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20th Congress of CPC: Towards a Phase of Unbridled Bureaucratic State-Monopoly Dictatorship

P J James General Secretary of CPI ML (Red Star), Oct 2022


In fact, there is nothing unexpected or new regarding the decisions taken in the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held during October 16-22, 2022, as almost all the deliberations in it are in tune with the planning and preparations taken by CPC led by Xi Jinping since the 19th Congress in 2017.  In essence, the Congress has been a ratification of the historic decisions resolved at the four-day “Sixth Plenum” of Communist Party of China (CPC) that concluded on November 11, 2021, adopting the “historical resolution” on “Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the CPC’s 100 Years of Endeavors”. Being touted as the third historically significant Resolution in CPC’s 100 years of history (the first in 1945 when CPC led by Mao Zedong was advancing towards revolutionary capture of power and second in 1981 when under Deng Xiaoping China reversed Mao’s path and began to traverse the capitalist road), it did elevate Xi Jinping to the same level as Mao and Deng in the entire history of CPC. The Communique released by the Party at the closure of the that Plenum along with another resolution on Convening of the 20th National Congress of the Party acknowledged the goal of transforming China as world’s leading military power by 2035 and to a “great modern socialist country” by 2049 based on “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” Even much before that, that is in 2018 itself, the National People’s Congress had amended the Chinese Constitution abolishing the two-term limit of the Chinese presidency, with the prospect of Xi’s continuation as President of China for life. And in every respect, the 20th Congress including Xi’s more than one hour-long speech was a repeated endorsement of the main points came out at CPC’s Centenary Celebration held in July 2021 at Tiananmen Square, followed by its Sixth Plenum in November 2021.
Obviously, the main task of the Congress was the enshrining of Xi as the omnipotent supreme leader, the pivotal historical figure to whom goes the credit for China’s transformation as an imperialist superpower in the 21st century.  Thus the 20th Congress steered clear of Xi’s “core position” as the Head of the State, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and top-most leader of the Party. Reiterating the “historical resolution” of the Sixth Plenum, the 20th Congress passed the key amendment to the Party’s Constitution affirming Xi’s core status making it obligatory on the part of all party members to follow his directives and doctrines. It called on all party members to hold high the banner of “socialism with Chinese characteristics being elaborated thus: “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is the Marxism of contemporary China and of the 21st Century and embodies the best Chinese culture and ethos of this era.”
A glance at the entire Congress proceedings including its resolutions while reveals the drive to force-feed a public perception of Xi’s equivalence with Mao, in essence, as is obvious, it contains a rejection of everything connected with Mao Zedong Thought.  On the other hand, Xi is closely pursuing the footsteps of Deng Xiaoping who after usurping power in 1978 totally abandoned Mao’s socialist path and put China along the state-capitalist road with his pragmatic “cat theory” that states “the cat that can catch mice is a good cat no matter what colour it is”. In essence, Xi’s appeal for “China’s modernization and national rejuvenation” based on the model of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is basically the same as the thesis of “market socialism” to be achieved through a strategy of “four modernizations in agriculture, industry, national defence, and science and technology originally initiated by Deng.
It is the logical development of Deng’s thesis which integrated China with crisis-ridden global corporate-capital leading to the super-exploitation of Chinese workers that prompted Xi to envisage a socialist market economy brimming with vitality and having close integration between market and the world’s most powerful bureaucratic state.  Xi’s model comprises a highly state-capitalist regime with appropriate regimentation of the market in which both party bureaucrats and corporate billionaires together have to sit in corporate board rooms for taking decisions. It is this ingenious coupling of political exigencies with market requirements, thereby blurring of the line of demarcation or boundary between the bureaucratic state and private corporate capital that forms the basis of Chinese imperialism today that appears in the pseudonym or guise of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.
Meanwhile, with more than four decades of China’s traverse through capitalist restoration devoid of even the last vestiges of socialism except in name, now “Xi Jinping Thought” (or the so called “Xinomics” as analysts have started characterizing now) is trying to avoid a repetition of Soviet collapse of the early 1990s by a reconfiguration or ‘reinvention’ of state capitalism for China- a process that cannot be explained in terms of the conventional Anglo-Saxon or Western  notions of corporate-financial accumulation. For, unlike the standard neoliberal model whose essence is unbridled and unfettered operation of corporate-finance capital, Xinomics envisages a model of corporatization within the tight boundaries set by Party bureaucracy’s strict surveillance.  And, ever since Xi’s ascendance to power in 2012, CPC has been concentrating on tightening bureaucratic control over the economic system through the systematic creation of Party cells within private corporate entities.
As the recent experience of Jack Ma of Alibaba and other big Chinese corporates amply prove, the Party merged with the powerful State capitalism plays the pivotal role in both hiring and firing of CEOs of private companies. The Party officials busy with both Party Committee meetings and Company Board meetings have become the most common feature in China today. Along with Party’s growing hold over Chinese companies, Party supervision of foreign MNCs operating in China has also become regular feature of Xinomics. To be precise, systematic strengthening Party bureaucracy in tandem with the growth of corporate-finance capital has become a salient feature of Xinomics or Xi Jinping Thought.
A corollary of this strengthening power of state bureaucracy together with growing corporate accumulation by both domestic companies (including state-owned and private) and foreign corporates has been capitalist history’s horrific levels of super-exploitation of Chinese working class. Amidst the rapid advancements in technologies including frontier technologies such as digitization, labour-productivity in China is very high while wages are the lowest in the world. The main thrust of China’s economic growth and its integration with world market and international capital since capitalist restoration has been the cheap labour-based production and China’s growing share in global market under “Made in China” campaign launched in 2015. On an average, the monthly wage of an unskilled worker in Chinese factories is as low as $100 which is a small fraction of the wage in other imperialist countries. As a result, the cost of producing a commodity in China hovers around 10 percent of that in Western countries. The resulting huge surplus value extraction is the basis on which the powerful bureaucracy and corporate companies, both domestic and foreign flourish in China.  The “modernization” envisaged by the 20th Congress is to accelerate this biggest-ever exploitation of the Chinese working people through further streamlining of the dictatorship by bureaucratic-state monopoly capital. However, in view of the latest slow-down in world economy coupled with inherent contradictions of domestic accumulation including repercussions arising from COVID-induced stringent lockdowns, Chinese growth rate has also started faltering, an aspect reflected in the decisions of the 20th Congress.
Even as neoliberal imperialist system is in a phase of severe crisis of accumulation in continuation of the 2008 global meltdown, China’s integration with the global economy as a low-cost production base or a cheap-labour export platform during this period has enabled it to emerge as world’s biggest commodity exporter and leading exporter of capital through such politcal-economic initiatives as Belt and Road Initiative, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, BRICS, etc., and in the process has succeeded in carving out spheres of influence not only in Asia, but also in Africa and even in remote Latin America, effectively challenging the US in political-economic fields. Today China is the biggest infrastructural lender for Africa and the leading trading partner of Latin America surpassing the US. Recent wave of political-economic crises that are reported from Sri Lanka in South Asia, Sudan in Africa, etc., are also related to the specific character of neocolonial penetration by Chinese imperialism. Along with these, Chinese move to design digital Yuan as an international currency challenging the hegemonic position of dollar has sharpened Sino-US inter-imperialist contradictions more than ever. China’s military exercises encircling Taiwan following US House of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and US deployment of its Seventh Fleet to South China Sea in retaliation has further heightened Sino-US tensions. This has its reflection in CPC’s 20th Congress that has asserted a “rock-hard and unshakable approach” towards “completion of Chinese unification” by resolving the “Taiwan question”.
However, as already noted, emerging global situation including crash of markets leading to record fall in Chinese shares have prompted Xi to change his earlier formulation of the world situation as one of “strategic opportunity” for China to a situation that calls for “struggle” and “fighting spirit”. This rallying call also reflects intensifying tensions between China and US in the economic front, especially in the context of latter tightening its screws on technology transfer to China’s semiconductor industry and chip companies. More precisely, Xi’s appeal to “win the battle in key core technologies” is to be seen in the context of aggressive US sanctions on technology transfer (especially pertaining to frontier technologies) to China.
The outcome of these developments, though unpredictable now, will have its adverse impact on Chinese imperialism, both internally and externally, which in many ways has been depending on world economy due to its integration with the latter.  Social tensions arising from super-exploitation of the working class, horrific levels of uneven ‘development’ among regions, unprecedented inequality and above all speculation induced corruption and above all mounting national debt coupled with global repercussions on account of sharpening contradiction with US and global economic slowdown are going to be serious challenges before the huge bureaucratic apparatus led by Xi who is trying to overcome them both technologically and militarily. There was no dearth of rhetoric in the Party Congress towards a relatively more inward-oriented economic trajectory instead of the existing highly labour-intensive and export-led path. However, the viability of this transition in the context of the laws of motion of global capital and China’s integration with it is to be proved in the days to come.
In this context, to what extent the further consolidation of bureaucratic power and state monopoly capitalism under Xi and his male-only team can confront the impending crisis-ridden international and domestic situation is a debatable question now. In spite of the omnipotent power the Chinese bureaucratic state, being far removed away from socialism except in name, its maneuverability will ultimately be constrained by market forces.
P J James



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