Statist Globalization in China, Russia and the Gulf States

By Jerry Harris

Abstract: Over the last few years a number of  developing countries have emerged as global economic powers. This resulted from a rise in oil and commodity prices, foreign direct investments and a global shift in production. Much of this growth has been guided by governments and under the control of state corporations leading to the phenomenon of statist globalization. The rebalancing of power is an unpleasant surprise for many with Western politicians raising protectionist slogans against the new centers of competition. Most observers see the emergence of developing countries in the context of nation centric power struggles. But statist globalizers are part of the transnational capitalist class integrated at levels of production and finance. The result is a deepening of globalization, not a return to nation centric competition.

State-owned corporations and financial institutions have gained major influence in the global economy. The influx of capital through cross-border investments, a rapid growth in commodity and energy prices, trade surplus and global production have propelled a dramatic growth in government controlled assets and wealth. This is particularly true in China, Russia and the Arab Gulf states.

The emergence of transnational state capitalism marks a new stage in the development of globalization, one unforeseen by Western globalizing elites. Their vision saw private markets sweeping away statist regimes just as the neoliberal revolution had undermined the Keynesian state in the West. Indeed, global capitalism has come to developing countries and former socialist states, but within the context and character of their own history giving birth to statist globalization and a new breed of transnational capitalists. This competition comes as a shock for many and has sparked protectionist rhetoric. The Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC) (Harris, Robinson, Sklair) of the developing countries are not the obedient junior partners of the previous imperialist era, rather they are emerging as independent players and rebalancing global power.

Although statist globalization has caused debates and divisions, most transnational capitalists are eager for their new partners to join the world economy. As Richard Gnodde, CEO of Goldman Sachs argues, “This emergence of new flows and new actors from new models of capitalism reflects a natural diversity of social and economic practices that is in no way incompatible with the process of globalisation…” (Gnodde, 2007, 11)

The State and Third World Globalization

The strength of the statist TCC came into focus during the economic problems of 2007. When the US was hit by the housing crisis and falling dollar China, India and Russia continued to grow. Many argued a “decoupling” from the US economy had occurred, pointing out that one-half of global growth came from the above three countries. With credit drying up in the West, cash poured into emerging market equities that jumped from $1.6bn in 2006 to over $24.3bn in 2007. Total financial flows reached $782bn, up from $568bn the year before. Meanwhile cross-border merger and acquisitions from Brazil, Russia, India and China climbed to over $70bn with 70 percent directed to the Americas and Western Europe. (Larsen, 2007, 3) These figures show that integration is far too deep for decoupling; rather a rebalancing is occurring that underlines the emerging influence of the statist TCC.

Edwin Truman of the Peterson Institute points out how globalization has weakened the dominance of Western nations while creating an “imbalance” of influence for the developing world. As he states, “(globalization) has had the effect of loosening the ‘home bias’ in individual, institutional, and governmental investment portfolios. The reduction of home bias has facilitated the financing of global imbalances (while) at the same time contributed to more balanced global asset portfolios.” (Truman, 2007, 2) In other words, the flood of foreign investment produces an excess of cash in developing nations while at the same time creating denationalized portfolios for the TCC.

This process of global integration is presenting problems for Western capitalism by producing historically high concentrations of cash in the developing world. Oil revenues and trade surpluses also increase capital holdings. Seeking greater returns states are investing money into Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) now estimated to hold $2.8 trillion dollars. These constitute the largest funds available for governments to invest abroad and could grow to $17.5 trillion over the next decade according to Morgan Stanley. SWFs have already outgrown hedge funds, which hold about $2 trillion and private equity funds that hold about $1 trillion. In 2007 SWFs invested $54.3bn covering 59 global deals. There are 26 developing countries that have active SWFs, the chart below lists the top ten.

As Western banks staggered under losses from the subprime mortgage crisis, SWFs poured more than $37bn into financial stocks in what the Financial Times called “a match made in heaven between sovereign funds…and the increasingly capital-constrained financial systems.” (FT, 2007, 19) Overall an estimated $67bn in state funds has been invested in banks, securities houses and asset management firms. These include well known corporations such as Barclays, Blackstone, Carlyle, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, UBS, the London Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. (Larsen, 2007b, 19)

But SWF activity has caused widespread concern among Western politicians, particularly China’s new $300bn fund. China’s foreign reserves are growing by one million dollars every minute and the need to invest this inflow is self-evident. Beijing’s main investment has been low-yield US bonds, but their SWF is looking for global opportunities. As Lou Jiwei, head of the China Investment Corp stated, “In the future, there will be no limits for us to invest in all over the world.” (McGregor, 2007)

SWFs are just one aspect of statist investment activity. Countries also maintain large international investments through government-owned banks and state corporations that hold substantial global assets.  State-owned Chinese transnationals already control 60 percent of the countries’ cross-border investments, with similar numbers for India, Thailand, Indonesia, S. Korea and Malaysia. These figures underline the statist nature of the Third World TCC. In comparison, the US government’s share of US international assets is only 2.3 percent. (Truman, 2007, 2)

Many fears over state investments are motivated by ideology. No surprise to hear from Patrick Buchanan who says, “The problems these SWFs portend are enormous. Since the Reagan-Thatcher era, privatization of publicly owned assets has been the trend in the free world…SWFs reverse that trend.” (Buchanan, 2007) For Buchanan and other ideological warriors the battle line is drawn between state and market-based capitalism. For others, like Hillary Clinton, economic nationalism is a popular position and helps retain legitimacy among an increasingly alienated population.

Speaking to the growing protectionist rhetoric Michael Gordon of Fidelity International writes:

Perhaps a deeper fear underpins some of the dark mutterings about SWFs. Their wealth is a reminder to our politicians that the west is no longer the force it once was in the world. And just maybe, business leaders are ahead of the politicians in welcoming this infusion of new money into the global financial system. (Gordon, 2007, 11)

Others fear that SWFs could act as a destabilizing force in the stocks and bond market if countries have, as Stephen Jen of Morgan Stanley put it, “some dark geopolitical strategy in their investments.” (Weisman, 2007, 3) States no doubt have political objectives, and neo-liberals argue markets must be free of such influence, concerned only with maximizing efficiency and profits.

But such objections are laden with ideological assumptions. After all, the West has been subjecting developing countries to their own neo-liberal political and financial agenda for years. These usually come in the form of IMF structural adjustment programs or speculative runs on capital. Neo-liberal attacks on state services and privatization are simply presented as economic rationality by globalizing capitalists; a rationality that led to the 1997 Asian financial crash and many other failures. The fear expressed by sections of Western capitalists, cloaked as defense of free markets, is in reality a defense of their own privileges and ideology. Market fundamentalists are simply unwilling to concede any neo-liberal ground to state capitalism in what they term “cross-border nationalization.”

Not all members of the TCC are market fundamentalists. Other factions such as structuralists and neo-Keynesians are more accommodating.1 For example, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson stated, “I’d like nothing more than to get more of that money.”  His deputy secretary, Robert Kimmitt, commenting on the possible dangers of SWFs observed; “When I was in China and Russia, I was struck by the degree to which, although I was talking to government officials, it was like talking to asset managers.” (Weisman, 2007, 3) Paulson and Kimmitt, both from Goldman Sachs, recognize the transnational character of capital. For them the infusion of SWFs means more liquidity and investments for the entire TCC. The national origins of the money have less importance than the best practices shared by global financial managers. In fact, cross-border financial flows have been an essential element in globalization and act as a major path for TCC integration.

As the editors of the Financial Times put it:

The liberation of finance is one of the most significant transformations brought about by today’s era of globalisation. The scale of cross-border flows, the extent of financial innovation and the size of the fortunes made in financial activities are among the most noteworthy feature of our age. (FT, 2007b, 10)

Coming to a common regulatory understanding is the real issue for the TCC; after all SWFs have been around for a long time. Kuwait established a fund in 1960, Singapore in 1974, the UAE in 1976 and Norway in 1990. It’s the emergence of China and Russia that worries the West. As Truman points out, “A government is a different type of animal in the investing world. We call them sovereign wealth funds, but once you’re operating outside your own borders, you’re not sovereign in the same sense.” (Weisman, 2007, 3) What Truman points to is the common global space occupied by the TCC and the necessity of shared rules for competition.

Solving this tension between sovereignty and global governance is the key problem. The proposed solution is to establish internationally-agreed standards to guide governments in their cross-border investments. The main aspects include clearly-stated policy objectives, guidelines for corporate governance, management based on global best practices and transparency with quarterly reports and disclosures of investments. Other proposals would exclude investments from strategic companies like defense. All this is to be accomplished with the helping hand of the IMF and World Bank. Clearly the effort is to bring the statist TCC under global rule while adjusting the regulatory superstructure to accommodate their investments. As Truman notes, the problem is “how sovereign wealth funds are integrated into the global financial system.” (Truman, 2007, 2) Or as the Financial Times observes, “With common sense, these new players can be accommodated within the tent of contemporary capitalism.” (FT, 2007c, 10)

Oil and Gas Wealth

Feeding the foreign reserve funds of developing nations has been the explosion of oil and gas prices. More than any other sector, oil and gas resources represent statist economic and political power. Although everything from telecommunications to health services underwent privatization, oil resources were retained under state ownership throughout most the world. Where they had been privatized there has been a wave of renationalization exemplified by Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Among the largest 150 non-public corporations, 12 of the top 13 are state-owned oil and gas companies. Below they are listed by market capitalization as of December 2005. Not shown is Japan Post which listed at eight.

The above corporations control three-quarters of the world’s oil reserves and hold sizeable foreign assets. Their revenues are state owned, with a percent invested into SWFs. The chart below refers to the United Nations, which ranks the top 100 non-financial transnationals from the developing world by foreign-held assets. Among these are six state-owned oil and gas companies. Figures below are from 2004. (UNCTD, 2006)

Writing for the Financial Times on energy Carola Hoyos (2007) argues that

Today the true power brokers are a group of state-owned oil companies that span the globe from China to Venezuela, rather than the Gettys, Rockefellers, Nobels and Rothchilds of yesteryear. The new ‘Seven Sisters’ are Saudi Aramco, Russia’s Gazprom, CNPC of China, NIOC of Iran, Venezuela’s PDVSA, Brazil’s Petrobran and Petronas of Malaysia. Together they control almost one-third of the world’s oil and gas production and more than one-third of its total oil and gas reserves.

Of course rising oil prices also produced the largest profits in history for privately-owned oil majors. In 2004 the top five earners from oil sales were BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total with $1.122 trillion in profits. This was followed by the 13 top National Oil Companies (NOCs) with $401bn. (Shah, 2004) Furthermore, although developing countries are becoming technologically sophisticated, they still rely on Western engineering expertise. But Western corporations now have less control over oil reserves. Whereas in the 1970s Western oil controlled 85 percent of the world’s reserves, today national companies control 80 percent. Figures for the world’s oil reserves show the top 13 NOCs with 872 billion barrels while the top five private companies have just 46 billion. (Shah, 2004) This situation creates a merger of interests between transnational capitalists from both statist and private sectors that takes place over an array of joint ventures. It’s not simply statist versus private transnational capitalists (although that is one aspect of competition), but the integration of economic interests creating competitive blocs of transnational corporations seeking to achieve advantage in a variety of fields and territorial regions.

For the Middle East, flooded with oil money, there has been an explosion of investment banks, private equity funds and venture capital. But unlike the 1970s and 1990s when governments relied on Western banks to handle their wealth, Arab transnational capitalists are now guiding their own funds. That means petrodollars are being recycled though such firms as Dubai’s Istithmar and the Abu Dhabi Investment rather than New York and London. The Institute of International Finance calculates that Gulf investors have put $1.8 trillion into international assets with acquisitions doubling from 2006 to 2007. As one banker noted, “In the past, they would just give the money and put it in the US. Now they want to do their own deals.” (Khalaf, 2006, 4)

In September 2007 Dubai’s state-run stock exchange, Borse Dubai, took a 20 percent stake in NASDAQ becoming its largest investor. Dubai also holds 28 percent of the London Stock Exchange, and now has operations spanning the US, Europe and Middle East. Competing to be a lead financial center, Qatar bought 20 percent of the London Stock Exchange and 10 of the Nordic exchange OMX. The drive to combine stock markets responds to the financial needs of the TCC who want to trade shares anywhere, invest across asset classes and do it faster.

One of the most active Middle East funds is the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It has an assets base of $20bn spread over a field of global investments. Recent acquisitions include oil and gas companies in Canada, BP’s oil and gas production in the Netherlands, oil assets in the North Sea and a US power group. Another UAE fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, took 7.5 percent of Carlyle and a five percent stake worth $7.5bn in Citigroup. Other investments cover the US hedge funds Och-Ziff and Apollo Management; Alliance Medical and HSBC (UK); Almatis and Mauser-Werke (Germany); the Industrial Development Bank and Sony (Japan); and EADS (EU). Board members include former chief executives from BMW, Sony and GlaxoSmithKline. (Arnold, 2007, 1) Abu Dhabi now earns more from interests on its global investments than oil export revenues and employs 1,300 expatriate professionals from Wall Street. Other UAE state investment arms acquired holdings in the US, UK, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Hungary and India worth $18bn just from June 2005 to June 2006.

In the same period Kuwait carried out acquisitions in the Sudan, the Netherlands and Germany totaling over $47.6bn; Bahrain investment banks made deals of over $2.5bn covering the US, France and Norway; and Saudi Arabia’s private equity firm made investments worth $4.36bn in Tanzania, Canada and Thailand. (UNCTD, 2006, 290) Additionally, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is the single biggest shareholder in Citigroup and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority reports some $200 billion in international holdings.

For Gulf State capitalists integration into the global economy is the road to greater accumulation. These countries are little more than city states and don’t exist as modern nations. Their strategy is to build cities such as Doha and Abu Dhabi into transnational crossroads, promoting construction booms that cater to globalists’ needs and cultural desires. Their labor force is based on global immigration and denied fundamental rights, as are their women. Democratic citizenship doesn’t exist for the majority of their population and so they lack an essential element for modern national identity. The UAE has a population of 4.5 million, but 85 percent are non-citizens mostly from South Asia. Qatar has a population of one million, 800,000 of whom are non-citizens. The TCC of small Arab countries are totally integrated in global flows of labor, finance, education and trade. Given these characteristics it’s difficult to ascribe nationalist motivations to their transnational investments. There exist strategies to expand the profits and power of their corporate empires, (which include investments from the world’s TCC), but that is transnational rather than national competition.

China, Energy and Transnational Capital

China has three major state-owned energy companies. The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is the world’s fifth largest oil producing company formed as a ministry-level enterprise in 1988. Dominant in the refining sector is China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), and working with international oil corporations is China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). Taken together the three corporations are active in every area of the world and at times competitive against each other, as when Sinopec and PetroChina made bids for pipelines in Sudan. CNPC has investments in 22 countries, Sinopec in 18 and CNOCC in nine.

All three companies are provided generous state-backed loans by China’s Development Bank. But CNPC, with profits of $24bn in 2006 and no dividends paid to the state, can afford to bankroll its own foreign investments. Its $4.2bn acquisition of Petrokazakhstan was China’s largest foreign takeover. As stated by Askar Balzhanov, chief executive of Kazakhstan’s state oil, “China is an aggressive investor offering the best terms for oil assets. It is impossible for Kazakhstan to refuse them.” (Gorst, 2007, 6)

By 2007 PetroChina, an 88 percent owned subsidiary of CNPC, overtook ExxonMobil as the world’s largest corporation by market capitalization and for a short while became the world’s first trillion-dollar company. With its value inflated by speculation on the Shanghai stock market PetroChina’s largest investor, Warren Buffett, profited $3.5bn from a $500 million investment.

Given the cry from Western politicians one would think China is sucking dry global oil resources. About 21 percent of China’s oil production is produced abroad, but most of that is sold on the international market. In a study done for the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Peterson Institute for International Economics Daniel Rosen and Trevor Houser write:

The newly constructed oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to China brought in only 50,000 bpd of the 260,000 CNPC produced. None of the production in Canada, Syria, Venezuela, and Azerbaijan showed up on China’s shores, and only a fraction of the production from Ecuador, Algeria and Colombia did…This is a critical point. No one is concerned when Shell signs an equity agreement somewhere in the world that the Netherlands is taking oil off the market and making everyone else less energy secure. That’s because we assume that Shell will sell its production to whoever is willing to pay the highest price. To date, Chinese oil companies appear to be doing the same and thus prioritizing profits over political considerations. (Rosen and Houser, 2007, 33)

Rosen and Houser’s study is important because it shows Chinese oil majors act as typical transnationals and use ties to Beijing to acquire competitive advantages against each other. As they note, “When profit-seeking is at odds with political guidance from Beijing, the oil companies seek to influence the policymaking process in their own interest.” (Rosen and Houser, 2007, 21)

These observations are similar to Charles Bettelheim’s classic work on the Soviet Union in which he argued that competition existed between state-owned corporations over resources and power. His argument, that state capitalism was therefore the dominant form of ownership and determined class relations in the USSR, must now be considered in its application to China and the formation of the TCC. (Bettelheim, 1976) Contemporary competition is not simply an internal affair between rival Chinese interests or between nation/states, but includes all the complex ties to transnational capital that has spread throughout the economy. Export production, outsourcing to local companies, inward and outward investments and joint ventures all act to bind Chinese capitalism to transnational accumulation integrating both private and state economic actors with the TCC. Arthur Kroeber at Dragonomics argues that state-owned corporations “are all distinctive and somewhat autonomous fiefdoms that set their own agendas…it’s the companies themselves that decide what deals to go after.” (Dyer & Tucker) Adding to the transnational character of state corporations is their ability to raise huge funds via global stock markets. Additionally, their profits of $140bn in 2007, a 223 percent jump from 2002,  provides further independence from national planners.

As observed by the Financial Times:

Rather than planning officials, individual companies are the driving force behind most of the recent investments. Large deals still need to be approved by the State Council… but the companies have their own specific motivations and strategies. (Dyer & Tucker, 2007, 13)

Further linking Chinese and transnational capital is the country’s function as a key hub in global manufacturing. What is often identified as the Chinese economy is virtually impossible to separate from transnational production. About 60 percent of China’s exports are generated by foreign-owned or joint-venture corporations. By 2002 there were 34,466 foreign-owned affiliates operating with assets over $380bn, and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) had reached $318 billion by 2005. (UNCTD, 2006, 305, 327-28) Moreover, many of China’s smaller national companies exist solely as well-oiled cogs in the global chain of production subcontracting to TNCs. Here competition also extends to city and provincial governments, each with different networks of state officials and businessmen vying for political power, resources and FDI. Differences in wage and tax structures are so great that investors have come to think of China as a “multi-country sourcing area.” (Mitchell, 2007, 7)

On the other hand, the Chinese government has protected large areas of the economy from foreign investment and capital speculation and given support to national champions such as Chery Auto, Huawei and Lenovo. Additionally, the Shanghai stock market is largely off limits to foreign investors who hold less than one percent of the market capitalization on all stocks. Because China’s economy was built by state socialism, it’s natural for the Communist Party to still exert hegemony through government-directed economics. Most sources of power, networks of influence and access to financial and material resources originate in the state. Furthermore, since China’s modern state was largely founded through anti-imperialist struggles, their rejection of Western policy dictates is not surprising. Therefore, China’s reorientation has largely been under its own hand with state-directed global integration the defining character of the Chinese TCC.

Because finance capital has been the principal driving force behind globalization, the mixing of state and private capital is key in examining how the TCC integrates. Here we see a major road for Chinese transnational capitalism is raising funds on world stock markets and through global financial investments. China has listed over 100 companies on the London Stock Exchange, 70 in New York, and led the world in raising capital for IPOs in 2007. Beside their SWF, commercial banks and securities companies are active in global bonds and equities with investments expected to soon reach $50bn. Other financial liberalization adjustments in 2007 included lifting limits on overseas investments from insurance companies and launching the Qualified Domestic Institutional Investor funds that will channel $90bn into global stocks.

As a result of raising funds through international stock offerings by October 2007 China held five of the world’s 14 largest corporations by market capitalization as seen in the table below.

Chinese state banks have growing ambitions for foreign acquisitions and are also an excellent marker for transnational financial integration. Transnational banks became minority holders in major institutions during the financial reform period of 2003-06. Goldman Sachs took stakes in Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Merrill Lynch invested in Bank of China and Bank of America acquired shares in China Construction Bank. All these investors are making big profits as Chinese banks go on global spending sprees. As the Financial Times wrote:

Chinese banks now have impressive deposit bases, skyrocketing stock prices, and are on the hunt for off-shore acquisitions that can give them expertise and instant access to international markets amid fierce domestic competition. (Tucker & Anderlini, 2007, 19)

Reviewing recent activity we see China Construction Bank acquired Bank of America’s Hong Kong arm and Ping An Insurance ( 16.8 percent owned by HSBC) became the leading shareholder in Fortis for $2.7bn. China Development Bank, whose assets are larger than the World Bank and Asian Development Bank combined has made $281bn in foreign loans, invested 3bn into Barclays and entered into partnership with Nigeria’s United Bank for Africa. ICBC, the world’s largest bank by market capitalization, acquired banks in Macau and Indonesia, but its most important deal was $5.56bn for 20 percent of Standard Bank, the largest in Africa. This was the biggest foreign acquisition by a Chinese bank and the biggest FDI in South Africa. The bank mergers in Africa will make billions available for investments free of Western donors and the World Bank. Most of China’s banking capital was raised on the Hong Kong stock market through IPOs that broke records for foreign investments. The mixing of foreign institutional and private investors in government-owned banks, and in turn Chinese acquisition of foreign assets, is an important path for TCC integration. It results in common entanglements in transnational investments through which the Western and statist TCC share profits and losses based on the competitive edge of Chinese state banks.

One deal that caught everyone’s attention was a $3bn investment in Blackstone from China’s SWF. Blackstone’s co-founder Peter Peterson is also chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, perhaps the most important foreign policy center in the US and a globalist/realist think tank. His firm is one of the world’s largest private equity funds and many considered the deal China’s official arrival in mainstream financial markets. Following Blackstone, Morgan Stanley also accepted a $5bn investment from China’s SWF. As Western financial institutions have equity in Chinese banks, China’s statist globalizers have equity in the West. Such financial interpenetration is key to the organic construction of the TCC.

Considering trade and production new markets are essential for the emerging Chinese TCC. This means expanding ties to Africa and Latin America. Through the African Development Bank, China has pledged $20bn for trade and construction projects providing cheap loans for infrastructure work throughout the continent. Most work is done by government companies like China Road and Bridge Construction which has 29 African projects. Mining investments include manganese in South Africa, uranium in Niger and cobalt in the Congo. Furthermore, railroad lines are being built in Nigeria and Angola, dams in Sudan, and airports and roads in several other countries. From just $10 million in the 1980s mutual trade reached $55bn in 2006 and Xinhua News Agency estimated that 750,000 Chinese are living and working in Africa alongside 900 Chinese firms. (French, 2007)

In Latin America, Mexico receives 25.6 percent of China’s FDI followed by Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and Panama. China’s largest regional trading partner is Brazil. In 2004 President Hu Jintao signed 39 commercial deals throughout Latin America promising $100bn in investments, and import/export trade reached $70bn by 2006. China also bought oil and pipeline assets in Ecuador for $1.42bn, and with India took a 50 percent stake in Omimex de Colombia. China’s state oil companies have additional exploration and operation rights in Cuba, Peru and Venezuela. (Li, 2007, 23-27)

In terms of China’s outward expansion, of the top 100 non-financial corporation in the developing world, China and Hong Kong account for 34 with 600 owned foreign affiliates. These 34 corporations had foreign assets of $161bn, foreign sales of $83bn and employed 848,672 foreign workers as of 2004. (UNCTD, 2006, 283-84)

China’s outward investments has been criticized in the West for pushing aside the World Bank and IMF, making loans that have little minimum standards of transparency, ignoring open-bid contracts and signing long-term deals that allow countries to repay debt in oil or minerals. All this is simply China’s competitive advantage. Additionally, since the US blocked China’s acquisition of Unocal they have sought out politically criticized investments exemplified by their oil relationships with Sudan and Iran. Given the long history of Third World exploitation and support of authoritarian regimes by the West, their complaints sound more than a little hollow. Even the New York Times was forced to observe, “To China’s new African allies, this (relationship) is a breath of fresh air…free of the overtones of exploitation and paternalism that critics worldwide say have governed much of the West’s postcolonial relationship with Africa.” (French, 2007)

Although growing South-South commercial relationships promote the interests of Third World transnational capitalists it’s important to note this trade often includes TNCs that hold large investments from Western sources. Therefore this vigorous economic expansion shouldn’t be analyzed as national economic activity, but in the general interests of the TCC. Moreover, foreign resources captured by state corporations feed factories in China run by transnationals. Therefore, even as oil corporations compete in Africa, TNCs use Chinese energy to manufacture exports employing cheap local labor. Furthermore, by developing  state corporations to world standards China attracts investments through which the statist TCC achieves transnational financial integration. In effect, the national economic strategy of China and other Third World nations is structured around global integration.

Commenting on this, Ding Xueliang of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace noted, “(President) Hu …is a practical person. China today is so completely integrated into the outside world – and the outside world is capitalist. If he wants to develop his country, he has to make his way in a global capitalist system. Hu has no other choice.” (McGregor, 2007b, 1-2)

Russian Nationalism?

Russia had a highly centralized political system under the Tsar, a pattern that continued with Joseph Stalin and the Soviet state. The chaos of the Yeltsin years was a historic aberration brought on by the collapse of socialism, opening the door for gangster capitalism and the looting of state property.  By the late nineties about one-third of Russia’s population lived in poverty on less than $32 dollars a month. As the state was dismantled what remained was a political ruling class allied to the Russian mafia in what is described as the “criminalization of the state.”[2] (Molchanov, 2004) These elites had no national agenda but to steal wealth and send it out of Russia. In this sense they were part of the underbelly of globalization joining international networks of crime.

Putin’s nationalism must be seen in the context of a disintegrating state. The level of corruption and instability meant Russia could not become a fully-integrated member of the global capitalist order. To make Russia safe for foreign investment and have its outbound capital trusted, stable economic rule needed to be established. Although Russia’s political agenda is often criticized for being overly nationalist, in reality its policies need a multipolar world to have influence. Russia can no longer compete as the second superpower, and the US has steadily encroached on its interests. This includes military bases and energy deals in the Caspian, political involvement in former Soviet states and missile sites in Eastern Europe.  Russia’s independent foreign policy helps to undermine US hegemony while making a multipolar world system a viable alternative. This serves both Russian and globalist political interest.

Nevertheless, in important ways the Putin government is a mirror reflection of White House nationalism. The Bush presidency is based politically and economically in the military/industrial complex with important ties to the energy sector. (Harris, 2006) Putin’s reliance on the security apparatus is also key, filling positions with old friends from the KGB and making the oil and gas industry the economic base of state power. The siloviki, which includes security, police and military members occupy the top echelons of power. Under President Gorbachev only 4.8 percent of elite positions were siloviki, under Putin it’s 58 percent. These include Putin’s closes advisors and chairs of the state oil firm Rosneft, state defense firm Rosboronexport and the national airline Aeroflot. (Ostrovsky, 2004, 13) Other important industries in which the state took major holdings included gas, shipbuilding, nuclear, auto, and metal production with a new circle of statist capitalist in control. On the financial side, state banks Sberbank and Vneshtorgbank (VTB) dominate the field with Sberbank maintaining 50 percent of all deposits and VTB holding $58 billion in assets. The security faction of the state represents its most nationalist sector, but in Russia the national project of rebuilding power is merged with their insertion into the world economy. Russian nationalism essentially seeks space in the global order, a nationalism redefined by the transnational context.

As Gideon Rachman, the political editor for the Financial Times, has observed, “The deep connections between politics and business in modern Russia mean that the country’s most powerful people often have a direct personal stake in the continued prosperity of western Europe. They have business relationships to maintain, investments to protect, houses in the south of France, children at school in Britain…people with international business interests tend not be nationalists. They cannot afford to be.” (Rachman, 2008, 11)

When Putin first came into office his ruling coalition consisted of economic neo-liberals, oligarchs from the Yeltsin period and the siloviki. The neo-liberals lost influence when Putin strengthened the state’s control over key industries. This meant bringing the oligarchs into line which Putin accomplished with a few well-aimed blows. Boris Berezovsky whose interests spanned the media, oil, and auto industries, was one of the first to fall. Berezovsky, who favored the Anglo-American model of neoliberalism, fled to England ahead of fraud charges. Vladimir Gusinsky, an oligarch with media and banking interests, escaped embezzlement charges by also leaving Russia. The best-known case put Mikhail Khodorkovsky in a Siberian prison for evading $28bn in taxes, with his oil empire Yukos sold off to Gazprom and Rosneft. By the end of the Yukos affair the state had increased its share of oil output from 28 to 50 percent. To consolidate the oligarchs further Putin met with 21 leading businessmen in July 2000. The agreement was to pay taxes, obey the law, stay out of politics and keep their wealth.  In 2004 the World Bank reported that 23 oligarchs still controlled a third of all sales in Russia and among Fortune’s 100 richest individuals were 14 Russians with an aggregate wealth equal to 26 percent of the country’s GDP. (Wolf, 2007, 11)

The Yukos case played a key role in taming the oligarchy. Khodorkovsky had acquired Yukos, a company worth $33 billion, for a closed bid of $300 million. Commenting on the break-up of Yukos, Lilia Shevtsova of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commented, “The slow murder of Yukos has been a watershed, Russia has made a U-turn and ‘a new species’ of bureaucratic capitalist has replaced the Yeltsin oligarchs.” (Belton, 2007, 7) The big winner was state-controlled Rosneft that emerged as Russia’s largest oil producer worth $90bn. It spent just $2bn for Yukos assets. While the Western press deplored attacks on Yukos, Western banks rushed in to supply Rosneft with $22bn in loans. Financial backing came from ABN Amro, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley. Some academics, such as Wharton professor of legal studies Phil Nichols, gave a less panicked assessment of the Khodorkovsky case than the press. As Nichols stated, “He stole billions from the country and consistently broke the rules. There’s every reason for him to be prosecuted.” (Wharton, 2007)

Although the West was uncomfortable with Putin’s bureaucratic capitalism, state control brought stability and curbed the illegal practices of the oligarchs. The state was the only instrument available to leash the Yeltsin-era robber barons that were draining the economy and sending billions abroad. Given the social, political and economic disarray a heavy dose of nationalism was a natural response by various sectors of Russian society and a necessary ideological tool to reassert legitimacy for the ruling class. Russian capitalists got the message and in a letter of support to Putin from Lukoil, Rosneft, Transneft and TNK-BP they stated “the management and regulation of economic processes in the market economy is a natural and necessary obligation of the state.” (Ostrovsky, 2004b, 11)

Russia, with its strategic industries protected, was now open for global business. Profits from energy resources propelled Russia back onto the world stage and this is the most important industry to examine. Gazprom has the largest gas reserves in the world and while state owned, it’s a vehicle that binds Russian state capitalists to the TCC. Significantly Gazprom’s chairman, Dmitry Medvedev, is Russia’s new president. In part Gazprom’s ties to transnational capital rest on its monopoly over pipelines into Western and Eastern Europe. But its many joint ventures with Europe’s energy corporations are key. In developing Shtokman, one of the world’s largest gas fields, Total from France and StatoilHydro of Norway were chosen as Gazprom partners for the $20bn project. Total also has investments in two Russian oil fields and Gazprom is the number two gas supplier to France. As French president Nicolas Sarkozy has stated, “French investors are ready to buy into large Russian companies, such as Gazprom. France’s policy is transparency and reciprocity. It’s quite normal that our Russian friends should want to enter the capital of a certain number of French companies and that the opposite should be true as well.” (Buckley, 2007a, 6)

German business and political elites see their relationship with Russia as strategic. As pointed out by Alexander Rahr from the German Council on Foreign Relations, “Germany’s alliance with Russia was not just conceived as a commercial deal, but as a way to integrate Russia into Europe.” (Landler, 2006) Eon, Germany’s biggest energy group, is the largest foreign shareholder in Gazprom. Additionally, Eon along with the chemical giant BASF joined with Gazprom in building a $6.6bn Baltic Sea pipeline. The Germans hold 20 percent of the joint venture known as Nord Stream with former chancellor Gerhard Schroder as chairman and Matthias Warnig of Dresdner Bank its chief executive. Eon is also considering power link-ups with Gazprom in the UK, Germany, Hungary and Italy. Eon and BASF share a 25 percent stake in Gazprom’s Yuzhno-Russkoye field, while BASF shares joint ownership of its distribution company Wingas with Gazprom. Germany relies on Russia for 35 percent of its oil, 50 percent of its gas and its exports to Russia reached $32bn in 2006. On the financial front all major German commercial banks are active in Russia with Deutsche Bank having the strongest market position.

Italy’s energy companies Eni and Enel also have deepening ties with Russia’s state capitalists. Gazprom supplies energy to Eni and they share projects in both Russia and Africa. In the final auction of Yukos, Eni and Enel gained access to Russia’s vast resources paying $5.83bn that included a 20 percent stake in Gazpromneft, Gazprom’s oil arm.  Italy’s engagement in the dismantling of Yukos reveals just how anxious the TCC are to enter Russia. Enel also became the first foreign company to join Russia’s power sector, paying $1.5bn for shares in OGK-5 and a 49 percent stake in the largest independent electricity distributor, Rusenergysbyt.

One of Russia’s biggest moves to assert resource control led to Gazprom taking majority ownership of Sakhalin-2. This was the largest foreign investment project in Russia with Shell having a 55 percent stake alongside Japan’s Mitsui with 25 percent and Mitsubishi with 20 percent. After hard negotiations Shell admitted to delays, soaring costs and environmental damage and had its holdings reduced to 27.5 percent, Mitsui was knocked down to 15 and Mitsubishi to ten. Gazprom also pressured BP to give up its large stake in the huge gas field at Kovykta. Many business scholars were sympathetic to the state’s renegotiations. James Millar from George Washington University points out the original contracts were made when oil prices were at $20 a barrel, as prices rose “the government looks at it and says, ‘We got screwed.’ It’s common to renegotiate deals like this when prices go up.” (Wharton, 2007b) Although there has been much sound and fury over changes with oil majors and energy price increases for Belarus and the Ukraine, no one is really surprised. In fact, both BP and Shell continued to invest with Rosneft and Shell has new deals with the Russian republic of Tatarstan. Moreover, the joint venture of TNK-BP is Russia’s third largest oil producer, runs Sakhalin-1 and provides 20 percent of BP’s worldwide production. UK firms have more invested in Russia than any other country.

Although there is a strong current of nationalism among Russian political and intellectual elite, both statist and private transnational capitalists continue their global integration. In the US and EU politicians also decry Russian nationalism while corporations proceed with business. In 2007 over 6,000 delegates attended the St. Petersburg economic forum including over 100 chief executives from leading TNCs such as BP, Shell, Nestle, Deutsche Bank, Chevron, Siemens and Coca-Cola. Putin greeted the delegates stating Russia was “open for foreign investments,” and $13bn in deals were signed. The following September a government investment forum at Sochi was attended by 10,000 delegates and $22bn in business deals were sealed. In a co-authored statement by Michael Klein, chair of Citi Markets & Banking and Andrei Kostin president of VTB  they wrote, “Western business…are focusing on the tremendous opportunity the country represents even as Western policymakers emphasize Russia’s perceived backsliding on Western values. Therefore, we recommend a new dialogue be opened, placing a greater emphasis on engagement through economic and commercial opportunities.” (Klein & Kostin, 2007) The proposal led to a formal group that was backed by the chief executives of 18 major US and Russian TNCs including: Alcoa, Chevron, Citi, Conoco Phillips, Dow Chemical, Ernst and Young, Procter & Gamble, VTB, Lukoil, Rosneft and Severstal.

Enthusiasm for cross-border activity is clearly evident in the Russian stock market, which rose 500 percent between 2001-06, hitting a trillion dollars. Some 40 percent of this market was from the two state-owned giants Gazprom and Rosneft. This is a telling indication of the nature of TCC relationships and competition. Even as the state took control of gas and oil resources from major TNCs, other transnational investors were pouring money into the very corporations that carried out the takeovers profiting alongside the statist TCC. As Jim Wood-Smith, head of research at Williams de Broe observed, “Anyone fortunate enough to have been invested there over the past five years should bank fantastic profits.” (Chung & Brown-Humes, 2007, 20) Such profitable activity has found a resounding vote of confidence from transnational capitalists active in Russia. More than 75 percent of foreign executives report the operating environment is as good as or better than China, India or Brazil, and 90 percent are planning expansions. Nevertheless, a few foreign capitalists have run into trouble such as Bill Browder, grandson of the late Communist Party leader Earl Browder. Browder heads Hermitage Capital, the single largest portfolio fund dedicated to Russia with $3.5bn, but his shareholder activism evidently disturbed Putin. Browder is now forced to operate from London, but is still able to report “my investors have made 25 times their money.” (Wharton, 2007b)

For the Russian TCC merger and acquisitions have grown at home and abroad. In 2005 the biggest deal was Gazprom’s $13bn takeover of Sibneft oil. That year state corporations carried out 46 percent of all mergers and acquisitions with 23 percent of all deals in 2006, further indication of the importance of the statist TCC. Big ventures in 2006 included Rosneft joining with China’s Sinopec in a $13.7bn buyout of Udmurtneft oil and the private merger of Rusal, Sual and Switzerland’s Glencore to create the world’s largest aluminum producer. (Buckley, 2007, 6) Important foreign deals included Russia’s largest steel producer Evraz buying Oregon Steel for $2.4bn, VTB’s  $1.3bn deal for five percent of the French aerospace group EADS, and Lukoil’s acquisitions of Canada’s Nelson Resources. Russia is now the third largest foreign investor among developing countries with $140bn in outbound capital by the end of 2004 and another $36.8bn invested in 2006. For transnational investment banks all this activity meant huge revenues from loans and advisor fees. Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, Dresdner Kleinwort, JPMorgan and ABN Amro were the top five deal makers in 2006.

Russian TNCs have financed much of this expansion by raising capital on the London Stock Exchange. As with China, this is an important channel for the merger of TCC financial and corporate interests. In 2006 Russian companies raised $17.6bn in IPOs with $30bn expected in 2007. Among the most important IPOs were state companies Rosneft and VTB. VTB booked $8.2 billion and appointed James Wolfensohn, former head of the World Bank, as board adviser. Rosneft moved onto the transnational stage conducting one of the largest IPOs in history raising $10.7bn. Strategic investors British Petroleum, Petronas and CNPC bought $2.5 billion in shares while Russian oligarchs Roman Abramovich, Vladimir Lisin and Oleg Deripaska each invested $1 billion. As Joerg Rudloff, chairman of Barclays and board member of Rosneft noted, Russia was “on the track of international economic integration.” (Wagstyl, 2007, 5) While two-thirds of Rosneft’s oil exports go to Europe, they are also building a refinery with CNPC and supply 70 percent of all Russian oil to China. Rosneft is a good example of TCC integration, bringing together Russian private and state capitalists alongside European and Asian private and state capitalists as well.

New industrial activity is also part of the Russian story with large scale infrastructure projects being set in place. Over the next ten years one trillion dollars is to be invested rebuilding roads, airports and railways with 80 percent of the capital to come from foreign and private investors. At the Sochi conference Putin asked private investors to play a leading role in the large-scale modernization project. Already bidding are companies from Austria, France, Germany and the US. Building infrastructure is an attempt to reestablish a developed economy and move beyond petro-state status. Greenfield FDI projects are an indication of TCC involvement with 1487 new starts between 2002-05. (UNCTD, 2006, 265) In 2006 FDI hit $30bn with portfolio and direct investments in the first half of 2007 at over $60bn. (Buckley, 2007b, 2) GDP is now growing at nearly eight percent, much of it driven by state-owned corporations financed by foreign borrowing which has reached $400bn. Some of the largest lenders include Citigroup, HSBC, BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank. As UK minister for trade and investment Lord Digby Jones points out, “No one can ignore the politics, but it isn’t getting in the way.” (Buckley, 2007c, 1)

Conclusion

The key link between national and transnational space is that local TCC contingents believe national development takes place through global integration.  In examining China, Russia and the Gulf states we see economic growth is understood as transnational accumulation through state corporate ownership. National experience can shape the manner by which local capitalists become part of the TCC, but as a class they share a common project to create a world system of production, competition and accumulation. This is a joint, although contested, political project; just as the global economy is both competitive and integrated.

This common project is what Goldman Sachs CEO Richard Gnodde sees when he looks at emerging statist globalization:

Russians, Chinese and certain Gulf states…are each practicing capitalism in their own distinct way, none of which is identical to the way it is practiced in the West. This new ecosystem of global capital is not only generating great opportunities for established investors from both developed and developing countries; it is also, in the case of Africa’s attraction for Chinese and Russian investors, presenting an opportunity for the continent to share in the benefits of globalisation. (Gnodde, 2007, 11)

As a result of this “ecosystem of global capital”, blocs emerge where developing countries who share a desire for a bigger role in the global economy, find solidarity in their opposition to Western dominance. But at the same time they are part of an integrated chain of finance, production and accumulation in which overall class interests are merged with the West. So alliances most often appear in combinations of TNCs that have nothing to do with national origin or regional membership, reflecting the constant search for competitive advantages among the TCC.

Within this competitive field state and private capital are co-invested in mutual economic adventures. This integrates all contingents of the TCC even when investments are minority shares without board membership. In fact, minority investments imply a shared trust, common strategic outlook and similar beliefs about how the world works and their ruling role within it. In other words, there is a shared class consciousness based in a common economic existence and political interdependence. As Adam Smith once pointed out; “The proprietor of stock is properly a citizen of the world, and is not necessarily attached to any particular country.” (Smith 1776)

The emergence of new capitalist centers has quickened the pace of globalization and intensifies the contradictions between national and transnational forms of accumulation. As the US and Europe come under greater competitive pressure a political/economic disconnect has appeared in their discourse. The rebalancing of world power affects the Western political elite who are burdened with the task of maintaining consensual hegemony and legitimacy for capitalism. Their necessary concern to solve the worst aspects of social dislocation is not always shared by transnational capitalists whose fortunes continue to grow. Therefore attacks on China and Russia become common political rhetoric from former global cheerleaders and parallel the antipathy that neoliberal fundamentalist have for statist globalization.

Edwin Truman, in his testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, gives voice to this developing problem, when he states

What is distinct about these trends is that they involve a dramatic increase in the role of governments in the ownership and management of international assets. This characteristic is unnerving and disquieting. It calls into question our most basic assumptions about the structure and functioning of our economies and the international financial system…we favor a limited role for government…have a market-based economy…view central planning as a failed economic framework…and presume that most cross-border trade and financial transactions involve the private sector on both ends of the transaction. Unfortunately, our orientation is not congruent with certain facts, and we are being called upon to recalibrate our understanding of the world. (Truman, 2007c)

The great fear is that developing states will use their “international assets to promote domestic economic development” and in so doing undermine “the fiscal, monetary, and exchange rate policies that gave rise to the initial accumulations of external assets.” (Truman, 2007c) In other words, undermine neoliberal hegemony, deprive Western capital of cheap labor and rebalance world power. Truman’s solution is to welcome state capitalists into the family of transnational capitalism thereby insuring the continuation of neo-liberal globalization. But the accommodating TCC will have to do battle with economic nationalists who fear globalization. As for the outcome, Yale trade expert Jeffery Garten observes, “If there is a big controversy, it will be between Washington on the one hand and corporate America on the other. In that contest, the financiers and the businessmen are going to win, as they always do.” (Goodman and Story)

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1 For an examination of the different TCC factions see William Robinson and Jerry Harris, “Towards a Global Ruling Class: Globalization and the Transnational Capitalist Class.” Science & Society, Spring 2000, Vol. 64, No. 1.

[2] Between 1992 and 1995 there were 46 assassinations of important bankers and businessmen.

5 responses

14 11 2012
Transfer UK Pension

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20 11 2012
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19 11 2012
Transfer UK Pension

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