No Cold War against China!!!
A critical review of the September 25 Peace Forum
No Cold War is a platform dedicated to the prevention of a New Cold War with China. It sponsored an International Peace Forum on September 25, which was organized to discuss the new phase of US-led aggression toward China and the need to strengthen the global opposition to the new cold war. The event was moderated by Vijay Prashad, Director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
In his opening remarks, Prashad noted that Joe Biden in his address to the General Assembly indicated that the USA does not want to prosecute hostilities toward China. Prashad asked, however, if this is so, how can the recently signed military pact including the USA, UK, and Australia be explained? How can sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela be explained? Prashad further observed that the defense of the UN Charter is necessary, for it declares important principles with respect to the sovereignty of nations.
What kind of multipolarity?
The first panelist was Ajamu Baraka of the Black Alliance for Peace. He maintained that the most important question is, “what kind of multipolarity is emerging?” He himself seeks theoretical clarity on this question. It is clear, he observed, that the U.S. ruling class was completely unprepared for its historic moment of unipolar hegemony, and under its direction, the world-system has unraveled. Its errors included the disastrous notion, from its own point of view, that the United States could carry out two simultaneous military conflicts.
However, in spite of the errors of the hegemonic power, the world-system is still characterized by unipolarity, but with tendencies toward multipolarity.
But what kind of multipolarity will emerge? Will a new group of hegemonic states emerge? What of questions of capital and class? The system is still controlled by U.S. finance capital, in spite of U.S. decline, as is shown by the fact that ninety percent of the countries of the world have to use the U.S. dollar or the currency of an imperialist state. The struggle among competing imperial states concerning which states will dominate does not really change the dynamics of the world-system. Multipolarity in the context of the capitalist world-economy can shift power from one competing imperialist power to another, from the USA to the European Union, example, which can result in multipolar imperialist control that does not involve the handover of power to the peoples. The real struggle is between classes.
Madison Tang, of Code Pink in the USA, is coordinator of the “China is not our enemy campaign.” She presented a map that show the extensive U.S. military presence abroad, indicating that, rather than promoting democracy in the world, the USA exports violence; and a chart that show the numerous U.S. military interventions since World War II, culminating in the highest military budget in the world, which is defended with the pretext of a supposed threat from China. She presented a world map marking the countries that trade with China more than any other nation, which shows that such countries include nearly all of the countries of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America. She further depicted the countries of the world that are under some kind of sanction from the USA, which include one/third of the world’s population.
Issa Shivji is Professor Emeritus of the University of Dar es Salaam and one of the authors of a three-volume biography of Julius Nyerere. He observed that when we speak of multipolarity, Africa is ignored, even though Africa is central to imperialist domination. Where will Africa stand in a multipolar world? This is the central question for African intellectuals, and we do not have an answer, Shivjii noted.
The answer to Shivji’s question, in my view, lies in the answer to Baraka’s question, what kind of multipolarity will emerge? The discussion of the panelists to this point did not include much analysis of the role of China, which it should, because China is the key to the question. China is seeking to forge, in cooperation with the Third World, a world-system that is structurally different from the imperialist-based capitalist world-economy. To the extent that the European Union challenges U.S. hegemony, it seeks to create a multipolar imperialist world-system. But China, on the other hand, is cooperating with other nations in the development of an alternative world-system based on mutually beneficial trade. In the multipolar imperialist vision, African unity is suppressed, in order to expand and deepen imperialist penetration of the continent. But in the Chinese vision, African unity is promoted, so that Africa can emerge as a pole in alliance with China and the integrationist and unifying project of Latin America. In the Chinese vision, there is space for the renewal of Pan-Africanism, empowering the continent to define for itself its role as an autonomous region that has overcome imperialism, in an alternative world order that respects the sovereignty of nations.
The presentation by Jenny Clegg, Vice-President of the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, demonstrated the need to clarify the question of what kind of multipolarity is emerging. She notes that the USA launched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to seize unipolar hegemony. With the failure of that project, the European Union, Japan, and China challenge U.S. hegemony, and the inter-imperialist rivalry has created space for national development projects. But she does not clarify in what ways the Chinese challenge to U.S. hegemony may be different from that of the European Union; or the extent to which the Chinese and European challenges represent fundamentally different, even opposed, forms of multipolarity. She does note, however, that China has taken advantage of splits in the imperialist camp to strengthen tendencies toward multipolarization.
The Principles of the UN Charter
Sasha Llorenti is the Secretary-General of ALBA-TCP and former ambassador of Bolivia to the United Nations. He asks, what happened to the principles of the UN Charter? What would happen today if there were to be a vote by the member nations of the United Nations on the UN Charter with respect to such principles of the sovereignty and equality of nations? Llorenti declares that he does not believe that the UN Charter would pass today.
With his experience as a representative in the United Nations of a Latin American country with a sovereign project, Llorenti knows well the persistent imperialist policy of ignoring Charter principles. However, we ought to keep in mind that the UN Charter was supported by the United States as World War II was coming to an end. At that time, when the USA was near the height of its neocolonial power, it was able to impose its imperial will through the strength of its productive and commercial capacity, supported by its enormous prestige in the world. In this context of the reality of American Empire, the UN structure provided the world-system with a democratic façade of supposedly independent and sovereign states, which obscured the economic penetration and superexploitation of the nations of the world by a few imperialist states, with the United States possessing a far greater capacity than the other core powers.
In my understanding, as the United States declined economically, a process that began in the 1960s, it had to increasingly turn to the use of economic sanctions and military interventions to attain its imperialist interests, thus revealing that global democratic structures are no more than a façade. But in spite of its declining credibility, the United States today continues to present its foreign policies with a democratic face. If it were to vote against the Charter principle of the sovereignty of nations, it would be abandoning democratic pretense, and it would be openly declaring its quest for a global military dictatorship under U.S. direction. It would make such an open declaration if it believed that its democratic pretense was so lacking in credibility that it had no beneficial effect, and that other nations were using the Charter principles before international organizations to their benefit against U.S. interests.
Certainly, the great majority of nations, whose sovereignty is undermined by the U.S. practical implementation of an imperialist global dictatorship, would vote in favor of Charter principles, except for those compelled by U.S. pressure and threats. The peripheral and semi-peripheral nations of the world-system have an interest in the continued proclamation of U.N. principles and their practical implementation, as they have repeatedly declared in the summits of the Non-Aligned Movement and in regional associations such as CELAC and ALBA. Even other imperialist powers may continue to support Charter principles, seeing them as advantageous in relation to its competition with the United States.
Llorenti asks, what is happening in the Americas? He observes that capitalism wants to destroy grassroots organizations, and at the same time, imperialism wants to destroy all tendencies toward multilateralism. Accordingly, the OAS agenda is to stop Latin American and Caribbean integration and union, and it therefore attacks nations that are playing a leading role in the integrationist project, namely, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. Because of the imperialist attack, CELAC has been stopped; it has not moved forward in the past five or six years. This is by imperialist design.
Llorenti observes that ALBA is an anti-imperialist organization. It endorses the UN Charter, which proclaims anti-imperialist principles.
Fred M’membe is a Zambian journalist known for his editorship of the Zambia Post. He observed that the present unipolar world is worse than the previous bipolar world. Although the present unipolar world is characterized by a small movement toward multipolarity, it is dominated by a single ideology, a system of values, a vision of culture, which is a threat to our system of life. The unipolar order is trying to create the image that socialism in Africa is not possible; it carries with it all the vices of capitalism. It undermines human solidarity at a time in which the most serious human problems, like unemployment and the lack of basic necessities, require human solidarity.
Mikaela Erskog is a researcher at Tricontinental Institute. She directs a project dedicated to the renewal of Pan-Africanism. Erskog also raises the question, what kind of multipolar world? She maintains that, for Africa, the attainment of sovereignty depends on the ability of Africa to become its own pole. And that depends on African unity, or the renewal of Pan-Africanism.
Erskog reviews the period following the attainment of independence by African states, and she observed that the rise of Africa during the period was above all a rise of the African elite. Kwame Nkrumah stood against this prevailing tendency. He put forth Pan-Africanism, with a promise of lifting up the people of Africa, with the cooperation of the nations of the socialist bloc. But in the 1970s, Nkrumah’s project of African unity was torn down; with the consequence of increasing capitalist penetration in the continent.
But the people, Erskog declares, continued to resist. Today, in the spirit of Nkrumah, there is a leftist renewal on the continent, which led to a third Pan-African Conference that discussed how to advance Pan-Africanist unity in defense of the peoples and against capitalism and imperialism. Many people’s organizations were present; only people’s organizations, inasmuch as African governments today do not represent the interests of the people. We have a socialist agenda, because we claim a Pan-Africanist agenda against imperialism.
Multipolarity is inevitable, Erskog observes, but what kind of multipolarity? We need, she declared, a multipolarity from below.
Combined development and polipolarity
Radhika Desai is Professor of Political Studies and Director of the Geopolitical Economy Research Group at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. She is playing a leading role in the International Manifesto Group, which I have discussed in previous commentaries.
Desai observes that with the decline of U.S. productive power, we began to see that the USA can no longer dominate, and that multipolarity is emerging. But our view has been influenced by the cosmopolitan understanding of the ruling elite. In reality, there is little substance to the idea of U.S. hegemony. The USA arrived to imperialism late, and it tried to create hegemony similar to that of nineteenth century British imperialism, but it could not do so. Even in the post-World War II heights of its power, there was much resistance to U.S domination, located principally in the socialist bloc and in the anti-imperialist policies of some nations. This is in accordance with the historic pattern of world capitalism, in which some countries try to preserve their domination in the uneven development that capitalism creates, while other countries resist through combined development.
In her 2013 book, Geopolitical Economy, Desai explains the phenomenon of uneven and combined development. Dominant states seek to preserves existing structures of uneven capitalist development that favor them; but on the other hand, contending states accelerate productive development in order to contest the projects of the imperial states. The latter is called combined development, because it combines or compresses stages of development into a short, intense burst. Combined development can be capitalist or communist, and it generally empowers working classes and popular sectors. The former Soviet Union and China today have been the strongest cases of combined development, and they both widened opportunities for other states to pursue combined development in a broader anti-imperialist coalition.
Desai’s 2013 book further explains the reasons for her rejection of the widely-accepted notion that the United States attained hegemony. She notes that the combined development strategy of communism had taken vast territories and populations out of the capitalist world altogether, removing them from potential U.S. dominance. Moreover, the United States was forced to accept combined development from competing states and even sponsor combined development among its recovering allies. And it had to tolerate strong economic nationalism among newly independent states. The USA was compelled to replace the inter-war concept of the non-applicability of the principle of self-determination to the colonial peoples with the nominal recognition of their right under international law; nation-states now possessed legal equality in the United Nations.
In her presentation in the September 25 Peace Forum, Desai draws upon her previous analysis of uneven and combined development to embrace what Hugo Chávez calls pluripolarity. This concept recognizes that today various poles of combined development have emerged through various waves of resistance. Today, China conducts socialist combined development, and the socialist projects of various nations have created new structures of power. This pluripolarity should be seen in historical context, as emerging from the resistance to imperialism, which has been present since monopoly capitalism reached maturity in the early twentieth century.
The present multipolar moment, Desei maintains, has hopeful possibilities. The United States has to accept the alternative poles, because it has does not have the power to derail them. Moreover, the alternative poles create the groundwork for socialism. However, the economic role of states has to be re-legitimated, so that states can be reoriented toward popular needs and socialism.
China to USA: We are prepared
Prof. Li Bo is a researcher at the World Resources Institute and a senior follow at the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research. He asks, is the USA collapsing?
Li maintains the most Chinese geopolitical thinkers believe that the USA has lost its manufacturing base, so it has only finance dominance. It has become a virtual economy. Chinese scholars see a weakened USA in the world.
Li observed that Chinese scholars view the recent military pact between the USA, UK, and Australia as a retreat; it is a withdrawal to a second circle of defense, retreating from Taiwan. The United States is retreating from Taiwan because China’s economic power already surpasses that of the United States. China is the biggest exporter of capital and the biggest lender in the world; one-fifth of the infrastructure of Africa, for example, is financed by China.
Li notes that an empire in decline is dangerous. It needs an enemy, and it has found one in China. But China has the capacity for military production in the event of armed conflict. China is prepared to defend itself and its socialist path.
On the other hand, China will not cut ties with the USA. The Chinese and the U.S. economies are commercially and financially intertwined. China is a major trader in the world, yet 90% of commercial transactions are in the U.S. dollar. Therefore, China follows the path of co-exitance with the United States.
No Cold War!!!
In a socialist forum on China and the Left on September 18, 2021, Vijay Prashad declared that, regardless of how you feel about the Chinese revolution, all should be opposed to the Cold War against China. And the most important thing is what you do. Accordingly, he called upon everyone to sign the No Cold War statement, which declares that the increasingly aggressive statements and actions of the U.S. government with respect to China constitute a threat to world peace, and they are opposed to the common interests of humanity. It calls upon the United States to step back from the pending Cold War and to seek dialogue centering on common concerns with China.
It is lamentable that the international peace movement does not have sufficient maturity to put forth an antiwar statement that also is anti-imperialist; that names U.S. imperialist policies as a major threat to world peace and as the foundation of global conflicts. However, in spite of this limitation, I have signed the document. Even though I wish that it said more, I am in agreement with what is says; and unified action is required. In accordance with Prashad’s call, I encourage everyone to sign it and to disseminate the statement.
I believe that U.S. participants in the international peace movement must formulate a comprehensive proposal for a national economic plan. As Radhika Desei pointed out in the socialist forum on China, the New Cold War does not intend an actual war. She maintained that the idea that the United States is moving toward a war with China is ludicrous; the USA already has shown a hesitancy to attack Iran, a much lesser power. The New Cold War, she maintains, is not designed to lead to engagement in an actual war with China; its purpose is to feed the military-industrial complex. China has acted responsibly in ignoring the “empty saber rattling” of the USA.
If this be true, we peaceniks are not actually stopping war, which is unlikely to happen. Rather, we are proposing placing limits on the development of one of the most important industries in U.S. economy. This means that we must explain to the people of the United States that a permanent war economy, even when it does not lead to war, is damaging to the nation, because it places low priority on the development of industries and corresponding jobs in various economic and social sectors that are beneficial to the people and the nation.
We therefore must put forward an alternative economic project for the United States, with proposals for investments in new and sustainable forms of production, renewable energy, education, and health, empirically demonstrating the number of jobs that would be generated by the alternative road of peace. If we do not put forth an economic proposal to accompany our statement for peace, we may come across to some as idealists without common-sense intelligence. If we cannot demonstrate intellectual, political, and practical competence, why should the people join us?
A free subscription option is available, with capacity to read, send, and share all posts. A paid subscription ($5 per month or $40 per year) enables you to make comments and to support the costs of the column; full subscribers ($40 per year) also receive a free PDF copy of my book on Cuba and the world-system.
Follow me on Twitter: Charles McKelvey@CharlesMcKelv10