December 9, 2021
The signs of the new cold war with China are everywhere. The political signal comes from the top. President Biden’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, tellingly called Renewing America’s Advantages, states: “We must also contend with the reality that the distribution of power across the world is changing, creating new threats. China, in particular, has rapidly become more assertive. It is the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.”
Competition with China has worked its way into almost every aspect of Biden Administration policy. Biden often justifies his big domestic spending plans for infrastructure, physical and social, by the “need to compete more effectively with China.”
Not yet a year old, the Biden Administration has been mounting provocation after provocation toward People’s China: fresh military aid and political support to Taiwan, intense naval and submarine activity in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Straits, and the Straits of Malacca through which much of China’s oil imports pass; a new U.S. military base on the northwest coast of Australia facing the South China Sea; bogus claims of “Uyghur genocide” in Xinjiang province; ongoing support for separatism and the Dalai Lama in Tibet; not to mention last year’s American NGO-funded “democracy” disruptions in Hong Kong.
US bases in Japan are being enlarged and strengthened. South Korea and Japan have received missile defense systems that give the U.S. a first-strike capability against China. Guam is being further militarized. U.S. diplomats seek to cobble together The Quad (US, India, Japan, Australia), an incipient regional military alliance to encircle China.
Right-wing American politicians — Trump and the like — have publicly used racist tropes to blame China for the global Covid-19 pandemic, causing an upsurge in deadly anti-Asian violence on the streets of U.S. cities.
A reactionary Congress has just sent a bipartisan delegation to the Taiwan government: the very mission itself violates previous longstanding, legally binding U.S. agreements to respect the One China policy.
Routinely, U.S. spokesmen and corporate media try to shift the blame for the climate crisis onto China. Within a few months of taking office, Biden’s CIA Director set up a new “mission center” within the CIA to focus on China. The U.S. orchestrated a three-year detention in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei the Chinese telecom giant sanctioned by the US. Subsequent attempts by Washington to extradite her to the U.S. on flimsy charges of fraud caused even further damage to US-China relations. Reportedly, a U.S. boycott of the upcoming 2022 Olympic Winter games in China is being toyed with by the most belligerent Washington policymaking circles.
The media are fanning the flames of the new cold war. The nation’s “newspaper of record,” the NY Times seldom prints an article on China that does not reek of hostility to the government that country. Demonization of Chinese leaders is well underway. One CNN foreign affairs pundit, Fareed Zakaria, has hosted an hour-long special program in prime time depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping as “China’s Iron Fist.” Not to be outdone, publishers are making a contribution to the war fever: a “geopolitical thriller,” 2034, a Novel of the Next World War (Penguin Random House, 2021) has appeared. It projects a US-China nuclear war in that year, which starts with an US-provoked incident in the South China Sea. Its co-author is Admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO secretary general, who is nowadays a regular talking head on the morning cable TV shows.
The idea of a hot war with China — up to and including nuclear war — is being made thinkable.
The cold war against China did not start with Biden; it goes back at least to President Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” in 2012. However, entangled in the Middle East and elsewhere, Obama could not fully achieve the redeployment of U.S. military resources to East Asia.
Trump tried harder to pivot to Asia and began the concentration of U.S. military resources in a newly defined “Indo-Pacific Command” now a Pentagon military command like “AFRICOM” and “CENTCOM” (Central Command). Trump’s cold war with China mainly consisted of economic warfare against China through tariffs and sanctions. Biden, however, is building on his two predecessors’ policy and taking matters further.
The AUKUS Pact
The latest alarming cold war outrage is the AUKUS pact of September 2021, a three-sided Australian-British-US military alliance targeting China. In the AUKUS agreement Australia agreed to buy nuclear-powered attack submarines, to purchase cruise missiles and other offensive weapons, and to host more U.S. troops, warships, weapons, planes and cyber/intelligence operations. In reality, AUKUS will make Australia a U.S. launching pad for heightened military pressure on China and even war. It threatens to open the door to possible Australian development of a nuclear weapons capability. The deal has already antagonized neighboring countries Indonesia and Malaysia. Australia becomes the first non-nuclear state to get nuclear-powered submarines.
According to Australian peace forces, the long-range nuclear-powered submarines are not primarily a defensive weapons system. In each of these subs will be a fast breeder reactor that produces weapons grade waste that will not be covered by the Non-Proliferation Treaty. They will be an expensive weapon that will need to be supported by American or British military technicians, engineers, and logistics personnel. The resulting loss of Australian sovereignty and capacity to exercise independent judgment flowing from such continuing support is troubling.
AUKUS is a dangerous escalation in the West’s on-going confrontation with China that risks nuclear proliferation and breaches the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It imposes on the people of Australia the cost of a bigger military budget, and threatens national independence, security, and the environment in the Asia-Pacific region.
Why Is the U.S. Whipping up a Cold War with China?
U.S. imperialism is determined to maintain its hegemony in the economically expanding Asia-Pacific region.
Across the world, U.S. economic power is declining, relative to China. At present rates of growth China will be the largest economy in the world soon and by some measures the Chinese economy already equals the U.S. economy in absolute size. China poses no military threat to the United States. Unlike the US, its military is focused on defending the Chinese national territory. Its military spending is about thirty percent of Pentagon spending. Unlike the US, China does not ring the globe with 800 military bases. It is the U.S. military industrial complex — Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Raytheon Technologies, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman — that is eager for a new cold war offering endless opportunities for profitable arms contracts.
Silicon Valley is also noticeably enthusiastic about a cold war. Already Chinese advances in 5G information technology, artificial intelligence, robotics and telecommunications put a question mark over Silicon Valley’s monopoly positions and U.S. technical supremacy. In a larger sense, People’s China is inevitably an ideological competitor of the US. No one disputes that China has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese working people out of extreme poverty. China offers an alternative path of development out of poverty to billions in the developing world. China’s generosity in providing vaccines to the developing world has not gone unnoticed, while the U.S. authorities by contrast honor “patent rights” that protect Big Pharma profits while millions in the developing countries remain vulnerable and unvaccinated. As it did in the Cold War against the USSR, the U.S. wants to slow down —and perhaps derail —China’s social development by forcing it to spend its resources on arms instead of building a new society.
China’s answer to U.S. cold war provocations has been patient and circumspect. The contrast with the U.S. is stark. Selections from Xi Jinping’s official remarks to the UN General Assembly meeting in October 2021 in New York suggest the tenor of the Chinese foreign policy response.
“China is the largest developing country in the world, a country that is committed to peaceful, open, cooperative and common development. We will never seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence. We have no intention to fight either a Cold War or a hot war with any country. We will continue to narrow differences and resolve disputes with others through dialogue and negotiation. We do not seek to develop only ourselves or engage in a zero-sum game.
“COVID-19 is a major test of the governance capacity of countries; it is also a test of the global governance system. We should stay true to multilateralism and safeguard the international system with the UN at its core. Global governance should be based on the principle of extensive consultation, joint cooperation and shared benefits so as to ensure that all countries enjoy equal rights and opportunities and follow the same rules. The global governance system should adapt itself to evolving global political and economic dynamics, meet global challenges and embrace the underlying trend of peace, development and win-win cooperation.”
No Cold War with China
The U.S. peace movement must do everything it can to stop the U.S. drive to a disastrous new cold war that could, by one miscalculation, become an even more disastrous hot war. The American people are already burdened by astronomical Pentagon spending.
There is a basis to believe that the new cold war with China can be stopped if the peace movement and its allies fully mobilize against it. It is a welcome and unexpected development that President Biden and President Xi held a virtual summit meeting in November. Also welcome and unexpected was the joint statement on environmental policy that the two countries issued during the COP26 environmental conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Conceivably, this means some in the U.S. Administration think the new belligerence has gone too far, perhaps reflecting those segments of U.S. big business, such as Wall Street, not entire wedded to the policy of provocation. Time will tell.
There is a dire need to replace increasing antagonism with US-China cooperation. The pandemic offers one opportunity. The virus thrives by infecting as many people as possible. And the only way for humanity to defeat the virus is to prevent it from infecting people, and ultimately to eradicate it. You can’t do that in some countries while leaving others susceptible to disease and transmission. All countries need to cooperate on this issue: on vaccine development and production for the whole world, on containment measures, on information sharing, on early warning systems, on epidemiological research.
The same goes for climate change. Averting climate breakdown—a situation whereby large parts of the planet are rendered uninhabitable—is an issue for the whole world and all countries need to take it seriously and cooperate on it. No single country, region or alliance can escape the consequences. A new cold war will bring no benefit to ordinary people in the West or anywhere else. It will mean fewer jobs, reduced investment in human needs, reduced export markets, and increased prices on imports. All this will be accompanied by rising anti-Asian racism. In the interests of peace and progress, we must push for a de-escalation of tensions, and for respectful, friendly, and mutually beneficial relations between the West and China.
Some in the U.S. peace movement seem inclined to assign equal blame for the new cold war to the U.S. and China. Such an analysis is false and harmful. It is an old mistake. There were those in the last cold war, notably the late E.P. Thompson who argued that both sides —the U.S. and USSR —were equally to blame despite the facts that the U.S. exploded atomic bombs on cities and constantly led the arms race. He and his supporters thereby weakened the world movement against the nuclear arms race by misstating the real source of the threat to peace.
There is a world of difference between a U.S. drive to bellicosely reassert its global dominion and a Chinese foreign policy that seeks peace, co-operation and a multipolar world.
Time for Action
Peace organizations in the US, Britain, and Australia are organizing an International Day of Action on Saturday December 11, 2021 to draw public attention to the new AUKUS military pact between Britain, the U.S. and Australia. The organizers of the International Day of Action are encouraging local actions to raise awareness about this new threat to world peace and would like to see activists across the globe condemn the anti-China military pact on social media using the hashtags: #NoToAKUS and #StopAUKUS.
The U.S. Peace Council calls for all-out support for the International Day of Action against AUKUS.
No AUKUS Pact! No New Cold War!
Yes to Peaceful Cooperation!