China and the end of the end of history
Many economists and political analysts think the current recovery, as it’s being called, is a rather temporary phenomenon. Many expect the recession to kick back in, and perhaps within a few years get much more serious. What does that mean in terms of the future of the world economy and world politics?
Perhaps no one country will have more to do with determining our global fate than China. It will only be a few decades before its economy is expected to surpass that of the United States and already, it’s an economic power house. With it holdings of around two trillion dollars US dollars, being one of the few economies that is growing at a more than a semi-recessionary pace, and it voracious appetite for raw materials – China is right now shaping all of our lives.
Minqi Li, who’s a professor at the University of Utah, has written an article called “The End of the ‘End of History’: The Structural Crisis of Capitalism and the Fate of Humanity.” Here’s a little excerpt from the article. “The global capitalist economy is now in its deepest crisis since the Great Depression. Even the world’s ruling elites no longer have any doubt that a significant historical turning point has arrived. The neoliberal phase of capitalist development is coming to an end. This will prove to be the end of the so-called ‘End of History’ and the era of global counter-revolution it signifies. The immediate and important question is: what will be next? Where is the world heading as the crisis unravels and evolves?”
I recently interviewed Professor Li and asked him, “what comes next”?
LI: Well, I guess it’s not exaggerating to say that global capitalism right now is in a structural crisis. And, of course, in some previous historical periods, we know that capitalism had similar structural crises and managed to survive. So the question is whether we are going to see a similar restructuring of global capitalism, and so that capitalism would be back to some kind of normal expansion in the coming decades. But my own understanding is that this is not likely, because on the one hand, capitalism, unlike in previous historical periods, has exhausted its historical space for social reform. So, for example, after World War II, capitalism was able to restructure itself, undertaking some social reform, introducing the welfare state, and then return to social and economic recovery. But now, basically, in all the Western countries we see that it’s not possible to combine a redistribution in favor of the working people with the requirement of capitalist accumulation.
On the other hand, in the past, capitalism has been able to rely upon the exploitation of cheap labor force in the non-Western world, especially in places like Asia. But in the future I expect that the Asian working classes are going to have more organization, they will demand more economic and political rights, and that will reduce the capitalist profit rate and undermine global capitalism. But probably the most important limit is that after centuries of accumulation, capitalism has exhausted the environmental space, so that the global ecological system now is literally on the verge of collapse.
JAY: So by that you’re talking a climate change crisis.
LI: That is just one among many aspects of global environmental crisis.
JAY: What other aspects do you think are so serious that are threatening to the system itself?
LI: Well, you have the water shortage, water pollution that is pervasive. The United Nations predict that by 2025 maybe 70 percent of the population in the world will live in areas of water stress. And we have soil erosion, and we have desertification, we have deforestation, ocean acidification. So all of these aspects are threatening the global ecological system.
JAY: Are you seeing any signs of resistance to this process that is meaningful? There is rhetoric from the elites, but very little meaningful action. The workers movement on the whole seems very weak. You could have 100 years of decay.
LI: Well, I would rather not see it. I mean, I agree with you as far as the elites are concerned, and we know that basically advanced countries right now are talking about reducing fiscal deficits and trying to abandon their historical commitment to workers’ health care and pensions. And on the other hand, with respect to climate change, the US Democrats just gave up hope of passing the climate change law. So, as far as the elites are concerned, I agree with you.
About workers, recently we have seen a workers resistance in Western Europe, although there has been no immediate major effect. But in the medium term or long run, I say in five to ten years, I think hope could happen in the non-Western world, in places like Latin America, in places like in China-especially in China. I think the Chinese working class have now reached a turning point in the coming one or two decades, and we are going to see more organization from the Chinese workers. That’s going to challenge the Chinese capitalist system. And if the Chinese capitalist system is challenged, because of the central role of the Chinese economy in the global economic system, and also with respect to energy and climate change, if the Chinese capitalist system is challenged, that could dramatically change the global balance of power.”
You can watch the complete interview with Minqi Li on The Real News Network here.