Europe and the Cold War against China
The need for a more rational, pluripolar world order
On October 23, 2021, NoColdWar.org sponsored a zoom event, “Europe against the Cold War: China is not our enemy.” The co-moderator, Nora García of Spain, described the purpose of the panel as that of analyzing the role of Europe in the U.S. Cold War against China. She asked, how do we explain that China is not our enemy, and that the necessary road is peace and sustainable development? Fiona Edwards of the United States, serving as co-moderator, added that NoColdWar.com was established in 2020 to respond to the aggressive policies toward China of the Trump administration; unfortunately, U.S. aggression against China is escalating under Biden. She encouraged all to visit the Webpage of NoColdWar.com to sign the declaration of opposition to the Cold War against China.
The panelists, in the order of their presentations, were Yanis Varoufakis, a member of Parliament in Greece, Secretary-General and founder of the left-wing political party MeRA25, and former Greek Minister of Finances; Kate Hudson of the UK, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; Nabil Boukili, member of the Workers' Party of Belgium and a deputy in the Chamber of Representatives, the lower house of the Federal Parliament of Belgium; Maria Cernat, Editor of the Barricade, Romania; Cinzia della Porta, the Base Unions in Italy; Maite Mola of Spain, Vice-President of the European Left Party; Victor Gao of China, Director of the China National Association of International Studies; Madison Tang of the United States, Coordinator of the Codepink “China is not our enemy” campaign; Vijay Prashad, Executive Director of Tri-Continental: Institute for Social Research, India.
Yanis Varoufakis declared that the New Cold War is a threat to humanity. The New Cold War, he observed, is a mixture of stupidity and hypocrisy, in that the capitalist world-economy would not have survived the financial crisis without China, which increased its investments and purchases in order protect its own economy from the shock of the crisis. Germany, for example, survived the crisis through a strategy of socialism for the bankers combined with exporting goods to China. Similarly, the U.S. economy would not have attained stability in 2009, if it were not for the Chinese economy.
But, Varoufakis maintained, it is not a good idea to explain policies through reference to their stupidity. It is better to explain the interests that are at stake in the New Cold War. China has created tech conglomerates, and China is the only country in the world that is able to compete with U.S. dominance of the big tech market. U.S. big tech and big finance have an interest in taking control of the competitive Chinese big tech companies, in accordance with historic patterns of U.S. monopoly capital in responding to competition. Creating conditions that would force China to sell its big tech companies to U.S. corporations is the goal of the Cold War against China.
Varoufakis made clear that he is opposed to Chinese authoritarianism. Indeed, he is opposed to all manifestations of authoritarianism, whether it be that of the Communist Party of China or that of European states whose political-economic systems are authoritarian, in spite of a façade of democracy. He believes that European authoritarian regimes have no right to accuse China of authoritarianism. Chinese authoritarianism does not legitimate the Cold War against China; it does not make China our enemy.
Kate Hudson reported on military developments in relation to the Cold War against China. She noted that, in addition to participating in the Australia-USA-UK (Aukus) defense agreement, the UK has supported U.S. strategies in NATO, and it has increased its nuclear arsenal. The Aukus agreement includes the sharing of military technology, providing Australia with full access to U.S. nuclear technology. Only six countries have access to nuclear powered submarines, and Australia now joins that exclusive club. In response to criticisms of the accord, the UK claims that the submarines are merely nuclear-powered and are not armed with nuclear weapons. However, Hudson noted, the nuclear-powered submarines use weapons-grade plutonium, and thus they have the capacity to be armed with nuclear weapons.
Hudson maintained that what is occurring is a massive intensification of militarization, and it has triggered popular opposition in the UK. This opposition must be strengthened through cooperation between the peace movement and trade unions.
Nabil Boukili maintained that the New Cold War is a threat to peace in the world. It is a great expense that takes diverts funds away from the needs of the working class. It implies a deepening exploitation of Africa, which functions as Europe’s backyard in supplying mineral resources for military production. Increased militarization does not respond to the needs of society.
Europe could break its alliance with the USA, Boukili observed, but the prevailing political orientation is to the follow the USA in the Cold War against China. The attacks against China are increasing, and the Workers' Party of Belgium is the only party in the Belgian parliament to oppose the Cold War.
Accusations of human rights violations against China are hypocritical, Boukili maintains. There are many examples of human rights violations in the West and other regions, which we ignore.
Boukili declared that we need a working-class movement for peace, like the opposition to the first Iraq War. We need international cooperation, not war. Public opinion is not aware that there is a Cold War against China, so there must be the raising of consciousness and the formation of common front.
Maria Cernat observed that few politicians in Romania are prepared to criticize the Cold War rhetoric. Consistent with the strategies of the U.S. Cold war, Romania has adopted measures to exclude Chinese high-tech companies, using EU regulations against trading with state-owned or state-subsidized industries.
Cernat maintained that true independence requires an independent media, which Romania does not have. The Romanian public ought to debate the intelligence of not buying the lowest-price goods, which cannot be done in the context of the discourse of the mainstream Western media. Romana needs an independent media in Rumania, instead of following what is said in the Western mainstream media. She noted that her small collective tries to provide information different from the Western media.
Cinzia della Porta observed that the New Cold War is against the interests of the people of Europe. By increasing military spending, it imposes costs on the working class, which has suffered a decline in its standard of living since 2008. The international capitalist system has failed, and the New Cold War distracts the people from its failure.
Della Porta affirmed the commitment of the World Federation of Trade Union to peace. She called for all trade unions and progressive forces to take responsibility for presenting an alternative to capitalism, inasmuch as capitalism generates conditions for conflict.
Maite Mola maintained that the capitalist world-economy today is characterized by a tense process of multilateralism, in which the larger and stronger semi-peripheral economies, like those of the BRICS, can be included in an expanded and more diverse core. Biden supports this multilateralism, with all sufficiently-strong economies included, except China. The United States wants to maintain control of this multilateral capitalist world order, and therefore it has to exclude China, which explains the logic of the Cold War against China. Mola maintains that we must stand against capitalist multilateralism; we must convoke movements that call for a multipolar world based in dialogue, in defense of peace.
Victor Gao, Director of the China National Association of International Studies, maintained that humanity is at a critical crossroads, in which there is the option of peace and cooperation, on the one hand, and a war that would culminate in a nuclear holocaust, on the other. He noted that there are political forces in the USA that advocate for war against China; and some thinkers, citing examples among competing powers in human history, are expressing the idea that war between the USA and China is inevitable.
The Chinese scholar points out, however, that all previous wars among competing powers were pre-atomic wars; World War II was ended by two atomic bombs, but the war was conducted by powers that had not yet developed nuclear weapons, and it could have concluded without their use. But today, a war between the USA and China would be a war between nuclear powers, and it would escalate into a nuclear war. That is why peace between China and the USA is inevitable. Even high-level U.S. military officials do not want war with China, because they know it would get out of control and become a nuclear war.
Gao maintained that the Chinese paradigm reinforces the logical tendency toward peace. China does not want to replace the United States as the “top dog” or hegemonic power in the world-economy. Nor does China desire that other nations follow its model. China wants stability at home and peace abroad, inasmuch as such conditions favor the expansion of trade; China believes in trading with all other nations on a basis of mutual respect.
The Chinese orientation to the peaceful resolution of conflicts, Gao pointed out, is illustrated with respect to Taiwan. China has the capacity to take Taiwan through force; but China wants to recover Taiwan through dialogue and negotiation.
Gao noted that China has experienced a tremendous economic growth in recent decades, and by some measures, the Chinese economy has become the largest in the world. In the next couple of decades, the Chinese economy will become the largest in the world by all measures. Therefore, China does not fear a Cold War between China and the USA; China is confident that it will not lose a Cold War with the United States.
Gao believes that it would be an error for Europe to join the USA in hostility toward China, because China and Europe have significant economic relations. Europe has an interest in mutually beneficial trade with China. But China does not want to pressure European countries. Similarly, Australia has a significant trading relation with China, and it ought to reconsider its recent military pact with the USA and the UK, as not consistent with its interests.
Gao concludes that war is irrational; and peace, cooperation, and mutually beneficial trade is the inevitable road. We must all stand for peace.
Madison Tang noted that the USA is leading the Cold War on China, which has many dimensions, including the increased participation of the CIA and false charges of espionage against China. Other nations of the world, including the nations of Europe, do not have an interest in joining the Cold War against China, because it would result in their being dependent on the U.S. military, a phenomenon that has occurred with many nations.
China and the USA, Tang maintained, have fundamentally opposed projects. China has launched its Belt and Road Initiative and is developing mutually beneficial trade with the nations of the global South. In contrast, the USA destroys through militarism and imperialism.
Tang calls upon the people of the United States to reject militarism and imperialism, because only weapons manufacturers benefit from militarism. The USA, she declares, should be leading the way in promoting cooperation among nations. She notes that the peace movement has had some success in educating the public concerning the dangers of the Cold War against China.
Vijay Prashad observed that there have been three projects in European history. The first was in the period 1000 to 1500, in which the guiding philosophy was Latin Christianity. The second was the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, which culminated in the French Revolution; its guiding philosophy was rationality.
The third project has been the construction of the European Union, which unlike the previous two projects, has not had a guiding philosophy to hold it together. It has had limited ambitions, perhaps because of its embarrassment over colonialism and twentieth century fascism. Lacking a guiding philosophy, the third European project has been under the political, financial, and military direction of the USA; it has suffered from dependency on the United States.
In the third European project, Prashad maintains, the needs of the people of Europe have been ignored. Europe receives most of its energy sources from Iran, Russia, and Libya. Yet no European government protested when the USA imposed economic sanctions on Iran and Russia or attacked Libya, disrupting the sources of European energy. Having failed to defend its peoples before U.S. unilateral actions, the European elite now joins in a human rights campaign with respect to the Xingiang autonomous region of China. In doing so, Europe makes hypocritical, self-righteous noise. And it creates economic problems for Europe, imposing sanctions, for example, that prevent the importation of magnesium from China, necessary for the manufacturing of cars.
Prashad notes that China increasingly trades with Europe. China has been Germany’s leading trading partner for the last five years, ahead of the USA. In the European Union, China is the second trading partner, behind the United States. Can Europe see its growing and necessary economic relation with China and Russia, and act rationally in accordance with its interests? Or will Europe join the USA in confrontation with China? Prashad hopes that the European states will opt for collaboration and cooperation, and will not follow the USA in a confrontational road.
Maite Mola points to an important conceptual distinction between, on the one hand, capitalist multilateralism; and on the other hand, a post-capitalist pluripolarity that has space for countries with the political will to construct socialism. Capitalist multilateralism preserves the global structures of core-peripheral superexploitation that have been constructed on a colonial foundation. The movement toward post-capitalist pluripolarity, in contrast, sidesteps neocolonial economic structures and develops trading and cultural relations on a foundation of respect for the equality and sovereignty of nations. At the same time, there is real third possibility. There are signs that the USA is moving toward a U.S.-directed global military dictatorship, developing structures opposed to both capitalist multilateralism and post-capitalist pluripolarity, and explicitly abandoning the Enlightenment rationality of the second European historical project identified by Prashad.
The Biden administration is unleashing a policy that is a hybrid of the global military dictatorship and capitalist multilateralism. Biden’s policy is dictatorial with respect to Latin America, waging unconventional war on countries constructing socialism, with the intention that Latin America and the Caribbean will remain in its peripheral backyard. At the same time, the USA wages unconventional war against China, in order to exclude or coopt China, so that the USA can maintain control in a multilateral capitalist world-economy, in which the strongest European and semi-peripheral economies, minus China, are included in the advantages of the core economic function in the world-economy.
In this global scenario, what are the interests of Europe? The European elite has an interest in a true multilateral imperialist capitalism, which does not involve subordination to the USA. The European elite has an interest in breaking with the U.S. global dictatorial project as well as the modified capitalist multilateralism of Biden, inasmuch as both involve a subordination of Europe to the United States. Therefore, the European elite likely will opt for breaking with the U.S. project and for braking and excluding China, so that a multilateral imperialist capitalist world-economy can materialize, in which the Europe economies play a leading role, without subordination to the USA. In pursuing this strategy, the European elite would attempt to exploit the productive and commercial decline of the USA as well as the ideological marginality (in the West) of the Chinese socialist project.
Neither global dictatorship nor multilateral global capitalism are sustainable, because they are different forms of imperialism, and imperialism itself is not sustainable. Above all because the capitalist world of alternately competing and allying imperialisms is based on a historic foundation of the conquest and peripheralization of new lands and peoples, and there are no more new lands and peoples to conquer. Compounding this objective condition, the colonized peoples of the Third World no longer accept their assigned fate as the impoverished suppliers to the stronger economies of necessary natural resources, raw materials, and agricultural products. At the same time, the peoples of the North no longer accept the insecurities that result from a world-system that has reached and overextended its geographical and ecological limits. The capitalist world-economy is ecologically and politically unsustainable.
I used to believe, back in the 1980s and 1990s, that the U.S. power elite would ultimately turn from its imperialist policies, because no one, wealthy or poor, has an interest in creating global chaos, where everyone lives under threat of economic insecurity and violence. But twenty-five years ago, a Cuban scholar pointed out to me that if an enlightened and reasonable turn by the elite were forthcoming, there would be some sign of its emergence. And indeed, there is no such sign. To the contrary, the neoliberal and militarily aggressive turn of the capitalist elite since 1979 teaches us that it acts only in accordance with its short-term interests, at the expense of peoples, nations, and humanity. The members of the elite classes are looking to accumulate to the maximum in the short term, accompanied by a personal plan to ensure their family’s security and isolated protection from the general condition of increasing chaos.
The amoral and interested conduct of the elite during the last half century has left the people in the political cultures of the North in a condition of confusion and division. In this ideological context, the people are not able to see that they have an interest in a pluripolar, post-capitalist, and post-imperialist world; a pluripolar world of mutually beneficial trade among nations and respect for the sovereignty of nations, which would be the foundation for lasting world peace and prosperity. The peoples of the North do not to see that China, in its forging of non-imperialist, mutually beneficial trade relations with the nations of the Third World, is playing a leading role in the development of a more stable, sustainable, post-capitalist, and post-imperialist world-system. To the extent that the U.S. and European elites are able to discern the role of China in leading the nations of the world toward development in practice of an alternative to the U.S.-European-centered world-economy, this could be a factor in the Cold War against China.
The current situation of the world-system, which includes above all the interested and amoral comportment of the elite, requires the taking of political power by delegates of the people in key economies of the North, so that they can direct states in taking decisive steps toward the development of a pluripolar, post-capitalist, post-imperialist world-system. Taking as our guide what has occurred in the last three decades in Latin America, we can see that the taking of power by the people can and ought to be accomplished through electoral processes forged by leaders who are capable of explaining to the people the unsustainability of the capitalist imperialist world order. It is a question of mobilizing the people to take appropriate and necessary political action in defense of themselves.
In order for the people to act in defense of themselves, they must understand the dynamics of the global scenario, which have been presented to them in a distorted form by the prevailing public discourse, the media, and educational structures. The people must have consciousness of Chinese efforts to cooperate with progressive Third World nations in the development of the more just and sustainable world that humanity needs. The people must arrive to understand that an alternative, pluripolar world is being constructed in practice step-by-step: in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and the foreign policy philosophy of China; in the current political reality in Latin America of four nations constructing socialism; in the process of Latin American union and integration; in the international project of the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose philosophy is born in the advanced and progressive Islamic civilizations of the tenth through the sixteenth centuries; and in the renewed quest in Africa for a reformulation of African socialism, as it seeks to define its place in an emerging pluripolar world.
The left today needs a discourse that explains the neocolonial character of the world-system and that correctly accuses the elite of betraying the most fundamental values of humanity, as formulated by the representatives of the peoples of the world in the UN Charter of 1946; the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948; the 1955 declaration of Bandung; the 1966 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the declarations of the Summits of the Non-Aligned Movement of 1961, 1973, and 1979; the Declaration on a New International Economic Order by the UN General Assembly in 1974; and the declarations of the Summits of the Non-Aligned Movement from 2006 to 2019. It needs a discourse that educates the people with respect to the powerful examples of China, Vietnam, Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, which illustrate the capacity of the people to take power in their own hands and use it to direct the state toward the defense of their interests and needs.
In this task of the political education of our peoples, we ought to imagine not only an alliance of the peace and working-class movements of the North, but also a great global alliance of the peoples of the earth, who now have a common interest in the end of an unsustainable world-system built on colonialism and imperialism. Through personal encounter with the peoples of the Third World, working together in common goals, the peoples of the North will develop the necessary political consciousness.
Some believe that we need not convince our peoples of the virtues of Chinese socialism in order to stop the Cold War against China. I believe, however, that limited ideological strategies only result in narrow wins and limited gains, leaving intact the structural sources of serious global problems that continue to threaten the security and the future of humanity. I believe that the people will not act decisively and in unity in defense of themselves unless and until they arrive to understand the irrationality of imperialism and the logic of cooperation. We intellectuals of the North should take advantage of the opening caused by the evident self-interest, hypocrisy, and cynicism of the global capitalist elite in launching the New Cold War against China, using the moment to find the discourses and strategies that are effective in explaining to our peoples the fundamental truths of our time, truths that empower us to envision the common interests and needs of all of humanity.
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