The economic foundations of imperialism

Guglielmo Carchedi and Michael Roberts

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
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
• 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.

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