Rivaling Pax Americana
As reported in the self-titled newspaper of record, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave “an unusually blunt public critique of China” at an Asian security conference in Singapore. Obviously, blunt critique is not unusual for Rumsfeld, but, while the regime of President George W. Bush was courting China in its War on Terror, unfriendly rhetoric aimed against the Chinese regime abated. The article noted that Chinese military expenditures threatened to upset the “delicate security balance in Asia.” The solution offered was the usual neoliberal drivel calling for a focus instead on political freedom and open markets. (1)
The security balance has hitherto been lopsided in favor of US imperialist interests and although Rumsfeld seeks to evoke fears in neighbors at the rapidly developing Chinese state (which benefits the entire region), it is the US state that feels most discomfited.
Speaking of China’s increasing military capability, Rumsfeld asked, “Since no nation threatens China, one wonders: why this growing investment?” And which nation, one might ask, is threatening the US hyperpower? Obviously, China is considered to be threatening. China’s own perception of threat should be transparent from history. But the question is preposterous. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, unequal treaties foisted upon it by western, Russian, and Japanese imperialists ruthlessly exploited China. Forcible exportation of opium into China and seizure of its territory indelibly humiliated the Chinese. (2) In the late twentieth century, US imperialism foisted wars upon China’s bordering states in Korea and Vietnam, the latter of which spilt over into Laos. But what galls the Chinese most is the halting of its people-driven revolution by the US Seventh Fleet that has prolonged the separation, effected years earlier by Japanese imperialists, of Taiwan from the motherland.
Given this history, the pronouncements by American and Japanese officials warning about Chinese designs on reunification with Taiwan are insulting to the Chinese people. A separated Taiwan also poses severe defensive constraints upon China -- something exploited by the US. Of course, the self-determination of Taiwanese people must be respected, but the question exists whether imperialist-spawned separation and subsequent guided self-determination can be regarded as legitimate. If not, what is the equitable solution? (3)
But there is an answer to Rumsfeld’s ignorant question. If he bothered to read the blueprint put together by the neoconservative think tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which included some of the Bush administration officials, he should know that China is singled out as a major threat to Pax Americana. PNAC, consequently, advocated, “Raising U.S. military strength in East Asia is the key to coping with the rise of China to great power status.” (4)
The report stated that “a majority of the U.S. fleet, including two thirds of all carrier battle groups, should be concentrated in the Pacific.” (5) In 2004, the US and allies conducted massive naval maneuvers, coined Summer Pulse, in waters near China and Taiwan. (6) The naval exercises featured an unprecedented seven aircraft-carrier strike groups. Andrew Tan, a security expert at the Singaporean Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies considered it a “direct signal” to Chinese leaders: “It’s gunboat diplomacy and its point is to warn China not to step over the mark when it comes to Taiwan.” (7)
Planned in advance of Summer Pulse, China held its eighth annual military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. Andrew Yang, of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taipei nevertheless saw a “clear” message to Washington: “China is ready to back up its political position here.” (8)
Rumsfeld complained: “China’s defense expenditures are much higher than Chinese officials have publicly admitted. It is estimated that China’s is the third-largest military budget in the world, and now the largest in Asia.” (9) One wonders why it is okay to be the largest investor in so-called defense and voice concern about the world’s most populous country being number three. A buildup of its military is important in Chinese plans but it is sought pragmatically. (10) Yet Chinese military spending still pales in comparison to US military.
Rumsfeld stated the obvious: “China has fundamental decisions to make about its goals and its future.” To this he add the audacity to add: “Ultimately, China will need to embrace some form of open, representative government if it is to fully achieve the benefits to which its people aspire.” The Bush administration is one of the most closed governments in US history. Further, US elections with their trailless computer ballots and purged voter lists have made a mockery of US representative democracy in much of the international community’s eyes.
Chinese military build-up aside, the greater threat to the US government is that, while it is expending much of its wealth to secure markets and resources through military hooliganism, Chinese capitalism is accessing resources and making inroads into markets that US imperialists historically considered their exclusive backyard. While the US has been exporting terrorism, undermining democracy, and economically crippling South and Central America through global capitalist institutions and seizing capital and resources, the Chinese have been investing and entering into trade partnerships with Latin America, quietly shunting aside the Monroe Doctrine. (11)
In 1958, Chairman Mao Zedong warned of a day-of-reckoning awaiting US imperialism: “If the US monopoly capitalist group is bent on carrying out its policy of aggression of war, a day will certainly come when humanity will hang it by the neck.” (12) While the US regime is burning bridges and bleeding red, literally and figuratively, the Chinese regime patiently sets about building bridges.
Herein lies a lesson to be learned.
Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
(1) Thom Shanker, “Rumsfeld Issues a Sharp Rebuke to China on Arms,” New York Times, 4 June 2005
(2) Patricia Buckeley Ebrey, China (Cambridge University Press, 1996)
(3) Kim Petersen, “One China,” Dissident Voice, 22 December 2003. A reunification followed by a referendum is proffered as one solution to recognizing the aspirations of both sides concerning the future of Taiwan.
(4) Report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century,” The Project for the New American Century, September 2000, 31
(5) Ibid, 39
(6) “Summer Pulse,” GlobalSecurity.org
(7) Quoted in John M. Glionna, “China, US Each Hold Major War Exercises,” Los Angeles Times, 20 July 2004
(9) Shanker, op.cit.
(10) You Ji, “The debate over China’s aircraft carrier program,” Association for Asia Research, 3 February 2005. The Chinese ambition to possess aircraft carriers has been shelved by economic, political, strategic, and technological considerations.
(11) Saul Landau, “China, Venezuela and the U.S.A -- trouble brewing,” Progreso Weekly, 2 June 2005. The Chinese have signed numerous commercial agreements with Latin American nations. Even in the “potentially contentious turf” of Venezuela, China stepped in to secure access for its increasing energy needs. Landau noted how anger from the failure of neoliberal reforms provided the opening for Chinese to generate opportunities for all parties and increase its stature and clout in the world, especially with those countries pushed to near bankruptcy by the Washington Consensus. China has presented Latin America with an option to US hegemony. States labeled rogue by the US, such as Cuba and Venezuela, can now turn to China as a source for trade and investment.
(12) Quoted in Jerome Ch’en (ed.), Mao (Prentice Hall, 1969), 116. Mao is also the subject of a revisionist book by “uniquely relentless iconoclasts,” Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, who claim “Mao schemed to take over the world.” In this account, Mao, the arch anti-imperialist is portrayed as the ultimately evil imperialist. (See “Mao Zedong: Homo sanguinarius,” Economist, 28 May-3 June 2005, 83-84)
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