The Chinese Communist Party dominated state is facing a narrowing of support in society. For decades, the leadership of CCP has relied on economic growth to maintain its legitimacy. However, this model is not as powerful as before. Social problems been increasingly revealed and the cycle of capitalist crisis has been significantly accelerated.
Starting from the “Reform and Open” policy in 1978, and completed in Jiang Zemin’s reform in late 90s, the ruling class of the state that had seen capitalism and landlordism abolished in the years following the 1949 Chinese revolution has become a special form of capitalism controlled by CCP bureaucrats, which is not the same as western capitalist states, but there is no difference in the exploitation of the working class.
They hide behind a socialist-like narrative and using economic growth to cover the expanding gap between rich and poor. However, with the growing size and power of the Chinese proletariat, as a result of the rapid urbanisation of past 30 years, social conflicts and a growing questioning towards the Chinese ruling class’s character, make this recent social crisis more remarkable for the working class.
The beginning of 2024 sees the Chinese economy still in crisis, and the living quality of workers and young people is not getting better as the government promised. After the Chinese government cancelled the lock down policy, under the pressure of the protest called the “white paper revolution”, there was a short-term bounce back on economy.
However, this wave of recovery was much shorter and smaller compared to the recovery in 2020. At that time, people were expecting to get back to “normal life”, and that higher incomes in the future will cover their loans and bring them a better life. Yet two years later, both urban and rural areas face a crisis and rising poverty.
Many young couples in China gave up having children as a result. Chinese society now faces the first population decrease since 1962. For the same reasons, under the impact of worsening quality of life, Chinese people are less passionate on house buying and consuming in society. Young people are looking to cut back on spending lead- ing to the decrease of economic consumption.
The Chinese government has tried to stimulate the market, but people are less willing to spend their money. The economy is even facing the crisis of deflation, which leads to inefficient ex- port and investment.
Another crisis facing the Chinese economy is real estate industry. This was already happening before the pandemic, and has been accelerated with most of the population of China losing the ability to pay off debt.
During the past 30 years, the real estate industry has been bound to the growth of the economy and rapid urbanisation, and has been seen by the ruling class as a way to making financial investments rather than a place to live.
Under the illusion of rapid growth, the Chinese working class and youth have to clear out “6 wallets”, which are 2 wallets of a couple and 4 wallets from each of their parents, to purchase a house and carry debt for 30 years. This flesh-eating industry now has reached its limit. Heavy debt has brought negative impact to living quality, increased the gap between the rich and poor, and also enlarged the decrease of internal consumption.
The extremely long working hours of Chinese workers is making things even worse. In 2023, the average number of working hours has reached 48.7 hours per week. The economic crisis brings heavier pressure on the working class, which is the reason for low wages, long working hours and unemployment.
As of June 2023, the youth unemployment was already over 20%, and overall unemployment also increased to 5.5%. Suppression on the workers makes people have no time and money on consumption.
The budgets of provincial governments within China are also facing a crisis. Local governments were relying on “land finance”, extremely dependent on real estate and construction industries. Indebtedness of local and provincial governments has rocketed. Pressure on financial income makes local governments seeking a way to make cuts such as reducing expenses on medical care, decreasing the salary of civil servants and more.
Against this backdrop, the CCP-led state is increasingly intervening to try and avert the financial, economic and social crisis. Before the pandemic, Chinese government, facing the over- heated bubble of house prices, and responded by pushing down house prices, represent by a slogan: “Housing for living, not for speculation.”
This reform includes policies such as introducing a property tax, restrictions on how many properties could be owned etc. The CCP hoped this reform could ease the social conflict, and bring more investment to high-tech industry rather than real estate industry, which already is in danger.
Under the social, economic and financial dilemma, the bureaucrat capitalists and its state machine are losing the confidence from society. According to the Chinese Labor Bulletin, the incidents of workers’ struggle in 2023 is 1779, compare to 2022, which is 831. In 2018, before the pandemic, the incident count was 1883. There has not yet been a qualitative change in the numbers of workers’ struggles.
On the other side, this still weak but growing working-class force has made ruling class take action in the media and propaganda. The CCP not only use nationalism and the narrative of “The Great Rejuvenation of Chinese Nation”, but also try to pander to growing left-wing public opinion.
The attitude of being “anti-capitalist”, the increasing reference to Marxist theory on official announcements, and, only in a few times, supporting workers during strike actions, has shown a recent shift by the ruling class.
This strategy is not only to try to ease the class conflict, but also to maintain its legitimacy, to claim themselves as a “revolutionary” party. Till now, it still works. Many people seeking for social reform are willing to believe that Communist Party of China could make the society better. But on the other side, this action of trying to strengthen their legitimacy is a sign of weakness that will eventually undermine their legitimacy.
The bureaucrat capitalists claim to defend Marxism and revolution is ironic as it is the ideas of genuine Marxism which will eventually end their domination. The similar contradictions can be found all around modern Chinese society. One of the examples is at the end of 2023, more than 10,000 thousand people rallied in Shaoshan, Hunan, calling for another revolution.
Similar events happened across the whole country, and over 1 million people took part online. These revolutionary left-wing protests are mainly influenced by Maoist ideas, but support for the idea of a new revolution for the Chinese working class is widespread here.
The CCP could not ban them as they took place on the commemoration day of Mao Zedong’s birth, which is December 26th. For the event of 2023, it is the largest rally ever, and the proportion of young people has significantly increased.
Going forward, the Chinese working class and youth are fighting for independent worker-controlled unions, and the right of assembly. This will increasingly bring them into collision with the CCP and it’s “Marxist” rhetoric”
With this growing awareness, support for collective ownership, democracy in the workplace, and genuine revolutionary Marxist ideas will eventually become the largest force among the working class. It is long-term fight to achieve. The road is tortuous, and the future is bright.