eg Chinese Voices
No. 47 | 05.06.2022
Prof. Li Xiaoyun and African agricultural officials investigate crop planting in Tanzania in March 2018. [China Agricultural University]
The new paradigm of China’s foreign aid in Africa
Li Xiaoyun
Li Xiaoyun (李小云) is a professor at the College of Humanities and Development Studies, China Agricultural University

Context

According to the White Paper on China-Africa Cooperation (2021), China's foreign was 270.2 billion yuan between 2013 to 2018, of which 45 percent was provided to Africa. Yet the country's international aid is often misunderstood and unjustifiably criticized by the West. Through the field study of China's Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centers, or ATDC, in Africa, Li Xiaoyun explains how the Demonstration of New Development, based on the country's own experience, contributes to agricultural development in Africa and is superior to the Western aid model.

Key points

  • Western development aid is based on a theoretical framework that combines neoliberalism and neo-institutionalism. The idea is that global poverty is the result of poor political governance systems, and that changing them and providing services to the poor require the development of industrial capitalist system. This classical development logic has been used to justify Western colonialism in helping "civilize" underdeveloped societies.
  • Western aid, as one of the key ways in which Western culture expands, is only provided to developing countries with strong conditions attached to it. In comparison, the Chinese aid model is a process of transferring and localizing its similar development experiences without any political preconditions.
  • In the late 1970s, China introduced the household responsibility system (家庭联产承包责任制 jiātíng lián chǎn chéngbāo zérèn zhì). In 1985, Chinese agricultural experts used the same approach to develop three rice reclamation areas in Burkina Faso, with land ownership rights going to the state and land operational rights being divided among peasants. After 2000, the model, which was led by agricultural demonstration centers with technical training, became the main form of China's agricultural aid to Africa.
  • Chinese aid does not follow the norms of OECD development assistance to developing countries, but rather responds to special requests from these countries. Meanwhile, the country focuses on the leading role of the government and uses commercial means and modern technology to improve the sustainability of development.

Summary

Li points out that, motivated by its national mission and economic interests, China's ATDCs and the African countries have established a mutually beneficial relationship. The demonstration centers have taken on the national mission of guiding Chinese enterprises into the African agricultural sector for investment and providing large-scale technology training and demonstration techniques. This methodology has inspired Africans to start reflecting on their own development problems and exploring the development path of each country’s agriculture.

The relationship between the state and the peasants in the fight against poverty
Zhou Feizhou
Zhou Feizhou (周飞舟) is a professor at the Department of Sociology, Peking University

Context

Since 2021, China has been advancing its rural revitalization (乡村振兴 xiāngcūn zhènxīng) strategy after achieving the eradication of absolute poverty. Through research on poor villages across the country in 2018-2020, Zhou Feizhou finds that the poverty alleviation campaign demonstrates a relationship between the state and the peasants that is socialism with Chinese characteristics – the relationship of "family and state as one" (家国一体 jiā guó yī tǐ).

Key points

  • In traditional Chinese thinking, the state is the parent and the peasants are its children (子民 zǐ mín). At the same time, the state, as the "big family", needs to take care of many "small families". China's battle against poverty has always been government-led, while front-line cadres (扶贫干部 fúpín gànbù) represent the state. The relationship between the state and the peasants in the campaign was inherited from but also has changed the traditional relationship between the family and the state, highlighted by the current peasant-state (or peasant-cadre) relationship.
  • As the "pioneer" in poverty alleviation, China's infrastructure investment helps introduce external capital and technology to remote rural areas. This, in turn, enables peasants to find jobs outside the villages. While the development of village industries helps those who are unable to leave the village to earn money locally.
  • Most lesser-developed village-based industries are labour-intensive, and most of the labour force left behind in rural areas are elders and women. The state directs corporate capital to manage the upper and lower levels of the industrial chains while leaving the mid-level production chain to peasants for family-controlled operations. The strong"social base" of the countryside is carefully maintained.
  • The "poverty alleviation workshop" (扶贫车间 fúpín chējiān) in Gujia village, Hebei Province is a good example of the government-led industrial poverty alleviation. The workshop provides labour opportunities for local women who have been left behind. Considering their needs to care for families, the management is flexible in time and carefully observes folkways and customs. This workshop eventually took root in the countryside and helped the enterprises turn losses into profits.
  • For those who have the ability to work but are trapped in poverty for reasons such as a lack of motivation or mismatched skills, the country relies on the support of CPC cadres stationed in the village and the local residents to provide the necessary tools to inspire them to work. Policies alone cannot easily solve the problems of "hidden poverty" that stems from broken family relationships, for example, separation due to family members migrating to cities to work. Part of the anti-poverty work is to promote family ethics and healthier social practices.

Summary

The author points out that the fight against poverty has revealed a very unique aspect of the state-peasant relationship. Peasants realize that to feed their families, with the support of cadres, is to also serve the state (化家为国 huà jiā wèi guó). The state supports peasants and inspires them to move from responding to the state to loving the state. That is the relationship of "family and state as one". By immersing itself within the countryside, the government has not only helped maintain the rural family-based social structure but has also given peasants and rural families the impetus and support to participate in rural revitalization.

Why are less Chinese women wanting to have children?
Wei Nanzhi
Wei Nanzhi(魏南枝)is an associate researcher at the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)

Context

Among all major global economies, China has one of the highest rates of female employment (60.57 percent in 2019). Recently, the government has introduced a third-child policy, triggering fierce discussion on how to strike a balance between career and family and how to protect working women's rights and interests. As a mother born in the 1970s, Wei Nanzhi analyzes the development of Chinese women's emancipation in the past 70 years since the founding of the country, and the complex reasons why many Chinese women are reluctant to have children.

Key points

  • Women are a great force to be reckoned with in the revolutionary cause, an important lesson exemplified by the Communist Party of China's (CPC) leadership of the Chinese revolutions. The peak of women's status in China occurred during the Maoist era. Through production teams (生产队 shēng chǎn duì) in the rural areas and institutions (单位 dān wèi) in the cities, women could keep pace with men to participate in labour and social activities. The existence of childcare centers in urban units or rural children's mutual aid organizations played a key role in supporting working women.
  • After the reform and opening up, social support systems, such as childcare centers disappeared. Women either became full-time mothers or turned to their mothers-in-law for childcare. This resulted in women reverting back to the traditional structure of family relations, which is maintained by property rights. Under these circumstances, it is not the husband but the mother-in-law who tends to ask young women to play a traditional role. In this sense, the emancipation of Chinese women has suffered a setback.
  • There are two extreme views in the current discussion of feminism in China: one is to compete with men in all aspects, which is, in fact, an endorsement of male-supremacy. The second is to be completely antagonistic to men, which includes refusing to get married and have children. But the issue of female emancipation and social change needs to take into account societal norms, and the problem cannot be solved simply by magnifying the gender antagonism.
  • The essence of the refusal to have children is based on economic logic, large families cost more to support. In the traditional Chinese mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship, the younger generation of women is repressed, and after accepting the modern economic logic, refusing to have children becomes a way to rebel against traditional repression.

Summary

The author points out that as a socialist country, the Chinese government and people should jointly promote the protection of women's rights. In addition to improving laws such as the Marriage Law and the Labor Law, it is also necessary to empower women. The government must rebuild public services and social solidarity organizations that will provide support for women. On the other hand, it is important to further activate and bring into play the energy of 700 million women, and build more consensus among women, so that they have more space to balance their lives and work.

The confrontation between the US’s Indo-Pacific coalition and China’s Asia-Pacific cooperation
Tian Feilong
Tian Feilong (田飞龙) is an associate professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies and the School of Law, Beihang University

Context

In the context of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the United States is actively promoting the "Indo-Pacific strategy" through a series of diplomatic means. Tian Feilong believes that Biden's trip to Asia will not bring peace and development but will lead to a more risky geopolitical situation.

Key points

  • The geopolitical strategy of the US, with China and Russia as its main opponents, has been planned for a long time. The US had considered the policy of "allying with Russia to contain China". Given its internal politics, the myriad of differences with Russia, and the focus on maintaining its global hegemony, the US ruling elite finally decided to strike simultaneously and fight on two fronts.
  • The "Western Front" of US hegemony is based on the NATO system and Atlantic liberalism, and its geopolitical target is Russia. The conflict in Ukraine is a geopolitical consequence of NATO's eastward expansion. The goal of Russia's special military operation was to try to rebuild a system of balance, order, and security based on the principles of upholding national sovereignty and multilateralism. However, the US and NATO have increased their supply of arms to Ukraine and are exacerbating the situation by admitting Sweden and Finland into the alliance.
  • China is the geopolitical target of the "Eastern Front" of US hegemony. The US is committed to creating an "Indo-Pacific Strategy" structure to encircle and contain China, trying to prevent the country's continued rise and its developing regional political leadership. However, the geopolitical situation on the "Eastern Front" is more complex than on the "Western Front" and there is a risk of failure for the US Indo-Pacific Strategy.
  • The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is not a simple alternative to the "Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)", but a new project of Biden's global hegemonic strategy. IPEF is US-centric and aims to fragment the Indo-Pacific/Asia Pacific industrial chains and create geopolitical conflicts.
  • A large number of developing countries and developed countries that aren't aligned with the US strategy and prefer peaceful development have a deep understanding and even direct experience of US hegemony and its long-term dangers. They have a legitimate need to counterbalance US hegemony and pursue an independent and sovereign development path. This is why 149 countries have signed cooperation agreements with China on the Belt and Road Initiative, based on the principles of multilateralism and independence of sovereign nations.

Summary

In the struggle against US hegemony, China is not only fighting for its own security and development, but also for the fundamental interests of all oppressed and hostage countries and peoples. Adhering to a path of peaceful development, China is not an isolated country, nor can it be easily isolated. The values of peace, and a community with a shared future for humanity (人类命运共同体 rénlèi mìngyùn gòngtóngtǐ) are the opposite to the imperialist policies based on Cold War diplomacy, and the containment of adversaries and unilateralism.

How did prioritizing heavy industrial development accelerate China’s socialist transition?
Zhu Jiamu
Zhu Jiamu (朱佳木) is the President of the Association of the National History of the PRC and former Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Context

After the founding of the PRC in 1949, Chinese leaders envisioned that the transition from new democracy to socialism would take 10-15 years; yet it took only three years (1953-1956). Zhu Jiamu analyzes how CPC adopted the strategy of prioritizing the development of heavy industry in accordance with the Marxist assertion that "priority should be given to the development of industries producing means of production." He points out that it was this strategy that accelerated the socialist transition and industrialization of the New China.

Key points

  • CPC decided to complete the transition to socialism ahead of schedule, both in response to the need to prioritize heavy industry to develop the productive forces, and to the assistance from the Soviet Union to support China's economic priorities.
  • Around 1952, through repeated comparisons and discussions of the industrialization paths of the Soviet Union and the capitalist countries, China changed its previous idea of developing light industry before heavy industry and proposed the "First Five-Year Plan" (“一五”计划 yīwǔ jìhuà), learning from the Soviet experience and prioritizing the development of heavy industry and the defense industry. This plan received explicit guarantees of assistance from the Soviet Union.
  • The development of heavy industry required a large amount of capital investment, and China's very weak industrial base made it all the more necessary to implement a highly centralized planned economy so that the limited capital and other resources could be concentrated on the construction of heavy industry. As a result, China accelerated the transformation of capitalist industry and commerce into state-run enterprises, and agricultural cooperativization.
  • By 1957, China's industrial output accounted for 56.7 percent of its gross industrial and agricultural output value, which was close to 60 percent of CPC's socialist industrialization target in the transition period. Moreover, by the end of the First Five-Year Plan, China had laid the initial foundation for the establishment of an independent and complete industrial system. The task of the transition period was achieved ahead of schedule.

Summary

The starting point for an early transition to socialism lies in adapting the domestic production relations and economic system to the needs of the strategy of giving priority to the development of heavy industry as soon as possible. China seized the favorable opportunity of the de-escalation of the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (抗美援朝 kàng měi yuán cháo) and the Soviet Union's promise to assist China in the construction of the First Five-Year Plan to speed up industrialization. From 1953 to 1956, the country's total industrial output increased by an average of 19.6 percent per year, while the total agricultural output increased by an average of 4.8 percent per year. The achievements of prioritizing heavy industrial development have laid an important foundation for continuing the development of socialist modernization with Chinese characteristics.

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

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