The Semantics of State Capitalism

The Xinhua Zidian (New Chinese Dictionary), published in Peking in 1972, defines the word ziben as “means of production controlled by capitalists and money used to employ workers. By means of ziben the capitalist exploits the worker and obtains surplus value.” It also defines the word zijin as “material and money which a socialist country uses to develop the national economy.”


Now, the interesting thing is that both these words, ziben and zijin, would normally be rendered in English as “capital”: indeed, they have been defined in this way in earlier dictionaries published under the Chinese Communist government. Could it be that in attempting to make a distinction between them, the government is in fact admitting that the same process takes place both under capitalism and in their so-called “socialist country”? In other words, the control exercised over the means of production by a minority is used to “obtain surplus value”; the phrase “develop the national economy” could equally be applied to either of these two systems (only by their respective apologists, of course), though in fact it is not two systems that are being described but just one—capitalism.


Paul Bennett