Last Thursday was the closing ceremony of the two sessions 2021, the most important Chinese political event/ceremonial of the year. At its center lay the global crisis of capitalism. In its outlook was militarism, war and the green deal. The good news: Chinese strategists do not expect an armed confrontation with the US before 2027. The bad news: the burden on the Chinese working class has already begun.
In this article…
- Two Sessions 2021: A direct attack on the working class in China
- The capitalist crisis: lack of momentum behind the slowdown in growth and restriction of international trade
- Green Deal
- Two sessions 2021: a balance
Two Sessions 2021: A direct attack on the working class in China
The European press ironically commented on the government’s official statement at the two sessions 2021 that the 6% growth target is a modest one. But that target is associated with the creation of just 11 million jobs in the cities, not enough even to absorb the 136 million rural migrants who make a living on the Pacific coast and who do not even figure in the unemployment statistics. With respect to formal workers residing legally in the cities, the goal is to contain unemployment at 5.5% and inflation at 3%.
Translated: no less than 220 million urban workers will remain or move below the limits of subsistence into extreme poverty. And if this were not enough, the Chinese state will raise the retirement age and predictably lower the provision of essential public services by lowering taxes.
That said, to reduce the pressure of rural migration, the two sessions 2021 institute a program of training and direct aid to poor farmers financed by new transfers to the regions. Nothing substantial, the internal equivalent of the EU programs in Senegal and the countries of origin of African migrations.
The capitalist crisis: lack of momentum behind the slowdown in growth and restriction of international trade
There is nothing to be surprised about. The two sessions 2021 were, as always, a veritable board of directors of the Chinese bourgeoisie. And like any organ of the bourgeoisie when accumulation goes awry the first reaction is to lower labor costs.
But like all the bourgeoisies of the world, their main anguish is that the global crisis of capitalism and the competition and increasing pressure from Europe and the US will lead them to lose even more markets. They cannot escape the current stage of capitalism: imperialism.
That’s why their first goal is to make up for lost markets by increasing sales in new markets and with new products. And in this the how is inseparable from the where. The two sessions 2021 strategy aims to achieve this by bringing forward the implementation of RCEP in order to squeeze a little more out of the Asian markets and by accelerating its plans in Ibero-America and Africa. In a press conference on the sidelines of the two sessions 2021 that has now become traditional, Chancellor Wang noted:
We will see new fields come into the picture [in addition to] infrastructure deals, ports, railroads. New areas where China is trying to become more influential will also be important and digital technology is definitely one of them
The new priority sectors that the Chinese bourgeoisie is counting on to accelerate its international trade are telecommunications, Artificial Intelligence applications for states, electric cars, rare earths and special materials, robotics, aircraft engines, high-end medical equipment, vaccines, agricultural machinery, major equipment used in shipbuilding, aviation, high-speed railroads and industrial applications of the Beidou global satellite navigation system, China’s alternative to GPS.
The driving force of the imperialist conflict is in motion and accelerating. Ultimately it is nothing but a struggle for access to markets in order to place surplus production and capital. But in concrete practice it can lead to a thousand frictions, battles and even wars over seemingly disparate goals, such as simply creating a problem for a rival or gaining a supposedly strategic position.
These frictions have long been escalating between China and its competitors. In the two sessions 2021 premier Li Keqiang made clear that we will resolutely protect ourselves against interference by outside forces in the affairs of Hong Kong and Macau. And to cap it all off, Parliament voted almost unanimously to approve a resolution guaranteeing that only patriots will be allowed to rule Hong Kong. In addition, the Chinese establishment sent a clear signal to the U.S. about Taiwan and Beijing’s aspirations in the China Sea. And this is where imperialism’s B-side comes in: the militarism.
The good news conveyed by the umpteenth increase in Chinese military spending is that the strategists who framed the decisions of the two sessions 2021 do not believe that a war against the US in the Pacific is likely before 2027. The bad, that they consider it inevitable. So now everything is focused on ensuring a strong military by 2027. Put in three words: an arms race.
The two sessions 2021 have declared a $209 billion budget, which represents a military spending increase of 6.6%, the lowest in two decades. But the figures are made up to conceal much of the military spending. They don’t want to scare anyone ahead of time… but they certainly haven’t considered for a moment letting it go. The Japanese press quoted a Chinese expert as asserting that:
Xi realizes that there is a big gap between the PLA and the U.S. military, and that the gap could widen further if Washington tightens its scientific and technological prohibitions on the defense industry. […] The most effective way is to use China’s top-down political system to mobilize all resources in all sectors to accelerate military modernization.
This so-called more effective way matches the definition of militarism to a tee. The reality is that everything, from the exploration of the Moon to neurotechnologies, is going to be subordinated to weapons development and the consolidation of the military as a total machine: technological, productive, militaristic… and nuclear, because the aim is to balance forces with the USA who on the other hand, keeps on creating new atomic weapons with China in mind.
In the two sessions 2021 the Chinese nuclear effort has been presented as a proactive and orderly developmentof the nuclear power plant network. China already builds power plants exclusively with its own technologies, i.e., safe for dual civilian-military use.
Incidentally, the increase in nuclear power helps Chinese capital to avoid further exclusions of its products on account of the CO2 emitted in their production. The EU yesterday approved the basics of a tariff –adjustment of CO2 at the border, they call it- intended precisely against the Chinese aluminum and steel industry. Developing its own Green Deal will also allow it to participate to a greater or lesser extent in the international green capital game and to acquire a new tool for transferring rents from labor to capital.
Result, the two sessions 2021 enshrined the goal of lowering CO2 emissions per point of GDP by 18% over the next five years and reaching emissions neutrality by 2060. The emissions peak however is yet to come. Coal still accounts for 60% of the Chinese energy basket and changing this is not an easy thing to do. Until 2030 net emissions will keep growing. In the following ten years they would drop to zero. Ten years is the time it takes to build and commission new Chinese nuclear power plants.
Two sessions 2021: a balance
A direct attack on the conditions of the working class in China and an escalation of imperialist needs both accompanied by an accelerated development of militarism. It is impossible to define the two sessions 2021 otherwise.
The China that emerges from the political ceremonial is a concentrated summary of global capitalism: The first target is workers’ wages and pensions, the pace is set by an increasingly stark and violent struggle for global markets, and the ten-year perspective, perhaps sooner, is focused on war.