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Communism is, and always has been, an international project designed to span the borders that divide us. It is also a popular politics, rather than the domain of elite theorists. To have an impact, theory must be translated into vernacular terms and embroidered with attractive, accessible advertising. It doesn’t matter how right you are if no one is listening. Every theorist is also obligated to be an effective teacher, translator and transmitter of knowledge. In our case, the increasing centrality of China to even the most colloquial political conversations means that the time has come for us to help produce simple, handy and easily reproducible summaries of the communist perspective on China.
To this end, we are launching an ongoing blog series responding to frequently asked questions about China. These are the sort of questions that anyone with some knowledge of China will have been asked with some regularity. At one point, they would have been limited to political scenes or academic settings. While some of the questions we present here are still more common to hear in these more specialized spheres, it has become increasingly common to hear many of them posed in mass media or raised in everyday social interactions. The answers we give here, then, are not geared toward “the left,” but are intended for general use. All will be available in both Chinese and English. Most are collectively authored, but some questions relate specifically to the experiences of our Chinese members. In these cases, we’ve disaggregated the collective response into individual voices, often asking other Chinese comrades to weigh in as well. In addition to the China FAQ series, we’ll also be adding a special “Chuang FAQ” entry answering some common questions about our own collective.
When speaking of “the economy,” it has long been necessary to gain at least a basic familiarity with China. In the past few years, this has only become more unavoidable. Today, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that almost no political conversation can occur without some need to “weigh in” on what we call the “China question”—which is actually a series of questions relating to the current character of the Chinese state, the social struggles that exist within the country, the prospects of the Chinese economy, the supposed decline of US hegemony, the role of Chinese investment in poor countries, the impact all of this will have on the environment, etc. This is most apparent within the media, where a certain clickbait genre of dark sinofuturism has taken hold. Here, classical orientalist tropes of the “yellow peril” are reformatted into myths of an omnipotent totalitarian state seeking to colonize the world with its supercharged, state-owned industries and its massive populace, brainwashed into an unthinking nationalism. You are probably familiar with the genre… (Read More)
What Do Chinese Workers Think about the CCP?
When I was a child, books and television would describe how, in the past, people’s lives had improved under the leadership of the CCP, and only those individuals with the greatest spirit of sacrifice could join the party, so “joining the party” seemed like a sacred thing. But I grew up after the Reform and Opening, when various phenomena in society and my family’s contradictory attitude toward the CCP filled me with doubts about this society, which was officially termed “the initial stage of socialism.” In college I applied to join the party, but I noticed that our Party Branch Secretary was the most distasteful (庸俗) person in our school, and the “perks” of membership such as precedence in getting a job as a civil servant held no attraction for me, so the whole idea of joining became distasteful. Later I came to realize that the CCP truly had nothing to do with communism, so my interest in it completely disappeared… (Read More)
Is China a Capitalist Country?
China is capitalist. It is capitalist both because it is fully integrated in the global capitalist system and because capitalist imperatives have penetrated all the way down to everyday life. The population in China, as elsewhere, depends on the market for survival, either directly or indirectly. In other words: you need money to survive. (Read More)
Is China a Socialist Country?
China is only a “socialist” country insofar as the meaning of the term “socialism” has become utterly bankrupt. This bankruptcy has mostly occurred through the false equivalence between “socialism” and “development”… (Read More)
Wasn't China a Communist Country under Mao?
Throughout the 1950s–1960s, what we call China’s “socialist developmental regime” supplanted the communist project as more and more was sacrificed to the bottom line of building a national economy. The term “regime” highlights our argument that the various administrative mechanisms and methods of production never cohered into a mode of production, and instead represented the breakdown of any such mode. Its constituent elements were often disjointed, coming together only through the constant (and constantly intensifying) effort of the state, if at all… (Read More)