China & Contemporary Thresholds of Power. Part 2


Part 1.

The Political Thought of Sun Yat-sen

We have to this point overlooked a synthetic revision of the political actions of Sun Yat-sen and the Popular and National Party founded by him. It goes without saying that a complete and exhaustive exposition of Sun Yat-sen’s thoughts exceeds the limits of this work. Thus we will expose just a brief synthesis of the idea of the founder of the Kuomintang.

Broadly, the political doctrine of Sun Yat-sen goes by the name of “The Three Principles”; this is also the title of his last work, published in 1924. It was in 1905 that Sun Yat-sen used this expression for the first time, seeking to integrate his points of view on nationalism, democracy and the wellbeing of the people into a sole political and revolutionary project.

According to Marie-Claire Bergere, it is necessary to have in mind that Sun Yat-sen went along permanently re-creating his political doctrine according to the ever-changing situation of China and the world, always trying to respond to new circumstances with the reality that he proposed. To him from theory to reality and not from reality to theory needed to always be adopted. As was for other Chinese thinkers – Mao Zedong included- resolved to modernize their country, ideological importation should be at the service of Chinese national objectives. To import new concepts did not imply the adoption of the systems from which they had been born but rather, simply, to use those ideas that seemed most useful to the Chinese national objective (Bergere, 1994: 402).

One cannot state in a general manner –claims Sun Yat-sen- that ideas or good or bad. It is necessary to see if they are useful or useless for reaching our objectives. If they are useful to us, they are good; if they are useless to us, they are bad. (M. Elia Pascal, LeTriple Démisme de Suen Wen, Shanghai, Bureau sinologique de Zi-kawei
[1930], quoted by Bergère, 1994: 403)

To create his political idea, Sun Yat-sen started with the strong idea that China’s evils came mainly from the loss of national conscience on behalf of the great majority of the Chinese people. To him the majority of the Chinese had lost the sense of nation this was the “key” that explained the chaotic situation that the nation was going through: “The Chinese”, claimed Sun Yat-sen, “fell no sentiment of loyalty towards the State-nation, they no longer recognize themselves in it and they claim no obligation with respects to the nation and the State” (quoted by Bergere, 1994: 407). As a logical consequence it is necessary to work intensely to achieve the reconstruction of national conscience of the Chinese people. To Sun Yat-sen, a “great national rebirth” had to come about to reinstall the lost values, whose respect had been able to create the Chinese identity for centuries. He considered that during the 19th century different parts of the Chinese national territory had been amputated” by foreign powers. England, France, Japan and Russia threw themselves on China, tearing off pieces of the “body” of the Chinese nation. The objective of foreign powers was therefore to occupy the soil of the nation. However, he states, from the beginning of the 20th century foreign powers abandoned the policy of territorial occupancy because they understood the enormous difficulty of conquering a territory as vast as China. Moreover, giving up the formal occupancy of that territory, they wished to avoid the rivalries towards which the conquering and divvying up of China would inevitably take them.

Nevertheless, foreign powers, Sun Yat-sen affirmed, did not abandon their objective of “dominating” China and they simply “switched tactics”; they then “slid” from “political oppression to economic oppression”. Foreign powers, namely England, came to the conclusion that they should abandon the objective of achieving political dominance of China in order to try to obtain economic dominance”. But the fact that China was not formally colonized created in the majority of the Chinese population, according to Sun Yat-sen, the illusion that China was a free nation (Bergere, 1994: 409-410).

To the founder of the Kuomintang, a correct analysis of the Chinese reality cannot but start from clear evidence that the Chinese refuse to recognize: “China is a dominated nation”, he affirms.

Sun Yat-sen recognizes that it is true that China, unlike other nations of Africa or Asia, had not been “formally colonized”, and it was because of this that it continued maintaining some of the “formal attributes” of sovereignty. However, with respects to his contemporary fellow countrymen he stated that:

“[the Chinese] are wrong when they jest of the Koreans and Vietnamese calling contemptuously calling them slaves without a motherland”(quoted by Bergere, 1994: 411). He would not tire of warning that the Chinese did wrong in being prideful that their country had not been colonized by any foreign power because –referring to the situation of those years- he stated that: “In reality China has a status inferior to that of a colony because with respects to a colony, at least the metropolis has some responsibility, but with respects to a semi-colony it has none: “China is a colony of all the countries with which it has signed those unjust and leonine treaties”, a fact that turned the Chinese people into a “slave of all the powers” (411) that had “jerked” out of China those unjust treaties. To express the situation of excessive inferiority, humiliation and dominance that China suffered on behalf more than six foreign powers, Sun Yat-sen created the hyper-colony concept. China was a hyper-colony because its sufferings, its state of domination, went beyond that of a simple colony; without formally being a colony of any power it was, in reality, a “semi-colony” of all foreign powers, that proposed unto themselves the indirect dominance of that nation and that exercised over it the most raw and merciless imperialism (Bergere, 1994: 411).

Between 1918 and 1920, Sun Yat-sen exposed his idea on the economic development in a series of articles published in the magazine Construction, official organ of the Kuomintang. These articles were later compiled and published in a book that was edited under the name Plan of National Reconstruction. The work consists of two large parts, the first titled “Psychological Reconstruction” and the second, “Material Reconstruction”. In 1921 the second part of the writing of the Kuomintang leader was translated into English and published in London under the title The International Development of China. Sun Yat-sen later exposed his economic reflections in a more complete and trimmed manner during the conferences that, in 1924, he gave for the doctrinal formation of the political frames of the Kuomintang, conferences that integrated his third book, The Threefold Principle. In The International Development of China the founder of the Kuomintang begins his reasoning with a simple argument, but a convincing one. The fundamental reality of Chinese society is poverty,9 and “the radical remedy for that evil is industrial development” (Sun Yat-sen, The International Developmentof China [1921], quoted by Bergère, 1994: 320), following the example of the United States and Germany that, through industrial protection, went from agricultural nations to industrials powers. Modern China, with its amazing, sustained and accelerated development, is the best example of what the measure in which these ideas were translated, with political decisions and state impulse, into palpable realities.

According to Sun Yat-sen, in order to carry out the reconstruction of China a great project of national development was needed that would plan out that industrial development and kick start the construction of railways, the channeling of the larger rivers, the construction of dams and all the infrastructure necessary that would allow it overcome poverty and economic dominance from foreign powers.

Nevertheless, the challenge of modernizing and industrializing China, in order to “catch back” lost time it had to turn, in as much as was possible, with the West and not against the West. Because it was the West that possessed the capital, the industrial equipment and the technicians that China needed in order to start its national development. But the participation of foreign capital in China’s development had to be regulated thinking always in the long-term and in national interest. Thus the leader of the Kuomintang stated:

During the construction and commissioning, all the big national projects will be engineered and managed by Western experts […] who, as part of their obligations, would have to train up Chinese assistants destined to replace them in the future. (Sun Yat-sen, The International Development of China [1929], quoted by Bergère,1994: 320)
Looking over these ideas can lead us nowhere else but to amazement for, written almost ninety years ago, however, they sound like a story of how powerful modern China was able to overcome its situation of subordination and enter into the restricted group of main player nations of history. It looks even more like a story of recent events than one of a future proposal.

There is no doubt that this ideological insubordination would show the way down which China would be able to cross the threshold of power and once again become, after a dark period of submission, a subject of history.

The Materialization of Ideas

To further support our asseveration, we need nothing more than to give a quick overview of the policies that, from approximately 1979 on, China has been applying. Of the mere re-telling of the facts one could not only extract with clarity that the policies of the Chinese State followed Sun Yat-sen’s proposals with an almost meticulous neatness, but also that, beyond this, it can be seen that the obtained result is not the fruit of randomness but rather of the correct application of those policies. Thus, in 1979 in southeast China the first four “Special Economic Zones” are created and in 1984 fourteen more coastal cities open up to foreign capital. In 1990 the process had already begun to reach the interior of the country. Multinational companies satisfactorily welcomed the new model of Chinese development: national capitalism rigidly directed by the central State.

According to the World Investment Report created by the UNCTAD, the annual average of direct foreign investments in China between 1980 and 1985 reached 718 million dollars. Ten years later, in 1995, these investment were already fifty times higher than between 1980 and 1985. In 1996, they added up to 40,180 million dollars and in 2001 they reached 46,846 million dollars. In twenty years, of the five-hundred largest consortiums in the world, four-hundred had already been installed in the People’s Republic of China. In the city of Shanghai alone ninety-eight multinational companies had been established. From 1990 on the wave of foreign investments in China made by companies from the United States, Europe and Japan became a constant occurrence in the international economy.

Without a doubt, 1990 was the year in which the “Chinese model of development” was able to turn an important page in the economic history of the People’s Republic given that, from that year on, China had a positive commercial balance through which in just 1997 and 2001 it was able to gain foreign exchange for 159,700 million dollars. No other economy in the world since then has been able to match the growth rate of China’s domestic gross product since it has maintained an annual increase rate of 10 percent since the decade of the 80’s, in a sustained and uninterrupted way. To such a point that today, in economic jargon, to say “to grow at Chinese rates” means saying to grow a lot, in a quick and sustained way.

From then on, Chinese leadership had the fundamental objective of creating a group of monopolies with the capacity to operate worldwide. Between 1980 and year 2000 exportation capital grew from 148 million dollars to 402,400 million dollars, or rather, 2,700 times over. A large part of those investments flowed, increasingly, towards countries on the way to development or outright under-developed ones, with the end goal of exploiting imperative raw materials for the continuation of the development of the People’s Republic of China.

In 1998 the Chinese state businesses had already completed investments in twenty-four States of Latin America and had created 195 companies, be it under the title of joint ventures or of purely Chinese companies, with a total investment volume of more than 300 million dollars. In 1992 the Chinese consortium Shougang purchased the Marcona iron mine in Peru, for which it paid a sum of 120 million dollars. It is important to point out that the leaders in Chinese capital exportation are two completely state-run petroleum companies: China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and SINOPEC. China National Petroleum reached a sales volume of 41,500 million dollars in 2001 and, officially, obtained earnings of 5 billion. SINOPEC, on its side, was hot on its heels by reaching a sales volume of 40,400 million dollars that same year. In 1993 CNPC had gained petroleum concessions in Iraq, Kazakhstan, Peru, Sudan and Venezuela, and tried to penetrate Turkmenistan, Indonesia and Iran. For a brief period the Chinese petroleum consortiums in condition to compete in an aggressive way –especially in the Near East in socialist ex-Soviet republics of Turkestan- with American, European and Russian companies.

The policy of “capital exportation” was accompanied, from the beginning, by a policy of “population exportation”. This last policy is oriented towards the creation, abroad, of large Chinese colonies. Its “strategic” objective consists of establishing, in the near future, important population hubs that can remain linked, culturally and emotionally, to China and that therefore tend to be “loyal servants” of Chinese foreign policy.[10]

For a correct analysis of the Chinese economic process it would help to have in mind that the Beijing government never stopped “orienting and planning” foreign capital investment. Until the 90’s the Chinese government oriented the greater part of its foreign capital towards production based on heavy labor in the Special Economic Zones. Nevertheless, from that date on, it tried to orient the penetration of foreign capital towards the production of more advanced assets that would demand a large amount of capital and technology. Thus huge conglomerate companies were created with Chinese state companies with the goal of obtaining an important transfer of capital and technology. The leadership left clearly established that, in order to do business in their country, foreign companies had to transfer technology. A true politico-jurisdictional translation of the old postulations of Sun Yat-sen.

From 1990 on, China decided to take a great leap forward to an economy based on knowledge. State impulse was then aimed at developing an autochthonous technological capacity – that would match the West- in order to use it as a base for the consecution of the greatest capacity of technological innovation possible. The Chinese State then sent thousands of scientists to be educated in universities in the United States and Europe:

Willing to reach the West, the Chinese leaders knew that that would be impossible if China focused exclusively on the low technology development, while the United States shed itself of the industries of the second wave and hurried to create a high-tech economy. Therefore, they decided that China needed more than factories where workers were exploited. It also needed its own sector of high added value, intensive knowledge and worldwide reach. (Toffler, 2006: 435)

From 1990 on the Chinese leadership decided to carry out a “parallel development” strategy. This strategy came from the main idea that China should not concentrate all its energy on accelerated development but rather, at the same time that the industrialization plan was developed, it should “try to develop an economy of intensive knowledge, avoiding, where possible, the traditional stages of industrialization” (Toffler, 2006: 403).

The strategy of transfer of technology was particularly visible in the automobile industry and in that of telecommunications. On this strategy, Adalbert Niedenzu states in his study Die Automobilindustrie in China (, July 1st of 2002):

The joint ventures serve the Chinese government like “milk cows” of the Chinese automobile sector. That means that the foreign firm makes an important transfer of technology to China, for which the Chinese government intervenes directly in the negotiations and determines what technology should be transferred. […] Furthermore, on the Chinese side, it is stipulated that for joint ventures a large part (up to more than 90 percent) of the parts used must be produced in China and not imported from abroad.

Once again, political fact does not stray from the precepts of development and directives lined out by Sun Yat-sen.

Today, state impulse is mainly set in the terrain of high technology, in which Chinese companies begin to successfully compete with their foreign rivals. Currently, the Chinese computer market –that until 1990 was in the hands of IBM, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard- is being penetrated by the Chinese computer manufacturer Legend, which currently possesses a local market of 27 percent.

In 2030 China could become the largest economy in the world and, in such case, very probably surpass that of the United States by 50 percent, which would then take second place. India, whose economy could reach the equivalent to half that of China, would take third place and Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Brazil, considered individually, would not represent even one tenth of the Chinese economy.

By this possibility becoming reality, which would imply a sustained growth of China for a prolonged period of time, this country would be elevating, once again in history, the threshold of power, just as did the United States in its time by having completed its process of industrialization.


10. International Economy, November-December of 1996, informed that the annual income of the fifty million expatriated Chinese added up to approximately 540 thousand million dollars, more or less equal, therefore, to the domestic gross product of mainland China. According to this publication, the expatriated Chinese controlled around 90 percent of the Indonesian economy, 75 percent of the Thai economy, 60 percent of the Malay economy and all of the economies of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. The worries with respects to this situation even took an ex Indonesian ambassador in Japan to publicly warn about a “Chinese economic intervention in the region that would not only exploit that presence but that could even lead to the creation of puppet governments sponsored by China” (SaydimanSuryohadiprojo,“How to Deal with China and Taiwan”, Asahi Shimbun, Tokio, September 23rd of 1996, quoted by Z. Brzezinski, 1998: 172).


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