Second China Road conference: 1-2 December 2018

Preliminary conference notice: China Road, 2018

You are warmly invited to participate in the second China Road conference, to be held in Newcastle, Australia, on the weekend of 1-2 December, 2018. The conference will be primarily sponsored by the Academy of Marxism (within the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences – CASS) .

The focus of the conference is Marxism in its various fields, with relevance to China.

The main body of the conference will take place on 2 December, with an informal welcome on the evening before. The conference will have the following format:

Morning session (9.00-11.30 am): keynote presentations (10-12).

Afternoon sessions (12.30-2.00 and 3.30-5.00 pm): panels with 3-4 papers each.

Length of keynote presentation: maximum 15 minutes.

Length of panel presentation: maximum 20 minutes.

If you wish to participate in this conference, we invite you to propose panels or individual papers. Subject areas may include philosophy, history, economics, education, literature, basic principles of Marxism, socialist values, Soviet Union, Europe (and European Maoism), religion and Marxism, China’s current situation.

Deadline for proposals: 30 August, 2018.

Deadline for papers to be sent beforehand: 1 November, 2018.

Please note: we are requesting papers beforehand so that they can be translated and distributed to participants.

Costs: Due to sponsorship by CASS, there will be no registration fee. You will need to cover visa costs, transport, accommodation and meals.

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The Chinese Model: A different approach to engaging with Africa

This insightful article was published recently in The Global Times. It is written by He Wenping, a senior research fellow at the Charhar Institute in China, and by Hisham Abu Bakr Metwally, an economic researcher at the Central Department for Export and Import Policy under the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry.

It’s time for Europe to learn from China in engaging in Africa

The just-concluded EU Summit on migration has come up with measures like securing centers for migrants to process asylum claims, strengthening external border controls, and boosting financing for Turkey and countries in North Africa. But these are old solutions to old problems.

Since 2015, the EU has been working at full capacity to overcome the migration crisis. EU member states received over 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in 2015, more than double that of the previous year. But it seems that the European continent is still working in the same old way to try to prevent the entry of immigrants and not to address the causes of migration. Even if we assume these measures bring success in reducing immigration for some time, the EU will later be surprised when migrants use other means and methods to migrate, because the causes of migration still exist.

The root of migration is poverty. The African continent has suffered occupation and war for many decades. Many African countries have not yet been able to achieve the path of reform and development. This has put the people of these countries under unbearable pressure from poverty, ignorance and disease. They have pushed themselves into the abyss and tried to cross the border to reach Europe. They have faced danger and horror, believing a chance at a better future is worth dying for, if necessary.

With the emergence of the new system of globalization, the world became a small village and Africans opened their eyes to the luxury and good life enjoyed by Europeans, which inspired them to move to these countries. The majority of people from African countries continue to blame European countries for their backwardness and believe they should shoulder their responsibilities toward Africa. As a result of the failure of European countries to play the role that the African people were waiting for, these masses migrated to Europe to try to gain these rights. Europe, when dealing with refugees, looks at them from a perspective of human logic or empathy and does not view migration as a symptom of a disease. European countries must change their thinking and strategy to deal with the disease in order to make the causes of migration disappear.

It is time for Europe to look at the Chinese experience in Africa. The Chinese policy has always focused on development. Economic relations between Africa and China have grown enormously, especially since 2006. The African continent is playing an important role in the Belt and Road initiative. China provides infrastructure funding and a workforce, and this infrastructure allows Africa to increase its production and exports, improving the quality of life and improving the conditions of millions of Africans.

Hope is the solution. The people of the African continent need hope. At least this last summit has come out with some words about more investment in Africa to help the continent achieve a substantial socio-economic transformation. China has been focusing on African development for a long time and has seen the results. The EU should work closely with China to push for the B&R to fight poverty in Africa and promote development.

He Wenping is a senior research fellow at the Charhar Institute in China, and Hisham Abu Bakr Metwally is the first economist researcher at the Central Department for Export & Import Policy under the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry.

The Passing of Domenico Losurdo

On 28 June, 2018, Domenico Losurdo passed away after a brief period of brain cancer. He was only 76 and his death is a shock to many who have come to appreciate his work and his person. An official announcement from the secretary of the Communist Party of Italy (PCI) can be found here (see also here). Indeed, Losurdo enthusiastically joined the re-established the PCI, after it had been dissolved back in 1991.

Many are the dimensions of his contribution to Marxist philosophy and history, with the best outline of his core positions provided in an article by Stefano Azzarà (he has also published a book building upon Losurdo’s work). I do not wish to cover all of these issues here, but rather focus on the significant contribution Losurdo has made to my thoughts. I do this not in terms of a self-serving enterprise, but as a recognition of the insights of which he was capable.

The first book of his I read was Stalin: The History and Critique of a Black Legend. Initially published in Italian in 2008, it has been translated into German, Spanish and French (not English – I will return to this anomaly). I read the French translation and it was a stunning experience. Here was the account of how Stalin’s reception moved from widespread appreciation of the practical and theoretical contribution he had made to the construction of socialism, to one of systematic demonization. Given the framework in which many perceive Stalin today, the book may initially seem like a one-sided effort in praise of Stalin. It is far from such a work, for it is no air-brushed account. Instead, it makes a careful and balanced assessment of not merely mistakes made on the way but more the significant achievements – which are so often just forgotten or dismissed.

But let me come back to the lack of an English translation of the Stalin book. Some works have indeed been translated, on Hegel, Heidegger, liberalism, class struggle, non-violence and war and revolution. They have been well-received, with their careful research and withering criticisms. But when a petition was launched to request one or two of the major left-wing publishers to produce an English version, it was met with the comment that it would ‘tarnish’ Losurdo’s reputation. So a sanitised version of Losurdo is fine, suitable for a curiously imperialist version of ‘Western’ Marxism, but one that actually represents his work is not. Indeed, by the time of his death he had published scores of books in Italian, of which only a handful have made their way into English. The time will come when most of his material is indeed available to a wider audience in what has become – for a time and for specific historical reasons – the lingua franca. Then perhaps his full impact will be felt, shaking up many ‘orthodoxies’.

However, the major insights for me have come from his observations on China. I do not mean the tendency in some quarters to focus on Mao Zedong as the last true Chinese communist (you can find this still today among some ‘Maoists’ or maopai as the Chinese call them, with a distinctly negative tone). No, I mean his deep appreciation and understanding of Deng Xiaoping and the ‘reform and opening up’ – now celebrating forty years. Above all, Deng Xiaoping was deeply Marxist in a Chinese context and there are significant continuities from Mao to Deng. How is the ‘reform and opening up’ Marxist? There are many aspects, but at its core is the shrewd assessment that thus far the means of production had been relatively neglected in China’s effort to construct socialism. Most efforts had been directed at the relations of production, focusing on socialist equality and collective endeavour. This is all very well, but if everyone is equal simply because they are poor, few would see the benefit. So Deng and those working with him began to emphasise another dimension of Marxism: the need to unleash the forces of production. The results have truly been stunning, with a socialist market economy, the lifting of more than 700 million out of poverty (the World Bank puts it at 850 million), and so on. In an interview published in 2013, Domenico mentions the sustained anti-poverty drive as part of the ‘incredible success’ of Deng’s policies: ‘infrastructures worthy of a first world economy, growth in the process of industrialisation from its coast areas to its inland areas, rapid incrementation of salaries for several years and a growing concern for environmental issues’. He goes on: ‘By focusing on the key role of the achievement in the safekeeping of independence and of national sovereignty, and by encouraging the old colonies to pursue their own economic independence, China can today be seen as the centre of the anti-colonial revolution – which began in the 20th Century and is still in process under its different guises to this day. And by reminding ourselves of the pivotal role the public sphere should play in any economy, China constitutes an alternative in opposition to the economic liberalism and to the consensus dictated by Washington’.

It is all very well to read such thoughts, but the point came home to me in a conversation we had in Shanghai less than two years ago. In the midst of the bustle, traffic, advertising, shops, and clear economic drive of the place, Domenico said, ‘I am happy with this. This is what socialism can do!’ To my quizzical look, he replied with a smile, ‘I am strongly in favour of the reform and opening up’.

Ultimately, it was the conversations we had in September of 2016 that remain with me. Many others knew him far better than me, but I had invited him to participate in a conference on Chinese Marxism in Beijing, after which we travelled together to another and very different conference in Shanghai. While the first was constructive, with scholars from China and abroad engaging in creative discussions, the second was divisive, with most of the foreigners feeling they could come to China and tell these ‘wayward’ Chinese Marxists how they had it all wrong.

So Domenico and I talked. We did so on trains, buses, walking, a cup of tea (which he prefers because of tea’s inherent slowing down of time, inviting you to sip and talk and pour another). He had noticed my review of his Stalin book, so we discussed the Soviet Union. He told me he had first visited China in 1972, as the leader of a young Italian ‘Friends of China’ group. He liked to come here as often as possible, pleased indeed to see the construction of socialism leaping ahead. As we came to realise how much we had in common, he pointed out, ‘We are of the mainstream, but we must be patient’. Yes indeed, the mainstream, from Marx and Engels, through Lenin and Stalin, to Mao, Deng and indeed Xi Jinping. Part of a living tradition. Which of course means that the myopia of ‘Western’ Marxist efforts to excise many parts of the mainstream smacks a little too much of utopian revisionism (as his final book did indeed argue).

At one point, he asked about my daily patterns, for we both enjoy writing immensely. I spoke of quiet days of writing, at whatever home I happened to be, of ocean swimming, of Chinese study. He said, ‘I usually go for a walk of an hour or two, around the countryside, and perhaps talk with some friends. After I return home, I answer mail and I write’. He smiled, ‘I am a bit of a stakhanovite when it comes to writing’.

But he also said his life feels very ‘provincial’, with all of the European associations. ‘We prefer to speak of the countryside or “the bush”’, I said. ‘I am a country boy, from “the bush,” and I much prefer it to the city’. He said, ‘Yes, that is a much better word, countryside – “the bush”’.

We will miss him, as will ‘the bush’ around Urbino.

Nobel Prize for Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in?

Although I have little time for the Nobel Prize, with its dubious history of supporting European imperialism and anti-communism, perhaps it could gain a tiny bit of credibility as follows:

This year’s Peace Prize should go to Kim Jong Un, chairman of the DPRK, and Moon Jae-in, president of South Korea.

Why?

Let me recap the history of the last six months:

  1. Kim Jong Un makes a major statement in his new year address, indicating it was time to restart the peace process in line with long-standing DPRK policy.
  2. The clear indication is enthusiastically taken up by Moon Jae-in, who had indicated a desire to reopen dialogue in his election platform not long before.
  3. Participation by both Koreas at the winter olympics in the south, especially with a unified hockey team.
  4. Panmunjom agreement signed in April, 2018, embodying all items in the peace and reunification policies of both Koreas. This is the moment the deal was really done.
  5. Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump sign the Singapore Statement in June, 2018. By this time, Trump was keen to get in on the act, but he also had no real option since the deal had already been delivered at Panmunjom.
  6. Kim Jong Un ensures close cooperation with China through three visits – which has had one immediate effect of more than 200 Chinese firms already working in the north.
  7. While the DPRK starts destroying nuclear facilities, South Korea-US military exercises are indefinitely suspended.
  8. Moon Jae-in visits Putin to ensure Russian involvement and support.
  9. Moves on both sides to sign a formal peace treaty, which needs to include DPRK, South Korea, China and the USA

 

New China-DPRK strategic partnership?

An insightful article from the Global Times, which includes the following:

Kim’s three China visits indicate that China-North Korea relations have recovered and developed well … As two sovereign states, China and North Korea have the right to develop friendly relations. Facts have proven that since the outbreak of the North Korean nuclear crisis in the 1990s, stable Sino-North Korean relations have played a positive role in maintaining regional peace and stability.

Some Chinese scholars hold that the China-North Korea relationship could develop into a new strategic partnership if the two make an effort to strengthen bilateral ties in the future. Such a strategic partnership would play a constructive role in the region. North Korea’s desire for peaceful development, to ease relations with other countries and build a new international environment has presented an opportunity for Sino-North Korean cooperation.

Opening up is an inevitability if a country wants to develop. China will be a reliable strategic partner capable of supporting North Korea’s political security during its course of opening up.

Third meeting between Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping

Chinese papers have already reported on Kim Jong Un’s third visit to China and to meet with Xi Jinping over the last couple of days, but I have been waiting for KCNA to report, especially since they always have the best pictures.

A selection from the lengthy report at KCNA:

At the talks the result of the historic DPRK-U.S. summit, which was successfully held amidst the unusual interest and expectation of the international community, and appreciation, views and stand on it were informed each other. And beneficial views on a series of issues of mutual concern including the prospect for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula were exchanged and a shared understanding on the discussed issues achieved.

The respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un expressed thanks to the Chinese party and government for positive and sincere support and good help for the successful DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks.

Saying that he is much pleased with and values the recently strengthened strategic cooperation between the two parties and the mutual confidence getting further deepened, he expressed the determination and will to further develop the closer relations of friendship, unity and cooperation between the two parties and the two peoples of the DPRK and China.

Xi Jinping gave high appreciation and extended heartfelt congratulations to Chairman Kim Jong Un for having steered the DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks successfully and put the situation of the Korean Peninsula on the track of dialogue, negotiation, peace and stability.

Voicing full support for the stand and determination of the DPRK side for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he said that China will continue to play its constructive role in the future, too.

The talks proceeded in a comradely, candid and friendly atmosphere.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and president of the People’s Republic of China, hosted a grand banquet in welcome of the China visit by Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, at the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday evening.

At the banquet Xi Jinping made a congratulatory speech and Kim Jong Un made a reply speech.

Xi Jinping warmly welcomed Kim Jong Un‘s China visit, saying that this fully showed his fixed will to attach great importance to the strengthened strategic communication between the two parties of China and the DPRK and develop the traditional friendship of the two countries and demonstrated to the whole world the invincibility of the relations between the two parties and two countries.

After Chairman Kim Jong Un‘s China visit in March, the China-DPRK relations have entered a new phase of development and the important joint agreements of both sides are being implemented one by one and the China-DPRK relations of friendship and cooperation are in new vigor, Xi Jinping stated.

Noting that Kim Jong Un has made great efforts to protect peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula by leading the Korean people and further consolidated the trend of dialogue and détente on the peninsula, Xi Jinping said he is pleased to see it and highly appreciates it.

He affirmed that China and the DPRK would learn, consult, unite and cooperate with each other as close friends and comrades to jointly open up rosier and beautiful future of the socialist cause in the two countries.

Kim Jong Un said he is very glad to meet again Xi Jinping and other close Chinese comrades at the time when a new historic current is being created in the Korean Peninsula and the region with the successful DPRK-U.S. summit. He expressed heartfelt thanks to Xi Jinping for his cordial hospitality despite the pressure of work.

Saying the picture of the DPRK and China sharing joy and sorrow and sincerely helping and cooperating with each other like family members clearly demonstrates at home and abroad that the relations between the two parties and two countries are developing into the unprecedentedly special relationship beyond the traditional ties, Kim Jong Un stated that he would make every possible effort to steadily develop the DPRK-China friendly relations onto a new high level, valuing affinity and affection forged with Xi Jinping.

He said that he would closely cooperate with the Chinese comrades at the same staff in the historic journey of defending socialism and opening up a new future of the Korean Peninsula and the region, and fully discharge his responsibility and role to protect genuine peace.

He expressed the belief and expectation that the Chinese people would surely realize the dream of China called the great prosperity of China in the near future under the leadership of Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China.

To add another perspective, as Chinese analysis indicates, Kim Jong Un is relying on China to make sure the USA keeps its security promises. Or to put it more directly, the clear message is: don’t mess with the DPRK, since it has China’s backing.

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China’s socialist model enriches global governance philosophy

I rather like this piece from the Global Times yesterday:

The most discussed challenge to liberal democracy in the West nowadays is the perceived threat of China’s rise and the “Chinese model.” That China has rapidly risen in a development model different from that of the West has startled and upset the West. Does China attempt to overthrow the Western liberal order? Would it spread its development ideas, values and political system to other countries? Such worries haunt many Western scholars, politicians and media outlets.

To figure out whether China is a threat to liberalism, the Economist initiated a debate “Should the West worry about the threat to liberal values posed by China’s rise?” as if liberal values are paramount standards that couldn’t be challenged.

After the Cold War, Western liberal democracy and the market economic system, which are built on core liberal values such as individual freedom, equality and capitalism, gained their momentum. Francis Fukuyama, an acclaimed American political scientist, even declared free-market liberal democracy would become the world’s “final form of human government.”

However, it’s absurd to hold Western liberal democracy was the “end of history.” Since the 2008 financial crisis, the Western world has undergone serious economic, political and social turbulence. Political polarization in the US, the European migrant crisis, Brexit and the rise of populism on both sides of the Atlantic all indicate the West has been mired in a liberalism crisis.

Fukuyama was compelled to revise his original opinion and turned to fear for the future of liberal democracy. He called to examine the deep structural reasons for dysfunctional democracy. Unfortunately, a more prevailing view is to blame external threats for the fall of liberal democracy, regardless of what deserves more attention is not threat from outside, but from within.

The West should make self-introspection for the liberalism crisis. Liberal ideas and institutions failed to solve the problems facing developing countries. Many developing governments found it hard to govern their country well after copying Western political systems and were plagued by political and social woes. More newly emerging countries have become skeptical about the Western model. In sharp contrast, the Chinese model is gaining popularity and giving hope to those countries longing for rapid development while maintaining independence.

The Chinese model has undoubtedly raised questions over liberal values, but it also enriches development philosophy. There is neither “end of history” nor “end of evolution” for development model. Now it’s the time for the West to seriously reflect upon its own problems and reconsider its values. What it needs to do is to improve and move forward, rather than be obsessed with past success. If it continues to defend its internal decay by fabricating external threats, liberal democracy and institutions will face a bigger crisis.

If you wish to read further, there is also an intriguing article about a Nigerian proposal to change to a one-party system and socialist economy in Nigeria.