eg Chinese Voices
No. 35 | 06.03.2022
Zhang Jun, China’s permanent UN representative, called on the international community to use dialogue and consultation to seek a comprehensive solution on Ukraine. [Photo/UN photo]

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The Russian-Ukrainian war: China’s role in the construction of a new international order
Zheng Yongnian
Zheng Yongnian (郑永年) is director of the Advanced Institute of Global and Contemporary China Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen)

Context

The Russian-Ukrainian war that erupted in February 2022 has been the subject of unprecedented debate throughout China, thanks, in part, to the active voices of the Russian, Ukrainian, and European embassies on Chinese social media platforms. Zheng Yongnian analyzes the Russian-Ukrainian war in the context of the collapse of the old international order formed after World War II, and the incubation of a new international order, in which China has a role to play.

Key Points

  • The international order formed after World War II is rapidly collapsing. The crisis in Ukraine reflects the reorganization and collision of various forces in the weak, old international order on the rise of powerful politicians in a pluralistic world.
  • While NATO's expansion to the east eventually led to the current Russian-Ukrainian war, Ukraine itself played an important role with its politicians naively relying on NATO and the United States for security, and intellectuals envisaging the construction of a "new nation" in line with Western values.
  • After the disintegration of the old Cold War order, the new international order developed along two mainlines: NATO's eastern expansion threatens Russia's national security, and the rise of China increases the US need for containment.
  • It is not likely that the US will send troops to Ukraine, but the US realizes that Putin and Russia should not be underestimated. This, however, could significantly slow the shift of the US strategic priorities from Europe to the Indo-Pacific.
  • The US-led NATO response to the Russian-Ukrainian war suggests that the United States is no longer capable of maintaining a one-superpower international order, and that the new international order is moving closer toward pluralism.
  • The emerging new international order reflects a greater dispersal of wealth, power, and cultural authority, with no superpowers, only big countries, and regional powers.

Summary

The author argues that the Russian-Ukrainian war has further complicated the international situation and that China needs to calmly analyze the new changes and trends in the interaction of the major powers. It is not impossible that Russia will expand its presence in Ukraine and create a Russia empire to defend its national security. To ensure that China's modernization process is not interrupted by the United States, it needs to avoid strategic miscalculations and impulsive decisions. An important attribute of a great country is its responsibility to promote and maintain international peace. China can play a more important role in the construction of a new international order.

The US’s financial sanctions on Russia won’t work
Chen Jing
Chen Jing (陈经) is vice president of the Society for Science, Technology and Strategic Winds

Context

On February 26, two days after Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine, the US and its European allies announced that Russian banks would be suspended from using the SWIFT settlement system. Chen Jing believes that the sanctions against Russia are unprecedented and that Russia's international trade activities will be significantly restricted. However, the Iranian example shows that the country found ways to survive after it was blocked from SWIFT in 2012.

Key points

  • Since March 2014, the West has been imposing several rounds of sanctions on Russia, but the economic attacks were not strong. In contrast, the aim of the latest sanctions is to cause economic collapse and political instability in Russia.
  • Since the EU voluntarily agreed to use SWIFT to sanction Russia, it is very possible that Russia's global trade activities will be hurt and they will seek alternative methods to conduct global trade.
  • The EU imports 41 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Russia could negotiate with the US and Europe for an energy exemption from the sanctions. But this would be humiliating for Russia and the reliance on exemptions to maintain energy exports is not a long-term solution.
  • Despite the US sanctions against Iran, India is considering buying Iranian oil in rupees, and China and EU are trying to do business with Iran by bypassing SWIFT. Russia has also developed SPFS in case it is kicked out of SWIFT.
  • China and Russia just signed a 30-year gas agreement with settlement in euros, and if the SWIFT system does not cooperate, they can settle in RMB or bilateral currencies. Even if the US maintains the SWIFT sanctions, China is not afraid.
  • The US and European sanctions may prompt China, Russia, and Iran to form an "anti-sanction" alliance. Together with South Asia, Southeast Asia, West Asia and Africa, a population of nearly 6 billion, it would become the strongest alliance in the world. The US and Europe, plus Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea, a total of only 1 billion people, cannot represent the world.

Summary

According to Chen Jing, the economic sanctions imposed by the US and Europe will cause a blow to Russia's economy in the short term, but in the long term, it will only lead to the formation of a solid regional cooperation triangle between China, Russia, and Iran in Eurasia. Developing countries, in general, can bypass the interference and unequal trade exploitation of the US and Europe and achieve rapid economic development if they actively integrate into the framework of Chinese-Russian-Iranian cooperation.

Misconceptions about “tertiary distribution” to achieve common prosperity
Wang Shaoguang
Wang Shaoguang (王绍光) is the Emeritus Professor of the Department of Government and Public Administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

Context

China is committed to achieving the goal of common prosperity for all its people by 2050. In the first part of the two-part series, Wang Shaoguang explained the special role of "pre-primary distribution"(零次分配 líng cì fēnpèi) in China and emphasized that primary distribution(初次分配 chūcì fēnpèi) plays a greater role than secondary distribution (二次分配 èr cì fēnpèi) in reducing income inequality. In this second part, Wang focuses on the misconceptions about tertiary distribution (三次分配 sāncì fēnpèi)–reducing wealth disparity through donations–by comparing different countries.

Key Points

  • “Tertiary distribution” is proposed by the economist Li Yining(厉以宁); he believes it relies on the power of morality and individual commitment. Equivalent to "charity" abroad, it is the voluntary distribution of social resources and social wealth by high-income groups through fundraising, donations, and grants.
  • Historically, charity has been historically used by the rich to show their "noble" status and position, and its scope and intensity are small; today charity is often accompanied by government tax breaks and other preferential policies, and it is difficult to control the flow of donations. Therefore, the redistributive effect of charity is actually minimal.
  • There are two misconceptions about charitable donations: one is that the richer the person, the greater their cost. In fact, the tax deduction rate is higher for high-income people. In the US, tax deductions for charitable contributions totaled $54.1 billion in 2018, of which 56.4 percent went into the pockets of the top 1 percent of households
  • The second misconception is that charitable donations primarily benefit low-income people. In the US, for example, the largest beneficiaries of donations are churches and clergy (40%), with less than one-tenth going to the poor.
  • Private donors decide on how to use their savings after the tax reduction, and the money often flows in the opposite direction of the government-led secondary distribution goals. Comparing distribution policy and income disparity, the US, which has the strongest three distributions' system, has the largest income gap among Canada, France, and Denmark.

Summary

Wang concludes that, based on the above findings, tertiary distribution can only be a supplementary means to achieve common prosperity. China is guided by scientific socialism and should firmly pursue the communist values of human liberation and the well-rounded development of human beings. Common prosperity cannot be achieved overnight, but it can steadily advance the development of the country's productive forces.

China’s poverty alleviation and ecological transformation under the new nationwide system
Wen Tiejun
Wen Tiejun (温铁军) is an expert on China’s rural issues and an executive dean of the Institute of Rural Reconstruction of China, Southwest University

Context

In a document published recently, the Chinese government pledges to consolidate the achievements of eradicating extreme poverty and to comprehensively promote the strategy of rural revitalization. Wen Tiejun points out that in the process of globalization, since the colonial expansion of European industrialization, capitalist countries passed on development costs to developing countries, which resulted in them falling into "systemic poverty". While in China, thanks to the nationwide system, (举国体制 jǔguó tǐzhì) led by the Communist Party of China, the country has eliminated poverty, reflecting the advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Key points

  • Under China's nationwide system, the central government directly reallocates resources, such as capital and technology, to the countryside. The measures not only help to reduce poverty, but also alleviate the overproduction crisis caused by the decline in external demand.
  • The western capitalist system shifts problems to the underprivileged, causing serious social instability and national security problems. China's poverty alleviation has provided important experience in safeguarding social stability and maintaining national security.
  • For more than half a century, China's contribution to poverty alleviation is a comprehensive institutional achievement. The 2013 “ecological civilization strategy”, which targeted inclusive and sustainable development, can also be applied to developing countries around the world.
  • Amid Biden's "climate war" against China and the country's strategic shift to an ecological civilization, the development of an ecological economy is an important step in the journey for rural revitalization.
  • If the digital economy and ecological economy are combined and implemented in the countryside's green development, it could avoid the flow of financial capital away from the real economy.
  • Ecological resources are public assets and cannot be priced by the market. So, the main developers should be collective economic organizations that can benefit rural peasants.

Summary

Wen Tiejun states that rural revitalization should not follow the path of agricultural modernization in capitalist countries, which merely requires the increase of agricultural output. Rather, it should combine rural revitalization with the ecological civilization strategy to increase development. It is necessary to establish a rural revitalization evaluation system in accordance with socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The Yan’an philosophy study movement and the Sinicization of Marxism
Li Donglang
Li Donglang (李东朗) is a professor at the Department of Party History, the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China

Context

After the Red Army's Long March reached northern Shaanxi in October 1935, the Chinese Communists established their revolutionary base in Yan'an, and remained in power for 13 years. The Communists emerged from the devastating encirclement by the Kuomintang (KMT) and moved forward to cooperate with the KMT to fight against the Japanese invasion. During this time, Mao Zedong looked to philosophy to find a methodology to better understand and transform the world so as to advance the cause of the Chinese revolution. Under his leadership and organization, a party-wide study of philosophy was initiated. According to Li Donglang, this movement had an important impact on the theoretical construction of the Party and contributed to the process of the Sinicization of Marxism, as proposed by the Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixth Central Committee of the CPC.

Key points

  • Although Mao Zedong's daily routine was disrupted by the brutalities of war, he insisted on the study of philosophical issues, which was rare in Chinese and global history. This shows the importance Mao attached to the theoretical construction of the CPC.
  • According to Mao's analysis in 1937, the left-leaning mistakes of the Party, in the previous 15 years, were the result of not popularizing dialectical materialism in the Party.
  • Guided by dialectical and historical materialism, Mao wrote Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary War (中国革命战争的战略问题 Zhōngguó gémìng zhànzhēng de zhànlüè wèntí), which analyzed the errors of the left opportunists and those who were acting blindly. Meanwhile, he also wrote On Practice (实践论 Shíjiàn lùn) and On Contradiction (矛盾论 Máodùn lùn), which summarized the historical experiences of the Chinese Revolution. In On Protracted War (论持久战Lùn chíjiǔ zhàn), he came to the correct conclusion that "the war against Japan is a protracted war" and that "the final victory will be China's".
  • Before the Zunyi Conference (1935), the erroneous ideology characterized by dogmatic Marxism and mimicry of the Soviet experience had long existed in the Party. The purpose of Mao's call to study philosophy was to eliminate the dogmatic errors on the ideological front, saying that, "If we are to oppose subjective thinking, we must propagate dialectical materialism."

Summary

In the early stages after its founding, the CPC's theoretical preparation was insufficient, partly leading to the Party's wrong policies during the Chinese Great Revolution (1925-1927) and the Agrarian Revolution war (1927-1937). The study of philosophy advocated by Mao helped theoretically prepare the Party to establish the ideological line of "seeking truth from facts,". At the same time, it strongly raised the theoretical level of Party members and cadres, thus ushering in the victory of anti-Japanese resistance and national liberation. Mao's profound theoretical training also helped to significantly increase his prestige within the Party. This fine tradition of the CPC of attaching importance to theoretical learning was formed over time during this period and continues to this day.

(Chinese Voices will continue to interpret the historical context and developmental logic of Marxism's Sinicization)

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