Mon Apr 22, 2024
April 22, 2024

Brazil: China’s Relations with Underdeveloped Countries Are Not About Aid for Prosperity, but Rather Colonial Subjugation

By: Joana Salay

Recently, we saw on social media a video of the future PSOL candidate for mayor of São Paulo, Guilherme Boulos. In it, he is at the Huawei headquarters in Shanghai presenting the advantages of the Chinese company’s technology for the management of large cities like São Paulo [1].

We can criticize the trip that Boulos made between Paris and Shanghai to learn about the management experiences of large cities in several ways. We could start with the presentation of the management of the city of Paris as a model, while the city is well known for its immigrant ghettos and for the repression of trade union and social movements. However, in this article we want to develop another important aspect revealed by Guilherme Boulos’ trip, namely the expectations that sectors of the left have revealed as a supposed developmentalist role of China in semi-colonial countries.

It was not only the PSOL candidate who expressed sympathy for possible international economic relations with China. Jones Manoel of the PCB-RR affirmed in 2021 that Chinese imperialism has a progressive character, as it gives aid to the semi-colonial countries without asking for anything in return, as does US imperialism [2]. An article was also published in Brasil de Fato in January 2024, stating that the rapprochement of African countries with China could lead them to follow a path of greater prosperity in 2024 [3].

But what does China intend to do with the expansion of its international economic relations, is its plan to allow prosperity and development, or to establish relations of economic subordination with these countries?

The Anti-imperialist Struggle, A Crucial Task

It is part of the left’s common heritage that the anti-imperialist struggle is a key principle. In several important moments of the international class struggle, this principle has allowed the construction of broad units of action in the struggle against hegemonic imperialism, such as the struggle against the war in Iraq or against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Since the economic crisis of 2008, the world has undergone major transformations that have led to important changes in the role of countries in the framework of the world order. We must not forget that these changes have political consequences, which are crucial for the positioning of the left in relation to the main processes taking place in the world. Thus, we have seen very different positions of the left in the Ukrainian war. The International Workers League – Fourth International (IWL) and some other sectors of the left, albeit few, have placed themselves on the side of the Ukrainian people in the struggle against the Russian imperialist invasion. However, a broad section of the left has adopted an ambiguous line or one of open capitulation to Russian imperialism.

In this sense, discussing the characterization of countries’ positions in the current international division of labor, considering that it has undergone and will undergo even more important changes, is a fundamental part of adopting a correct political line that will once again give importanceto the anti-imperialist struggle.

China, An Imperialist Country

The characterization of the Chinese state is not unanimous. There are still those who characterize China as a socialist state, underestimating all the advances of capital, mainly American, in the Asian country since the 1970s. The leading role that China plays today in key sectors of capitalist production, such as 5G technology, electric cars, and the production of renewable energy, shows that it is no longer the capitalist factory country of the world. Rather, it has taken its place in the world order as an imperialist country.

To return to Lenin’s formulation: ” Capitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and of the financial strangulation of the overwhelming majority of the population of the world by a handful of “advanced” countries. ” [4]. This subjugation is not necessarily due to the bad nature of its rulers, but mainly to the need of monopoly capital to continue to advance in order to accumulate more and more, which, as Lenin says, is a general and fundamental law of the current phase of capitalism. Therefore, “The capitalists divide the world, not out of any particular malice, but because the degree of concentration which has been reached forces them to adopt this method in order to obtain profits “[5].

There is no need to enumerate the infinite data that demonstrate the progress of the accumulation and concentration of Chinese capital in this text. Our aim is rather to show how the relations that China is establishing with African countries, for example, are not simply aimed at helping them to prosper but, as Lenin said, the goal is colonial subjugation.

A Brief Analysis of China’s Relations with the African Continent

The African continent has been hit by a wave of coups in the guise of anti-colonialism [6]. Recently, Mali withdrew French as an official language, and last year, in a speech reminiscent of Fidel Castro, Ibrahim Traoré, president of Burkina Faso, hailed the strategic alliance between African countries and Russia.

China is part of these strategic alliances established by the leaders of some African countries. As the aforementioned article on the Brasil de Fato website points out, in 2023 China launched the Africa Industrialization Support Initiative, in which it commits to increasing funding for the construction of infrastructure and the design and creation of industrial parks. The contracts that China establishes for the construction of infrastructure include its subsequent control. We are talking about ports, roads, industrial parks, basic structures for the economy, and therefore the country’s sovereignty.

Contrary to what a section of the left claims, Chinese financing does not come without a quid pro quo. Today, China is Angola’s largest creditor, responsible for 12% of the African continent’s external debt and, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is involved in bailing out countries.

An international study entitled “How China lends, a look at 100 debt contracts with foreign governments”[7] notes that Chinese creditors seek to gain advantages over other creditors through various mechanisms, using collateral arrangements such as creditor-controlled revenue accounts and promises to keep the debt out of future restructurings. The loans also include cancellation, acceleration and stabilization clauses that give Chinese creditors great influence over the domestic policies of debtor countries.

The study concludes that “Chinese creditors show considerable ingenuity in adapting and expanding standard contractual instruments to maximize their repayment prospects (…) and to protect a wide range of Chinese interests in the debtor country.

Nevertheless, is it necessary to answer the question as to whether the loans to Africa help sovereignty? Or do they serve the imperialist predatory policies of the Chinese bourgeoisie? The evidence presented lead us to the conclusion that they are an instrument of imperialist exploitation and that they increase the subordination of the African countries. Therefore, any support to these agreements is a capitulation to a sector of imperialism.

For a Consistent Anti-imperialist Policy

The relations that China is establishing with Brazil do not have any different intention from those it is establishing with the African continent. The agreements that Lula made with the Chinese government [8] allow the creation of better conditions for Chinese multinationals to make profits in Brazilian territory. Under the justification of economic development, the agreements deepen the exploitation, oppression, and subjugation of the country to imperialist interests. Although it is not the focus of the article, it is important to mention here that the logic of development has been used for colonial subjugation, the implementation of neoliberal plans, and more environmental destruction, without being an alternative to the inequality we see in Brazil.

We know that what moves China are the interests of increasing the accumulation of capital of its big monopolies, so opening the doors to imperialist interests means more subjugation and debt. To present the establishment of agreements with Chinese imperialism as an economic alternative for development is a new form of the left’s capitulation. It is not possible to “govern for the people” and “save São Paulo” by deepening colonial subjugation.

Guilherme Boulos’ visit to Chinese monopolies such as Huawei is taking place at the same time as he greeting sectors of the Brazilian bourgeoisie and trying to establish solid relations with Faria Lima [São Paulo’s financial center]. The acceptance of Marta Suplicy as vice-president, the search for support from sectors of the bourgeoisie, and the political relations he is establishing abroad, demonstrate not only his determination to form a government of class collaboration, but also his acceptance of the role of the Brazilian bourgeoisie as subordinate to various imperialisms. “In my government, no one will create difficulties for the sale of facilities,”[9] Boulos has already affirmed in a meeting with sectors of the bourgeoisie. The assets that Boulos has agreed to buy require the sale of the interests of the people of the city of São Paulo.

The revolutionary left must affirm that in order to promote real development in Brazil, with better living conditions for the working class and the poor, it is essential to confront the imperialist countries and their monopolies.





[4] Preface to the French and German editions of Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1920).

[5] Lenin (1916) Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.





Article first published in, 21/1/2024.

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