In the ’30s liberal capitalism was experiencing a severe economic crisis at the same time as the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union they managed, through a centralized economy, to grow by leaps and bounds. The discussion at that time was to understand whether the forms of organization of liberal capitalism were materially inferior to others not based on competition. It was clear that it was enough to argue a moral superiority of democratic capitalism to win the economic war.
World War II would end the totalitarian dream of Nazi Germany but competition with the USSR continued during the Cold War. Somehow the keynesianismo He gave a formula for state intervention to allow sustained growth for at least twenty years without sacrificing capitalism.
In 1925 John Maynard KeynesAfter a visit to the Soviet Union, he wrote a series of articles later published under the title “A brief look at Russia”, where he assured that Soviet growth did not require communism but could be achieved in a capitalist system with State intervention that invests and distributes.
Something similar seems to be happening today with American hegemony, the highest representative of capitalism in its neoliberal mode, which shows signs of exhaustion. The other side of the world, China, with its particular mode of organization, is in a position to grow, efficiently manage economic crises and the pandemic. From this side of the world it is observed with a mixture of concern and admiration what happens at a great distance in kilometers, but also in imaginary ones. How to understand China?
Cash spoke with him Gustavo Alejandro Girado, Master in International Relations (Flacso) and Bachelor of Economics (UBA). He is currently professor and director of the postgraduate degree in “Specialization in Contemporary China Studies” at the National University of Lanús (UNLa) and last year he received the “Special Book Award of China”, granted by the State Press Administration and China Publications, for their book How did the Chinese do it?.
The setback of the West
– Can it be said that capitalism is as perplexed as when it saw centralized economies grow in the 1930s?
– This I analyze from the side of the crisis of values and is directly linked to the origin of the liberal democracies of the West. Of course it is not an invention of mine, it is read elsewhere where they make permanent reference to the difficulty that the West had in recent decades to show results that benefit the most neglected sectors. Of course: there is poverty, inequality, inequity and (Thomas) Piketty shows how in the last decades the situation has worsened. In other words, there is more concentration and centralization of capital and inequality is greater despite all the discourses of Western democracy.
– And growth is very low.
– Not only is there little growth but it appears more concentrated, there is more inequity, but also what it shows is that liberal democracy as a system is not responding to the demands of the people who need more representation because their voice is less powerful. Then marginal, tiny, fascist, authoritarian parties appear all over Europe, in unexpected places, such as Sweden, and end up having parliamentary representation.
– It could then be said that in capitalist democracy the majorities have neither the economic growth of China nor a democracy that allows better distribution of the wealth it generates.
– Of course. As it is formulated, the system serves to have high growth rates, for example, when the price of oil is high and in the Arabian peninsula a few benefit.
– If twenty years ago you had to choose between being poor in Greece or in China, in light of the development in this period, would it have been best to choose China?
– Well, I wish we never had to choose alternatives of that type. One should take into account the 2008 subprime crisis, when the United States drags all its trading partners. That crisis, typical of the system, had and has tremendous social consequences. But in China, with all the restrictions, with another scheme of values and with another depth, the State is invigorated in such a way that society was not affected as in the West. And not only that, but it acted with great regional responsibility, as the global actor it has become, and sustained the dynamics of all neighboring economies, which hardly felt the problem that was generated with the subprime since the third quarter of 2008 .
– I insist: was it better to be poor in Asia than in the United States, contrary to what one would have supposed twenty years ago?
– The poor Chinese probably no longer exist as poor because on average general social welfare has increased in China, already reaching a GDP per capita of $ 10,000 in 2019. That is, the average quality of life of society has clearly improved. It has many fewer poor people and there is no longer poverty. In the United States they are worse, if the analogy may be allowed, because it is not comparable. But if a poor person in the United States has health problems and does not have social assistance, their fragility is much greater than that suffered by someone in the same situation anywhere in China.
– This fragility is very high due to the absence of the State. In China, basic needs are satisfied, a condition that cannot be said of American society in a homogeneous way. Likewise, I do not think it necessary to compare China only with the United States because in Argentina it is also organized as a liberal democracy and its fragility leads to a high rate of poverty.
What biden does
– Would the president of the United States, Joe Biden, be taking the path of greater state intervention so that he does not lose the race with China?
– No. I don’t think Biden is thinking about that. Biden is one more instrument of those who put him in that place to manage the administration of the State. There seems to be a strong clash of corporate interests because I am not so sure that the North American Congress has the same idea regarding the future that they have in Silicon Valley. The dependence between China and US capitals is mutual, and there is a lot of productive interaction in the Chinese and US high-tech segments. The dependency is cross: Huawei needs Qualcomm and Qualcomm needs Nvidia and these need ZTE, for example.
– But Huawei needs Qualcomm less and less
– It may be, but that is the product of the United States pressing so that Huawei cannot develop, progress. This is caused by the US policy that bypasses the market for reasons it calls national security. Plain and simple it is decided to prevent the Chinese technological escalation. The consequences are in sight because the US economy is losing those hegemony spaces in some high-tech segments. So it seems that the decoupling path is not the most correct way to prevent China from progressing.
– Is there, anyway, cooperation?
– They are thinking of various cooperation mechanisms in those planes in which there is an overlap of Chinese and American interests. For example, the environment. Where there are concrete interests in which both may eventually want the same is where you should work under cooperative schemes. And the United States should compete legitimately, its intellectuals say now, and not do what Trump has been doing.
– Is the United States headed for defeat in that competition?
– In legitimate competition it seems so and that is why it says that it is the State and the Chinese Communist Party that are competing, and not companies like Huawei. That is why it is politically necessary to consider Huawei as a military arm of the Chinese Communist Party, as a non-capitalist competitor, in order to justify the use of any instrument. They say: “If it is necessary to apprehend the owner’s daughter, we will do it”, and they turn the order to the Canadian government to act in that sense, or to Australia to go away or prohibit, within the framework of the Five Eyes, all of China’s deployment on Oceania.
– Is Biden proposing that way?
– Biden is proposing a path that, in terms of makeup, is different from that of Donald Trump, but deep down, up to now, he ratified it and was even more crude and crude in the bilateral relationship.
Competition and control
– In this way the United States can hinder the development of China?
– No. Not only can he not prevent it, but he is speeding it up. It is forcing all public resources to turn to the development of semiconductors and its own technological platforms, such as its own operating system. It is a serious problem that all the hegemons faced when they saw their privileged place threatened.
– This question occurs in relation to the economic front, but also the United States considers itself as the defender of democracy.
– They argue that but it is democracy understood according to Western criteria. The closure of capitalism has to do with the fact that it cannot understand the functioning of other types of social relations of production.
– Is there room for dissent in China?
– There seems to be, but there is also a clear awareness that this implies taking risks. Dissenting into the system with your individual opinion can have consequences for the group, and on the scale of values in the East that is a risk that they are not willing to take. The line is very thin because we must not forget the history and the relationship of China with the West, so traumatic in the last two centuries. Disapproving of political leadership can weaken the internal front of the person who created the People’s Republic, and that could be taken advantage of by those who want, precisely, that China does not progress and compete.
– Surveillance systems are very strong
– Surveillance systems constitute a justified defense mechanism against external aggression. If it is intended to be the intended hegemon and if the population is to reach a harmonious situation in a modestly well-off society, it cannot let US planes enter Chinese airspace every day as if it were its own home.
– Is it very difficult to understand Chinese cosmology?
– Yes. Ying and yang are black and white coexisting. And that is why the Chinese Communist Party can turn 180 degrees from one day to the next and yet interpret or reinterpret the collective interest.