The rise of China and its impacts for the peoples

The countries where China is the largest trading partner are in red

By: Raúl Zibechi

Despite deafening media and geopolitical noise that accumulates in these turbulent times, some issues seem certain: the decline of the Unites States and the rise of China are long-term structural trends that may take more or less time to materialize, but turn out to be, let’s say, inevitable.

The second issue that’s becoming abundantly clear, is that war between nuclear powers is more than probable, with all the terrible consequences that it will have for humanity and life on Earth. There has never been a hegemonic transition without war.

I’m not able to elaborate on these trends, but I would like to highlight that China’s dominance of the technologies of the ongoing industrial revolution (such as artificial intelligence, 5G networks and quantum computing, among others), represent something similar to the dominance by the US a century ago, of the scientific organization of work, the adoption of the technological advances of the epoch and their application to the art of war.

Some differences exist with respect to previous transitions, that is, the decline and the rise of great powers.

The first is that the declining power depends on the rising one, because their economies are intertwined. An example of that is the enormous frustration of the American company Boeing when China bought 292 commercial aircraft from its competitor Airbus. Boeing reacted by asking the Biden administration for a “productive dialogue” with China, because it cannot do without that market (

The Boeing communiqué says it all: “Sales of Boeing aircraft to China historically support dozens of thousands of American employees, and hope that requests and deliveries are quickly renewed.” But the US government imposed sanctions that include the maintenance and repair of Boeing aircraft, which prejudices one of its main companies.

Chinese and United Stases cargo containers reflecting trade war and restrictions in export and import.

The second difference is that we are facing a transition that involves regions and nations whose populations have different skin colors, that involves a history of colonialism and racism of the West against the East, of the North against the South. Nothing like that has happened in previous transitions.

The third difference is that there will not be a world hegemonized by China, nor by the US, nor by any other power. We’re heading towards a world fractured into two large blocks, with several regions and even continents oscillating between the two blocks.

As the transition will be resolved through wars, it’s important to note that: “China’s defense sector is developing new weapons more efficiently and between five and six times faster than the United States,” according to a high air force commander. China’s advantage lies in its industrial base and the scale of its research, while the main US exports are agricultural commodities and weapons.

Although the geopolitical question is important, and it will have to continue studying it in order to better understand a complex and constantly changing world, I’m interested in opening debate on the repercussions of a possible Chinese hegemony in social conflicts and in the kind of movements there will be in the future, from a perspective centered on Latin America.

A first aspect to take into account is that trade unions predominated under English hegemony, while mass unions predominated under US hegemony. To a large extent, as a consequence of the type of company and production that existed in both periods. The big Taylorist and Fordist company replaced the family manufacturing business, where the workers still controlled their times and modes of work.

The second aspect is that since the world revolution of 1968, the traditional labor movement stopped being the main subject in the anti-capitalist struggle, being replaced by native people, women who struggle and the black peoples, campesinos and those from the urban peripheries. Accumulation by dispossession and the fourth world war lead peoples, women and youth to struggle to survive, because they are condemned to disappear under this model.

The third aspect is that the kidnapping of the Nation-States by the large multinational companies and the richest one percent, means that the movements cannot reference that institution, nor demand from it nor occupy it, opening paths for the autonomies as necessary and possible.

Finally, it’s hard for me to imagine that there will be a single type of movement and a single way of walking, because the tendencies say that there will be different forms of organization and of action. What we do know is that the unified and “unitary” movements will not be emancipatory, because they cannot tune into a profoundly antipatriarchal and anticolonial era.

It will be the time for those who take a risk to create putting their bodies on. The line; and it will be bad times for those who look for manuals.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, July 15, 2022, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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