Between this week’s Monday and Thursday, the fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCP), a meeting of just over 400 high bureaucrats whose aim was to set the goals of Chinese state capitalism for 2035 and the fundamental guidelines of its next five-year plan was held. In other words, they gathered together to decide the medium- and long-term strategy of Chinese capitalism.
Obviously, there is substantial variation in the analysis from rival imperialisms. The U.S. press emphasizes the bet on technological sovereignty and the foreseeable rise of militarism. The Japanese press, although relieved by the announcement of a greater opening of the Chinese internal market, fears that the green deal, in theory an opportunity to sell clean technologies, will raise obstacles for Japanese companies to expand their local operations.
What is clear is that Chinese strategies will condition the development of the world crisis over the next few years and the locations and forms of the global imperialist conflict. It seems that the list of goals at 5 and 15 years reflects the consensus and demands of practically all layers and strata of the Chinese ruling class, outlining in reality a relatively coherent set of strategies.
The core: a defensive movement in three times
The trade war and the growing military pressure in the China Sea and the exit to the Indian Ocean have made the CCP bureaucracy aware of its strategic weaknesses. This has strengthened the outlook of the military sector, which had been raising the issue for twenty years. We should not forget that Huawei and other strategic companies are a business excrescence of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which is also the largest infrastructure builder in the Chinese state. As an analyst from the Beijing Academy of Sciences commented:
China has a deep understanding of its deficiencies in technology, economy and living standards that could be the target of the United States… only when these shortcomings are overcome can China be impeccable
The core of the new Chinese strategy therefore bears the stamp of the PLA and is materialized in a three-phase movement:
The distinction between economic vanguard (exports) and rearguard (domestic market) is strengthened, with the concept of dual circulation: two mercantile circuits between which the state would mediate to ensure a balanced growth. It would be a matter of maximizing exports by developing a flexible internal economy capable of supplying through credit and demand policies the stoppages and abrupt changes that the imperialist conflict might produce in foreign demand. The aim is thus to avoid commercial or technological blockades, disruptions in supply routes and armed conflicts that would destabilize the internal productive fabric and feed situations of instability.
Technological sovereignty and resource sufficiency become key points to strengthen the export sector in the face of trade warfare and technological blockades. Developing its own semiconductor and chip industry, and joining the technology blockade game with the United States are becoming priority objectives. The goal of global leadership in new technologies such as AI takes a back seat. The change points to a perspective not only of self-sufficiency as highlighted by the press, but of true technological rupture and industrial standards.
The strengthening of Chinese capital’s rearguard is also materialized geographically and energetically. The military has been struggling for a long time to accelerate the conquest of the West. Although details have not yet been published, it is already assumed that the new special economic zones will be established with priority in the western regions, bordering Russia, Mongolia and the Central Asian republics. The aim is to move the industry to strategically safer regions and to promote continental logistic routes, with the possibility of transporting production by land to Europe and the Middle East in case of instability in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. On the other hand, the implementation of a green deal under the heading of goals for a beautiful China, will not only mean a form of transferring resources from labor to capital to revive accumulation – as in Europe– but will have a strategic dimension, of energy sovereignty something which is secondary for its rivals.
Uncertainty and power
One of the most disturbing elements is that, for the first time, a five-year plan has no quantitative targets. This quiet acceptance of uncertainty is also accompanied by a cryptic reaffirmation of Xi’s goal of building the world’s largest army by 2049… already with a certain urgency because, as the Hong Kong press comments:
Basically, the goal is to develop the PLA’s capacity to match the U.S. military by 2027, so that it can effectively deter U.S. military interference in the Taiwan Strait
The new approach therefore implies a reorganization of the economy and the state towards war. Chinese state capitalism defends itself by becoming more concentrated and more militarist, that is, by increasing its internal contradictions in order to face from a position of greater strength the contradictions against its rivals and to tame the growing social contradictions: city vs countryside, expansive policies vs unemployment, lower wages through migrations vs drop in internal demand, etc.
Therefore, the bombastic statements about the superiority of China’s political system, supposedly proven by its response to the pandemic, are accompanied by other statements, inwardly, with a very different meaning. Jiang Jinquan, the director of the CCP’s Central Office of Policy Research, asserted at the press conference following the meeting that the fundamental principle of the decisions on the 14th Five-Year Plan is to strengthen the concentrated power of the party. There will be more repression and ideological control aimed directly at war propaganda and militaristic nationalism.
For the first time, China has set a clear timetable for building a great socialist culture by 2035, one of its long-term visionary goals, according to Wang Xiaohui, deputy director of the Central Propaganda Department. China’s cultural soft power and comprehensive influence will be further enhanced, he said, with three key tasks for the next five years: improving the level of social civilization, improving the level of public culture and enhancing the cultural system.
Even if the international media put all their interest in how long Xi will remain at the head of the great Chinese bureaucratic apparatus, it is really the least important thing. With Xi until 2035 -as insinuated by the choice of the target scenario- or until 2022, the important thing is that the new Chinese orientation is militarism within and outside the CCP, and within and outside the country’s borders. Xi’s green deal, the Beautiful China, is only one dimension of a comprehensive process that already seems unstoppable. The China of the next 15 years will be greener, but for the same reasons and goals it will be, above all, the olive green of military camo.