YOU MAY not have heard of him, but the man to watch in China is Xi Jinping. Two years ago he organised the Beijing Olympics. By this time next year, he will be President of China.
In the capitalist dictatorship that still calls itself the ‘People’s Republic’, the question of government is not left to chance, let alone to the choice of the people, and Xi has been carefully groomed for his new post for several years.
Xi Jinping is identified with the “pro-business” faction in the ruling Communist Party which restored capitalism in 1992. But, if his promotion seems certain, the outlook for capitalism in China is far less secure.
Although China has overtaken Japan to become the second biggest economy after the USA, under capitalism economic growth inevitably heads towards crisis.
Mounting problems were laid out last month by the current Premier, Wen Jiabao, in his “government work report” to the National People’s Congress (NPC). Wen’s tone was distinctly downbeat, even sombre. China’s recovery from the crisis of 2008 has been fast, 10.3 per cent growth last year, but the government fears this is too fast. The 12th Five Year Plan (2011-15) proposes a slowdown to 7 per cent. Rising prices, growing inequality, corruption and housing shortages were all threatening social stability, he explained.
He could have said simply that capitalist growth is driving forward the class struggle. China’s bosses are forcing through their own agenda. The government and the Party want to give greater emphasis to development in the interior and to increase rural incomes to stimulate domestic demand. Many of the “new rich” are used to quick profits and prefer the property speculation and exports that have driven the growth rates. As businessmen, they are not keen on any economic slowdown.
Not that the industrialists, financiers, entrepreneurs or traders have any fundamental problem with the Party’s dictatorship. They are not about to start the fight for democratic rights – the “stability” the Party enforces is very good for business! No, they just want a Party that is more attuned to their interests.
Decades of close collaboration between Party leaders and capitalists at all levels, the creation of a big layer of capitalists within the Party itself, partly through recruitment, partly through privatisation of state assets to senior Party officials, means they may be about to get what they want.
Despite the official trade unions acting as Party agents within corporate management, China’s workers have been finding ways to fight back. When 40 million lost their jobs at the depth of the crisis, they demanded their unpaid wages with riots, occupations and highway blockades.
Now, with the return to growth, workers are forcing up wages. China Labour Bulletin reports that production line wages in parts of the Pearl Delta have increased by 50% since the crisis as employers have to raise basic rates and give bonuses and incentives to keep their workers.
Even more significantly, last June strikers at the Foshan Honda plant demanded the right to elect their own negotiators with management. This demand, essential for workers to control their own representatives, is now increasingly common in China’s “workshop of the world”. But it is only a first step towards the formation of truly independent unions that can really defend workers’ interests.
Unlike their bosses, who can hope to pursue their own interests via the Communist Party, the workers of China need a new party of their own that can lead the fight to resolve capitalism’s “social instability”, by socialising the economy and planning it under their own democratic control.