By Martin Woodley
On 3 June the White House Briefing Room released a fact sheet pertaining to an Executive Order meant to address supposed threats from securities investments that finance ‘certain companies’ of the People’s Republic of China. This order prohibits investments in companies that operate in or have operated in China’s defence or related materials sector, or in surveillance technology. The aim is to limit the flow of money to companies it is claimed undermine US security or “democratic values”.
The terms security, democratic values and rules based order are euphemisms for imperialists interests, since imperialist liberal democracies as a matter of course utilise coup d’etats, illegal actions and piracy, apply the will of their governments and parliaments outside of their jurisdiction, and routinely ignore international law.
Imperialism’s interest in overturning the rule of the CPC in China under the rubric of the above mentioned euphemisms were codified in the week of summitry comprising the meetings of the G7, NATO and the Biden-Putin summit. The principal aim of the Biden administration was to bolster its alliances and focus their attention on its objectives in relation to China, and to begin a process of weakening China’s alliances, principally with Russia.
On 19 June the Washington Post reported:
As Biden hopscotched across Europe this past week on his first trip abroad, his most prominent message, repeated everywhere, was the need for democracy to prevail over autocracy in what he cast as the existential challenge of the 21st century. America, he promised, was back at the helm of that struggle.
The intentions of the summits were widely telegraphed prior to the events:
- 1) Japan in particular has adopted a particularly bellicose posture in support of US cold war initiatives, for instance supporting an attempt to insert the Taiwan Strait into the G7 summit statement. The final communique included the statement:
The G7 called on China to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law”. The G7 underscored “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues”.
The SCMP reported that:
Japan’s defence minister has urged European nations to have a stronger military involvement in the Asia-Pacific as Tokyo tries to put “tremendous pressure” on Beijing to counter China’s influence in the region.
- 2) E.U. leaders joined Biden’s calls for a full investigation into the origins of Covid-19 even though there is very little scientific evidence, apart from speculation and hypotheses, for Trump’s lab leak conspiracy – a narrative wholly aimed at deflecting onto China the blame for the woeful failure of western nations to protect their own citizens.
- 3) NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had already announced that he wanted NATO to focus on China, China, and China.
In fact, as far back as 2019, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, urged NATO to adapt to “Chinese strategic competition”, making NATO’s concern about China more explicit. The wording of the 2021 NATO Communique shows that Pompeo’s urging has borne fruit.
There was great fanfare about a promise of 1 billion vaccine doses from the G7 countries. Alas, the pledge only involves 613 million new doses – the 1 billion figure includes pledges already made back in February – whereas the WHO has stated that 11 billion doses are required. Bloomberg reported “The 500 million doses pledged by the U.S. will be funded in part by $2 billion that Biden had initially promised for Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative aimed at facilitating equitable global distribution. Biden will claw that money back and buy doses directly, then work with Covax to distribute them”.
There was, however, no agreement on vaccine patent wavers, which would actually be a game changer in providing vaccine coverage to the global south. Oxfam has pointed out that the failure to agree on big pharma IP waivers would add over $70 billion to the cost of providing vaccines for the global south.
Oxfam calculates that if patent protections were waived by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and vaccine production ramped up worldwide people in low- and middle-income nations could be adequately vaccinated for an estimated cost of $6.5 billion, but that if pharmaceutical companies are allowed to retain their for-profit stranglehold on production and distribution that cost would soar to $80 billion.
Meanwhile, by monopolising most of the world’s production of vaccines, imperialism has been able to generally drive down case rates over recent months in Europe and North America, while case rates are on the rise in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Imperialism has used this situation to congratulate itself on its management of the pandemic through its vaccine rollout, and to throw the spotlight on countries in the global south that previously had a good record in controlling the spread of infection.
Moreover, because of the tragic Covid-19 situation in India, it has been impossible to obtain shots from the main supplier of Covax vaccines, Astra-Zenecca. It is because of the under pledging from the G7 that the WHO has turned to Sinopharm and Sinovac for urgently needed supplies. Indeed, China is by far the largest producer of Covid-19 vaccines, having accounted for half of all vaccines administered in the world so far – with 792 million doses sold; 25 million doses donated; and 302 million doses delivered as of 21 June.
Imperialism claims that China has been slow in rolling out its vaccine program and have had to reintroduce lock downs and mass testing because of recent outbreaks. Yet the reality is quite different. The scientific journal Nature recently reported that China is vaccinating a staggering 20 million people a day, while China’s vaccination rollout has achieved the following milestones: 100 million vaccinations on March 27; 200 million on April 20; 300 million on May 7; 400 million on May 16; 500 million on May 23; 600 million on May 28; 700 million on June 2 and 800 million on June 8. China has reached the staggering milestone of 1 billion vaccinations by 20 June.
Imperialism’s weapon of choice is the use of sanctions – these have been applied liberally to strong arm any country which asserts its sovereignty and independence from imperialism. However, while few countries have the means to hit back, this does not apply to China.
China has passed a defensive anti-sanctions law aimed at enabling a robust response to sanctions applied against it. As a result organisations with a foot in both the United States and China may face a tough choice going forward: By complying with American sanctions on China, they face the possibility of tough sanctions in China as a penalty. Since China is the world’s top market for microchips, and leads the world in 5G technologies this could be a major headache for enterprises and governments.
While the G7 adopted Biden’s rhetoric, the fact that China is a major trading partner with all of the G7 countries, and most of the EU countries, it will be difficult for Biden to herd his allies into wholeheartedly joining a full throated sanctions offensive, since they would pay a high economic price.
Belt and Road Initiative
Biden proposed an infrastructure project – termed “Build Back Better for the World (B3W) – to counter China’s BRI. However, the Biden plan agreed at the G7 appears to stitch together existing projects in the United States, Europe and Japan, along with an encouragement of private financing, and unlike the BRI does not appear to significantly benefit the global south. However, officials emerging from the meeting have said Germany, Italy and the European Union generally were clearly concerned about risking their huge trade and investment deals with Beijing or accelerating what has increasingly taken on the tones of a new Cold War. In fact Germany and Italy are heavily invested in the Chinese supply chain, with Volkswagen and BMW cars being top sellers in China.
The trade war
The trade war initiated by Trump has not been significantly rolled back by Biden. The White House has recently revoked some blanket-style orders made under former President Donald Trump against Chinese apps including the messaging app WeChat, short video app TikTok and the Alipay payments app. A new executive order said the U.S. would conduct an “evidence-based” analysis of transactions involving apps that are created, supplied or controlled by China. Moreover, Trump’s intention to improve the US balance of trade with China using the trade war is seen to be counter productive. This can clearly be seen in Figure 1 which shows monthly imports and exports and quarterly trade surplus of China with the US.
The future of the trade war between the US and China initiated by Trump is uncertain, since it is clear that it has produced overall negative impacts for the US.
The role and importance of the G7 has been greatly diminished by the rise of the developing world, and despite great fanfare in the western press, this is not lost on large parts of the media in the global south.
The G7 is described by the Asia Times as the “Empire of clowns” in these scathing terms:
It requires major suspension of disbelief to consider the G7, the self-described democracies’ most exclusive club, as relevant to the Raging Twenties. Real-life dictates that even accounting for the inbuilt structural inequality of the current world system the G7’s economic output barely registers as 30% of the global total.
In contrast to now, in the 1970s the G7 economies comprised 80% of global GDP, with just 10% of the world’s population. A revealing fact is that it was a Chinese company which provided supplies of reusable face masks embroidered with G7 UK 2021, to be handed to journalists covering the G7 summit, so they could record the opprobrium being dispensed toward China by the leaders of the most powerful western nations.
The outcome of the summits
The G7 announced its intention to play a leadership role in confronting the most pressing problems confronting humanity, such as climate change and recovery from the pandemic, but proposed very little of substance. There were very few new resources deployed to confront these problems. Instead, it sought to counter China’s independent contributions in debt relief, vaccine delivery, development of renewable energy, and investment in infrastructure with largely recycled old projects and promises in new packaging.
The NATO communique obsessively repeated its Article 5 mutual military commitment provision, and was replete with the necessity of the alliance in guaranteeing the security, freedom and shared values – including individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The final NATO communique included the following clause:
We face multifaceted threats, systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers, as well as growing security challenges to our countries and our citizens from all strategic directions. Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security; terrorism in all its forms and manifestations remains a persistent threat to us all. State and non-state actors challenge the rules-based international order and seek to undermine democracy across the globe. Instability beyond our borders is also contributing to irregular migration and human trafficking. China’s growing influence and international policies can present challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance. We will engage China with a view to defending the security interests of the Alliance. We are increasingly confronted by cyber, hybrid, and other asymmetric threats, including disinformation campaigns, and by the malicious use of ever-more sophisticated emerging and disruptive technologies. Rapid advances in the space domain are affecting our security. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the erosion of the arms control architecture also undermine our collective security. Climate change is a threat multiplier that impacts Alliance security. The greatest responsibility of the Alliance is to protect and defend our territories and our populations against attack, and we will address all threats and challenges which affect Euro-Atlantic security.
This is essentially very similar phraseology as that used by Mike Pompeo from 2019, when he urged NATO to adapt to “Chinese strategic competition”, making NATO’s concern about China more explicit. The NATO 2021 summit has delivered on Pompeos’ request to the letter.
Russia is accused of ‘aggressive actions’, and China is criticised for ‘assertive behaviour’, presenting ‘systemic challenges’ to the rules based international order. A major objection to China is that it is ‘cooperating militarily with Russia’.
Russia was mentioned 63 times in the NATO communique. NATO spending will rise by 4.1% in 2021. Despite a high profile face to face meeting between Biden and Putin, it transpires that the US are preparing new sanctions against Russia.
The face to face meeting between Biden and Putin, achieved a normalisation of diplomatic relations between the US and Russia, and an agreement to open discussions on a range of issues of mutual interest. But there was no sign of any US ability to begin a separation of the Russia-China relation which is necessary for imperialism to isolate China.