The friendzoning of the West
The Gross Domestic Product of the People’s Republic of China was worth 14,342.90 billion USD in 2019, according to official data from the World Bank and projections from Trading Economics: almost the 12% share of the world’s total economy. This makes it the number 1 economic power of the global capitalist world. Such impressive results are not obviously not only due to the adventurousness and ingenuity of its Capitalist entrepreneurs: the country has been carefully and methodically run since 1949 by the Communist Party of China (CPC). With an iron fist, the CPC has been preparing its people for 70 years, leading them out of post-war poverty and devastation. It has acted so that they could catch up to the United States and Western Europe, and in this way join them in fulfilling the Revolution: just as the authors of the Communist Manifesto conceived.
In 1927 China was in the middle of an internal struggle between different factions of the Kuomintang (KMT), the Chinese republican party who had led the overthrowing of the Qing Dinasty in 1911. Chiang Kai-shek, head of the Nationalist-Socialist faction, succeeded in taking over the party against its most Internationalist/Communist wing, and spent much of the following decade fighting his numerous rivals and political opponents. These included warlords such as steppe bandit Zhang Zuolin, favored (and later murdered) by the Japanese; filo-Fascistic KMT Commander Li Zongren, of the Guangxi Clique; and Secretary General of the CPC Mao Zedong. By 1937, Chiang was almost in full control of China, with most of his enemies dead or in exile, and the CPC was divided and in disarray, barely surviving in some small rural pockets. Unfortunately for him, however, the Japanese launched a land invasion in Manchuria and a tight naval blockade. The KMT endured most of the fighting, and quickly saw itself go bankrupt. Meanwhile, the war allowed the CPC enough breathing room to recover and grow strong among the peasantry.
When the Japanese were kicked out of China, at the end of World War Two, the victorious Truman administration tried to make the KMT and the now recovered CPC forget past grievances, make peace and build a unified government. The US hoped to achieve this by threatening to withhold UN humanitarian aid and controlling weapons’ sales, which the KMT needed direly. For geopolitical reasons, neither the USA nor the Soviet Union were interested in a strong government in China, whatever its color; a weak KMT meant favorable trade deals for the Americans, and a safe buffer zone in the USSR’s southern flank full of economic opportunities in Manchuria and Xinjiang. Furthermore, China had managed to secure a place as a permanent member of the UN Security Council: an ideologically divided regime shared by the KMT and the CPC was easier to influence towards one side or the other, and the Cold War was looming in the horizon.
Soviet and American authorities soon realized their plans were backfiring spectacularly when the CPC started scoring victories against KMT-aligned forces, around 1946-1947. They had hoped for an easy to manipulate Republic of China under perpetual threat of the Communists, but Mao had grown too dangerous and uncontrollable. Both powers increased their involvement in the region, trying to force a “two-state solution” with a Southern KMT-China and a Northern CPC-China. Chiang Kai-shek agreed to this plan, but Mao did not, which says a lot about Communist ambitions. By 1950, Stalin had to unleash Kim Il-Sung to start the Korean War, while at the same time denying him military aid; this forced Mao to step in, diverting his attention and preventing him from obliterating the last KMT stronghold of Taiwan. Technically, the Chinese Civil War is still going on partly due to this fact; currently, nonetheless, it’s the Americans who are carrying the weight of Taiwan’s defense. In spite of Taiwan's resistance, one thing is clear: the communists were from 1949 onwards in control of mainland China, and in the position to start their revolution.
Upon reflection, and in light of the Chinese communists' epic history of success, reffering to the Russian Revolution of October 1917 as The Communist Revolution is at least disputable. Nonetheless, Mao Zedong’s takeover of 1949 does not fit the bill either; it was only the start of a long and painful development. For a real, Manifesto-approved Communist Revolution, the world had to wait for a few decades. A different leadership from Mao was necessary, and it would come from a foreign-educated professional revolutionary out of rural Sichuan: Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997).
The man who would be later known as “The Architect of Modern China” became involved in Marxist-Leninist circles as a young student in France, where he had been sent to study and work at the age of 15. By 1926, as one of the foremost leaders of Chinese Communism in Europe, he went to Moscow's Sun Yat-sen University to receive further ideological education, with the intent of applying it in his home country. The school was a Comintern training camp for Chinese revolutionaries; interestingly, he was classmates there with Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek who would go on to become the President of Taiwan in 1978.
Deng returned to China in 1927, just in time for the KMT purging of its Communist elements and the breakout of the Chinese Civil War, summarized above. He participated in all of its most notorious episodes, including the early military campaigns in Guangxi, Mao’s epic Long March in 1934, and the Hundred Regiments Offensive of 1940 against the Imperial Japanese Army. His military prestige allowed him to rise in politics under the shadow of Chairman Mao. His reformist policies, however, made him an easy target in the cutthroat world of Communist Party bureaucracy. During the Cultural Revolution, Deng suffered a smear campaign from which he only recovered after Mao’s death in 1976, when he became the de facto leader of China. The time had come at last.
In order to fulfill the prophecy Marx and Engels formulated in 1848, the Communist Revolution had to include the capitalists: as the first piece of the dialectic process, they could not be done without. Deng knew this, and managed to embed his ideas into the CPC’s constitution. Deng Xiaping Theory boiled down to the idea that capitalism is the primary stage of communism, and that state socialism and state planning are not by definition communist, and that market mechanisms are class neutral. The consequence of this approach was a pragmatic policy of “seeking truth from facts”; that is, applying only policies that yield results, adapting ideology to them – in jargon, accelerating the process of ideological evolution by subordinating it to material conditions. If the means of production had to be taken over to achieve Communism, the more developed was the Chinese industrial fabric, the better.
This realism needed a conversation partner up to the task, and for such a role no one could be better than Henry Kissinger. Thanks to his so-called Ping-Pong Diplomacy (1971), the US embargo on China was lifted, starting the still ongoing trade relations between America and China – or more specifically, between America and the CPC, which to this day is still in charge of the economy. The agreement opened up China to the rest of the world and successfully drove a wedge between the USSR and the CPC, setting them on different paths and confirming the latter as the true harbingers of Revolution. The USSR would become progressively more ossified, clinging to an ideological dogmatism no one truly believed in anymore. Deng Xiaoping, meanwhile, made visits to Singapore and praised Lee Kuan Yew, paving the way for China to become the "factory of the world" it is today.
So, what has been the West's role in this story? Well, it's only necessary to look at the numbers. In the year 2019, the 90 million card-carrying members of the CCP made $400 billion from US capitalists, all under the concept of trade surplus. Marx and Engels, after all, were not mistaken: the cost of implementing Communism was always going to be paid out of the Capitalists’ pocket. Those who finance global revolution are many things, but they are certainly not naive. So rest assured: if Capital is paying for the drinks, it's because it does not plan to remain in the friend zone for too long.