Why America will fail with a new cold war against China

USSR fell apart in the cold war and the US will fall apart if it initiates a new cold war against China. The Washington think tanks think the US can repeat the drama of the cold war to crash China, and they are making a big strategic mistake.


Xiaoming Guo 郭晓明

The Cold War

After WWII, the world was divided into two competing camps, the eastern bloc, and the western bloc. The eastern bloc was led by USSR and the western bloc was led by the US. The two blocs had two different systems: state ownership in the East, and private ownership in the West.

The two blocs were competing in dominating the world, and that’s Cold War. They engaged in proxy wars and regime changes. The game of the Cold War was that each bloc was aimed to enlarge its bloc at the expense of the opposite bloc. If the East bloc wins, then the whole world will comprise countries with a planned economy with state ownership. If the West bloc wins, then the whole world will comprise countries with a market economy with private ownership.

Substructure and Superstructure

Marx analyzed society as two parts: the substructure and the superstructure. The substructure is also called the economic base. The economic base comprises the production force and production relations. The superstructure comprises law, culture, institutions of the state government, etc.

Marx concluded that the production force is the fundamental force to propel the progress of human society. Production force determines the substructure, and substructure determines the superstructure.

Why did the cold war end with the collapse of the USSR? The cold war is a competition between USSR and the US. The rule of the game is to compete with who can dominate the world. There were many proxy wars between USSR and the US in Africa and Latino America. USSR tried to create more socialist countries with a state-ownership economy. The US tried to have as many as possible countries submit to its hegemony.

USSR failed for a scientific reason. The state-ownership is production relations. The production relations are not quite suitable for the production force yet, especially in Africa and Latino America where the level of the production force is low. Even in USSR, the level of production force is not high enough that we can characterize the society as a scarcity society. As USSR had the dilemma about guns or better: spend more on military or on living standards. In short, turning every country into socialist countries is not possible at the level of production force in the last century.

Another reason for the failure of the USSR is the superstructure. Even though the substructure determines the superstructure, the superstructure changes slowly and lags behind the change of the substructure. USSR already established the socialist substructure, but the culture of five thousand years of private-ownership did not die. As a result, the cadres’ children may easily become cadres again, forming a private class in a supposedly no class society.

Mao observed the problem that cadres in USSR were forming a new privileged ruling class. Mao didn’t want China to follow the path of the USSR. So Mao launched the Great Proleteriot Culture Revolution. The Culture Revolution was aimed at the communist party itself to prevent the formation of a privileged ruling class.

Even though the substructure determines the superstructure, the superstructure can at on substructure and prevent the change of substructure. This is the revolution theory: when the technology advanced, the production forces want to establish a new substructure, the superstructure will resist the change. When the conflict between the need for a new system and the resistance of the superstructure intensifies to a magnitude, a revolution breaks out to change the superstructure. But a revolution usually only changes the institution part of the superstructure, the culture may not change accordingly.

This revolution theory is for humans in itself. Mao had made a key historical contribution to human progress. His Culture Revolution is to prepare a Human for itself. Mao made communism spiritual. He advanced the culture, part of the superstructure, ahead of the production force. This is impossible when people is in itself. It is scientific feasible when the communist party is in power to prepare people by itself.

The Culture Revolution is a revolution to change the five thousand years of the culture of private ownership, and also a revolution within the ruling class itself. The communist party is in power and the communist party launched a revolution, asking the mass to rebel against the authority of the party. This is the first time the superstructure did not wait for the production force to push the change. It is the cultural transition by humans deliberately. This is the Human by itself. Cultural Revolution emphasizes a lot about the awareness of the proletariats and communist culture.

In summary, USSR fell apart because 1) the level of production force in the world as a whole is not advanced enough to scale the USSR system to the whole world; 2) the USSR culture as the superstructure had not changed accordingly to fit the substructure of the USSR.

USSR fell because people is in itself and the superstructure resisted the change of the substructure. China avoided the collapses with the USSR because people is by itself as Mao reshaped the culture, the part of the superstructure, ahead of the production force. The effect of the Culture Revolution persists till today that the color revolutions fueled by the US swiped the world but failed in China. Ten years of Culture Revolution is larger in scale and longer in time than all the color revolutions add together.

The New Cold War

Let’s put aside the question of whether there is a new cold war. We want to assess who will dominate the new world order: the US of China? Or even domination is not a proper word for this question. All we can say is that who will win in the competition between the US and China in international politics.

First, China has no intention to replicate its system in other countries. This is different from the USSR in the cold war. If USSR could not make other countries adapt its system, nor can China. All China does is to advance the production force, domestically, and internationally. According to Marx, the advancement of the production force is the determining factor of human progress. According to historical materialism, it is futile to impose a superstructure on a country where the level of the production force is low and the people is in itself.

By all physical measures, the military power, technological advancement, and accumulation of capital, China is weaker than the US. The US is maintaining its hegemony world order in which the world economy is divided into North the developed countries and the South the developing countries. In such a world order, the surplus-value of the world economy is flowing from the South into the North, the exploitation in the world order. China also contributes the surplus-value to the North in this world order, yet by the proletariat power and the people by itself, China managed to retain a portion of the surplus value for its development. This is a win-win for China and for Wall Street. As we see in the last few decades, whatever China buys from the global market, the price is high; whatever China sells to the global market, the price is low. China developed not by imperialist war, not by colonization, not by the slave trade, not by the opium trade. China rising is a new industrialization path different from all previous industrialized powers.

In this epoch competition, China is focused on the creation of wealth in the global economy by the advancement of production power, while the US is focused on the distribution of wealth in the globe. China is occupied in economic development while the US is occupied with making the rules, interpreting the rules, enforcing rules, breaking the rules, and revising the rules. China is developing the world substructure under the superstructure of the world framed by the US. China changes the world’s substructure, while the US changes the world’s superstructure. Today, especially under Trump, however the US changes the superstructure of the world, it cannot fit the substructure. That’s why the foreign policies of the US have failed one by one.

The US is to maintain the hegemony superstructure of the world that resists the progress of the production force. China is advancing the production force wherever possible. China is working on the physical level, the production base in the world order, while the US is working on the organizational level, the superstructure of the world hegemony order. China advances the production force while the US is resisting the advancement. China is on the side of peaceful development while the US engages in perpetual wars. China is on the progressive side of history while the US is on the reactionary side of the progress.

China is acting according to the science of Marxism, following the trajectory of the historical trend, while the US is countering the historical trend. The historical trend is with China and China will prevail.

USSR fell apart in the cold war and the US will fall apart if it initiates a new cold war against China. The Washington think tanks think the US can repeat the drama of the cold war to crash China, and they are making a big strategic mistake.