough to eat; farmers with mules haling produce into the city to try to sell along the streets of the poorer neighbourhoods. The inner cities are like a crazy mess of cars and busses following no rules and driving like NASCAR drivers. There are also beauty salons, fashion stores, fancy department stores, condo areas that rival the richest ones in Toronto, surrounded by fences with guards. Truly the class distinction in China is enormous. A drive from the country into the city is like travelling through time. And these conditions are not getting better with capitalism; on the contrary they are actually increasing.

As I noted earlier, wages are rising. However the cost of living is skyrocketing. That is the sole factor for the increase in wages. Marx said that the worker is paid enough to maintain his status and for the further sustainability of that class. All of Marx’s economic theories are being proved in China, especially this very basic concept.

Living conditions for some Chinese may have improved due to capitalism, however, comparatively they have lowered. Remember if the house beside yours is five times bigger then your house will feel inadequate in its presence.

For China to solve these problems what is needed is a true socialist revolution based on the knowledge of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and yes Trotsky. China can in fact lead the way in a socialist revolution if its workers can unite under these principles and brave the horrors of a very strong counter-revolution from government forces. Since China is the main outlet for manufactured goods worldwide a socialist revolution in China would be a huge blow to capitalism worldwide.

Down with the Chinese bourgeoisie. Support a true socialist revolution in China and the growth of the worldwide socialist revolution.

Sincerely Adam Fulsom,

September 22, 2005