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Book review: “Constructing China” by Mobo Gao

Ned K

When I read "Explaining China: How A Socialist Country Took the Capitalist Road to Social- Imperialism" posted on the CPA-ML web site, I thought how timely it would be for Vanguard readers to read Mobo Gao's latest book, "Constructing China - Clashing Views Of The People's Republic" (published by Pluto Press).

Mobo Gao grew up in China and is now Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Adelaide.
 
Mobo Gao challenges the reader to question both the construction of present-day China by the western media, academic and political elites, and the construction of China's development since 1949 by the present day intellectual and political leaders within the Chinese Communist Party. He demonstrates how the Western media and political elites are critical of every move, both internal and external, of China's leaders, based on fear of a rising "transnationalism" of the Chinese ruling elite. At the same time, the Western media use this to discredit Marxism and the Mao era in particular.
 
Mobo Gao defines transnationalism as "the capitalist interest that is built on the free flow of transnational capital to exploit labour in the most profitable location regardless of nationality and to change regimes in the name of human rights and democracy".
 
Mobo Gao argues that for the West, transnational and national interest are the same but for the Chinese rulers, it is less straight forward, hence the need for “soft power". In the Mao era the conceptual paradigm was that China's national interest was often in contradiction with the dominant transnational interest. Post-Mao era, mainstream Chinese intellectual and political elites have become increasingly transnational (social- imperialist) in outlook, but Western imperial interests still prevail and "Chinese national interest and transnational interest is not always the same either in imagination or in reality".
 
Mobo Gao gives an example of this: "independent Taiwan or Tibet would be good for transnational interest but not for national interest".
To keep the home front stable, Mobo Gao shows how the current CCP leadership of Xi Jinping is trying to appease the Chinese masses by clumsily "feeling the stones to cross the river" regarding the way forward for China. He gives examples of contradictory behaviour by Xi and mixed messages.

For example, Xi's visit to Qufu, hometown of Confucius and the placing of a Confucius statue in iconic Tiananmen Square only to be removed with hardly any publicity a few months later. Or more recently Xi's invocation of Mao's "Talks at the Yan'an Forum on Literature and Art" in explaining why cultural and media workers must display "Party character".
 
China Turned Neo-Liberal
 
However, Mobo Gao probes into just who is "the Party" now? He finds that despite the Party numbers expanding since the Mao era, the revolutionary conceptualization of the Party "serving the people" has been hollowed out. The CCP organising principles were meetings once a month were held to discuss policies, politics and local issues. This structured in the activities of grassroots organisations of the CCP. In the Mao era every work unit had a Party branch and every branch had a leading group. Payment of Party dues occurred once a month and was called "organisation life".

However, in the post-Mao era, Party members joined but paid no dues which led Xi in 2016 to order mobilization of all Party members across the country to pay dues and back dues owed.

Mobo Gao concludes this section of the book by saying "maybe too little too late for Xi".
 
The collapse of the Party organisation at the grass roots level has gone hand in hand with what Mobo Gao calls the rise to power of a "red nobility" stretching across Party, Government and private ownership "capitalists of China". This is the internal reflection of the outward "transnational" (social-imperialist) direction of the current Chinese regime.

Mobo Gao goes into considerable detail of elements of the "red nobility" that were up to their necks in the corruption revealed in the Panama Papers with up to $120 billion moved overseas to Western tax free havens.

Mobo Gao has not given up hope though, saying "the jury is still out for what China's future direction is". He comes to this conclusion because he sees that despite China's rapid imperial expansion, the "red nobility" have many internal battles to fight which inevitably will intensify due to the "transnational" path being based on the amount of wealth plundered from the Chinese workers and peasants and the fact that despite Chinese being a rising international power, it is still facing potential aggression from the much bigger western powers still led by the militarist US imperialism.
 
This book by Mobo Gao has much much more than I have touched on. I think without a doubt the best book I have read on post 1949 China. A book that is worth reading by all comrades trying to understand the current world.

 

Book review: “Constructing China” by Mobo Gao
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