Sarah Raymundo, Marcos Jr. Presidency: A Long View

For three decades, contemporary public discourse on the Philippines has been marked by reference to a period called the “post-Marcos era.” Weeks after a high-stakes national election, that widely-accepted historical marker is suddenly obsolete.

What makes its obsolescence possible is the rehabilitation of the Marcos political dynasty to the highest position of power with Ferdinand Marcos Jr. being proclaimed as the seventeenth president of the Republic on May 25, 2022 in the fastest vote count in Philippine electoral history.

Marcos Jr. won the presidency by a landslide 31,629,783 votes–over 16 million votes ahead of second-place opposition candidate, incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo. Independent poll watchers Kontra Daya (Against Fraud) and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) International Observer Mission (IOM), however, report, with evidence, that the 2022 polls were “marred by fraud and irregularities,” from vote buying to red tagging; from machine malfunctions to massive disinformation.1

For many progressives including BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan/New Patriotic Alliance), the face of the Left in the Philippine legal mass movement, a Marcos win in the 2022 elections means a continuation of a failed Duterte leadership. As a semi-colony of United States imperialism and host to the plunderous and expansionist ventures of China, the Duterte ruling clique has plunged the nation into a crisis worse than its previous experience of economic decline, unbridled corruption, widespread hunger, severe unemployment, and wholesale surrender of sovereignty.

To portray the Marcos Jr. win as a “Marcos revival” is only part of a larger picture. It does not capture the permanent crisis brought about by the legacies of colonialism in its past and present forms. To see through the farce, a historical understanding of the tragedy that was the original Marcos dictatorship and a political-economic approach to the nature of oligarchic politics in its consolidated and fractured forms at different historical junctures is in order.

The fortunes of the local Philippine oligarchy and the protracted struggle against it cannot be divorced from US global imperialism in general and US militarism in particular. As evidenced by the Pacific war theatre mounted by the inter-imperialist war between Japan and the US during WWII and the current rivalry between the US and China, the Philippine oligarchy plays a crucial role in the reproduction of a Philippine economy that absorbs the crisis of unequal exchange or the drain of value from the periphery to the imperialist core.

The role of the local oligarchy in the periphery is to ensure that the political and economic structure of the transfer of wealth from the periphery to the imperialist center is stable and secure. Thus, the local oligarchy as broker of unequal exchange is obliged to embrace the modalities of US global militarism—from armament sales to military control of populations. The current iteration of this relationship is the implementation of counterinsurgency—a central governing scheme among the local ruling oligarchy.

Colonialism and the making of the local oligarchy

The Marcos-Duterte tandem represents the most recent consolidation of political dynasties comprising a powerful faction of the Philippine oligarchy. The victory of the deposed dictator’s son is largely characterized by news reports and analyses as an “overwhelming landslide win.” An exclusively quantitative and narrow definition of fraud mutes the role that elections play in a sovereign nation that is still haunted by a perennial agrarian-national question. An inquiry into political leadership can only take these crucial questions into account.

In his study of The Modern Principalia,” political scientist Dante Simbulan traces the evolution of the Philippine ruling oligarchy from Spanish colonial rule to US imperialism.2 Simbulan’s analysis locates behavioral patterns and attitudes of elites and masses within the context of a semi-colonial and semi-feudal agrarian economic organization—a manifestation of the enduring influences of feudal structures under colonialism.

The consolidation of Spanish political control was based on a colonial imposition of the encomienda system. This system allowed loyal and deserving encomenderos to own vast tracts of land and collect tribute from the indios or natives who lived within the area. Their methods of extraction and punishment were brutal with the goal of crushing any manifestation of native resistance. The official doctrine of counterinsurgency is as old as colonialism, which has no other objective other than the total subjugation of Filipinos under foreign rule.

The brutal conquest of the barangays3 on a national scale meant the recruitment of the ruling datus (chieftains) to constitute the principalia. This elite class comprised a cacique bureaucracy under Spanish rule. This privileged group became loyal agents of the Spanish colonial administration and were tasked with collecting tributes from their respective barangays. Unlike in the old dispensation, the cabeza (head) de barangay is now expected to surrender the tributes to the encomenderos. The latter imposed quotas on tributes, which drove the cabezas to collect more than they should in anticipation of shortages. 4

The current infrastructure of state repression and bureaucratic corruption is traceable to and founded on these colonial conditions.

A rupture from Spanish colonialism took root in the Propaganda Movement (late nineteenth century) led by the “alienated intellectual members of the principalia”5 who had studied in Europe. Stirred by liberal currents abroad, these young elite propagandists came back to the country demanding reforms from their Spanish colonizers. But what they got was a revolution from fellow Filipinos led by the Katipunan whose working-class leaders like Andres Bonifacio were deeply inspired by the Propaganda movement.

As the first national revolution in the Asian region to defeat a western colonizing power, the 1896 Katipunan Revolution inspired the development of revolutionary anti-colonial consciousness throughout Asia.

Tracing US Counterinsurgency

Anglo-American interests already dominated local trade and agriculture in the early 1800s. By 1898, as the Spanish colonial regime began to crumble and with the ascendancy of US imperialism in the Pacific, the anti-colonial and anti-feudal revolution gained more traction even among the caciques. They became latecomers in what was a process of national consolidation. The same elites quickly changed their political standpoint once the US showed capability to crush the Philippine Republic. From the Spanish-American war to the ghastly atrocities of the American colonial war on the Filipino people, a rich history of imperialist aggression and revolutionary resistance ensued.6

The Filipino principalia that developed during Spanish colonialism easily adapted to US imperialist interests. With its professional, military and bureaucratic services fully aligned with American colonial administration and its vision for a US-dominated post-colonial era, the principalia was modernized through education and training. 7

But what truly separates American rule from its Spanish predecessor is its process of state formation through military entrenchment. From the Commonwealth to the Republic of the Philippines, state formation was administered by military figures like Douglas MacArthur and William Taft. American colonial rule placed counterinsurgency at the heart of Philippine bureaucratic governance with land-owning caciques reaping the rewards of colonial collaboration, including a whole formal and informal army protecting their feudal estates and political power. This was matched by the formation of peasant unions that clinched an alliance among organized workers and anti-imperialist intellectuals.

The sharpened conditions of class war eventually led to the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines under Crisanto Evangelista and the Huks or the guerrillas that fought the anti-Japanese resistance in the 1940s. The Huks developed into a revolutionary anti-imperialist army that ignited revolutionary nationalism until it was crushed by US Counterinsurgency.

In 1953, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), through Air Force Colonel Edward Landsdale, partnered with Filipino CIA asset Ramon Magsaysay to crush the Huks in the name of “democracy.” Magsaysay’s rise to presidency and his title as “father of democracy” fits America’s infrastructure of war that relied on a partnership between US counterinsurgency and oligarchic bureaucrats. The brutal liquidation of the Huks through covert operations would not have been completed without the reinforcements contributed by General MacArthur, who mobilized the Filipino oligarchs who had collaborated with the Japanese to now work for the new American dispensation.8

The Philippines position as the most crucial anchor for US hegemony in Southeast Asia was first tested and proven by the success of the Landsdale-Magsaysay covert operations.

Contending forces

Historians have come to speak of “the long 1960s,” as the decades following WWII witnessed a radicalization that was founded on the strong global wave of Marxist-inspired national liberation struggles, which reached an apex in the 1970s. These years were marked by massive political actions—both radical and reactionary—in various parts of the world. In the Philippines, the re-establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968, followed by the founding of the New People’s Army (NPA) in 1969 in Central Luzon, and the Bangsa Moro Army-led Muslim separatist movement in Mindanao became threats to US interests and a section of the local oligarchy represented by Ferdinand Marcos, whose presidency lasted from 1965-1986.

A competing faction of the ruling elite represented by Benigno Aquino became the face of mainstream opposition that complemented the revolutionary anti-imperialist and separatist movements. On parallel grounds, these forces assailed imperialist interests and challenged the conduct of oligarchic governance in the country.

This history shows that the twenty-year Marcos rule was neither an exception nor a self-contained phenomenon. It was a logical outcome of the US Counterinsurgency State’s organizing and subsidizing a faction of the oligarchy to contain counter-hegemonic forces in the post-war period touted as Pax Americana. American peace meant the constant sabotage of any program for national liberation and self-determination from the Katipunan, the Huks, the NPAs, and the Bangsa Moro struggle through various regimes from Aguinaldo (1899) to Duterte (2022).

The evolution of the Philippine oligarchy is intertwined with the history of the continuing US military control of the Philippines. Military control in this sense is not only a set of military agreements that allowed for US bases to be located on Philippine soil, and that now allows for US arms supply to the Philippine army and US troops to train with Filipino soldiers on Philippine soil. The project of US global hegemony that reached Philippine shores in the late 19th century is intertwined with the history of capitalist accumulation from its free market to monopoly phase.9

US-led global militarism is both a partner and outcome of the capitalist system’s reliance on the military sector for the regulation of its own crisis-ridden business cycles. To accumulate profits amidst systemic economic crisis, US imperialism promotes counterinsurgency as a permanent state policy. This entails the continued recruitment of Filipino bureaucrats from oligarchic families who will ensure the stability of unequal exchange and US global militarism through the implementation of counterinsurgency.

The Marcos ouster in 1986 is a product of internal contradictions that led to the weakening of a US-backed Marcos oligarchy by the broad united front that pushed for democratization against dictatorship. This broad democratic force flowed from the national democratic movement’s organizing of the peasant-worker alliance and sectoral formations of patriotic and democratic citizens. Aimed at genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization, the national liberation struggle in the Philippines sought to fight and defeat the Marcos dictatorship because full democratization of Philippine society is the basis and condition for solving the persistent agrarian-national question.

From the perspective of taming global conflict, the US hand in the ouster of Marcos was well within the mechanics of American capitalist business cycle and global militarism. At this juncture, rivalry between the US and the former Soviet Union, defined by the threats of all-out militarism and mutual nuclear destruction had receded as the respective economies were being, for the moment, “civilianized.”10 The world was in the early phase of neoliberal globalization during which the production of information technology instead of global war was posed as a primary driver of the capitalist business cycle. The optimism about independent democratization of former colonies and the ascendancy of civil society and NGO politics temporarily prevailed, all of which sat well with the buzzwords of the post-Marcos era, “civil society, democratization, voluntarism.”  However, the US war on the former Yugoslavia, the permanent US-Israel war on Palestine, the series of all-out war policy and counterinsurgency inflicted on communist and Bangsamoro forces and the US “war on terror” after 9-11 rendered liberal optimism baseless.

Counterinsurgency and the Marcos-Duterte Victory

The Marcos-Duterte electoral victory speaks of the rottenness of a political system dominated by oligarchs and the ascendancy of US Counterinsurgency in Philippine politics. In such a setting where a small number of families, borne out of colonial and imperialist impositions on Philippine society, reproduce themselves through the flagrant use of guns, goons, gold, massive disinformation, all in the name of crushing all forms of opposition through counterinsurgency, no meaningful reforms can be achieved even with the recent party-list system that was enacted to give voice to the common people.

The systematic sabotage of oppositional politics includes a systematic repression by state agencies under the direction of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The NTF-ELCAC was formed in 2018 after Duterte scuttled the Royal Norwegian Government-assisted peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Chaired by Duterte himself, the NTF-ELCAC is the mechanism by which the Executive Order 70 or the institutionalization of the Whole-of-Nation Approach (WNA) is implemented. The NTF-ELCAC for which a budget of 16 billion was allocated in 2021 and 28 billion in 2022 is an adoption of the US Whole-of-Nation Approach. In an article that troubleshoots the US WNA as applied in four case studies, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Mindanao (a major island in the Philippines), it is stated that in the era of globalization, US foreign policy is dominated by “attempts to bring peace and stability in conflict-plagued areas.”11

The NTF-ELCAC, implemented under the WNA principles, systematically targets and persecutes critics of the Duterte regime through red tagging and by labeling the New People’s Army a network of citizens purportedly supporting “communist terrorist groups.” This totalizing state-led political vilification has led the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to critique practice of red-tagging” that is used to scale up state responses for “countering terrorism and conflicts” alongside “key national security laws and policy and their acute impact on civil society, including human rights organizations, lawyers, political and judicial actors, journalists, trade unionists, church groups and others.”12

The Marcos-Duterte tandem represents the worst brand of oligarchic politics and abuse of power. Their victory is a product of fraudulent elections resulting from a sustained disinformation drive to change the narrative about the Marcos dictatorship. This victory is a result of the Commission on Elections that is by no means independent and biased in favor of the Marcos-Duterte tandem. The non-transparent characteristic of the automated voting system makes it vulnerable to fraud. This victory is also enabled by the massive use of funds stolen by the Marcoses as well as the funds and resources from the incumbent Duterte regime. Support from other factions of big business and former governing elite factions like presidents Joseph Estrada (ousted in 2000) and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was abundantly showcased during the electoral campaign.


The opposition that lost in this election had to face the formidable power of political dynasties converging as one oligarchic clique— Marcos-Estrada-Macapagal Arroyo-Duterte, all of whom followed the US Counterinsurgency playbook to maintain the hegemony of unequal exchange and global militarism as they amass wealth and power domestically. Marcos Jr. is the new agent in this long history of state subservience to imperialism. But Robredo’s 15 million votes is neither a small number nor does it emerge from a narrow vote origin. The Kakampink Movement for a Robredo presidency is a breakthrough in building a broad united front against tyranny.

The militant labor federation, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, May One Movement) made an unprecedented move of endorsing Robredo and Pangilinan and spearheading a broad alliance of workers under the banner of “Workers for Leni” (Robredo). The endorsement of the left-wing party-list coalition known as Makabayan for opposition presidential and vice-presidential candidates Leni Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan was met with enthusiastic engagement by activists across many social sectors. When massive crowds began to gather for the Robredo rallies across the country showing the organic support amassed by the leading opposition, Robredo and her team instantly became the target of Duterte’s red tagging. Denying malicious associations being made between himself and Robredo, NDFP Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Maria Sison in a post-election interview avers:

To their credit, the forces of the Robredo-Pangilinan tandem, the entire conservative opposition, the patriotic and democratic forces, the Christian and Muslim organizations and the broad masses of the people denounced the crimes of the Marcoses and Dutertes before and during the electoral campaign and gathered the largest electoral rallies that dwarfed those of the Marcos-Duterte tandem. The sheer size of the fake avalanche vote for this tandem is being used by the enemy to undermine the political strength and confidence of the masses.13

The mass organizations under the banner of BAYAN representing the militant national democratic left held a protest action on the presidential proclamation of Marcos Jr. on May 25, 2022, with “Marcos, Itakwil!” (Reject Marcos!) as the marching slogan. They were met with police violence, pushed and hit with police shields and pummeled with two water canon tanks. But they stood their ground and asserted the right to protest. The patriotic and democratic forces are determined to reject a Marcos presidency.

The broad united front against the Duterte-Marcos tandem that took shape in the Left’s melding with the Kakampink Movement is historic, broad, and unprecedented. But what is to be done now?

Asked about the practical application of creativity in political organizing, Sison responds:

“…the organized masses must be mobilized to engage the unorganized masses according to their common and specific interests. There must be a united front within every class and within every sector and there must be also a broad united front embracing all the oppressed and exploited classes and sectors and taking advantage of the contradictions among the reactionary classes in order to isolate and defeat the enemy at every given time.” 14

The Marcos revival in Philippine politics is a historic event. The passage of time and resonance of this event has made it so. During the dark years of the Marcos dictatorship, people lived and many died defending rights without the rights enshrined in the1987 Constitution to protect them. The prospect of living a better life under a Marcos Jr. presidency is dim. But the history of oligarchic politics and counterinsurgency in this country is a legacy of colonialism and a modality of imperialism that was fought and defeated albeit incompletely by past and present struggles for national liberation and social justice in different parts of the Global South. Now, more than ever, getting organized and a tighter grip on anti-imperialist and anti-fascist struggle is the strongest defense we need; and it is all we have after losing to the son of a dictator.



2 Dante Simbulan, The Modern Principalia: The Historical Evolution of the Philippine Oligarchy (Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press, 2005).

3 A barangay is a political structure based on kinship system. Organized around a family-government structure, the barangay was made up of thirty to 100 families (Simbulan, The Modern Principalia, 14-15).

4 Simbulan, The Modern Principalia, 17-19.

5 Simbulan, The Modern Principalia, 30.

6 See Cedric J. Robinson, “The American Press and the Repairing of the Philippines” in Cedric J. Robinson: On Racial Capitalism, Black Internationalism and Cultures of Resistance, ed. H.L.T. Quan (London: Pluto Press 2019), 195-208.

7 Robinson,  “The American Press and the Repairing of the Philippines,” 197.

8 Robinson,  “The American Press and the Repairing of the Philippines,” 198.

9 A compelling theorization of globalized militarism in relation to value flows and profit accumulation through nuclear and military production and distribution is in Peter Custers, Questioning Globalized Militarism: Nuclear and Military Production and Critical Economic Theory. (New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2007).

10 Custers, Questioning Global Militarism, 1-2.

11 Brett Doyle, “Lessons on Collaborations from Recent Conflicts: The Whole-of-Nation and Whole-of-Government Approaches in Action in InterAgency Journal Vol. 10, No. 1, 2019 (Kansas: Arthur G.Simons Center for Interagency Cooperation) 105-122.

12 In “Situation of Human Rights in the Philippines, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights”

13 Interview between the author and Jose Maria Sison, May 22, 2022

14 Interview between the author and Jose Marisa Sison, October1, 2021.

Pun Ngai, China’s Infrastructural Capitalism: The Making of a Chinese Working Class

Published on May Day, to celebrate workers of the world


Entering history, entering movement. This paper is a political project. It sketches a larger plan for writing about China’s infrastructural capitalism and the making of the Chinese working class. This project emerges from a revitalization of the leftist movement that occurred in the wake of the Jasic labor rights struggle (2018). The valiant efforts of the Jasic technology workers and their supporters to fight union-busting and the oppression of laborers helped inspire a rebirth of global Marxism that attempts to confront the failure of the first wave of socialist movements, global capitalism’s subsequent neo-liberal turn, and the current populist regression. This project is situated at that historical conjuncture and within the legacy of China’s modern revolutions. Since the 1920s, China’s working masses have expressed their firm belief in class struggle and fought for a Marxist vision of communism. As part of a global effort to prepare for the imminent wave of new emancipatory movements, we also locate our project in global anti- capitalist movements while we also attempt to overcome the parochial and nationalistic approach of actually existing Chinese Marxism.

We are a group of instructors and students. We argue that Chinese capitalism has already entered a new age of monopoly capital. It is not only supported by new developments in high technology but, more importantly, by increasingly authoritarian state power, which has been instrumental in constructing the infrastructural base – such as building projects, new economic zones, highways and high-speed railways, digital platforms and logistics, etc., both internally and externally – in order to reproduce expanded capitalism, resulting in fierce imperialist battles among global powers. We conceptualize this historical process as “infrastructural capitalism,” which vividly embodies the materiality of expanded capitalism and its inherent crises, ruptures and cleavages, within which new class struggles can take root.


Is a leftist radical movement against capitalism possible in contemporary China? At a time when the power of the state looks totalizing, and the success of any leftist movement appears more distant than ever, we anticipate that the potential for such a movement is always present within China’s growing capitalist crisis. The origin of this project, conceived as a weapon of criticism, emerges at a critical juncture in Chinese capitalism and resistance from the student-worker alliance that came to be widely known as the Jasic struggle (Pun 2021).

The unionising campaign by the workers and radicalised students, who openly identified with Marxism and Maoism, took a radical direction not seen in recent decades in confronting capital and the state. The sudden outburst that brought the student radicals onto the political stage in 2018 first elicited puzzlement. They demonstrated an entirely different face compared to China’s migrant labour movement, whose political and ideological orientation was shaped by a predominantly liberal or reformist outlook in civil society and academia. The migrant labour movement had received support from international agencies since the early 2000s, support that grounded the movement’s liberal approach and ultimately overshadowed the richness and complexity of indigenous political struggles in China, especially by suggesting that the struggles of the present were disconnected from the generations of radical struggles that had come before.   

The significance of the current emergence of student-worker radicalism has been the subject of intense political debate within the labour movement and the progressive left in China and abroad. It is easy to treat their radicalism as an aberration from the otherwise liberal mainstay of the labour movement. However, this is to miss the lineage of such radicalism, which can be traced back to the first generation of Chinese communists in the early twentieth century. The Jasic alliance’s explicit positioning as Marxists in that lineage posited a threat to the actually existing official Marxism of the current Communist party, by exposing how the self-proclaimed socialist state no longer stands for the interests of the working class (Andreas 2008; Karl 2020).

It is this critical Marxist tradition that we seek to unearth. We rely on classical Marxist theories meant for grasping the revolutionary potential of the working masses. We do not fantasise a bright future, as we are facing a very stifled and tense political atmosphere due not simply to attacks from an increasingly authoritarian state, but also to the setbacks faced by the emergent radical labour activism. This left-wing labour activism, while inexperienced, has shown its determination to challenge Chinese and global capitalism and the new conflicts among the existing and emerging imperialist states.


We define the contemporary moment of Chinese capitalism as infrastructural capitalism. It is characterised by the transition from competitive capitalism to a stage of monopoly capital and emerging imperialist rivalry, as well as a state-led attempt to escape the crisis dynamics deepened by the Great Recession of 2008-2009. For many years now, the Chinese state has been dealing with declining growth rates and the proliferation of social conflicts, despite its rapid rebound in the pandemic period.

We posit that Chinese capitalism has entered a new age of monopoly capital. It is not only supported by new developments in high technology, but more importantly, by an increasing populist or authoritarian state power. State power has been instrumental in constructing infrastructures (Xiang and Lindquist 2014; Lin et al. 2017), especially building projects and new economic zones overseas covering regions in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and others in order to reproduce expanded capitalism, leading to fierce intra-imperialist battles. We strive to understand the features of this new Chinese capitalism as part of the deepening process of global capitalism.

With “infrastructural capitalism”, we conceptualise a form of capitalism built fundamentally on the production of physical and digital infrastructures, either spearheaded by or aided significantly by the Chinese state (Pun and Chen 2022). This concept encompasses both the concrete infrastructures of road, cities, high-speed rail, and logistics transportation – itself linked to extractive capital in China and overseas — and their intersections with digital infrastructures of e-commerce and the platform economy that increasingly take advantage of built as well as human infrastructures (Larkin 2013).

Often condemned as distorting state spending and antithetic to the functioning of a market economy, infrastructure is foundational to the deepening of China’s capitalist development. At stake in infrastructural capitalism is the material base underlying all other forms of capitalist materiality, namely extractive capitalism (Mezzadra, S., & Neilson, 2019), industrial capitalism (Braverman, 1998), and digital capitalism (Fuchs and Mosco, 2015). Metaphorically, infrastructural capitalism also provides symbolic power capable of exhibiting spectacular landscapes and prophesizing a nationalistic or imperialistic future of humanity. Increasingly, Chinese infrastructural capitalism takes on an international dimension. The One Belt One Road initiatives are a broad umbrella under which Chinese private and state capital export excessive productive capacity and build up infrastructures in other developing economies to secure resource extraction. In the process, those economies and their labour relations are reconfigured.

The recent process of intensifying infrastructural development also accentuated a series of social contradictions and class conflicts in China. First and foremost, infrastructural development is dependent on land dispossession. For much of the last three decades, land disputes over dispossession (and the corrupted processes associated with them) have been among the most widespread and violent cause and type of struggle in China. Second, infrastructural construction has consistently led to labour abuse through subcontracting and wage theft, sparking recurring construction worker protests. Third, a high level of government debt has accumulated in financing infrastructural development, including high-speed rail construction and others – this is a ticking bomb for the future Chinese economy. These contradictions have not been resolved and are likely to be amplified in the coming period as Chinese capitalism continues to rely on similar methods and mechanisms for infrastructural development. 

This new Chinese and global configuration of infrastructural capitalism serves to produce the dispossession, extraction and exploitation of the working class and the peasantry in the service of capital valorisation and concentration in the age of monopoly capitalism. As monopoly capitalism is sustained through global infrastructural projects, the new modernity it creates is far from “all that is solid melts into air;” rather it is as solid as a rock and it will undergird the explosions from the working class in the future.


We are not simply interested in conceptualising the form of Chinese capitalism from the standpoint of power from above. We are fundamentally concerned with understanding the infrastructural base of labour struggles under a new form of Chinese capitalism – the very base of capitalism in its deepening phase since the 2000s. The questions of working-class formation and re-formation, and of labour organising, cannot be answered in the abstract but have to be understood in the context of the rapid configuration of Chinese infrastructural capitalism.

Our project is not anchored with a contemporary or linear temporality. We link up not simply with the classic Marxist theories which work tenaciously to transgress the chains of capitalism, but also with the history of the Chinese Revolution, in which blood and tears were shed to break the chains that were fettering the working class and the peasantry. As the current resistance against infrastructural capitalism is embedded firmly in the legacy of China’s Revolution, any understanding of the Chinese working class needs also to be rooted in China’s revolutionary past. That past provides not only the possibility and the opportunity to imagine transgressing the capitalist mode of life, but it also offers historical examples in which the working masses fought against capitalism and imperialism (Lin 2013; Karl 2020). Igniting this revolutionary past might enrich the theoretical development of a new movement to analyse contemporary capitalism and its crises. The past and future are connected through this rewriting in the present, with the rewriting firmly re-rooted in global Marxism. Reworking Chinese Marxism, by stripping away its parochial and nationalistic understandings of revolution, and by reconnecting it to the circuit of global Marxism, could reintegrate contemporary Chinese Marxism back into a global anti-capitalist project.

In this project, we suggest a tripartite infrastructural organizing base: worker-controlled trade unions at the workplace, workers’ centres in the industrial community, and solidarity networks at vocational training colleges. Needless to say, like the Jasic struggle, the formation of trade unions, based on workers’ power but with students’ support, might withstand efforts to strike them down because capital-labour conflicts continue to be centred in the workplace. We perceive that worker centres in the industrial zones and communities continue to have radical potential, organising issues around social reproduction as well as forming mutual support groups among working class families. Vocational training colleges – the major sites for reproducing new worker-subjects for almost half of China’s youth population – will emerge as new experimentation platforms for “learning to labour.” These will contain the potential for formations of radical solidarity, education, and networks. Female attendants on the high-speed train, digital laborers at Alibaba web-stores, and logistics workers in packaging and shipment companies such as Cainiao all come from vocational training colleges. Workplace, community, and vocational training colleges are thus three pillars for the combination of workers’ power, and all three pillars are rooted and re-territorialized in infrastructural capitalism and can therefore produce and foreground working class struggles in the sphere of production and social reproduction.

A new epoch of Chinese infrastructural capitalism has signified a new dynamic of capitalist crisis, state repression, and grassroots resistance. As a new force of Chinese Marxist leftists – committed to engaging in the labour movement – emerged, they immediately faced an onslaught, and suffered a brave but tragic fate. It is in this context that we are compelled to embark on this project on labour and infrastructural capitalism, aiming to provide the praxis of a newly emerged and emergent leftist force with theoretical interpellation and critical analysis. Propelled by the desires and the necessities of working-class struggles, we are not alone; we stand with you, the Chinese working class – as part of the global left and global working class.

PUN Ngai, Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University



Andreas, J. (2008). “Changing colours in China.” New Left Review, 54(Nov–Dec), 123-142.

Braverman, H. (1998). Labor and monopoly capital: The degradation of work in the twentieth century. NYU Press.

Fuchs, C., & Mosco, V. (2015). Marx in the age of digital capitalism. Brill.

Karl, R. E. (2020). China’s Revolutions in the Modern World: A Brief Interpretive History. Verso.

Larkin, B. (2013). The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure. Annual Review of Anthropology 42 (1):327–43.

Lin, Chun. (2013). China and global capitalism: Reflections on Marxism, history, and contemporary politics. Springer.

Lin, W., Lindquist, J., Xiang, B., & Yeoh, B. S. (2017). “Migration infrastructures and the production of migrant mobilities.” Mobilities, 12(2), 167-174.

Mezzadra, S., & Neilson, B. (2019). The politics of operations: Excavating contemporary capitalism. Duke University Press.

Pun, N. (2021). “Turning left: student-worker alliance in labour struggles in China.” Globalizations, 18(8), 1392-1405.

Pun, N., & Chen, P. (2022). “Confronting global infrastructural capitalism: the triple logic of the ‘vanguard’ and its inevitable spatial and class contradictions in China’s high-speed rail program.” Cultural Studies, 1-22. Online first.

Xiang, B., & Lindquist, J. (2014). Migration infrastructure. International Migration Review, 48(1), 122-148.

Hongwei Bao, Is a Queer Friendly Beijing Olympics Possible? 

This essay looks back upon China’s LGBTQ culture around the 2008 Summer Olympics to reflect upon its contemporary gender and sexual politics around the 2022 Winter Olympics. 

On 14 February 2009, on the newly renovated Qianmen Street near Tiananmen in central Beijing, a ‘same-sex wedding’ was taking place. A gay couple and a lesbian couple were taking wedding photos in public in front of strangers. The scene attracted the attention of many curious passers-by. Some volunteers distributed flowers to the onlookers and wished them a happy Valentine’s Day. A small film crew followed the photo shoots and also interviewed the passers-by about their attitudes toward LGBTQ people and same-sex marriage. Although some interviewees expressed concern or even objection to the idea of same-sex marriage, most people interviewed seemed supportive of LGBTQ people and their rights. The atmosphere was relaxed and the conversations were good-humored. There were security guards standing nearby but no police intervention occurred. The event was later covered by national and international media including China Daily, China’s official English-language newspaper.[1] The Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolitan Weekly reported the event with an eye-catching news headline: ‘Same-Sex Wedding in Beijing: From Underground to the Street’ highlighting the historical significance of the event.


A same-sex wedding in Beijing, 2009 (Photo Courtesy of Fan Popo)


It was later revealed that the scene mentioned above was a piece of performance art in the ‘flash mob’ form of activism organized by Tongyu (‘Common Language’), a queer organization based in Beijing. This has been considered a milestone event in China’s LGBTQ history, epitomizing a glocalized form of queer activism that is flexible, contingent, culturally sensitive and that does not have to follow the Western LGBTQ Pride paradigm.[2] The documentary that recorded the event, New Beijing, New Marriage, co-directed by Fan Popo and David Zheng, also became a landmark film in Chinese queer cinema, exemplifying a performative mode of documentary, what I call the ‘theatre documentary convergence’.[3] More importantly, the film captured the optimism and creative energy within China’s LGBTQ communities in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The film’s reference to the Olympics could not have been clearer: the film title New Beijing, New Marriage was a tongue-in-cheek parody of the 2008 Olympics slogan ‘New Beijing, New Olympics’. The filmmakers also asked in the film synopsis: did the freshly branded ‘New Beijing’ also bring about ‘new concepts’ about love and marriage?[4]

There are positive and negative things to be said about the 2008 historical juncture. In hindsight, it was an era marked by openness and an undogmatic way of doing things. Having successfully joined the World Trade Organization and escaped the global financial crisis, China was eager to show to the world an open image, and the Olympic Games became a good way for such a showcase. For many LGBTQ people, it was a time full of hope and optimism. Although not legally recognized by the Chinese government, LGBTQ people were nonetheless able to set up grassroots organizations and conduct rights-based activism, often under the disguise of HIV/AIDS intervention or women’s rights. In 2008 alone, some key community organizations with national impacts were established, including the Beijing LGBT Centre, China Independent Queer Film Tour, PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) China, and Chinese Lala/Lesbian Alliance. In the same year, the community zine Friend celebrated its tenth anniversary, and Cui Zi’en’s documentary about queer community history, Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China, was completed. I attended the film’s premiere in Songzhuang, an artist and filmmaker’s community near Beijing, in November 2008. No one said doing things was easy back then: queer filmmakers and activists had to constantly negotiate with often idiosyncratic political control and media censorship. But it was still possible to do things, and there seemed endless possibilities and creative energy at the time.

Fourteen years later, in 2022, we are living in a different world, not least because of the raging COVID-19 pandemic and the escalating war in Europe. Meanwhile, Beijing held another Olympics, a Winter Olympics of a smaller scale in comparison to the 2008 Summer Olympics. The glamour and ambition of the 2008 Olympics was heavily reduced this time, in the context of the pandemic and also because of several countries’ diplomatic boycotts. Even with all the controversies surrounding these Winter Olympics, Beijing promised to impress the world with its stringent quarantine measures, excellent athletic performance, as well as the power and determination to get difficult things done.

Unlike in 2008, however, today we cannot hear the open expression of LGBTQ voices in China, and it is difficult to know what—if anything—is going on in China’s LGBTQ communities. This is hardly surprising, given China’s frequent crackdown on LGBTQ rights in the last few years: in 2020, China’s longest running LGBTQ public event, Shanghai Pride, was forced to shut down.[5] In 2021, dozens of social media accounts run by LGBTQ university students were blocked and deleted without warning.[6] The few remaining LGBTQ organizations—if they are allowed to exist at all—have to keep a low profile. The ‘same-sex wedding’ event that took place in Qianmen in 2009 would no longer be imaginable in today’s Beijing. What was thought of as the beginning of Chinese queer activism back then had turned out to be a peak. At a time when limited spaces for LGBTQ culture have fast been  shrinking, the 2008 historical juncture seemed a nostalgic ‘golden era’ for many queer activists. 

Today we see the relentless rise of a patriarchal and heteronormative culture in mainstream media and in Chinese society. Its zeitgeist is embodied by the hard, macho-type of ‘wolf warrior’ masculinity in the Chinese blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2.[7] Soft masculinity and gender androgyny, which used to be valorized in East Asian contexts, has been designated a social problem. In early 2021, China’s Ministry of Education called on schools to reform their physical education curriculum in a proposal titled ‘The Proposal to Prevent the Feminization of Male Adolescents’.[8] In late 2021, China’s media regulator issued a ban on ‘effeminate men’—derogatorily referred to as niangpao (‘sissy pants’) in the official document—on TV and video streaming sites.[9] Meanwhile, women have constantly been called on to go back home, get married, to be good housewives and mothers, and to give birth to more children.[10] #Metoo has been banned and feminist activists have been detained or put under strict surveillance.[11] Late in 2021, after having accused a retired, high-ranking Chinese government official of sexual harassment, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai disappeared from public view for a while; her safety remained a public concern after her staged reappearance.>[12] Even during the 2022 Winter Olympics, news about the trafficking of women in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province surfaced—and then quickly was censored—on Chinese social media.[13] What we are witnessing, in other words, is the resurgence of a conservative and patriarchal gender ideology advocated by the state and endorsed by mainstream media. This ideology is often imbued with a strong nationalistic undertone: there seems a clear demarcation of what is considered Chinese and what is considered Western, regardless of the inaccuracy of these claims vis-à-vis the long history of gender variance and sexual diversity in China, as well as the messy entanglements of gender discourses and activist cultures globally.

These conservative state policies and media discourses have real-life consequences. In December 2021, Zhou Peng, a 26-year-old young man from Zhejiang province, was found dead. His note suggested that he might have committed suicide because he was bullied for being ‘too effeminate’.[14] Although the case was quickly dismissed by the police, it raised serious concerns in Chinese cyberspace. Many people came to the realization that this tragedy could happen to anyone who does not—or is not willing to—fit into the newly-enforced gender, sexual and social norms. Something like Zhou Peng’s death was not unexpected in a society where hegemonic masculinity is valorized, ‘masculinity education’ increasingly is becoming a norm, and LGBTQ groups and social media accounts are routinely shut down. Zhou Peng’s death is not the first and may not be the last of such gender related tragedies, and it reminds people of the human cost of the state-led conservative, masculinist, and heteronormative gender discourses.

The valorization of masculinity, as well as the endorsement of conservative gender norms, is the result of an increasingly macho and aggressive Chinese politics. Situated in dramatic tension within global geopolitics, China is flexing its muscles to the world by ‘toughening up’ its national and international image and by conducting a ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’.[15] In the 2022 Olympics, we witnessed Chinese athletes achieve plenty of gold medals, and Beijing has shown off its political and economic power through extravagant opening and closing ceremonies (even if in empty stadiums). But is China strong and determined and confident enough to offer sufficient space and freedom for men, women, trans and queer people who do not fit state-mandated gender norms? It seems that, for the moment, gender and sexual minorities in China are perceived as so threatening that there may not yet be a place for them in the country’s grand ‘Chinese dream’ and ‘shared future’.[16]




[1] China Daily:

[2] a milestone event:

[3] theatre documentary convergence  

[4] New Beijing, New Marriage:–New-Marriage——————

[5] Shanghai Pride:

[6] LGBTQ social media accounts:

[7] Wolf Warrior:

[8] The Proposal to Prevent the Feminisation of Male Adolescents:

[9] niangpao:

[10] more children:

[11] feminist activists:

[12] Peng Shuai:

[13] trafficking of women:

[14] Zhou Peng:

[15] wolf warrior diplomacy:

[16] Chinese dream: Shared future:

Oleksii Polegkyi, (Im)possible Peace in Ukraine

On the 11th of February 1945, the Yalta Agreement was signed by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. This Agreement divided Europe for the decades to come. On 12th February 2015, the Minsk Accord II was signed by Russia, Ukraine, and OSCE [the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] as an attempt to stop a war that was then escalating in the Eastern part of Ukraine. Many in the Kremlin enjoy symbolic allusions. But Karl Marx said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.

The current Russian military build-up around Ukraine has raised fears of a possible Russian offensive that could extend beyond the territories in eastern Ukraine currently controlled by the Kremlin and lead to full-scale war between the two countries. Vladimir Putin has never accepted the independence of Ukraine. He has now hinted broadly that his patience with Kyiv is running out. In summer 2021, Putin again openly questioned the legitimacy of Ukraine as an independent state and laid bare his own imperial ambitions for Russia. Moscow’s problem is that Ukraine is, despite all problems, escaping Russia’s hold. 

Situation in the Donbas under Zelensky’s presidency

Despite some achievements in 2019–20 (mainly in humanitarian aspects), a solution to the war in the Donbas (Eastern Ukraine) is nowhere close. Russia’s attitude toward Ukraine or regarding conflict resolution is unchanging. Its main goal is to push the Ukrainian government into direct negotiations with representatives of the occupational administrations of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics (DNR/LNR) and block Ukraine’s movement towards NATO and Europe. DNR/LNR are quasi-states fully controlled by the Kremlin which have remained the primary scene of the Donbas War since 2014. In response to Putin’s pressure, President Zelensky’s position on the Ukraine has remained unequivocal: legitimate elections in the occupied parts of the Donbas should take place only in a secure environment—namely, after the withdrawal of Russian troops and return of the eastern border to Ukrainian control.

Furthermore, contrary to the Kremlin’s demands, the topic of Crimea is still on the agenda. For example, the Crimea Platform was established by President Zelensky in February 2021 in order to build a coordinated international effort to pressure Russia to leave the Crimean Peninsula. The inaugural Summit of the Crimea Platform was held in Kyiv on 23 August 2021, with representatives of forty-six countries. Ukraine hopes to consolidate international efforts in this area, and the initiative will focus on tasks such as enforcing sanctions and countering Russia’s militarization of the Crimea, as well as monitoring human rights and environmental threats.

Domestic policy obviously plays an important role in both countries. Putin’s imperial drive is rooted in the domestic dynamics of the Russian power regime. It is largely due to the nature and structure of Russian politics, which needs to generate a permanent sense of threat for domestic purposes because the state inherently needs militarization to preserve Putin`s system of power. The country is constantly either preparing for war against an external enemy or pursuing enemies at home.

President Zelensky’s options are limited: even if he could accept Moscow’s deal, Ukrainian society would not accept “peace under any conditions.” However, Ukraine has not managed to present a realistic vision for the resolution of the conflict or a strategy for re-integrating the occupied parts of Eastern Ukraine without the Kremlin’s willingness to cooperate.

Russia has continued its practice of granting citizenship to Ukrainian residents of the occupied Donbas territories, having already distributed more than 650,000 Russian passports. In essence, the negotiations under the Minsk format have reached a dead end, with Russia not having managed to achieve its aim to implement the accord on its own conditions. The Normandy format (a negotiating group involving  Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France, whose representatives met in an effort to resolve the war in Donbas) also seems to be unviable as a platform for negotiations.

The main obstacles to ending the war in the Donbas are not only different approaches toward the negotiations but the fundamentally different aims of Russia and Ukraine. For Ukraine, the end of its conflict with Russia would require the restoration of its sovereignty, while Russia expects to always keep Ukraine in its “sphere of privileged interests” and influence Ukrainian internal affairs. As summarized by the British analyst Duncan Allan concerning the dilemma of the Minsk Accord: “Ukraine views the Minsk Process as a chance to restore its sovereignty, whereas Russia sees it as an opportunity to curtail this sovereignty.”[1]

Russia’s goals in the potential escalation

For Russia, creating hybrid threats is its main strategy. An important aspect of Russian information and psychological operations is the so-called reflexive control (RC), which is closely related to the Chinese concept of “stratagems” and the concept of “perception management”. Reflexive control (RC) is the term used to describe the practice of predetermining an adversary’s decision in your favor, by altering key factors in the adversary’s perception of the world or of a certain situation.

Russia has essentially reached its limits concerning its possibilities to exert pressure on Ukraine, but it cannot accept real peace in a Donbas under Ukrainian control, as that would be perceived as weakness of the Kremlin and personally of Vladimir Putin.

In this sense, Russia’s military manoeuvres have primarily political objectives. First, Russia is seeking to “reset” its negotiations with the USA and increase the international influence of Moscow (not only with regard to Ukraine) through its traditional strategy of military-political blackmail.  The Kremlin often uses the tactic of raising tensions and then, in exchange for calming down, it gets something smaller that before was unacceptable but now suffices to diffuse the situation.

 Second, through its demonstration of military might the Kremlin is trying to force Kyiv to be more accommodating and compliant.

And third, Russia is desperate to prevent Ukraine’s rapprochement and deeper cooperation with NATO.

Additionally, the Kremlin is trying to divide the “West” as much as possible (most importantly, by, creating more tensions and contradictions between the US and European countries).

Moscow can again use its favourite tactics to increase tensions and blackmail Ukraine, with the end game of gaining a better negotiating position. A British House of Commons Report concluded: “Russia has several probable motives for escalating tensions on the border with Ukraine, driven by regional insecurities and President Putin’s willingness to engage in power politics. Russia is using its military for coercive diplomacy, to pressure the Ukrainian Government to make concessions in the political settlements for the Donbas and to test Western allies’ resolve to come to Ukraine’s aid.”[2]

One of the main pillars of Ukraine’s efforts to neutralize the Russian threat is to obtain international support and increase sanctions on the Russian Federation. Unfortunately for Ukraine, in the eyes of US and even the European Union – Ukraine is a good cause but not vital to its strategic interests. For Putin, it is a key for keeping power and for Russian national interest.

At least, during last few months, Vladimir Putin already got more international attention than he had received in many years. On the one hand, then, Russian maneuvers around Ukraine could be very costly for Moscow, because they recreate fear of Russia in Europe and mobilize opponents of Kremlin policy. But the Kremlin will try to get what it can in this situation. For example, Russia will try to force Germany and France to press Kyiv to implement Minsk Agreement II on Moscow’s conditions. But for Ukraine, this is unacceptable because it will lead to endless internal conflicts and will destroy the country.


In the overall perception of the Kremlin, Russia continues to be at war with the West (writ large) and it is a war in multiple domains simultaneously. This war is not a frozen conflict but a multi-theatre confrontation that is highly dynamic and can be activated by Moscow in any domain that it wants, e.g., conventional escalation in Ukraine, Belarus, or any other place.[3]

The attempts of some European countries to cooperate with Moscow in consensus mode or to “reset” relations are perceived by the Kremlin as weakness and will only provoke more aggressive actions on its part.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has a longstanding strategic and even ontological character. Russia has no interest in a real peace for Ukraine and wants to keep the country as destabilized as possible. Putin’s speeches on many occasions highlight the constancy of his perception of the Ukrainian state as impermanent and of its existence as not justified by any reason. Because the Russian elite cannot accept the existence of an independent Ukraine (with constant emphasis on Ukraine’s full dependency, “failed state” status, disintegration, etc.), it will inevitably lead either to Ukraine being incorporated (in one form or another) into the sphere of “exclusive” Russian influence and under the full control of Moscow. Or, it will lead to Putin’s model of authoritarian regime, one that is based on ideas of revanchism, to be destroyed and Russia will transform itself into a democratic state. In other words, the existence of an independent Ukraine is possible only if the Russian Federation undergoes a profound transformation. As at the moment there is no chance of such a change (at least in the short term), the war between the two countries will continue. However, its intensity may increase or decrease, depending on the internal situation in the Russian Federation, the situation in the world, and the abilities of Ukraine to counteract Russian aggression.  

The Kremlin, having made Ukraine part of Russia’s domestic political agenda, cannot accept the loss of Ukraine. By the same token, the Kremlin cannot allow Ukraine to develop successfully (especially after 2014) because this would mean a failure of Russian efforts, which could become an example for its own opposition-minded citizens and inspire them to protest in Russia and in the whole post-Soviet space. That is why Ukraine as a failed state or a basket case is a condition, a sine qua non for the survival of the current Kremlin elites.

At the same time, for an absolute majority of Ukrainians it is already impossible to imagine Ukraine under the control of Moscow. For millions of Ukrainians war will not have started at some point in the near future. Rather, war started already in 2014. Eight years of war have changed dramatically the perception of Russia (even for those who had had positive attitudes towards Russia) and Ukrainian society demonstrates a readiness to fight for their own country. According to a survey conducted by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS)[4] in December 2021, 33.3% of the population is ready to put up armed resistance; and 21.7% are ready to resist by participating in civil resistance actions. A Russian invasion will be catastrophic for Ukraine, but also for Russia. Russia can destroy the Ukrainian military, but it will not be able to control the territory and population of Ukraine.

The scenario of developing a constant threat of conflict escalation and pushing Ukraine into endless internal confrontations will remain the basic formula for the Russian model of “controlled chaos” in the neighboring country for the foreseeable future.

Dr. Oleksii Polegkyi is the Academic Director, Center for Public Diplomacy, Ukraine 




[1] Duncan Allan. “The Minsk Conundrum: Western Policy and Russia’s War in Eastern Ukraine,” Chatham House,  22 May 2020;

[2] “Russia and Ukraine border tensions,” Report, House of Commons, 29 June 2021, p.12;

[3]Polegkyi, Oleksii & Stepniowski, Tomasz (eds.) „Security dilemma in the Black Sea region in the light of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict”, IES Policy Papers, Institute of Central Europe, Poland, N5, 2021;

[4]“Will Ukrainians resist Russian intervention”, Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), December 3-11, 2021;