A new world situation
THE CONTRADICTIONS DESTABILIZING THE NEW IMPERIALIST ORDER
5 The explosive nature of the situation in Asia
The global changes now under way are having a particularly profound and explosive impact on Asia. They are being felt on every level: diplomatic, economic and social, political and military. The international alignments forged in the period of the Cold War have been put in question, particularly in South and Western Asia, without making way for a new system of stable alliances. In the framework of the new world disorder, tensions among states have been exacerbated to the point of giving new impetus to nuclear proliferation (as seen in the Pakistan-India confrontation and North Korean nuclear blackmail of the US, the major occupying nuclear power in South Korea).
The first major so-called 'financial' crisis of neo-liberal globalization began in 1997-98, with lasting consequences: a process of economic (re)colonization and tearing up of the social fabric (South Korea), political destabilization (the structural crisis of the regime in Indonesia), delegitimation of the international institutions and the IMF in particular (Malaysia's temporarily enlarged manoeuvring room), and prolonged stagnation (Japan).
Beyond Afghanistan, the military dimension of capitalist globalization also has very serious implications for Asia. US imperialism is redeploying its forces throughout the region. It is establishing new bases in areas where it did not have them (the former Soviet republics). It is once more strengthening its presence in countries where it had had to cut back; this is particularly the case in the Philippines, its former colony, where US troops have even been sent into combat zones. Thanks to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Pentagon has obtained unlimited access to the country's military infrastructure. Here as elsewhere Washington is pursuing local objectives - gaining better access to the agricultural, oil and mineral wealth of the southern Philippines - and regional ones: keeping an eye on Indonesia, preparing for possible future action in the South China Sea, and controlling the straits between the Indian and Pacific Oceans through which Middle Eastern oil is transported to Japan
Washington wants to rebuild and complete the old Cold War barriers in East Asia to contain China, stretching from Seoul to Manila by way of Tokyo and Taipei. In this case too US imperialist ambitions are as much economic (control of petrol and gas reserves and of trade in them) as geo-strategic (consolidating the key elements of a truly global military redeployment).
From Kashmir to the Korean peninsula by way of Mindanão and the Indonesian archipelago, Washington's new interventionist doctrine and its 'anti-terrorist' ideology are adding an additional obstacle to the search for political solutions based on recognition of the concerned people's right to self-determination to territorial conflicts. They contribute to criminalizing popular and revolutionary movements, as well as eroding the most basic democratic freedoms. Capitalist globalization also tends in this region to worsen gender oppression and inter-communal tensions and foster the rise of far-right communalist and fundamentalist currents. This holds true even in countries where the pressure towards economic globalization was only felt relatively late, as in India: a significant fraction of the bourgeoisie has turned to the BJP in order to push through neo-liberal counter-reforms, thus enabling Hindu fundamentalist Hindutva currents to threaten the secular foundations of the state.
The war that Washington is preparing to wage against Iraq and the military occupation that will follow it will further exacerbate contradictions in the region, which the intervention in Afghanistan had already made acute. The consequences of this war cannot be overestimated, at a time when there is a whole set of focuses of major crises in Asia: US/Chinese relations (including Taiwan), the Korean peninsula, Afghanistan-Pakistan-India, Indonesia-Philippines-South China Sea, etc.
In this situation, progressive and revolutionary parties and movements in Asia tend, in many cases, to establish closer relations of solidarity with each other than in the past. Social movements, grassroots organizations and peace movements are coordinating their joint campaigns against the militarist dynamics and for peoples' rights more and more effectively. The meeting of the World Social Forum in India in January 2004 can give a new dimension to these activist convergences.
THE FALL OF THE STALINIST BUREAUCRACY, RESTORATION OF CAPITALISM AND INTEGRATION INTO THE WORLD ECONOMY
2 The Chinese dynamic: growing openings to capitalism behind the upholding of the single party
From the great powers' standpoint, China continues to represent an uncertain factor as much on the geopolitical level (given the issues of Taiwan, Tibet, Central Asia, etc.) as on the socio-economic. The ruling groups in the United States, the European Union and especially Japan are conscious that in any scenario (except break-up, difficult to envisage despite the potential centrifugal forces) China will try hard in the coming decades to play the role of a great power and assert its hegemony in Asia. Moreover, it too seems to have drawn the lessons of the Kosovo war by pushing onwards with a further modernization of its military potential. Russia and all countries in Eastern Europe experienced a fall in production in the early 1990s, with a GDP in 2000 that caught up with the level reached ten years earlier in only 5 per cent of Central European countries. Conversely, China has experienced a growth rate of almost 10 per cent per annum over the past 20 years, including higher than 8 per cent growth during the Asian crisis. The Chinese figures on the decrease in the absolute number of poor during these past twenty years are what enable world statistics to claim that global inequalities have been reduced - while these have been increasing in the past 20 years, not counting the Chinese statistics.
At the same time, income gaps have grown in China parallel to the challenges to the social progress achieved in health and education and to employment protection. The logic of capitalist privatisation is underway, and more and more enshrined in law.
Whence the rise of an outbreak of social protests against inequalities, often making specific reference to the gap between the socialist "line" and the developing capitalist reality.
It is, paradoxically from the standpoint of neo-liberal rhetoric, the upholding of state and strong party power, at once repressive and supporting growth, that have proven most attractive to foreign capital. At the turn of the millennium, the accumulated stock of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stood at 300 billion dollars in China compared to 12 for Russia. But the Chinese opening had been controlled and massively "Chinese" up until then and financing of growth relied only partially on foreign investment - which, with its considerable commercial precedents, gave China a power to resist neo-liberal precepts. In relation to the size of the country, the FDI figures become more significant. In 2000, they stood at $160 per habitant in China, compared to $85 in Russia, but 571 in Kazakhstan, approximately 1000 for Poland and about 2000 in Hungary and the Czech Republic. In substance, Chinese growth relies on neo-mercantilism based on interventionism and State protection more inspired by measures taken in South Korea and Japan in their years of strong growth than by neo-liberal precepts.
Up until the end of the 1990s, China's opening to international trade took place on an extremely protectionist basis (for example through the non-convertibility of its currency and strict limits imposed on financing by non-residents), as is borne out by the fact that it was largely spared by the 1997-1998 Asian crisis.
WTO membership was accompanied by a radicalisation of the reforms aiming to convert the major firms more and more into share-issuing corporations) and opening up the financial system to foreign capital, alongside the CCP's membership becoming open to business people. In parallel, former measures of social protection continue to be dismantled.
The ongoing process is hampered by growing social resistance towards the growth in inequality and the development of contingent work.
These forms of resistance, whose origin goes back to the Tien Anmen movement, which could shake the unified façade of the regime and lead to a break in the institutional framework of the party-state. The socialist rhetoric must obviously be challenged, both in terms of measures of extension of capitalist production relations; and facing any 'moderate' or conservative wings that would fail to place the introduction of workers' self-organisation rights and management rights on collective property at the heart of the necessary anti-capitalist resistance.