“China is currently the world’s largest economy measured by purchasing power parity. As the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy reshapes the global geopolitical map, Western mainstream media has begun to define China as a new imperialist power that exploits cheap energy and raw materials from developing countries. Some Marxist intellectuals and political groups, drawing from the Leninist theory of imperialism, argue that the rise of monopoly Chinese capital and its rapid expansion in the world market have turned China into a capitalist imperialistic country. Whether China has become an imperialist country is a question of crucial importance for the global class struggle. I argue that although China has developed an exploitative relationship with South Asia, Africa, and other raw material exporters, on the whole, China continues to transfer a greater amount of surplus value to the core countries in the capitalist world system than it receives from the periphery. China is thus best described as a semi-peripheral country in the capitalist world system. The real question is not whether China has become imperialistic, but whether China will advance into the core of the capitalist world system in the foreseeable future. Because of the structural barriers of the capitalist world system, it is unlikely that China will become a member of the core. However, if China does manage to become a core country, the extraction of labor and energy resources required will impose an unbearable burden on the rest of the world. It is doubtful that such a development can be made compatible with either the stability of the existing world system or the stability of the global ecological system.
China transfers value to the IC in trade • The imperialist bloc gains surplus value through trade with China in spite of China’s faster economic growth and exports because China’s economy and thus its exports are at a lower level of productivity. Summary of UE (Unequal Exchange) results • The productivity of labour is key to the transfer of surplus value in trade between imperialist countries and the periphery. • There are two major causes of UE between the imperialist and the dominated countries: technological superiority and the rates of exploitation. • Exclusive emphasis on only one of these two factors is misleading. In the last analysis, the result depends on whether the ratio of the two rates of surplus value is greater or smaller than the ratio of the two organic compositions of capital. Main conclusions: imperialism rules • The evidence shows that imperialism is an inherent feature of modern capitalism. Capitalism’s international system mirrors its national system (a system of exploitation): exploitation of less developed economies by the more developed ones. • The imperialist countries of the 20th century are unchanged. There are no new imperialist economies. • China is not imperialist on our measures. • The transfer of surplus value by UE in international trade is mainly due to the technological superiority of companies in the imperialist core but also due to a higher rate of exploitation in the ‘global south’. • The transfer of surplus value from the dominated bloc to the imperialist core is rising in dollar terms and as a share of GDP.
This syllabus compiles articles, papers and books on China and Africa’s relationship that challenges hegemonic Western tropes of Chinese “neocolonialism” and “debt-trap diplomacy.” As these readings make clear, these narratives mainly serve to obscure ongoing Western financial and military hegemony on the African continent, where Chinese state and private investments remain a relative newcomer and Chinese military presence is all but non-existent. While significant Chinese investment in Africa is guided by private commercial interests, these readings also show that Chinese state-owned investments provide unique opportunities for African labor, environmental, and national development interests that provide an important, if imperfect, alternative to Western predatory investment. Likewise, African participation in the Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to realize billions of dollars worth of infrastructure which has long been a hurdle to African economic independence and sustainable development.
In sum, our evidence shows that imperialism is an inherent feature of modern capitalism. Capitalism’s international system mirrors its national system (a system of exploitation): exploitation of less developed economies by the more developed ones. The imperialist countries of the 20th century are unchanged. There are no new imperialist economies. China is not imperialist on our measures. The transfer of surplus value by UE in international trade is mainly due to the technological superiority of companies in the imperialist core but also due to a higher rate of exploitation in the ‘global south’. The transfer of surplus value from the dominated bloc to the imperialist core is rising in dollar terms and as a share of GDP.