Enter the Dragon: The Rise of Chinese Imperialism and Its Nemesis



Rivalries and tensions in South China Sea

When the UK maritime strike force known as Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) entered the South China Sea in July of this year (2021), it signaled Westminster’s clear intention to renew and upgrade its role as an imperialist power in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.


Hailed by some as “an armada for democracy”, CSG21 is the largest concentration of maritime and airpower to leave the UK in a generation. Spearheaded by the newly commissioned aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, it comprises 4 Royal Navy destroyers and a nuclear-powered stealth submarine described by the Royal Navy as “capable of hitting targets 1,000km from the coast and..... carry[ing] Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles”.

The ostensible purpose of CSG21 in the South China sea was to safeguard international maritime shipping routes but it soon became evident that it was part of a joint effort to beef up the combined military power of Australia, the USA and UK – and to a far lesser extent Japan – to defend their strategic interests against the spread of Chinese naval and air power in the region.



Just two months later Washington, London and Canberra announced the creation of a new military pact known as Aukus. In addition to sharing hi-tech cyber and artificial intelligence systems, Australia will now acquire a new fleet of nuclear powered submarines, as part of Western military operations in the Indo-Pacific region. Under the pact Australia will also develop new long range strike capabilities for its air force, navy and army.The stakes in the region couldn’t be higher.



High stakes poker

According to the World Bank, the South China Sea holds proven oil reserves of at least seven billion barrels and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – almost 250 times the existing global annual output for 2020. Currently an estimated $3.37 trillion worth of global trade passes through the South China Sea annually, which accounts for a third of the global maritime trade.


In addition to China, whose exports constitute a huge part of the region’s global trade, there are the competing interests of Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Brunei, all of which are major platforms for multi-national corporations, banking and stock market operations. Vietnam in particular has emerged as one of the so-called Asian tiger economies and has begun to challenge China as a key player in the region’s global supply chain. In addition, offshore exploration revealed Vietnam's proven oil reserves to be the third largest in the Asia-Pacific region and this too has created tensions with China.


Historically, the Chinese revolution represented a mortal blow to imperialist interests in the region. Moreover, despite the Stalinist regime in Beijing doing everything in its power to appease the West [1] it was still seen as an inspiration to the Asian masses.

All that has changed now. With the restoration of capitalism, China has itself become a major player in the operations of international capital throughout the region. Moreover, it is now ranked the third next to the USA and Russia as a military power. and is openly flexing its muscles to assert its regional hegemony. The clearest expression of this is its increasing assertion of territorial sovereignty over Taiwan [2] and maritime sovereignty over virtually the entire area of the South China sea.




China’s claim to territorial sovereignty over the Spratly Islands is key to its overall ambitions for maritime hegemony in the South China Sea. Despite occupying a tiny land mass, the archipelago is at the centre of fierce regional disputes due to the associated fishing and mineral rights.


In short, whereas the national struggles in the region had previously possessed an anti-imperialist character, this has now shifted decisively around a new axis of inter-imperialist and emerging capitalist rivalries, involving China as one of the principal protagonists.


China is no longer a workers’ state defending itself against imperialist aggression but has itself emerged as an imperialist economy wielding enormous military power in pursuit of global expansion.


The transition to capitalism

Whilst the transition to capitalism in China can be dated back to the 1978 “open door” reform, welcoming huge influxes of private foreign capital, the real launch pad for its skyrocketing growth in the 21st century was the decisive crushing of the democratic movement at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The student-led protests at the square were part of a much broader mass movement,which also involved hundreds of thousands of workers protesting the pro-capitalist reforms in various state enterprises. In the repression that followed the massacre, many students suffered long prison sentences, However, it was the working class wing of the movement which bore the brunt of the state’s revenge, with at least 27 workers being executed in one month alone.


This was the turning point for China’s so-called miracle growth. The crucial next stage in this process was the massive programme of privatisation and closure of state-run enterprises and its devastating impact on the Chinese working class. Under the lash of capitalist competition, the 1990s presaged a qualitative shrinkage of the state sector with a staggering loss of 40 million jobs. This was accompanied by massive land clearances to make way for capitalist agribusiness, the establishment of new enterprise zones and allied infrastructure projects such as high-speed trains. The result was the creation of a reserve army of 250 million migrant rural workers living a precarious existence and providing a source of ultra-cheap labour for the unfettered growth of manufacturing, construction and service sectors.


Capitalism and nationalisations

Due to the continued existence of a one-party state and the ongoing presence of large State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), some commentators question the extent of this capitalist restoration. After all, as of 2021 there were an estimated 150,000 SOEs in China, a figure which dwarfs even the global total of government owned enterprises. Some call this state capitalism, However, regardless of the label, there is little doubt that it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the planned economy inaugurated by the 1949 revolution.


Nationalisation or state ownership in itself has no great virtue. It can be a lever in both directions: either towards socialism or, equally, as a means of capital accumulation and expansion of the capitalist system.


Even the most advanced capitalist countries have carried out extensive nationalisations without in any way intending to interfere with or obstruct capitalist commodity production. Post-war Britain is a good example of this. In addition to the establishment of the NHS (National Health Service), key sectors of the economy such as coalmining, steel and utilities were all nationalised. While coal and steel in particular retained an element of commodity production for the export market, their nationalisation overall served fundamentally as a massively subsidised use value servicing the rest of the capitalist economy. Once they had outlived this function they were streamlined and privatised.


This is an example of the state being used not as an inhibitor but as a shelter and lever for wider capitalist interests. Other examples, such as the extensive nationalisations carried out in Nasser’s Egypt, follow a similar path.


The succession of quantitative reforms to China’s planned economy have produced a qualitative change in its mode of production; a change which marks out a completely different function and mode of operation of its state enterprises.


Prior to the reforms initiated in 1979 by Den Xiaping, Chinese SOEs operated within the framework of a planned economy. Production targets were set by central government and all profits made by SOEs were remitted to the state and losses were covered by the state. Whilst burdened by a parasitic and highly privileged bureaucracy, it was a system of production based on need and not on profit.


With the reforms that began in the late 70s, the SOEs gained increasing financial autonomy. As a result, SOEs were allowed to engage in production beyond the state’s mandatory plans and exporting SOEs started to retain some of their foreign exchange. In 1983, a pilot reform was advanced to allow SOEs to pay taxes instead of remitting all profits to the state. The table below demonstrates the radical nature of this change.


These results were the outcome of a massive privatisation of SOEs in which the state retained control over certain enterprises deemed absolutely essential (e g, infrastructure and defence) and over those SOEs which were not considered to be commercially viable. However,once they served their purpose and became more profitable they were then subject to takeovers by the private sector,in line with market regulations. This is reflected in the overall decrease in the number of SOE’s between 1997 and 2016.


Moreover, the reforms have created a new generation of SOEs with diversified ownership types and with a significant level of internationalisation. Now there are only a small number of SOEs that are purely state owned, with the majority of them now being joint stock, shareholding corporations.


This process was accelerated with China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001, which was conditional upon opening up all branches of the economy to competition. The immediate impact of this was swingeing cuts to the workforce as part of a process of downsizing, a process which is common in capitalist economies and which makes workers pay for the capitalist crisis.


This was exactly what happened at the Daqing oilfield. This huge complex had already been restructured and made into a subsidiary of the PetroChina Company that was now listed on the New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges.


In 2002 tens of thousands of oilfield workers began a month-long struggle against compulsory redundancies. Despite several mass demonstrations and other forms of protests the workers struggle was defeated through a combination of betrayal by the state-run union and state repression. At the end of the struggle the cops imposed a curfew, with busloads of workers eventually being arrested.


Initially, 50,000 workers lost their jobs, pension rights and other important company benefits. Within a few years as many as 600,000 workers had been sacked.


Commercialization of the SOEs.

For almost 30 years now, the Stalinist bureaucracy in China has been steadfastly committed to rolling back the frontiers of the state on a scale that Margaret Thatcher could only have dreamed of.


Not only did the number of SOEs shrink from 118,000 (1995) to 34,000 (2003), but the remainder have been restructured along commercial lines, with corporate governance to match their listings on both Chinese and overseas stock exchanges. Their conversion into joint stock companies requires all central SOEs’ parent companies to hire outside directors to serve on corporate boards. These directors participate in strategy, funding, and investment decisions and select and evaluate SOE managers.


By the end of 2018, 90% of the central SOEs had completed this board reform, or were in the process of doing so. Effectively this has transformed SOEs into modern competitive corporations which function quite autonomously from the state, albeit subject to a measure of control by the majority shareholding. However, this implies little if any interference. Writing for the World Economic Forum, Amir Guluzade (the Chief Operating officer of the Private Wealth Institute, Ahmadoff & Co) summarised it this way:


“The state is signalling that it is committed to making SOEs more efficient and intends to merely reserve the right for intervention in case of emergency.”


From stumbling around as decomposing remnants of a previously planned economy, the SOEs became the nuclei of what are today billionaire corporations functioning openly as part of the world capitalist market. Many of these are in the vanguard of China’s overseas investments that bear all the hallmarks of imperialist exploitation of the Third World.


The bureaucrat, fat cat merry-go-round

By expropriating big capital and the large, landed estates, the Chinese revolution opened the road towards a different social system, one that inspired millions of toilers throughout Southeast Asia to embark on a similar path. From its inception, however, it was saddled with a bureaucratic caste that multiplied and enriched itself exponentially as it consolidated its hold on the levers of the state and management of the economy.

However, like its counterparts in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the Chinese bureaucracy was constrained by the very property relations on which it rested. It was not enough simply to consume the vast wealth it had plundered from state industries. It also needed to free itself from the boundaries of a planned economy and turn its personal fortunes into private capital.


There was an outlet for this in the form of capital flight, which surged from an annual average of $3-4 billion in 1988 to more than $100 billion in 200O. This was one way of converting the bureaucrats, enormous wealth into capital projects that could yield profits. However, such overseas outlets were not enough. Only with an unfettered capitalist market in China itself would the bureaucrats become the true fat cats that they dreamed of becoming.


In his seminal work, The Revolution Betrayed, the Russian revolutionary leader, Leon Trotsky, outlined the genesis of this contradiction as follows:


“The ruling bureaucracy”, Trotsky wrote, "must inevitably seek supports for itself in property relations ... It is not enough to be the director of a [state] trust; it is necessary to be a stockholder. The victory of the bureaucracy in this decisive sphere would mean its conversion into a new possessing class.”


These prophetic words are more than vindicated by the course of history in China. Unlike the disintegration of the state in the Soviet bloc countries, this process in China has been marked by an increased role of the state. As the state sheltered and fed the embryonic growth of capitalism, there has been a gradual but startling bourgeoisification of the bureaucracy. The ruling stratum of the state and the Party has not only completely dismantled the socialised property relations established by the 1949 revolution but has transformed itself into a new ruling class in the process.


This is revealed in different ways, not least of all in how former managers of state enterprises, party leaders or their cronies became CEOs of the capitalist corporations and financial institutions which emerged from the downsizing and privatisation of the SOEs. Even while remaining heads of government departments, it is quite common for these bureaucrats to use state funds to establish businesses which fall under their jurisdiction.[3]


It is common practice to veil their capital assets, but it is still clear for the world to see that the bureaucracy now forms the core of the Chinese bourgeoisie. This can be demonstrated by a fairly cursory examination of China’s most prominent billionaires.


The number of dollar billionaires in China has skyrocketed from zero to more than one thousand in the last 20 years, well in excess of their 700 US counterparts. Today the CCP rules over one of the most unequal societies on the planet. According to a 2014 study by Peking University, the top one percent of households holds one-third of total assets, while the bottom quarter holds only one percent. This chasm is getting ever wider with the minting of five new dollar billionaires in China per week for the past year.(2020). Beijing is now the billionaire capital of the world. Included amongst these billionaires are the siblings of President Xi Jinping and many other top party and government officials with sizeable capital assets.


A 2002 survey of the privatisation of the SOEs contained a detailed report of how this bourgeoisification process began:

“....in 95.6 per cent of cases their previous leadership during the SOE days became the enterprises’ key investors-cum-chief executives...........A similar party leaders-turn-investors/CEOs reincarnation happened also in 95.6 per cent of the previous municipal and town collective enterprises, and in 97 per cent of the previous rural village enterprises.” [4]


The CCP: a bourgeois party

Increasingly, the bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie in China are merging into a sole entity with bureaucrats becoming billionaires and the billionaires joining the top echelons of the CCP. The extent of this crossover was illustrated in a recent study of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, (a government advisory body), which showed that the combined wealth of its 70 richest delegates was more than ten times greater than the wealth of all 660 top officials in the all three branches of the US government.


At the plenary session of the National People’s Congress (China’s parliament) in 2017, approximate 100 of the delegates were reported to be dollar billionaires. One of those delegates was China’s richest person, Pony Ma, whose net worth is $47 billion. He is the founder of Tencent, which owns WeChat. Tencent is now valued at $540 billion, a figure which even Facebook cannot match. This process was aptly described by the Indian news and media website The Print. In an October 2020 article, the online journal reported:


As a measure of how deep is the fusion between Party-state and private business, the delegates at the 2018 meeting of the CPPCC included the CEOs of the biggest tech firms in the country, including Tencent’s Pony Ma and Baidu’s Robin Li. The People’s Daily revealed late that year that Jack Ma has been a member of the Party since the 1980s. So are most of the other CEOs of major tech firms.”


The shifting composition of the CCP was enabled by a constitutional amendment introduced in 2002, known as The Theory of Three Represents. This opened the party-state machinery to capitalists under the guise of “the advanced productive forces”. By 2011, a quarter of CCP members were “enterprise managers or professionals”, more than three times the number classified as workers.

It has long been the narrative that big business and its tycoons are constrained by one-party rule in China and that the state inhibits their freedom. The reality is quite different. The capitalist class in China now has its own party, one that rules with an iron fist against the worker and peasant masses. The name of that party is the CCP, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by some media commentators.


“Today the CCP is probably best described as the world’s largest chamber of commerce,” wrote Jamil Anderlini of the Financial Times, “and membership is the best way for businesspeople to network and clinch lucrative contracts,”


Fueled initially by Western capital investments, there was some fear that China would return to its former position, as a dependent nation with a comprador bourgeoisie, in the service of Western imperialism at its helm. This is not the case. The dizzying pace of privatisation and market reforms in China has given rise to a fully-fledged capitalist system which is the envy the Western world.


Such has been the scale of capitalist accumulation, that China now has the world’s second largest private equity market,[5] which in 2019 accounted for approximately one-third of global private equity fund raising. This is matched by an enormous rise in local stock markets which have now surpassed the USA in terms of both the number and the value of Initial Public Offers. [6]


China’s financial system has now grown into a $45 trillion industry that boasts not only the world’s 2nd largest equity markets but also the 2nd largest bond markets and 3nd largest futures markets. In addition to the state-owned banks, the industry is bolstered by a further 12 national private banks and an additional 12 city-based commercial banks. The latter were previously urban credit cooperatives but now host immense capital reserves and are major players in the property and construction markets.


Dragon Heads and the agrarian counter-revolution

The Chinese revolution was a monumental event in the 20th century. It was made possible largely due to the heroic role of the peasant masses whose revolutionary tradition dated far back to the time of the 1854 Taiping rebellion against the Manchu Qing dynasty.

This revolutionary tradition continued into the 20th century with the peasant-based resistance against the Japanese occupation. The People’s Liberation Army which emerged after World War II was fundamentally a peasant army, steeled in battle against Japanese imperialism and fueled by a peasant movement intent on ending their miserable existence. By the time the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power its peasant membership had grown from only 5% in 1926 to become the overwhelming majority of its 6 million members in 1950.


Although the CCP had oscillated between insurrection and collaboration with the capitalist Kuomintang, the pressure for radical agrarian reform had been at the heart of most of the liberated zones in pre-revolutionary China. It was codified in the Agrarian Reform Law of 1950, which fulfilled a promise made to the peasants by confiscating the property of the rural landlords and rich peasants and redistributing some 43% of total arable land to the poorest sectors. It also abolished the rental system whereby the peasants surrendered up to 50% of their harvest value to the landlords.


Although the land redistribution was accompanied by other reforms in rural education and infrastructure, the Maoist regime adopted economic policies which favoured industry as opposed to agriculture and the cities over the countryside. The CCP’s military-bureaucratic methods, previously employed in the liberated zones, now became the norm of a new state which largely turned its back on the peasant masses.


The land reform was at first carried out at a snail’s pace before jumping in 1955 to a policy of forced collectivization, which aroused resentment amongst the peasants, causing general unrest, chaotic conditions, and even riots in many areas. This was compounded by Mao’s so-called Great Leap Forward and the compulsory establishment in 1958 of people’s communes. These were established by diktat and coercion on an immense scale and at a ferocious tempo, such that productive relations in agriculture were upset and the personal lives of 500 million peasants were thrown into turmoil.

Carried out in the name of the superiority of large-scale agricultural production, it ignored the fundamental working class tenet of voluntary association. The worldwide application of this to the agrarian question was explained by Lenin in his Draft Theses on the Agrarian Question for the Second Congress of the Communist International. Whilst recognising the superiority of large-scale agrarian production through collective association, he argued:


“When it is stated that we must strive to gain the peasants voluntary consent it means that they must be persuaded and persuaded by practical deeds. They will not allow themselves to be convinced by mere words, and they are perfectly right in that. It would be a bad thing if they allow themselves to be convinced merely by reading decrees and agitational leaflets. If it were possible to reshape economic life in this way, such reshaping would not be worth a brass farthing.” [7]


The commune movement was the exact reverse of this. In a crude and brutal attempt to increase the agricultural surplus to fuel industrial growth, tens of millions of people died of starvation. The Great Leap Forward caused untold damage and suffering to peasant farming. This was officially recognised in the late 1970s when the state took its first baby steps in its metamorphosis from bloated bureaucrat to fat cat capitalist.


Subsequent reforms brought an end to the communes and the establishment of new land rights in which land leasing became a commmodity. Land owernership was not sold privately as such but sublet for long periods to capital intensive, large-scale state and private corporations. The damage to the peasantry was even more devastating as hundreds of millions of peasants were driven from their lands.


Spearheading this so-called modernisation are the Dragon Head Enterprises (DHEs), named as such for supposedly leading Chinese agriculture once again along the path of rural development. In effect this modernisation has simply paved the way for land grabbing and agribusiness on a huge scale.


According to official figures for 2011, there were 110,000 officially designated national-level DHEs, operating on 60 per cent of the country’s crop production area and covering 70 per cent of livestock and 80 per cent of aquaculture production. In the same year the DHEs registered net sales of US$917 billion and accounted for 10.3 per cent of all land exchanged in China.


As millions of peasants were displaced, capitalism went on the rampage, creating an entirely new rural landscape in which agribusinesses with huge capital surpluses became the dominant force. By the end of 2013, collectives and villagers had transferred land-use rights for 22.6 million hectares of land, increasingly to industrial and commercial enterprises. This figure represented 26 per cent of the total amount of land contracted to China’s peasant farmers.


Chinese law bans the expropriation of cultivated land unless it promotes the “public interest,” such as urbanization, developing infrastructure, public schools and universities, and other projects that serve non-commercial purposes. In reality land has become a commodity in China, with a burgeoning real estate involved in trading land use rights ceded by village collectives.


Under the guise of “public interest”, a large amount of rural land has been requisitioned for the hidden purpose of making money through real estate development, the construction of shopping malls and commercial complexes, and developing the tourism industry. The exorbitant profits these projects generate were typically shared - with varying ratios - between the (private) developers and local governments. One study suggests that nationwide more than 80 percent of rural expropriated land ended up serving “non-public interests”.


A major vehicle for this is the practice of land banking which allows authorities to expropriate and set aside productive land for future use even though there is no immediate sale involved. According to China’s own statistics, more than 50 per cent of the land reserved for future use was taken through land banking.


Official data indicates that revenues derived from sales of land by China’s local or provincial authorities have surged by more than 165-fold since the launch of real estate market reforms just over two decades ago. By 2020, land sales in China soared to a record $1.3 trillion, the equivalent of Australia’s annual gross domestic product. This figure represent revenue solely from government sales of the land use rights. Once sold, these rights can then be freely traded in accordance with terms of the original contract.


From all the aforementioned data and analysis of the changes to the Chinese economy, it is safe to conclude that capitalist commodity production and exchange has now become generalised and dominates all sectors of the economy, including within the state-owned enterprise system. This in itself is not proof that China has become an imperialist power. However, it does indicate that the basis existed for it to do so.


Chinese imperialism at work


“Capitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and of the financial strangulation of the overwhelming majority of the population of the world by a handful of 'advanced' countries. And this 'booty' is shared between two or three powerful world plunderers armed to the teeth, who are drawing the whole world into their war over the division of their booty.” - Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin.

China is not a semi-colonial nation oppressed by imperialism in the way that Lenin describes. The revolution of 1949 put an end to that condition. Nor have the waves of foreign investment that rolled into China from the 1980s managed to restore that status. Instead, the Stalinist bureaucracy has shared in the super profits generated by its vast pool of cheap labour, acquired new skills, technology and materials and, alongside Russia, has become old imperialism’s newest competitor.


This upstart competitor is still not welcome to dine at imperialism’s exclusive club of G7 countries, despite clearly outstripping the economies of most of them bar the USA. Even in terms of capital exports, China is streets ahead of Germany, France and Japan and is looking to overtake the USA in several global markets. It was this that rattled their cage at the recent G7 gathering in Cornwall. [8]


From as early as 2014 China had become a net exporter of capital, i.e. its overseas direct investment exceeded inbound Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). By 2017 it had also become the world’s largest exporter of goods and services.

These figures are always subject to fluctuation but what is important is to see the overall trajectory and the curve of development. In China’s, this is an upward one which is demonstrated in the graph showing the growth and value of China’soutward FDI. Investments in the US market accounts for the greatest proportion of this, as do the countries of the EU. This is no surprise and follows a similar pattern to FDI flows between Western imperialist nations.


Despite Covid 19, the tidal wave of Chinese FDI is gathering greater momentum and, with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it is threatening to assume Tsunami-like dimensions over the next decade.


Founded in 2013, the BRI is probably the most ambitious global undertaking in human history. According to some estimates this biblical-size trade and infrastructure endeavour - a sort of 21st century Silk Road - could cost 12 times as much as what the U.S. spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe following World War II. The BRI has the participation of 76 countries from Asia, Africa and Europe, with an additional 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) also signing up to the deal.


Chinese imperialism has stridden onto the global stage propelled by the classical power of finance and monopoly capital. Of course, this did not always grow organically out of indigenous, capitalist competition but rather emerged in the main through the medium of state fostered enterprises. This is evidenced by the Fortune 500 listing of the world's most powerful corporations. In the top ten of this list are the 3 giant Chinese monopolies State Grid, China National Petroleum and the Sinopec Group with a combined 2021 revenue of over $1trillion.



All of these SOEs are listed as Ltd companies on the Chinese stock exchange and have sizeable overseas assets. Take the case of State Grid whose 2021 revenues surpass those of Amazon. Whilst rooted firmly in China’s energy supply industry, State Grid is also a multinational corporation with a track record of overseas acquisitions in the Phillipines, Australia, Brazil and in Chile, where it acquired two out of the top three electricity companies in addition to the engineering and construction company Tecnored SA.


Monopoly capital, however, is not the exclusive domain of the SOEs. Some of the giant multinational corporations based in China have become monopolies through mergers and acquisitions that swallow up the competition. One example of this is the technology giant Tencent. From its Seafront Towers in Shenzen – which more than rivals New York’s Trump Tower - it has become the world's largest investment, gaming and entertainment conglomerate, and Asia's most valuable company.[9] It has gained this status in large measure through wave after wave of $billion acquisitions of competing companies both in China and abroad. In this year alone it has acquired majority stake holdings in Sumo Digital (Britain), Stunlock Studios (Sweden) and Yager (Germany).


Tencent is just one example of monopoly capitalism at work and its inevitable expansion into global markets. The same can be said for other corporations such as the real estate conglomerate Evergrande whose overseas portfolio includes controlling stakes in Sweden’s electric car manufacturer Nevs AB and the American start-up technology firm Faraday Futures which also focusses on the development of electric vehicles.


Of course, the best known of all China’s private companies is the telecoms giant Huawei founded in 1987 by its current billionaire CEO Ren Zhengfei. Despite Western sanctions, Huawei still straddles the world with its domestic phone production. It retains 5G network investments in the Netherlands, Canada Germany and France and is expanding them in many of the countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.


Africa


“The building of railways seems to be a simple, natural, democratic, cultural and civilizing enterprise; ...........But as a matter of fact, the capitalist threads, which with thousands of meshes bind these enterprises to private property in the means of production in general, have converted this construc­tion into an instrument of oppression for a billion people (in the colonies and semi-colonies). [10]


Until recently, much of the focus on Chinese overseas investments has been on Africa and with good reason too given that China had increased its investments in the continent by around 520 percent over a 15-year period.


Trade between China and Africa has grown from $10 billion in 2000 to $190 billion by 2017. It is estimated that 12 percent of Africa industrial production, or $500 billion annually, amounting to nearly half of Africa’s contracted construction market, is carried out by Chinese firms.


The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative has introduced dynamic infrastructure projects such as the Standard Gauge Railway. The railway connects Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. It has been Ethiopia’s first railway in over a century and Africa’s first fully electrified line and cuts travel time from the capital Addis Ababa to Djibouti from two days by road to twelve hours.


However, as in the heyday of British imperial train power, this vast railway project is entirely dependent on Chinese industry and technology. The railway uses Chinese trains, Chinese construction companies, Chinese standards and specifications, and is operated by the China Railway Group Limited (CREC) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.

Chinese workers in Africa are no longer the coolies they once were under the British empire and now enjoy a privileged position relative to indigenous labour. Inevitably, African employment opportunities are few and far between as Chinese firms bring in their own drivers, construction workers and support staff who mostly live in separate accommodation.

China’s exploitation of Africa was for a long time seen as the sole manifestation of Sino imperialism. For a while it was undoubtedly exceptional but now it has proven to be the rule, as Chinese finance and monopoly capital penetrate nearly every corner of global industry and agriculture.


All of the piggies going to market

Most of the critical literature on global agribusiness to date has focussed inevitably on a familiar set of transnational corporations such as Monsanto, Cargill and John Deere in the USA, who brazenly display their greed and flout their disregard for Third World nations and their environment. The capitalist regime in Beijing, on the other hand, poses as a friend of these nations. Apart from the propaganda churned out by its Western competitors, it is rare to find much criticism of the impact of China’s overseas investments

.

Upon closer examination, however, the same picture of imperialist exploitation, plunder and environmental destruction comes into view.


We have already seen Chinese monopoly capital at work in the global telecoms, energy, construction and service sector markets. These are relatively new capital investments, so perhaps it remains to be seen what their long term consequences will be. Drawing upon a similar pattern of FDI inflows from the USA and Europe, we can deduce that the principal, long term beneficiaries will be the Chinese multinationals and not the working masses of the destination countries. But we don’t actually see it, yet.


However, in the case of the dragon head enterprises, the growth of the Chinese agribusiness monopolies has already demonstrated some of the classical features of imperialist plunder.

The phenomenal growth of China’s pork agribusiness is a dramatic illustration of this.


China is home to half of the world’s pigs, half of global pork production and half of worldwide pork consumption. In 2014, farmers and companies in China produced 56.5 million tons of pork from a domestic swineherd of 770 million head; this was twice the amount of pork produced in all 27 European Union countries combined, and five times the amount in the United States (US).” --- Mindi Schneider, Journal of Agrarian Change · March 2016


Dragonomics

At one stage 98% of Chinese pork farms had fewer than 50 animals but now two thirds of pork production is carried out on industrial farms run by large coroporations. In China’s animal farms, the pigs are most definitely not the masters. Through genetic modification, old breeds are being eliminated and the entire breeding process is becoming increasingly computerised.


“Before the advent of industrial agriculture in China", reported The Guardian, “farmers raised hundreds of pig breeds of different sizes and attributes. These pigs were adapted to local climates and diseases, could be fed leftovers, and generated rich fertiliser for fields. Industrial pig farming instead uses a single type: the highly popular hybrid DLY, a cross between the Duroc, Landrace and Yorkshire breeds. Even the unwanted attributes of these pigs are slowly being edited out – for instance, physical traits such as tails, which are a nuisance in transport because in crowded conditions stressed piglets will bite each other’s tails off. Combined with genetic control, automatic feeding and water dispensing systems, and strict exercise times, pigs are farmed to a precise size.”

Incorporating artificial intelligence and other high-tech systems has taken intensive farming in China to a new level. It is almost as if Orwell’s two seminal works, Animal Farm and 1984, had synthesised into a single nightmare.


Guangxi Yangxiang Co Ltd is one of the Chinese giants of the pork industry, producing about 2 million pigs a year in a dozen farms throughout China. Its “farm” on the Yaji mountain site is the one that catches the eye. In what is called a “hog hotel” it houses a multistorey farming system, with a capacity to produce around 840,000 pigs a year making it the world’s biggest, most-intensive breeding farm. In these concrete blocks, pigs live in a single storey for their entire lives. Feeding is computerised and high tech AI systems such as Alibaba’s ET Agricultural Brain are used for most aspects of animal husbandry.


Animal welfare considerations aside, this intensive pig farming is also a major factor driving zoonotic (of animal origin) diseases. According to a 2014 academic study, an estimated 80% of new pathogens come from the top pork-producing countries.


Some of China’s biggest meat processing corporations are also becoming significant global players. The ascent of the WH Group, a Hong Kong–based conglomerate, is perhaps the clearest illustration. Formerly known as Shuanghui, the WH Group is the majority shareholder in China’s largest meat processor, Henan Shuanghui Investment and Development Company Limited.

The group became the world’s largest pork company in 2014 when it acquired its top competitor, the US-based Smithfield Foods. The WH Group’s operations now extend across a vast network of family farms and industrial operations outside of China. Even its US operations are damaging people’s health.

“These industrial pig farms are an environmental headache for the communities that live around them”, reported the The Guardian. “In US states like North Carolina, exposure to hog farming contaminants has disproportionately affected Black, Hispanic and Native American citizens, which has prompted a broad coalition to launch legal and legislative campaigns against Smithfield." [11]


This is but one small example of the direct impact of Chinese agribusiness. More significantly, it is the role of other outbound FDI required to service this massive industry.


Pigs have to be fattened for the market. They need feeding, and lots of it. So, imagine what it takes to feed 770 million pigs every day for their lifetime. Pig breeding and feeding in China used to be common amongst small family farms. The sheer scale of the industry now could never be sustained by domestic feed production, even less so given the lopsided nature of Chinese agriculture and the shrinking number of small peasant holdings. [12} As a result, China now imports most of its pig feed and has created corporations dedicated to this task.


By far the largest of these is the giant multinational COFCO which describes itself as “a world class integrated global agricultural supply chain, anchored in China and competing globally”. Since its inception in 2014 COFCO has acquired 100 per cent of the shares of the Dutch multinational Nidera and of the agricultural wing of the British owned multinational Noble Group residing in Hong Kong. Together with other agribusiness multinationals such a Beodahuang and the Chongging Grain Group, these dragon head enterprises have directly invested in land clearances and are amongst the biggest drivers of deforestation, particularly in Brazil where three quarters of its soybean production is dedicated to the Chinese market.

According to Mighty Earth, a global environmental advocacy organisation, COFCO alone is ranked the sixth worst deforester out of ten in Mighty Earth’s league table. The same organisation recorded 21,498 hectares of forest clearance by suppliers linked to COFCO since October 2017.


Chinese capital’s feeding frenzy in Latin America

The supply of soybean, grain and palm oil to Chinese agribusiness is but one example of a feeding frenzy by Chinese capital in Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole. In Peru this extends to the fishing industry where the Hong Kong based China Fisheries Group has greatly expanded its overseas portfolio.


Since the turn of the century this corporation has acquired a significant portion of the Peruvian fishing fleet as well as its associated on-shore fishmeal processing facilities. This in turn has conferred rights to an ever-greater portion of the Peruvian offshore fishing quota. By November 2011, the group had six processing facilities on the Peruvian coast and rights to 12% of the country’s fishing quota. Its most significant advance, however, came in June 2013, when it virtually doubled its presence by acquiring the fishing company Copeinca for $783 million.


Chinese capital’s voracious appetite does not stop there. China has a massive distant-waters fishing fleet which comprises some 17,000 vessels. This includes an estimated 557 vessels off the coast of south America alone that has furnished an enormous yield, growing form 70,000 tons in 2009 to 358,000 tons in 2020.


Apart from occasional illegal forays into the coastal countries' territorial waters [13], most of this industrial scale fishing takes place on the high seas. It is not exactly piracy but is as near as dam it due to its impact on the total available fishing stock in the region. In this respect Sino imperialism is not new. As one commentator put it:


“China doesn’t do anything that Europe has not done exactly the same way,” said Daniel Pauly, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia. “The difference is that everything China does is big, so you see it.”


The Panama Nexus

The participation of the LAC countries in the Belt and Road Initiative is a natural extension of the region’s increasing weight in China’s global supply chain. This has seen trade with China multiply 20-fold in the last decade, accompanied by a bulking portfolio of investments and acquisitions in key sectors of Latin America’s economy.


China’s role in the Panama Canal in particular is now primed to become another important interface in the tensions between the Washington and Beijing. Washington has always regarded Latin America as its own back yard. This was expressed in the 1823 Monroe Doctrine warning European powers that any attempt to grab Latin America’s riches would represent a “manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States".


Although Spanish FDI began to upset the applecart in the 1990s, it never really challenged US hegemony in the way that China is now poised to do. Symbolic of this is the Panama Canal which the US controlled until Panama took over in1999. The United States remains the top user of the Canal with some 66 percent of the cargo traffic transiting the Canal beginning or ending its journey at a U.S. port. As such, Washington still reserves the right to use military force in defense of its interests there.


Nevertheless, China has expanded its footprint in critical Canal infrastructure and in so doing has laid the groundwork for alignment with the Belt and Road Initiative which Panama has now signed up to. For example, in a $900 million deal in 2016, the China-based Landbridge Group [14] acquired control of Margarita Island, Panama’s largest port on the Atlantic side.

Additionally, the Panamanian government is now renewing the lease of the Hong Kong based Hutchison Ports PPC, which serves as operator for the ports of Balboa and Cristobal, two major hubs of the Canal’s Pacific and Atlantic outlets, respectively. This comes on top of major infrastructure and logistics projects along the Canal itself.


Once touted as a symbol of US global hegemony, the Canal is now being described as China’s front door to America’s back yard. The American news magazine, Foreign Policy, offered this perspective:


“Panama could soon become the Latin American nation with the highest levels of Chinese investment on a per capita basis. China Railways has already established their regional headquarters in Panama City, while the telecoms giant Huawei has made the Colón free trade zone, on the Caribbean coast, a distribution hub for its electronic systems. With access to two oceans and one of the continent’s best-connected airports, it’s easy to imagine Panama as the cent of a wheel, with spokes reaching out around the region.”


According to the IMF, excluding Mexico, China is now ahead of the United States in total trade volume in nearly all of Latin America, Between 2000 and 2020, China-LAC trade grew 26-fold from $12 billion to $315 billion. Moreover, Chinese investment in Latin America and the Caribbean as a share of China’s total overseas investment, increased from 12 percent in 2014 to a peak of 21.4 percent in 2017.


In contrast, FDI flows from LAC countries into China account for a very small portion of the region’s total outward FDI. This overall total is extremely small as it is, but at around 0.25 per cent, the portion destined for China is absolutely miniscule. This is a typical feature of exploitation and underdevelopment and one which is exacerbated by a balance of trade deficit in which China mostly imports primary materials and exports industrial and manufactured goods. Commenting on this in the Boston university think tank, Global Development Policy, Victoria Chonn Ching writes:


....there remains a lack of diversification in the basket of products traded between Latin America and China, hinting at a potentially unequal exchange, or the premature deindustrialization in countries, like Argentina and Brazil.”[15]


This type of economic regression is an historical feature of most semi-colonial countries whose industry and agriculture has served the interests of the advanced capitalist, i.e. imperialist, countries. Although Chinese capital operates in new ways, it does so only to thrive as one of the central pillars of old imperialism.


Up in arms

Decades of frenetic economic growth coupled with ongoing military modernization campaigns have enabled China to emerge as a player in the global arms trade. For years, Beijing imported several times more conventional weapons than it sold overseas but for most of the last decade, China has been a net arms exporter. As yet it still lags behind the US, Russia, France and Germany, both in the quantity of its arms supplies as well as in the range of purchasing countries. [16]

As a military power in its own right, however, it ranks third behind the USA and Russia. Beijing is still playing catch-up in key areas where its naval fleet, air force and stockpile of nuclear weapons is far inferior to those of the USA.


The point is that Beijing is trying to catch up in the arms race, not as a defensive measure but in order to develop a military capability commensurate with its new imperial status.

In the 2021 fiscal year, $209.16 billion was allocated to “defence” spending, a 6.8 percent increase over the previous year. [17] This includes provision for a substantial upgrade to its naval fleet, a doubling of its nuclear arsenal and the development and testing of an entirely new breed of hypersonic missiles capable of avoiding the current US missile defence system. [18] Even for the US military this was a frightening wake-up call, with a top US general describing the breakthrough as almost a Sputnik moment.


Naturally, any US responses are prone to exaggeration and should be taken with a pinch of salt. In this case however, there was genuine alarm over an undeniable Chinese breakthrough at such a high level of warfare capability.


In all likelihood, any future world war would pit China and Russia in an alliance against the US led NATO forces. In this nightmare scenario, such an alignment of military power would shift decisively in favour of the former combination. All of the antagonists wish to avoid such a conflagration but the very logic of increased competition in a shrinking world market is driving them in that direction.

Enter the dragon slayer


Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.” ------ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto

The years of China’s frenetic double-digit growth between 2003–2008 was akin to a new industrial revolution but on a far grander scale. With breakneck speed industrial production and capital accumulation advanced at a pace and scope unparalleled in human history. “If anyone can, the Chinese can”, became a kind of buzz phrase to describe this apparent miracle of capitalism. Whereas the 1900s were coined as “the American century”, the new millennium was born with the logo “Made in China” firmly imprinted across its forehead.


Despite the occasional intrusions such as the 2008 financial crisis and Covid 19 pandemic, the Chinese bourgeoisie has been partying like there was no tomorrow. With an apparently inexhaustible supply of cheap labour – sustained by an expansive programme of land clearances – it seems as if there is no end to this modern-day Gold Rush.


At least that’s the perspective upstairs in the penthouses and board rooms of Beijing’s towering corporations and Party headquarters. Downstairs it is quite another matter.


The so-called modernisation of China has been a disaster for working people. In particular, it heralded the ruination of the Chinese peasantry resulting in the creation of a rural migrant labour force numbering over 290 million people.


Torn from their land and separated from their families, these masses have been drawn into sprawling factories and accommodation that is scarcely better – and sometimes worse – than that provided for the pigs at the Yaji mountain “hog hotel” The miserable conditions and precarious existence of these workers is exacerbated by the hukou – a system of household registration, restricting access to social and public services for non-residents.


Frequently their only shelter is in segregated factory dormitories, separated from their husbands or wives and, in some instances, at the mercy of just-in-time production systems. This is a method of supplying factory materials as and when needed for specific production quotas or targets. So, for example, if the materials arrive at 3.00am, workers can be dragged out of their bunks to work on the line, just in time for the end product to be packed and shipped out a couple of hours later.


These conditions were witnessed first-hand by Pun Ngai, a professor at the University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong, who herself spent six months working in one of the factories in Shenzhen.


The dormitory building of three stories was just adjacent to the production building, which required only two minutes walk to the shop floor, thus easily facilitating a just-in-time labor system for just-in-time production. Each dormitory room housed 12-16 workers and was very crowded, lacking ventilation, adequate lighting, and absolutely no private or individual space. No kitchen, toilet or bathroom was provided in each room, and thus the workers in each floor had to share common toilets and bathrooms at the end of the corridor. … The dormitory building was built to accommodate 500 workers only, but in China Wonder, it always had more than 600 workers”


As of 2020 there were over 112 million workers in manufacturing alone, swelling the population of new megacities in the Pearl River Delta especially. Within and around these megacities are the factory cities, devoted almost exclusively to vast assembly lines churning out ever greater numbers of commodities. The most infamous of these is known as Foxconn City, named after the Taiwan-based electronics giant Foxconn, which employs nearly 1.3 million workers servicing the production of Apple, Google, Microsoft Nintendo, Nokia and Sony devices.


It is in factories such as these that the dictatorship of capital over labour finds its most authentic and concentrated daily expression. Take the case of Foxconn’s sprawling Longhua factory complex in Shenzhen. At its height it employed 450,000 workers subject to a near military type of regimentation and security monitoring.


Such was the soul-destroying nature of the incessant labour there, that the factory was hit by an epidemic of suicides:


“If you know of Foxconn,” reported Brian Merchant in The Observer, “there’s a good chance it’s because you’ve heard of the suicides. In 2010, Longhua assembly-line workers began killing themselves. Worker after worker threw themselves off the towering dorm buildings, sometimes in broad daylight, in tragic displays of desperation – and in protest at the work conditions inside. There were 18 reported suicide attempts that year alone and 14 confirmed deaths. Twenty more workers were talked down by Foxconn officials.”


In response, the billionaire CEO, Terry Gou had large nets installed outside many of the buildings to catch falling bodies. The company hired counsellors and workers were made to sign pledges stating they would not attempt to kill themselves.


The callous and inhumane treatment facing working people in factories such as these is a terrible indictment of Chinese capitalism. These conditions are far from exceptional. In all sectors of the economy, particularly where there are larger numbers of rural migrant workers, they have developed a series of acronyms to describe this. The first is the 3D designation, standing for the dirty, dangerous and demeaning jobs frequently reserved for migrant workers. Another category is the 996 jobs involving continuous 12-hour shifts over a six-day working week.


It is hardly surprising that these conditions produce intolerable levels of despair, all the more so given the absence of independent trades unions. This is beginning to change now as workers create their own organisations out of struggle. However, they are doing so in opposition to the official, state-sponsored ACFTU (All China Federation of Trades Unions).

Following the defeat of the workers during the wave of SOE downsizing and privatisations, the composition of the Chinese working class changed quite radically. As the state sector was being cut from 110 million to 61 million workers, there was an even more spectacular rise in the number of rural migrant workers. This has meant that the majority of the modern working class in China has no collective class memory or combat experience prior to entering the urban labour force.


Moreover, this new working class has faced a further obstacle in the form of a corporatist trades union federation (All Chinese Federation of Trades Unions) whose principal function has been to stymie labour struggles. The ACFTU now has a membership of around 300 million workers with an unbelievably top-heavy bureaucracy comprising some one million full-time officials.


Such was the embarrassingly class collaborationist functioning of the ACFTU, that the CCP enacted a reform of the federation in 2015 with the purpose of making it at least resemble an organisation representing the interests of the working class. There was a lot of talk but little action:


“Over the following years,” according to Geoffrey Crothall in the journal Made in China, “the ACFTU claimed in an endless stream of speeches and policy documents that it had got the message. However, working conditions did not improve and workers continued to stage thousands of strikes and collective protests each year over wage arrears, lay-offs, and unpaid social insurance contributions.” [19]


The dictatorship of capital in China presides over a regime of relentless exploitation and alienated labour. Inevitably, this is generating a widespread growth in class consciousness and class struggle. This was registered in a growing strike wave which the above article alludes to.

Whilst this strike wave is frequently characterised by disputes that are isolated from one another – due in large measure to the absence of a genuinely independent trades union – the numbers of disputes and their weight rose quite significantly, especially in the aftermatch of the 2008 financial crisis


According to a report in the Hong Kong based China Labour Bulletin, there have been several larger scale strikes in the last decade including:

  • The 2010 Nanhai Honda strike where workers won a 35% pay increase

  • The 2014 Yue Yuen shoe factory strike where 40,000 workers stayed out for two weeks

  • The 2015 Lide shoe factory strike that won back unpaid social insurance contributions

  • Nationwide strikes by tower crane operators and truck drivers in May and June 2018.

  • A three-week strike in 2018 by 6,000 workers at Flex Electronics factory in Zhuhai

  • June 2021 Food delivery workers in several major cities across China take strike action in response to cuts in pay

The craven capitulation of the ACFTU in face of these struggles was exemplified in the Flex strike where the local official reported that:


“The local Party Committee instructed us to maintain social stability. It is our administrative responsibility to take part in the stability task force.”


New path for China’s workers and peasants

A recent 2021 map of wildcat strike action in and around China’s megacities, is indicative of a perceptible reconfiguration of the country’s social and political landscape along the lines noted over a century and half ago by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto.

For all its power, the CCP and its trades union adjunct, the ACFTU, are acutely aware that the yawning chasm of wealth inequality within China is producing multiple symptoms of instability and resistance. This is reflected in the near-constant round of anti-corruption cases and the recent “common prosperity” campaign urging capitalists to live a more ostentatious lifestyle and to contribute to charitable causes.


Moreover, unlike the new ruling classes in the countries of the former Soviet bloc - which have long since abandoned any pretence of being communist - the CCP has not only retained its name and fake ideology but has sought to establish a continuity with the generation that led the revolution in 1949.


The iron fist of repression by itself is not sufficient, especially in the age of social media in which Chinese capital has been at the forefront. They also need the velvet glove of ideology. The reform of the ACFTU launched by Xi Jinping in 2015, ostensibly to make the unions more responsive to its rank and file, also reflects this façade of continuing to represent the interests of the working class.


This is both a strength and a weakness of the ruling class which, in the latter case, has opened up more space for workers to organise and fight back.


The new proletarian army which Chinese capital has dragooned into existence is still in its infancy. However, all the signs are that, as it advances through a series of relatively peripheral skirmishes, it is gaining invaluable combat experience which will serve it well for the battles ahead.


From all accounts a new class consciousness – as distinct from the phoney Marxist rhetoric of the CCP - is also emerging out of these struggles. This was evidenced in the aftermath of the Honda workers struggle in 2010 with the following declaration by the workers strike committee:


Our struggle to defend our rights is not just about fighting for ourselves, the 1800 workers of Honda. We are concerned about the rights of all the workers in the whole country. We want to set a good example of workers struggling for all their rights.” [20]


As part of this sharpening of class consciousness, a small but growing working class vanguard is emerging whose challenge will be to recognise that Beijing’s foreign policy is but an extension of its domestic one. As this article attempts to demonstrate, they each function as a guardian of bourgeois class interests, whether that be in Latin America, Africa, China or across the water in Hong Kong and Taiwan.


A forthcoming article will examine, in greater detail and depth, the role that the national question now plays as part of China's new status as an imperialist power.

Footnotes [1]Historically, the Stalinist regime in Beijing, has never seriously challenged international capital’s wheeling and dealing in the region nor, as the Vietnam war demonstrated all too well, did it ever support the national liberation movements in the region. Indeed, when it came to Pakistan’s genocidal attacks against the Bangladesh liberation struggle in 1971, it was Beijing which provided the air space for Pakistan’s air force to carry out the assaults. [2] China has always asserted sovereignty over Taiwan. [3] An outstanding example of this was furnished by the head of police in the municipality of Chongquing who used state assets to establish the Chongquing Security Group in 2012. Now trading as the Chongquing Security Group Jindun Escort Co Ltd, it now boasts 73 subsidiary companies. [4] Cited by Au Loong Yu, China’s Rise: Strength and Fragility, Merlin Press, 2012, [5] Private equity is composed of funds and investors that directly invest in private companies, or that engage in buyouts of public companies. [6] IPO stands for initial public offering which is when a privately owned (or SOE in China) company lists its shares on a stock exchange. [7]Lenin, Preliminary Draft of Theses on the Agrarian Question” for the Second Congress of the Communist International [8] The June 2021 summit in Cornwall was notable for its declaration of intent to challenge China’s Belt and Road investing $billions in Third World infrastructure to improve and expand Chinese capital’s global supply chain. [9] Just one of Tencent’s assets is the messaging service WeChat with revenues higher than those of Facebook. [10] Lenin, ibid [11] Xiaowei Wang, The Guardian, 8/10/20 [12] When the jet speed growth of the pork industry outpaced domestic soy bean production, the Dragon Head enterprises turned to imports. In part this was determined by the free trade conditions imposed by accession to the WTO. Moreover, imported soy beans – especially GM crops which are forbidden in China itself - were much cheaper. [13] These illegal forays have not always been insignificant. In June a Chinese fishing fleet of some 260 vessels was discovered fishing around the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO world heritage site [14] This is a private corporation whose chair is Ye Cheng, currently estimated by Forbes to be worth$1.5billion. [15] For example, in 1990, Brazil ‘s share of primary goods was 28% of total exports but had risen to about 50% by 2014. [16] The majority of its arms sales are to just 3 countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria [17] Proportionally this is but a fraction of the US military budget which stands at $705.39 billion. [18] These missiles are so called because they travel at more than 5 times the speed of sound. In addition, the Chinese military are also developing a “fractional orbital bombardment” system capable of firing missiles that are already orbiting the earth. [19] Made in China, 2 March 2020. [20] Cited by Au Loong Yu, ibid.