What follows below is the full text of a written interview with Carlos Martinez, conducted by the Global Times.
The interview deals with a wide range of issues, including the New Cold War on China, the nature of Chinese socialism, the Belt and Road Initiative, capitalist versus socialist democracy, and anti-China propaganda in the Western media.
An abridged version was published in the Global Times on 31 August 2023.
Could you please briefly introduce yourself to us? When did you start to study China? And what made you start to be interested in the country?
I’m an author and campaigner from London, Britain, with a longstanding interest in the socialist countries and global anti-imperialism. My first book, released in 2019, was about the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union. I was involved in setting up the No Cold War campaign in 2020, and the Friends of Socialist China platform in 2021.
There were two main motivations for me to start studying China. The first comes from being a Marxist and wanting to understand how socialism is constructed in the real world. The second comes from being anti-imperialist and anti-war, and wanting to understand China’s role in the development of a peaceful and multipolar world.
The more I study China, the more I realise how poorly it’s understood in the West. In recent years, the anti-China propaganda in the media has been increasingly intense, corresponding to the rise of the US-led New Cold War. Many people have this absurd idea of China as some sort of authoritarian dystopia that’s intent on taking over the world. Many people believe the media’s disgraceful slanders about the suppression of human rights in Xinjiang, and so on.
China is misunderstood even on the left: lots of people believe that, because China uses market mechanisms, or because there are some very rich people in China, that it can’t be socialist any more. But then how do we explain China’s achievements? China has raised living standards beyond recognition; it’s become the world leader in renewable energy; it’s gone from being a poor and backward country to being a science and technology powerhouse; it’s leading the global shift to multipolarity; its life expectancy now exceeds that of the US. All this is historic and unprecedented progress, on a scale which has never been achieved by any capitalist country. Why on earth would the left want to attribute these successes to capitalism rather than socialism?
This is the text and video of a presentation made by Carlos Martinez at a 28 June webinar of the United National Anti-War Coalition, on the theme of US anti-China propaganda, a prelude to war. Carlos exposes the extraordinary hypocrisy and falsehood of the propaganda war that the Western powers are waging against China, and highlights how it is being leveraged to shift public opinion in favour of anti-China hostility.
He points out that the escalating campaign of China encirclement and containment is threatening to derail global progress on key issues, noting that “the future of humanity actually hinges on global cooperation to address our collective problems.” As such, Carlos calls on all progressive and peace-loving people to make campaigning against the New Cold War a core part of their work.
Other speakers at the event included Lee Siu Hin of the China-US Solidarity Network, Sara Flounders of the International Action Center, and Arjae Red of Workers World Party. The full webinar can be viewed on YouTube.
Dear friends, thank you so much for inviting me to speak at this important event. I’m very sorry not to be able to join you in person, as I’m currently in Guiyang, China, on a delegation.
The theme of today’s event, “Anti-Chinese propaganda, a prelude to war”, is closely connected to the rationale for writing my book, “The East is Still Red: Chinese socialism in the 21st century.”
I had two key aims in mind with the book.
One was to talk about socialism, about how China is a socialist country. So many people think that China used to be a socialist country and then became capitalist with the introduction of market reforms. I wanted to show that China remains a socialist country and that socialism provides the framework for its incredible successes in poverty alleviation, development, renewable energy, and so on.
And I wanted to say to the Western left – which tends to be a bit unsure about China – look, China’s achieved all these things, it’s raised living standards beyond recognition, it’s gone from being a technologically backward and oppressed country to being a science and tech powerhouse, it’s leading the global shift to multipolarity; why on earth would we want to ascribe these successes to capitalism rather than socialism? Let’s celebrate socialist victories, let’s uphold the history and politics of the global working class.
Hence ‘The East is Still Red’.
The second key aim in writing the book was to stand up to the propaganda war, which is part of a wider New Cold War against China, and that’s the focus of my talk today.
This work of standing up to the propaganda war is urgent. It needs to be a major focus for socialists, communists, progressives, for anti-war campaigners worldwide; really for anyone that doesn’t think “better dead than red” is a viable slogan for the 21st century.
Because the propaganda war is war propaganda.
It seeks to build the broadest possible public support for a New Cold War, for a campaign of containment and encirclement, and ultimately very possibly for a hot war.
Let’s get something straight. This New Cold War, this anti-China campaign, has absolutely nothing to do with human rights.
When the West throws disgraceful slanders at China over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, does anybody seriously think they’re manifesting a hitherto secret fondness and respect for Muslim people and their religion?
Where was that sentiment when they killed over a million people in Iraq?
Where was that sentiment when they destroyed Afghanistan, turning a quarter of its population into refugees and imposing brutal poverty on the rest?
Where was that sentiment when they bombed Libya into the Stone Age?
Where’s that sentiment today as they wage a disastrous proxy war against Iran in Yemen, creating the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world?
If they’re concerned about Muslims being placed in prison camps and denied their human rights, the first place they need to look is their illegally occupied corner of Cuba, that is, Guantanamo Bay.
When the West spreads outright lies about the suppression of Tibetan or Inner Mongolian language and culture, does anyone seriously think they’re standing up for the rights of indigenous peoples and for the preservation of precious human history?
How many indigenous languages are taught in US schools? To what extent is indigenous culture – and righteous resistance against colonialism – celebrated in US society? When was the last time native rights were upheld over drilling rights? Why does the US Congress seem more concerned with preserving Tibetan heritage than shutting down the Dakota Access pipeline?
These anti-China stories – all of which can be and have been comprehensively debunked – have nothing to do with upholding the principles of freedom, democracy and justice.
Those are the principles that are invoked. Those are the sentiments that are manipulated. Do you support freedom for Tibetan people? Do you oppose genocide and cultural genocide? Do you oppose debt traps in Africa and Latin America? If so, you should be anti-China, that’s the message; that’s the way of manufacturing consent, of persuading people to take a reactionary pro-imperialist position whilst feeling like they’re standing on the side of justice.
But it’s not the side of justice. It’s a campaign of demonisation, forming part of a hybrid war against socialism, against sovereignty, and against multipolarity.
It’s part of the New Cold War, part of the Project for a New American Century. There’s nothing progressive about it. It’s the politics of Donald Trump, of Joe Biden, of Mike Pompeo, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld.
It’s the politics of a decaying US-led empire doing everything it can to prevent that decay, to maintain its hegemony, to prevent the emergence of a different kind of world.
In that sense, the New Cold War actually has a lot in common with the original Cold War.
What was the Cold War about? Historians sometimes talk about it in grandiose terms, as a “clash of civilisations”; an ideological battle between capitalism and communism, ending with the triumph of so-called liberal democracy and the end of history.
The reality is very different. It was a long-term campaign engineered by the US and its close allies to contain and roll back socialism; to contain and roll back decolonisation; to contain and roll back the economic emergence and political sovereignty of the Global South.
The Soviets certainly never wanted a Cold War, never wanted an arms race, never wanted a system of entrenched hostility.
They wanted and called for peaceful coexistence. Having heroically defeated the Nazis and liberated Europe from the yoke of fascism, they wanted and needed breathing space to rebuild. But the imperialists wouldn’t give them that breathing space. Instead they did whatever they could to suffocate the country that had sacrificed 27 million lives in the fight against the Hitlerite war machine.
Similarly the Chinese never wanted a Cold War and hoped for peaceful coexistence with the West. The Chinese also sacrificed millions of lives in World War 2, fighting against a horrifyingly brutal Japanese invasion and occupation. But the US made it clear from the start that it would never accept Chinese socialism.
And by the way the Cold War wasn’t all that cold. It wasn’t cold for the 3 million people that lost their lives in Korea between 1950 and 1953 – a war fought exclusively in the interests of US geopolitical advantage, so the US could have a military foothold in the region from which to permanently threaten China and the Soviet Union with nuclear annihilation.
The Cold War wasn’t cold for the 4 million people that lost their lives in Vietnam between 1965 and 1975 – another war fought exclusively in the interests of US geopolitical advantage, so the US could encircle China and prevent the peoples of Southeast Asia from choosing a socialist development path.
Millions more lost their lives in coups, proxy wars and invasions from Indonesia to Brazil, from Chile to Angola, from Nicaragua to Iran. The US, the CIA, the State Department, had a hand in all of this. Sacrificing millions for the sake of preserving what is bizarrely referred to as the rules-based world order.
That’s the same rules-based world order that Biden and Blinken talk incessantly about today.
What they don’t say is that these rules are written in Washington DC; they’re rules that protect the interests of the US capitalist class. These rules are enforced by the US military and the mechanisms of economic coercion. They’re enforced with the help of dollar hegemony, as well as 800 overseas military bases, a military budget of around a trillion dollars a year, 5,500 nuclear warheads, a total commitment to the military-industrial complex.
This rules-based order is about protecting profits. Protecting access to the resources, markets, land and cheap labour of the Global South.
Really nothing to do with freedom, democracy, justice and human rights.
So today, when they wage a trade war on China, when they impose sanctions on Chinese solar energy materials, when they try to cut China out of advanced semiconductors, when they try to ban Huawei and TikTok, when they kidnap Huawei’s CFO, none of this is done in support of human rights; it’s done in support of imperialism, of domination, of profit.
When they construct a nuclear pact – AUKUS – between Britain, the US and Australia; when they provide military aid and diplomatic support to Taiwanese separatists; when they build a new military base in North Australia; when they place nuclear-enabled warplanes in the region; when they conduct their RIMPAC military exercises; when they place missile defence systems in Guam and South Korea; when they try to turn the Quad into a sort of Pacific NATO; when they encourage Japanese re-armament; none of this is done in support of peace; it’s done in support of hegemony and bullying.
And it’s increasingly clear that there are elements in the US ruling class that recognise that Cold War tactics aren’t working, that it’s too late to prevent China’s rise, that it’s too late to prevent the emergence of a multipolar, multilateral world – and that are therefore preparing for a full, armed confrontation – most likely with Taiwan as the trigger.
So this is what we’re up against. This is why we have to reject and oppose the propaganda war. This is why we have to debunk anti-China slanders.
The immediate dangers are serious enough. The future of humanity actually hinges on global cooperation to address our collective problems. Climate change is a global issue that can only be solved on a global basis. The same goes for pandemics. The New Cold War gets in the way of the cooperation we desperately need, and as such presents a serious – even existential – threat.
Only slightly less immediate is the danger of a full-scale war between nuclear powers, the potential consequences of which are terrifying.
This is what’s at stake. It’s urgent we make campaigning against the New Cold War, against the propaganda war, against the escalating campaign of China encirclement, a core part of our work, as people who love peace, as people who love justice, as people who want humanity to prosper.
We are pleased to announce that the new book by Invent the Future editor Carlos Martinez, The East is Still Red – Chinese socialism in the 21st century, has been published by Praxis Press. It is currently available to buy on the Praxis Press website in paperback and ePub forms, and will be available more widely from early June.
China provides a powerful living example of what can be achieved under a socialist system; by a Marxist-led government firmly grounded among the people. The East is Still Red explains the escalating hostility by the imperialist powers towards China and clears up various popular misconceptions.
All available evidence indicates that not only is the Communist Party of China committed to Marxism, but it is a leading force for the development and enhancement of Marxism in the 21st century.
If the first century of human experience of building socialism teaches us anything, it is that the road from capitalism to socialism is a long and complicated one, and that ‘actually existing socialism’ varies enormously according to time, place and circumstances. China is building a form of socialism that suits its conditions, using the means it has at its disposal, in the extraordinarily challenging circumstances of global imperialist hegemony.
Carlos Martinez provides a concise, deeply researched and well argued account that China’s remarkable rise can only be understood by acknowledging its socialist past, present and future.
We must strike a balance between economic growth and environmental protection. We will be more conscientious in promoting green, circular, and low-carbon development. We will never again seek economic growth at the cost of the environment. (Xi Jinping)
The cost of development
Few events in human history have resonated throughout the world as profoundly as the Chinese Revolution. Standing in Tiananmen Square on 1 October 1949, pronouncing the birth of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong said “the Chinese people have stood up”. In standing up, in building a modern socialist society and throwing off the shackles of feudalism, colonialism, backwardness, illiteracy and grinding poverty, China has blazed a trail for the entire Global South. Lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty has been described even by ardent capitalists as “the greatest leap to overcome poverty in history”. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) describes China’s development as having produced “the most rapid decline in absolute poverty ever witnessed”. It is an extraordinary accomplishment that all Chinese people now have secure access to food, housing, clothing, clean water, modern energy, education and healthcare.
In environmental terms, however, this progress has come at a cost. Just as economic development in Europe and the Americas was fuelled by the voracious burning of fossil fuels, China’s development has been built to a significant degree on ‘Old King Coal’, the most polluting and emissions-intensive of the fossil fuels. Two decades ago, coal made up around 80 percent of China’s energy mix. Environmental law expert Barbara Finamore notes that “coal, plentiful and cheap, was the energy source of choice, not just for power plants, but also for direct combustion by heavy industry and for heating and cooking in people’s homes.”
Carlos Martinez talks to Midwestern Marx about the conflict in Ukraine, NATO’s ongoing war against Russia, cultural development in the Soviet Union, the Soviet collapse, China’s role in combatting climate breakdown, the nature of China’s reform and opening up, the 20th National Congress of the CPC, and possibilities for the future of working class internationalism.
If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. (Malcolm X)
The Western media is waging a systematic and ferocious propaganda war against China. In the court of Western public opinion, China stands accused of an array of terrifying crimes: conducting a genocide against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang; wiping out democracy in Hong Kong; militarising the South China Sea; attempting to impose colonial control over Taiwan; carrying out a land grab in Africa; preventing Tibetans and Inner Mongolians from speaking their languages; spying on the good peoples of the democratic world; and more.
Australian scholar Roland Boer has characterised these accusations as “atrocity propaganda – an old anti-communist and indeed anti-anyone-who-does-not-toe-the-Western-line approach that tries to manufacture a certain image for popular consumption.” Boer observes that this propaganda serves to create an impression of China as a brutal authoritarian dystopia which “can only be a fiction for anyone who actually spends some time in China, let alone lives there.”
It’s not difficult to understand why China would be subjected to this sort of elaborate disinformation campaign. This media offensive is part of the imperialist world’s ongoing attempts to reverse the Chinese Revolution, to subvert Chinese socialism, to weaken China, to diminish its role in international affairs and, as a result, to undermine the global trajectory towards multipolarity and a future free from hegemonism. As journalist Chen Weihua has pointed out, “the reasons for the intensifying US propaganda war are obvious: Washington views a fast-rising China as a challenge to its primacy around the world.” Furthermore, “the success of a country with a different political system is unacceptable to politicians in Washington.”
Carlos Martinez talks to Papagiotis Papadomanolakis of the The Press Project about the conflict in Ukraine, the persistent attempts by the US to divide Russia and China, and the rise of a multipolar world. The interview took place in English and was first published in Greek.
Our discussion is taking place while a special military operation is taking place to denazify and demilitarize the Kiev regime, which came to power with the support of Washington and the neo-Nazis. How is the current conflict in Ukraine linked to the broader strategy of the United States against a multipolar world?
The US has been escalating the conflict in Ukraine in a very cynical way. If it were in the slightest bit interested in ending tensions and establishing a stable peace in Europe, it would have encouraged the Kiev government to implement the Minsk Agreements and to respect the legitimate national rights of the ethnolinguistically Russian section of the Ukrainian population, particularly in Donbas. It would furthermore have stated explicitly that Ukraine would not be invited to join NATO – as opposed to saying, as President Biden did in December 2021, that “the decision on Ukraine’s accession to NATO is the decision of the Ukrainian people.”
Instead, the US has actively fomented tensions in order to consolidate its geopolitical hegemony over Europe. The US and its allies provided significant resources for the Maidan coup in 2014, because they understood that the Maidan leadership was unambiguously pro-West and anti-Russian in orientation, unlike the Yanukovych government, which aimed to have good relations with both Russia and the West.
The US in particular has been vehemently opposed to a federal solution to the crisis in Southeastern Ukraine, as this would potentially give Donetsk and Lugansk veto power over Ukraine joining NATO and becoming fully inserted into the US’s so-called rules-based international order. That’s how the national oppression of the peoples of the Donbas became a question of geostrategic significance; that’s the basis for the tactical alliance that’s been formed between the US, its supposedly liberal friends in Kyiv and Lvov, and the assorted ‘ultranationalist’ (that is, fascist) militia that have been waging a campaign of terror for the last eight years.
In late 2020, the Chinese government announced that its goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2021 (the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China) had been met. At the start of the targeted poverty alleviation program in 2014, just under 100 million people were identified as living below the poverty line; seven years later, the number was zero.
To eradicate extreme poverty in a developing country of 1.4 billion people – which at the time of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 was one of the poorest countries in the world, characterised by widespread malnutrition, illiteracy, foreign domination and technological backwardness – is without doubt “the greatest anti-poverty achievement in history”, in the words of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.1
What does it mean to not suffer extreme poverty in China? The most easily measurable aspect is having a daily income higher than the World Bank-defined international poverty line of 1.90 USD per day. But according to the Chinese government’s definition, a person can be considered to have left extreme poverty only if the “two assurances and three guarantees” have been met.2 The two assurances are for adequate food and clothing; the three guarantees are for access to medical services, safe housing with drinking water and electricity, and at least nine years of free education. Meanwhile, the land ownership system in China means that the rural poor have rent-free access to land and housing – putting them in a very different category to the rural poor elsewhere in the world.
The Anglo ruling classes have gone into a state of frenzy over a recently-signed security agreement between the People’s Republic of China and the Solomon Islands. Various people who had barely heard of the Solomon Islands just a few weeks ago are now expressing grave concern that this small sovereign nation could be used as a pawn by an aggressive and expansionist China in its bid for world domination.
The deal itself appears to be entirely ordinary, allowing for China to “make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in, and have stopover and transition in the Solomon Islands,” in addition to providing the Solomon Islands police with training and – on invitation – support. Indeed, the Solomon Islands already has similar security cooperation arrangements with Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Fiji; as such, the deal with China simply represents a desire to “seek greater security partnership with other partners and neighbours.”
Responding to criticism of the deal by Australian and US politicians, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare assured that it was signed “with our eyes wide open, guided by our national interests”, and that it has been developed not as a means of power projection but of addressing the island nation’s security needs.
Nonetheless, Western politicians and media have reacted with an anxiety bordering on the hysterical. Indeed the Australian government made repeated attempts to prevent the deal being signed in the first place, and its failure has prompted bitter recrimination. Allan Gyngell from the Australian Institute of International Affairs commented to BBC News that “the objective had to be to stop something like this happening. You can’t read it any other way – this is a failure of Australian diplomacy.” Meanwhile, opposition leader Anthony Albanese described Australia’s failure to prevent the agreement going through as “a massive foreign policy failure” and “a Pacific stuff-up”. The Australian Labor Party is now promising that it will “restore Australia’s place as the partner of choice in the Pacific” if it is successful in the coming federal elections.
The following article by Carlos Martinez features as a chapter in the forthcoming book Sanctions Kill – The World Stands Up. The article provides a detailed analysis of the sanctions imposed by the US and its allies on the People’s Republic of China and exposes the role they play within the escalating New Cold War.
Sanctions Kill – The World Stands Up will be published by World View Forum in early Spring 2022.
The instinctive attitude of the United States towards the Chinese Revolution was of course one of hostility. In a protracted war between progress and reaction, between the future and the past, the governments of the US and the People’s Republic of China were, and are, are on opposite sides of the barricades. Hence shortly after the formation of the PRC in 1949, the US maintained a strict embargo on China.
With the move towards rapprochement in the early 1970s and a tacit agreement to ‘peacefully coexist’, the embargo was finally removed. Then with China’s strategic shift to integrate into the global economy, the trickle of trade and investment gradually expanded into one of the largest and most important economic relationships in the world, with bilateral trade volume currently standing at just over half a trillion dollars annually. Thousands of US businesses have generated enormous profits from their investments in China and (particularly in recent years) from selling to a vast and growing Chinese market.
Ruling classes in the West were, to a considerable extent, comfortable with incorporating China into globalised capitalism, to the extent that China’s role was limited to providing cheap, competent and well-educated labour. However, it was never the intention of the Chinese leadership to remain permanently at the lowest rung of the global economic ladder. China has pursued a patient strategy of welcoming foreign investment, setting up joint enterprises with Western companies, learning the latest technologies and management techniques, and building up its own advanced industry. Meanwhile it has invested very heavily in education and innovation. China’s R&D spending reached 378 billion USD in 2020 – 2.4 percent of its GDP and nearly three times the figure for the US.
As a result, China is on its way to becoming “a moderately developed socialist country by the middle of the 21st century”, as Deng Xiaoping predicted some 35 years ago.1 China has become a world leader in network technology, in renewable energy, nuclear energy, high-speed rail, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, and several other important areas. It is increasingly competing with the US in spaces that the US is used to dominating, such as cloud computing and industrial automation.