The press throughout Europe reports about the daily changes that will be imposed by the final Brexit agreement, from Gibraltar to Calais and the Irish border. But Brexit is not the only major agreement whose results will start to make themselves felt these days.
1 No less agonizingly than Brexit, the EU signed an investment agreement with China on the 30th. It was, it seems, the result of German pressure as Merkel gave it her all against France and the Netherlands. The agreement allows large European capitals to invest in China… but not on equal terms with the large state-owned companies, as Europeans wanted. The agreement is tailored to the German automotive industry:
VW sells every second car in the People’s Republic and China is the most important market for Daimler. Thanks to the agreement, they will be able to get involved in electric vehicles in the future. With the strategic decision to focus so much on the Chinese market, Volkswagen in particular has maneuvered itself into a dependency that hardly leaves the German government the option of being critical of China.Die Welt
As is to be expected, among the US and British ruling class, but also in China the agreement has been seen as a confession of European weakness which strengthens the global position of Chinese imperialist interests. Beijing would also gain the opportunity to gain influence country by country through its investments, beginning with the East and the Mediterranean. That is why while the Netherlands called for waiting for Biden to counterbalance the Beijing negotiators and obtain more advantages in the Chinese market, France -in principle in favor of an autonomous relationship with China without excessive US tutelage- begged Merkel for a delay. Not so much to obtain more in the Asian market, but to yield less in the European one. Macron knows that the Chinese praise for his call for more strategic autonomy vis-à-vis the US is rigged. Because, as Chinese analysts point out, the growing participation of Chinese capital in the EU would function as a parasite which could save the host from its own diseases… against the host’s own interests.
2 The formal launch of the African Free Trade Area. Only Eritrea has been left out in the whole continent, so we are talking about a territory with 1.3 billion people and – for capitals – a potential of 3.4 trillion dollars in commercial transactions. The agreement should have started in July but the impossibility of holding face-to-face meetings delayed the process.
Does this mean that from now on there will be no customs in practically all of Africa? No. Far from it. The dismantling of tariff defenses should now begin, based on negotiations… on a country by country basis. What is clear is that if it has reached this point it is because the imperialist interests of Morocco, Egypt or South Africa saw the opportunity and aspired to sell throughout the continent more than they already do. Classical imperialism which always has a parallel dimension: exporting capital without domestic profitable destinations on the one hand and attracting new capital on the other. That is, in the end the overall result will depend on two axes that are contradictory in themselves. On the one hand, the capacity of the African industrial powers to arrive at shared positions vis-à-vis the weaker capitals in spite of the contradictions between the industrial powers themselves. Nigeria for example, will not row along with the others. And on the other hand, the capacity of these same powers to jointly channel international capital attracted by the opportunities that are opening up, instead of competing with each other for the same investments.
That is, the main contradiction endangering the promises of the agreement lies in the very being of African national capitals: between their imperialist interests and their unsurmountable semi-colonial situation.
3 With the new year, Great Britain is flexing its imperialist muscle: It will send an army to the South China Sea where it will deploy its new aircraft carrier. It will have to join the navies of Japan and the U.S. there to put pressure on the Senkaku Islands, whose sovereignty is actively contested by China. It appears that British ships will participate in amphibious exercises that will test an effective conquest of the islands. This is a British message in a region where tension grew throughout the whole of 2020 and where China’s contradictions with partners and rivals are staged.
Beijing has responded by announcing that it will take measures to ensure its sovereignty, which foreshadows new military mobilizations and the danger of further clashes between warships. Great Britain is entering its first year of true Brexit, as was to be expected: approaching the United States on the one hand, but also inciting conflicts. Imperialism leads, just in the same way as Turkey did in recent years, it needs to make itself present in zones of conflict in order to score arguments for trade negotiations. Except that British capital is much more powerful than Turkish capital and its capacity to create problems throughout the world is also stronger.
4 On January 1st Cuba started the convertibility of the peso. An adjustment plan, which in reality is a plan for the development and reinforcement of Cuban capital’s imbrication within international capital, and which will necessarily suction even more income from workers, bringing them to the brink of starvation. The Cuban state bourgeoisie is well aware of the Venezuelan disaster and seeks to support its own viability by giving more room to international capital and funds by standardizing the conditions of exploitation in its territory.