Hugo Chávez, Xi Jinping, and a global community of shared future

The following is the text of the presentation delivered by Carlos Martinez at a round-table discussion on Venezuela’s foreign policy in a changing world, held on 20 February 2024 at Bolivar Hall in London. The event was organised by the Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the UK in coordination with the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.

The speech discusses Hugo Chávez’s vision of a multipolar world, and explores how that vision overlaps with China’s strategy of pursuing a global community of shared future.

Other speakers at the event included Her Excellency Rocío Maneiro, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the UK; Francisco Domínguez, Secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign; Calvin Tucker, Campaigns Manager of the Morning Star; and Radhika Desai, Convenor of the International Manifesto Group.

Dear friends and comrades, thanks so much for inviting me to today’s important event.

And thank you in particular to Her Excellency compañera-embajadora Rocío Maneiro, who continues to do such a wonderful job representing her country and standing in solidarity with the progressive movement here in Britain and with the working class and oppressed peoples of the world.

Thanks also to the indefatigable comrade Francisco Domínguez for his hard work putting this event together.

I’m going to focus these brief remarks on the connection between Venezuela’s foreign policy and that of China.

As you’re all no doubt aware, Hugo Chávez had an extremely far-sighted worldview. While the Bolivarian Revolution has always aimed to have good relations with the US, its foreign policy has nonetheless been informed by the identification of that country as the principal enemy to sovereignty and to socialism, not just in Venezuela but throughout the world.

And of course the US’s consistently aggressive stance in relation to Venezuela – its campaign of sanctions, of coercion, of destabilisation – has only confirmed what Chávez and his comrades already knew.

Chávez saw Venezuela as part of a global movement challenging half a millennium of colonialism, imperialism and racism; a global movement that included the growing leftist and pro-sovereignty trend in Latin America and the Caribbean, but also China, Cuba, Russia, Libya (until NATO’s war of regime change in 2011), Syria, South Africa, Vietnam, Iran, the DPRK, Belarus and others.

This global movement seeks to put an end to the unipolar era of US hegemony, and to create a multipolar – or as Chávez called it, pluripolar – world, with multiple centres of power, in which countries and regions all have their role in global politics and in which no one power can impose its will on others.

Under the guidance of Hugo Chávez and then Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has become one of the most prominent voices in support of this multipolar project.

Indeed, one of the slogans of Chávez’s 2012 presidential election campaign was: “to develop a new international geopolitics forming a multicentric and pluripolar world to achieve equilibrium in the universe and guarantee planetary peace.”

This was an election slogan! So these concepts of contributing to a global anti-imperialist project weren’t simply the preserve of academia and confined to lecture theatres and conference halls. The Venezuelan leadership has been working for over 20 years to popularise these ideas, to make them part of the national conversation, the national identity; to shape a society that understands Venezuela’s place in the world; that understands the need for multipolarity; that engages actively and purposefully in the struggle for a future free from hegemonism, domination and war.

And again, Venezuela doesn’t just talk about multipolarity, Venezuela is actively building multipolarity. The Bolivarian Revolution has always positioned itself within a broader project of continental integration, which Chávez linked back to Simón Bolívar’s concept of regional unity. Venezuela has been at the heart of the creation of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), of the regional bloc CELAC, and the trade bloc UNASUR. All of these alliances seek to share resources and develop strength in unity. A united Latin America and the Caribbean region is a force to be reckoned with; it has the size and strength to stand up to US domination and to finally and comprehensively dismantle the Monroe Doctrine.

Hugo Chávez certainly saw China as a key partner in this project of standing up to imperialism and building a multipolar world. Over the course of his presidency, he visited China six times, and nurtured the development of what remains an extremely close and important relationship between the two countries.

As Francisco has written about in detail in an article for Friends of Socialist China, entitled On the strategic relationship between Venezuela and China, Chinese loans have been crucial for Venezuela’s development over the last two decades, and Chinese investment and cooperation are helping to create space for Venezuela to modernise, to break out of its century-old dependence on oil, for example with the manufacture and launch of Venezuela’s first telecommunications satellites.

And speaking of matters extraterrestrial, last year Venezuela was the first country to be invited to join the International Lunar Research Station, which is being led by China and Russia.

Visiting Beijing in 2006, Chávez spoke of the importance of China as a model for the rest of the Global South, saying that China’s emergence has proven the West wrong when its leaders and ideologues claim that capitalism is the only viable development path. Chávez stated bluntly: “We’ve been manipulated to believe that the first man on the moon was the most important event of the 20th century. But no, much more important things happened, and one of the greatest events of the 20th century was the Chinese revolution.”

Chávez went on to describe the emerging alliance between progressive Latin America and China as a “Great Wall against American hegemonism.”

I remember at one of the first Latin America conference events in London, Alicia Castro, then Argentina’s ambassador in London and great Chavista and a personal friend of Chávez, summing up Chávez’s global strategy as follows: we must unite all those that can be united against the empire and in support of a new, a fairer, more peaceful, more prosperous world.

It strikes me that there’s a very considerable overlap between this vision and the strategy being pursued by the People’s Republic of China.

How does China consider its role in the world? What does the Communist Party of China propose regarding the system of international relations?

What the Chinese leadership calls for is “building a global community of shared future, with the goal of creating an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity.”

China consistently expresses a commitment to multipolarity; to peace; to mutually beneficial cooperation around economic development and tackling climate change, pandemics and the threat of nuclear war.

Although this expression “global community of shared future” is a recent one, in many ways it constitutes a reiteration and extension and a summing up of the PRC’s foreign policy since its founding. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, first put forward by Premier Zhou Enlai in 1954, call for:

  1. Respect for each country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
  2. Non-aggression
  3. Non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs
  4. Equality and co-operation for mutual benefit
  5. Peaceful co-existence

These five principles have been upheld by successive generations of China’s leadership, and indeed informed the principles agreed upon at the famous Afro–Asian Conference in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955. As such, I’d argue that they represent a longstanding consensus of the peoples of the Global South. In my view they precisely “unite all those that can be united” against imperialism and hegemonism.

China’s major international contributions of the last decade – the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, the Global Civilisation Initiative – all reflect an adherence to the principles of peaceful coexistence and to a multipolar strategy.

In that sense, China’s strategy has been very consistent.

Yes, times have changed, China is strong now. By any reasonable measure, it is the largest economy in the world. It’s become a science and technology powerhouse. It’s the largest trading partner of two-thirds of the world’s countries. It’s the world leader in telecommunications technology, in renewable energy, in nanotechnology, and in various aspects of computing and artificial intelligence, and so on. Furthermore it has the ability to defend itself.

But China remains a country of the Global South; it continues to act in coordination and alliance with the developing world. It continues to be a force for peace and shared development.

After all, unlike the US, unlike Western Europe, unlike Japan, China’s development wasn’t fuelled by domination and conquest. China hasn’t become strong through exploiting the land, labour, markets and natural resources of the rest of the world.

And the capitalist class – the people that might have a material interest in pursuing that sort of hegemonism – are not in power in China, are not even allowed to form their own political party or to pursue their specific political interests which run counter to the interests of the working class.

As Hugo Chávez put it, “China is large but it’s not an empire. China doesn’t trample on anyone, it hasn’t invaded anyone, it doesn’t go around dropping bombs on anyone.”

China opposes imperialism, because China has suffered under imperialism. China doesn’t want war and has nothing to gain from war.

An important article from a couple of months ago in Qiushi, the theoretical journal of the CPC, contains the following interesting passage about China’s commitment to peace:

Owing to imperialist invasions and the corruption of feudal rulers in modern times, China was gradually reduced to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society. With the country humiliated, the people distressed, and Chinese civilisation plunged into darkness, the Chinese nation suffered unprecedented calamities. As a result of these experiences, the Chinese people sympathise greatly with countries and peoples around the world that have suffered due to war and the bullying of other nations. The Chinese people desire peace more ardently, and the Chinese nation is more resolute in its opposition to war, than anyone else.

Ultimately, of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The Chinese military hasn’t dropped a bomb in more than 40 years. China’s per capita military spending is around 20 times smaller than that of the US. And although China is a nuclear power, China has around 350 nuclear warheads, in comparison to the US’s five and a half thousand.

As Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi pointed out in a recent speech, China is “the only country that has incorporated peaceful development in its Constitution, and the only country among the nuclear-weapon states to pledge no first use of nuclear weapons.”

Whereas the West thrives on war, China thrives on peace. At a purely pragmatic and prosaic level, China prefers other countries to be stable and prosperous, because that provides a better environment for trade, investment and all forms of mutually-beneficial cooperation.

At a higher strategic level, China recognises that the countries of the Global South in particular have a shared interest in opposing imperialism, defending sovereignty and pursuing peaceful development. As such, China stands at the centre of this process of uniting the countries of the Global South in promoting a multipolar system of international relations.

As Fidel Castro put it, “China has objectively become the most promising hope and the best example for all Third World countries … an important element of balance, progress and safeguarding of world peace and stability.”

This multipolar project has a crucial role in the overall struggle not only against imperialism but also for socialism.

In China’s vision, multipolarity will allow the nations of the world to defend their sovereignty. And sovereignty will create space for different peoples to explore their own paths towards socialism.

In the words of the great Marxist theoretician Samir Amin, multipolarity “provides the framework for the possible and necessary overcoming of capitalism”.

And here we see an added layer of depth in terms of the relationship between the Chinese worldview and the Venezuelan worldview; between Hugo Chávez’s “multicentric and pluripolar world” and Xi Jinping’s “global community of shared future.” Because both are directed ultimately towards a socialist future; towards not only overcoming imperialism but overcoming capitalism; towards a world free from exploitation.

So this is the global strategy that unites China and Venezuela, and an increasing number of countries and peoples around the world.

Of course such a vision contrasts totally with the needs and ambitions of the US and its allies, who despise socialism and despise sovereignty. States that exercise their independence and refuse to submit to the diktat of imperialism is the opposite of what they want to see in the world.

Hassan Nasrallah made this point quite powerfully: “In the project of American hegemony, it’s not permitted for a state to exist that makes its decisions on its own, that takes into account the interests of its people, that develops scientifically, technically, culturally and administratively at every level. In the project of American hegemony such a state is forbidden.”

And therefore the US-led empire is doing everything it can to break the growing unity of the socialist countries, the progressive countries, the countries that don’t go along with the US’s so-called rules-based international order. It’s doing everything it can to suppress the trajectory towards a multipolar world.

Our side stands for a global community of shared future; their side stands for war, domination, hegemony, exploitation – and indeed, as we’re seeing so tragically in Gaza today, genocide.

So it’s a profound responsibility for all of us to redouble our efforts for socialism, for multipolarity, and against imperialism.

As Comandante Chávez said: Let’s save the human race – let’s finish off the empire.

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