China and Global Capitalism: Reflections on Marxism, by Lin Chun (auth.)

By Lin Chun (auth.)

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The premise of the validity and superiority of capitalism in historical progress is not usually questioned in this fascinating inquiry. Consequently, not doing away with the customary threshold of industrial capitalism, the intervention cannot really unravel the entrenched “Asiatic” perceptions. Despite a tailored lingua franca bypassing the “mode of production,” much in the discredited dispositions about Oriental defects lingers. The classic Weberian riddle therefore persists: What explains the Chinese failure to launch an industrial revolution (with all its supposed material and moral benefits), leaving this worldhistorical milestone uniquely to the Europeans?

The scenario calling for imperialist intervention remains disastrous in an ostensibly postcolonial world. However, Marx also has a luminous historical intuition that runs counter to the gist of an Asiatic mode: he had no problem predicting revolutions in Asia that could spark and advance the international communist movement. Conceptual criticisms of the AMP concentrate on its prescriptive discrepancies. There are at least two major theoretical objections. First, in the Marxian construal of world history, the “pre-capitalist” Asian societies are mostly passive, awaiting capitalist integration.

5 The Chinese anguish had exactly the same source as European profits and power. The cosmic sum of reparations in silver coins that Western and Japanese imperialism violently imposed on China through (drug) wars, looting, and unequal treaties is also an indispensable part of the story. In addition to but also in spite of whatever had been underway in the preceding centuries with respect to class reconfiguration, social autonomy, machine use, and policy reforms, a sharp drop in agricultural surplus 1800–1820 appeared to hit hard.

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