Paul Jay: To what extent is there development of big power nationalism, perhaps in the armed forces, in the Chinese Communist Party itself?
Minqi Li: My own view is that, as far as China’s ruling elites are concerned, concerning China’s big capitalists, I’d say nationalism is not so much their own ideology. Their own ideology, if there is anything at all, is primarily neoliberal globalization. They’re very much identified with the hegemony. That’s reflected by official slogans, such as “China’s Peaceful Rise,” which is to send a message to the American elites that China’s rise is not going to challenge the American hegemony. That’s about China’s ruling elites. And I don’t think nationalist sentiments affect ordinary workers and peasants a lot either. It really affects China’s urban middle class a lot, what used to be known as intellectuals, who now play a crucial role in China’s capitalist development, people like managers, technicians, university professors, and other professionals, as well as college students. And most of the overseas Chinese belong to this category.
Paul Jay: Does this nationalism express itself against the US, or more against Japan and some of these other kinds of questions that are emerging?
Minqi Li: That, as I said, varies — depending on the particular person’s political stand, his point of view, it could be directed towards the US or towards Japan. Japan for some reason seems to be a common target. But depending on whether you tend to be left or right nationalist, you would be either against the US or in favor of the US.
Minqi Li is Assistant Professor at the University of Utah specializing in Political Economy, World Systems, and the Chinese Economy. He was a political prisoner in China from 1990 to 1992. He is the author of “After Neoliberalism: Empire, Social Democracy, or Socialism?” (Monthly Review 55.8, January 2004) among other articles and The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World-Economy (London: Pluto Press, forthcoming). He also translated Ernest Mandel’s Power and Money into Chinese with Meng Jie: Quanli yu Ziben (Beijing: Zhongyang Bianyi Chubanshe [The CCP Central Committee Compilation and Translation Press], 2002). This video is Part 5 of a series of Real News’ interviews with Minqi Li titled “Winners and Losers in the New China.” Part 1 of this program was released on the Web site of The Real News on 14 August 2008, Part 2 on 15 August 2008, Part 3 on 16 August 2008, Part 4 on 22 August 2008, and Part 5 on 24 August 2008. The text above is a partial transcript of Part 5.