Western bourgeois commentators have shed crocodile tears over the plight of the Tibetan people. But interestingly apart from a lot of talk they are doing very little. China is too important a trading partner to upset the cart too much. Here we look at the historical background to the situation in Tibet and how it relates to the growing contradictions within Chinese society as a whole.

Tibet erupted in ethnic based rioting over the past few days. Undoubtedly there is some outside interference, but this alone cannot explain what is going on. At the root of the problem is the uneven spread of wealth, which has been made worse by the introduction of market economics, compounding the feeling of national oppression of the Tibetans.

The largest human migration in the world gets under way every Chinese New Year, as China's 120 million strong army of migrant workers make their annual trip home. This year heavy snows led to railways and roads being overburdened and transport bottlenecks wreaked sudden nationwide chaos.

Although the dismantling of the old state owned planned economy was an enormous reactionary step backwards and Marxists are utterly opposed to it, there is one positive element in the process: the creation of the largest proletariat in the world. The development of capitalism in China brings with it class contradictions that are preparing a new revolutionary upheaval in Chinese society. Once this massive Chinese proletariat moves decisively it will shake the whole world.

Deng’s early “reforms” initiated in the late 1970s were aimed at improving efficiency in the economy. But once the Chinese bureaucracy had embarked down the road of capitalist incentives the whole process had a logic of its own, sucking China more and more down the road of capitalist restoration. This did not happen all in one go. There were several key turning points which are analysed here.

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