Building a prosperous and environmentally-conscious society

A first-hand view of China’s march forward.

Proletarian writers

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Waxwork of Chen Wangdao, the first person to translate the Communist Manifesto into Chinese. Chen’s home is now a museum, and the legend of his dedication to the task is one of New China’s popular founding stories.

Proletarian writers

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Earlier this year, our party sent three comrades to China as part of a joint delegation of communist parties from northern Europe and North America, invited to participate in the 27th Wanshou Forum in Beijing.

The delegation’s visit was split into two parts, with four days spent in Zhejiang province, staying in the city of Hangzhou, and four days in Beijing, during which we attended the forum and met with representatives of Communist party and government organisations.

The activities and excursions we participated in were aimed at giving us some insight into China’s revolutionary history, as well as into some of the achievements of the People’s Republic in the 70 years since the revolution. Particular emphasis was put by our hosts on material and technological advances.

In this article, we aim to outline our impressions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the tasks facing the Communist party today, as escalating tensions with US imperialism spur western corporate media to step up their propaganda drive against the country.

A sketch of China’s successful development

Our time in China allowed us to gain a little insight into the operation of the Communist party (CPC), and what it is required to do in order to retain its position as the driving force behind China’s development.

Heavy emphasis is placed on building relations between party organisations and small businesses – from helping individuals to fill in forms to get a small business going to helping going concerns to procure loans for expanding production in the industrial and agricultural sectors.

For instance, when we visited the Dream Village tech start-up complex in Hangzhou, a Canadian entrepreneur developing 3D viewing technology for educational and entertainment purposes was full of praise for the assistance he has had from the Chinese government, explaining to us that his workshop/laboratory had been supplied rent-free following the government’s assessment that the technology’s application would be useful and, ultimately, profitable.

Under the present Chinese system, he said, the long-term approach to economic and technological development means that the research and development stages of an enterprise can take as long as necessary, and are not ‘written off’ as a fool’s errand if they fail to produce decent returns for investors within a few years.

As we tried out the 3D headsets and were transported to an educational workshop in Nigeria (the focus being on their application for remotely educating workers in the use of new farming or industrial equipment), he went on to explain that the tech sector of the Chinese economy is much more competitive than that of the west, owing to the state’s support for a multitude of small companies working on different aspects of the same overall development aim, as opposed to being dominated (and suffocated) by a handful of monopoly companies with the prerogative of buying out and absorbing any product that looks like competing with or threatening their own lines.

Western media tend to interpret state intervention in the economy as a negative (while turning a blind eye to imperialist state intervention in their own economies). It cannot be denied, however, that China’s state economic intervention following the 2008 financial crash effectively mitigated the ill effects of the crisis on China’s domestic economy (and on those countries that had contracts to supply raw materials to China’s state-subsidised infrastructure projects in the wake of the crash) far more successfully than did the austerity policies of imperialist governments.

We concluded that Communist party leadership remains critical to China’s ability to weather better than most the economic storms that are an inevitable feature of the world market economy.

Environmental trailblazing

We are all familiar with the hysterical (and hypocritical) accusations levelled at China with regards to pollution and environmental destruction. It has been a common feature of the narrative woven by western media around ecological issues that the developing world is to blame for wreaking damage on the natural world in the name of modernisation and progress.

The notorious smog produced by China’s industrial cities became a useful symbol for visualising what a ‘nightmarish’ world is ‘inevitably’ created when a former oppressed nation attempts to catch up with the development levels of the ‘civilised’ imperialist countries.

Nowadays, however, the PRC’s efforts to improve environmental standards – by developing new technologies and by correcting or changing policies that have led to a degrading of the natural environment – are looking far more substantial and workable than anything achieved by the supposedly virtuous and capable gatekeepers of western bourgeois morality.

Policies aimed at environmental replenishment and ‘re-greening’ have in fact been prominent directives of the CPC under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, and are some of the most successful policies adopted in the Zhejiang province during Comrade Xi’s tenure as regional party leader, which role he fulfilled before he was elected as general secretary of the CPC.

During a trip to Yucun village, in the Anji county of Zhejiang, we were shown an exhibition that demonstrated how a total overhaul of the local rural economy had been effected, turning an area once blackened by the polluting by-products of a colossal cement plant into a beautiful, lush rural landscape that had become an attractive place to live and a popular destination for rural tourism.

Accompanying the turn from polluting industries to green tourism as the main aspect of local economy are the introduction of research projects focused on testing various methods of eco-friendly technology. As China Daily noted last year:

“Huzhou, a small city with 460,000 registered local residents, now boasts 13 academic workstations, attracting experts and scholars with doctorates. They have made significant progress in emissions reduction, water treatment, solid waste treatment, manure processing and battery recycling.” (Xi spurs green development by Wang Jianfen, 8 May 2018)

It was during a visit to Yucun village in 2005 that Xi Jingping hailed the efforts of the residents to transform the damaged environment after years of degrading industrial practice, and proposed the ‘Two mountains’ theory, which states: “Clear water and lush mountains are invaluable assets,” encouraging people to see that preservation of the natural environment is a prerequisite for building a modern socialist society, and a ‘beautiful China’.

On our final day in Hangzhou we were taken to a waste-to-energy plant operated by Everbright International. This joint state and foreign venture has been advancing green, sustainable technology development for over a decade, and the facility we explored was truly impressive.

According to a 2018 Beijing Review article: “Everbright first turned to the environmental protection industry in 2003. At that time, China was heavily dependent on the import of overseas waste incinerator power equipment. Yet, due to higher water content, Chinese household waste couldn’t be effectively treated and had to be burned by expensive foreign-made equipment tailored more to the garbage generated in western countries …

“The company has now developed a grate furnace which can process 750 to 850 tonnes of waste per day and is expecting to leap up to 1,000 tonnes per day by 2023. This will make it the largest and most advanced system in the world. In addition, special leachate treatment technology has been developed to deal with the high moisture content of Chinese household garbage.” (From waste to wealth, 27 July 2018)

Picking up the pieces

Whilst living standards have risen rapidly in China since the revolution, more recently inequality amongst the Chinese people has also been growing.

It was mentioned several times during our visit that the balancing of average incomes between rural and urban areas is seen as an important target by the CPC. The influx of workers from the comparatively underdeveloped regions to the cities on a seasonal basis has been recognised as problematic, and the proposed solution is to develop rural industry and enterprise to provide the same quality of work and level of earnings to families who have previously had to migrate to the urban centres.

Of course, the fact that living standards for China’s poorest workers have been dramatically improving over the last few decades must be recognised as the primary motivator for the CPC’s continued support and popularity, and it should never be overlooked that the gargantuan scale of China’s poverty elimination drive, and its successes in raising millions out of poverty, has strengthened the standing of the CPC not just within China but around the world.

Drawbacks of modernisation to be overcome?

In our popular culture and public discourse, allusions have been drawn many times between modern China’s ‘megacities’ and the sort of dystopian science fiction landscapes featured in the 1982 film Blade Runner, and in terms of the vast sweeping architecture, digital advertising screens and all-round technological supremacy that comprises the infrastructure of a city such as Hangzhou, there are certainly some visual similarities. However, there was nothing which we would describe as being remotely ‘dystopian’ about this particular city.

While we were told by our guides that rush-hour traffic was an ongoing issue in urban areas, the traffic systems seemed to work efficiently, with a high proportion of electric cars and scooters. In fact, it was hard at times to believe that the population size is registered as twice that of London, owing to the fact that the city’s development has been carried out so as to comfortably accommodate a large, and growing, population.

Countless illustrated signs exhorting people to help the elderly in daily life, for example, and cautioning against anti-social behaviour and irresponsibility were pasted in prominent positions in subways and alongside escalators; places that in London would be reserved for commercial advertising.

On asking our guides to translate the text of some illuminated posters suspended over the multi-lane roads running near our hotel, we were told that the displays were championing the ‘most beautiful people of Hangzhou’ – traffic police, street cleaners and others who had been nominated for awards in service of the urban community by a population that, we can only assume, is at the very least able to appreciate the contribution that the daily toil of such workers makes to their lives.

A journey we made from Hangzhou to the Nanhu Revolutionary Memorial museum gave us the chance to see some of the expansive developments around the city, and we were able to appreciate better the aesthetic style of the numerous sleek high-rise apartments shooting up on either side of the motorway. A bullet train sped past on our left, underlining the sense of rapid movement, business and lively progress that we had got from the drive from the airport on the previous evening.

As we passed through into what might be described as suburbs, we were surprised to see increasing numbers of large villa-type buildings, with picturesque turrets, balconies and occasionally flagpoles sporting the gently waving red of the Chinese state flag.

These, we were told, were examples of increasingly popular homes which China’s expanding strata of privileged, higher-paid workers now aspire to. But the large size of these homes should not be taken as an indicator of ostentation, but as a reminder of the traditional family structure that expects that three generations, grandparents, parents and their children, should be able to live together under the same roof.

We also saw that the cultivation of land in these areas of urban-rural fringe was far greater than is to be seen in our own suburbs, and all around these groupings of housing developments, land was being farmed for vegetables – even small strips of land alongside and in between the motorways.

China today is the prime driver of the developing world’s economic resistance against imperialist domination. Her skill and diplomacy in helping to forge cooperative links between countries that have a shared interest in following a path independent of the schemes of imperialism must be commended.

Long may she continue to provide successful results!