Why China is not the aggressor

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Day in and day out on TV, in newspapers, online and in the halls of Congress, the White House and think tanks, the elite molders of public opinion repeat one message over and over: China is the aggressor on the world stage. 

This is a lie. To reverse the Pentagon’s reckless drive towards potentially catastrophic confrontation, people in this country need to be aware of the true nature of relations between the United States and China. In fact, it is the United States that is engaged in a comprehensive push to encircle and isolate China using military, economic and political aggression. 

The Pentagon war machine shifts to the Pacific

Feeling its domination of the Pacific slipping in the face of China’s rapid economic development, the Obama administration adopted the “Pivot to Asia” as the centerpiece of its military and foreign policy vision. This policy involved the redeployment of the bulk of the U.S. war machine away from the Middle East and into the western Pacific rim. This was explicitly laid out in a 2011 article written by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. At that time, the Hu Jintao administration in China was following the “peaceful rise” doctrine, which emphasized mutually beneficial cooperation with all nations and that China’s desire to grow its economy and raise its population’s standard of living was not attached to any hegemonic aims.

Going back to the beginning of the 20th century’s Cold War, the U.S. government has sought to turn the nations of East Asia into a staging ground for global war. Planners devised a strategy based on military installations along “island chains” off the coast of China and the Soviet Union’s far east. 

In recent years the United States has sought to expand its military presence in these island chains. In Japan, advanced X-band radar units have been deployed and new facilities adjacent to existing bases have been constructed over the protest of local residents, including in Iwakuni and on Okinawa. Nuclear-capable long-range bombers have been deployed to Guam, whose people have lived under U.S. colonial rule since the end of the 1800s. The United States has bitterly resisted the end of its neo-colonial “Visiting Forces Agreement” in the Philippines. Although not an island, the deployment of the THAAD missile system to South Korea in 2017 was also a key component of the military encirclement of China. 

The Trump administration withdrew from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2018 on the pretext that Russia was violating the terms of the agreement, but in fact the motivation was to unleash a potentially catastrophic arms race in the Pacific. Freed from the INF treaty’s restraints, the Pentagon is now planning on deploying missiles that could annihilate their targets in China in mere minutes. Conventional missiles are also part of the plan — a recent Reuters article revealed the military’s intention to equip Marine units in the Pacific with Tomahawk cruise missiles and beef up the presence of long-range anti-ship missiles as well. 

Ridiculously invoking “freedom of navigation”, the U.S. Navy has sent its warships to conduct patrols through disputed waters in the South China Sea in a move calculated to provoke China and inflame tensions with nearby countries. China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are engaged in a diplomatic process to help resolve territorial disagreements over a number of small islands in the area, but the United States has no right to butt its head into this dispute between neighbors.

The economic front

While the United States has swung between neo-liberal “free market” orthodoxy and trade protectionism, the goal remains the same: isolate China economically and ensure that Wall Street and the big U.S. multinationals reign supreme. 

Under the Obama administration, the United States aggressively pushed the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal. Labelled by progressive and labor activists as “NAFTA on steroids”, the TPP sought to weaken regulations, labor standards and all other obstacles among signatory nations to the free flow of capital. As an official White House statement from February 2016 put it, “TPP allows America – and not countries like China – to write the rules of the road in the 21st century”.

For demagogic reasons, the Trump administration shifted tactics and initiated a trade war against China. Steep tariffs have been imposed and major Chinese companies like Huawei have been subject to severe restrictions and judicial persecution. This has not brought manufacturing jobs back to the United States, but it has weakened China’s economy while raising prices for U.S. consumers.  

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, one third of the world’s maritime trade and 64 percent of China’s commercial shipping goes through the South China Sea. When taking into consideration the rest of the waters surrounding Asia, the region accounts for 60 percent of the world’s trade by sea. The massive deployment of the Pentagon’s assets to the Pacific is aimed not just at the Chinese armed forces, but also establishing its capacity to militarily cut China off from the global economy. 

Cold War-style intrigue and hysteria

There is also a strong political and diplomatic element to the U.S. government’s aggression against China. There is a bipartisan consensus among U.S. elites to promote division and chaos inside China while within the United States fostering a climate of extreme hostility towards China, Chinese people, and all Asian peoples.

Just like the European colonial empires in the 1800s, the U.S. political and military establishment wants to dismember China so it can be more easily controlled. The U.S. government and corporate media has given its unconditional backing to separatist organizations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China’s northwest — even though many of these groups’ ties with outfits that the United States claims to be combatting as part of the “war on terror”. Despite his openly Islamophobic rhetoric and policies at home, Donald Trump has appointed himself the defender of China’s Muslim population and spread unsubstantiated and one-sided accounts of a massive network of “concentration camps”. 

Likewise, in Hong Kong the United States has backed a protest movement that seeks to further distance the semi-autonomous city from the rest of the country or even separate entirely. Despite its “pro-democracy” guise, the Hong Kong protesters carry out terrible acts of violence and intimidation against their opponents while promoting nostalgia for the era of British colonial rule. 

The island of Taiwan was politically severed from the mainland following the revolution that established the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The defeated forces of pro-U.S. dictator Chiang Kai-shek retreated to Taiwan and proclaimed themselves to be the true government of China. Beijing has always maintained that the island remains an integral part of its territory. As part of its anti-China push, the Trump administration has carried out massive arms sales of highly advanced fighter jets, missiles and tanks to Taiwan while conducting provocative naval and air patrols through the Taiwan Strait. 

Domestically, the war-mongers know that the only way the population of the United States would accept something as potentially catastrophic as war with China is if they are subjected to a constant drumbeat of propaganda. The Trump administration has in recent days focused on promoting the ludacris, 100% evidence-free conspiracy theory that the Coronavirus was purposely unleashed on the world by the Chinese government. The corporate media has given credibility to these ridiculous assertions and is functioning as it always has: as an echochamber for the Pentagon.   

The Democratic Party establishment is fully on board with the anti-China campaign, and in fact has sought to one-up Trump. The Joe Biden presidential campaign, for instance, recently released an advertisement accusing the Trump administration of “rolling over for the Chinese” and permitting too many Chinese people to enter the country. The result of this atmosphere of non-stop hostility has been a marked increase in instances of discrimination and racist violence towards Chinese-Americans and other Asian communities within the United States.   

The war hawks want you to believe that China is bullying and threatening the United States. Don’t fall for it — the truth is just the opposite. Now more than ever the world needs international cooperation and dialogue, not “great power competition” leading to potentially devastating conflict.

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