On the Five Characteristics of Neo-imperialism: Based on Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism (Pt. 2/2)

On the Five Characteristics of Neo-imperialism: Based on Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism (Pt. 2/2)

Turkey’s Vatan Party has started an Initiative on the New International Order (NINTO) and organized an international symposium. 38 distinguished speakers representing 24 countries from 6 continents parcipated in the symposium, among them various experts of United World International.

Participants debated a wide range of issues from the end of the unipolar world to the crisis of neoliberalism, from identity politics to alternative concepts of security alliances and political economy.

UWI will present in the coming days the speeches held in the symposium in the hope of encouraging the debate on the emerging new world order.

Today we present the speech by Prof. Cheng Enfu, Prof. Lu Baolin and PhD Student Yu Shichao. The authors examine in depth and academical value mechanisms of current imperialism.

Their deep and detailed analysis produced a longer presentation, of which UWI today presents the first part. Below we present the second and final part of the research.

On the Five Characteristics of Neo-imperialism: Based on Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism

by CHENG Enfu, LU Baolin and YU Shichao

Cheng Enfu (1950-), Chief Professor of the University of the Chinese Academy Of Social Sciences, Director of the Research Center for Economic and Social Development of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Beijing 100732).

Lu Baolin (1982-), Professor of the School of Economics of Qufu Normal University (Rizhao 273100, Shandong).

Yu Shichao (1990-), PhD student at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

Abstract: Neo-imperialism is the specific contemporary stage of historical development that features the economic globalization and financialization of monopoly capitalism. The characteristics of neo-imperialism can be summed up on the basis of the following five key features: (1) the new monopoly of production and circulation. The internationalization of production and circulation, together with the intensified concentration of capital, gives rise to giant transnational monopoly corporations whose wealth is nearly as great as that of whole countries; (2) the new monopoly of finance capital, which plays a decisive role in global economic life and generates a malformed development, namely, economic financialization; (3) the monopoly of the US dollar and intellectual property, generating the unequal international division of labor and the polarization of the global economy and wealth distribution; (4) the new monopoly of the international oligarchic alliance. An international monopoly alliance of oligarchic capitalism, featuring “one Beherrscher [ruler] and several other great powers,” has come into being and provides the economic foundation for the money politics, vulgar culture and military threats that exploit and oppress on the basis of the monopoly; and (5) the economic essence and general trend. The globalized contradictions of capitalism and various crises of the system often undergo an intensification that creates the new monopolistic and predatory, hegemonic and fraudulent, parasitic and decaying, transitional and moribund nature of the capitalist order.

4. New monopoly of the international oligarchic alliance

Lenin in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism stated:

“The epoch of the latest stage of capitalism shows us that certain relations between capitalist associations grow up, based on the economic division of the world; while parallel to and in connection with it, certain relations grow up between political alliances, between states, on the basis of the territorial division of the world, of the struggle for colonies, of the “struggle for spheres of influence”.[1]

It must be observed that finance capital and its foreign policy, which is the struggle of the great powers for the economic and political division of the world, give rise to a number of transitional forms of state dependence. Not only are the two main groups of countries, those owning colonies, and the colonies themselves, but also the diverse forms of dependent countries which, politically, are formally independent, but in fact, are enmeshed in the net of financial and diplomatic dependence, typical of this epoch. [2]

Nowadays, neo-imperialism has formed new alliances and hegemonic relations in the economic, political, cultural, and military fields.

Within the context of the new monopoly of the international oligarchs, the fourth characteristic of neo-imperialism is the formation of an international monopoly capitalist alliance between one Beherrscher and several other great powers. An economic foundation consisting of money politics, vulgar culture and military threats has been formed for them to exploit and oppress via monopoly both at home and abroad.

4.1. International monopoly capitalist economic and political alliance with the G7 as the mainstay

Neo-imperialism’s current international monopoly economic alliance and the framework of global economic governance are both dominated by the United States. The G6 group was formed in 1975 by six leading industrial countries, the US, UK, Germany, France, Japan and Italy, and became G7 when Canada joined the following year. G7 and its monopoly organizations are the coordination platforms, while the International Monetary Fund(IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization(WTO) are the functional bodies. The global order of economic governance that was set up under the Bretton Woods system after WWII is essentially a high-level international capitalist monopoly alliance that is manipulated by the United States to serve its strategic economic and political interests. In the early 1970s, the US dollar was decoupled from gold and the Bretton Woods currency system collapsed. One after another, summits of the G7 countries then shouldered responsibility for strengthening the Western consensus, contending against the socialist countries of the East, and boycotting the demands made by the less-developed countries of the South for reforms to the international economic and political order.[3] Since neoliberalism became the set of concepts dominating global economic governance, these multilateral institutions and platforms have become the driving force for the expansion of neoliberalism throughout the world. In line with the wishes of the international financial monopoly oligarchy and its allies, these bodies spare no effort to induce the developing countries to implement financial liberalization, the privatization of production factors, marketization without prior supervision, and free exchange in capital projects so as to facilitate inward and outward flows of international “hot money”. These institutions are constantly ready to control and plunder the economies of developing countries, extracting huge profits by encouraging speculation and creating financial “bubbles”. As Zbigniew Brzezinski stated in The Grand Chessboard, “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank can be said to represent ‘global’ interests, and their constituency may be construed as the world. In reality, however, they are heavily American dominated.”[4] Since the 1980s, the IMF and World Bank have lured developing countries to implement neoliberal reforms. When these countries have fallen into crisis because of privatization and financial liberalization, the IMF and other institutions have forced them to accept the “Washington Consensus” by adding various unreasonable conditions to loans provided earlier. The effect is to further intensify the impacts of neoliberal reform. Between 1978 and 1992, more than 70 developing countries or former socialist countries implemented a total of 566 structural adjustment programs imposed by the IMF and the World Bank.[5] In the early 1980s, for example, the IMF used the Latin American debt crisis to force Latin American countries to accept neoliberal reforms. In order to curb inflation, the US Federal Reserve in 1979 pushed short-term interest rates up from 10% to 15%, and finally to more than 20%. Because the existing debt of the developing countries was linked to US interest rates, every one-percent rise in US interest rates would result in developing-world debtor countries paying an additional $40-50 billion per year in interest. In the second half of 1981, Latin America was borrowing at the rate of $1 billion a week, mostly in order to pay the interest on existing debt. During 1983, interest payments consumed almost half of Latin American export earnings.[6] Under pressure to repay their loans, Latin American countries were forced to accept neoliberal reform plans initiated by the IMF. The main content of these plans consisted of privatizing state-owned enterprises; liberalizing trade finance; implementing economic austerity policies, with the effect of reducing living standards; cutting the taxes on monopoly enterprises; and reducing government spending on social infrastructure. During the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the IMF attached numerous conditions to assistance provided to South Korea, including that the allowance for foreign shareholdings be relaxed from 23% to 50%, and then to 55% by December 1998. Moreover, South Korea was required to allow foreign banks to set up branches freely.[7]

4.2. The international monopoly capitalist military and political alliance, with NATO countries as the mainstay

Established in the early days of the Cold War, NATO is an international military alliance for the defense of monopoly capitalism. It is led by the United States and involves other imperialist countries. During the Cold War, NATO was the main tool used by the United States to actively contain and counter the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe, as well as to influence and control the Western European countries. At the end of the Cold War the Warsaw Treaty Organization was dissolved, and NATO became the military organization through which the United States sought to achieve its strategic goals on a global level. A capitalist oligopoly, involving one Beherrscher and several other great powers, had come into being. Former US Secretary of State Warren Christopher stated: “Only the United States can act as a leader…For the United States to exercise leadership requires us to own a credible force threat as a backup for diplomacy.”[8] The National Security Strategy for the New Century, published in the US in December 1998, claimed unambiguously that the goal of the United States was to “lead the entire world,” and that no challenge to its leadership, from any country or group of countries, would ever be allowed to come into being.[9] On December 4th, 2018, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared in a speech to the Marshall Fund in Brussels:

“The United States has not given up its global leadership. It reshaped the order after WWII based on sovereignty but not the multilateral system… Under President Trump’s leadership, we will not give up international leadership or our allies in the international system…Trump is recovering America’s traditional status as the world center and leadership… The United States wants to lead the world, now and always.”[10]

To achieve leadership and domination over the world, the United States has made every effort to promote NATO’s eastward expansion, and has expanded its own sphere of influence to control Central and Eastern Europe and to compress Russia’s strategic space. Under the control of the United States, NATO has become an ideal military tool for US global interests. In March 1999, a multinational NATO force led by the US launched a large-scale air attack on Yugoslavia. It was the first time that NATO had launched a military strike against a sovereign country during the 50 years since its foundation. In April 1999 NATO held a summit meeting in Washington, formally adopting a “Strategic Concept” whose content can be summarized under two points. First, NATO was permitted to conduct collective military intervention outside its defense area in response to “crimes and conflicts involving common interests”. This effectively changed NATO from a “collective defense” military alliance into an offensive political and military organization with the so-called purpose of “defending common interests and shared values”. Second, NATO’s military actions did not require authorization from the United Nations Security Council.[11]

In addition to NATO, America’s military alliances formed on the basis of bilateral treaties include pacts with Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the Philippines. There are US military bases on the territory of all its military allies, and these comprise a major part of the neo-imperialist military alliance. The US and its allies make military threats and carry out provocations in many regions of the world, resulting in many “hot wars”, “warm wars”, “cool wars” and “new cold wars”, and intensifying the new arms race. The acts of “state terrorism” carried out by neo-imperialism, and the double standard it applies to counter-terrorism, have caused other forms of terrorism to multiply.

4.3. Cultural hegemony dominated by Western “universal values”

In addition to its economic might and the hegemony exercised through its military alliances, neo-imperialism is also characterized by cultural hegemonism dominated by Western “universal values”. US political scientist Joseph Nye emphasized that “soft power” was the ability to accomplish one’s desires through attraction rather than force or purchase. The soft power of a country is constituted mainly of three resources, namely, culture (which functions where it is attractive to the local population), political values (which function when they can actually be practiced both at home and abroad), and foreign policy (which functions when it is regarded as conforming to legality and as enhancing moral prestige).[12] The Western developed countries, especially the United States, utilize their capital, technology and market advantages to infiltrate less powerful countries and regions with their culture, and propose a series of “new interventionist” cultural theories designed to impose American values. The US subjugates the cultural markets and information spaces of other countries, especially developing countries, by exporting to them American values and lifestyles, with the goal of making American culture the “mainstream culture” of the world.[13]

Cultural hegemonism or cultural imperialism exports the “universal values” of the West and implements both peaceful evolution and “color revolutions” by controlling the field of international public opinion. The objective is to achieve Nixon’s strategic goal of “victory without war”. The evolution of the Soviet Union and of the socialist countries in Eastern Europe is a typical case. As is generally known, the penetration of values is usually slow, long-term and subtle, and its communication channels are often hidden in academic exchanges, literary works, films and TV shows. For example, Hollywood is “the megaphone of American hegemonic policy…Hollywood films are showing off the advantages of the United States to the rest of the world and trying to achieve their cultural conquest by this means.”[14] Former senior CIA official Allen Dulles argued: “If we teach young people in the Soviet Union to sing our songs and dance with them, sooner or later we will teach them to think in the way we need them to.”[15] Foundations and think tanks are also important driving forces for the spread of neoliberalism. For example, the US-based Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Mont Pelerin Society, and Center for International Private Enterprise participate in the promotion of neoliberal values by funding seminars and academic organizations.

Lenin once stated: “Instead of the undivided monopoly of Great Britain, we see a few imperialist powers contending for the right to share in this monopoly, and this struggle is characteristic of the whole period of the early twentieth century.”[16] Since the ending of the Cold War, global capitalism has been characterized by the undivided monopoly of the United States. Other powers have no intention, and lack the strength, to compete with it. Some individual countries such as Japan have tried to challenge the “monopoly rights” of the United States economically and technologically, but have ultimately failed. So it is with the Euro, which emerged later but eventually failed to shake US hegemony. In the military field, the Gulf War and the subsequent wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria have further fueled US unilateralism and hegemonic arrogance. With the help of its economic, military, and political alliances, and employing cultural soft power, the United States promotes its “universal values”, incites street protests and color revolutions in other countries, and forces developing countries to deregulate their financial systems by targeting them for the creation of debt and financial crises. When the global governance system dominated by the US encounters challenges, it launches trade wars, science and technology wars, financial wars, and economic sanctions, and even goes so far as to threaten or actually launch military strikes. The US dollar, the US military and US culture are the three pillars of US imperialist hegemony, supporting “hard power”, “soft power”, “strong power” (economic sanctions), and “smart power”.[17]

In short, the international monopoly capitalist alliance made up of “one Beherrscher and several great powers” provides the economic foundation for the money politics, vulgar culture and military threats that exploit and oppress through the exercise of monopoly both at home and abroad, and that amplify the power of the United States as the neo-imperialist hegemon.

5. The economic essence and the general trend

Lenin defined imperialism as parasitic or decaying capitalism, as a transitional and moribund capitalism. At the neo-imperialist stage known as economic globalization, the basic contradiction of the contemporary capitalist economy is manifested in the contradiction between, on the one hand, the constant socialization and globalization of the economy with its production factors under private, collective or state ownership, and on the other, the disorder or anarchy of production within national economies and in the world economy.[18] Neo-imperialism rules out the adjustments that states and international communities need to make, instead promoting self-regulation by private monopoly capital and defending its interests. The effect, very often, is to intensify various contradictions within countries or on the world level. Economic, financial, fiscal, social and ecological crises have all become epidemic diseases. Various of these crises are interwoven with social contradictions, or with the contradictions of capital accumulation. All of them together lend a new cast to the monopolistic and predatory, hegemonic and fraudulent, parasitic and decaying, transitional and moribund capitalism of the present epoch.

If we define neo-imperialism with regard to its economic nature and general tendencies, we may conclude that its three characters are demonstrated in the respect that the globalized contradictions and various crises of the system frequently become intensified. It is this that determines the new situation of today’s monopolistic and predatory, parasitic and decaying, transitional and moribund capitalism.

5.1. Neo-imperialism is a new type of monopolistic and predatory capitalism

The economic essence of neo-imperialism is that it is a monopolistic financial capitalism established on the basis of giant transnational corporations. The production monopoly and financial monopoly of the transnational corporations have their origins in the higher stage of production and capital concentration, a stage in which monopoly is deeper and broader to such extent that “almost all enterprises are gathered into the hands of fewer and fewer people.”[19] The automobile industry may be taken as an example. The production of the top five transnational automobile corporations accounts for almost half of global automobile production, and that of the top 10 accounts for 70%.[20] International monopolistic financial capital not only controls the world’s major industries, but also monopolizes almost all sources of raw materials, scientific and technological talent and skilled physical labor in all fields, controlling the transportation hubs and various means of production. It dominates and controls capital, and controls various other global functions via banks and a variety of financial derivatives and shareholding systems.[21] If we consider the total market value and total income and assets of corporations, the scale of the leading concentrations of economic power around the world is increasing, especially in the case of the top 100 corporations. In 2015, the market value of the world’s top 100 companies was more than 7,000 times that of the bottom 2,000 companies, compared to only 31 times in 1995.[22] According to the data on the Fortune Global 500 for the year 2017, the revenues of 380 of the world’s top 500 companies (excluding Chinese firms) reached $22.83 trillion, equivalent to 29.3% of gross world product. Total profits reached $1.51 trillion, breaking the record, and the rate of profit increased by 18.85% year on year.[23] The rise in the indicators of both profit share and profit rate illustrates the predatory nature of neo-imperialism. Because economic globalization, financialization and neoliberal policies are placing a triple squeeze on labor, profits are growing rapidly, while workers’ wages are increasing much more slowly.[24] Between 1982 and 2006, the average annual growth of the real wages of production workers in non-financial corporations in the US was just 1.1%, not only much lower than the 2.43% recorded from 1958 to 1966, but also lower than the 1.68% during the economic downturn from 1966 to 1982. The slowing of wage growth allowed the corporations’ profit share to rise by 4.6% during this period, and accounted for 82% of the recovery in the rate of profit. The “labor squeeze” can be seen to have played a key role here.[25] Moreover, since the US economy began to recover in 2009 the average rate of profit, though lower than its peak in 1997, has still been significantly higher than its level during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when it was at a low point.[26] The essence of neo-imperialism is its need to control and plunder. Its drive to “predatory accumulation” is not only demonstrated by its exploitation of labor in the national setting, but also by its plunder of other countries. The forms this takes, and the methods employed, consist mainly of the following.

First, financial plunder. Neo-imperialism extracts huge profits from its control over the prices of major international commodities. Employing financialization and other methods, it pressures the countries that produce raw materials, seeking to keep prices low. As part of its pressures and harassment, it may create financial bubbles and crises via large-scale inflows and outflows of capital, affecting the economic and political stability of the countries concerned. Or, it may seek to achieve a “victory without war” by imposing financial sanctions.[27] Financial innovation causes markets to become inundated with financial derivatives, and the lag in government regulation contributes to waves of non-productive speculation. Financial oligarchs and transnational corporations at the top of the pyramid benefit from the price inflation of financial assets, and are able to plunder huge quantities of social wealth.

Second is the privatization of public resources and state-owned assets. Since “Thatcher-Reaganism” came to dominate economic policy-making in numerous countries some 40 years ago, the world has experienced a massive wave of large-scale privatization. The public assets of many less-developed countries have fallen into the hands of private monopoly capital and of transnational monopolies. The global level of inequality of wealth ownership has soared accordingly. The World Inequality Report for 2018 reveals that since the 1970s private wealth in various countries has generally increased, and the ratio of private to national income in various countries has increased from 200%‒350% to 400%‒700%. In sharp contrast, public wealth has steadily declined. The public wealth of the US and the UK has fallen to a negative number in recent years, and that of Japan, Germany, and France is only slightly above zero. The limited value of public assets restricts the ability of governments to adjust the income gap.[28]

Third is the strengthening of the “center-periphery” pattern. The neo-imperialist countries reinforce the “center-periphery” pattern through their dominant positions in trade, currency, finance, the military arena and international organizations. Taking advantage of these positions, they continuously extort the resources and wealth of the peripheral countries to consolidate their monopoly or oligopoly status, and to ensure their own development and prosperity. The international transfer rate of surplus value has a positive effect on the general rate of profit in the hegemonic countries.[29] It is only the neo-imperialist countries that are able to use their economic, political and military power to transform a portion of the surplus value created by underdeveloped countries into their own national wealth. Consequently, the accumulation of monopolistic capital by neo-imperialism intensifies the polarization between rich and poor and damages people’s livelihoods in countries such as the US and France (as proved by the international “Occupy Wall Street” movement, that involves 80 countries with its slogan of “the top 1% and the bottom 99%”, as well as by the Yellow Vest Revolution involving several countries), while also reinforcing the accumulation of financial and environmental wealth in the countries of the “centre”, and of relative poverty and pollution in the countries of the “periphery”. In 2017 the combined GDP of the G7 “central” countries reached ¥36.73 trillion, accounting for 45.5% of gross world product.[30] According to the Global Wealth Report 2013 prepared by Credit Suisse, the wealth that year of the 85 richest people in the world was equivalent to the total assets of the world’s poorest 3.5 billion people ‒ that is, of half of the global population.[31]

5.2. Neo-imperialism is a new type of capitalism that is hegemonic and fraudulent

As is widely known, imperialism as represented by the US employs hegemonism, bullying and unilateralism, and adheres to double standards in diplomatic policy. At one point, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly admitted and expressed pride in his country’s fraudulent actions. “I was the CIA director,” he said. “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It was like we had entire training courses. . . it reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.”[32]  In the post-Cold War era the United States dominates the world, free from any powerful checks and balances. It relies on its major advantages of military force, US dollar hegemony, external propaganda, and science and technology to carry out bullying all over the world, and to commit fraud both at home and abroad.[33]

5.2.1. Economic hegemony and fraud

Once the financial crisis hit the West in 2008, US trade policy quickly became characterized by unilateralism, protectionism, and economic hegemonism. By contrast, China holds high the banner of fair economic globalization and free trade, promotes the “Belt and Road Initiative,” and calls for building a world community centered on a shared future for humankind, a future constructed around the core idea of win-win cooperation. As America’s international influence declines and that of China increases, right-wing politicians and neo-liberal populists are meanwhile suffering more and more from anxiety and lack of self-confidence. Consequently, they spare no effort to slander and demonize China, attaching a range of negative labels to the country. Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called China “a new imperialist power,” and warned Latin American countries not to rely excessively on economic relations with China. “While this trade has brought benefits,” he stated, “the unfair trading practices used by many Chinese have also harmed those countries’ manufacturing sectors, generating unemployment and lowering wages for workers.”[34] But contrary to Tillerson’s slanders, China’s investment in Latin America is totally in compliance with business rules and local laws and regulations. According to statistics, Chinese enterprises created 1.8 million jobs in Latin America during the years from 1995 to 2016. In May 2018 the US issued a document entitled Findings of The Investigation Into China’s Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation Under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which accuses China of “enforcing or compelling US enterprises to transfer technology” and “illegally invading US commercial computer networks to steal intellectual property rights and sensitive business information.” The purpose of this document was to create a pretext for launching a trade war; its accusations are nothing but rumors, and do not correspond to the facts. What is the source of China’s technological progress? It flows from the efforts of gifted entrepreneurs who benefit from huge government investments in basic science. As former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has said, “It’s coming from an educational system that’s privileging excellence, concentrating on science and technology. That’s where their leadership is coming from, not from taking a stake in some U.S. company.”[35] In provoking its economic and trade conflict with China, the US has had an obvious intention: to blackmail and suppress China on an overall basis, starting with the trade war and gradually expanding into the areas of science and technology, finance, food, resources and so on. The American authorities seek to weaken China’s strengths in trade, finance, industry and technology, trying to ensure that China will not pose a challenge to the global hegemonic position of the US.

With its slogan of “America First,” the Trump administration promotes US hegemony and imposes economic sanctions on other economies. Its economic and trade policies are aimed principally at China, but are also directed at traditional allies such as the EU, Japan, India, and South Korea. Time after time, Washington has practiced economic extortion and containment. It will never be forgotten that as early as the mid-1980s the US forced Japan to sign the “Plaza Accord,” and induced it to implement a low-interest monetary policy that brought large quantities of foreign capital into Japan. The result was that a surge of short-term demand for Japanese yen caused the country’s currency to appreciate sharply against the US dollar. The influx of foreign capital and the monetary policy of low interest rates brought a soaring increase in Japanese asset prices. Despite the short-term prosperity, the eventual result involved big losses for Japan. The high asset prices meant that the foreign capital was soon cashed out and withdrawn, while the Japanese economy suffered huge setbacks and endured a “lost 20 years”.

5.2.2. Political hegemony and fraud

The United States has always labeled itself as a representative of countries advocating democracy, freedom and equality. Using political and diplomatic means, it spares no effort to impose its political system on other countries, especially the developing states it identifies as “dictatorships.” Former US President George W. Bush identified Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an “axis of evil”. The United States exerts pressure on the rulers of such countries, applying double standards on questions of human rights. Using its propaganda, it demonizes these states as “undemocratic” and “autocratic,” while subsidizing non-governmental organizations and media and inciting dissidents and the opposition to mount “color revolutions” aimed at overthrowing the legitimate governments.

Acting at the behest of its military circles and monopoly energy groups, the United States has been a consistently destructive force in the Middle East and Latin America. Syria was listed by Washington among six “evil” countries, and the US branded the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad as illegal. US Senator John McCain, however, revealed the real purpose behind these moves. “The end of the Assad regime,” McCain stated, “would sever Hezbollah’s lifeline to Iran, eliminate a long-standing threat to Israel, bolster Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, and inflict a strategic defeat on the Iranian regime. It would be a geopolitical success of the first order.”[36] In Latin America, the United States has continued its blockade against Cuba despite 20 resolutions carried overwhelmingly in the United Nations General Assembly. Meanwhile, the US is conducting an economic blockade against Venezuela, resulting in the country’s economic deterioration in recent years. US Vice-President Mike Pence has alleged:

“The Maduro government’s vicious gangs have crippled the economy…The true cost of the crimes of the Maduro regime cannot be assessed in numbers…Two million people have fled the result of dictatorship and political repression that’s resulted in deprivation and created conditions near starvation. The United States will continue to help the Venezuelan people restore their freedom . The people will be free.”[37]

The United States is now applying to China the kind of Cold War policies that used to be employed against the Soviet Union. State Department Director of Policy Planning Kiron Skinner describes the fractious relations of the US with China as “a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology.” [38] The ruling class in America knows very well that the socialist system is superior to the capitalist system. Once large socialist countries such as the former Soviet Union and China become rich and strong through peaceful competition, it is inevitable that they will counter the wishes of the United States and promote reform of the outdated international economic and political order. Consequently, the US is forced to adopt the dual strategy of “contact and containment,” which it seeks to pass off as “peaceful evolution”.

In reality, the so-called democratic politics in the United States is nothing but an illusion. First, the electoral process in the United States has increasingly amounted to a political fight between the two parties of the monopoly bourgeoisie. As the candidates of different factions of the monopoly bourgeoisie have campaigned for election, they have resorted to rumors, personal attacks, and slanders against their opponents. Trump has repeatedly stressed that the Democratic Party and the media in the US have spread rumors about him, and Trump of course has spread rumors as well, providing a public demonstration of the contradictions within the ruling class. Second, so-called democratic politics in the United States involves no more than a pro forma and procedural democracy. The pro forma voting system has been reduced to monetary politics, family politics and oligarchic politics ‒ that is, to an essentially undemocratic “despotism of monopoly capital”.

5.2.3. Cultural hegemony and fraud

Former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski believes that “strengthening American culture as the ‘model’ of the world’s cultures is a strategy that must be implemented by the United States to maintain hegemony.”[39] American cultural hegemony is manifested principally through its control of media outlets and education, and through the propaganda function, both at home and abroad, of its literature and art, of its liberal arts academia, and of its values. The US exports films, music and literary works all over the world. It controls almost 75% of the world’s television programs, and owns powerful film and television companies such as WarnerMedia, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures that every year produce dozens of high-budget films involving investments of hundreds of millions of dollars. Research and reporting carried out by the US mainstream media effectively dominate the shaping of world public opinion. The United States also controls the authoritative journals that mold discourse in the area of liberal arts academia, and it is the US that determines the standards of elite education. The 2020QS World University Rankings provide an example. The top places in these rankings are all taken by American universities, and this situation provides a powerful tool for spreading deceptive Western “universal values,” Western constitutional views, and neoliberal economic concepts throughout the world. The basic views of the US liberal arts establishment have taken a firm hold on the elites and masses both at home and abroad.[40] For example, the US extols vulgar examples of literary and artistic kitsch as distinguished works of culture, deserving of Oscars or Nobel Prizes. Neo-liberalism, responsible for a string of economic crises and for increased polarization between rich and poor, is depicted as a scientific theory that promotes development, increases popular welfare, and is worthy of “the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.” In the United States, works that do not conform to the literary, artistic and liberal arts canons of the monopoly bourgeoisie are difficult to disseminate via authoritative media, while writers and artists of real distinction are excluded, suppressed or defrauded. The United States also holds an absolutely dominant position in the global field of cyberspace. Of the thirteen root DNS servers, nine are under the direct control of US corporations, universities, or government departments, while another is directly controlled by a US non-profit organization.[41] Using these root DNS servers, the United States can easily steal global intelligence, carry out network monitoring and launch cyber-attacks. The “Prism Event” revealed by Edward Snowden shows that the United States has complete control over the hardware and software of the networks globally, and is well able to monitor the entire world and strike any other country. Lastly, the United States controls the intelligence alliance known as the “Five Eyes” (the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), through which it conducts large-scale monitoring activities and exercises cyber hegemony both at home and abroad.[42]

The cultural hegemony of the US, its control over liberal arts academia, and the fraudulent use to which these advantages are put also appear in the stances taken by the US on questions of ideology and values. These stances are always hostile to socialism and communism, and restrict the development of socialist countries. Previously, the US devoted most of its efforts to smearing the Soviet Union, but the main target is now China. Early in May 1990, former US President Richard Nixon stated frankly: “While rebuilding the relationship with China, it is very important that we continue to pressure them to abandon socialism. Because we will use this relationship to make China’s policies milder. We must stick to this key point.”[43] According to survey data from the US Pew Research Center ‒ an organization surely influenced by American cultural hegemony and fraud ‒ 74% of Chinese college or university graduates love American culture.[44] It is a fact that most Chinese liberal arts scholars who have studied in the United States favor its basic institutional academic theories. To varying extents, they worship, flatter and fear America. This seriously affects the confidence of Chinese citizens in Marxist culture, in socialist culture and in China’s own rich traditional culture, and needs to be eliminated as soon as possible.

5.2.4. Military hegemony and fraud

Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union the United States has become increasingly presumptuous, and has tended to resort to military force or threats in dealing with questions of international relations. In 1999 US-led NATO forces bombed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, invoking the formula of “human rights above sovereignty”. In 2003, despite strong opposition from other countries, the United States invaded the sovereign state of Iraq. The Iraq war was not authorized by the UN Security Council, and Washington did not have any legal basis for its military intervention. The US falsely claimed that Iraq could produce, and possessed, chemical weapons of mass destruction. After occupying Iraq, however, the US found no evidence to prove that Iraq could produce chemical weapons of mass destruction. The real purpose of the US in fabricating this lie was to control Iraq’s oil resources by military means.

The US has consistently emphasized that its own interests should take first place and that its military advantages are not to be challenged. Although its economic strength has declined in relative terms, the US is still expanding its arsenal and substantially increasing its defense spending. Since the Cold War, the United States has continued to create various military threats and pressures in Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. To consolidate its hegemonic status, the US has advocated and promoted NATO’s eastward expansion, with the goal of including all the Central and Eastern European countries in NATO’s sphere of influence and thus constricting Russia’s strategic space. In the Middle East, the US aims to subvert the legitimate regimes of countries such as Syria and Iran by military means, and to support “color revolutions” in the region. In Asia in recent times Washington has heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, and has also implemented its “Indo-Pacific strategy” aimed at containing China. America’s “Indian Strategy” is serving to reveal the identity of its military allies and partners. Allies of the United States include Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand, and its partners include Singapore, Taiwan China, New Zealand, Mongolia, a number of South Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Nepal, and various Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The US further proposes to strengthen its cooperation with Brunei, Laos and Cambodia. In addition, it will work together with traditional allies such as Britain, France and Canada to protect so-called Indo-Pacific freedom and openness.[45]

With the increase in China’s national strength, various American scholars have been eager to invoke the “Thucydides trap”, claiming that it is difficult for Sino-US relations to escape from this logic. But the truth, as China’s President Xi Jinping has pointed out, is that there is currently no “Thucydides trap.” Such a trap might, however, be created if the US and its allies repeatedly make strategic miscalculations involving great powers.[46] It may be asserted that it is the military hegemonism and fraud of the United States that provides the root cause of the widespread instability, the constant local wars, the rise of war threats, and the refugee problems found all over today’s world.

5.3. Neo-imperialism is a new type of parasitic and decaying capitalism

As Lenin stated,

“Imperialism is an immense accumulation of money capital in a few countries… Hence the extraordinary growth of a class, or rather, of a stratum of rentiers, i.e., people who live by “clipping coupons”, who take no part in any enterprise whatever, whose profession is idleness. The export of capital, one of the most essential economic bases of imperialism, still more completely isolates the rentiers from production and sets the seal of parasitism on the whole country that lives by exploiting the labor of several overseas countries and colonies.”[47]

In the era of neo-imperialism, the number of rentiers is increasing sharply, and the nature of the rentier countries is becoming more pronounced. The parasitism and decay of a small number of capitalist countries is further worsened, as can be seen specifically in the following aspects.

First, the United States employs its military, intellectual property, political and cultural hegemony, as well as the US dollar, to plunder the wealth of the world, and especially that of the developing countries. The US is the world’s largest parasitic and decaying country. As evidence of this, we may take the trade between China and the United States. China sells to the US goods produced by cheap labor, land, and environmental resources. The United States does not need to produce anything in order to buy these goods; it can simply print banknotes instead. With the money earned, China can then buy only virtual assets such as US treasury bonds, and provide finance for US consumer lending and outward expansion. The US exports to China securities to which value cannot be added, while China exports to the United States mainly physical goods and labor services. The National Health Report released by the National Health Research Group of the Chinese Academy of Sciences shows that the United States is the country with the most hegemonic dividends in the world, while China is the country with the largest loss of hegemonic dividends. For the year 2011, US hegemonic dividends totaled $7396.09 billion, corresponding to 52.38% of the country’s GDP, and the average hegemonic dividends obtained per day came to $20.263 billion. Meanwhile, the sum lost by China totaled $3663.4 billion. In terms of labor time, about 60% of the working hours of the Chinese workforce were effectively given without recompense to serve international monopoly capital.[48]

Second, military spending has increased, which in turn increases the burden on the people. Neo-imperialism leads and promotes military-related scientific and technological research, the development of advanced weapons, and the expansion of military production. As the People’s Daily newspaper observed in 2016, “the military-industrial complex supported by monopoly capital and the cultural hegemony formed on the basis of colonialism have prompted the western countries to intervene in other countries’ affairs at their will.”[49] Neo-imperialism has thus become the initiator of regional turmoil and instability, and the engine of war. Over the past 30 years, the United States has spent $14.2 trillion on waging 13 wars.[50] Meanwhile, lack of money hinders improvements to the living conditions of the American people in areas such as medical insurance. Exorbitant military spending has become a heavy burden on the country and its people, while the parasitic monopolies in the arms industry have reaped immense profits. According to statistics of the British Institute for International Strategic Studies, US military expenditures in 2018 came to $643 billion, and in 2019 will reach $750 billion, more than the sum of the military spending of the world’s eight next largest military powers. Since the Cold War, the United States has launched or participated in six major conflicts: the Gulf War (1991), the Kosovo War (1999), the Afghanistan War (2001), the Iraq War (2003), the Libya War (2011), and the Syria War (2011-present).[51] The addiction of monopoly capitalism to war is a manifestation of its parasitic and decaying nature. This barbaric characteristic of the system runs counter to civilization, and threatens the shared future of the human community with a shared future for mankind. It proves that neo-imperialism is the primary root of war.

Third, wealth and incomes are concentrated in the hands of a specific class of owners of financial assets, a fact reflected in the “1% ‒ 99%” contrast that pits the wealthy against the great majority of humanity. At the neo-imperialist stage, the socialization, informatization, and internationalization of production have reached unprecedented levels, and the ability of human beings to create wealth is many times greater than in the old imperialist period. Nevertheless, the advance of productivity that is supposed to be a common gain for humankind has mainly benefited the financial oligarchy. “The bulk of the profits go to the ‘geniuses’ of financial manipulation,” one observer notes.[52] In 2001, for example, the financial wealth (excluding property rights) held by the wealthiest 1% of the US population was four times greater than that of the poorest 80%. The 1% held assets on the stock market of $1.9 trillion, roughly equivalent to the value of the stock held by the other 99%.[53]

Fourth, monopoly hinders technological innovation, slowing its advance. The greed and parasitism of financial monopoly capital make its attitude to technological innovation ambivalent. Monopoly capital relies on technological innovation to maintain its monopoly status, but the high profits that result from this status mean that monopoly capital shows a certain inertia in promoting innovation. In the field of pesticide research and development, for example, spending on pesticide research and development (R&D) increased by 118% from 1995 to 2005. But the vast bulk of R&D spending was on old chemical products whose patents were about to expire. Because the number of corporations that conduct R&D is decreasing, the development of agrochemicals is decelerating globally.[54] To take another example, even if many advanced functions of mobile phones are successfully developed in the same year, the monopoly producers of mobile phones will divide up these functions to be introduced and promoted over several years. The purpose is to ensure that consumers will continuously purchase mobile phones with new functions, allowing the corporations to obtain high monopoly profits every year.

Fifth, the tendency for the monopoly bourgeoisie and its agents to cause decay in the mass movement is becoming more serious. Lenin observed that “in Great Britain the tendency of imperialism to split the workers, to strengthen opportunism among them and to cause temporary decay in the working-class movement, revealed itself much earlier than the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.”[55] Neo-imperialism divides the working class, striking at and weakening the labor unions using the excuse provided by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tremendous changes in Eastern Europe. It also uses its monopoly profits to buy the support of individuals, and fosters opportunist and neoliberal forces within the workers’ movement and various other mass movements. The results of such ploys include the downturn in the size and activity of labor unions and other progressive movements, the low ebb of the world socialist movement, and a more obvious and serious tendency for workers to worship the forces of neo-imperialism or to be intimidated by them.

5.4. Neo-imperialism is a new type of transitional and moribund capitalism

Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism has revealed the transitional and moribund nature of monopoly capitalism for more than 100 years. What many people seem to find confusing, however, is that except in a very small number of countries where socialism is being constructed, most capitalist societies have not perished. They have in fact achieved varying levels of development, and will continue to develop. This raises a very important question: how to judge the transitional nature of contemporary capitalism, or its tendency to decline and perish? If we analyze this using the historical materialist method, the transitional nature of neo-imperialism can be characterized on the basis of two points. First, and like everything in the world, the neo-imperialist system is constantly changing. It is a transient phenomenon in human history, and is not eternal. Second, its development follows a path from a low to a high level. Neo-imperialism will eventually turn into socialism through various forms of revolution.

In the era of neo-imperialism, the developed capitalist countries have undergone many important technological and institutional reforms, which have provided the basis for a certain further development of capitalism and have delayed its demise. Historical data suggest that during the stage of laissez-faire capitalism, the average rate of industrial growth in capitalist countries was only about 2%, while in the stage of monopoly capitalism it reached around 3%. Such high and low growth rates continue to succeed each other, and the period of decay mentioned by Lenin has been greatly extended. This is because the capitalist countries have made many adjustments to their production relations and superstructure, including a degree of macroeconomic regulation, improvements to income distribution and social security, and so forth. In particular, there is no doubt that for the developed capitalist countries the advantages of economic globalization outweigh its disadvantages. Within the process of economic globalization, the powerful developed capitalist countries occupy an absolutely dominant position, through which they set out to maximize the benefits they receive. Their general drive to extend globalization in order to expand their markets does not, however, exclude the possibility of particular countries temporarily reversing the process in response to domestic crises, or as part of efforts to damage commercial competitors. “In the past two years,” a 2019 study notes, “the Trump administration has deepened its reverse globalization trend in the light of the domestic crisis. It adheres to the principle of ‘America first’, and provokes international economic and trade disputes, trying to get rid of and pass on the domestic crisis.”[56] The purpose of the United States in adopting a range of protectionist anti-globalization measures is to alleviate the domestic difficulties and crises it encounters within economic globalization, so as to advance its hegemonic interests.

Meanwhile, there is no essential conflict between the fact that neo-imperialism and capitalism can look forward to existing and developing for some time to come, and the fact that their eventual demise is inevitable. Lenin’s characterization of imperialism as moribund capitalism simply notes the historical trend according to which capitalism will inevitably perish and be replaced by socialism; it does not mean the neo-imperialism, or capitalism in general, will perish in short order. In fact, the classic Marxist writers avoided setting out a specific timetable for the demise of capitalism and imperialism. Lenin’s scientific judgment is that “imperialism is a decaying but not completely decaying capitalism, a moribund but not dead capitalism.”[57] He foresaw that moribund capitalism was very likely to drag out its existence for a prolonged period. Nor, on the basis of a comprehensive analysis, could it be denied that capitalism would see some kind of development even during its moribund stage. Discussing the decay of imperialism, Lenin stated:

“It would be a mistake to believe that this tendency to decay precludes the rapid growth of capitalism. It does not. In the epoch of imperialism, certain branches of industry, certain strata of the bourgeoisie and certain countries betray, to a greater or lesser degree, now one and now another of these tendencies. On the whole, capitalism is growing far more rapidly than before…It may remain in a state of decay for a fairly long period (if, at the worst, the cure of the opportunist abscess is protracted), but will inevitably be removed.”[58]

Why, then, are the new changes in neo-imperialism and contemporary capitalism unable to alter the system’s historical trend of development toward an inevitable demise? The answer is that the basic contradictions of capitalism still exist and continue to develop. The law of capitalist accumulation still exists and continues to develop. The capitalist economic crisis still exists and continues to develop. At the point when monopoly capitalism was coming into existence in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Lenin demonstrated that the world was at the stage of imperialism, but that as monopoly capitalism, imperialism was parasitic or decaying, transitional and moribund. The law of the uneven economic and political development of imperialism made it possible that the revolution would first be victorious in one or several countries. Decades after the Communist Manifesto had proclaimed that capitalism would inevitably expire, and Das Kapital had declared that the death knell of capitalist private ownership was about to ring, the October Revolution, armed with the correct strategies and tactics implemented by the proletarian party led by Lenin, rang the death knell of the military-feudal imperialism of the Tsarist Russian Empire. Then the proletarian party led by Mao Zedong, again implementing the correct strategies and tactics, rang the death knell of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal society ruled by the Kuomintang (Mao Zedong stated that China represented a feudal and comprador monopoly capitalism after WWII). The fact that 15 socialist countries led by Communist Parties existed in the 20th century provided a forceful vindication of the theoretical positions noted above. The Soviet Communist Party led by Gorbachev and Yeltsin consciously betrayed Marxism-Leninism, resulting in the Soviet Union and the Eastern European socialist countries, with the exception of Belarus, regressing to capitalism. This demonstrates the twists, turns and general difficulties experienced by the development of socialism and its economic system. But it cannot change the nature and general trend of the historical process.

In October 1984 Deng Xiaoping stated: “There are two major problems in the world that are very prominent. One is the issue of peace and the other is the North-South issue. There are many other issues, which are not of the same underlying importance or global and strategic significance as these two.” In March 1990, Deng Xiaoping stated once again, “As for the two major issues of peace and development, the peace issue has not been resolved, and the development issue has become more serious.”[59] As this reveals, Deng Xiaoping emphasized that “peace and development”, which are alternative forms of and dialectically united with the two major issues of “war and revolution” noted by Lenin, were the two major questions to be resolved in the current era.[60] This does not negate the trend according to which capitalism and neo-imperialism inevitably develop into socialism.

Based on the above analysis of the character of neo-imperialism, it can thus be concluded that neo-imperialism represents a new stage of international monopoly into which capitalism develops after passing through the stages of free competitive capitalism, general private monopoly and state monopoly. In addition, neo-imperialism represents a new expansion of international monopoly capitalism, as well as a new system through which a minority of developed countries dominate the world and implement a new policy of economic, political, cultural and military hegemonism. If we examine the current situation on the basis of the international forces of justice and the development of the twists and turns of the international class struggle, the 21st century is a new era in which the world working class and the masses in general carry out great revolutions and safeguard world peace; in which the socialist countries carry out great feats of construction and undergo rapid development; and in which the progressive civilized nations work together to build a community with a shared future for humankind, a world in which neo-imperialism and global capitalism gradually make way for global socialism.

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[9] Liu, Z. 1999. “NATO’s New Strategy is the Embodiment of American Hegemonism.” [In Chinese.] Social Sciences Journal of Universities in Shanxi, no. 3.

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[28] World Inequality Report 2008 (Executive Summary). See: https://wir2018.wid.world/files/download/wir2018-summary-chinese.pdf.

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[33] To cheat is to deceive people by using false words and deeds to conceal the truth. Fraud, which is even worse, involves deceptive acts committed by deceitful means. It refers to behavior intended to create confusion and misunderstanding.

[34] Reuters. “Latin America should not rely on China -U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson”. See https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/2/41686/Latin-America-should-not-rely-on-China-U-S-Secretary.

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[36] Zhu Changsheng. “The Real Purpose of the West Collectively Shaming Russia Finally Surfaces”. [In Chinese.] See, http://www.kunlunce.com/myfk/fl1111/2018-04-12/124428.html.

[37] Pence M. “Remarks by Vice President Pence to Migrant Community at the Santa Catarina Shelter”. See, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-pence-migrant-community-santa-catarina-shelter/.

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[44] Zhang Yang, Yuan Yuan. 2017. “To What Extent Does American Culture Affect China?” [In Chinese.] People’s Tribune, no. 7: 131-133.

[45] Ma Xiaowen. 2019. “The United States is Unleashing an Indo-Pacific Strategy to Shape a New Orient”. [In Chinese.] See, http://www.chinatimes.net.cn/article/87167.html.

[46] Xi Jinping. 2015. “ Speech By Xi Jinping at the Joint Welcoming Banquet Hosted by the Local Government of Washington State and US Friendly Organizations”. [In Chinese.] See, http://china.cnr.cn/gdgg/20150923/t20150923_519946062_1.shtml

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[48] Yang, D., and Z. Zhou. 2013. Nation Health Report I. Beijing: Science Press, 217.

[49] People’s Daily. 2016. “The Institutional Roots of the Social Chaos in the West.” [In Chinese.] People’s Daily, October 23.

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[55] Lenin, V. I. 2009. Lenin Symposium: on Capitalism. [In Chinese.] Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 192.

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One response to “On the Five Characteristics of Neo-imperialism: Based on Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism (Pt. 2/2)”

  1. Agyaat says:

    Eye opening essay. Death to US imperialism.

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October 2023