Different ways to interpret the Marxist tradition

In recent discussion in China, I have become more aware of different ways the Marxist tradition can be interpreted. You can take any core feature, such as the dictatorship of the proletariat, the withering away of the state, the distinction between socialism and communism, the nature of the socialist state, and many more.

For example, Marx uses the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ 11 times, where he means a coercive force of the state that crushes class opponents. This is in tension with his treatments of the Paris commune, where he praises the diminishment of state power and its continuance only as apparatus. Engels, by contrast, does not use dictatorship of the proletariat, but coins the phrase (only in 1894), the dying or ‘withering away of the state’. Lenin develops the argument further, distinguishing between two phases, the dictatorship of the proletariat and then the state’s withering. He pushes this into a distant future, but Stalin argues that it would take place only after global communism had been achieved and communism had become second nature – which may take 1000 years or more. And in Chinese Marxism, dictatorship of the proletariat becomes ‘democratic dictatorship’ in Mao’s hands and then ‘people’s democratic dictatorship’ with Deng Xiaoping, now as an inclusive category operating in terms of non-antagonistic contradictions.

What about socialism and communism? This distinction is not in Marx and Engels. Only in the late notes, ‘Critique of the Gotha Program’, does Marx distinguish an initial stage of communism and a further stage. He leaves open the possibility of more. Lenin then distinguishes these as socialism and communism, with socialism still bearing many features, such as state, classes, law and so on. Only with communism will the earlier prescriptions of Marxism begin to appear. Stalin takes this further, pushing communism into a very distant future, while socialism has a strong multi-national state, tensions between forces and relations of production continue, people are rewarded according to work, equalisation (a petty-bourgeois idea) has no place, and the state’s domestic responsibilities, affirmative action and fostering of anti-colonial struggles play huge roles. In a Chinese situation, they take an even longer view, with the preliminary stage of socialism lasting 100 years, after which a next stage emerges, the moderately prosperous, peaceful and stable society. During this process, a whole spate of new approaches emerge.

How do we interpret these developments? Here are some possibilities:

  1. A narrative of betrayal. Engels betrays Marx; Lenin betrays Marx and Engels; Stalin betrays all of the former; Mao betrays them; Deng betrays Mao … Pick your place, but betrayal of Marxism happens at some point. I find this approach quite common among ‘western’ Marxists.
  2. Continuity, sometimes radical. A smaller number take this line, arguing that all of the ideas found in Stalin, Mao or Deng have precursors in the Marxist tradition.
  3. Clarification. Each stage of the tradition and each of its different branches constitutes a clarification of some idea or practice that was not so clear before. This is a more common Chinese approach.
  4. Changing historical circumstances, which may be connected with the first or third approach. Obviously, specific circumstances, cultural histories, political realities and so on produce new problems, which require new solutions. This is what the Chinese call ‘seeking truth from facts’ (drawn from Mao).
  5. The differences between socialism seeking power and socialism in power. As Lenin and Mao pointed out repeatedly, winning a revolution is relatively easy; infinitely more complex is the effort to construct socialism. This is obviously connected with the fourth point, but plays a crucial role.

A tendency among some foreign Marxists visiting China

I have commented on this one from time to time before, but every now and then I encounter foreign Marxist who come to China with a preset idea of what socialism should be. Inevitably, China today does not fit the definition, so it cannot – they think – be socialist. This assumption also applies to pretty much any other place in the world that has had a socialist revolution.

But then a question arises? What do you make of some of the categories of Chinese Marxism: Marxist political economy as the guiding principle of economic planning; socialist core values; socialism with Chinese characteristics; socialist market economy; democratic centralism; democratic peoples dictatorship, and so on.

The response varies, but it turns on a distinction between being out of touch with reality or in touch with reality. If the first, then Chinese Marxists are deluded, since they cannot see what is really going on. But this approach really struggles to make sense of what they are actually doing. If the second – in touch with reality – then they must be hypocrites, or perhaps cynics who use Marxist language to say something else. It becomes a spinning of words with  a coded meaning or no meaning at all. Again, this is an impossible position, since the leaders, teachers, party members, students and common people are largely very serious about these terms – and they usually know what they mean.

Perhaps a better approach is take Chinese Marxism seriously and try to understand what it means.

Two further points. First, socialism is often expected to be perfect and ready made. The reality is that it is never perfect, for it is a work in progress. Second, we need to be aware of the many levels of socialism, whether social, economic, cultural, political and so on. These interwoven aspects move at different and uneven speeds, so that figuring out the complexity of a work in progress becomes even more difficult.

Why do Chinese people like Angela Merkel?

This one came as a surprise to me, although it shouldn’t really. Many Chinese people are rather fond of Angela Merkel, whom they call Moke’er dama (dama being a term of respectful affection for an older woman, especially one’s father’s elder brother’s wife).

Why? As one person put it: ‘Merkel grew up in a socialist country. She looks and plans in a long-term way’. And another: ‘Among Western leaders, she understands the Chinese theory “seeking truth from facts” the best’.

Of course, it helps that China-German relations have steadily improved since she became chancellor in 2005.


Enmeshment: An Effort to Understand Chinese Socialism

In the aftermath of workshop on the ‘Socialist State’, I have been thinking about the category of enmeshment in order to understand Chinese socialism. It came up at various points in the workshop.

For example, in a discussion over the issue of public and private ‘ownership’ in economic matters, one of the Chinese participants pointed out that the opposition does not make sense in a Chinese context. Instead, the reality of a ‘socialist market economy’ is one way to think about the situation differently.

What does this mean? To begin with, it indicates that ‘market economy’ does not necessarily mean ‘capitalism’ or indeed a ‘capitalist market economy’. As I have pointed out earlier, most market economies throughout history have not been capitalist. So the possibility arises that a socialist market economy is different from a capitalist market economy – even in the context of a global dominance of a capitalist market economy.

One might point to the fact that most of the franchises for KFC in China are government owned. Or to the fact that many of the leaders of ‘private’ companies are members of the CPC. Or that the fostering of ‘start-ups’ have government backing. Or that the development of the internet in China is inescapably tied to governmental involvement. Or to Deng Xiaoping’s statement that there is no necessary contradiction between socialism and capitalism. Or indeed Mao’s quotation of an old Chinese proverb: ‘Things that oppose each other also complement one another’. The list goes on.

But this is only a beginning. Enmeshment has many other levels, well beyond economic matters. A key feature on a political level is the enmeshment between state and civil society. The problem here is that this is a rather perverse and very European way of putting it. Why? In a European – or, rather, North Atlantic – mode of understanding, the state is alienated from civil society, something ‘out there’ that imposes its will from time to time, intervening in society and the economy. On this understanding, civil society becomes the focus of new ideas and possible opposition to the state.

But what if you have a very different situation in which these features are enmeshed with one another in all manner of complex ways? This means that the very idea of ‘civil society’ is a very bourgeois invention. Indeed, the original German is ‘bourgeois society’ and not ‘civil society’. This would mean that civil society in this sense does not exist in China, which is a good thing.

A further feature of enmeshment is what is called non-antagonistic contradictions. The term originally arose in the Soviet Union, especially in the 1930s with the achievement of socialism, albeit in ways that were not expected. Mao for one found the idea extremely useful in the context of socialism in power (as we see in his crucial essay, ‘On Contradiction’). For example, classes will continue to exist under socialism, but now in a non-antagonistic fashion. In the Soviet Union, this meant workers, farmers and intellectuals. In China, this means workers, farmers and a ‘middle class’, although we need a new term here. Why? These are the vast number of people that have benefitted from the 40-year anti-poverty campaign. Their lives have become secure (anquan) in a way not imagined before. But they realise very well that their situation is due to the long project of the CPC.

The upshot: Deng Xiaoping’s category of the ‘people’s democratic dictatorship’ (one of his four Cardinal Principles) includes this new class. A very new interpretation of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat and peasants’ that includes everyone in what can only be called socialist democracy. Jiang Zemin’s ‘Three Represents’ (2002) is the clarification of this position.

My thoughts are only at their early stage of thinking about enmeshment, but let me add one more point. The appropriation of the idea of ‘the common’ in China now takes a distinct turn. In a North Atlantic situation, ‘the common’ is an effort to rethink communism, even though it comes from a very theological idea in which the world was created by God, with everything in common. In a Chinese situation, the common includes the crucial role of governance. The government is involved in and directs the common, not in the sense of censorship but in the sense that any function of the common is enmeshed with governance.

My perception is that all of this makes sense of the old Confucian category of datong, the Great Peace or Great Harmony, which has been reinterpreted in terms of communism. Datong is not an overcoming of contradictions but rather a form of existence in which contradictions function in a non-antagonistic fashion. Of course, a datong society lies in the distant future, perhaps 500 or 1000 years away. Meanwhile, the aim for 2021 is for a xiaokang shehui, a moderately prosperous, peaceful and secure society.

Socialism in Power Workshop

Renmin Workshop on Socialism in Power

23-24 September 2017

Paper Abstracts

Roger Markwick

(School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle)

Failures and Successes: Soviet and Chinese State-Socialist Reforms in the Face of Global Capitalism

Abstract: The demise of the Soviet Union and the seeming success of China’s reforms in the 1980s and 1990s is a study in contrasts. This paper will compare the approaches adopted by the Soviet and Chinese Communist Parties to the reform of state socialism and why one ended in collapse and the other in resurgence. In undertaking this comparison, the paper will consider the specific challenges each state faced, international and domestic, in the context of neo-liberal capitalism; the intellectual compasses that guided their respective party leaderships; the parts played by domestic social forces in the reforms; and what light all these considerations cast on the role of the strong socialist state in the transition to world socialism.






YU, Min

(School of Public Administration, Nanjing Normal University)

National Governance in the “Transition Period” According to Classical Marxist Writers: Theoretical Exploration and Historical Praxis



Abstract: Marx and Engels assert that the functions and tasks of nations in the “transition period”, i.e., the dictatorship of the proletariat, are to establish public ownership by the entire society, to develop productive forces, to offer conditions to eliminate classes, and step into a classless society. The entire transition period from capitalism to communism, according to Lenin, should be through the guidance of the proletarian dictatorship. This proletarian dictatorship is democracy for the majority and dictatorship over the few exploiters. After the October Revolution, the practice of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia strictly followed the leadership of Communist Party, the construction of a proletarian army and supervision from the people and within the Party. This develops Marx’s theories of the “transition period” and the dictatorship of the proletariat.


Key words: “transition period”; proletariat dictatorship; Party leadership; management and governance; supervision





Cheng Enfu

(Director, Academic Division of Marxism, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Editor-in-Chief, International Critical Thought)




A Few Theoretical Points on the Socialist State

Abstract: This paper explicates the concept of “socialist state” from five aspects. First, in any class society, state is a non-neutral tool utilized by a particular class or an alliance of classes. A socialist state is such an organization that is led by the progressive working class (through the communist party as its vanguard), based upon the worker-peasant alliance, and characteristic of the solidarity among a wide range of classes and social strata in favor of socialism. It is also a political power that organizes and administrates economic, political, cultural, social and military affairs. Second, class is of primary importance in the analysis of state, given that class, class struggle and hostile forces exist both domestically and internationally. Third, the concepts of worker-peasant dictatorship, people’s democratic dictatorship/constitutionalism, proletarian dictatorship/constitutionalism, and socialist constitutionalism share the same essence, but may differ in concrete ways of their realization. Four, the communist party necessarily assumes a decisive leading role in the governance of socialist state, with possible adjustments in concrete systems and mechanisms of such governance. In general, the governance model of socialist states such as China and the former Soviet Union had their successes, but in the meantime leave us with serious lessons, and therefore require further improvement through reform. Five, different from capitalist states, there must be small yet strong socialist states, i.e., state that has small number of governing bodies and personnel, but strong functions in economic, political, cultural, social, and national defense development and administration.




Yuan Fang

(Party School of Shanghai Committee of the C.P.C., Second Branch Campus)



摘要:伴随着世界社会主义由一国到多国、一种模式到多种模式、一个中心到去中心的跌宕起伏,社会主义与国家的关系一直演绎着理论与现实的双重变奏。自马克思创立科学社会主义理论,到列宁通过十月革命将这一理论变为现实,再到中国的社会主义革命和建设,直至当代的中国国家治理现代化创新——依法治国,社会主义国家理念在中国正在发育和发展出一种既有别于也高于近代以来所有的政治形式的国家形态。十八届四中全会在最终意义上确立的全面依法治国的当代社会主义国家建设的伟大实践,这一从“法制”到“法治”的变化,并非只是国家治理方式和理念的变革,更深层次是自马克思科学社会主义理论创立之时所蕴含的社会主义国家理念的现代发展和彰显。 本文将从诞生于革命相连的社会主义国家、国家消亡:国家仍具有经济和政治方面的职能、社会主义国家的政治承诺:对政治异化的批判和消除、从“法制”到“法治”:中国特色社会主义国家权力法治化的创新四个方面进行解读。



The Modern Development of the Socialist State as a Concept: from “Rule of Law” to “Rule by Law”

Abstract: As global socialism has moved from one state to many states, from one model to multiple models, from one center to decentralization, the relation between socialism and the state has demonstrated both theoretical and practical developments.  It was initiated through the the establishment of scientific socialist theory by Karl Marx, became reality through Lenin’s October Revolution, developed through China’s socialist revolution and construction, and is now embodied in the modernisation and innovation of China’s contemporary state governance. According to rule by law, the concept of a socialist state in China has flourished and developed into a distinctive and superior political form. The Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, in a comprehensive sense, established the goal of building a socialist nation through rule by law. The change from “rule of law” to “rule by law” is not simply a change of mindset concerning national governance; the deeper connotation concerns the modern development and demonstration of the socialist state concept. This concept is embedded in the birth of scientific socialist theory by Marx. This article contains four aspects: first, the birth of socialist countries through revolution and the concept of the withering away of the state; second, the continuing economic and political impact of the state; third, the political commitment of the socialist state and its critique and elimination of political alienation; fourth, the move from “rule of law” to “rule by law”, which entails the innovation of rule by law in a socialist country with Chinese characteristics.

Key words: Marx; socialism; state; political alienation




Zhang Shuangli

(School of Philosophy, Fudan University)

Social Transformation and the Socialist State: On Reassessing Georg Lukács’ Theory of the Proletarian State in a Contemporary Chinese Context

As for Marx’s theory of the state, it is widely held that it is just the reversal of the Hegelian model about the relationship between the state and civil society. However, in his controversy between Rosa Luxemburg on the Russian revolution, Georg Lukács pointed out clearly that Marx’s theory of the bourgeois state and that of the proletarian state was qualitatively different. While the former is characterized by the insight of the secondary position of the state in its relation with civil society, the latter is rather characterized by the insight of the primary position of the proletarian state in the process of social revolution. In this paper, I will firstly explicate how Marx has reversed the Hegelian model in his theory of the bourgeois state. Secondly, I will try to articulate Lukács’ development of Marx’s insights about the proletarian state, especially his arguments about the primary position of the proletariat state in the process of social revolution. Finally, I will try to illustrate the relevance of Lukács’ theory of the proletarian state in the contemporary Chinese context. It will be argued that maybe we could borrow the Hegelian model (the state-civil society-the state) again to grasp the position of the Chinese socialist state in the process of social transformation.


近40年以来, 政治哲学一直是中国理论界的热点,社会主义政权的正当性问题又是所有政治哲学讨论的焦点。之所以如此,是因为改革的过程在中国带来了市场经济领域的相对独立发展,怎样理解市场经济领域与社会主义国家之间的关系成为当代中国思想必须回应的一大难题。

我们要在思想上回应这一重大现实难题, 尤其是直接回应关于社会主义国家政权正当性的问题,就必须首先超越对马克思国家理论的简单化理解。长期以来, 中国学界一直把马克思的国家观简单看作是对以黑格尔为代表的唯心主义国家观的颠倒。如果说在黑格尔那里是现代国家决定市民社会, 那么在马克思这里则是市民社会决定现代国家,或, 经济基础决定上层建筑。如此一来, 国家在与社会之间的关系中就被明确认作是附属性的、第二位的。如果我们停留于这一简单理解, 将根本无从把握社会主义国家与市场经济领域之间关系的复杂规定性, 更不可能在当代语境中来回应关于社会主义国家政权的正当性问题。

针对这一理论困境,本文将着力指出我们可以借助西方马克思主义思想家卢卡奇的无产阶级国家理论来更好地把握马克思主义国家理论的复杂性。在与卢森堡关于俄国革命的争论中, 卢卡奇试图从马克思、恩格斯的国家理论出发,并同时借助韦伯关于社会统治的正当性理论思想,来对苏联的无产阶级国家实践(苏维埃)进行理论分析。

关于马克思、恩格斯的国家理论, 卢卡奇从两个方向进行了发挥:首先,卢卡奇指出, 关于政治与经济的关系, 马克思和恩格斯都明确指出了资产阶级国家与无产阶级国家的根本不同:由于社会主义国家肩负着社会革命的使命, 它在与经济之间的关系中不是处于附属性的地位,而是正好相反,一直处于主导性的地位。其次,不同于马克思、恩格斯仅仅强调无产阶级国家必然灭亡,卢卡奇在韦伯关于国家政权的正当性思想的影响之下特别强调无产阶级国家政权的正当性问题。他强调指出无产阶级国家必须把确立其统治的正当性当作当务之急,苏联的苏维埃政权之所以能够取得成功, 恰恰是因为她很好地解决了这一问题。

借助于卢卡奇对马克思的无产阶级国家理论的进一步发挥, 我们可以更好地理解中国关于社会主义国家的具体实践。首先是,在1949-1978年间,中国的社会主义国家实践为什么带来一个高度政治化的社会。 其次是, 1978年改革开放之后, 中国的社会主义国家实践为何又会带来对整个社会的“非政治化”。 最后是,在以社会主义国家为主导的改革实践中,为何又会出现一种“黑格尔”式的国家与社会之间的关系:在国家与社会之间的关系中,国家是处于主导地位的主体,它带来了相对独立的市场经济领域的发展,制造出了国家与市场经济领域之间的相对分离,它同时还致力于把两者之间的关系纳入国家的统摄之下。当然也正是在这个层次上我们才能够更好的反思内在于这一关系中的一些结构性的缺陷和难题。


Roland Boer

(School of Humanities, Renmin University of China; School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle, Australia)




From the Bourgeois to the Socialist State

This study focuses on the theoretical development of the socialist state. It does in two parts. The first part argues that theories of the bourgeois state stem from Engels, from whose initial theory two paths open up. One moves via Weber and results in a range of theories concerning the European nation-state (the specificity is important), while the other runs through Lenin to influence a large number of Marxist theories of such a state. The second part analyses the origins of a theory of the socialist state. For this investigation, we need to work carefully through Stalin’s texts, for he was the first to develop the framework for such a theory. The pertinence of this theory for a Chinese situation should not be under-estimated, given the complex influence of Soviet thought on Chinese Marxist thought during the Yan’an period in the 1930s and even 1940s. The paper concludes with a comparison between the definitions of Engels and Stalin to illustrate the significant differences between them.


本文主要从两个方面来研究社会主义国家的理论发展。第一部分论证资产阶级国家的理论 起源于恩格斯,从他最初的理论又发展出两条不同的路径,一条通过韦伯,形成了关于欧洲民 族国家的一系列的理论(差别是很重要的);另一条经由列宁,影响关于俄国的很多马克思主 义理论。第二部分分析有关社会主义国家的一个理论的起源。因为这个调查,我们需耍仔细研 读斯大林的文本, 因为他是最初发展这一理论框架的人。这一理论和中国形势的相关性不应该…


Tom Griffiths

(School of Education, University of Newcastle, Australia)

Cuban Socialism in Power: Transforming the World-System

Cuban socialism in power has been subject to a huge scholarship, focused on multiple areas of public policy and governance, which continues 58 years after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. This work includes the predictable polarised positions for and against the Cuban Revolution, and arguments for and against Cuban socialism in power. It extends to debate amongst those sympathetic to socialism but taking issue with Cuba’s particular forms and practices, such as critiques of Soviet influence, questions of leadership, or the functioning of democratic centralism within the Cuban Communist Party. Some particular critiques come from broader, historical, sectarian positions characterising Cuba as a deformed workers state and / or an example of State Capitalism.

Seemingly against all odds, socialism remained (and remains) in power in Cuba post-1989. Cuban socialism prevailed throughout the resultant “special period in peacetime” with extreme economic recession and deprivations for the majority of Cubans, the disruption and inversion of social scales via economic reforms designed to gain hard currency, the ongoing system of dual currencies, the ongoing dislocation of families through migration, and the recent death of Fidel Castro. The formal and constitutional commitment to building socialism has remained in place, with no so-called transition to capitalism, notwithstanding minor reforms to allow self-employment and small-scale independent businesses in some industries.

This paper considers Cuban socialism in power by examining a selection of instances of significant political debate within Cuba, including: the 1986 response to particular Soviet publications; the post-1989 case of the Centre for American Studies (CEA); the 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) in 2016 and associated pre-Congress discussions; the case of Cuban intellectual and scholar Esteban Morales; and the recent critique of Cuban State media at the Cuban Journalists Union conference in 2016.

With reference to these and other historical examples, I argue that they indicate a significant failure of Cuba’s socialist education, or at least a perceived failure by the leadership, expressed as a lack of trust in citizens to draw the right conclusions and to make and win the argument for socialism. At the same time, such events show a preparedness of Cuban militants and citizens, at particular moments, to indeed put forward arguments for change within a socialist framework. The paper concludes with some reflections on this phenomenon from a world-systems analysis perspective, centred on the potential contribution for Cuba and the region to contribute to a socialist transition of the capitalist world-system, as part of a broader movement to define and build twenty-first century socialism.




本文通过选取在古巴内部进行的重大政治讨论的例子来考察执政中的古巴社会主义,这些例子包括: 1986年回应苏联的特殊出版物; 1989年之后美洲研究中心的个案; 2016年古巴共产党第七次会议和会议前的相关讨论;古巴知识分子和学者埃斯特班·莫拉莱斯的个案; 2016年古巴最近的记者联合大会上对古巴国家媒体的批判。




(中国人民大学 哲学院)

Zang Fengyu

(School of Philosophy, Renmin University of China)


摘  要:马克思在研究共同体的古典形式与现代形式的过程中归纳了共同体的基本形式,提出超越“虚幻的共同体”并实现“自由人的联合体”的合理方案,为构建中华民族共同体和人类命运共同体提供了深远的理论启示。深入理解马克思共同体思想的核心要义、中国语境与当代价值,把握当今时代人们的共同利益、共享发展的必要性和可能性以及从中形成的共同价值观,在价值多样性的互动中凝炼当今人类价值观念的最大公约数,有益于更好地满足人们日益增长的物质文化需求。以此解决全球化时代棘手的公共危机和全球性问题,促进世界各国合作与发展,实现我们时代共享发展的理想图景。


Karl Marx’s Concept of Community: Its Essence and Chinese Context

Karl Marx summarized the fundamental forms of community in his research on classical and modern versions of community. He proposed to go beyond the “illusory community” and realize “free union.” This proposal offers profound theoretical insights for the construction of the Chinese national community and a community of shared future for humankind. To deepen the understanding of the essence of a Marxian community, its Chinese context and its current value, to grasp the necessity and possibility of shared benefits and development, especially the shared value therein, to pursue the common grounds of human values in the multivalent interaction—these will be conducive to the satisfaction of the people’s increasing demands both materially and culturally. Such is the solution to the challenging public crises and global issues. It will also promote cooperation and development for every country in the world; the ideal landscape of shared development, in this procedure, will be realized accordingly.

Key words: community; essence; Chinese context; current value; public life




Lu Shaochen

(School of Philosophy, Fudan University)





The Common via Social Common: Capital in Post Capitalism

After the financial crisis that exploded in autumn 2008, the dominant views of capitalism and socialism were rearranged. However, Michael Hardt has claimed that we need to look outside this alternative, as too often it appears as though our only choices are capitalism or socialism via the privatisation or publicisation of the means of production. We need to explore another possibility: neither the private property of capitalism nor the public property of socialism but the common in communism. Hardt was heavily criticized by David Harvey, but for me, the common is really the third way by which we can overcome the division of the private and the state.

The common in post capitalism appear not as the means of production, such as factories and machines, but as the common wealth which every citizen has the ownership. But different from Hardt, I think the common should be controlled by the state for the common service. That means socialism should not be defined by the abolition of private property and commodity, but by the common ownership of the major social wealth. I call it Social Common Capital controlled by state. In this sense, it means the state and civil society are not two parts any more, they are united by social common capital.

In the third volume of Capital, Marx does not directly use the phrase ‘Social Common Capital’. He notes the rise of the joint-stock company, in which private property is conceptually transformed into social property, as stocks came to be held by people. He also notes how the credit system and the abstract wealth on the one hand intensifies capitalist exploitation of labour and the exploitation of ‘social wealth’ by the few, while on the other hand it ‘constitutes the form of transition towards a new mode of production’. For me that means the social common capital controlled by the state

The tide is turning: studying and working in China

About seven or eight years ago, the foreign students I met in China were almost always studying Sinology. Since then, I have met more and more studying all sorts of subjects. Part of the reason is that the Chinese government keeps adding more levels of scholarships, the latest being the ‘Belt and Road’ scholarships. And part of the reason is that the prospects of employment after graduation have become a whole lot easier for foreign students. More importantly, people are attracted to a a rising power, with a difference: the Communist Party is in power and the socialism they are promoting is to improve the lives of everyone. As for my own interests, I find that international students want to come to China to study, especially in Marxism!

On the other side, of the more than half a million Chinese students who went overseas to study in the last year, the job prospects are not as good as they used to be. Now they find themselves in the mix with almost 8 million Chinese graduates. Those who studied overseas used to believe that a foreign degree would give them a fast track to a better job. But employers here have become more wary. They are not so readily able to evaluate the overseas qualification, and Chinese qualifications have come to be regarded as equal to foreign qualifications.

This issue has a number of levels. To begin with, many foreign universities still tend to regard China as a huge student mine. They see the Chinese tendency to save and then spend money on education as a way to deal with increasing budget shortfalls at home, as governments cut university budgets. This practice has begun to raise suspicions in China about the quality of overseas qualifications. Further, Chinese universities have been lifting their international game, so that they are increasingly on par with other universities overseas. Further, stories in China of graduates from foreign universities finding it difficult to get a good job in China have raised the question about whether it is really that useful to gain a foreign qualification.

So a shift is underway: more foreign students in China, questions about the quality of overseas qualifications. One of the signs of a rising power is not that people come to it for education and employment, rather than heading overseas.