The ‘peaceful’ rise of Chinese imperialism

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Just a couple of years ago, China's President Hu Jintao promised a "peaceful rise" of his country onto the international arena. Many international observers and commentators were taken in by the Stalinist doublespeak from the military dictatorship of the People's Liberation Army and argued that China's economic ascension would make it a more reliable, responsible power for good in the world. Indeed, since the 1990s, with one or two notable exceptions, China has trod softly, softly. But the reality behind China's imperialist ‘peace' was underlined on 11 January 2007, when it shot down one of its own weather satellites 850 kilometres above the planet, directly positing a threat to American dependence on space-based capabilities around the world and triggering a new arms race. The aptly named Pentagon Strategy for Global Military Aggression had already singled out China as "having the greatest military potential to compete with the US and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional US advantage". The US military has since responded with its own anti-satellite tests and the Pentagon is assiduously following the recommendations of a 2001 Congressional Report advocating the development of "new military capabilities for operations to, from, in and through space" (co-author, Donald H. Rumsfeld).

There will be no peaceful development of China overall, no ‘force for peace and stability', but rather a development of good, old-fashioned militarism and imperialism. In the first place, the economic ‘miracle' of Chinese national capital is based on the ferocious exploitation of its working class and peasantry and on an export drive to a debt-sodden world economy. The economic colonisation that it is presently undertaking contains a strong geo-strategic element that projects Chinese power well beyond its borders. And while elements of this colonisation will provide some work for Chinese labour, unlike the colonisations of the 19th century, it will provide little economic stabilisation for its economy and even less reform or attenuation in the condition of its working class. Mao Zedong and his ideology are now a rather restricted taste but his dictum that "power grows out of the barrel of a gun" still holds good for Chinese, as well as imperialism in general.

This is even more the case within the post-89 world after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the free-for-all in military relations resulting from this descent into imperialist decomposition. No nation state can stand above it. After China resumed its threats against Taiwan and increasingly threatened Japan, both French and German diplomacy have been trying to overturn the arms embargo on the People's Liberation Army. Such developments show the contribution China is making to the deepening chaos in international relations. China has taken advantage of the new world disorder and the historic crisis of US imperialism in order to make its own imperialist thrust across the globe. It is profiting from the considerable weakening of the US at the imperialist level in order to develop its geo-strategic presence. Its appetites go well beyond the Taiwan Strait and a supposed ‘pacifist' Japan, which itself has rearmed and been ranked among the top five military powers in recent years, provoking a regional arms race with nuclear connotations.

China's policy to make Asia's seas its mare nostrum, keeping Japan at bay and excluding US military presence, is just one part of its project, which through Burma, Africa and Pakistan aims to extend its military power up to the Arabian Sea, on to the Persian Gulf and into the Middle East and Africa[1]. There have been press reports of China providing arms to the Taliban and its political reach extends to the USA's backyard of Latin America. It has also, along with Russia, taken advantage of certain US setbacks in the Russian ex-republics, strengthening relations with Uzbekistan for example. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute recently stated that, in terms of purchasing power, China's defence budget is second only to the USA. The same Report expressed concern about China's increased strike capabilities and its intrusions into computer networks, including those of the US government.

To its south, China is largely underwriting the construction and development of an 1850 kilometre network of roads, rivers (blasting shallow sections of the Mekong) and ports, circumventing the natural defensive barriers of the foothills of the Himalayas. ‘Route 3', which directly connects Chinese Kunming to Thai Bangkok, also takes in the thinly inhabited upper reaches of Vietnam and Laos. As well as the markets and natural resources that it covets, the road is also an expression of the geo-strategic expansion of Chinese imperialism.

To its west, around India and Pakistan, important developments are also taking place within the framework of Chinese imperialism. As the United States and India enjoy an increasingly warmer relationship, Pakistan will look closer to China for military and technical assistance. China already supplies Pakistan with nuclear technology, including what many experts suspect was the blueprint for Pakistan's nuclear bomb. According to the Asian Studies department at the Brooking Institute: "The Pakistani nuclear programme is largely the result of Sino-Pakistani relations". Some news agency reports suggest that Chinese security agencies knew of the transfer of nuclear technology from Pakistan to Iran, North Korea and Libya, with the former having long-standing ties with Abdul Quadeer Khan, the so-called ‘father' of Pakistan's nuclear bomb. One of the most significant recent projects of the two imperialisms is the construction of a major port complex at the naval base of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, giving China strategic access to the Persian Gulf and a naval outpost on the Indian Ocean.

China and the Nepali Maoists

Relations between China and India deteriorated after India gave refuge to the Dalai Lama in 1959 and after India's humiliating defeat in the 1962 war over a disputed border and Chinese aid to Pakistan. India still claims that China occupies 38,000 sq km of its territories and, for its part, Beijing still lays claim to the northeastern Indian province of Aranchal. It's in this context of inter-imperialist rivalries that the election of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), a group that the US administration has designated ‘terrorist', must be situated. The previous Nepali regime gave India pre-eminence in imperialist relations and this must now be called into question. "Chief Comrade" Prachanda of the CPN (Maoist), has already called for the scrapping of all major agreements with India, underlined the need for good relations with China and supports China over Tibet. Tibetan refugees in Nepal must be in danger, as in neighbouring Bhutan, where Chinese affiliated Maoists are also active. The Institute of Conflict Management in Delhi says that a surge in Maoist violence in India itself can be expected as it expects the new Nepali regime to provide them with training facilities and safe havens.

Every capitalist nation talks peace. Throughout the 20th century every capitalist nation extolled the virtues of ‘peace', ‘stability' and ‘good relations', but all, caught up in the ineluctable irrationality of imperialism, actively prepared for and fomented war. Particularly today, in the conditions of growing imperialist chaos, there's no ‘peaceful rise' to Chinese imperialism and its pawns, but preparations for and developments towards war. Baboon, 22.4.8


[1] For Chinese imperialism in Africa see WR 299