The Politics of China’s Self-Positioning



To position China in the current history of modern capitalism is to look into the relationship between the two as they converge or diverge in their macro socioeconomic and political movements. The self-positioning of China is ultimately a matter of political choice at a time when capitalism has become incorporated into or internal to Chinese development. Yet also relevant is the conception of capitalism’s essential historicity, that it is only a very particular form with a relatively short history and presumably an end, “which leaves open the possibility of organizing human subsistence in more socially equitable and ecologically less destructive ways” (Wood 2009: 55). Only when capitalism is taken as neither globally irresistible (thus as localized) nor the only imaginable historical horizon (thus as involving our compliance) can the depth, complexities, and possibilities of national developments—continuing from postcolonial or socialist “new nation” building—be adequately appreciated.


Migrant Worker Global Capitalism Village Election Party School Collective Land 
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  1. 2.
    According to an expert report, the wealth of the 70 richest members of the legislature rose to $89.8 billion in 2011, a gain of $11.5 billion from 2010, in comparison with the $7.5 billion combined net worth of all 660 top officials in the three branches of the US government (Tyler Cowen, quoting figures from the Hurun Report in “China Fact of the Day,” Marginal Revolution, Feb. 27, 2012). Much of the New York Times’ revelation of Premier Wen Jiabao’s family wealth (Oct. 25, and Nov. 24, 2012) along with similar information about other highly placed officials and regulators has been spread as “rumors” in China for a long time. The NPC convention of March 2013 is nicknamed a “parent meeting of the children studying abroad” on the Internet. And in the popular online discussions of corruption and related issues, contrasts are often made between the present and first-generation communist leaders.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Unsure about whether a self-surgery is still possible, he admits that “we are falling like a landslide” (John Garnut, “The Rot Inside,” The Age, Apr. 14, 2012).Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Goran Therborn, “If the rulers of the People’s Republic were to conclude that China requires a socialist economic base to underpin its national strength, or that further progress along the capitalist road would imperil social cohesion, they still have the power and the resources to change track” (2012: 8–9). For example, Chinese labor costs are estimated to account for only 1 to 3 percent of the final sales price of the iPhone or iPad. Sharp upward retention here is China’s goal and also key to its ambitions in all industrial sectors. “Remarkably, few in the western world have understood the depth of this ambition” (Klaus Zimmermann, “Robots Can Solve China’s Labor Problem,” Financial Times, Apr. 16, 2012).Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    See Martin Hart-Landsberg, “China and Neoliberalism,” Feb 2, 2012, Scholar

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© Lin Chun 2013

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