The economic rivalry of our time is shaping up between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. But this isn’t the Cold War of socialism vs. capitalism.
China is a different, hybrid breed of state and private capitalism-one that might be the last capitalist empire we ever see. Richard Wolff compares two countries at the crossroads of our era: between capitalism and system change.
Watch ‘China vs. US: System Rising vs. Falling’ on our website or listen as a podcast today.
“Don't misunderstand me. I'm looking for signs of decline and signs of rise. I'm not commenting on the goodness or the badness, or the strengths or the weaknesses which both of these have. They're different, but they both have them. One is not bad and the other one good either way. And that may frustrate some of you who need to organize your thoughts in that manner, but I don't and these lectures won't either.”
Prof Wolff begins with a brief history. When the United States grew from their independence into the world’s premier capitalist empire, China had a hundred years of humiliation. However the opposite may be the future. America is more unequal, dysfunctional and dangerous now than it has been in the last 50 years.
“If you distinguish employers and their assistance on the one hand and the employees on the other, not only have the inequality between them and income and wealth gotten worse, but we have really attacked the working class of the United States.”
Where the United States has faltered in growing real wages, keeping COVID deaths low and inflation control, China has done significantly better. Like Britain faded in power when the U.S. rose, signs point to a rising empire in China and a falling one in the U.S. This power shift has world leaders on the edge of conflict, but Prof Wolff wants to be clear what kind of awful tragedy a military war between these two countries would be. While sanctions already are a kind of conflict, nuclear destruction is a major risk of these two superpowers.
“A war approach, an aggressive approach, an attempt to stop the development that's underway is fruitless and dangerous. Britain and the United States came to an understanding. The United States and China have to do that too.”
Richard Wolff makes it clear what China is experimenting on today- not an alternative to capitalism, because they still have the employer/employee relationship in their workforce. However, this is a system that has the potential to outcompete and out maneuver the private capitalism of the United States.
“We are at the passing of one empire and one system and the emergence of another. Not “system” in the sense of capitalism/non-capitalism. That is yet the criticism of the existing system that has to be developed to take us the next step, but we need to understand the momentous shifts that we're a part of right now.”
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