Elections in Virginia and New Jersey and the slide towards war in Taiwan

3 November, 2021

The elections in Virginia and New Jersey, the outcome of COP26 and the Chinese economic situation join the already long list of elements warning us that the danger of a war between the two great world powers may materialize before November 2022.

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The elections in Virginia and New Jersey reinforce the insecurities of the U.S. bourgeoisie

Glenn Youngkin, new governor of Virginia after yesterday's election
Glenn Youngkin, new governor of Virginia after yesterday’s election

Right now, the victory of the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia is a done deal, while that of his running mate in New Jersey, albeit by a narrow margin and still with 88% of the votes counted, is beginning to look likely.

The risk, announced over the past months by Democratic Party pollsters, for the 2022 midterm elections to result in Republican control of Congress and the Senate is now becoming apparent. The bottom line is that if Biden and the Democrats have failed to make the slim majority they now hold in the chambers work for them to decisively revive capital accumulation by moving the Green Deal forward and increasing, even temporarily the consumer base, the November 2022 results will make it utterly impossible.

Analysis of election results in a media outlet like the New York Times, a champion until recently of Biden and his leadership over the Democrats, disavowed the electoral effect of the racialism embraced by the party, but took aim at the President as well, calling on him to regain popularity at all costs.

Finally, there’s Joe Biden. He is manifestly inept. He cannot get his party to pass a popular infrastructure bill. On inflation, Afghanistan and the southern border, he has offered benign assurances that have been summarily contradicted by events. No president elected after World War II lost more public support in his first few months of office than he has, according to Gallup. Biden’s losses are particularly steep among independents. If he doesn’t recover this is bound to have down-ballot effects.

Bret Stephens in New York Times, today

These kinds of analyses have been proliferating for months now. But now they are merging with the US military pullout from Afghanistan and the sense of defeat left by COP26 among the US bourgeoisie. The almost unanimous conclusion that the ruling class and its spokesmen seem to have drawn from Glasgow is that Biden and the Democrats’ weakness in the SCOTUS is projected globally as the inability of the US to sort out its allies and rivals in the imperialist game on something as sensitive for finance capital as the Green Deal.

The imperialist confrontation with China is the only issue on which Biden achieves “presidential leadership.”

Biden in Glasgow at COP26 yesterday
Biden in Glasgow at COP26 yesterday

With the President’s poll numbers taking a historic nosedive, Biden needs to distance himself from the degraded terms of debate imposed by an angry petty bourgeoisie, increasingly violent, and portray his presidency as being able to “unite the country”, i.e. heal the differences between factions of the American bourgeoisie. In practice this means bringing to the fore those aspects on which the Republicans agree with the President and, at best, demand greater radicalism from him. The only problem is that, in reality, such an agenda boils down to a single issue: China.

The extension of the trade war against China from goods markets to capital markets and the “malicious withdrawal” of strategic investments, express well the continuity between Trump and Biden on China and reflect a general consensus of US capital aimed at increasing imperialist tension with China. But, by themselves they would not put the immediate possibility of war between the two powers on the agenda.

The developments in the Huawei case and the battle over the control of the IMF warn us however that there are moves at a deeper level. Also that the forms taken by the politics and ideology of the U.S. bourgeoisie, creating “witch hunts” across the board in the face of alleged Chinese infiltration, can easily turn against the government itself –as seen with Finance Minister Hellen Yellen – if the government fails to show a growing enthusiasm for conflict.

The US military intelligence’s insistence that China tested hypersonic missiles, despite Beijing’s official denial – which is rarely discreet about its weapons capabilities to attack the US – goes beyond the need to justify the creation of a “missile belt” around the Asian giant. It is part of a spiral of declarations and armed movements that is accelerating, encouraged by the internal dynamics in Washington.

Last Oct. 21 Biden openly declared himself determined to “defend Taiwan” should the Chinese government, which considers the island a province, blockade or invade it. In the Washington media since then, the question has shifted from whether the U.S. would be willing to go to war to whether the navy has the means to win it.

And in the Democratic debate in Washington this translates as a tendency to own and accelerate the new strategic perspective opening up in the Republican party which envisions a series of “containment” wars against China starting with Taiwan. They see the conflict as inevitable, know that in 2025 it could be won by Beijing and consider the electoral advantages of bringing it forward, especially if the navy gives certain guarantees of a victory. The parallel with Roosevelt ultimately is one of the clichés of the current presidency.

China on the warpath

Bombproof aircraft shelters and hangars, as well as increased ammunition storage at Huian airbase in Fujian province.
Bombproof aircraft shelters and hangars, as well as increased ammunition storage at Huian airbase in Fujian province.

China, needless to say, is joining in the escalation while denouncing the military encirclement of the US. It must be said that the U.S. Navy makes it easy for them. The collision of a US nuclear submarine with an unknown object in the waters of the South China Sea seems to have prompted a new “Palomares“: specialized US Navy aircraft are searching near the impact site for one or more nuclear bombs missing at this time.

As if causes for concern were lacking, every little affront orchestrated by the US – and there is a new one every day – is treated by the Chinese media as a demonstration of an ongoing aggression. The warmongering sectors agitate the ultranationalist petty bourgeoisie. They are so emboldened that the government is trying to censor them… not always successfully, losing some battles to the “hawks” in what is proving to be Xi’s main weakness. So social unrest and fear of war are growing by the day in China.

After floods and energy problems prompted the government to ask families to stockpile basic necessities, social fear of an immediate war swept across Chinese society and emerged into the media. No wonder when the government itself has detailed recruitment and general mobilization plans unthinkable were the Chinese military not fearing the imminence of armed conflict and built large military bases off the island’s coasts at full speed.

Just today, PLA troops, tanks and aircraft began a week of military maneuvers and exercises off Taiwan with live ammunition, “really preparing for combat” according to experts pouring into the Chinese press.

A similar fear is spreading in Taiwan, encouraged by the president herself. Actually whether there will be war is not even being discussed, the debate centers on which countries in the region, besides the US, Britain and Australia, the AUKUS, will support the island’s government when the mainland invasion occurs. The wagers about the date in question are still open.

In fact, it has been Beijing itself which has drawn a line leaving the timing of the start of an armed conflict in Washington’s hands. If the US, as it has shown intentions of doing, somehow or other incorporates Taiwan into the UN, pushing for its independence, China would put its armies into action.

Yesterday’s elections, the slippery slope to war and what it means for the workers

Chinese Naval Exercises in the China Sea
Chinese Naval Exercises in the China Sea

In Europe, Africa and Ibero-America, the press usually purges news about China from the gloomy atmosphere about war that pervades everything in Asia. Only now, little by little, some international media are picking up on the increasingly dangerous situation in the Indo-Pacific. Influencing this slow turnaround is what Bloomberg called a “dangerous dependence on Taiwanese chips” and the impact that chip shortages are already having on deliveries and sales in European automakers.

The reality for workers is however much more dramatic. A war between China and the U.S. would hardly be contained within the island surroundings. Hundreds of thousands of workers in “strategic production” would become direct targets of the weapons of one imperialist side and the other. And the reflection of the war in supply chains and reactions of the various bourgeoisies would immediately produce waves of militarism, unemployment and misery all over the world.

And all that is a little closer today, when the external and internal weakness of the US government has become manifest. If Biden, who has been unable to impose the Green Deal with a majority in both houses, loses the majority in the mid-term elections, the American bourgeoisie would be condemned to lose four years… and it cannot afford it. Washington is more tempted than ever to bang on the table in the face of pressure from a bourgeoisie that feels it is getting closer and closer to losing decisive advantages in its competition with China.