US imperialism shifting its forces in Asia?

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US imperialism shifting its forces in Asia?
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Comrades take a look at this link. I think this is worth discussing. The question is why and what will be the implication regarding intensification of imperialist tensions world-wide.

Here is some qoute from the link above:

"By 2020 the Navy will reposture its forces from today's roughly 50-50 split from the Pacific and Atlantic to a 60-40 split in those oceans," Panetta said.

"We will also invest -- invest in cyber, invest in space, invest in unmanned systems, invest in special forces operations," he said. "We will invest in the newest technologies. And we will invest in new technology to mobilize quickly, if necessary," Panetta said.

"The South China Sea, nicknamed "the second Persian Gulf" because of its potential for massive oil and gas reserves, is also a key passageway for the world's oil and is home to enormously valuable fisheries.

A crisis in the area has the potential for major economic damage to the United States as well. As one of the busiest sea lanes in the world, disputes in the South China Sea could have a major impact on shipping by forcing costly rerouting.

According to estimates by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, $5.3 trillion of trade passes each year through the South China Sea; U.S. trade accounts for $1.2 trillion."

I think the question here is

I think the question here is why is the U.S. choosing to make such a public announcement of this strategy at this time?

"Friendly" warning?

"I think the question here is why is the U.S. choosing to make such a public announcement of this strategy at this time?"

IMO, USA is sending its "friendly" warning to China not to pursue her ambition to contest USA hegemony in this region considering that the latter is an "ally" of the former since the 70s. Also, its a message that USA is not bent on raising the conflict into military confrontation with China being aware that the former is too much stretch militarily and having military confrontation with China would make the USA alone in this crusade in relation with European imperialist powers and Russia.

But I doubt if China will perceive that as a "friendly" warning. There is a strong possibility that China will use that as a reason to fast-track its military capability, thus increasing further the tension not only with USA but other imperialist powers in the region like Japan, India and Australia.


A couple of general points about imperialism that may seem obvious:

one is that the more powerful the country, the more it is driven to aggression against any perceived rivals;

the second is that as cold-bloodily rational and strategic an imperialist "plans" or warnings can be, in its essentials the imperialist dynamic tends to get out of the control of states, leading, in this period, to further irrationality, instability and chaos.

I generally agree with the above but there's nothing new or "why now?" about this turn of US strategy. We've been talking about it on another thread for a while. Obama explicitly outlined the "Pacific" turn some months ago and it was then already months, if not years, in the offing due to the vast expansion of Chinese imperialism over the last ten years - this has been well discussed in the ICC and its publications. The latest cause for concern for the US has been the Chinese commissioning of aircraft carriers (along with its military space programme) which will be able to use the deep water ports that it has acquired around the South China Seas and the Indian Ocean. No one wants war of course but then no one ever does. That doesn't stop it unfolding because we are dealing with a fundamentally irrational system.

This is of obvious importance to the working class not just from the longer-term perspective of wider imperialist war but in the short-term from the vast amounts of resources and money directed to the war economy of all the major c apitals. Ex-CIA boss and now Secretary of Defence Panetta has made it quite clear that money is not a question. Panetta is currently in Vietnam helping to beef up its military and agreeing protocols (mostly secret) that is one of many recent meetings of US allies around the region.

Baboon, you are right that

Baboon, you are right that there is nothing new about the underlying policy, but I honestly can't remember such a strong and consistent use of the media to convey this strategy before now. This announcement was carried on all the major media outlets in the U.S., as if U.S. imperialism was trying to make a very public point.

Hasn't it been the case in the past though that the weaker power is usually the "agressor" in the conflicts between the great powers? Is there something different today under declining U.S. hegemony compared to the period of declining British hegemony over the world system? Is it that there really is no comparable "rising power" that could constitute and alternate pole of regroupment or offer another model that can really challenge the U.S? It is easy to see China as a rising hegemon (and surely the media and the broader culture does), but for many reasons this seems superficial and flawed.

What do others think?

Need deepening discussion and study

There's a need to deepen our understanding on the imperialist tension in Asia and its implications globally. Notwithstanding to its implications to the working class struggle in the midst of boiling class resistance in Europe (and lately Canada).

I once read an ICC article years ago that somewhat said that in WW II Germany was more agressive not because he is strong but because he is in deep crisis summarize in what Hitler said: "We must export or we will die". I'm not sure if I'm right in understanding the said ICC text? 

Yes Internasyonalista, you're

Yes Internasyonalista, you're right about the Third Reich's slogan being "export of die" and it's been used several times in ICC publications to show the fundamentally economic nature of Germany's imperialist thrust outwards. Germany, was bleed dry after World War I and in the run-up to World War II was being squeezed by the more powerful imperialist nations - after being set up by them as "a policeman of Europe". This doesn't mean that Germany was any less imperialist just relatively weaker than its American and British rivals.

In a similar way, but in entirely different circumstances, we can see today how the major imperialisms are surrounding and putting the pressure on Iran and Nato had a similar strategy against Russia during the Cold War with its plans for "Forward Defence".

I agree with jk about the very public warnings to China. Incidently, Secretary of Defence Panetta, following his eastern tour of China's rivals discussing military strategies, has been in India the last couple of days - another major rival of Chinese imperialism.

Marin Jensen
This Eastern turn is indeed new...

While it may be true to say that the latest announcements by the US are only stating very publicly what has already been going on for some time, it is an exaggeration IMHO to say that there is "nothing new about the underlying policy".

To be extremely schematic, I think it would be safe to say the following:

  1. During WWII, despite the danger from Japan, the major concern of the USA was Germany. Hence after Pearl Harbour, the immediate thrust of US efforts was not against Japan but to support Britain and Russia against the Germans. Europe was the priority front.
  2. After the war, of course and Russia's position in the Far East was of course a preoccupation: hence Korea and Vietnam. But fundamentally, the major confrontation (even if it didn't lead to war) was between the USA and Russia in Europe. China was a military non-entity on the global level, and once the US managed to detach China from Russia (Nixon's visit), the problem of the Far East was basically settled. The US occupied Japan, which was the only economically significant power in the region, and of course Korea.
  3. This situation lasted until 1989. At this point, the USA becomes the only world power - the only country able to project power world wide. This remains the case today.
  4. The economic rise of China, basically over the last 10 years or so, is what has changed the situation. China is still not a world power, but it is on the way to achieving the ability to prevent the USA from imposing its domination in the region which China wants to dominate, and which includes Japan, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, and SE Asia generally.
  5. The US absolutely must answer this. China's rise is frightening all its neighbours, who are looking to the US for protection (Russia excepted). If the US proves unable to provide that protection then its own credibility as a world power is threatened. 
LL, I think we have different

LL, I think we have different time scales in mind when we think of "new." I was using it to refer to the last decade or so. Overall,  I think your schema is basically correct, although I continue to think the so-called "rise of China" is exagerrated. Its a meme that is culturally captivating--and indeed the academics (many so-called Marxist academics among them) are mostly on board with it, but I can remember a similar panic about the rise of Japan at the end of the 80s that was quickly revealed to be a chimera by its now two decade long "lost decade." Of course, the strength/viability of the Soviet Union during the Cold War was generally overestimated also. I do think the question of the "rise of China" needs more exploration by the ICC--there are a number of things one might mean by that--but I enter the discussion skeptical that the more dramatic claims about China will be borne out.

Interestingly, Romney recently made a supposed gaffe when he refered to Russia as the United States #1 geo-political foe. I wonder, though, if there might not be a little more to that than meets the eye. Supposedly, prior to the 2008 crash, the Russians approached the Chinese about collectively dumping billions of dolllars worth of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds onto the open market (which would have caused immediate financial chaos), but the Chinese politely declined. They seem to realize at some level that their bread is still buttered stateside, while the Russians' resource endowment allows them more flexibility. I am not sure what that all means exactly, but it is interesting.


nothing new

I too agree with schema of Lone and I too understood jk to be talking about the last ten years or so in relation to China.

Of course China's economic and military rise is new on a historical time-scale but that wasn't what I was referring to initially. There is "nothing new" in the sense of America's imperialist responses to Chinese military developments in that the ICC has been writing about their specifics and providing a general analysis for them for years now. China is nowhere near the military power that the US is but it a rising power that threatens US interests not only around the local regional powers, who, like the Cold War, are sheltering under the protection of the US Godfather, but also wider afield through space and cyberspace.

There is nothing new, ie recently, in the state of Sino-American relations in that they are increasingly underlined by overt imperalist tensions. These are not static and can only get worse.

Marin Jensen
Weaker or stronger powers the aggressors?

One of the points we have made in the past is that the collapse of the E-bloc significantly changed the nature of the "aggressor nations" (if one can put it like that).

In the case of WWI and WWII, the "aggressor nations" (Germany and Japan) were those who had been left behind in the great imperialist carve-up prior to 1914. They had no option but to try to break the stranglehold of the greater imperialist powers, to gain their own "place in the sun" (to use an expression in vogue at the end of the 19th century).

After 1989, this situation changed. Imperialist tensions were now dominated by the USA's efforts to impose and defend its leadership: given the tendency of all the 2nd and 3rd order powers to go their own way and call into question US leadership, the reaction from the US could only be the imposition of its leadership by military force: hence the two Gulf wars and Iraq/Afghanistan. The "aggressor nation" was now the USA.

The rise of China potentially changes things again. Now we have on the one hand the USA trying to defend its domination of the region, and on the other the Chinese attempt to break what it sees as a US stranglehold on its "natural" sphere of influence. 

On the question of whether the rise of China is exaggerated, well of course it is difficult to tell what will become of the Chinese economy as the crisis of banking and sovereign debt unfolds. However, there remains the fact that China's economy is now the world's second largest, whereas in the 1980s it was barely the size of Belgium's.

More importantly is the imperialist situation, and here there is no comparison between post-war Japan and China. Whatever the size and direction of its economy, Japan has never broken out of the US fold, or even wanted to. To this day, Japan is occupied by a substantial US armed force (35,000 troops and 5,000 civilians in Okinawa). Japanese politicians occasionally make noises about ending the US presence, but basically they are far too frightened of China to stray out from under the umbrella of US "protection".

China on the other hand has a huge army, and is building up its technical capacity with modern equipment. Certainly, it is not as yet able to project power as the US can, but it clearly has military, imperialist ambitions that Japan does not.

Another big factor of general instability in the region is the rivalry between China and India, and the latter's fear of the former. The rise of India and China, and the discredit that the US has suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan, means that there is nobody able to impose "peace" in SE Asia. The way things are going, the region will contain several major players, none of them able to assert absolute dominance: very different from the situation with Japan. 

The ICC has done some work on this, but there is a long way to go to bring our level of historical and theoretical understanding of the area up to scratch. Hence the inestimable value of the contributions from our sections in India and the Philippines, which you can begin to see in articles on Spratly and on the Agni missile for example.

I think there is a

I think there is a distinction in the literature between imperialist territorialist states and those who possess economic hegemony over the capitalist world system. These aren't always the same. The Netherlands was the hegemonic state that presided over the original construction of the captialist world system in the 16th and 17th centuries, even though it was never a major imperialist territorialist state (In fact, it had to fight a brutal 80 year war against Spanish domination of its own territory). Later the UK was both an economic hegemon and an imperialist territortialist state as of course the U.S. is today. I think this might relate to the distinction the ICC used to make between the imperialist confrontations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R, even though the major economic rivalries within the world system were all confined to the western bloc: U.S., Germany, Japan.

In terms of China, I think perhaps we need to specify which one of these logics we are refering to when we talk about "China's rise"--is it becomming a new economic hegemon that will reconstitute the capitalist world system on a new course (as each successive hegemon has done in the past)? Or are we refering to the rise of a stronger imperialist territorialist state? Or is China becomming both?

On a basic level, it does feel a little odd to talk about the rise of new powers in the context of decomposition. The two ideas don't seem to fit together comfortably.

Also, what happened to Germany? According to the ICC, surrounding Germany was supposed to be the major axis of U.S. imperialist policy after 1989. What happened to that? Did we overestimate Germany's abilities? Did the U.S. strategy succeed? Is Germany too bogged down with the apparent failure of the Euro project  to be a threat on the global level? Or have concerns about China overtaken those about Germany? Just what was the entire Euro project all about anyway? Seems like it has had the effect of seriously hampering Germany.

Aggressor states and China

First a couple of quotes from the ICC in the sense of the discussion above:

"In 1939, Germany struck out again to overturn the humiliating limitations imposed on it by the victors of the previous war. On the other hand, its main rivals had the advantage of their huge economic power in the case of the US, or their Empire in the case of Britain. This enabled them to defend the status quo mainly through economic and military means, and to appear the innocent peace-loving victims when Germany launched its desperate struggle for imperialist survival. 'The democracies must never appear as the aggressor', as President Roosevelt said on the eve of the war with Japan - which like Germany had to strike out because of its inferior imperialist position" ("1939-1999 - Imperialist slaughter dressed up as democracy", World Revolution).

"And if Germany appeared as the aggressor, the "warmonger", then this is simply because it had come out worse from the imperialist share-out that followed the Treaty of Versaille at the end of World War I..." ("June 1944, Capitalist massacre and manipulation" International Review").

As Lone says above, following the collapse of the Russian bloc then the US, as the sole superpower, had to take on a more overtly "aggressor" role in order to try to maintain the status quo - a role that could only end up creating more instability and strengthening further centrifugal forces.

As far as I remember, the ICC never saw Germany as a serious opponent to the US but nevertheless imperialist tendencies will out and Germany became involved in the Balkans War of 1992. In fact, in many ways, it tripped the war and drew in the historically anti-Germany forces of Britain, France and Russia into the wider battleground. Imperialism is a tendency whioch applies to every nation state but Germany (and Japan) never had the capability to become a bloc leader and confront the US. Again from memory, the ICC argued against positions in the revolutionary milieu which saw Germany as a head of its own bloc through the EU (too many centrifugal tendencies).

The imperialist tendencies of China go along with its economic advance, the former representing a flight into irrationality which is what imperialism is today. China's imperialist thrust is not just around the South China Seas but throughout the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Africa, the USA's Latin American backyard and it even became involved in the Balkan Wars mentioned above.

For today "The South China issue is not America's business", General MaXiatian, deputy chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army said last month (New York Times), "It's between China and its neighbours". The USA will beg to differ and will act thus. In the meantime, Japanese and Indian naval vessels held their first drill in the Sea of Japan.

Baboon, you are right that

Baboon, you are right that the ICC always said there were serious difficulties for Germany to form its own bloc, but it did consistently argue that the thrust of U.S. imperialist policy in the post-1989 era was to surround Germany and deprive it of a route to the Mediterrean and the Middle East. This seems almost passe today.

However, just as Germany (and Japan) have serious difficulties in forming themselves as a bloc leader, so does China. China has always had a large army. In fact, it fought the Western imperialist powers to a stalemate in Korea in the early 1950s. However, it continues to face tremendous difficutlies in projecting its power beyond its immediate region. Yes, it is true, as you mention, that it has been meddling far and wide, but it is probably behind second rate powers such as the UK and France in its ability to project its imperialist ambitions. The lack of any aircraft carriers is illustrative of this fact--although it is true that they are in works.

China's ability to project economic power may be a different story, but even here it faces the fact that its economic "growth" (I'll stay away from the term "development" for now, as that would raise interesting questions about decadence/decomposition) has been intricately linked with the U.S. debt/consumption model for the last decade and a half. It is a growth that is taking place in the context of decomposition and is in some ways a function of it.

There is a lot of ink spilled in the historical sociology literature about China and the nature of its place in the world system. One conclusion of this is that it is against Chinese nature to become an agressive imperialist state. For much of its history, people came to China. China made a brief attempt at overseas expansion in the early modern era that was quickly abandoned as unnecessary for the empire. That was a long time ago, but the literatue suggests that many of these forces continue to shape China today, whatever the intentions of the state capitalist-develomentalist party in power. Its an interesting discussion. A more general conclusion of this is that not all imperialist states are the same. The world can't be simplistically divided into large/small and strong/weak imperialist powers. There are qualitative differences having to do with hegemony, territorialism and the control of capital flows.

Is there a possibility that China becomes an agressor?

jk1921 wrote:
There is a lot of ink spilled in the historical sociology literature about China and the nature of its place in the world system. One conclusion of this is that it is against Chinese nature to become an agressive imperialist state. For much of its history, people came to China. China made a brief attempt at overseas expansion in the early modern era that was quickly abandoned as unnecessary for the empire. That was a long time ago, but the literatue suggests that many of these forces continue to shape China today, whatever the intentions of the state capitalist-develomentalist party in power. Its an interesting discussion.

As what jk21 said, I agree that "its an interesting discussion". China claims that she has no history of agressing others but the opposite. She "assured" that she has no intention to. Philippine maoists also agree with China. That's why for them China is not a threat but instead could be an ally against US agression in Asia.

However, in decomposition stage of capitalism it seems that war becomes so irrational. IMHO, all countries have the appetite of agressing other weaker countries to save their "own ass". Aggression is an alibi for "self-defense". As what military tacticians always said: "the best defense is offense". China is no exception.

China sees the USA maneuver in Asia as a provocation. Thus forcing her to defend itself.

The question is: when? and in what condition?

Nevertheless, Asia's imperialist tension is intensifying.


Yes, tensions are

Yes, tensions are intensifying and China is becomming more and more agressive. But is this a function of rising Chinese hegemony over the capitalist world system or "every man for himself" under declining U.S. hegemony? What comes after U.S. hegemony, if anything?


The analysis of the ICC in relation to the Balkans war was concretised in reality. What could be a more outward thrust of a country that had its imperialist ambitions very much on the back burner for decades than to kick off a war in Europe? This is exactly what Germany did with its precipitous recognition of Slovenia and other elements on the Balkans chessboard. Britain, France and Russia - all historical enemies whose foreign policies at the time would have been to counter German imperialism - acted very quickly with troops on the ground. For the most part, not entirely, they stymied German expansion one of the goals of which would have been access to the Med. As for encirclement, the main reason that I remember for the break up of Czechoslavakia into two separate countries was again to stop Germany expanding in this direction with the break up being instigated by Britain, France and the USA.

I don't think that anyone doubts the difficulties of China setting up a new anti-US bloc - I wouldn't call it a "bloc" but Russia and China are now causing the US some difficulties. And I don't think that anyone doubts the relative inexperience of Chinese "diplomacy" in relation to the very experienced France and Britain for example - which is why the Chinese state has recently had a big internal push to greatly strengthen its diplomatic core both in "the new realities", ie, the content of Chinese imperialist ambitions and in the numbers and training of the new intake which has been going on for some years now.

China, as the "new" power on the block is learning fast as befits a major imperialist power. As a major power China cannot escape from imperialism - just like any country as inter says above.

Baboon, could you elaborate

Baboon, could you elaborate on what the break-up of Czechoslovakia had to do with checking German ambitions?

I think we are all on the same page in regards to China becomming a more and more aggressive imperialist power, but facing difficulties in the face of a still hegemonic U.S. I think the difficulties come from understanding the nature of Chinese "growth" or "development" in the context of decadence/decomposition and what it means for the future of the captialist world system. A common line on this in the media and among many academics (some of them "Marxist") seems to be that (the following will be a vulgarization) the capitalist world system is on the verge of an historic transition from U.S. to Chinese hegemony which will reconsitute capitalism on a new trajectory of some sort, i.e. capitalism has a lot of life left in it and is only awaiting a transition to Chinese leadership.

Clearly, these ideas are problematic for those who feel capitalism is decadent and/or in decomposition. If true, they certainly make the old idea of Germany and Japan as the two greatest threats to U.S. hegemony seem passe. Beyond this, the idea that a new hegemon can arise in the conditions of decomposition just seems problematic to me--this would seem to fly in the face of the idea (also developed by the ICC since 1989) of imperialist tensions being more and more characterized by "everyman for himself," in an effort to contest U.S. hegemony. 


Germany and the "new world order": You just have to look at a map jk - Napoleon said "geography is war". This was a strident Germany of the early 90s which had sat, for one reason or another, on its imperialist ambitions and suddenly found itself standing up and looking around. You can read the history of the creation of Czechoslovakia and its relations with German imperialism for yourself. But just like with Croatia, Slovenia in the break up of ex-Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia provided Germany with space to move into that was previously denied to it. German investment was made, particularly in the Czech part of the country, the wealthiest part, and German engineers were building a motorway up through the entire country. It's an example, obscured very much by ideology, of the interests of German imperialism being effected. Britain, France and Russia wasn't going to allow Germany to swallow this country up.