As China has realized great achievements in both economic growth and long-term social development through its own path to modernization, it has also successfully busted the myth that “modernization means Westernization.” What’s the significance of the Chinese path to modernization? What experiences can developing countries draw from the Chinese model? Global Times reporter (GT) spoke with world-renowned sociologist and political analyst Heinz Dieterich (Dieterich) from Germany, who first proposed the concept of 21st-century socialism, which has influenced many Latin American countries.
GT： What’s your interpretation of the concept of the “Chinese Path to Modernization”?
Dieterich: In the book “China and the Future of Humanity: Leadership, Science, Geopolitics,” this concept is referred to as “a socialist modernization that surpasses the capitalist modernization of the West and provides a new path and valuable experience for the modernization of developing countries”. I agree with this concept and congratulate our Chinese colleagues and the Communist Party of China (CPC) for their current national and international effort to “modernize their modernization theory,” bringing it up to date with the new penta-centric world order, in which China, Russia, the US, India, and the European Union are the strategic decision centers for the future of humanity.
The central discussion in these global power centers currently revolves around the socioeconomic and political organization model which will best resolve the gigantic problems that mankind faces in the 21st-century, and also manages to raise sufficient global support for its implementation.
The semiotics of this debate vary. In the center of the collective capitalist West, the US empire, the semantics of existential crisis and the probable collapse of the liberal bourgeois civilization form the dominant narrative. In some European countries and Russia, the substitution of 21st-century capitalism for 21st-century socialism is a central focus. In China, the basic concept used is the theory of modernization.
Maybe the time has come to modernize the semantics involved, for the following reasons. The original concept of modernization emerged in Western Europe in the 18th century, in reference to the processes of industrialization and urbanization. Today’s evolution is incomparably more complex. For example, the process is not regional, but global. It also encompasses many more vectors of development, than the two original ones mentioned. At the same time, it refers to a simultaneously occurring double-phase change in the global system, from a unipolar evolution to a multipolar one and from a proto-democratic chrematistic capitalist class society and world order to a democratic global eco-socialist civilization.
Finally, contemporary scientific knowledge about the laws of change, which explain evolutionary and revolutionary transitions and dialectics, is infinitely more advanced than at any previous time in history. Modernization is, in the light of that scientific advancement, an obsolete term as it is too descriptive and too linear, when looked at through the eyes of modern transition and complexity sciences.
Last but not least, “modernization” is a historically “unjust” concept that grossly understates China’s enormous practical and theoretical contributions to the transformation of global society.
For all these reasons, it might be a good idea to substitute the abstract concept of modernization theory with the more precise, complex, and class-based scientific concept of “Transition Theory to Chinese and Universal 21st Century Socialism,” or simply: Transition Theory to 21st Century Socialism.
GT: How do you evaluate the significance of the “Chinese Path to Modernization” for not only China, but also for Latin America and the world?
Dieterich: The significance of the “Chinese Path to Modernization” for Latin America and the world dwells on three central factors: First, its vertiginous success in the rapid development of the productive forces, infrastructures, and sciences, which resulted in a historic betterment of the material quality of life for hundreds of millions of people; second, the permanent efforts of the CPC to improve citizens’ rights; third, its coherent strategic vision of an improved future society.
Despite constant Western propaganda campaigns against China, slowly these three advancements are being noticed by citizens on a global scale and compared to the disastrous development of their own liberal democracies at home. A development so disastrous, that one of the leading presidential contenders of the Democratic Party for the 2024 elections, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is calling for “a peaceful revolution in the United States.”
Thus, given the deplorable state of the liberal capitalist societies of the collective West, China’s internal situation of social peace, its political stability, its enormous economic growth, and its measured world leadership role at the BRICS and SCO organizations is an illustrative example on a global scale.
As all good educators know: The greatest success in learning is always achieved by the living example of the teacher, not by his words. Thus, the brutal destruction of liberal Democratic ideology and rules-based behavior of Western democracies through constant imperialist aggression against other countries, compared with China’s peaceful and constructive model for the 21st-century human civilization, marks out China´s conduct and contributions to world affairs.
GT: From your point of view, what are the lessons that Latin American countries and other developing countries can learn from China’s development model?
Dieterich: The essential lesson is that a responsible vanguard in power must maintain an active, open, honest dialectical interaction between the governing Party, the State, and all social classes, in order to avoid the harmful elitist interests or power groups which manage to achieve the control of governance and divert the national resources toward their own particular interests, instead of using them for the public good.
That means, as China’s experience has shown, that the state and the governing forces must rigorously confront dysfunctional internal developments like corruption, social discrimination, social injustices, and class arrogance, as well as external subversive social and imperialistic penetrations through high-tech tools.
Modern science has given us a profound understanding of the systemic need for a vanguard party, the leadership, and an indispensable core leader in human societies, due to what Newton called the “center of gravity” and what in today’s complexity sciences is called an “attractor,” – that is – a power center, that can guarantee the overall coherence and stability of the national system and protect it against centrifugal dissolution tendencies.
If such an attractor does not exist, the general social system develops toward indetermination and chaos or fragmentation and departmentalization, as can currently be observed in the plutocratic and oligarchical systems of the US.
Thus, if Latin American countries and other developing countries want to emulate the achievements of the Chinese model, they must build the endogenous systemic foundations for success, which explain the secular triumph and achievements of China: In particular, a national scientifically guided transformational vanguard like the CPC.
GT: Latin America experienced a “pink wave” and the region is leaning more toward cooperation with China. What are the reasons for this phenomenon?
Dieterich: The emergence of China as a viable economic and political partner and a possible strategic alternative to the US in the governance of the new multipolar world system, has provided for some of the necessary prerequisites for the “pink” anti-imperial Latin American attitudes, which we lately observe in some countries’ governments.
The US is financially broke; economically heading toward a stagflation; divided internally by a culture and political war for power; governed by the plutocracy, financial capital, the National Rifle Association, and Big Tech; it is incapable of carrying out vitally important structural system-reforms; it has no strategic global blueprint for development; it acts in a suicidal way vis-a-vis the inevitable evolution of a polycentric world order, with new security, financial, supply, and value chains- architectures not monopolized by Western imperialism.
Thus, the US is a shadow of the imperial power it once was, with incompetent leadership-elites and no strategic clue of what its role in the future multipolar world is and can be. In essence, the empire reflects a status quo, in which there is no potential for elaborating a progressive role for a hemispheric community with shared interests.
In consequence, what projection of power, leadership, and economic development can such a country exercise in its own backyard, the Western hemisphere, where the competing Bridge and Road Initiative (BRI) with increasingly important trade, investment, and financial participation-links, is producing an ever-better road to sovereign, non-interventionist development than the US-led Western neoliberal imperialism?
Finally, Latin American countries are primarily exporters of agricultural products and raw materials, which China needs, while China exports manufactured products and infrastructure expertise with acceptable financial credit conditions and without intervention in the internal affairs of its trading partners. These are ideal basic conditions for mutually beneficial trade, commerce, and investment relationships. A solid framework for future growth of both world regions, which not only share common interests but also common values, like indiscriminate global multilateralism, non-intervention, strategic national sovereignty, and a fair, and rules-based global order on a level playing field.