China bashing — falsely blaming China for the pandemic, the bad economy, and other woes — is being used by the Trump administration and the Republican Party to further the president’s chances of reelection. This campaign is similar in tone to the anti-immigrant racist and xenophobic campaign that Trump used to help him win the presidency in 2016.
China bashing attempts to deflect attention from the disastrous and preventable loss of life due to Trump’s callous inaction and failure to properly manage the pandemic, which have worsened access to needed quality health care; increased job losses and evictions; and lowered the standard of life for working people, especially African Americans, Latinas y Latinos. The Republican Party is behaving in kind and holding up badly needed federal help — again for political reasons.
Trump’s response ranged from ignoring the pandemic to racially labeling it “Wuhan coronavirus,” “Chinese virus,” or “Kung Flu.” Trump makes remarks that brings memories of the “Yellow Peril” ideology, a form of anti-Asian racism that originated with German Kaiser Wilhelm II to encourage the European empires to invade, conquer, and colonize China. “Yellow Peril” racism targeted East Asian immigrants, particularly Chinese workers, and was the basis of “Oriental exclusion” legislation which began in the 1880s and continued until the 1960s.
China bashing is ideological
The root cause for U.S. imperialism’s China bashing is ideological. U.S. imperialism rejected China’s national sovereignty and the Chinese people’s right to decide on a capitalist or socialist path to China’s future economic development. The U.S. tried to prevent the Chinese Revolution, and since that effort failed, is now attempting to reverse or contain it.
Back in the 1970s, the U.S. ruling class used divide-and-conquer tactics to worsen the political differences between China and the former Soviet Union in order to push a capitalist path for China. Once this tactic failed to work, the U.S. doubled down on its strategy to contain China in continued pursuit of maintaining its unilateral superpower status.
The ideology-driven attacks on China are a bipartisan enterprise
Obama initiated the pivot to Asia when the foreign policy elites recognized China was catching up with the U.S. and passing it economically. Prior to this, the U.S. was busy with regime-change wars to secure geopolitical control of the Middle East. Obama promoted the TPP trade agreement that excluded China. Obama inserted THAAD missiles aimed at China in South Korea, pushed the new base in Okinawa, and supported getting Japan to renounce its Constitution’s pacifist Article 9 (which remains in place). The broadened military alliance with Australia was another Obama-era effort. In part, the Iran deal was intended to eliminate another and even more self-defeating war in the Middle East so the Pentagon could focus on China; similarly, with Obama’s action to reduce troop levels in Iraq. The wars on Libya, Syria, and Yemen were intended to be fought by others so the U.S. could focus its guns on China and continue the NATO encirclement of Russia. These types of warmongering policies led to U.S. military involvement in the civil wars in Korea and Vietnam and to conflicts with China in Korea, which almost led to full-scale war and possible nuclear war in 1950.
Trump gathers dubious anti-China characters
Trump collected in his administration dubious characters like former Wall Street penny stock dealer Steve Bannon and sensational anti-China author Peter Navarro to help him bash China.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, is now under arrest for a fraudulent border-wall fundraising scheme. The former editor of Breitbart News Network, a far-right racist, misogynist, and xenophobic website, had been previously associated with fraudulent investment activities. This year the fraudster was found in a 150-foot, $28 million yacht owned by a billionaire Chinese businessman, Guo Wengui, a fugitive from China wanted for fraud, blackmail, and bribery. Bannon, Navarro, and the other swindlers and adventurers whom Trump brought into his government have engaged in acts of record-breaking corruption. The difference between previous corrupt governments and Trump’s is one of both quantity and quality. Not only is the quantity of the corruption unprecedented, but the quality is different.
Peter Navarro is on an “America First” nationalist anti-China rampage. His only claim to fame is his book Death by China and a documentary based it. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, found Navarro by browsing Amazon. As Trump’s assistant and director of trade and manufacturing policy, Navarro places more importance on Trump’s quick economic restart than on saving lives. He has been feuding with epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci over the pandemic, preferring to favor business over health while ignoring or refuting the advice of health professionals.
Another shady anti-China character is former CIA chief Mike Pompeo, now Secretary of State. He is Trump’s “most vocal abettor” in pushing the myth that the coronavirus was engineered in a Chinese laboratory.
Trump falsely blames China for U.S. job losses and dropping standard of life
Trump falsely blames China for causing job losses and lowering the standard of life of the U.S. working class. Trump also blames the liberal sector of the ruling class for the “unfair” trade balance between the U.S. and China. He violates World Trade Organization trade rules by adding tariffs on most imported China goods in order to appear tough on China and force it to capitulate before the elections. This is not working. Instead, the economic warfare is hurting U.S. farmers and the rest of the country.
So, what caused the loss of manufacturing jobs and lower standard of life in the U.S.? Capitalism in its current neoliberal form. Capitalism has an inherent flaw: a tendency for the rate of profit to fall over time. Capitalism’s ability to manufacture goods outpaces the ability of workers to consume those goods (especially with fewer jobs and lower real wages), thus profits fall. One result is that monopoly capitalists focus on entering growing foreign markets, such as China, with its 1.4 billion people and rising consumer demand. Here is yet another contradiction — while Trump slams China, U.S. corporations need China’s growing economy to sell its products.
To reverse this natural profit decay, the U.S. ruling class, along with its allies, decided to implement a new form of ruthless capitalism, neoliberalism. This new form eliminated the gains from the New Deal compromise of the 1930s. Back then, the U.S. ruling class, under President Franklin Roosevelt, made concessions to the U.S. working class. These forced concessions were due to a growing labor militancy (under the economic pressures of the Great Depression), industrial union organizing, the pressure of the socialist October revolution, and the need to avoid labor strikes in the impending war with European fascism.
To reverse these concessions and increase profits, the U.S. ruling class
- attacked the unions and collective bargaining rights and eliminated or reduced public jobs.
- lowered wages, increased worker layoffs through more automation, contracted out more work, and cut benefits. Automation exacerbates fundamental capitalist contradictions, leading to further job losses.
- moved manufacturing offshore to low-wage countries, eliminating jobs in the U.S. and reducing U.S. wages.
- removed work-safety and other beneficial regulations.
- shifted the tax burden to the working class and promoted corporate welfare programs such as corporate tax cuts, tax avoidance, and Federal Reserve policy to shift wealth to the capitalist class (<1% of the population).
- implemented austerity measures like cuts to working-class social benefits.
- promoted privatization of government services so that private corporations and billionaires can get even richer — the Post Office, Social Security, Medicare, and military and VA subcontracting are current examples. The exception to austerity cuts is the military-industrial complex, which continues to be flush with billions of dollars and spends more than 50% of the discretionary federal budget. Misplaced budget priorities result in fewer jobs than would be obtained through the Green New Deal and non-military infrastructure projects.
China did not make the decisions to move manufacturing jobs abroad or to eliminate U.S jobs through automation. Those decisions were made by U.S. multinational corporations in pursuit of higher profits. These economic policies have temporarily worked for the U.S. ruling class, while the standard of life for U.S. workers continues to decline, shifting more wealth to the capitalist class. Who does Trump falsely blame for this? China!
Trump brings the world to the brink of war
Trump brings the world to the brink of nuclear war by sending the U.S. Naval fleet to the South China Sea, reminiscent of the warmongering Cold War against the Soviet Union.
Trump has stated that the U.S. is not necessarily bound by its long-standing “One China” policy, and he sent a cabinet member to Taiwan, knowing that this provocative action violates it. The Chinese people do not forget the decades of humiliation they suffered under colonial imperialism.
The Trump administration incites separatist movements in China in order to destabilize China. Trump sanctions both China and its ruling Communist Party officials under the pretense of supporting democracy in Hong Kong and Muslim human rights in Xinjiang Province. The last thing Trump and U.S. imperialism can be accused of is caring for Muslim rights anywhere, given the mass killings of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. And remember the torture of Muslims in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, U.S. abduction and kidnapping of Muslims for torture in other countries, the torture in Guantanamo, and the drone assassinations.
The U.S. is also trying to contain a serious economic competitor
The fact that China is a serious economic competitor is another motive for attacking China: U.S. capital cannot run rampant in China, fully exploiting its people and resources. Further, China threatens U.S. imperialism’s free hand to write the world’s rules and act with total impunity. The attack on the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is because of its enormous achievements and advances in developing a modern model of socialism. The PRC, using both planning and market mechanisms, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, has brought more people out of poverty (850 million) by U.N. standards over the last 40 years than any society in history, and has become the second leading economy in the world. The PRC navigated the economic crises of the last four decades with far greater success than any capitalist country; it was least affected by the global financial recession of 2008 and has quickly and has mostly and responsibly recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The post–World War II U.S. hegemony is being challenged by China. Their Belt and Road initiative prevents China’s economic isolation and helps create allies in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, as opposed to the US militaristic approach. In Africa, China is a major competitor of the U.S. and the European Union. China’s friendly relations, commercial ties. and resistance to the U.S. blockades against Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, and the DPR of Korea are a big irritant to U.S. imperialism. China is working hard to challenge the monopoly of the U.S. petrodollar. China’s alliance with Russia is yet another irritant to U.S. imperialism. U.S. imperialism’s ultimate purpose is to continue and expand the U.S. capitalist class’s wealth off the sweat of the global working class.
The U.S. seeks to slow down China’s technological development
The U.S. wants to contain China’s socialist economic development by obstructing its technological edge in artificial intelligence (machine learning), big data, fifth-generation wireless technology (5G), and other technological advancements. Cutting China off from technology developed in the U.S. and Europe is reminiscent of the same tactics used against the Soviet Union (and of course is similar to the 39 or 40 blockades the U.S. is imposing on mostly much weaker countries). Instead of cooperation, the Trump administration seeks confrontation, threatening military action while engaging in economic warfare. The U.S. is doing everything in its power to prevent the technological rise of China. The U.S. went so far as to have Canadian authorities arrest for extradition Meng Wanzhou, the CEO of the Chinese tech company Hauwei, on trump-up charges of skirting U.S. economic sanctions on Iran.
U.S. failure to cooperate during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
The pandemic is accelerating the decline of U.S. imperialism. A new world is in formation, one in which multilateralism will become the norm.
The climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the harm that go-it-alone policies do, and the urgent need for global cooperation. For the kind of emergency response to the climate crisis that is necessary, China and the U.S. must work together. Failure to cooperate with China hurts the U.S. economically. China is a huge market, and they will retaliate by closing China’s market for some U.S.-made products. But failure to cooperate has even larger ramifications in a world of pandemic and global climate change.
While the attempt at a new cold war on China is a bipartisan imperialist enterprise, Trump is exploiting this ideological struggle for his own reelection campaign. The defeat of Trump in November of 2020 will make it possible for the U.S. working class and peace movement to continue to push the ruling class away from a new cold war and towards peaceful international development.
The U.S. working class must give Trump and the Republicans a sound beating in the November elections in order to prevent further escalation of military and economic tensions with China. But since the escalation of tensions with and threat to China is a bipartisan enterprise, under any outcome, the working class must pressure the president and Congress to reverse course away from confrontation and toward diplomacy, and demand policy changes that benefit the international working class.
Democracy and peace are at risk.
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