China: Growing pains for an imperialist power

India troops
Indian troops in the Kashmiri region bordering China.


JP Morgan became the first foreign company to fully own a futures business in China on Thursday. This move by China’s central bank and the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) gives international capital greater access to China’s multi-trillion-dollar market. American Express will also break new ground in becoming the first credit card company to have onshore access in China.

Despite trade tensions between Washington and Beijing and the COVID-19 pandemic, this deal follows a similar course to earlier in the year, when past regulations earlier that limited foreign-based companies access to Chinese markets were scrapped.

China is an important market for international financial firms, while at the same time continuing the process of normalizing its presence as an imperialist power. The pressure both internally and externally on new imperialist powers like China is an enormous but normal part of proving their capability of staking a claim in the world by exploiting workers in weaker nations, exporting capital, and asserting a greater military presence on the global stage.

A health crisis and social unrest present China with many difficulties at home. The COVID-19 pandemic continues, with a second wave hitting Beijing. There is now a rush to quarantine and lockdown hundreds of thousands of people. The hospitality sector, food markets, and travel will be strictly curtailed to suppress the spread.

At the same time, a dynamic protest movement in Hong Kong has returned to the streets in opposition to China’s security legislation. This legislation would curtail democratic rights established under British colonial rule. This is another test for the Chinese capitalist class. Can they contain both the COVID crisis and the protest movement, or will the current period create a deep crisis for the ruling Chinese elite? Will the crisis open the path for building a workers’ movement of over 800 million to fight for goals that are truly representative of the aspirations of the Chinese working class and for revolutionary socialism?

Regionally, China faces significant challenges. In October 2019, Socialist Resurgence reported on the potential conflict between China and India. Today, India is burying at least 20 soldiers following clashes with China amid increased border tensions over the region of Kashmir. Kashmir has been fighting for independence since the colonial period. Following Britain’s exit and the division of Indian and Pakistan into majority Muslim and Hindu nations, Kashmir was placed in a precarious situation. Pakistan, China, and India all share a border, all occupy portions of Kashmir, and all want to control the region rich in minerals and saffron production.

China’s economic and geopolitical ambitions in the Himalayas threaten to drag both the U.S. and Russia into an international conflict over Kashmir. Russia is a strategic partner with both India and China. Big contracts for weapons and tactical defense systems have been signed recently by both nations with Russia. The future imperialist alliances are partly being shaped over who controls Kashmir.

Russia and China have been engaged in joint military activities that include, for the first time, participation of both Pakistan and India. These exercises are taking place while Pakistan and India are actively fighting over Kashmir. The flexibility of imperialist powers like China and Russia and regional capitalist players like India and Pakistan show how capitalists try to advance their own interests without batting an eyelash over the very real contradictions that exist on the ground.

The border conflict between China and India threatens to expose those contradictions and make the possibility of regional alliances more difficult. Russia would clearly prefer that China and India peacefully resolve their differences so as to maintain a strategic regional opposition to U.S. imperialist interests. But will the strategic interests of U.S. imperialism draw Trump into a closer alliance with India? A deeper alliance between the U.S. and India would threaten to push aside the economic inroads made by Russia in recent years with the imports of oil and weapons to India.

Can China resolve its border disputes with India or will relations continue to degenerate? China’s ability to bring regional powers under its sphere of influence whether through force or diplomacy is the positive outcome that will send a clear message to the old guard of imperialist powers. The unknown factor, of course, is the militancy and self-organization of the working class in each of these nations to confront both their own capitalist class and world imperialism.

Kashmir’s struggle for independence, the fight of Hong Kong working people and students, the hundreds of millions in India who have gone on strike, and the burgeoning student and women’s movement in Pakistan all threaten the ability of the capitalists to fight among each other in an uninterrupted quest to exploit workers worldwide for increased profits.


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