” A comprehensive and profound understanding of neo-imperialism is a fundamental issue for global progressives at present and throughout the 21st century to objectively analyze the domestic and foreign actions of the Western monopoly capitalism in economic, political, cultural and military terms, as well as for the countries and peoples of the Global South to unite against the hegemonic and bullying practices of the U.S led Western countries.”
1. Prof Cheng Enfu, You are a leading voice of Chinese Marxist Intellectuals. You have given considerable thought on contemporary nature of Imperialism which you describe as Neoimperialism. Can you explain why such conceptualizations are important for global south, particularly in the changing dynamics of geopolitical contention?
Cheng Enfu: A comprehensive and profound understanding of neo-imperialism is a fundamental issue for global progressives at present and throughout the 21st century to objectively analyze the domestic and foreign actions of the Western monopoly capitalism in economic, political, cultural and military terms, as well as for the countries and peoples of the Global South to unite against the hegemonic and bullying practices of the U.S led Western countries. Based on this theory, it should be further recognized that the current new international economic and political pattern is conducive
to the anti-imperialist and antihegemonic actions, expansion of left-wing activities and the development of world socialism of developing countries, especially the progressive forces of the world. The reasons for this are as follows. First, the severe situation of the Covid-19 pandemic in the West has led more people around the world to realize the advantages of the socialist system and its way of governance. So far Russia has exposed dozens of US biological labs in Ukraine, scientists from various countries have revealed that the coronavirus originated in the United States, and the spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry has also raised questions about whether the coronavirus originated in the United States. The United States has evaded all these questions. It is now the third year of the pandemic, and no one knows how long it is going to last. “As ramshackle capitalisms responded to the pandemic inevitably shambolically, matters nosedived. Whether they denied it or falsely pitted lives against livelihoods—the capitalist class’s euphemism for profits— their response to the pandemic amounted to the social murder of millions and induced economic crises of historic proportions.” More and more people around the world are realizing that the developed capitalist countries in the West are responsible for the pandemic and the high mortality rate. The class position and prejudice of Francis Fukuyama, Joseph Nye, etc. lead them to defend the Western system, claiming that the difference between governments of Western countries such as the US and that of China is only the capacity of governance. Such defense is futile. In contrast to the situation in the West, socialist countries like China, Vietnam, Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Laos follow the human rights principle that prioritizes people’s life and health and have achieved the dual goal of epidemic prevention and control and economic development.
Second, Russia’s special military action triggered by the West has led more people in the world to realize that the socialist system and policies are peaceful in nature. What is the nature of the Russian-Ukrainian War? The first, I think, is that in the Russian- Ukrainian war that is triggered by NATO’s eastward expansion and Ukrainian semi-fascism, Russia represents the forces defending justice through fighting against US and Western hegemony. Second, Russia revealed that the United States had set up dozens of biological labs in Ukraine, and therefore also represents the forces of justice in safeguarding the livelihood of the people through fighting against the United States and the West’s use of biological weapons to endanger the lives and health of the people of the world. Third, Russia opposes Ukraine’s brutal violence against the Russian nationality in Ukraine, and therefore their action assumes the nature of national liberation of Donbass and Luhansk through its support for their independence. Fourthly, the war in an objective sense constitutes a blow to the autocratic regime of the monopoly bourgeoisie in Ukraine that prohibits the dissemination of Marxist and communist ideas and banned the Ukrainian Communist Party. Therefore, the Russian Communist Party and other progressive forces and wise people in the world are supporting the Russian action against US and Western hegemony. This has led more people around the world to realize that “imperialism is war”, as Lenin famously put it, that the US today and NATO are the instigators and proponents of war (A new “strategic concept” was proposed at the NATO summit on June 27th, which was unanimously approved by all 30 NATO countries, while the United States pushed for a revival of NATO’s deterrent function, announcing a nearly eightfold increase in troops on NATO’s eastern flank), while the socialist countries are genuinely peace-loving.
Third, the US and its allies in the West are promoting a hegemonic and unilateral ‘Warm War’ and New Cold War, and this has led more people in the world to support the international progressive forces, as represented by China and Russia, to “team up” and oppose hegemony. The new pattern of international politics today is characteristic of an imperialist alliance in confrontation with Russia and China, with the decline of US hegemony. More and more political forces and wise people in the world actively support the idea that the international progressive forces with Sino- Russian relations at their core should play a very positive role, and that an open-ended Sino- Russian cooperative relationship is objectively conducive to the development of world socialism. Today, the struggle “stands at a perilous juncture. Its longbrewing crisis brought to a boil by the pandemic, manifestly making a poor contrast to China’s manifold successes, the leading imperialist nation seeks to lead other imperialist and lackey countries in a New Cold War against China. . . . Never has so much destructive power been concentrated in so few irresponsible and desperate hands to wield against so great a majority of the world’s people and peoples with an objective interest in socialism.”
Fourth, the outbreak of economic crisis in the West in 2008, the severe pandemic, and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine have accelerated the “rise of the East and fall of the West” in the world economic structure, and this has encouraged more people around the world to support the development of socialist China and the idea of cooperation and development in a community with a shared future for humanity. The new pattern of the international economy today with the rise of the East and fall of the West means that the importance and proportion of the US and Western economies, represented by the G7, have declined, while that of the Eastern and Southern countries, represented by China and other BRICS countries have increased. Based on the exchange rate rather than the purchasing power parity share of RMB, in 1978, China’s share of world GDP was 1.8%, and it reached the lowest point 1.76% in 1990. Since then the share of China’s GDP in the world economy has risen dramatically.
In 2021, global GDP amounted to $94.94 trillion, while that of China was $17 trillion, constituting 75% of US GDP, 46% of total GDP in Asia and 18.6% of global GDP. The US had the highest share, with 24.2% of the world, while Japan’s share fell to 5.2%. The gap between China’s GDP and that of the US has narrowed rapidly, and China’s total GDP is expected to overtake that of the US by 2030. Emerging and developing countries’ purchasing power parity share of the global economy has also risen, from roughly the same as that of developed economies before and after the financial crisis to nearly 60% of the total by 2020, and will surely further increase rapidly in the future.
2. It is said that in the West, the rivalry between US with its NATO alliance and Russia; and in the East between the same Alliance and China determine the geopolitical undercurrents that affect all other countries of the region. Indo-Pacific, QUAD and NATO’s eastward moves and recent face off on Taiwan are some examples. What has been and should be China’s considered response?
Cheng Enfu: It is necessary and inevitable to promote human progress and civilization for countries to compete on the basis of the UN Charter and the rules set by the global community. Thus, China has always advocated peaceful development and win-win cooperation, and also welcomes legitimate competition in accordance with the rules, but for a long time what the U.S. and the West have done to China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria and other countries is not legitimate competition, but constant rogue-style economic sanctions, political oppression and military provocations against the rules.
Since Biden came to power, the United States has been actively building a trilateral security partnership with Britain and Australia, a “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” (QUAD) with Japan, India and Australia, the “Five Eyes Alliance” with the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and an “Indo- Pacific Economic Framework”. The US and UK plan to transfer weapons-grade nuclear materials to Australia to build nuclear submarines, and a series of nested small circles have been formed on the basis of the 7. Britain has followed the United States closely. The head of Britain’s MI6 stressed that China is now the top priority, even more important than the mission of anti-terrorism. He also used the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to hype Taiwan related matters, making the improper claim that the West should convey to China the so called ‘terrible consequences that would be caused by China’s military action for unification.’ The British Foreign Minister
made a similar point. The late former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo stressed that Taiwan’s problem would be Japan’s problem, and Japan recently has recently planned to deploy thousands of missiles in the Ryukyu Islands that should have been China’s territory. Therefore, China has to face the constant “ganging up and alliance forming” of the U.S. and the West for containing and provoking China. So, how should China respond in the future?
First, China will continue to call for the joint practice of genuine multilateralism, firmly uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core, the international order based on international law, and the basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and safeguard the authority of the UN and its status as the main platform in global security governance. The Cold War mentality, unilateralism, bloc confrontation and hegemonism contradict the spirit of the UN Charter and must be resisted and rejected China will continue to work with friendly countries to build the Belt and Road, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BRICS, the Group of 77 and the Global Development Initiative, and increase funding for the Global Development Promotion Center of the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA). This will greatly improve the development of national economy and people’s livelihood in developing countries, including socialist countries. Third, China will actively participate in formulating a New Agenda for Peace and other proposals put forth in Our Common Agenda by the UN Secretary-General; and further leverage the Secretary-General’s Peace and Security Sub-Fund of the China-UN Peace and Development Trust Fund and support a bigger UN role in global security affairs.
Fourth, China will continue to try all means to achieve peaceful reunification of the motherland, but will never give up the option of armed reunification with Taiwan. As President Xi Jinping puts it, “The Chinese people cherish peace. We will not engage in aggression or expansion. But we are confident that we will defeat any aggressor. We will never allow any person, any organization or any political party to split any part of the Chinese territory away from the country at any time, in any form. No one should expect us to accept anything that damages our sovereignty, security, or development interests.”
3. “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” sums up the ideological underpinning of political economy of China. China does appear to uphold the banner of socialism and has managed to delink in Samir Amin’s sense i.e. the refusal to submit national development strategy to the imperatives of “globalization.” However, given the relative income gap and astounding numbers of rising billionaires in China, some quip it as “Capitalism with Chinese characteristics.” What is your take on it?
Cheng Enfu: I believe that the development of socialism will experience three stages, the formation of which is the result of partially qualitative transformation of the relations of production or economic system caused by changes in productive forces. Specifically, socialist economic system of the primary stage = public ownership in its various form as main body (private ownership as supplement) + market-based distribution according to labor as main body (distribution according to capital as supplement) + state (plan) dominated market economy; intermediate stage = multiple forms of public ownership + multiple commodity-type distribution according to labor + state dominated planned economy (market adjustment as supplement); advanced socialism = single public ownership by entire society + product based distribution\ according to labor + complete planned economy; communism = single public ownership by entire society + product-based distribution according to need (distribution according to labor for new consumer goods in short supply) + fully planned economy; In contrast, modern capitalist economic system = private ownership + distribution according to capital + state directed market economy. This new theory on the three stages of socialism reasonably coordinates the various systemic criteria in Marxist classics, and, on the basis of lessons from Chinese and other practices in socialist economy, help reveal the inherent connection between the primary stage of socialism and the great systemic goal of communism.
My analysis of the current state of socialism with Chinese characteristics leads me to the following basic conclusions: China has a socialist political system with a new type of democratic centralization with unified leadership and governance; it has a socialist ideological and cultural system that adheres to Marxism-Leninism and its sinicization; it is a socialist market system dominated by state regulation, but also contains a large number of elements of state capitalism that is comprised of non-public economy, and this has led to the wide disparities in wealth and income and the “astounding numbers of rising billionaires.” China is now paying close attention to the issue of promoting common prosperity. Of course, I personally believe that under the best economic system of primary socialism, non-public sector should account for only one third of the economy and that the number of private Chinese enterprises of medium and large size should be controlled. This would enable China to achieve common prosperity at the primary stage of socialism in terms of class stratification. Currently, this is a topic under hot discussion.
4. You have identified yourself as advocate of Innovative Marxism which endorses centrality of Communist Party in affecting progressive change in the society. This “overemphasis” in one party has been criticized as undemocratic and authoritarian. Can you explain why innovative Marxism has to hold on to one party supremacy?
Cheng Enfu: In China, Japan and Singapore, one party dominates; in the United States, there are two dominant parties; in Russia, three parties dominate; and some countries have a balance of power among four or five parties. The models of party rule are diverse with different structures, which are formed or transformed along the development of various political forces in these countries through the rule of law. One can hardly say which party model with what structure is the best. In fact, the criterion for the best party structure is the class nature and people orientation of the party and its ability to govern. Innovative Marxism, then, emphasizes the dominant role and long term leadership of the Communist Party of China, so as to better improve the rights and livelihoods of the working people, achieve faster economic, social and cultural development, and help maintain the peace, justice and civilization in the world. Of course, the Communist
Party of China must also maintain its own progressiveness and purity, and contribute to the full realization of these goals through the full development of intra-party democracy and other broad-based people’s democracy and social democracies.
There are intrinsic laws that govern the development of democratic politics, and objective criteria for its scientific evaluation. On how to evaluate whether a country’s political system is democratic and effective, main stream Chinese theory presents a comprehensive and profound answer by looking at the extent of fulfillment of eight requirements and “four important factors + four more important factors.” The eight requirements are as follows: whether the succession of national leadership is conducted in an orderly way in accordance with the law; whether the people as a whole may manage national, social, economic and cultural affairs according to the law; whether there are smooth channels for the people to voice demands to advance their interests; whether all sector of society can fully participate in the country’s political life; whether national decisions are made in a scientific and democratic way; whether outstanding individuals can enter the leading and management system of the country through fair competition; whether the governing party can
exercise leadership over national affairs in accordance with the Constitution and related laws; and whether the exercise of power is kept under effective checks and supervision. These are the general criteria to judge whether a country is democratic.
To take a step further, whether a country is a democracy or not depends on whether its people are really the master of the country: the right to vote is important, but more important is people’s wide participation; we need to see what promises are made in elections, and more importantly, we need to see how many of those promises are fulfilled after the election; political procedures and rules as stipulated by law are important, but more important is whether these procedures and rules are actually followed; democratic rules and procedures for the operation of power are important, but more important is whether power is truly monitored and checked by the people. These are the key criteria to judge whether a country is a democracy.
The above eight general criteria and four key criteria for judging whether a country is democratic form, in a supplementary manner, a basic standard to evaluate a democracy. This new theory follows the basic law of political development in modern times and deals with such issues as institutional arrangement of modern democratic politics. It
also covers the main contents of democratic system and reflects the basic requirements of modern political civilization.
Through comparing Chinese and American democracies, we can clearly see that China’s has a whole-process people’s democracy, which is an essential attribute of socialist democracy. In contrast, there are serious drawbacks and false characteristics in American democracy, which is a model of money politics, oligarchy, family politics, polarization politics and new type of dictatorship; in short, it is anything but genuine democracy with people as the master of the country.
5. Nepal also wants to tread the path of Socialism with Nepali characteristics. But historical conditions have necessitated it to take the path of parliamentary elections and alliances. However Nepal’s experience shows that the left political parties have appropriated the names but not the programs of what would be expected from the
a. What would you consider the key hall-marks of a left agenda in countries like Nepal?
Cheng Enfu: I have been following the process of socialist development in Nepal with great interest and have praised on various occasions the great spirit of struggle of the Communist Parties and Left forces in Nepal. To a large extent, the future of world socialism in various countries, including Nepal, depends largely on the level and efficiency of the contemporary proletarian coalition. I will talk briefly on only two related issues here.
The first issue is the specific ways in which we strengthen our work in order to materialize the spirit of “proletariat of the world unite” in the Communist Manifesto, i.e., 1. Leftist parties of the workingclass of the world unite; 2. Leftist unions of the working-class of the world unite; 3. Marxist and leftist academic organizations of the world unite; 4. Marxist and leftist media outlets of the world unite; 5. Marxist and leftist forums of the world unite; 6. Working class and leftist movements of the world unite.
The second issue concerns the specific strategies and tactics which Marxists and leftists should pay attention to: 1. We should strengthen the exchanges of leftist theories, strategies and tactics, seek common ground while reserving differences, and reduce unnecessary disputes; 2. We should take the Marxist left as the core, unite all pan-leftist forces that can be united, and form a broad international socialist united front; 3. We need to actively develop leftist groups within unions, schools and other sectors of society, and establish connection with openly declared or potential leftists; 4. It is necessary to establish and develop national and international Marxist societies in various disciplines of humanities and social sciences, with a variety of media outlets such as newspapers, websites and publishing houses. It is also necessary to set up Marxist courses in colleges and open forums in society; 5. It is necessary to identify and promote firm, innovative Marxists and leftists in various leftist movements to hold key leadership positions; 6. We should influence, participate and guide leftist and progressive movements at home and abroad, openly or otherwise; 7. As long as it does not violate existing laws, leftist organizations, including communist parties, should actively establish and expand for-profit enterprises in order to provide direct or indirect financial support for their activities; 8. We should step up efforts to publicize model examples and important achievements of leftist economic and social practices in different countries, so as to provide evidence and public opinion support for local leftist theories and policies, as well as to help people understand the values and progressiveness of the Left.
6. Given Nepal’s political structure, what would be the lessons that China could offer towards the path of socialism oriented development in Nepal?
Cheng Enfu: Based on reflections upon China’s successes and mistakes in revolution, construction and reform, I believe that in Nepal, the first thing is for multiple communist parties and leftwing forces to achieve a strong unity and solidarity in all their work, including elections and governing, and to emphasize within the party such principles as facing the reality, focusing on overall situation, reducing arguments, being tolerant internally and externally, and developing under unity. The second is to unite all the people and forces that can be united nationwide and try to minimize the influence of the various forces opposed to the left. Third, widely establish and develop joint-stock cooperative enterprises and
individual economies in urban and rural areas, while the state should establish and develop a number of large and medium sized state-owned enterprises in key and highly profitable sectors (with a strict system of recruitment, assessment, rewards and punishments for the leadership of state-owned enterprises), but allow the free development of private enterprises. Fourth, be highly vigilant, low-profile and skillful in eliminating undesirable discourses and actions of the United States, India and others who try to oppose leftist forces and policies, and take the initiative to strengthen win-win cooperation with China and all other friendly countries.
6. Capitalist mode of production has turned out to be a massive environment destroying machine. The so-called socialist countries also have not fared any better. In this context the concept and movement of eco-socialism appears to be gaining momentum. China has also come out with the concept of ecological civilization. The concept sounds attractive but what would be the road map – political, economic and social – to achieve it.
Cheng Enfu: Eco-socialism and ecological civilization are indeed important concepts. As a matter of fact, China has already taken a series of measures to deal with its ecological problems, which have been quite effective so far. Therefore, I would rather skip this question here.
7. What role do you see of intellectuals in the movement fueled by class struggle whose primary driving force are workers and peasants? How does class struggle manifest itself in the workings of the Chinese state ?
Cheng Enfu: Engels once called intellectuals with Marxist and scientific socialist ideas the “proletariat of mental labor.” The October Revolution, the Chinese Revolution and the Nepalese Revolution have all shown that intellectuals armed with Marxism, Leninism and Maoism have played a prophetic and leading role in all the struggles and social movements with class struggle as the core, represented the interests and wisdom of the working class and the people, and jointly promoted the progress of history and modernization.
It is well known that in Marx and Lenin, the “proletariat,” “working class,” and “laboring class” under the capitalist mode of production refer to one and the same thing, regardless of in which industry or company the laborers work. In the Marxist-Leninist context, a laborer belongs to the proletariat or the working class or the laboring class within the context of capitalism as long as he/she does not own means of production and subsistence but must be employed by capitalist enterprises or capitalist state institutions and live exclusively on wages. Further understood in terms of the socio economic power structure, the proletariat is the totality of the classes dominated by the power possessed by the bourgeoisie due to its possession of the means of production (both hardware and software).
The term proletariat has nothing to do with the fact that members of this class own such means of subsistence as houses, cars and consumer durables, as well as a very small amount of securities that are not sufficient to sustain the family and that have constantly fluctuating profit or loss. The key to this term is that they cannot work and live independently or freely without engaging in capitalist “wage labor.” The relatively large share of the tertiary sector in developed capitalist countries of our time can only mean that the share of the proletariat or working class in the tertiary sector exceeds that of the primary and secondary sectors. Of course, the proletariat or working class can also be divided into many strata and groups with different nature of work or level of living standards according to their occupation, position and income, but these divisions cannot negate the properties and general characteristics of the class as a whole.
It should be noted that the “pan-leftism” in each country includes the Marxist-Leninist left, which represents the vanguard of the working class (e.g., scholars, communists, trade unionists, etc., who support the core theories of Marxism-Leninism), the petty bourgeois or bourgeois left, and other leftists that oppose only certain issues and phenomena of capitalism.
It is true that the contemporary monopoly bourgeoisie not only controls the national economic lifeline and power, but also controls the so-called “third force” or “civil society” such as the mainstream media, national education, foundations and social organizations, so that The scientific socialism of Marxism-Leninism could not be universally and correctly disseminated, and recognized and accepted by the general public. Therefore, the general protests or “pan-leftist” movements of various sectors of society do not have the direction and nature of scientific socialism, and therefore in general belong to the “pan-leftist” progressive movement of bourgeois reformism. However, this does not negate the existence and development of the Marxist left, which represents the vanguard of the working class, whose identity politics remains class politics and whose “leftist” position is that of scientific socialism.
They truly represent the most fundamental demands of the broad working class for the establishment of a Marxist socialist society, opposing both the American model of “despotic capitalism,” “autocratic capitalism,” and “authoritarian capitalism,” and the Nordic model of “reformist capitalism,” “social democracy,” and “democratic socialism.” Admittedly, the latter model has varying degrees of progressiveness and civilizational property. Yet it must be understood that in any society, before the climax of revolution arrives, the ideology of the bourgeois state is often much the same as that of civil society as a whole, so it is not appropriate to use the so called new situation of the 21st century to deny the basic Marxist Leninist-Maoist vision of an alternative for capitalist society.
What really needs to be revised is the one-sided understanding of contemporary proletariat, scientific socialism and Marxist-Leninist theory and practice, and only on that basis can we innovate in the theory and practice of the scientific socialism of Marx, Lenin and Mao.
Professor Cheng Enfu is an academician at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Director of the Research Center for Economic and Social Development , principal professor at the University of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, President of the World Association for Political Economy (WAPE) , president of Chinese Society of Foreign Economic Theories, and member of the People’s Congress of China. He edits two international journals, International Critical Thought and World Review of Political Economy, and two Chinese journals, China Journal of Political Economy and Journal of Economics of Shanghai School.