Interview with Gilbert Achbar on China's role in the world economy and world politics
[This interview published in: SoZ, Sozialistische Zeitung, 8/16/2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.linksnet.de/artikel.php?id=1849.]
What do you think of predictions that China will be a superpower in several decades challenging the US on a global scale?
These predictions are usually based on current Chinese growth rates. Whether China can maintain these rates for several decades, not to mention that no one can make a certain wager on the social stability of the Chinese state when growing inequalities also produce increased tensions.
In addition, the gap between the military spending of the US and the spending of China grows year to year increase of decreasing. The US spends more than the rest of the world and turns a sharp eye at its potential rivals including China to maintain its complete dominance. Washington and the pentagon currently use predictions like those maintained by you to justify the enormous US military budget.
The truth is that there is only one "superpower" (with many vassal states) today, the US, that pursues an aggressive imperialist course harmful for all humanity.
What does China's integration in the global capitalist economy mean geo-politically?
Several aspects are important. I will only mention some vital aspects. The more China plays a key role in the capitalist world market, the more dependent this market will be on the position of the Chinese economy and the more important will be China's stability for global capitalism. China has become an enormous market and an enormous exporter. Thus China belongs to a completely different category than Iran for example. Washington would be glad about a destabilization of Iran that would not necessarily impair Iranian oil exports while a seriously destabilized China would cause a very dangerous crisis for the global capitalist economy.
On the other hand, China is increasingly dependent on the US market and the good state of the US economy since it already controls a vast amount of dollars, securities and loans and is beginning to appear on the US stock market. This also means the Chinese government will be increasingly in solidarity with the global capitalist system - contrary to the illusions of those who believe China will be "a new USSR" in a new bipolar world. In reality, China belongs to the G8-summit of the rich countries more than Russia.
What does the increasing US presence in the Caspian Sea and Central Asia mean for relations between China and the US?
The perspective that I described is only endangered by the conduct of the US. The Chinese have a strong national pride and are annoyed over American impairments of what they consider their sovereign rights including the Taiwan problem. They rightly view Washington's conduct as "hegemonial." They feel justified in that the US encircles them. The military presence of the US in Central Asia on China's northwest flank since the Afghanistan war appears from Peking's view as the western claw of a vice with US armed forces in Japan and South Korea as the eastern claw. Beyond that, the US military in Central Asia is in the center of the land mass joining the heart of European Russia with China and is clearly directed against the military cooperation between Peking and Moscow that arose since the collapse of the USSR.
Finally, Washington's access to China's decisive hydrocarbon reserves is secured by the US presence in the Caspian Sea and direct US control over the oil in the Persian Gulf and thus increases China's vulnerability in relation to the US dominance.
If China becomes a capitalist power with (at least regional) imperial ambitions, what distinctions result for internationalist socialists in relation to ending the rivalry between the US and China?
It would be completely wrong to put China in the same "imperial" category as the US since its "imperialism" is regional. China's territorial claims are essentially affairs of national sovereignty - at least in Chinese eyes. In the 19th and 20th centuries, China endured a bitter history of oppression by the western powers and sees itself in a process of amending this past. Whatever one may hold about Taiwan and the right of the people there to self-determination, it should be obvious for all socialists that this question of China's claim to the island is definitely not in the competence of Washington.