China

Newly released figures show that the Chinese economy in 2014 experienced its lowest economic growth since 1990. Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund downgraded its 2015 growth projection for China from 7.1% to 6.8%. According to the Financial Times, 30 out of China’s 31 provinces had missed their growth targets for 2014 – the only one which didn’t was Tibet, by far the country’s smallest regional economy.

Despite all the Keynesian experiments and the monetary stimulus, China has failed to escape the global economic crisis. In 2014 its economic growth dropped to 7.4%, the weakest in 24 years. For the first time in 16 years growth missed the government’s annual target (7.5%).

Three years after the Occupy Wall Street Movement spread out from Manhattan to several major cities all over the world, the Occupy Central movement has begun, earlier than planned on 26th September, after a couple of years of discussions and demonstrations, with the declaration of an “era of civil disobedience”. Prior to this, students from 25 universities and various schools joined a one-week strike called by the Hong Kong Federation of Students on 22nd September, which served as the ‘final warning to the regime’.

Twenty-five years ago, on 4th June 1989, the Tian’anmen square movement was brutally smashed by the rifles and tanks of the Chinese troops. It was a heroic movement of the Chinese people in a struggle against the bureaucracy in general, and more specifically against the lack of democracy, corruption, and the negative impact of the market economic reforms.

Luxury goods brands such as Louis Vuitton, Remy Martin and Bentley have posted falls both in growth and profits in the recent period, down from record highs. That the sales of luxuries have been booming in a period of global recession for the past few years appears remarkable in itself. This contradictory phenomenon, and its more recent decline, gives an insight into one aspect of the capitalist crisis.

Six months into China’s new Politburo Standing Committee under Xi Jinping’s Presidency, it has become abundantly clear that the next ten years under his rule will not resemble the relative social stability and rapid growth of the past ten years. The cart will not keep on rolling down the same path.  Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party stand at a crossroads, facing that classic dilemma of all ruling classes - either to open up to democratic reform or clamp down on growing dissent?

At the moment, the Chinese capitalist class, on the whole, is happy to go along with the status quo. They see no alternative, and are terrified of lifting the lid on the anger of the working class, therefore they seek stability at all costs.

Xi Jinping, relatively unknown in the West, will be China’s President for the next ten years, that is, if he can keep a lid on the simmering pot of anger that China has become. The new Prime Minister is Li Keqiang, apparently the outgoing President’s favoured successor.

In August and September Japan’s manoeuvres of the disputed islands of Diaoyu provoked some of the largest demonstrations in China since the uprising of Tiananmen Square in 1989. The dispute over the islands is predominantly an imperialist conflict over control of trade routes and oil resources. However, the protests in China went beyond the level of expressing anti-Japanese sentiment. In fact, although the government did attempt to limit them to this, the protests were as much against the regime in Beijing as against Japan’s aggressive manoeuvres.

We look back at the 1925-27 revolution, which was a heroic attempt of the Chinese workers to follow in the footsteps of the October 1917 Russian Revolution. However, due to its unprepared and irresolute leadership, it went down to a tragic defeat. Failed revolutions are always the greatest of tragedies. However, the only way of really honouring the many victims of the counter-revolution that ensued is to study the revolution and learn from its mistakes.

In the past two months a handful of tiny Islands off the coast of China have been making headlines across the world. The disputed island chain, known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan, made international news after Japanese nationalists planted the flag of Japan on its uninhabited shore (with lavish media coverage). The tension escalated when in September the Japanese government nationalised the islands, previously owned by the Kurihara family, sparking off a wave of militant nationalist protest in China. But why are these seemingly irrelevant islands so significant?

The picture of the Chinese economy painted by commentators in the West is often one of strength; an economy dominated by exports, with unstoppable growth and development; in short, a model to emulate. Recent figures released by the International Monetary Fund, however, describe a very different situation; a situation where contradictions are intensifying below the surface; a situation that is pregnant with crisis and revolutionary consequences.

"For a revolution to take place it is not enough for the exploited and oppressed masses to realise the impossibility of living in the old way, and demand changes; for a revolution to take place it is essential that the exploiters should not be able to live and rule in the old way. It is only when the ’lower classes’ do not want to live in the old way and the ’upper classes’ cannot carry on in the old way that the revolution can triumph” (Lenin, ‘Left-Wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder).