In this article
- Biden wants to encircle China and Russia
- With a ring not only of alliances but of wars and hotspots
- But the U.S. has a weak spot: the Middle East
- And inflames the war on Europe’s borders
- Imperialism cannot be self-contained
Biden wants to encircle China and Russia
Biden took part in the virtual EU summit yesterday. His message: to push for a common front against China and Russia and reorganize NATO in order to project it into the Indian and Pacific Oceans in alliance with the QUAD (India, Japan, Australia and the US). The US president is clear, in an almost obscene way, about the objectives of this encirclement by military alliances: to prevent China from becoming the richest country in the world, i.e. to win the imperialist competition between the two powers.
The new sanctions on China over the crackdown on the Uighurs, seconded by the EU and Britain, are part of the same game as we already saw during the Alaska talks: to put China in a situation where any attempt at conciliation would be mistaken for submission… opening the door to new conflicts and weakening its ability to discipline its own allies. But it is also a situation in which standing up or responding, however half-heartedly, would lead to the undermining of its own imperialist interests.
Thus, the imposition of sanctions by China in retaliation against the EU and Britain only means clearing the way for the most loyal US allies within the EU to attempt at preventing the implementation of the investment agreement that Merkel and Beijing diplomacy had laboriously managed to push through. The inevitable Chinese rapprochement with Russia further hits Germany through the back door, further limiting its ability to resist US pressure against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
China, seeing the noose closing fast on its exit to markets, is applying itself for the moment to try to speed up the implementation of RCEP, the Indo-Pacific free trade agreement, before it is too late and the U.S. strategy stifles that 8.1% growth China is expecting this year. Meanwhile, it is trying to delay or at least moderate NATO’s redeployment by sending its defense minister on a month-long tour of the EU.
With a ring not only of alliances but of wars and hotspots
But for Biden this is not just about containing eventual Chinese expansionism. Biden’s strategy toward China is focusing on whipping up contradictions and conflicts between the giant and its Pacific neighbors to turn China’s borders into a ring of hotspots.
In Taiwan, the US depicts an imminent invasion from the mainland and pushes for a massive rearmament of the island state, also pressuring Japan to get involved in the island’s defense. All while intensifying the technological blockade of Beijing – which stifles its electronics industry – with the Taiwanese government applying itself to cracking down on the engineer drain to mainland China.
In South Korea, the US has agreed to sacrifice part of the bill that Trump intended to charge Seoul for maintaining its troops – and which the Korean bourgeoisie sustains and pays as a lesser evil – in order to drag the country into a more belligerent position vis-à-vis China. For the time being, Biden seems to have imposed on the Korean president the abandonment of the slogan of total de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Eventual de-nuclearization of the North would no longer mean de-nuclearization of the South. Biden wants a South Korea integrated into the QUAD with US-controlled nuclear weapons aimed at China.
Seoul for its part is trying to wriggle out of any framing overly threatening to China, where its big industrial groups have massive investments and key suppliers. And it also fears that the increased tension could end up translating into Beijing giving North Korea a free hand to destabilize the peninsula.
Pretty much the same scenario in the Philippines. The U.S. is pushing Manila to mobilize its navy in the South China Sea in highly militarized and disputed areas, while helping to sell Indian missiles to Duterte’s government.
And of course… Burma.
But the U.S. has a weak spot: the Middle East
The Biden strategy is quite clear: stifle Chinese technological development by pushing beyond Trump’s blockade and keep Chinese capital locked in its narrowest area of influence based on a string of conflicts and threats in the Indian, Pacific and its southern border. There is no separation between military and commercial matters, it is imperialism by the book, frank and open by all the parties involved.
But the Biden strategy has a weakness: its budget. The military alone is asking him for an extra $27 billion to keep up the pressure. That’s why Asian analysts say the turn toward China begun by Obama and Trump can only develop in the direction Biden intends if the U.S. gets out of the Middle East. And that would only start with a stable agreement with Iran like the one signed by Obama and an exit from Afghanistan like the one attempted by Trump…. taking for granted that the Syrian war will not be reignited.
Hence the message from Beijing earlier yesterday inviting Biden to resume negotiations with Iran. It’s not an offer, it’s a warning. Iran is in the midst of an arms buildup as it secures – and begins to make economically profitable – its positions in Syria and Lebanon. An agreement on real grounds is difficult. And it would be relatively easy for Russia and China to sabotage it.
On the other hand, Iran’s main containing partners, the alliance of the Abraham pacts (Emirates, Israel) and Saudi Arabia, who saw it very clearly with Trump, are not quite sure of a clear perspective with Biden. And they are in a hurry. They feel the Iranian threat ever more violently as the crisis and the Green Deal wreck their traditionally comfortable state budgets. They also want a military-nuclear buildup… and are contacting Russia about it, which between its role as an OPEC ally and its weight in Syria is beginning to regain global imperialist stature.
And inflames the war on Europe’s borders
That’s why, among other things, Syria is increasingly a temptation for Biden. If he lets Al-Assad consolidate again, Russia and Iran will gain an outlet to the Mediterranean and more leverage in both Europe and the Middle East. Hence Erdogan’s latest move: to offer Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Washington maximum gain at minimum cost. Put another way: Turkey offers to keep the Syrian war open in exchange for economic and political support… and for the US and France to forget once and for all about their alliance with the Turkish YPG-PKK.
Just yesterday, at the virtual summit with the EU, Biden was asking European leaders to let him lead the relationship with Erdogan. But the truth is that the talks between Washington and Ankara are not moving forward. Nor is it easy no matter how much Turkey tries at the same time to pave the way with Egypt and France.
Imperialism cannot be self-contained
While war and brutality continue to unfold in Ethiopia, the Sahel, Somalia, Mozambique… with a brutal and growing violence reflecting the stubbornness of the powers feeding them and the rising desperation and division of the bourgeoisies of ever more semicolonial countries. The tangle of contradictory interests keeps getting twisted and calling all aspiring global powers to get even more involved: from Emirates to Russia… and of course the United States and China.
The idea spread by European and US propagandists that Biden’s strategy against China would be a game of containment, and thus would a restrained one, with no real danger of escalation into a generalized conflict, is patently false.
Today, in order to develop its game, the US has to choose between stepping on the accelerator of military spending and direct intervention or supporting and stirring up conflicts throughout Asia, the Mediterranean and Africa. It will probably opt for the latter. Even in South America and the Caribbean, inter-imperialist tensions are on the rise. In the medium term, from 2027 onward, even Chinese strategists are counting on the forces driving the generalization of war to spiral out of control and produce a quantum leap
No, there is no self-contained capitalism or imperialism. It is only contained by confronting it and defeating it.