Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chinese People: "The Regime is Corrupt"

"Ordinary Chinese people ask: 'What good is the health care reform? Now we can no longer afford to see the doctors.' And: 'What good is the education reform? Now we can no longer afford sending our children to school?' Tens of millions of workers laid-off from former State enterprises say: 'You took the factories we built with our blood and sweat and sold them to new capitalists, or foreigners; destroying buildings and machinery and then taking the land; you squandered away our country’s wealth and left us nothing to survive on.' Peasants say, 'We worked so hard for 30 years to build socialist agriculture and overnight we are back to pre-liberation days.' Progressive intellectuals say, 'The Reform has cloaked itself in socialist clothes but in fact it is capitalism of the worst kind – turning an independent socialist China into one that is increasingly polarized between the rich and the poor, and one that is dependent economically and politically on Western powers.' With the exception of perhaps a very small minority, Chinese people agree that the current regime is corrupt to the core."

So states Economics Professor Pan yu Ching (now teaching in the U.S. of course) in her article, Thirty Years of Capitalist Reform published at Political Economy Research. She thoroughly documents how China is no longer a "socialist country, which supported oppressed people", but is now one aligned with international oppressors "to acquire resources and expand its economic and political influence". Nonetheless she shows that the Chinese people have understood from 30 years experience with Deng Xiao-ping's capitalist Reform "Mao’s warning of the return of the bourgeoisie".

I want to outline for you her argument because I see the activism Professor Pan yu Ching describes so vividly alive in China today exemplifies exactly a communist people's task "to bring the communist hypothesis into existence in another mode" (to quote from the article by Alain Badiou I introduced in the last post, and will continue to do so in what follows). Integral to that objective is to support the Professor's theme regarding the cultural identity of the Chinese people, that is, I would describe, as carrying forward the creative capacity of Maoism - a not extinguished excess yet vital despite the oppression of the regime's Reform.

Pan yu Ching's characterization of the Chinese economy as "out of balance with the rest of the world and as well as domestically":

Internationally trade surpluses she documents as "a 155% increase in only three years". China has "in fact loaned the US money in order for the US to buy their products". Obviously this is unsustainable, and more importantly "grossly unjust for the Chinese people". It is unjust, as she itemizes the unmet needs of China's poor, because China is now an exporter of the majority of its net capital to the world's richest country. In 2007, 11% of the GDP was simply changed for additional foreign exchange, which amounts to a stack of foreign IOU’s, sitting idly in China’s Central Bank". Now, in the last year, she references that the regime is rushing to correct this gross imbalance by rapidly slowing exports "from over 20% to 7% a year from June 2007 to June 2008"; and that has resulted in slowing "industrial production to the lowest point in.. six years", plus export prices have increased due to the RMB being "devalued by 18 percent since July 2005" along with a number of other international financial changes negatively affecting China.

The regimes strategy, combined with the effects of global financial crisis, by slowing demand for Chinese exports is generating serious domestic consequences, factories "are losing money and have to close their doors". The domestic imbalance stems from the original reasons for the tremendous GDP growth rates of the preceding period: Pan yu Ching quotes extensively from authoritative reports how the GDP's explosive growth was produced "on the one hand, by the fast growth in the export sector and, on the other hand, they have been the result of high growth rates in investment – especially the tremendous investments in infrastructure by different levels of government. The share of GDP that goes to domestic consumption is extremely low by any standard".

Professor Pan yu Ching's analysis of the economic situation in China concludes with a statement of its meaning highly germane to the stated purpose of this posting: "concretely it means that except for a rich minority, the majority of the working population cannot enjoy what their labor has produced due to low wages, lack of benefits, and low earnings from farming". I suggest the economic situation is ripe for the Chinese people to enact the next phase of Maoism, its unique contribution in fidelity to the communist hypothesis re-iterated by Badiou: "What is the communist hypothesis? In its generic sense, given in its canonic Manifesto, ‘communist’ means, first, that the logic of class—the fundamental subordination of labour to a dominant class, the arrangement that has persisted since Antiquity—is not inevitable; it can be overcome". The professor pinpoints the crux of the matter in her conclusion about the economic situation and so...

From Pan yu Ching's piece on what the Reform meant for workers and other urban dwellers and farm workers:

It meant immediately an end to the communes to turn workers "into wage laborers and their labor power into a commodity". Despite resistance by the people, the Regime forced "large-scale privatization and restructuring of the former State enterprises". The result was a "great wave of lay-offs and/or forced retirements from factory closings and restructuring threw tens of millions of workers out on the street".

What happened to them? Many did not even get pensions that were in any event too meager to sustain their families, and most had lost medical benefits. This was quickly an area of exploitation as hospitals were "changed into profit making institutions.. unnecessary tests before dispensing expensive imported medicine, so that doctors can receive bonuses.." Then housing reform: sale of units "workers and families lived for decades, to the workers". Housing suddenly became a new expense, where was the money to come from? Even now, "workers are lucky if they still hold regular jobs, and their wages are often too low to afford rent.. [y]ounger workers either continue to live with their parents or..double up.. [t]hose who work outside the formal sector find whatever odd jobs they can to support themselves and many of them live on or below subsistence levels of income.." Agricultural jobs no longer provided a sustainable way of life for most, "more than 200 million migrant workers from the countryside have flooded into the cities looking for work". In short, the most dangerous and dirty work and the most exposed to mistreatment, exposed because they have no legal residence status. The "treatment they receive in their own country is not too different from the treatments that undocumented foreign migrants receive around the world". International corporations have rushed into China to take advantage of low wages and to avoid regulative costs associated with environmental and labor controls."The loss of lives and injuries caused by working in unsafe and contaminated environment are staggering."

The effect of the Reform has a terribly significant impact on the Chinese psyche, characterized by anger, resentment and fear. The situation: "workers in China have lost the dignity and respect they once had. Workers are constantly afraid of losing their jobs. Older unemployed workers are outraged when the former State enterprises that they built with many decades of hard work are squandered away by the privileged few, who have connections with the politically powerful".

Living in Beijing, I have seen the situation first hand. Ironically, I benefit from it - for example the medical and dental costs are for me very nice compared to the U.S.. From my 22nd story luxury apartment I look out my window to see the workers living in their tents on the site of the construction of yet another huge complex for the likes of me, the small minority of the rich and the upper-middle class. I utilize the cheap domestic help. I benefit from the low prices in the service sector - the hair salons, the inexpensive restaurants, the food and other vendors on the streets. I witness the street vendors of simple commodities around the subways, often fleeing suddenly at the approach of bribe seeking police. I often circumvent various bureaucratic hassles and costs from State employees willing to expedite my problem to gain a little bit more to supplement their meager wages - its common knowledge that nobody in the bureaucracy lives on their salary alone. Daily, I watch BMWs, Land Rovers, Mercedes, see shoppers in the luxury malls and the flaunting behavior of "a small minority of extremely rich people – corrupt bureaucrats and the new capitalists – who live extremely luxurious lives".

My day job is doing corporate training, rewarding and interesting work with professionals who work for large domestic and foreign businesses. These are included in "around 20% to 30% [of the urban population] who have also lived well in the past 30 years". These clients are the middle-aged management people who enjoy a "standard of living comparable to the so-called middle class in Western countries". Another part of this middle-class "are current or retired middle level government bureaucrats, including university professors. The government deliberately favored these intellectuals in order to buy their support". Most of these people "are very satisfied with their lives and support Reform policies". But not all of them.

I can add something to the observations of Pan yu Ching about the middle-class. At the lower end of this group are the many young people, the cream of the university graduates working in the large domestic and international corporations. They are the majority, actually, of my corporate training classes. Relatively speaking they make good money, but they are also subjected to very excessive hours of work and the requirement to attend my classes (which they gladly do), but its additional time they must devote above and beyond the work day and believe it or not they sometimes pay part of the costs out of their own pocket. More often than not they are also supporting their parents who have been abandoned by the regime. They are the hope of their families and they aspire to join the ranks of their elder cadre. Its about the money - not many are interested in political matters, they are generally cynical in private and focused on their opportunity rather than the general plight of the peoples of which they are not unaware. But not all of them.

Of the middle-class, Panyu Ching states: "they are not a homogeneous group; despite their rather comfortable living, a small but growing number are increasingly critical of the Reform and have recently become very vocal, voicing sharp attacks". I would not say myself its yet a matter of political activism exactly, "its the economy stupid" but "opinions of the well-to-do urban population are bound to change when they experience the increasingly worsening economic crisis.. the government’s lack of action when they lost their savings in the stock market, which fell about 60% in the past year. The impending bursting of the housing market bubble, the increasingly depressed economy and the ongoing higher cost of living.."

Pan yu Ching goes on to provide a highly detailed account, historical and statistical references on the catastrophic decline in the rural areas and the environmental impact of unbridled industrialization. These are the crimes on the ground and important as they are for understanding the stage of this theater, I want to focus on the political ramifications explicit and suggested by her essay. Returning to Alain Badiou's exposition earlier in the blog, the information above can be seen in a broader historical perspective. Popular uprisings up to the latter part of the 18th century failed, was followed by a period of uncontested imperialism, then successfully challenged beginning in 1917 by socialist regimes. This challenge continued to its latter period, including the Maoist revolution and communist form, the global uprising in 1968 and until the Chinese Cultural Revolution. It was then superseded by the beginning of the Reform. As Badiou puts it, the pre-reform stage of fidelity to the communist hypothesis "proved ill-adapted for the construction of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in the sense that Marx had intended—that is, a temporary state, organizing the transition to the non-state.. the Cultural Revolution and May 68, in its broadest sense—can be understood as attempts to deal with the inadequacy of the party".

So now China has experienced 30 years of this Reform, and the results: what Badiou describes of the current global situation - "In many respects we are closer today to the questions of the 19th century than to the revolutionary history of the 20th. A wide variety of 19th-century phenomena are reappearing: vast zones of poverty, widening inequalities, politics dissolved into the ‘service of wealth’, the nihilism of large sections of the young, the servility of much of the intelligentsia". I said earlier, I think Pan yu Ching's essay suggests the people of China have the potential of carrying forward the creative capacity of Maoism - a not extinguished excess yet vital despite the oppression of the regime's Reform. On what do I base this?

Her essay concludes with The Chinese People Are Fighting Back. Supported by her forgoing analysis she posits that the Reform "is similar to the primitive accumulation phase of early capitalist development in European countries.. however, an important difference:.. workers and peasants have already gone through thirty years of socialist transformation, and they know what they can accomplish by working collectively under the leadership of the real Communist Party following the proletarian line of Mao Zedong". Pan yu Ching points out in specific instances: "laid-off workers take over their factories to protest against their sale and/or closing.. workers forced into retirement have protested against authorities for back wages and for better benefits.. Peasants protest against land confiscation without adequate compensation and against factories being built in their neighborhoods that cause serious pollution.. Many people both in urban and rural areas have protested against the brutality of police and local officials..official numbers of demonstrations.. reached [in 2006] over 90,000 [a day!]".

Also,the workers are not alone. There are ".. increasing numbers of intellectuals who have risen to challenge the many lies broadly spread by the Reformers..fooled in the early stages of the Reform, believing the line that the Reform was 'socialism with Chinese characteristics'.. who had.. believed that the free market approach would solve many of China’s problems. The progressive intellectuals have begun to systematically refute the lies of the regime: "there was little development during the socialist era.. development based on self-reliance during the socialist era was self-imposed isolation, which led to China’s backwardness". Refuting this operation of the Ideological State Apparatus (Althusser) the progressive intellectuals have produced volumes of contradictory evidence and have gone on the attack "accusing Reformers of being over-dependent on foreign capital, foreign technology, and foreign markets, handing the country over to the foreign monopolies, and causing China to lose its economic and political autonomy.." In September of 2007 a large contingent of progressive thinkers submitted a letter to the 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party charging "the Chinese Communist Party no longer represented the interests of China’s proletariat, and that they betrayed the principles of Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Zedong Thought".

I found myself a little short of climax at Pan yu Ching's last line: "China’s socialist legacy and the theory and practice Mao left behind will carry the struggle to triumph in the end". There is more in what she said than she said. I take recourse at last in Badiou. The critical question is to what modality China's socialist legacy will carry the struggle. I can't believe what was meant was a repetition of the earlier phase of Maoism that proved inadequate. Rather the stakes for the Chinese Maoist today in the chaos of the Reform depend on maintaining the conditions for Mao's creative and still existent vision of the communist hypothesis. A task Badiou asserts can occur "through the combination of thought processes—always global, or universal, in character—and political experience, always local or singular, yet transmissible, to renew the existence of the communist hypothesis, in our consciousness and on the ground."

But how, and how within the cultural context of China? Badiou formulates the general direction of world communist activism: "it will involve a new relation between the political movement and the level of the ideological—one that was prefigured in the expression ‘cultural revolution'..the proposition that the subordination of labour to the dominant class is not inevitable—within the ideological sphere.". The movement against the corrupt regime of China, I think this means, is a revolt against the regime's Ideological State Apparatus. Is this not what was said by Pan yu Ching in reference to the progressive intellectuals?

Like all English speaking expats in China I just spent months with the regimes CCTV9 apparatus bombarding me with "One World, One Dream", the export of its domestic promulgation of nationalist fervor with its unfortunate patriotism. Obviously as any thinking person can see from the information above there is not even a unified world within China. Of course its not just China. The idea of globalization in the sense touted is also a sham of capitalist parliamentarians too. Badiou: "The simple phrase, ‘there is only one world’, is not an objective conclusion. It is performative: we are deciding that this is how it is for us. Faithful to this point, it is then a question of elucidating the consequences that follow from this simple declaration... A first consequence is the recognition that all belong to the same world as myself.. we can agree and disagree about things. But on the precondition that they and I exist in the same world." Now this is entirely different. This is not serving the purposes of a national regime, or any version of elitist oligarchy.

Now it gets tricky though. The performative aspect of creating "only one world" means no division established on the basis of any race or creed, or specific cultural group; or even an oppressed minority - political, sexual or whatever. Our topic is the people of China and their cultural identity bound to the communist hypothesis manifested in Maoism. This is an actuality not subject to dismissal, nor should it be. The real facts of the Chinese people's experience and enduring fidelity to Maoism has been clearly elucidated by Pan yu Ching. Culturally China carries the creative capacity of Maoism - a not extinguished excess yet vital despite the oppression of the regime's Reform. The emphasis of Badiou is not calling for the rejection of this core identity, but its expansion in a new phase of Maoism:

".. identity is the ensemble of properties that support an invariance.. Defined in this way, by invariants, identity is doubly related to difference: on the one hand, identity is that which is different from the rest; on the other, it is that which does not become different, which is invariant.. The affirmation of identity has two further aspects. The first form is negative. It consists of desperately maintaining that I am not the other.. The second involves the immanent development of identity within a new situation... not through any internal rupture, but by an expansion of identity."

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2 comments:

nickglais said...

I have posted the full version of Chinese People "The regime is corrupt" on Political Economy Research after the article by Pau yu Ching.

This will enable people to read your complete post.

Stephen David Mauldin said...

I hope it helps Nick. "Interestingly" I find my blog has now found its way behind the regime's firewall in China and only available now locally by proxy. I wish they understood I am supporting Maoist China.