|Written by Marcos Margarido|
|Friday, 22 February 2013 02:24|
The XVIII Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was held between 8 and 14 November of last year and, as we had stated, it brought no news. They approved the report with the analysis of the 5-year period since the previous congress, presented by the Secretary General who is leavingthe position he held until now, Hu Jintao. The Congress also elected a new Central Committee.
The Political Bureau (or Executive Committee) and the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau (or Secretariat) are chosen by the Central Committee. The Standing Committee is the “de facto” leader of the party and of China. Next March there will be a meeting of the National People’s Congress to endorse the country’s new president who has been already chosen – theCPC’sgeneral secretary, Xi Jinping “elected” by the new Central Committee – and the prime minister – Li Keqiang, member of the Standing Committee.
2305 delegates attended the congress, and elected 205 members of the Central Committee and 171 alternate members. All the candidates’ names are presented by the national leadership, there are no independent candidates. The middleweight leaders and party officials, also indicated by the direction, represented more than 60% of the delegates. Women participation was irrelevant. In the new central committee there are 10 women, 3 less than in the last Committee. But in the Political Bureau, which is comprised of 25 members, the participation of women has improved: from one, they are now … two. Liu Yandong, the only woman listed to be nominated for the Standing Committee, has been left out. Therefore it is said that more Chinese women have already been to the space than to the Standing Committee.
The Congress itself has witnessed the changes which have taken place in China and in the CPCin the last 35 years. In 10 years of Hu Jintao’s government, it has emerged about 250 billionaires in the country (there were already millionaires by the dozen), of which 07 (seven) were “elected” delegates. One, Liang Wengen, the richest man in China, tried to be one of the anointed to the Political Bureau. In the current National People’s Congress, the 70 richest members hold about US$ 90 billion, according to Bloomberg News. That is, about 35% of China’s billionaires are members of the Congress, which has nothing to do any longer with a “People’s Congress”.
The internal struggle among the factions displays the “naked king”
The media has intensively explored the internal power struggle within the CPC, since the Bo Xilai’s scandal erupted. Internal factions, leaders hypothetically retired with very strong influence, moves within the military, everything has been shown, destroying the myth of unanimity within the party. The press also ended up by showing mostly that this dictatorial superstructure is not immune to the class struggle advancements in the country.
There were,at the forefront, two factions in this dispute: the “Shanghai gang” or “faction of the princelings” headed by Jiang Zemin, former prime minister in the times of Deng Xiaoping, to which Xi Jinping belongs, and the Tuanpai faction, or the Communist Youth faction of Hu Jintao, general secretary who leaves office, hit hard by the scandal involving Bo Xilai1. Amongthe seven members of the new Standing Committee, only Li Keqiang is member of the Tuanpai faction. Moreover, Hu Jintao resigned as chairman of the Central Military Commission, taken over by Xi, providing higher concentration of power in the hands of the “Shanghai gang”.
However, despite the victory of the “Shanghai gang”2 in the Congress, there is a clear unity around the policy of concessions to imperialism. Li Keqiang, for example, was the main representative of the Chinese government in drafting a joint report together with the World Bank which suggests the financial system opening, the content of which has already been approved by the new general secretary, Xi Jinping (read below).
The Standing Committee current configuration was set out by the victory of the political project of facing the mass movement rise with negotiations and partial concessions against what was advocated by the Tuanpai faction, for stability at whatever cost, and that had in Bo Xilai a “Bonapartist” candidate. A confirmation of this is the change in position of the officer responsible for the Internal Security secretariat: from the Standing Committee to a lower level, the Political Bureau.
It is true that two of the most quoted defenders of political reforms,3 Wang Yang, party chief in Guangdong province, and Li Yuanchao, head of the Organization Department, were not indicated to the Standing Committee, as part of negotiations among the factions. Wang Yang won projection when he adopted a negotiated solution with the insurgent inhabitants of the Wukan village, after they had defeated the police repression and cast the local CPCleadership. However, it has been speculated his appointment to one of the posts of deputy prime minister in the Congress of the People, nextMarch, which would give him the opportunity to be the “reformists”spokesperson, as it was Wen Jiabao.
A weaker government
The environment in whichthe succession takes place at the CPC summit leads us to the conclusion that the next government – which will assume in March – will be weaker than the current one.
First and foremost, it is the result of the worst crisis since 1989 and of intense negotiations for keeping a facade of unity in the party, being forced to make concessions such as the non appointment of Wang Yang to the Standing Committee. If in 1989 the crisis was resolved with the Tiananmen Square massacre and the defeat of the revolutionary process, strengthening the dictatorship, nowadays there is no defeat in the workers’ movement but its strengthening, because it has been left visible breaches in the main foundation of the dictatorship, the CPC.
Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang have lower influence than their predecessors in the state apparatus. Before taking over as general secretary, Hu Jintao had already been party chief in two provinces and is the leader of the Communist Youth and Wen Jiabao had a lot of administrative experience and high popularity. Xi, in turn, had led the party in Shanghai for only 8 months before his promotion to the Standing Committee, and Li is known for his inaction, heading Henan Province, against the counterfeiting of products, the coal mines explosions and HIV outbreaks.
The new Standing Committee is transitional. In the forthcoming congress, in 2017, 5 of the 7 members will be replaced if the system of retirement of political career at the age of 68 is applied. Only Xi and Li will stay, and among the future candidates of the Political Bureau, the majority is of the Tuanpai faction, thus maintaining a “rope around the neck” of Xi, which can be pulled out if he does not consolidate his power.
To finalize,and most importantly, it will be a government that will have to face a rising mass movement, the migrant workers in the vanguard and new sectors joining the protests, such as the so-called new middle classes. Furthermore, the struggles for the independence of the oppressed nationalities show no sign of respite, especially in Tibet, which has in the self-immolation of monks their main form of protest.
Democracy in slow motion
The pressure for political reforms of the more liberal bourgeois sectors, connected or not to the CPC,were strong in the period prior to the Congress. They did neither question the one-party regime, nor demanded freedom of political and trade union organization. They neither demanded general elections. What they want is just the loosening of the gag, with the establishment of ways to put external pressure to the party, so that they can influence the economic and political decisions and that the profit distribution is made in a more”democratic” way.
The people’s feelings, however, are quite different. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, millions of daily messages criticizing the Congress were posted on the internet. Some of them say: “The pursuit for democracy cannot be prevented, they cannot stop us” or “our political system excludes civil participation, the central leadership has no legitimacy”.
It is in the midst of these two ways of pressure that the CPCtries to remain in control, on the one hand with innocuous measures aimed at placating popular rage, such as the expenses reduction on official travels and public appearances of leaders who lavishly utilize red carpets and other ostentatious luxuries.
On the other hand, specific measures are taken to prevent people’s explosions that could put the regime against the wall. Partial economic concessions to the strikers, closure of polluting factories or postponement of new plants construction, whenever there are mobilizations against it, often with no mass repression, the China Federation of Trade Unions politics of forwarding labor demands to the courts aiming at to divert labor mobilizations and the announced election of union delegates from Foxconn rank and file without any interference from managers. All these timid decisions are taken, as it is convenient to a dictatorship, without popular participation, but they account for the enormous pressure exerted by the masses in their search for better working and life conditions.
Fighting corruptionis top priority
At the first meeting of the new Political Bureau, on the last day of the congress, Xi Jinping said that corruption “would be fatal for the party and the state”. And at the meeting of the Secretariat of Discipline, he said he would “lock the power in jails and face both tigers and bees”. Translating into a more Western wording, he would say that the corrupt ones will be arrested, no matter who it hurts.
On the official website of the party itread: “The hunting season on corruption has begun”.
On the other handa blogger promptly replied: “I beseech thee, Xi, not to lock the power in jail so immediately! We are all here in jail! If you let them in without letting us leave before they get in, they are going to beat us to death.” The post was removed by the censors …
In another post, a caricature called “cutting corruption” shows a man in medieval clothes, crying with a knife in his hand, bleeding in the region of his own genitalia, which had been cut. Censorship acted immediately again.
In his trip to Guangdong, Xi also addressed against rampant corruption among army officers. A retired officer, member of the party elite, said: “There will not be a large campaign against corruption. One cannot do much, as the party would be overexposed, and the leaders will not appreciate it”.
In other words, nobody believes in the success of these efforts, which have already been attempted by several secretaries general, including the previous one, Hu Jintao. Corruption is as old as capitalism, and this is particularly true in the case of China. One of the main demands of the democratic revolution defeated in 1989 had been for the end of corruption. Capitalism had been restored just over ten years.
And 35 years later, the situation is far worse. The US Council on Foreign Relations estimates that US$ 3.7 trillion went out of China in the form of corruption, crime and fiscal evasion in the last decade.
This does not mean that nothing will be done because there is no shortage of candidates. Corruption comes out of every pore of the regime. One of the first targets in the highest levels is Li Chuncheng, one of the 171 alternate members of the newly elected Central Committee, charged with influence peddling. Another of them, Wang Baolin, a low-ranking official who has accumulated a small fortune of US$ 3.3 million, explained: “If I did not accept [the bribes], I would offend a lot of people.”
However, the civil and military top brass and big businessmen will not be touched. In the months prior to the congress, several news reports showed the building of economic empires by the owners of the power’s families, from Bo Xilai to Wen Jiabao and Xi Jinping himself and nothing was done. That is why the dictatorship needs to decide whether they will cut their own flesh to save the rest of their bodies, which seems highly unlikely.
What has been soughtis to sacrifice some scapegoats to cut the excesses and prevent corruption to be blatant to people’s eyes. The excuse for fighting against corruption will also be an important weapon in the war among the party’s factions, as it was seen with Bo Xilai, involved in a scandal and expelled from the party.
Increasingly larger openings to imperialism
In 2012 the world saw the China’s GDP falls, from an increase in 9.2% in 2011 to 7.8%, according to the IMF. Since 2000, when the GDP increase was 8.3%, China had not recorded such a low value. Moreover, China’s GDP fell at a higher rate than the world average and the average of the “developing countries”. The GDP did not fall at a speed higher than the developed countries due to the Europe debacle.
But in order toreach 7.8%, the government invested in non-productive work: overproduction in many industrial segments, which only served to increase the internal contradictions of its economy. Some figures speak for themselves: the idle capacity of the industry rose from 10% in 2000 to 40% in 2011; the overproduction of steel reached 200 million tons in 2012, more than the total steel production in 2000 (128 million tons) generating, according the Reuters agency, liabilities of around US$ 400 billion; it is estimated that only in Beijing there are about 3.8 million vacant real estate, one million more than the number of vacant houses throughout the U.S. All of this was accomplished with the help of bank loans that reached US$ 14 trillion in the last five years, causing a total outstanding debt forcompanies that can reach 122% of GDP in the last year, a large part of it is already regarded as unrecoverable, and to a decrease of 11.4% on the average profit of the state-owned companies in 2012. Just tohave an idea, Italy has a debt of 117% of GDP and faces a monstrous crisis.
The solution proposed by the Chinese government is the same as that of any capitalist and semi-colonial country: they intend to further deepen the measures favorable to imperialism which is eager for a market where they can invest an incalculable amount of capital – the money without possibility of investments in Europe and in the US. This time the Chinese government proposes to reform the financial system, opening it to foreign banks.
It is intended to allow the interest rates release, the exchange rate fluctuation and the yuan convertibility guaranteed by the Chinese government. The capital flow through the Chinese border will be fully released, which will lead to a flood of the surplus in the USA and Europe. If applied, this will be the largest concession made to imperialism since the capitalist restoration.
But this indicates another change: the privatization of state-owned enterprises that had a great development in the last period, so as to offer profit opportunities to international capital. This is the political meaning of the visit made by Xi Jinping to Shenzen, the city which was designated a Special Economic Zone – a free trade zone for international capital – by Deng Xiaoping in 1979, at the beginning of capitalist restoration. Xi laid a wreath at the statue of Deng and claimed that “reform and opening up is a political guide to which the Communist Party shall be fixed”.
All these tasks are not, at any time, easy to be performed, given that the government will find fierce resistance among the leaders of the state enterprises and the financial system, who will not accept, willingly, the reduction of their business – and their fabulous profits -. But the greatest resistance will be carried out certainly by the working class since the reforms will mean an even greater deepening of their exploitation, for example, a new round of layoffs in industries and state-owned banks.
Workers’ struggle perspectives
The Chinese working class has been accumulating economic partial victories and some reasonable political ones as from the period before the beginning of the global economic crisis in 2007, when it experienced a period of intense struggles, strikes and demonstrations, particularly among the immigrants, who worked in the thousands of factories of cheap goods for export under subhuman conditions.
The 2008 crisis provoked a nearly 25-million- job cuts. The struggles have decreased but there was no defeat, and they have acquired distinct characteristics. The youth worker goes on to the offensive side, carrying out strikes for wage increases which are extended to multinationals such as Honda, Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola. Many of these struggles are coordinated among several factories, over the Internet, showing a trend of union organization not seen in the previous period. A new and large urban middle class begins to mobilize for democracy and for the environment. In several cities, factories are prevented from being settled by the population because they are considered polluting factories.
According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (ACCS), 30% of the grassroots masses incidents – strikes, demonstrations, uprisings – took place demanding pollution control and requirements for labor rights, 50% against the peasants lands’ expropriation by the government and the remaining 20% by reasons not laid down. We can compute in these 20% the rebellions against local governments, the struggle of the ethnic minorities, etc…
The struggles were not in vain and open up, little by little, cracks in the government which is forced to make concessions to avoid seeing an explosion of the regime. The strikes resulted in an average increase of 12.5% on urban wages, exceeding the GDP and generating a revenue increase of 9.6% per family after deducting the inflation, which provides more encouragement to the struggles.
However the situation is far from being satisfactory. In 2012, 20% of the wealthiest urban families consumed 5.1 times more than the 20% poorest, an increase of 3.8 times in a decade. For peasant families, official figures are far worse. On average, its revenue in 2010 was 3.23 times lower than that of urban families, with about 100 million peasants below the poverty line.
More struggles are the answer of the movement. In January 2013 there was a new wave of strikes of teachers, buses and taxis drivers, civil servants and factory workers for wage increase, such as the two strikes in the Foxconn units in Jiangxi and Beijing. In Jiangxi it was obtained a 30% increase, raising the salary to US$ 350 monthly. This victory led an electronics plant to go on strike immediately and to the announcement of an increase in the minimum wage in some provinces.
In 2013, the scenario becomes even more complex. It combines the maintenance of the upsurge with the economic crisis deepening in China together with a weaker government. The dictatorship will open the country to imperialism, privatizing the financial system and the state-owned companies, which will result in more attacks against the working class, especially the workers of the state-owned companies.
The worker and popular resistance, with the possible joining of the state-owned enterprises’ workers, the immigrant workers ongoing fight against overexploitation and the popular struggle against polluting factories and corruption put on the agenda the struggle deepening and a new round of struggles that points out to the need to unify and politicize them, in view of the dictatorship overthrow.
 To understand the context of the PCCh internal disputes previous to the current Congress I would refer the reader to the articles on the subject published on the website of LIT (www.litci.org): “The Congress of Chinese Communist Party is a game with marked cards, but..”and “The Chinese model threatened by the crisis and by the workers rise.”
2 Although the”Shanghai gang” is also called fraction of princes – a reference to the “noble” origin of some of its members, sons of the 1949’s old revolutionaries – there is not a clear division between fractions. Even Li Keqiang and Bo Xilai, both of Tuanpai faction are princes.
3 The greatest example of “reformist” is the prime minister who is stepping down, Wen Jiabao.