China has a unique history. In the pre-modern era, the Chinese Empires were the most advanced and the largest of the world-empires. But during the nineteenth century, China was forced to make economic and commercial concessions to the expanding European powers, undermining its autonomy and reducing its power. But on the other hand, it was sufficiently powerful to prevent European conquest, colonization, and peripheralization, as had occurred in the rest of the empires and societies of Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas, except Japan. All three of the twentieth century political currents in China (republicanism, nationalism, and communism) envisioned the restoration of Chinese power and prestige in the world. The triumph of Chinese communism made possible the reconstruction of the political-economy in accordance with popular needs and interests and facilitated an autonomous, if isolated, development. Since the 1980s, the “opening” has built on this socialist foundation to develop trade with all nations of the world and to facilitate commercial and productive advances. Thus, in the fundamental global divide between colonizers and colonized, China pertains to neither: it was never colonized, and in the modern era, its development has not been built on a foundation of colonial domination and imperialist penetration of other lands.
In the present global reality, in which the modern world-system has reached the geographical limits of the earth, the possibilities for an emerging power to ascend through colonial domination and imperialism is far more limited than in the past. The entire planet is under imperialist domination, and any effort by an emerging power to penetrate areas neocolonized by a global power would pose a threat to the interests of the global powers, which have demonstrated their ability to cooperate in defense of interests threatened by rising semi-peripheral nations. These conditions favor an alternative strategy by an emerging semi-peripheral nation, involving cooperation with other semi-peripheral and peripheral nations, making an end run around the global powers and avoiding a direct confrontation, while invoking universal human values. This alternative strategy contributes to the formation of an alternative world-system, based on respect for universal human values rather than on domination and exploitation (see “Universal human values” 4/16/2014). The alternative world-system could have increasing viability as the best option for humanity as the global powers demonstrate their inability to resolve the global crisis and increasingly turn to militarism and new forms of fascism (see “The future of the world-system” 7/22/2014; “Imperialism, fascism, and democracy” 7/23/2014).
This alternative strategy of development through cooperation has been followed by China in recent years, as is indicated by the growing Chinese relations with Latin America. China has become the first trading partner of Brazil and the second of Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba, nations that pursue equitable trading relations. The development by China of accords with Latin America and the Caribbean, which are based on the assumption that the participants are equal partners, puts the process of Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration on more solid ground, and it strengthens the movement toward South-South cooperation.
Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, recently traveled to Brazil for the BRICS Summit and for the meeting, establishing the China-CELAC Forum, with the heads of state of the nations of CELAC, including Raúl Castro of Cuba, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Rafael Correa of Ecuador. And he subsequently visited Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba. Prior to his trip to Latin America, the Chinese President responded to questions by journalists from Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba. He describes China as a large nation, not a global power, and in a phase of development similar to Latin America and the Caribbean nations. He maintains that China is seeking to develop through trade based on cooperation and win-win relations of mutual benefit. He advocates the promotion of South-South cooperation in order that underdeveloped nations can attain autonomous and sustainable development, and he considers the expanding economic and social relation between China and CELAC to be an example of South-South cooperation. He affirms that China is committed to a more just and reasonable international economic and political order (Xi 2014). An English translation of the interview can be found at: Xi Jinping, Long distance does not weaken close friendship.
Xi Jinping. 2014. “Cooperación entre China y América Latina y el Caribe: La larga distancia no borra la íntima amistad,” Granma: Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, La Habana, 15 de julio, Págs. 3-5.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, South-South cooperation, China, CELAC