China

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).

After overtaking Japan, this year China became the second largest economy in the world. Some experts have even predicted that by the end of this decade China may become the largest economy bypassing the United States. However, that is based on a mechanical, empirical approach that sees China maintaining its present levels of growth uninterruptedly for years to come. In the past Japan was also supposed to keep on growing, but then its apparent meteoric rise was cut across by a long period of stagnation.

The bourgeoisie has never, anywhere, been able to find the key to unlock the mysteries of their own economic system. The only way to understand capitalism is to accept and to explain its contradictory, crisis-ridden nature. It cannot be perfected; its riddle will never be solved from within its confines. Precisely because the apologists of capitalism can never accept this fact, they are forever shifting from one side of the problem to the other.

The crisis that has shaken the world economy since 2008 has pushed bourgeois ideologists to desperately seek a solution. They are looking for alternative ways of running their system, seeking to square the circle and maintain capitalism without its inevitable contradictions. As Asia, and China in particular, is doing so well, there is a burgeoning literature about the Chinese model, just as in the past there was so much made of the “Japanese miracle”. In Part One of this article Luca Lombardi looks at the experience of Taiwan.

On the ninetieth anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party we published a series of articles that trace the origins and subsequent development of this party, which has played a key role in world history. Dan Morley outlines the conditions in China that led to the foundation of the party as part of the Communist International. The founders of the party looked to the October revolution in Russia as their model, with the working class playing the leading role.