On the Military Aspects of Chinese Imperialism


21/10/2018 by socialistfight

Discussion article by Dov Winter

Photos confirm U.S.-Chinese warships’ near-miss as experts say South China Sea encounter likely to affect allied operations in regionThe series of photos shows the Chinese warship performing what Washington called an “unsafe” maneuver during an encounter with the USS Decatur in the South China Sea on Sunday. The U.S. military said that the Chinese ship came within 45 yards (40 meters) of the American vessel’s bow, forcing the Decatur to maneuver “to prevent a collision.”

In this article I outline the figures and the dynamic behind China military’s might, and the military tension between the US and China over world domination. In this article I am illustrating that China is indeed an imperialist power.

China is challenging the US’s attempts to dominate the South China Sea. The tension between the two imperialist powers in the South China Sea almost led to the war between them:

“The latest freedom of navigation operations by the USS Decatur and its close encounter with a Chinese destroyer in the South China Sea – when the two vessels came within 41 metres of each other – have ratcheted up tensions between the United States and China. And those tensions were already high. Recently they have included US sanctions on a People’s Liberation Army research unit for procuring Russian weapons, the announcement of a US arms deal for Taiwan, [1]

Beijing’s recall of its navy chief from the US and its denial of a US Navy port visit to Hong Kong, and the cancellation of a planned high-level security dialogue.  [2]

If China is only an “advanced” semi-colony, it would not dare risking a war with the mightiest imperialist power. But China declared that it is willing to be in a war with the US to defend its imperialist “rights” for the South China Sea:

“For one, the South China Sea remains an international medium through which the global community at large enjoys freedom of passage by sea or air. Thus far, there has been no attempt by any party to impede civilian passage. That would amount to an act of aggression on international economic well-being, since an estimated one-third of the world’s shipping passes through the sea.

“This is, however, not the same for military passage. Beijing has challenged foreign military aircraft flying close to its garrisoned South China Sea features – much as, in this latest case, its destroyer’s manoeuvres challenged those of the [US] USS Decatur.

“Hence, both China and the US will most plausibly not roll back on their respective activities. The latter will continue to conduct ‘show of flag’ presence operations, including warship manoeuvres and military overflights such as a recent one by B-52 strategic bombers. Beijing will continue to militarise the sea, including staging frequent air, naval and amphibious exercises. It will continue to couch all such moves as ‘self-defensive’ responses to US military activities. [3]

Since the South China sea is much closer to China than the US, China can deploy a large chunk of its navy in the South China Sea (According to new estimates by bourgeois experts China has at this point a bigger navy than the US’s navy) Historically, this kind of posturing in the South China Sea can lead to a real full-scale war. While China tries to avoid such a war, it refuses to back down its military present in the South China Sea. So, tension is escalating in the South Pacific Sea. The US made it clear that it is willing to risk a war with China:

“Following that incident [between the US and China in the South Pacific Sea], Vice President Mike Pence warned that ‘we will not stand down.’” [4]

And China is as unyielding as the US. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said:

“’We will take necessary measures to safeguard our sovereign and security interests [in the South Pacific sea],’ he warned”. [5]

China’s firm stand in regard to the South China Sea, increases the tension between the US and China to the point that rule out any “collaboration” between China and the US for the foreseeable future:

“The Americans’ oblique salvo of sorts coincided with the beginning of the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), a five-week multilateral naval drill from which the Chinese navy was ejected as a form of protest from Washington against Beijing’s military build-up in the South China Sea.” [6]

So, the two imperialist powers are locking horns in the South China Sea. China is clearly not afraid of the US. It has plenty of lethal weapons to confront the US navy. The US can deploy only a fraction of its navy in the South China Sea (unless it is willing to abandon its imperialist bullying in places such as the Middle East), while China can deploy most of its navy that because it stations around China. China has not as of yet spread its the army widely throughout the world to defend its investments. Although this is changing. For example, China is increasing its army personal in Africa.

The economic and military conflicts between the US and China are not confined to the South China Sea. Chinese imperialism is aggressively expanding its influence in many semi-colonies. For example, China does not only speed up its investments in Africa, it has dramatically increased its military present in Africa to the point that worries the US:

“The Pentagon and US State Department are reinforcing their commitment to African security and influence amid numerous reports of stepped up Chinese military and economic incursions into the region.

“Having established a military base in Djibouti on the coast as recently as last year, China is expanding political and military influence in the region, inspiring substantial concern among US officials and prompting discussion of a stronger commitment.

“According to US senior leaders and independent think-tank assessments, China’s fast-expanding military presence [in Africa] is designed to fortify substantial political and economic influence. This phenomenon, fast on the rise, is already undermining the US presence and greatly influencing political institutions and strategy across a wide array of US-allied African nations, senior officials say.

“The Djiboutian government is about $1.5 billion in debt to Beijing, General Thomas Waldhauser, Commander of US AFRICOM, told Congress earlier this year.

“ ‘We have strategic interest there, and the Chinese have built a base just outside our gate. So it is important that we are there, that we’re present, and the African people see our commitment to their overall desires’, Waldhauser told the House Armed Services Committee this past March. ‘The African continent is a very interesting question because, first of all, there they are involved primarily all over the continent, for minerals, resources, and the like.’ [7]

If you think that China’s increasing military present is confined to Africa and not to the rest of the semi-colonies, think again! The US is very worried about China increasing military present in the semi-colonies. And despite the efforts of the two imperialist countries to avoid an all-out war between them, things can get out of control. History teaches us, that at this stage of escalating tension, a war can start, even though the capitalist politicians on both sides know the horrible consequences for the human race and the planet.

The US and China know perfectly well, that an all-out “conventional” war between them is likely to accelerate into a nuclear war. This is the main reason why the military conflict between the two countries is limited to small skirmishes, and “accidents” (and it is the reason why there was no all-out war between the US and the USSR during the cold war era). The US also has to worry about the increasing strong military alliance between China and Russia. The US sanctions against Russia strengthened the alliance between China and Russia. As a result of the alliance, Russia is sending heavy and sophisticated weapons to China.

Massive push by China toward military modernization

 In the past (First and Second World Wars, the Vietnam war) the sheer number of persons who serve in the army, played a big role in wars. These days the machinery of the army plays the decisive role. This is why the big imperialist countries reduce the number of people in the army with the so-called “modernization” of the army. Below is a graph of China’s modernization:


Congressional Research Service

As one can see from the above graph, China’s army has had a significant modernization since capitalist restoration in China. But this only made China more powerful. China still has a huge army even though the number of soldiers has shrunk. The machinery, however, combined with the sheer numbers of people in the army, makes China a powerful imperialist country that can stand up to the US.  Below is a summary of China’s different army branches:


China’s army troops are still almost twice as big as the US army troops:

“With a population of 1.3 billion to draw from, more than four times as much as the population of the US, China has over 2.3 million in active service, with an additional 1.1 million as reserves and military police”.

“The US military has about 1.4 million active service members, which represents a much lower total number of personnel, but a much higher percentage of the population engaged in the military.” [8]

“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Communist Party of China (CPC). The PLA consists of five professional service branches: the Ground ForceNavyAir ForceRocket Force, and the Strategic Support Force. Units around the country are assigned to one of five Theater commands by geographical location. It has is the world’s largest number of active duty personnel at 2,035,000 and has the the second largest defence budget.” [9]


Billed as the world’s biggest maritime war game, the biennial exercise near Hawaii and the western Pacific Ocean features US navy vessels patrolling alongside warships from 25 countries.

It is not an accident that China has the second “defense” budget in the world. This is so, because China is the second most powerful imperialist country. If China was only a subordinated semi-colony, it could not and would not stand up to the US pressure. The US is trying to have strong military presence in the South China sea for the simple reason that boil down to its attempt to stop the growth and threat from the second biggest imperialist power: China. And the American news media is completely open about it:

“The proposal [for how to defeat China in the South Pacific] for now focuses on a series of [military] operations in the Pacific, near China, but they could stretch as far as the west coast of South America where China is increasing its investments.” [10]

In one paragraph, CNN, a mouthpiece of US imperialism, blatantly describes the growing economic and military tension between the two imperialist countries! Yes, the growing military tension between the US and China is about plundering resources, and exploiting the masses in South America and the rest of the semi-colonies. China is a rising imperialist power that threatens US domination. China is not yet a military power to match the US’s domination, but it gets closer to match the US with every passing year. This is why the risks of war between the US and China is on a rise:

“Two superpowers eye each other uneasily across the Pacific—one well established after decades of Cold War conflict, the other a rising power eager to reclaim regional hegemony. . .

“Still, history shows that there is often a risk of war when a rising power challenges the ascendancy of an existing one.” [11]

I am trying to convince the comrades in Socialist Fight that China is indeed an imperialist country. In my previous article I dealt mainly with the economic and political aspects of Chinese imperialism. In this piece I dealt mostly with the military aspects of Chinese imperialism. I believe that the combined military, pollical and economic aspects, make China without a doubt the second most powerful imperialist country. Sadly, Trotskyist groups tend to trail behind objective developments. This can lead to bad political mistakes. I hope to open a serious discussion on China to avoid a continued mistake in regard to the ascent of the second most powerful imperialist power.


[1]  South China Morning Post, 02 October 2018,  America accuses Chinese warship of ‘unsafe’ manoeuvres after near collision with USS Decatur in South China Sea, China insists its actions were in accordance with law after PLA Navy warned US vessel to leave disputed waters near Spratly Islands, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/2166565/chinese-destroyer-nearly-collided-uss-decatur-after-trying-drive

[2] South China Morning Post. COLLIN KOH, 6 OCT 2018, US-CHINA TENSIONS: IS WAR THE ENDGAME IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA? A close encounter between a Chinese destroyer and the USS Decatur may have been an attempt by Beijing to keep tensions from crossing into an outright armed confrontation for which neither side is ready, https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2167154/us-china-tensions-war-endgame-south-china-sea

[3] South China Morning Post, BHAVAN JAIPRAGAS, 1 JUL 2018, SNUBBED IN WORLD’S BIGGEST WAR GAME, WILL BEIJING MAKE WAVES IN SOUTH CHINA SEA?, Twenty-six nations are engaging in the massive US-led naval exercise known as RIMPAC. And China isn’t one of them, https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2153118/snubbed-worlds-biggest-war-game-will-beijing-make-waves-south

[4] South China Morning Post, Ryan Pickrell , Oct. 18, 2018, 40 US B-52 bombers tore through the South China Sea in a power play ahead of a sit-down between the US and Chinese defense chiefs, https://www.businessinsider.com/b-52s-tear-through-south-china-sea-ahead-of-us-china-military-meeting-2018-10

[5] Ibid.

[6] SNUBBED IN WORLD’S BIGGEST WAR GAME, https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2153118/snubbed-worlds-biggest-war-game-will-beijing-make-waves-south

[7] The national Interest, Kris Osborn, August 15, 2018, The U.S. Military Is Worried About China’s Moves in Africa

The Pentagon and US State Department are reinforcing their commitment to African security and influence amid numerous reports of stepped up Chinese military and economic incursions into the region.


[8] Business Insider, Alex Lockie, Aug. 5, 2016, How the world’s largest military stacks up to the US armed forces,  https://www.businessinsider.com/chinese-us-military-comparison-2016-8

[9]People’s Liberation Army, From Wikipedia,   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Liberation_Army

[10] CNN Politics, Narbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent, October 4, 2018 , US Navy proposing major show of force to warn China, https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/03/politics/us-navy-show-of-force-china/index.html

[11] The National Interest, Sebastien Roblin, June 10, 2018, Superpower Military Showdown: China vs. America (On Land, Sea and in the Air), Which nation would win a war?, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/superpower-military-showdown-china-vs-america-land-sea-the-26217


8 thoughts on “On the Military Aspects of Chinese Imperialism

  1. Viriato says:

    This article is what the French call “mock the world”.

    If a country does not defend its coasts, its lines of communication, or the roads through which most of its trade passes, it only has to allow its enemy to get closer and closer and end up being invaded.

    The whole article gives us a lesson on China’s weapons in front of… (first of all in front of its own coasts!), in front of the ships and strategic planes of US imperialism.

    He does not talk to us about the “dangers of collision” of ships or other military forces off the US or Mexican coasts or Hawaii or elsewhere. And for good reason the Chinese ships are not there.

    On the one hand, we have a provocateur, an old fox master of aggressions and massacres, and in the other, a large developing country that is arming itself at full speed because it does not want to suffer the fate of Libya, Syria, Somalia, Kosovo, and so on, the list is too long.

    I remember that during the disputes between China and Japan over islands whose names I forgot, the Chinese established a “no-fly zone”. The US, the other day, had two armed bombers with nuclear bombs going over it… and the Chinese had to swallow this boa constrictor without being able to do anything to make “respect” the so-called no-fly zone (but not for everyone…)

    The balance of power had been recalled in a visible, blunt and probably in every possible way.

    The author aligns the Chinese boats and “explains” to us that the Chinese have a lot of them because “they are closer to their coasts than the US” You speak! A little closer, yes!

    Our friend forgot to add the Chinese fishing boats that would have allowed him to increase the number of “Chinese boats” in comparison to the “rare” US boats but full of the mos advanced attack and defense technology that circulate in these waters quite fortuitously…

    The Chinese, as things stand are forced to buy from the Russians, planes, engines, an old cuckoos that acts as an aircraft carrier after having been something else and sold by weight by the Ukrainians.

    The US has 12 carriers fleets and more.

    The US? Bases in Japan, Vietnam, Formosa, Guam, everywhere that surround China beautifully and well. And beyond that they annoy the Chinese as much as they can with repeated provocations, dubbed economic sanctions, seeking the way they coud oust the chinese of their nerves as they did with the Japanese in the past.

    The Chinese see the crystalline intentions of the US imperialists, (how can we not see it?) and arm themselves. What could be more normal if we don’t want to end up like Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein?

    Is that imperialism?

    Onot even in my dreams.

    But that this can lead to a new world war, that’s for sure. Yesterday, the Russian Defence Minister met with Xi Jiang Ping and they strengthened their military cooperation.

    Not a good sign all this, because the nature of the mission, its public side is a message… for the US. The only enemy (now more than potential, real) that can unite the different, contradictory interests of Russia and China are the US imperialists.

    And that there is an urgent need to consult and to show this concordance, therefore, that the danger is present and quite urgent to counter it.

    In short, defensive measures that I don’t know if they will work.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dov Winter says:

    In a reply to my article on China military Viriato includes more demagogy than substance. He contends that “He [Dov Winter] does not talk to us about the ‘dangers of collision’ of ships or other military forces off the US or Mexican coasts or Hawaii or elsewhere. And for good reason the Chinese ships are not there.”

    This is a straight pragmatic thinking combined with demagogy. But real life is dialectical. The rise of China military is by no means a straight line. It is normal for a delay to exist between an economic rise of a country and its military rise. Only in the last few years we have seen more Chinese deployment of its military power, for example, China sent troops to Africa. But China’s imperialism is based mainly of huge investment abroad while China keeps its growing military ships and airplanes around China. This is so: 1. Because China knows that at this point it is not a match to the military might of the US. 2. More importantly, both the US and China know that any serious war between China and the US will escalate into a nuclear war that will destroy the planet.

    The info that Viriato presents is wrong. A number of sources claim that China has at least as many ships as the US: “Last year, the Chinese Navy became the world’s largest, with more warships and submarines than the United States, and it continues to build new ships at a stunning rate.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/world/asia/china-navy-aircraft-carrier-pacific.html)

    According to another source, that is American patriotic source:

    “Although China has (modestly) more seafaring vessels than the United States, ours are on average bigger—much bigger. That is true even now that China has deployed two mid-size aircraft carriers and a number of impressive destroyers. (https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/09/10/why-china-isnt-ahead-of-the-us-navy-even-with-more-ships/) [We know that bigger is not always better!]

    “’China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,’ the new commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. Philip S. Davidson, acknowledged in written remarks submitted during his Senate confirmation process in March.

    “He described China as a ‘peer competitor’ gaining on the United States not by matching its forces weapon by weapon but by building critical ‘asymmetrical capabilities,’ including with anti-ship missiles and in submarine warfare. ‘There is no guarantee that the United States would win a future conflict with China,’ he concluded.

    “Last year, the Chinese Navy became the world’s largest, with more warships and submarines than the United States, and it continues to build new ships at a stunning rate. Though the American fleet remains superior qualitatively, it is spread much thinner.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/world/asia/china-navy-aircraft-carrier-pacific.htm0 )

    So military experts admit that China has more military ships than the US. And the top US admiral is worries about the rise of Chinese Navy. Why does a top Navy brass say that there is no guarantee that the US can win a war with China, if China was just a poor semi-colony? But I agree with the so-called experts that US navy has better quality ships than China. Yet, Viriato misses completely the main points of the article. I never contented that China is a match to US military. Life is a dialectical process not a straight line. Chinese imperialism investment abroad is much bigger than any European imperialist country and it is almost as big as the combined investments of all European countries combined (see my article on Why is China Imperialist). It took the Second-World-War to make the US the undisputed top imperialist dog. China has become only recently an imperialist country that is beginning to challenge the US. Thus, there is a natural lag between its investments abroad and the improvement of its military. But this is changing:

    “The carriers attract the most attention but China’s naval expansion has been far broader. The Chinese Navy — officially the People’s Liberation Army Navy — has built more than 100 warships and submarines in the last decade alone, more than the entire naval fleets of all but a handful of nations.

    “Last year, China also introduced the first of a new class of a heavy cruisers — or ‘super destroyers’ — that, according to the American Office of Naval Intelligence, ‘are comparable in many respects to most modern Western warships.’ Two more were launched from dry dock in Dalian in July, the state media reported.

    “Last year, China counted 317 warships and submarines in active service, compared with 283 in the United States Navy, which has been essentially unrivaled in the open seas since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. (Ibid, my emphasis)

    Viriato poopoo on China military’s capacity, changes nothing about China military rise. In a key report to Congress, the top US general are very worried about the rise of Chinese military:

    “China has been steadily building a modern and powerful navy since the early to mid-1990s. China’s navy has become a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is conducting a growing number of operations in more-distant waters, including the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe. Observers view China’s improving naval capabilities as posing a challenge in the Western Pacific to the U.S. Navy’s ability to achieve and maintain control of blue-water ocean areas in wartime— the first such challenge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the Cold War. More broadly, these observers view China’s naval capabilities as a key element of a broader Chinese military challenge to the long-standing status of the United States as the leading military power in the Western Pacific.” (https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33153.pdf my emphasis)

    Why do the top US admirals are worried about China’s military challenge to the US? And why the top admirals write a report to Congress that: “China’s navy has become a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is conducting a growing number of operations in more-distant waters, including the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe.”? (Ibid) Are the top military brass in the US is so stupid to dramatically overestimate China military strength? The problem with many leftists is that like typical petty bourgeois people, they are incapable to view things objectively. They live in the past, when China was a workers’ state that needed to be defended by revolutionaries. They are arrogant about a position that they are incapable to defend. Viriato is a good example of such people.



    • Viriato says:

      The problem with the NYT and the senators and the admirals is that all works for the military US companies. And a big part of US economy goes with the military complex. Some autoritative publicity is very much needed.

      It is posible that the chinese could match the US near their coasts, I don’t know but is possible because they are nearer (façon de dire…). Could anyone say what it is exactly?

      Not the ones who are longing for new and rich contracts comming from the US Congrès, nor the chiefs militaries that are alwways looking for new arms and thinking in some lucrative posts when they retired, nor the NYT which is in some way (a long way) representing the interest of the companies that make billions selling their parafernalia.

      China is surrounded by US military bases and the US has more fleets and their technology is more advanced that the chinese.

      If I were a chief military (which I am not, only and old inmigrant worker), and if I was in number or techincal inferiority, I won’t dare to go close to a country with such might and provoque it almost daily.

      No need to write pages and pages, it is a question of pure logic.

      If “China is not a match” then if they want to be an imperialist country, they are still far from it, or they “need” the authorisation of the main imperialism in the world.

      And it is not going to give it wihtout a fight.

      One thing is the willing (la volonté) another is the beeing (l’être). China bourgeois ,surely, want to be imperialists and they are working for.

      Are they? No of course, not yet.

      The hairs are falling but the man is not yet bald.

      Sorry for the english.


  3. Dov Winter says:

    If anyone still doubt China’s increasing military presence in the semi-colonies to defend its investments, just read the capitalist press. I don’t see a reason why it has to lie about it:

    “For decades, China’s presence in Africa has largely focused on economic, commercial and peacekeeping activities. Now, Beijing is building on that by establishing greater military links to protect its national assets on the continent and gain greater geopolitical influence.

    “The People’s Liberation Army conducts regular joint training exercises across the region and, in certain countries that are home to major Chinese infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road initiative, the communist state has been especially active.

    “In Djibouti, where Chinese companies have constructed strategic ports and Africa’s first electric transnational railway, Beijing last year formally launched its first overseas military base, which also operates as a logistics and intelligence facility. Many experts now anticipate more Chinese bases in the years to come, with Namibia rumored as a potential location.

    “Meanwhile in Tanzania, where the state-run conglomerate China Merchants Holdings International is hoping to invest in the Bagamoyo mega port, China built a complex designed to train local armed forces earlier this year. And, at the first-ever China-Africa Defense and Security Forum in Beijing on Tuesday, the communist state announced it will provide African countries with “comprehensive support” on matters such as piracy and counter-terrorism. That includes providing technologies, equipment, personnel and strategic advice, local media reported.” (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/27/china-increases-defence-ties-with-africa.html)


  4. John says:

    If that makes China imperialist, how about the USSR under Stalin? Not just that they “dared to stand up” to Nazi Germany, and even beat the Nazis, but how about the USSR’s post-WWII behavior before the bloc with the US and Britain totally collapsed? Such as requesting that Libya become a Soviet colony? Formally speaking, that’s a lot more “imperialist” than anything the Chinese are guilty of.

    Imperialism is the highest stage of monopoly-finance capitalism. In China the banks serve the Communist Party government, unlike most of the rest of the world where it’s the other way around.



  5. stephenrdiamond says:

    So, do those comrades who think China is capitalist maintain that in the era of imperialist decline, a capitalist country can lift hundreds of millions of the masses out of dire poverty?

    Additionally, do those who say China is imperialist contend that imperialism, ever, could admit a country with 1/4 of the world’s population to the small, parasitic coterie of imperialist powers?


  6. stephenrdiamond says:


    I think Dov’s claim is that given that China is deemed capitalist, its huge military makes it imperialist. He agrees that Stalin’s Russia was a workers state.


  7. jholmes says:

    That’s correct, and I suppose China being capitalist could well be the Socialist Fight position, I don’t know. But given that everything Dov describes would be perfectly supportable if China were a perfectly healthy workers state with full workers democracy, indeed a fine way to help Africa develop and give African countries a way to get out from under Western imperial thumbs, it is really rather bizarre.


Leave a Reply to Dov Winter Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

%d bloggers like this: