China and imperialism in the 21st century

Journal article

Budd, A. (2021). China and imperialism in the 21st century. International Socialism Journal. (170), pp. 123-150.
AuthorsBudd, A.

In the past two decades, China has emerged as the major challenger to the United States’s leading position in the global economy and, to a lesser extent, as the world’s foremost military power. Compared to the global reach of the US, China’s economic and military power is more concentrated in its immediate neighbourhood. Nevertheless, it inhabits a global system of rivalry that impels the Chinese state to act as an imperialist power to advance the interests of Chinese capital in much the same way as the US does. Previous rivals to US power have now been incorporated into the US-led world system as allies—for instance, Germany and Japan after 1945—and it is conceivable that China might be incorporated in the same way in the very long term. After all, as this article will demonstrate, China broadly accepts the rules of the neoliberal “Washington consensus”, and the hyperbole surrounding China’s Belt and Road Initiative has been shown to be largely misplaced in recent years. Moreover, China now faces mounting criticism from states in the Global South that were recently touted as its natural allies against the US. However, the path to accommodation is a very rocky one and, as we will see, although the classical state capitalism of the Mao Zedong period has been restructured, China’s rulers continue to mobilise state power to promote specifically Chinese interests against those of other major powers.

KeywordsChina, state capitalism, imperialism
JournalInternational Socialism Journal
Journal citation(170), pp. 123-150
Web address (URL)
Publication dates
Print09 Apr 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted25 Mar 2021
Deposited24 Jun 2021
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