Imperialist tensions sharpen in the Far East

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On March 14th 2005, the Chinese parliament passed a law against secession, authorising Peking to use military means against Taiwan in case the latter opted for independence. The day before, the Chinese president Hu Jintao, dressed in military uniform, had publicly called on Chinese army officers to "be ready for armed conflict". The message was clear: the Chinese bourgeoisie will not tolerate the separation of Taiwan, and is prepared to go to war to stop it.

South East Asia, a new focus of military tensions

Immediately after that, tension mounted, not only in South East Asia, but also between China and Japan. The latter could not avoid reacting to China's belligerent declarations. Tokyo thus made it known that this anti-secession law would have a highly negative impact on peace and stability in the region, simultaneously announcing that its military forces had taken control of a lighthouse situated on the Senkaku Archipelago. This Archipelago has been traditionally claimed by Beijing, which calls it Diayou. China replied by calling this military act "a serious and totally unacceptable provocation".

The growing tensions between China and Japan then found a very obvious expression with the series of anti-Japanese demonstrations stirred up by the Chinese state, their pretext being Tokyo's publication of a school history book that minimises the atrocities committed by the Japanese army during the colonisation of parts of China in the 1930s. In reply to this, Japan now for the first time called China "a potential menace". The situation in the Far East has deteriorated so much that, for the first time since 1945, Japan has now officially abandoned its neutral stance over Taiwan.

This sudden burst of war fever in China has not only provoked a response from Japan. Despite the fact that since 1972 the USA has recognised only one China, with Taiwan being a part, Washington made it clear that it would not passively accept any resort to force by China over Taiwan. "This anti-secession law is unfortunate" declared Scott McClellan, a White House spokesman. "We are against any unilateral changes in the status quo". These very clear statements were also made by the US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to Hu Jintao when she visited Beijing on March 21st. It is now plain that faced with the China's growing imperialist appetite, Japan and the USA have an interest in working together in this part of the world.

This is the significance of the accord signed by Washington and Tokyo, which states that its "common strategic objective" is to work for the "peaceful resolution" of the question of Taiwan.

China's imperialist push

The collapse of the USSR in 1989, which left the USA as the world's only superpower, had a major impact on China's imperialist position. At the time of the formation of the Chinese People's Republic in 1949, China was aligned with Stalin's USSR; but by the 1960s tensions between these two powers had resulted in the 'Sino-Soviet Split'. After a short-lived attempt to go it alone, China formed an alliance with the US in 1972. In other words, the existence of the two imperialist blocs imposed a certain discipline on China, which had to pursue its imperialist ambitions within the framework of the imperialist status quo.

This all changed after 1989, with the disappearance of the common enemy which had been at the basis of the Sino-US alliance. During the 1990s, we saw the first signs of tensions between the US and China in the region. The USA's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May 1999, just one month after a high-ranking Chinese diplomat had paid a visit to Washington, was an obvious expression of the USA's opposition to China playing the role of lone ranger on the imperialist frontier.

Since then, however, Beijing's imperialist appetites have grown sharper still, and China has made every effort to present itself as a military force to be reckoned with. It is particularly significant that the Chinese military budget has grown bigger and bigger. Over the past 15 years, Beijing's military expenditure has grown at an annual rate in double figures: 17 % in 2002, 11.6% in 2004. This represents no less than 35% of the national budget. The focus has been on rapid modernisation, with submarines and aviation being the main beneficiaries.

The Chinese state has done its best to take advantage of the USA's difficulties in imposing its global authority. Proof of this is China's interference in the debate over Iran's nuclear programme. The Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing, during a trip to Tehran, declared that China would be opposed to any attempt in the UN to impose sanctions on Iran. The same imperialist interests have pushed China to support the Islamic regime in the Sudan, and its policy towards North Korea follows the same logic. All these are definite indications that China is seeking to advance its pawns in its natural sphere of influence, if necessary at America's expense. The Chinese bourgeoisie is also trying to consolidate its influence in Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Indochina, again in direct conflict with the interests of the USA.

If the development of imperialist tensions around Taiwan is a grave new threat to the world, this is not the only focus of potential conflict in Asia. Aksai-Chin and Arunachal-Pradesh, on the frontier between China and India, are also being claimed by the two states and are possible sources of confrontation between these two nuclear powers. Although of late there has been a certain cooling of tensions between India and Pakistan on the one hand, and India and China on the other, this does not mean that the region is becoming more stable. The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared recently that "India and China share the same aspiration to construct an equitable and democratic economic and political order". But this is only because the imperialist sharks of Asia are obliged to set aside their mutual rivalries to face up to the US offensive in this region.

In such a situation, it's obvious that the other world imperialist powers, notably France, Germany and Russia can't abstain from trying to defend their own interests in this part of the world. This can only infuriate the US, whose leadership is being challenged all around the planet. The recent trips by Chirac and Raffarin to China didn't only have the goal of strengthening economic ties between Paris and Beijing. It was also a matter of France, echoed by Germany, repeating its calls for the lifting of the embargo on arms sales to China. A China which is stronger and more aggressive towards the USA fits in with the plans of France and Germany. By the same token, the US strategy of implanting military bases in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, which is aimed at encircling Europe and Russia, also has the objective of blocking Chinese expansion westwards. The USA's overall aim is to prevent its main imperialist rivals from linking up.

Capitalism can only plunge the world deeper into chaos

With the development of imperialist tensions over Asia, capitalist barbarism is set to accelerate in other regions as well. It's clear that America remains bogged down in Iraq, despite its declared intention to withdraw part of its military forces between now and 2006. It is also faced with the knotty problems of Syria and Iran in the Middle East and North Korea in the Far East. To maintain its position as global cop, the USA is being pushed towards more and more military adventures. The multiplication of hot spots in the Far East, where the pressure of Chinese imperialism is bound to be the central concern, has already led the White Hose to strengthen its military bases in the region and to reaffirm its links with Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. The evolution of the situation in South East Asia shows once again that all the bourgeoisie's speeches about peace only pave the way for new military conflicts and that the capitalist system has nothing to offer but barbarism on an ever-increasing scale.

Tino, 31/4/05.