First off, we need to establish what imperialism IS before we can decide if any country fits it or not.
To do this, I shall be using Lenin’s definition.
That Definition has 5 major components:
I. CONCENTRATION OF PRODUCTION AND MONOPOLIES
II. BANKS AND THEIR NEW ROLE
III. FINANCE CAPITAL AND THE FINANCIAL OLIGARCHY
IV. EXPORT OF CAPITAL
V. DIVISION OF THE WORLD AMONG CAPITALIST ASSOCIATIONS
I. CONCENTRATION OF PRODUCTION AND MONOPOLIES
Why does this matter? What makes this imperialism?
Corruption. While the state having a monopoly might lead to negative consequences and issues, in a bourgeois state, it leads to specific sets of issues. Such as price fixing, price gouging, and a whole raft of activities that boil down to ‘The rich make all the money, and you can’t stop them.’
“But this is a circumstance which only accelerates concentration and the formation of monopolist manufacturers’ associations, cartels, syndicates, etc.” – Lenin.
Even higher levels of wealth flow into their hands. Even higher levels of power and influence over the government. That’s why it’s bad.
So why does this apply or not apply to China?
Simple: it’s not a bourgeoise state.
The rich do not control the government, there is no mechanism for lobbying, as there is in the west.
There is no control mechanism, short of outright bribery, and the CPC takes that shit real seriously.
And, all major companies have CPC cadres on board who don’t answer to the CEOs, to watchdog them.
The problem is not monopolies. It’s what monopolies can do, in a dictatorship of the bourgeoise, as Lenin points out.
For this to be an issue, a company would not only have to be powerful, it would have to have a monopoly, and for the local cadre to be idiots, or subverted, and for those checking on them to be likewise, and for the CPC also to be clueless, or corrupted, and for the people not to notice either.
None of this is happening, save in occasional incidences, which ARE punished.
II. BANKS AND THEIR NEW ROLE
“As banking develops and becomes concentrated in a small number of establishments, the banks grow from modest middlemen into powerful monopolies having at their command almost the whole of the money capital of all the capitalists and small businessmen and also the larger part of the means of production and sources of raw materials in any one country and in a number of countries.” – Lenin
So this is more of the same. The banks do the corrupt, power-grabbing monopoly thing, but by playing with finance, not production.
Not only do the above issues apply from , but in PRC, the banks are state-owned.
This keeps the power of all that wealth, and possible leverage, in the hands of the proletarian-controlled state.
So there is even a LESS opportunity for things to go wrong here in terms of exporting imperialism.
II. FINANCE CAPITAL AND THE FINANCIAL OLIGARCHY
So, this is when finance capital rather than industrial capital has a leading role. When a company or bank makes money not by producing things, or by owning companies that produce things, but by playing in the stock markets, doing clever things with the money supply, and that sort of thing, rather than by making and selling more stuff.
And they become oligarchs when they use this power to control the government.
So it’s not just ‘rich people exist’ but more than that. It’s ‘rich people exist and have undue power and influence over the government like they do in the USA.’
So, are they?
Well if they were, what would we expect?
Well, we see in the west that laws do not apply to oligarchs. That they get at best a slap on the wrist when they do something wrong, or demand and receive bailouts when they do something dumb.
Do we see this in China?
The rich in China walk a fine line. Rich people who step out of line are arrested and put down a peg. This is a regular occurrence in China. They are not well-liked. They have no influence over policy, beyond that which they can persuade.
If they try to use their power and influence, they get busted.
If they fuck up really badly, they get executed.
That’s not what happens to oligarchs.
Sure, they’re rich, and that inequality is a contradiction. Which the CPC is working on right now, look up the five-year plan for 2021-2026 and the China 2035 plans.
But that’s not an oligopoly.
No matter how rich they get, they only become oligarchs when they have undue power and influence over the government.
And to assume that because they have money, they MUST have that undue influence, is to bring your western bourgeois baggage into the conversation.
III. EXPORT OF CAPITAL
“Typical of the old capitalism, when free competition held undivided sway, was the export of goods. Typical of the latest stage of capitalism, when monopolies rule, is the export of capital.” – Lenin
What does this mean? This means that in addition to, or rather than exporting stuff and things, a country exports money.
Oh, noes! China exports capital! Well, that’s it. Case closed, better pack it up, and go home…
Unless, we read past the headlines, maybe?
“England became a capitalist country before any other, and by the middle of the nineteenth century, having adopted free trade, claimed to be the “workshop of the world”, the supplier of manufactured goods to all countries, which in exchange were to keep her provided with raw materials. But in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, this monopoly was already undermined; for other countries, sheltering themselves with “protective” tariffs, developed into independent capitalist states.” – Lenin.
Well that sure sounds like China right? OMG, it’s true!
“The export of capital is made possible by a number of backward countries having already been drawn into world capitalist intercourse; main railways have either been or are being built in those countries, elementary conditions for industrial development have been created, etc. The need to export capital arises from the fact that in a few countries capitalism has become “overripe” and (owing to the backward state of agriculture and the poverty of the masses) capital cannot find a field for “profitable” investment.” – Lenin.
All of this is true.
China IS exporting capital.
It IS building roads, ports, railways etc.
All of that is true.
But this is also true: “The principal spheres of investment of British capital are the British colonies, which are very large also in America (for example, Canada), not to mention Asia, etc. In this case, enormous exports of capital are bound up most closely with vast colonies, of tile importance of which for imperialism I shall speak later. In the case of France the situation is different. French capital exports are invested mainly in Europe, primarily in Russia (at least ten thousand million francs). This is mainly loan capital, government loans, and not capital invested in industrial undertakings. Unlike British colonial imperialism, French imperialism might be termed usury imperialism. In the case of Germany, we have a third type; colonies are inconsiderable, and German capital invested abroad is divided most evenly between Europe and America.”
“France, when granting loans to Russia, “squeezed” her in the commercial treaty of September 16, 1905, stipulating for certain concessions to run till 1917. She did the same in the commercial treaty with Japan of August 19, 1911.”
That’s the difference.
It’s almost literally the difference between being stabbed by a knife, and a surgeon using a knife [scalpel] to operate on you, and fix you up. You get stabbed either way, but the intent AND result is quite different.
What Lenin is describing is the use of capital to extract and control. Even to cripple local industries. Why buy local, when the foreign stuff is cheaper/better/both?
China is not doing that.
Not only are their terms more friendly, and they routinely forgive debts when they cannot be paid, but the point and purpose of the capital expenditure are different.
Being ‘nice’ about it is not what makes them not imperialist, it’s WHAT THE MATERIAL RESULTS ARE, as well as the purpose of the capital export.
The material results are that China’s capital exports build up the economies of the countries affected, and do NOT subvert, weaken or destroy those economies as western capital exports do. The whole goal of China’s Belt & Road initiative is so that China can build up trading partners who are not from the Western aligned world. They want to make Africa (for example) and major world economy so that Chinese markets have someone to trade with who isn’t a western imperialist aligned country. It is not in China’s interest to keep these countries down and only extract their raw mineral wealth. China wants fully developed trading partners who aren’t imperialists.
The reason why they think like this is because they are NOT capitalists.
That’s the big one. The headline says ‘Capital export’ but the meat of the section says WHAT HAPPENS when the capital is exported.
And those two things are very different.
Anyone making the argument that capital export OF ANY TYPE = Imperialism, has not read the fucking book.
IV. DIVISION OF THE WORLD AMONG CAPITALIST ASSOCIATIONS
Ignoring that China is not capitalist, and not ruled by the bourgeoisie, even if they were, they are NOT dividing the world into sections that they can rule or extract from. So they are no more imperialist than Eire is.
Military bases? Military bases are not imperialism. They are tools. And while they can be used to leverage military power in the service of imperialism, they are not used that way by non-imperialist states, or China for that matter.
At some point in the future when China uses its military base in Djibouti to ‘persuade’ the people there to give them a crazy deal on oil/lithium/regime change, then yeah, you will have a point.
Beyond even Lenin’s specifications, there is the Poverty Alleviation campaign in China.
There are many people who are still poor, but Absolute Poverty has been eradicated.
No bourgeois country could, or would do this.
There is no advantage in this for them.
Worse, China does not vote for its President or Chairman.
So Xi Jinping is not buying votes.
The only reason that they did this is because they are serious about the development of socialism.
This is why we DO socialism.
And if this is not what YOUR socialism is for, I don’t fucking want it, and I don’t think China does, either.
Anyone claiming China is imperialist is either simplistic in their thinking, lazy, desperate, or dishonest.