Supporters of Mexican President Andrés Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador stand on a statue’s platform as they cheer him during a march in support of his administration, in Mexico City, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. | Fernando Llano/AP
“Sometimes there are revolutions but people keep on thinking the same way. But now we are seeing a peacetime transformation process and there is a change of mentality … I said yesterday that we are winning the battle against racism, classism, discrimination. This is not about material things, not about welfare programs. There’s been a change of mentality”.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) was commenting on events of November 27, which was the fourth anniversary of his taking office. AMLO and his Moreno Party administration had staged a march and then a rally in the Zócalo plaza in Mexico City. They sought to demonstrate the Mexican people’s support for what AMLO calls Mexico’s Fourth Transformation.
Supporters gathered at the Angel of Independence Monument and walked three miles along Reforma Avenue to arrive at the Zócalo. The crowd was such that the walk, with AMLO walking too, lasted five hours. And, “Not even a window was broken,” according to Claudia Sheinbaum, who heads Mexico City’s government.
AMLO spoke before 1.2 million people. He highlighted what he regarded as outstanding achievements of his government and promised that work would be continuing “under the premise of attending first to the poorest and most vulnerable people.” He attached the name “Mexican humanism” to his government’s “socio-political model.” Noting the high representation of youth in the crowd, AMLO proclaimed a “generational change.”
In his remarks, AMLO catalogued achievements in providing for people’s needs. A report from La Jornada news service is the basis for the following summary.
Security is improvising, he indicated. His government “on a daily basis has to confront the scourge of violence; corruption and impunity are not tolerated. Crimes that fall within federal jurisdiction are down 27.3%.
AMLO listed social advances in various areas:
· 35 million families, 85% of the total, directly receive “at least a little portion of the national budget,” and the others benefit from reduced taxes and reduced costs for essentials.
· The minimum salary has more than doubled, “something never seen in the last 40 years” – and will be increasing more in the coming year.
· Labor reforms include secret voting in union elections, elimination of subcontracting, and a doubling of profit-sharing arrangements.
· Almost 28 million new workers are enrolled in social security, and the salaries of workers has reached “historically” high levels. There are 1.3 million new government jobs.
· Now 283,535 single mothers working outside of the home receive 800 pesos each month; 3.7 million families with children in elementary schools receive 1,680 pesos every two months; and 4.2 million upper-level students receive the same amount. Some 410,000 university students from poor families receive 2,450 pesos monthly, 128,950 postgraduate students and researchers receive scholarships.
AMLO emphasized the construction by his government of 145 free public universities where 1,168 professors are teaching and 45,581 young people studying. The aim is to establish 200 such institutions within the so-called “Benito Juárez System” which, according to a government website, is “dedicated to young people excluded by economic reasons” and those whose geographic access to higher education is limited.
The president mentioned that funds are available that enable parents of school children to maintain and rehabilitate 113,971 school buildings. Teachers’ salaries are up 21%, and schools now provide a “labor base” for 650,000 education workers. He noted that his government’s “relation with teachers is one of respect and gratitude … There have been no strikes or work stoppages in the public schools.”
AMLO emphasized that IMSS-Bienestar, the federal healthcare system, has extended into new regions where medical generalists and specialists are for the most part working “two shifts” every day. He is “committed to extending the IMSS-Bienestar system throughout the country to make people’s right to healthcare a reality.”
According to its website, “The IMSS-BIENESTAR Program provides first and second level health care services in its health units. The latter covers the specialties of gynecology-obstetrics, general surgery, internal medicine and pediatrics.” With “43 years of experience,” the program “combines medical care with health promotion actions in the community.” Care is provided gratis to patients without social security benefits.
Mexico’s social security system has expanded; 300,000 handicapped people, mostly children, are receiving more generous pensions and 10.5 million seniors now receive 2,800 pesos bimonthly, with more on the way after January 1, 2023. In a program called “Young People Building the Future,” 2.4 million young people are apprenticing in preparation for future work. The minimum wage they receive is a social security benefit.
AMLO’s reference to a “Fourth Transformation” raises the question of what about the first three transformations. These were three periods of significant change, specifically: independence from Spain 1810-1821; reforms, mainly separation of church and state, undertaken by President Benito Juárez in 1858-1861; and Mexico’s Revolution in 1910-1917 that accounts for the present Constitution.
The march and mass gathering of Moreno and AMLO supporters annoyed individuals such as Sandra Cuevas, the mayor of Cuauhtémoc. She denounced a “march of hate, division, inequality and corruption” while claiming that government officials at all levels and beneficiaries of social programs had been forced to participate.
One observer writes that for Morena to be “winning the streets” doesn’t detract from the advantage conservative political parties enjoy with an overwhelming presence on social media and on newspaper front pages. Their power there, and in their organizations and the judiciary, enables them to “hinder, obstruct, and sabotage” Morena’s work of governing. In any case, opinion polls are pointing to a large Morena Party victory in the elections of 2024.
W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.
In the last week of October, João Pedro Stedile, a leader of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brazil and the global peasants’ organisation La Via Campesina, went to the Vatican to attend the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace, organised by the Community of Sant’Egídio. On 30 October, Brazil held a presidential election, which was won by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, affectionately known as Lula. A key part of his campaign addressed the reckless endangerment and destruction of the Amazon by his opponent, the incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro. Lula’s victory, helped along by vigorous campaigning by the MST, provides hope for our chance to save the planet. This week’s newsletter contains the speech that Stedile gave at the Vatican. We hope you find it as useful as we do.
Today, humanity is at risk because of senseless social inequality, attacks on the environment, and an unsustainable consumption pattern in rich countries that is imposed on us by capitalism and its profit-seeking mentality.
Part 1: What are the dilemmas facing humanity?
Climate change is permanent, and its impacts manifest every day with intense heat waves, global warming, torrential rains, tropical cyclones, and droughts in different regions across the planet.
The number of disasters/crimes has increased five-fold in the last 50 years, killing 115 people and causing economic losses of $202 million per day.
Environmental crimes have increased, such as deforestation, the burning of tropical forests, and attacks on all biomes, especially in the Global South. In 2021 alone, the world lost 1 million hectares of tropical forests.
The Amazon rainforest, which stretches across nine countries, has already lost 30% of its vegetation cover as a result of encroaching deforestation caused by the push to produce timber and make way for cattle ranching and soybean production, which are exported to Europe and China.
All biomes in the Global South are being destroyed to produce raw agricultural materials for the Global North.
Predatory mining affects the environment, water, and land as well as Indigenous and peasant communities as thousands of garimpeiros (illegal miners) mine gold and diamonds using hazardous materials such as mercury in Indigenous lands.
Never have so many agrotoxins (agricultural poisons) been used in agriculture in the South, affecting soil fertility, killing biodiversity, polluting groundwater and rivers, and contaminating what is produced and even the atmosphere.
Glyphosate is scientifically proven to cause cancer. Some 42,700 U.S. farmers who contracted cancer won the right to compensation from the companies that produce, sell, and use the glyphosate to which they were exposed.
Across the planet, more and more genetically modified seeds are being planted, including, as of 2019, a total of nearly 200 million hectares concentrated in 29 countries. These seeds cause genetic contamination in non-GMO seeds, affecting human health and destroying the planet’s biodiversity because they require the use of agrotoxins.
The oceans are polluted by plastics and other human waste, killing many species of fish and marine life. The massive use of chemical fertilisers has also caused ocean waters to acidify, putting all marine life at risk. Evidence of this can be seen in the large garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean, which covers over a million square kilometres.
The carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossils fuels and by individual transportation in automobiles causes pollution in large cities, which in turn causes the death of thousands of people, with 7,100 in the northeast and Mid-Atlantic region of the United States alone dying as a result of vehicle emissions in a single year.
Humanity is suffering under a public health crisis that is also inextricably connected to nature. Epidemics and pandemics have increased, creating a massive global health crisis that puts millions of people at risk. This phenomenon, often propelled by the increased transmission of diseases from animals to human beings (known as zoonoses), is a result of the simultaneous destruction of biodiversity alongside the expansion of the agricultural frontier by agribusiness and energy, mining, and transportation megaprojects as well as urban and large-scale livestock farming.
Many areas on our planet are protected by peasant and Indigenous communities. Capital attacks and seeks to destroy them in order to take control of the natural goods they protect.
We are undergoing an ecological-social crisis of the Earth system and of the balance of life. This global crisis affects the environment, the economy, politics, society, ethics, religions, and the meaning of our own life.
The billions of the world’s poorest people are the most impacted by the lack of food, water, housing, employment, income, and education. Deteriorating living conditions have forced them to migrate and have killed thousands of people, especially children and women.
This generalised crisis is endangering human life. Without bold action, the planet, which is under attack, could still regenerate, but without human beings.
Eduardo Berliner (Brazil), House, 2019.
Part 2: Who is responsible for putting humanity at risk?
Capitalism is facing a structural crisis. It is no longer capable of organising the production and distribution of goods that people need. Its logic of profit and capital accumulation prevent us from having a more just and egalitarian society.
This crisis manifests itself in the economy, in increasing social inequality, in the state’s failure as a guarantor of social rights, in formal democracy’s failure to respect the will of most people, and in the propagation of false values based solely on individualism, consumerism, and selfishness. This system is economically and environmentally unsustainable, and we must put it behind us.
The main parties directly responsible for the environmental crisis are large transnational corporations, which do not respect borders, states, governments, or the rights of peoples. Some of these corporations, such as Bayer, BASF, Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont, manufacture agrotoxins, while others run the mining, automobile, and fossil fuel-run electric energy sectors, and yet others control the water market (such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestlé) and the world food market. Associated with all of them are banks and their financial capital. In the last decade, these corporations have been joined by powerful transnational technology corporations, which control ideology and public opinion (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook/Meta, and Apple). The owners of these companies are among the richest people in the world.
governments that cover up and protect corporate crime;
the mainstream media, which seek profit and serve corporate interests all whilst deceiving the people and hiding those who are responsible; and
international organisations formed by governments and captured by large corporations under the cover of phantom foundations, which directly influence these organisations and only repeat rhetoric and hold ineffective international meetings such as the Conference of the Parties (COP), which has now met 27 times. This is even the case with the United Nations and the Food and Agricultural Organisation.However, corporations are not the only ones to blame for the environmental crisis; they are aided by:All of these entities must respect the law.
I welcome the courageous position taken by Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2022 and the encyclicals of Pope Francis. Both are a wake-up call to the entire world.
Tarsila do Amaral (Brazil), O Vendedor de frutas (‘The Fruit Vendor’), 1925.
Part 3: What solutions are we calling for?
There is still time to save humanity, and, with it, our common home, planet Earth. For this we need to have the courage to implement concrete and urgent measures on a global level. On behalf peasants’ movements and people’s movements in urban peripheries, we propose:
Prohibiting deforestation and commercial burning in all native forests and savannas across the world.
Prohibiting the use of agrotoxins and genetically modified seeds in agriculture, as well as antibiotics and growth promoters in livestock farming.
Condemning all decoy solutions to climate change and geoengineering techniques proposed by capital that speculate on nature, including the carbon market.
Prohibiting mining in the territories of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities as well as environmental protection and conservation areas and demanding that all mining be publicly controlled and used for the common good—not for profit.
Strictly controlling the use of plastics, including in the food and beverage industry, and making it mandatory to recycling them.
Recognising nature’s goods (such as forests, water, and biodiversity) as universal common goods at the service of all people that are immune to capitalist privatisation.
Recognising peasants as the main caretakers of nature. We must fight against large landowners and carry out popular agrarian reforms so that we can combat social inequality and poverty in the countryside and produce more food in harmony with nature.
Implementing an extensive reforestation program, paid for with public resources, that ensures the ecological recovery of all areas near springs and riverbanks, slopes, and other ecologically sensitive areas or areas that are experiencing desertification.
Implementing a global policy to care for water that prevents the pollution of oceans, lakes, and rivers and that eliminates the contamination of surface and subsoil drinking water sources.
Defending the Amazon and other tropical forests of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands as ecological territories under the care of the peoples of their countries.
Implementing agroecology as a sociotechnical basis for food sovereignty, including the production of healthy food that is accessible to all.
Subsidising the financing needed to implement solar and wind energy systems, which will be under the collective management of populations worldwide.
Implementing a global investment plan to provide public transportation based on renewable energies that makes it possible to reorganise and improve living conditions in cities, allowing for urban decentralisation and making it possible for people to remain in the countryside.
Demanding that the industrialised countries of the North guarantee the financial resources to implement all of the necessary actions to rebuild the relationship between society and nature in a sustainable manner, understanding that these countries are historically responsible for global pollution and continue with unjust and unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.
Demanding that all governments stop wars, close foreign military bases, and halt military aggression in order to save lives and the planet, rooted in the understanding that peace is a condition for a healthy life.
Anita Malfatti (Brazil), Tropical, 1917.
For these ideas to materialise, we propose an international pact between religious leaders and institutions, environmental and people’s movements, decision-makers, and governments, so that we can carry out a programme that raises the consciousness of the entire population. We propose that an international conference be held so that we can bring together all collective actors who defend life. We must encourage people to fight for their rights in defence of life and nature. We must demand that the media assume its responsibility to defend the interests of the people and to defend equal rights, life, and nature.
We will always fight to save lives and our planet, to live in solidarity and in peace with social equality, emancipated from social injustices, exploitation, and discrimination of all kinds.
This text from João Pedro Stedile is a clarion call from the MST, which Noam Chomsky calls ‘the most important mass movement on the planet’. We hope to hear from you about these proposals, and we hope that movements around the world will take them up in their work.
Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (Brazil), Projeto de Mural (‘Mural Project’), 1950.
It is common for Western media to automatically imply or label everything that happens in China as “evil.” The most recent case concerns the events surrounding former Communist Party Chairman Hu Jintao at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.
“A ghostly scene at China’s top of power: Xi Jinping’s predecessor is taken away. The ‘new emperor’ is reaching for absolute power. What are the consequences for the world?” This is the title and the introduction of the newspaper Die Weltwoche to a German-language article by the British historian Francis Pike, in which he writes: “Hu’s media-fueled removal takes on the appearance of a political drama reminiscent of Chairman Mao’s brutal purges of party members in the 1950s.” He is referring to a video from the Chinese Party Congress showing former party leader Hu Jintao allegedly being “forcefully taken away.”
“The removal of Hu from the hall occurred mere minutes after foreign media were allowed into the Great Hall,” Pike adds. This immediately raises the question of why Xi Jinping should wait to “remove” Hu Jintao until Western media are on the scene, having only waited for such an opportunity to pillory the “cruel and inhumane dictator Ji Jinping”?
As for Xi Jingping’s dictatorship, it is worth noting in passing that last month at the Athens Democracy Forum (in collaboration with The New York Times), a scholar from the University of Zurich was asked to comment on democracy in China, and her response was not exactly what one would expect with so much Western dictatorship talk: In recent years, under Xi Jinping, there have been increased “democratic experiments, for example, to allow greater citizen participation and to make local government officials more responsive and accountable to citizens.” This is all the more remarkable because, in the so-called democratic West, the trend is in the opposite direction, namely toward a creeping dismantling of citizens’ democratic rights. And, as might be expected, the media did not report on it because, unlike Hu Jintao’s earth-shattering “removal” from the convention hall, it was apparently an insignificant detail that would also upset their China narrative.
Unwelcome details blanked out
Ex-Chinese President Hu Jintao being removed from Communist Party Congress on October 22, 2022
The same media did not mention that the frail 80-year-old man, who left a somewhat bewildered impression, had been escorted to and from the convention for several days during the Party Congress and before the “forced removal” hyped by the Western media on the last day of the Congress.
Here, for example, you can see Xi Jinping taking care of him as a friendly usher.
Cutting away an important part of the message and changing perceptions with misleading text is manipulation and is—rightly!—castigated by the same media when it is done by China.
That Hu Jintao has a health problem was first noticed by China observers at the 2019 National Day parade, when he was seen on the Tiananmen Balcony in Beijing with his hands shaking badly.
Immediately prior to the incident at the Party Congress, Hu Jintao participated in the election as the second eligible voter, just after Xi Jinping, who cast his vote at the ballot box. In a society that is much more Confucianist than Communist, this symbolic placement in the vote signifies great respect for the elder statesman. The Western media also blanked this out of the overall picture. This made it easier for them to construct a coup, a purge and a humiliation of the former president.
If Hu had really been purged during the day, as Western media claimed, it is highly unlikely that Chinese television would have shown him in its report in the evening.
According to George Soros, Xi is the “most dangerous man in the world.”
Political purge and humiliation for the history books or disruption of “worship”?
Little was heard from the official Chinese side about the incident, apart from a tweet from Xinhua News Agency saying Hu “did not feel well” during the meeting.
A report by Singaporean TV station CNA added an important detail that Western media representatives who were in the room seemed to have deliberately ignored: Hu had been looking at some documents on the table in front of him and apparently had a disagreement with the current chairman of China’s legislature, Li Zhanshu, who was sitting to his left, who took the documents out of his hand.
“Child soldiers” in newsrooms turned into shooting galleries drop speculative bombs on China: Young German journalist Fabian Kretschmer writes from Beijing for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) and various other media in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as “for the history books.” (Above translation into English by Felix Abt)
And when Li Zhanshu tried to get up to help Hu stand, Li was briefly dragged back to his seat by Wang Huning, a party ideologue and former professor of international politics to his left, making matters even more confusing. Xi stopped this disruption to the choreographed party meeting and summoned a staffer, who then tried to get Hu to leave, and who then escorted him out of the room. The video also shows that Hu, after standing up, first hovered in place, then took a few slow steps, then stopped and turned to Xi, who nodded briefly but continued to look at the assembled delegates.
Claimed purge makes no sense
If it had been a dispute, the incident would have been extraordinary, because in communist parties, which are not known for their transparency, disagreements are settled behind closed doors, and in any case not in front of running cameras from the whole world. So one would need to know what is in the documents. A former Chinese insider told the BBC, “Why would the party put a document on Hu’s desk if he wasn’t allowed to see it?”
Bill Bishop of the China newsletter Sinocism stated that the “purge claimed by the media doesn’t make sense that way.” Hu Haifeng, Hu Jintao’s son and party secretary of Lishui, Zhejiang, also sat in the room. “A purge of one without the other would be unlikely,” Bishop explained.
A real China insider was interviewed by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. When asked about Xi Jinping’s possible motives for the alleged “forced removal” of Hu Jintao, he replied:
“Xi is certainly not shy about taking drastic action, but his obsession is to restore party discipline through rules and procedures. He has never gone the way of Stalin or North Korea of just making his enemies disappear. Even with his bitterest foes—such as Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, and Guo Boxiong, people who, in fact, plotted a coup against him—Xi took them down, but did everything according to the procedures.
He is a stern but not an arbitrary ruler. His books and speeches have more citations from China’s Legalism school than anything else. Legalism (a bad translation) stresses the importance of rules and regulations over arbitrary power.
If anyone wants to challenge Xi, it would be incredible for them to do so on the last day of the party congress, which is mainly for formal endorsement and communication. The debate and negotiations happened behind the scene MONTHS beforehand. There were plenty of opportunities for the two to argue if they didn’t agree with each other. This was simply not the case.”
Why have some Western media platforms gone wild with speculation, including suggesting it was a purge, the interviewer asked:
“This is the problem I have with the Western media and those ‘experts.’ You can be critical of the Chinese system, and you may dislike it intensely, but you at least need to understand what you are criticizing. Their imagination of China is just a plus-size North Korea, a modern-day Stalinist state, or the new Nazis. In fact, many Western media just borrow the same analytical tools they used to analyze the Soviet Union or North Korea or even Nazi Germany and apply it to China.
This is what I call the intellectual Procrustean bed they have forced on everyone studying China. Sometimes it can get really ridiculous. It’s either laziness or dogmatic rigidity or having an agenda—or a combination of all these.
There are many problems in Xi’s system, and so far he and the party have not come up with convincing answers to them. But to imagine it simply as another Soviet Union or North Korea is missing the point. If people start to make decisions based on such skewed views and perceptions, that will lead to real-life consequences. Hong Kong is a living example of it.”
So it is okay to criticize the Chinese system harshly, and pundits and the media may deeply loathe it, but they do so while being quite clueless.
Also, contrary to the predictions and speculations of experts and media in the West in the run-up to the Party Congress, the “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” was not shortened to Xi Jinping Thought in the Constitution, nor was Xi given new descriptive titles such as “Leader/领袖.”
Further background and insights censored by the Western media
There are two other key current things that pundits like John Pike and the mainstream media will not tell you:
China has remained essentially Confucian for more than two thousand years. Confucius advocated a government that cares for the people and makes their welfare its primary concern. It should be a meritocracy, in that “those who govern should do so on the basis of merit and not on the basis of inherited status,” he proclaimed, and that it should be enlightened and benevolent (in which the demonstrably most capable people who best serve the people should rise to positions of leadership).
This is in contrast to Western democracies, where even the most incompetent can come to power thanks to empty promises and/or because they were well sponsored, and then have their own interests and those of their patrons in mind rather than the interests of their constituents. In China, civil servants still have to pass exams and prove themselves if they want to keep their jobs. This corresponds to the centuries-old Confucian tradition, according to which anyone, regardless of their social background, could obtain a position in the civil service at the imperial court after passing an entrance examination in various subjects. The fact that 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty in China over the past 40 years, accounting for more than 75% of global poverty, is no accident, but part of the application of this philosophy.
Mainstream media such as Foreign Affairs magazine highlighted the “Collateral Damage in China’s War on Covid,” or Nikkei, the world’s largest financial newspaper, headlined “Self-isolated: China’s lonely zero-COVID battle in spotlight” without ever telling their readers and viewers why the Chinese government took draconian measures against the Covid pandemic: China’s biggest weakness is its health care system. South Korea has 10 intensive care beds per 100,000 people, America has 34, and China has only 4. As a result, the government feared that the health care system would not be able to handle a large influx of seriously ill patients. Most retirees are not vaccinated.
The reason that modern medicine, including hospitals with intensive care units, lags behind the rest of the world in China is that the Chinese believe in their traditional medicine (acupuncture, herbal medicine, diet, exercise, and manual therapy to correct imbalances in the body and promote mental and physical health) because it has been used for thousands of years and is steeped in tradition, belief, popularity and anecdote. Western remedies are far less popular because the vast majority of Chinese also believe that traditional Chinese medicine has fewer side effects and has a stronger restorative effect on the body.
In contrast to the seemingly completely out-of-touch Western media, East Asian media, which have a far better understanding of China, used less charged language related to Hu Jintao’s escort out of the Party Congress hall. It is also important to note in this context that, unlike Europe, Asian countries do not want to be drawn into the U.S. fight against China at their own expense, as I have detailed here.
For example, the conservative Korea Herald in Seoul soberly headlined that Hu Jintao was helped off the stage at the Party Congress.
It can therefore be assumed that the escorting of Hu Jintao at the Party Congress will not go down in the Korean history books.
“Media war between China and the West”
On the one hand, everything that comes out of China is hyped up, twisted and used in the West for China-bashing. On the other hand, more important things that would contribute to a better understanding of the country are simply suppressed. Another recent example:
Do you know Dilana Dilixiati? No, of course you don’t. But you certainly know Peng Shuai, the famous Chinese tennis player who, according to Western media reports, accused a retired top politician of rape (the word rape does not appear in her original Chinese text), after the years-long secret love affair with many ups and downs between the two had gone to pieces.
[Source: Screenshot courtesy of Felix Abt]
Tennishead magazine wrote (December 6, 2021): “The USA are reportedly set to announce a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games this week in response to the censorship of Peng Shuai and her sexual assault allegations.” This boycott was carried out by the United States and its Western “coalition of the willing.” Western politicians and media therefore immediately called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The athlete was subsequently often seen in public, laughing and talking to other people. Since she apparently did not disappear into a gulag, as Western politicians and media must have secretly hoped, she soon disappeared again from Western media discourse.
Dr. Pan Wang, a China expert from the University of New South Wales, provided background information and insights into the case on Australian television that were not available elsewhere.
She said it was only natural that Western organizations such as the World Tennis Association interpreted Ms. Peng’s social media post as a complaint of sexual misconduct and were suspicious of Beijing’s response given the lack of detailed information, communication or transparency and censorship on the matter.
However, she dismissed the accusation, saying there is no clear allegation of rape, which is a criminal offense in China, and “sexual harassment” falls under the Civil Code.
Whether the persuasion or coercion of the former vice premier described by Peng Shuai could be called “sexual assault” in the usual sense is subjective, she said.
She added that, while Beijing wants to suppress any controversy about its officials, the Western media are also pursuing their own political agenda regarding China.
“This case is about harassment, power and skepticism, and it occurred in a broader context of growing tensions between China and, for example, Australia, stemming from diplomatic tensions, trade disputes and growing accusations against China’s human rights, democracy and censorship,” she added.
She concluded: “So there’s a media war between China and the West and the Australian media here, too, and that’s reflected in the opposing views of the social media posts.”
The hidden story of the amazing career of a Uyghur woman
Back to Dilana Dilixiati. She, too, is a Chinese sports star. Her team had recently won an unexpected, sensational victory in the semifinals against basketball superpower Australia at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. Australian media reported, “They defeated the hosts 61-59 at the Sydney Superdome on Friday night in a thrilling encounter that was decided only in the final seconds.” The dramatic thriller sent shock waves.
Those who followed the game immediately recognized that Dilana Dilixiati (on the left in the photo above) looked different from her teammates. The journalists must have noticed her. Strangely enough, the Uyghur, who writes her name in Uyghur like this: دىلانا دىلشات, which does not look like Mandarin, did not attract any interest, although she would have been more suitable than any other for a sensational success story inviting clicks.
The 1.94-meter (6’ 4-1/2”) center basketball player of the Guangdong Vermilion Birds, who helped the Chinese women’s national team win a silver medal at the World Cup, regularly visits her family in Xinjiang.
A Twitter user found out that a Uyghur woman played on China’s successful national women’s basketball team and that the media did not want to know about it.
The Australian think tank ASPI, funded in particular by the Australian Department of Defense, the U.S. government, and the Western war industry, published the widely cited but refuted pamphlet “Uyghurs for Sale.” The organization was one of the driving forces in spreading the propaganda campaign of “genocide” against the Uyghurs in China, which originated in the United States.
The case is clear: Dilana Dilixiati, a Uyghur, and her ability to pursue a career as a top athlete and to travel, contradicts the Western narrative that is ingrained in people’s minds that Uyghurs, who are totally discriminated against, are prisoners and victims of genocide and cannot leave Xinjiang. Their story had to be kept quiet by the media, because consumers would naturally have noticed that there was something wrong with the prevailing narrative, and who likes to be manipulated.
Felix Abt is the author of “A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom” and of “A Land of Prison Camps, Starving Slaves and Nuclear Bombs?”
We are very pleased to republish this important article by Efe Can Gürcan, Associate Professor at Türkiye’s Istinye University, which originally appeared in Volume 3 Issue 3 of the BRIQ (Belt & Road Initiative Quarterly).
The author argues that China has already developed a firm understanding of its environmental problems and their severity to the extent that it now frames them as a “matter of survival” and has brought these issues to the center of its revised national security strategy. China’s strategy is predicated on an alternative proposal for “ecological civilization”, which may potentially lead to the reversal of “ecological imperialism”. China is in the early stages of building an ecological civilization and requires a lot of work to reach a high level of ecological development.
China’s key achievements on the path towards ecological civilization involve a series of three unfolding and mutually conditioning revolutionary processes that also lead the way in international environmental cooperation. They include a clean energy revolution, a sustainable agricultural revolution, and a green urban revolution.
China has already become a global leader in green finance. It leads the eco-city movement, with over 43 percent of the world’s eco-cities being Chinese, and is the second leader in sustainable architecture, next to Canada. Many Chinese cities have dropped down or out of the list of the most polluted cities, leaving India and Pakistan at the top. China’s cities have also joined the ranks of those with the strongest sewage treatment capacity in the world. In addition, China has the most electric vehicles, bikes, and efficient public transportation. China is considered to be not only the world’s centre of electric bus production and consumption but also as having cities with the world’s longest subway systems.
From 2013 onwards, the share of coal in China’s total energy consumption has seen a noticeable decline, accompanied by the increasing share of renewable resources in total energy consumption as a result of conscious efforts at a clean energy revolution.
Key to this revolution in the making is China’s strong reputation as the world’s top investor in clean energy. As such, it has succeeded in creating the world’s largest wind, solar, and hydroelectric systems for power generation.
Finally, concerning China’s unfolding revolution in sustainable agriculture, one should acknowledge, not only its adoption of green food standards and the expansion of its agricultural area under certified organic farming, but especially the fact that, as a world leader in green agriculture, it now ranks third in the list of countries with the largest agricultural area under organic farming.
China is the world’s largest country by population size and fourth largest by surface area. Combined with its excessive demographic and geographic size is the continued legacy of Western imperialism in China as a former semi-colony, whose negative effects are amplified by current Western efforts in geopolitical and geo-economic containment. This adds to China’s resource scarcity which acts as another structural adversity constraining its development potential. China possesses only 7% of the world’s arable land and freshwater resources and 8% of the world’s natural resources, even though its population represents 22% of the world’s population. Furthermore, only 19% of its surface area is suitable for human habitation and 65% of its surface area is rugged, which severely cripples China’s farming capabilities and facilitates ethnic heterogeneity as a potential impediment to political cohesion (Morton, 2006; Naughton, 2018).
Despite such adversities, China has come to develop an exemplary model of economic development that inspires much of the developing world. The 1979-2018 period testified to an average growth rate of 9.4% in the lead of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which made China the world’s second-largest economy, top producer, and the leading exporter of technological goods (Hu, 2020). By 2015, China came to assume the global production of 40% of washing machines, 50% of textiles, 60% of buttons, 70% of shoes, 80% of televisions, and 90% of toys. Recently, China has made significant progress in the production of added higher-value products in computer, aviation, and medical technology sectors, among others. Besides its historic success in economic growth, industrial production and technological development, the Chinese economic miracle is credited for 70% of global poverty eradication between 1990 and 2015 (Gardner, 2018).
The huge ecological cost of such a fast-paced and dramatic development —unprecedented in the history of human civilization— is nothing but expected. According to 2009 estimates, the annual economic cost of environmental pollution amounts to 3.8% of China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Zhang, 2014:32-48). Over 80% of China’s underground and river water resources are no longer fit for human use due to pollution (Jie, 2016). Land pollution and soil erosion are also part of China’s major environmental problems. It is common knowledge that excessive use of pesticides and industrial pollution constitute a major source of land pollution, prompting the loss of organic matter and soil erosion. 2013 estimates suggest that close to 20% of China’s cultivated farmland suffers from contamination and 38% of the soil is subjected to erosion-related loss of nutrients and organic matter (Scott et al., 2018:26; Gardner, 2018:9). Indeed, the contraction of arable land is a natural result of soil contamination and erosion. This also explains China’s over 4% loss of arable land between 1990 and 2018, from 124,481,000 to 119,488,700 hectares (FAO, 2021; Figure 1).
China being the world’s largest pesticide producer and consumer exacerbates this tendency. In the 1990- 2018 period alone, China’s pesticide use rose by 129% (FAO, 2021; see Figure 2). Furthermore, 70% of the world’s electronic waste is recycled in China at the expense of environmental and public health. Industrial pollution, environmentally detrimental recycling practices, and industrial agriculture combined to create China’s “cancer villages” (Gardner, 2018). Map 1 provides a more detailed outline of China’s major environmental problems (Sanjuan, 2018).
Global environmental indicators provide a general picture of the environmental question’s severity in China. To elaborate, the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a popular indicator to assess the impact of national policies on the environment. EPI is made up of two major components: environmental health and ecosystem vitality. Environmental health looks at the negative impact of environmental pollution on human health as well as air and water quality and sanitation. In turn, ecosystem vitality focuses on variables such as carbon intensity, biodiversity, fish stocks, forest cover, wastewater treatment, and nitrogen balance (Environmental Performance Index, 2020a).
China’s EPI can be compared to other BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries, representative of the leading developing countries, and the United States (US), as the hegemonic leader of the capitalist-imperialist system. A comparison for the period 2010-2020 shows that China has achieved the second-largest increase in EPI scores (8.4 EPI points) after South Africa (8.5 EPI points), which testifies to China’s successful efforts at improving its environmental standing (Table 1). In the same 10-year period, India has recorded no visible improvements, while the increase in EPI scores for Brazil, Russia, and the U.S. are 4.9, 3.9 and 2.9, respectively. In the meantime, one should note that China’s 2020 standing is 120 out of all the 180 countries included in EPI. China’s 2020 score is 37.3, which outranks India with an EPI score of 27.6. However, China is outranked by Brazil, Russia, South Africa, and the U.S., whose annual scores are 51.2, 50.5, 43.1, and 69.3, respectively (Table 1). Overall, this comparison reveals that China has exhibited a strong environmental will and achieved policy success between 2010 and 2020, even though it continues to struggle with severe environmental problems (Environmental Performance Index, 2020b).
Ecological footprint is another global environmental indicator. It is popularly used to assess the human impact on an environment by reference to changing natural resource demands for countries across the world. With ecological footprint, the use of ecological resources is compared with the size of biologically productive land and sea area to estimate the earth’s capacity to renew the natural resources and absorb waste (Robbins, 2007:509-10). Not surprisingly, the ecological footprint of China —as a rapidly developing country— has known a constant increase, particularly in the 2000s (Figure 3).
Air pollution stands out, perhaps, as the most visible environmental strain in China, which is why it is worth supplementing our analysis of EPI and ecological footprint with what is popularly known as fine particles, or particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5). Available data allow us to comparatively assess the performance of the BRICS countries and the U.S. concerning the percentage of the national population exposed to PM2.5 levels exceeding the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline value. One striking fact that emerges from this comparison is the successful performance of the U.S. and Brazil, unlike China and other countries in our sample. The U.S. and Brazil’s PM2.5 performance in the period 2011-2017 declined from 46.69% and 91.93% to 3.34% and 68.14%, respectively (World Bank, 2021, Figure 4). Even though China failed to exhibit a successful performance by 2017, its post-2017 performance offers promising prospects. Recently, for example, Chinese cities used to occupy the forefront of the list of the world’s most polluted cities. Looking at the 2020 list of the fifteen most polluted cities, however, it is now being occupied by Indian and Pakistani cities. The only Chinese city that is ranked among the top fifteen polluted cities is Hotan (Earth.Org, 2021, IQAir, 2021; Zhang, 2014).
China has been undergoing a sustainable urban revolution, which extends beyond the fight against air pollution. It is striking to notice how China’s daily capacity for urban sewage treatment rose from 125 million tons to 182 million tons in the period 2010-2015. This elevates China to be among the world’s strongest capacity for urban sewage treatment (China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation, 2018). Moreover, China has greatly improved its performance in urban sustainability by prioritising green architecture and transportation. According to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system prepared by the U.S. Green Building Council, China is the world’s second leader in sustainable architecture after Canada (Long, 2015). China’s strong leadership in sustainable urbanisation can also be observed in its emergence as the world’s largest market for electric vehicles and bikes (Statista 2021; INSG 2014). As far as public transportation is concerned, China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of electric buses (Technavio, 2019; Sustainable Bus, 2020; MarketsandMarkets, 2021). Furthermore, China has turned itself into the world leader in green transportation, with Beijing and Shanghai having developed the world’s longest subway systems (Nedopil Wang, 2019).
Evidently, China’s world-leading environmental achievements go unnoticed due to the prevailing discourse of “ecological imperialism” in environmental politics. Ecological imperialism describes the shift of axis in global labour and natural resource exploitation to the developing world at the expense of grave human and ecological suffering. The economic and ecological burden of this axis shift is placed on the shoulders of the developing world by Western metropoles, which essentially seek to externalise the cost of production and resource extraction (Gürcan, Kahraman, & Yanmaz, 2021). Indeed, this phenomenon has been a defining feature in the entire history of capitalism. However, the dominance of neoliberalism as a global policy paradigm since the 1970s gave a new impetus to ecological imperialism, where China emerged as the main target. This being said, China has refused to be victimised by such policies and actively took advantage of the changing policy environment without fully abandoning its socialist system, albeit at grave ecological and socioeconomic costs in the medium term. In this period, China relied on the state’s strong guidance on reform and opening-up to build the “Chinese dream” of socialist welfare through gradual technology transfers and joint ventures in the longer term.
It is common knowledge that Western capitalism globalised through exploration and colonisation at the expense of grave human and ecological costs. These globalising efforts were amplified by the Industrial Revolutions, which eventually evolved into imperialist rivalries for spheres of influence and world wars. A subsequent wave of globalisation began in the 1970s as the world’s axis of production shifted to Asia, based on neoliberal policies that sought to take advantage of Asia’s cheap labour supply and other resources in the absence of strict political and environmental regulations. For some time, Western metropoles remained content with China’s accommodating policies, only until it succeeded in using the “privilege of backwardness” to consolidate its national economy rather than become a mere U.S. colony governed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Upon China’s historic economic success and the continuation of the rule of the Communist Party of China (CPC), it seems that Western metropoles ended up developing a false sense of threat against their global hegemony, which prompted them to launch a global campaign of imperialist propaganda framing China as an environmentally irresponsible villain versus the West as the virtuous watchdog of environmental values.
This article seeks to transcend Western-centric ecological-imperialist biases toward China’s environmental policies and provide a more balanced perspective. What environmental issues occupy China’s main development agenda? How does China address these crucial issues? In what direction are China’s environmental policies evolving? The present article uses process tracing to answer these questions and argue that China has already developed a firm understanding of its environmental problems and their severity to the extent that it now frames them as a “matter of survival” and has brought these issues to the centre of its revised national security strategy, particularly under the Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping administrations. China’s strategy is predicated on an alternative proposal for “ecological civilization” (shengtai wenming, 生态文明), which may lead to the reversal of “ecological imperialism”. Particularly noticeable in this regard is China’s ongoing clean energy revolution as well as its strong leadership in green agriculture, urbanisation, and multilateral environmental cooperation. Accordingly, the present article is structured into three sections. The first focuses on the political and ideological background of China’s “ecological civilization” project and the second sheds light on China’s clean energy revolution. The article concludes with the third section on China’s achievements in green agriculture and ecological urbanisation, explaining how they are reflected in multilateral environmental cooperation.
The Political and Ideological Background of Ecological Civilization
The first uses of the term “ecological civilization” can be found in the Soviet Union in the early 1980s. This term was later adopted by Qianji Ye, a Chinese agricultural economist, and brought into official use by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA). In China, ecological civilization gained popularity thanks to the efforts of the Hu Jintao administration (2003-2013) (Greene, n.d.; Pan, 2016:35). In his report to the 17th National Congress of the CPC, Hu put forth the notion of “harmonious society” by reference to China’s traditional philosophical conception of harmony between humans and nature (天人合一思想) (Hu, 2007; Kitagawa, 2016a; Pan, 2016).
Hu’s (2007) conceptualisation of “harmonious society” goes beyond social equality and justice to embrace the “balance between urban and rural development, development among regions, economic and social development, relations between man and nature, and domestic development and opening to the outside world”. Worthy of note is the degree to which this notion resonates with Mao Zedong’s ideas of “balanced development” and “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, as were described in his speech “On Ten Great Relationships” (Mao, 1974).
Hu (2007) proposed a “Scientific Outlook on Development”, where harmonious society can be achieved with a sustainable development model that puts people and the environment first by mobilising science, technology, and education. According to Hu, energy conservation and sustainable development are central to improving the Chinese population’s quality of life. In this framework, Hu developed a “five-in-one” strategy (五位一体) that combines the task of economic, political, cultural, and social construction with that of ecological civilization. This strategy emphasises how ecological sustainability and other tasks complement each other. To elaborate, ecological sustainability is an essential requisite for long-term economic growth for, without it, the higher goals of social welfare and life quality cannot be attained (Kitagawa, 2016b; Pan, 2016).
Xi Jinping’s ascendancy to power furthered the strength of Hu’s emphasis on harmonious society and ecological civilization (Xi, 2018:233). In Xi’s thought, the task of building an ecological civilization constitutes the building block of the Chinese dream, i.e. “a dream of building China into a well-off society in an all-round way and… a dream to show the world China’s commitment to making a greater contribution to the peace and development of mankind” (Xi, 2018:179). As such, the CPC adopted the task of building an ecological civilization as a priority task in 2012, added it to the CPC constitution, and imported it into the Chinese constitution in 2018 (Goron, 2018:39).
Xi Jinping’s rise led to the creation of the first CCP organ specialised in sustainability: the “Task Force for the Promotion of Economic Development and Ecological Civilization”. In 2015, the CPC Politburo adopted the “Central Opinion Document on Ecological Civilization Construction” in March 2015. As part of China’s new centralised environmental inspections, over 29,000 companies were penalised with fines totalling 1.43 billion RMB (US$216 million), 1,527 individuals were detained, and 18,199 officials were subjected to disciplinary action (Goron, 2018:41). Ultimately, the 19th National Congress of the CPC held in 2017 set the goal of greening and beautifying China based on the principles of green development and ecological-civilization building (China Daily, 2017; Yang, 2018).
China started to frame the environmental question as a matter of “state survival” in the Xi Jinping era, which explains why this question occupies such a strategic place in China’s revised national security strategy. In his speech during the first meeting of the Central National Security Commission of the CPC in 2013, Xi Jinping announced China’s new “Holistic National Security Outlook”, which constitutes the backbone of China’s current national security and identifies 11 areas of priority in national security. This sustainability included: political security, homeland security, military security, economic security, cultural security, societal security, science and technology security, information security, ecological security, resource security, and nuclear security. Subsequently, China published its “Blue Book on National Security” in 2014, designated as the country’s first blue book on national security. A landmark feature of this book is how it extends the scope of national security to include environmental issues as a defining theme (Corff, 2018; Raik et al., 2018).
“Made in China 2025”, China’s new techno-industrial strategy announced in 2015, is shaped by Xi’s holistic conceptualisation of national security and identifies nine areas of priority for economic development. These include enforcing green manufacturing, improving manufacturing innovation, integration between information technology and industry, strengthening the industrial base, fostering Chinese brands, advancing restructuring of the manufacturing sector, promoting service-oriented manufacturing and manufacturing-related service industries, and internationalising manufacturing. According to the Made in China 2025 strategy, the key to success in these tasks is in strategic sectors such as “new information technology, numerical control tools and robotics, aerospace equipment, ocean engineering equipment and high-tech ships, railway equipment, energy-saving and new energy vehicles, power equipment, new materials, biological medicine and medical devices, and agricultural machinery” (Ma, et al., 2018; U.S. Department of Defense, 2020).
China’s Clean Energy Revolution in the Making
In 2009, China outranked the U.S. as the world’s largest energy consumer (Guo & Marinova 2014). Chinese energy consumption greatly contributes to environmental degradation and climate change. In fact, 2016 estimates suggest that China exhibits a better performance in constraining per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in comparison with the U.S., Russia, and South Africa (World Bank, 2021; Figure 5). This being said, China recorded the highest rise in per capita CO2 emissions (around 380%) in our sample for the 1980-2016 period. The U.S. and Russia are the only countries that recorded a successful decrease in per capita CO2 emissions (Figure 5). Moreover, China’s 2018 performance reveals that coal consumption accounts for the greatest share of its CO2 emissions (79.44%) as compared to the 43.7% share of coal consumption in the world’s total CO2 emissions (EIA, 2021). The second-largest share of China’s CO2 goes to oil and other liquid fuels (EIA, 2021). The remaining share concerns natural gas.
Energy intensity is an indicator that reflects per capita energy consumption. One could observe that China’s energy intensity has been rapidly increasing, particularly since 1997. The 1997-2018 period alone testified to an over 250% rise (EIA, 2021; Figure 6). Indeed, coal represents the main source of China’s energy consumption, though China’s coal production and consumption have been visibly decreasing since 2013. Between 2013-2019, China’s coal production and consumption have decreased from 4.4 and 4.7 billion short tonnes to 4.1 and 4.3 billion short tonnes, respectively. This corresponds to a 7% decline in coal production and an 8.5% decline in coal consumption (EIA, 2021; Figure 7). However, China’s oil consumption has been rising since 2013. The 2013-2019 period alone recorded a 29.5% increase (EIA, 2021; Figure 8). According to 2019 estimates, coal consumption makes up 58% of China’s energy consumption and remains its largest source. In China’s electricity production, the share of coal consumption is more than 65.3%. Oil and other liquids account for the second-largest share of China’s total energy consumption with a share of 20%. Finally, the share of hydroelectric energy and other sustainable sources of energy has reached 13% (EIA, 2021; Figure 9).
2015 estimates for the BRICS countries and the U.S. suggest that Brazil, India, and South Africa led the share of sustainable energy consumption in overall national energy consumption. Since 2011, China has increased the share of sustainable energy consumption from 11.7% to 12.4% (World Bank, 2021; Figure 10). Importantly, China is going through a clean energy revolution since adopting the 2005 Sustainable Energy Law as well as the 12th and 13th Five-Year Plans covering the period 2011-2020 (Gardner 2018; Guo & Marinova, 2014; Mathews & Tan, 2015; Su & Thom- son, 2016). In as early as 2009, China became the world’s leading investor in sustainable energy technology (Guo & Marinova, 2014). In 2013, China was the top investor in clean energy with a total investment of 61.3 billion (Campbell, 2014). 2015 marked the rise of China to the status of the world’s largest producer of solar, wind, and hydroelectric power (Gardner, 2018). In the 2008-2018 period, furthermore, China’s wind and solar energy consumption rose from 3 and 0 Mtoe to 83 and 40 Mtoe, respectively. Therefore, one could deduce that the share of China’s wind and solar power in national energy consumption rose from 0.1% in 2008 to 3.7% in 2018 (BP, 2019).
China’s Green Agriculture, Eco-Cities, and Multilateral Environmental Cooperation: An Unfolding Revolution
As mentioned in the introduction, agricultural pollution constitutes a major environmental problem in contemporary China. The country suffers from a scarcity of arable land being the world’s largest pesticide producer and consumer (China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation 2018:158; Scott et. al. 2018:26). With this in mind, China is currently increasing its focus on green agriculture to fight against agricultural pollution and other environmental strains. China’s agriculture area under organic agriculture rose by over 36% in the 2005-2018 period, from 2,301,300 to 3,135,000 hectares. China’s 2018 performance has even surpassed that of the other BRICS countries and the U.S. in this area (FAO, 2021; Figure 11). That being said, China has a long way to go given that its agriculture area under organic agriculture accounts for only 2.31% of its total agriculture area (FAO, 2021). However, it is worth noting that China possesses the world’s largest agriculture area under organic farming after Australia and Argentina. It is possible to argue that China has also set an example for other countries in the expansion of its certified organic agricultural land use. China’s agriculture area under certified organic agriculture soared from 10 hectares to 2,558,100 hectares from 2004-2018. Due to this, China has become the world’s largest consumer of organic food (FAO 2021; Willer, Lernoud, & Kemper, 2018).
China’s green revolution in agriculture owes much to the efforts of central and local governments at prioritising green agriculture in their overall development strategy (Scott et al., 2018:46). This also accounts for the rise of the eco-village movement in China since the late 1980s. By 1990, China created a total of 1200 “pilot eco-villages” (Liu et al., 2021; Scott et al., 2018:38-39). This number rose to 2000 by the year 2011 (Liu & Wang, 2010:107). The eco-village movement was complemented by strong policy efforts emphasising the widespread adoption of green labelling standards such as green food (lüse shipin), pollution-free food (wugonghai shipin) and organic food (youji shipin) throughout the 1990s. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture launched a green food programme in 1990 and the China Green Food Development Centre in 1992, which assumed the task of providing the necessary technical support and quality control services to further this process (Scott et al., 2018:39-41).
By 2011, China had created 42 certification offices, 38 quality control terminals, and 71 environmental monitoring centres. Moreover, China’s green food programme was complemented by the Risk-Free Food Action Plan in 2001, which sought to fight chemical pollution, improve food security, and accelerate organic certification (Scott et al., 2018:39-41). Ultimately, the National Sustainable Agriculture Development Plan (2015-2030) provided a more systematic and holistic blueprint for China’s efforts in green agriculture. In 2017, No. 1 Central Document, an annual policy document issued by the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council, elevated green and sustainable development to the status of the second major development goal (Scott et al., 2018:39-41).
China’s efforts in improving green agriculture and building eco-villages go hand in hand with its strategy of sustainable urbanisation (Hu, Liu, & Sun, 2017). The eco-city movement (生态城市) was launched in 2003 on the initiative of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. This initiative sought to create a model of a low-carbon and circular economy, expand green and protected zones, encourage recycling and energy conservation, promote sustainable architecture, prevent air and noise pollution, and improve social welfare and harmony in urban areas (Wang, 2018; Zhou, He, & Williams, 2012). According to research from 2009 conducted by the International Eco-Cities Initiative (IEI), only 6 out of the world’s 79 eco-cities originated from China. In the 2011 IEI survey, the number of China’s eco-cities rose to 25. Research from 2015 conducted by China identified 658 major eco-cities across the world, 284 of which originated from China. This means that more than 43% of the world’s eco-cities are currently based in China (Williams, 2017:4).
The eco-city movement also contributed to China’s efforts in improving multilateral environmental cooperation. Indicative of Chinese leadership in the global eco-city movement are the Tianjin China-Singapore Eco-City, the Sino-Dutch Shenzhen Low-Carbon City, and the Sino-French Wuhan Ecological Demonstration City. Particularly, the construction of eco-industrial parks represents central instances of environmental cooperation among developing countries in the eco-city movement. The China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park contains green areas and lakes, whereas the Sino-Singapore Tianjin eco-city possesses systems for energy efficiency, green transportation, green architecture, sewage treatment, and recycling (China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation, 2018:161; Liu & Lo, 2021:12).
As a locomotive of multilateral environmental cooperation, China has extended its leading role to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In 2009, China and ASEAN signed the Strategy on Environmental Cooperation, which later contributed to the creation of the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Centre. This was followed by the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Action Plans for 2011-2013 and 2014-2015 as well as the 2016-2020 Strategy on Environmental Cooperation. These strategies and action plans sought to improve regional efforts in research & development and eco-city construction. Also included in such efforts is the Green Silk Road Envoys Program, which sought to develop staff training, scientific exchange, and political dialogue on matters of sustainability, green innovation and entrepreneurship, biodiversity, and ecological protection (China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation, 2018:viii).
China has recently accelerated its multilateral environmental cooperation through the channel of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). The 2015 “One Belt, One Road” document pledged for the BRI to assume greater responsibility in environmental protection, biodiversity, and climate change. The BRI developed a more systematic approach to sustainability upon Xi Jinping’s 2016 call for the construction of a “green, healthy, intelligent, and peaceful” Silk Road, which led to the publication of the “Guidance on Promoting Green Belt and Road” and the implementation of the Green Action Plan and the Maritime Cooperation Vision driven by the principle of maritime protection (Simonov, 2018). As a result, the Second BRI Forum held in 2019 formulated green investment principles (Cheung & Hong, 2021).
The BRI devotes special attention to ensuring it does not impose policies on its participants and undermine their national sovereignty. The adoption of BRI’s principles on ecological civilization is left to the initiative of participant states (Ikenberry & Lim, 2017). In the Second BRI forum, BRI members were invited to join environmental initiatives such as the International Green Development Coalition, the Sustainable Cities Alliance, the South-South Cooperation Initiative on Climate Change, the Environmental Technology Exchange and Transfer Center, the Environmental Big Data Platform, and the Green Investment Fund (Garey & Ladislaw, 2019; Iken- berry & Lim, 2017). These initiatives gained momentum in response to rising criticism on the part of civil society groups against the majority of BRI investments being transferred to carbon-driven sectors and large-scale infrastructure development at the expense of local environments (Harlan, 2021).
Coupled with BRI’s forum initiatives is green finance, which includes financial practices involving bonds that fund sustainable projects, credits that support sustainable investments, and insurance schemes for protection against environmental disasters. Chinese green investment has supported environmental initiatives such as low-carbon transportation, high-speed trains, clean energy projects, projects against environmental pollution, and clean coal investments. As such, China has risen to the status of the world’s top leader in green bonds and credits by outperforming the U.S. in 2019 (Green Belt and Road Initiative Center, 2019b, Chinadaily 2020b; Harlan 2021; Rooney 2019).
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) —as Asia’s first bank to be independent from Western hegemony and the world’s fourth-largest multilateral development bank— constitutes an important financial vehicle for BRI (Gürcan, 2020; Fahamu, n.d.; Koop, 2018). It started to operate in 2016 under China’s initiative as “the world’s first multilateral development bank (MDB) dedicated to infrastructure” (Wilson, 2017). The declared intention of the bank is to fill the “gap between supply and demand for infrastructure spending in Asia”, which was estimated at “as high as $8 trillion by 2020” (Cai, 2018). The bank’s approved projects mostly focus on the energy, water, and transportation sectors (Chen, 2019). Almost half of these projects are co-financed with other financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Islamic Development Bank, and the World Bank (Rana, 2019; Bustillo & Andoni, 2018). In the period 2016—2017, the AIIB approved nearly $5 billion in loans, and 35 infrastructure projects with an estimated value of $28.3 billion (Cai, 2018; Chen, 2019). Unlike the World Bank, the AIIB does not impose political conditionality and does respect the sovereignty of claimant nations (Gürcan, 2020).
China’s initiative has led the AIIB to adopt a strong stand on ecological civilization. In 2016, the AIIB adopted the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF), which encourages financed development projects to target social and environmental sustainability in tandem, including green economy, gender equality, and labor rights. As regards environmental sustainability, the ESF places a strong emphasis on balanced development, decreasing fossil fuel consumption, environmental resilience, energy conservation, and biodiversity (Gabusi, 2019). In its second annual meeting held in South Korea in 2016, the AIIB adopted the Sustainable Energy for Asia Strategy and approved its first loan for a project that seeks to reduce coal use in China. The AIIB’s fourth meeting was held in Luxembourg in 2019, where the bank reiterated its commitment to supporting green economy (Altay & Zeynepcan, 2020). The AIIB’s new funds that target social and environmental sustainability include “the $75 million Tata Cleantech Sustainable Infrastructure On-Lending Facility (India), US$75 million Asia Investment Fund (Asia-wide), US$100 million L&T Green Infrastructure On-Lending Facility to finance wind and solar energy projects (India), US$200 million TSKB Sustainable Energy and Infrastructure On-Lending Facility (Turkey), and US$150 million to the India Infrastructure Fund to finance infrastructure projects including renewable energy (India)… [as well as] a US$500 million AIIB Asia ESG Enhanced Credit Managed Portfolio (Asia-wide) with Aberdeen Standard Investments, to partner on developing debt capital markets for infrastructure… [and the] US$ 500 million fund, the Asia Climate Bond Portfolio, to accelerate climate action in the Bank’s members, and spur the development of the climate bond market.” (Vazquez & Chin, 2019: 598) Besides energy and infrastructure, the AIIB’s green framework extends to sustainable urbanization, green transportation, and rural sustainability. These efforts are clearly exemplified in a US$329 million loan for India’s Gujarat Rural Roads Project, a US$335 million loan for India’s Metro Line Project, a US$140 million loan for India’s Madhya Pradesh Rural Connectivity Project, a US$445 million loan for India’s Andhra Pradesh Rural Roads Project, a US$40 million loan for Laos’ National Road 13 Improvement and Maintenance Project, a US$216.5 million loan for Indonesia’s National Slum Upgrading Project, a US$270.6 million loan for the Philippines’ Metro Manila Flood Management Project, a US$400 million loan for India’s Andhra Pradesh Urban Water Supply and Septage Management Improvement Project, a US$200 million loan for Sri Lanka’s Colombo Urban Regeneration Project, and a US$100 million loan for Bangladesh’s Municipal Water Supply and Sanitation Project (Vazquez & Chin, 2019).
Finally, a word of caution: it is too early to estimate the future of the AIIB and BRI’s contributions to ecological civilization, given that the Green Silk Road project was only put into action in 2019, whilst the AIIB started to operate in 2016. However, there is room for optimism considering that China has already become a leading country in multilateral environmental cooperation. The AIIB’s strategy on social and environmental sustainability has already been put into practice through green funds implemented in several Asian countries. Furthermore, China’s green investments as part of the BRI have gained momentum since 2016. Cases include China’s increasing investments in Vietnam’s solar panels, its leading role in establishing the Quaid e-Azam Solar Park and the Jhimpir Wind Farm in Pakistan, the Aisha Wind Farm and Wolayita Sodo Power Transmission Line in Ethiopia, and other similar projects in countries such as Thailand and Malaysia (Chernysheva et al., 2019).
Review and Discussion
As a strong expression of ecological imperialism, prompted by neoliberal globalisation and the Third Industrial Revolution, Western metropoles initiated the shift in axis for global production to Asia. This enabled Western metropoles to take advantage of cheap labour supplies and access natural resources in the absence of strict environmental regulations (Gürcan, Kahraman & Yanmaz, 2021). China was the main target of these pillaging efforts. However, it managed to benefit from these neoliberal assaults by utilising public-driven policies, which, despite a number of liberal compromises, served to protect itself from becoming a neo-colony. Public-driven policies also served to build a strong economy driven by national interests, thus generating grave concerns for Western metropoles whose global hegemony was challenged. As a result, Western metropoles now resort to an ecological-imperialist campaign that blames environmental degradation on developing countries, particularly China, whose leading environmental efforts —as the locomotive of global welfare and the greatest enemy of global poverty— are often undermined by this Western-centric campaign.
China has developed a firm awareness of its environmental problems, which are realised in its revised national security strategy that incorporates the concept of “ecological civilization”. China is in the early stages of building an ecological civilization and still has a long way to go before it reaches a high level of ecological development. Perhaps the most immediate threat to ecological civilization stems from the growing aggression of U.S. imperialism in the form of geopolitical containment strategies, techno-economic wars against China, and other factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic such as Western-fueled Sinophobia and pandemic-related economic strains (Gürcan, 2019; Gürcan, Kahraman & Yanmaz, 2021). Nevertheless, China’s key achievements on the path towards ecological civilization involve a series of three unfolding and mutually conditioning revolutionary processes that also lead the way in international environmental cooperation, as embodied in China’s role in ASEAN, the AIIB, and the Green Silk Road. They include a clean energy revolution, a sustainable agricultural revolution, and a green urban revolution.
China has already become a global leader in green finance. It leads the eco-city movement with over 43% of the world’s eco-cities being Chinese and is the second leader in sustainable architecture, next to Canada. Many Chinese cities have dropped down or out of the list of the most polluted cities, leaving India and Pakistan at the top. China’s cities have also joined the ranks of those with the strongest sewage treatment capacity in the world. Another point worth mentioning is that China has the most electric vehicles, bikes, and efficient public transportation. China is considered, not only as the world’s centre of electric bus production and consumption but also as having cities with the world’s longest subway systems. From 2013 onwards, the share of coal in China’s total energy consumption has seen a noticeable decline, accompanied by the increasing share of renewable resources in total energy consumption as a result of conscious efforts at a clean energy revolution. Key to this revolution in the making is China’s strong reputation as the world’s top investor in clean energy. As such, it has succeeded in creating the world’s largest wind, solar, and hydroelectric systems for power generation. Finally, concerning China’s unfolding revolution in sustainable agriculture, one should acknowledge its adoption of green food standards, the expansion of its agricultural area under certified organic farming, and especially the fact that, as a world leader in green agriculture, it now has the third-largest agricultural area under organic farming. Ultimately, the continuation and amplification of all these achievements are predicated on the future determination of the Xi Jinping administration (and its successors) to build ecological civilization while facing imperialist aggression.
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Friedrich Engels directing the construction of a barricade in the streets of Elberfeld during the riots of May 1849 in Prussia. (Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Originally published in Jacobin on November 28, 2022
In 1845, Friedrich Engels wrote a scathing condemnation of English capitalism, The Condition of the Working Class in England. In it, he accused the bosses of carrying out “social murder” against workers and the poor.
The following is an edited extract from Friedrich Engels’s The Condition of the Working Class in England, first published in 1845.You can read the full text here.
Atown, such as London, where a man may wander for hours together without reaching the beginning of the end, without meeting the slightest hint which could lead to the inference that there is open country within reach, is a strange thing. This colossal centralization, this heaping together of two and a half millions of human beings at one point, has multiplied the power of this two and a half millions a hundredfold; has raised London to the commercial capital of the world, created the giant docks and assembled the thousand vessels that continually cover the Thames.
I know nothing more imposing than the view which the Thames offers during the ascent from the sea to London Bridge. The masses of buildings, the wharves on both sides, especially from Woolwich upwards, the countless ships along both shores, crowding ever closer and closer together, until, at last, only a narrow passage remains in the middle of the river, a passage through which hundreds of steamers shoot by one another; all this is so vast, so impressive, that a man cannot collect himself, but is lost in the marvel of England’s greatness before he sets foot upon English soil.
But the sacrifices which all this has cost become apparent later. After roaming the streets of the capital a day or two, making headway with difficulty through the human turmoil and the endless lines of vehicles, after visiting the slums of the metropolis, one realizes for the first time that these Londoners have been forced to sacrifice the best qualities of their human nature, to bring to pass all the marvels of civilization which crowd their city; that a hundred powers which slumbered within them have remained inactive, have been suppressed in order that a few might be developed more fully and multiply through union with those of others. The very turmoil of the streets has something repulsive, something against which human nature rebels. The hundreds of thousands of all classes and ranks crowding past each other, are they not all human beings with the same qualities and powers, and with the same interest in being happy? And have they not, in the end, to seek happiness in the same way, by the same means?
And still they crowd by one another as though they had nothing in common, nothing to do with one another, and their only agreement is the tacit one, that each keep to his own side of the pavement, so as not to delay the opposing streams of the crowd, while it occurs to no man to honor another with so much as a glance. The brutal indifference, the unfeeling isolation of each in his private interest, becomes the more repellent and offensive, the more these individuals are crowded together, within a limited space.
And, however much one may be aware that this isolation of the individual, this narrow selfseeking, is the fundamental principle of our society everywhere, it is nowhere so shamelessly barefaced, so self-conscious as just here in the crowding of the great city. The dissolution of mankind into monads, of which each one has a separate principle, the world of atoms, is here carried out to its utmost extreme.
Hence it comes, too, that the social war, the war of each against all, is here openly declared. Just as in Stirner’s recent book [The Ego and Its Own], people regard each other only as useful objects; each exploits the other, and the end of it all is that the stronger treads the weaker under foot; and that the powerful few, the capitalists, seize everything for themselves, while to the weak many, the poor, scarcely a bare existence remains.
What is true of London, is true of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, is true of all great towns. Everywhere barbarous indifference, hard egotism on one hand, and nameless misery on the other, everywhere social warfare, every man’s house in a state of siege, everywhere reciprocal plundering under the protection of the law, and all so shameless, so openly avowed that one shrinks before the consequences of our social state as they manifest themselves here undisguised, and can only wonder that the whole crazy fabric still hangs together.
Since capital, the direct or indirect control of the means of subsistence and production, is the weapon with which this social warfare is carried on, it is clear that all the disadvantages of such a state must fall upon the poor. For him no man has the slightest concern. Cast into the whirlpool, he must struggle through as well as he can. If he is so happy as to find work, i.e., if the bourgeoisie does him the favor to enrich itself by means of him, wages await him which scarcely suffice to keep body and soul together; if he can get no work he may steal, if he is not afraid of the police, or starve, in which case the police will take care that he does so in a quiet and inoffensive manner.
During my residence in England, at least twenty or thirty persons have died of simple starvation under the most revolting circumstances, and a jury has rarely been found possessed of the courage to speak the plain truth in the matter. Let the testimony of the witnesses be never so clear and unequivocal, the bourgeoisie, from which the jury is selected, always finds some backdoor through which to escape the frightful verdict, death from starvation. The bourgeoisie dare not speak the truth in these cases, for it would speak its own condemnation. But indirectly, far more than directly, many have died of starvation, where long-continued want of proper nourishment has called forth fatal illness, when it has produced such debility that causes which might otherwise have remained inoperative brought on severe illness and death. The English workingmen call this “social murder,” and accuse our whole society of perpetrating this crime perpetually. Are they wrong?
True, it is only individuals who starve, but what security has the workingman that it may not be his turn tomorrow? Who assures him employment, who vouches for it that, if for any reason or no reason his lord and master discharges him tomorrow, he can struggle along with those dependent upon him, until he may find someone else “to give him bread”? Who guarantees that willingness to work shall suffice to obtain work, that uprightness, industry, thrift, and the rest of the virtues recommended by the bourgeoisie, are really his road to happiness?
No one. He knows that he has something today and that it does not depend upon himself whether he shall have something tomorrow. He knows that every breeze that blows, every whim of his employer, every bad turn of trade may hurl him back into the fierce whirlpool from which he has temporarily saved himself, and in which it is hard and often impossible to keep his head above water. He knows that, though he may have the means of living today, it is very uncertain whether he shall tomorrow . . .
Friedrich Engels was a German socialist instrumental to the development of Marxism
It is in vogue nowadays to describe the multifaceted and intertwined crises of capitalism without referring to capitalism itself. Obscure jargon of ‘overlapping emergencies’ and ‘polycrisis’ are brought up to describe the complexity of the situation, and they serve, with or without intention, to conceal the culprit, namely the totality of capitalist relations. This short piece discusses the content, function, and limits of these evasive practices with concrete examples.
A Hodgepodge of Risks
“A polycrisis is not just a situation where you face multiple crises” writes Adam Tooze, it is rather a situation “where the whole is even more dangerous than the sum of the parts” (Tooze 2022a). Even at first sight, he is able to count seven radical challenges on the radar, including Covid, inflation, recession, hunger crisis, climate crisis, nuclear escalation, and a ‘Trumpite’ Republican Party storming back to power.
Former long-time Harvard President, Larry Summers celebrates the term polycrisis for its capacity to capture the many aspects at stake, and adds: “I can remember previous moments of equal or even greater gravity for the world economy, but I cannot remember moments when there were as many separate aspects and as many cross-currents as there are right now” (Summers 2022). Make no mistake, the approval comes from a life-time mouthpiece of the establishment, foe of the working classes and the oppressed, frank enough to argue as the then Chief Economist of the World Bank that “the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable”.
In Tooze’s view, in the 1970s, too much or too little growth, or late capitalism could be shown as the ultimate source of the problems at hand depending on one’s political position. What makes the current moment distinctive is the fact that “it no longer seems plausible to point to a single cause” (Tooze 2022b). He is thus quite explicit that one should avoid the use of grand narratives, or, in line with that, the designation of the capitalist mode of production as the root cause of the radical challenges upon us.
A similar concept is that of ‘overlapping emergencies’, which has been in use by mainstream outlets such as CNN or the United Nations, and has been adopted by critical thinkers. Isabella Weber, for instance, who has employed the term in popular and academic writings with various co-authors, argues that “we are living in a time of overlapping emergencies: the pandemic is not over, climate change is a reality, and geopolitical stability has reached a nadir” (Weber 2022).
Weber is one of the architects of the cap on the gas price in the German case, and an advocate of additional tools and institutions such as expanded state capacity to react to supply bottlenecks, monitoring of essential sectors and targeted intervention in case of need, and so forth. Rather than regarding this as a one-shot, ad hoc policy response, Weber argues, “we need to generalise this approach and be prepared for targeted emergency stabilisation. We need economic disaster preparedness to guarantee that we are able to react to shocks in sectors that are important for the work of [the] whole economy. These are stabilization measures needed in our age of overlapping emergencies”. (Weber, in Gerbaudo 2022)
Although Weber’s broader scholarly work emphasizes the limitations of the market mechanism from a more systematic perspective, a common aspect of both ‘overlapping emergencies’ and ‘polycrisis’ as a framework is what seems a notable reluctance to explicitly acknowledge capitalism as an underlying force conditioning all facets of the ‘overlapping emergencies’ or ‘polycrisis’ at stake. The analysis and implications thereof are confined to the level of appearances, and, therefore, become incapable of grasping the web of contradictions that give rise to them. These contradictions, or the source of the emergencies seem to be outsourced to a shock (Russia-Ukraine war, climate destabilization, present and expected future pandemics) or state of affairs external to the political terrain on which they are recognized and discussed. Within this depoliticizing and neutralizing narrative, capitalism at best looms as an imperceptible, shadowy figure in the background, not worth problematizing, especially as the bells are constantly tolling, heralding crisis after crisis.
Reshape or Replace?
The reluctance to openly challenge capitalism, be it intentional or not, is also seen in the comeback of industrial policy, with much more attention now given to its proponents such as Ha-Joon Chang (2002) and Mariana Mazzucato (2018; 2021), to mention the most prominent ones. Industrial policy is portrayed as a way out of the looming long-term stagnation towards green transition. Prescriptions to industrialize are issued to peripheral economy so that they can ‘develop’, while disregarding structural relations of dependency, the global division of labor (Pradella 2014). As such, the role of exploitation as the ultimate foundation of capital accumulation—and the necessary unevenness of capital accumulation—is papered over. Similarly, the narrative of a mission-oriented reframing of economic growth creates the illusion that a nation or region can be unified under the government’s leadership as to promote inclusive capitalism, coordinating the interests of various sets of owners of resources.
Within this framework, ‘crisis’ is also employed as a tool to frame the narrative around symptoms of our global economic system. For example, Mazzucato “the world’s scariest economist” according to the Times (Rumbelow 2017), argues that “capitalism is at least facing three major crises”, namely a pandemic-induced health crisis, financial instability, and the climate crisis (Mazzucato 2020a). These are not considered to be crises of capitalism as such, but of how we do capitalism (Mazzucato 2020b).
It follows that “there’s all sorts of different ways to do capitalism. There’s the kind of maximization of shareholder value. There’s the more stakeholder value perspective […] that fundamentally affects how public and private come together” (Mazzucato, in Nelson 2019). It is the latter partnership model which allows for the government to determine the rate and direction of innovation-led growth, which prioritizes public interest over private gain. Problematizing capitalism as such and raising the alternative of socialism, Mazzucato argues, is a distraction, and “it’s not going to make [companies] do anything different from what they’re doing now” (ibid.).
However, this view overlooks the fact capitalism is about profit and accumulation, and not about use value, or wealth, in the first place. Accumulation can be temporarily restrained, redirected, curbed, yet the fundamentals of capitalism cannot be overturned by means of any mission-oriented partnerships.
An important lesson that tends to be forgotten is that the cuts in social services, decoupling of real wages from productivity, aggressive expansion of commodity frontiers and similar interventions as to extend terrains of accumulation in the last few decades are precisely the collected outcomes of capital’s backlash to the profitability crisis in the imperialist center in the 1970s, a crisis which followed from the attempts to tame capital and establish a class compromise within the larger context of growing ‘threat’ of socialism. It is therefore difficult to understand how critical scholars today can commit to the possibility of another ‘Golden Age’ capitalism, while the driving force and regulating principles of the capitalist system itself are left unchallenged in any substantial way.
The conceptual frameworks for viewing ‘crises’ discussed above have the common feature of ‘reshaping’ capitalism or ‘stabilizing’ the global economy in the face of multiplying crises dynamics. Rather than interrogating the structural forces that shape systemic outcomes, these frameworks suggest that the pressing manifestations of the ecological breakdown, geopolitical tensions and wars, supply bottlenecks, inflation, or other discussed phenomena result from policy mistakes, greedy powerful corporations, bad intentions, or a lack of historical knowledge, and not from the accumulation imperative constitutive of capitalism.
Problems such as ecological breakdown, militarization, inadequate and unjust responses to an ongoing pandemic, the rise of openly racist and anti-immigrant politics, which appear to be independent, are integral parts of the capitalist totality with its peculiar property, production and exchange relations, structural imperatives and limitations, the resulting exploitative and oppressive dynamics along with their conflictual subjectivities.
Take ecological breakdown, for instance, which seems to be the alarming phenomenon for many commentators. Without grasping capital as a set of social relations between the owners of means of production and workers laboring for wage, and without conceiving of this relation as the expansion of value as its single overriding goal, neither the exploitative character of capitalist growth nor the imperative of cost efficiency can be comprehended as structural phenomena. The systematic shifting of costs to third parties (Kapp 1971), ruthless plundering of non-human natures in the context of the continuous adjustment of commodity frontiers as to appropriate cheap nature (Moore 2015), and the failure to make any significant progress to slowdown ecological breakdown even in the face of its increasing recognition by the public would then appear as accidental or a result of policy mistakes.
What is at stake here is not reducing all argumentation and analysis to an abstract notion of capitalism as to render any concrete discussion redundant. Quite the contrary, concrete appearances can only be made sense of by carefully studying their inner connections—not only with one another, but also with the totality of capitalist relations, which is undeniably larger than the sum of its parts.
Indeed, we are confronted with challenges at an unprecedented scale and complexity. Indeed, they call for radical responses and ruptures. To do so, however, we should be able to call the culprit by its name in the first place. And perhaps pick our side more carefully in the light of histories of the intertwined crises at stake. Are we going to partner up with governments and institutions complicit in decades of ecocide, imperialist aggression and warmongering, impoverishment of working classes at home and abroad, and oppression of ‘the wretched of the earth’, or organize among and with the working classes and the oppressed to fight for a future free of capital’s dominion?
Güney Işıkara is a a Clinical Assistant Professor in Liberal Studies at New York University.
Often, when you mention Haiti in conversation and the anti-imperial struggle that has consistently been waged by the Haitian people against imperialist forces for centuries, you are met with minor acknowledgement and some confusion by the listener. Even in cases where there are those who understand Haiti’s battle against imperialist interventions and incursions—many people are still unclear about: “why Haiti.” This is especially true in the present, where there exists a propagandized belief that there are no broader imperialist aspirations in the Caribbean, insofar as those interests cannot be tied to interests in Latin America, and especially to Cuba. Persistent myths about Haiti and confusion about the nature of politics in the Caribbean have allowed systematic investigations into (neo) imperial enterprises in the broader region to go largely uninvestigated. This is all at the peril of failing to contextualize sustained foreign meddling in the Caribbean region and the consistent need by those forces for sustained violence to maintain their dominant position.
On November 10th, 2022 I was invited by the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) Haiti/Americas Team to participate as a panelist on a teach-in webinar discussing the urgent crisis of imperialism in Haiti. Although my invitation on the panel was to focus on the role of states like Jamaica in helping to facilitate imperialism and persistent intervention in Haiti, I spent a major part of my own analysis discussing “Why Haiti.’” This is because unlike most states in the Caribbean region—Haiti stands out as one that not only had a revolution, but one in which the rights and freedoms for all Black people were guaranteed. This is quite different from other states like Jamaica, for instance, whose radical and revolutionary fervor were cut short or co-opted by liberal reformists. Co-opted revolutionary defeat in the states which this occurred, has made those states’ exploitation amenable to strong political rhetoric and sustained conservative governance, especially as it relates to security. With a revolutionary history less forgiving towards co-option, Haiti poses a constant threat to European and Anglosphere economic and ideological investments and interests in the region. The analysis below comes from an extended version of my discussion on that day.
Today, there is an ongoing narrative—largely popularized by Europe and the Anglosphere (referred to collectively as “the West” from here on)—that Haiti is poor and that nothing good is in or comes out of Haiti. This lie is so persistent, that many people do not know that Haiti is the manufacturing hub in the Caribbean—and that Haiti continues to compete against countries in Asia for foreign corporations to set up shop to exploit cheap labor. While the manufacturing and assembly line exploitation in Asia are made much more readily available by Western media sources, less widely recognized is how these same exploitations also happen systematically in Haiti, perpetuated by foreign corporations and co-signed by local elites and political puppeteers to those interests. Component parts are shipped from the U.S. and Canada for assembly in Haiti, as finished products are reimported back to these developed countries, essentially duty-free, with a small charge or tax on the cheap labor used in Haiti.
This is expressly stated in U.S. tariff code 807, whereby in the 1980s, “the major part of the total duty-free content of item 807.00 imports from the principal Caribbean countries [included] almost 80 percent for the Dominican Republic, 60 percent for Haiti, and more than 90 percent for Costa Rica and Jamaica” (U.S. International Trade Commission, 1970). This same sort of exploitative trade policy that screws over workers also expresses itself in deals like NAFTA, wherein U.S. HTS 9802.00.80 allows for “a reduction in duties for articles assembled abroad in whole or in part of U.S. components” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 2014). Thus, when examining Haiti, what you essentially have is a nearby site in the Americas with cheap and exploited labor, that must remain so for external interests. Or, as Democratic representative William J. Green III stated in 1970, “item 807 merely promotes a competition between Hong Kong and Haiti for lower wage labor to serve this market—without building markets worldwide” (House of Representatives).
The distance to Haiti for states like Canada and the U.S. makes the costs of doing certain kinds of business cheaper there than in Asia. So, when popular talking points such as “Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas” are repeated—it is imperative to understand that what is really going on is that Haiti is made to have the lowest wages in the Americas, because Haiti is—and there is interests in keeping Haiti–the most exploited manufacturing hub in the Americas. It is not accidental that prior to the onset of the Global COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti was being touted as the future “manufacturing Taiwan of the Caribbean” due to the impacts of the 2010 Earthquake and the worsening of the cholera epidemic in the country due to UN intervention. Part of that potential—it is admitted—lay in the fact that Haiti is seen as “a low-wage economy lying just south of the huge U.S. market and just north of the emerging economies of Latin America” (Edwards, 2015). Not ironically pushing this narrative are the same corporate entities which have made Taiwan, in the present, a supplier of military and security gear to Haiti to suppress protests (Blanchard, 2022).
In order to maintain this situation and to strengthen aspirations for a continuous site of cheap exploitation, Haiti is the most intervened-in country in the hemisphere. Worst yet, when we consider interventions into Haiti by Canada, for example, we see how it has been enabled by Haiti’s own neighbors like Jamaica. In the 1990s when Aristide was first ousted from Haiti by a CIA-backed coup d’etat, weapons sent into Haiti from apartheid South Africa landed in Kingston first. After the second coup d’etat against Aristide in 2004, weapons sent to Haiti from South Africa yet again landed in Jamaica before being sent to Haiti—highlighting the crucial role of Jamaica as an arms shipment site into Haiti (BBC Caribbean, 2004).This reality is due to conservative governance in Jamaica which allies with Western imperialisms in its history of revolutionary suppression and liberal co-option. After all, it was Jamaican politicians who agreed to aid the U.S. in its invasion of Grenada in 1983—so it is not surprising that it was also Jamaica who, in the 1990s, pushed the call for multinational forces in Haiti after the coup. Today it is in Jamaica where Canada has its “Latin America and the Caribbean” military base, which specifies Haiti as a site for military intervention while using seaports and airports in Jamaica’s capital as its staging post.
While it is easy to dismiss Jamaica as a counterrevolutionary force in the region, understanding why Jamaica’s role is this way matters. The Jamaican Defense Forces were created in the interest of Western Capitalist Imperialisms in the Caribbean region, helping to stop Black rebellions and alleged burgeoning communisms. Shortly after independence, Jamaica allowed states like Canada to conduct espionage operations from Kingston against Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, and other countries in which the West had a fear of growing communism or socialism (Maloney, 1988). Jamaica’s proximity to states like Haiti and Cuba has made it a strong historical, and present, ally of Western security objectives in the region, whereby Jamaica gets the most amount of military and security funding from external donors in the Caribbean. This is also why Jamaica’s security doctrine and mandates, including its stance on Haiti, are beholden to Western interests. While there is some nuance in this very brief and quick history, it helps to contextualize the present-day actions of Jamaica—as well as CARICOM (The Caribbean Community Market) as a whole. CARICOM’s stance on security actions cannot be discussed outside of the fact that 52% of its security funding, thus its security objectives and goals, are externally determined (Hoffman, 2020).
Jamaica, and other CARICOM states, while having the ability to espouse activist rhetoric often times are tied in the kinds of ensuing governmental actions that can be taken. While Haiti is exploited due to its resistance against imperialism, other countries in the region are subservient to Western capital and other elite interests which purport an unattainable dream of development—so long as they stay in their exploitable or minor reform friendly positions. After all, it was during Manley’s administration that Jamaica spied on its more radical regional neighbors. And it is during times of conservative governance where Jamaica experiences an increase in security funding, aids, and grants (the difference in this type of Western support is most clearly illustrated in comparing external support that Manley got versus Seaga).
Jamaica’s security history and its acceptance of a Canadian military base in its country (OSH-LAC), makes its political class a willing participant in ensuring Haiti remains under western occupation. Thus, when Canada calls on CARICOM to intervene in Haiti, we can expect Jamaica to be a leading force in that intervention—unless our opposition to it is vocal, as our understanding of the ‘why’ becomes clearer.
Tamanisha J. John is an Assistant Professor of International Political Economy in Clark Atlanta University’s Political Science Department. She studies Caribbean development, sovereignty and politics, as well as economic imperialism, financial exclusion, and corporate power.
The only way Ukrainians will see anything approximating a holiday season is if a ceasefire can be arranged by New Year’s Day, and it just might happen, regardless of President Volodomyr Zelenskiy’s repeated assertions that there will be no negotiations with Russia until it withdraws all its troops from all occupied territories, including Crimea. There are several reasons for the possible ceasefire.
First, the Russian hammer is about to fall on Ukraine. The gloves are coming off; electric energy stations, bridges, and even ‘decision centers’ such as central Kiev’s government buildings are being targeted. Russia is one or two more massive bombing attacks on Ukraine’s energy and transport infrastructure from permanently disabling Ukraine’s electricity, water, and railroad systems. With ‘only’ 50 percent of Ukrainian electricity infrastructure knocked out by the first three widespread bombings of electricity grid components, demonstrations are already breaking out in Odessa and other places over the deteriorating humanitarian situation, with Zelenskiy sending the Ukrainian KGB, the SBU, in to break up the protests and banning coverage in media. The Office of the President was reportedly recently informed by technicians that the electricity system has entered the stage of ‘arbitrary and uncontrolled imbalance,” and one official has urged Ukrainians to be prepared to leave the country in winter. What will the sociopolitical situation be like when these critical infrastructures are in complete collapse and temperatures are 20 degrees colder? Russia will be moving closer to the strategy of ‘shock and awe’, fully destroying all infrastructure—military or otherwise—as the U.S. did in Serbia and Iraq and will likely take less care now to avoid civilian casualties.
After the infrastructures are completely destroyed or incapacitated, Russia’s reinforcements of 380,000 regular and newly mobilized troops will have been fully added into Russia’s forces across southeastern Ukraine. Even without these reinforcements, Russian forces continue to make small gains in Donbass around Ugledar, Bakhmut (Artemevsk), as withdrawals from and stabilization of the fronts in Kharkiv and Kherson have led to a redeployment and thus concentration of forces in Zaporozhe, Donetsk, and Luhansk. A winter offensive by some half a million troops will make substantial gains on those three fronts and multiply Ukrainian losses in personnel and materiel`, which are already high. This could lead easily to a collapse of Ukrainian forces on one or more front. On the backs of such a success Russian President Putin might also make another attempt to threaten Kiev by moving a much larger force in from Belarus than the small 30-40,000 force that advanced and then withdrew from Kiev’s surrounding districts in the first months of the war.
Second, the West is suffering from Ukraine fatigue. NATO countries’ arms supplies have been depleted beyond what is tolerable, and social cohesion is collapsing in the face of double-digit inflation and economic recession. All this makes Russia the winner on the strategic level and is forcing Washington and Brussels to seek at least a breathing spell by way of a ceasefire. This is evidenced by the plethora of Western leaders calling on Zelenskiy to resume talks with Putin and the emergence of the ‘Sullivan plan’. Most recently, rumors have it that new British PM Rishi Sunak used a package of military and financial aide he announced during his recent trip to Kiev to cover up his message to Zelenskiy that London could no longer bear the burden of leading the European support for Kiev and that Kiev should reengage wirh Moscow. There has been a several day delay in the fourth round of rocket sorties against Ukrainian infrastructure, suggesting Putin is waiting to to see if Zelenskiy will cave and offer talks before unleashing the major assaults on Ukrainian infrastructure and the Russian winter offensive.
Third, Ukraine’s greatest political asset—Zelenskiy himself—just got devalued, putting at even greater risk Ukraine’s political stability. The Ukrainian air defense strike on Poland (accidental or intentional) and the Ukrainian president’s insistence that it was a Russian air strike, despite the evidence and nearly unanimous opposing opinion among his Western backers, has hit Zelenskiy’s credulity hard. Zelenskiy’s insistence on the Russian origins of the missile and technical aspects of Ukrainian air defense suggests that the event may have been an intentional Ukrainian false flag strike on Polish/NATO territory designed to provoke NATO or Poland into entering the war. Some in the West are beginning to wake up to the dangers of Ukrainian ultranationalism and neofascism, not to mention the growing megalomania of Zelenskiy, who has appeared on ore than one occasion to be willing to risk the advent of a global nuclear winter in order to avoid sitting at the negotiating table across from Putin. Some may now come to understand that claims that Putin wants to seize all Ukraine and restore the USSR if not conquer Europe are yarns spun by Kiev to attract military and financial assistance and ultimately draw NATO forces into the war. There remains a danger that Kiev’s dream of a NATO intervention might come to fruition is the following temptation. NATO has declared that a defeat of Ukraine in the war is a defeat for NATO, and NATO cannot be allowed to lose a war to a Russia because that would accelerate the coming of the end to U.S. hegemony. It cannot be excluded and may even be likely that should Kiev appear to be losing the war that Polish forces, NATO or some ‘coalition of the willing’ will move military forces into western Ukraine up to the Dnepr but do so without attacking Russian forces. This would force Russia to cease much of its military activity or risk attacking NATO forces and a larger European-wide war. This or something like it is probably already being considered in Washington.
For now, in order to keep the West on board, Zelenskiy is rumored to be pushing Ukrainian armed forces commander Viktor Zalyuzhniy to start a last pre-winter offensive in northern Donetsk (Svatovo and Severodonetsk) or Zaporozhe in order to put a stop to the West’s ceasefire murmurs and reboost support. At the same time there is talk of continuing Zelenskiy-Zalyuzhniy tensions over the latter’s good press and star status in the West. Tensions first emerged over disagreements of previous offensives and Zalyuzhniy’s earlier entry on the Western media stage. On the background of the deteriorating battlefield and international strategic situation, such civil-military tensions are fraught with the potential for a coup. Much of Zelenskiy’s strategy and tactics is driven more by political than by military considerations. Not least among the former is Zelenskiy’s political survival, which any ceasefire or peace talks requiring Kiev to acquiesce in the loss of more territory certainly will doom. Neofascist, military, and much of public opinion will not brook the sacrifices made in blood and treasure bringing only additional ones in Ukrainian territory. Others will ask why was not all of this averted by way of agreeing to Ukrainian neutrality and fulfilling Minsk 2 could have avoided it all.
We may be reaching the watershed moment in the Ukrainian war. No electricity, no army, no society. But here, as with any Russian occupation of central or western Ukrainian lands (not planned but perhaps a necessity at some point down the road for Putin), a quagmire awaits the Kremlin. Russia can not allow complete societal breakdown and chaos to reign in Ukraine anymore than it could tolerate a NATO-member Ukraine with a large neofascist component next door. All of the above and the approaching presidential elections scheduled in Moscow, Kiev and Washington the year after next make this winter pivotal for all the war’s main parties.
With the murderous attack on patrons of Club Q in Colorado Springs, we’ve once again witnessed massive gun violence against innocent people and yet another assault on the rights – and lives – of LGBTQ+ people. This horrific act was committed even as those at the club were observing the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors those whose lives have been taken because of their trans identity.
There seems to be no end to weekly headlines announcing some new such atrocity. Sometimes it’s in distant places, sometimes closer to home. This time, our own comrades in Colorado have lost friends in the latest outrage at Club Q. Whether it’s a school shooting, a murderous club rampage, or fatal domestic violence, the violence hardly seems to pause.
Acts of homophobic and transphobic violence like the one in Colorado Springs are caused by those who empower and encourage anti-LGBTQ+ hatred and violence throughout the U.S., including many among the powerful in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. They disseminate their message of hatred broadly and are as culpable as those who physically carry out the monstrous attacks.
We stand in strong sympathy with those who were killed and also the wounded and with all their friends and families. We stand in solidarity with those who struggle against gun violence and against those forces that actually encourage it. And we stand steadfastly with the LGBTQ+ community, once again in mourning for those who died and stunned at the number of wounded who survived but with their lives changed forever.
Our solace and strength, we believe, may be found in coming to understand even more surely than before that – even though we seem to make so little progress toward changing things, toward ending the violence and hatred practiced and engendered by capitalism – what we do now and in the future really does make a difference in the big scheme of things.
Often we may be tempted to throw up our hands and quit, to lose heart and retire into a life of sad cynicism and hopelessness, to leave the field of struggle. Yet because of our beliefs, we know in our hearts that the world really can become a far better place if we and our comrades, friends, and allies, all of us, keep up the good fight and never, ever give up. Despite what seems like great evidence to the contrary, we know that if we do not lose heart and keep up our work, we will win.
Capitalism is an immense and mighty force and will never simply leave that field of struggle on its own. The point is that we must continue our work to end and root out capitalism and all the suffering and horror it brings. Until that happens and capitalism is defeated, the hatred and violence that are built into it will prevail. But if we continue our work, then eventually yes, we will win.
It won’t be easy but we already knew that. Those who suffer gun violence against themselves and loved ones, who experience hatred against their sexual identity, who every day have to put up with the destroying greed of capitalism as they earn their wages with racism and sexism thoroughly embedded as part of the capitalist system: all these must know that we are there, both with them and among them. Those who are under attack must come to understand, from our words and our actions, that we stand next to them and that we are among their number and experiencing the same attacks they are experiencing. We must share with others this knowledge we have and help everyone to understand that we really will win a better world.
We are grieving for those who directly experienced the attack in Colorado Springs, for their friends and families, and for all who experience this kind of violence and hatred and all of the many forms of capitalist oppression that victimize our entire society. And knowing that there are more and more vast numbers of us ready to join and continue to fight back and to overcome, we take heart and continue to march forward in this long, long battle.
The 22nd Assembly of the World Peace Council (WPC), was held from November 21 to 27 in Hanoi and the northern province of Quang Ninh. The event was the first of its kind to be held in Vietnam.
The new executive committee of 40 members elected Pallab Sengupta, General Secretary of the All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation, as President of the WPC with absolute consensus.
Thanasis Pafilis was re-elected General Secretary of the Council, and Iraklis Tsavdaridis was elected Executive Secretary.
The committee also elected five Vice Presidents representing the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Africa, and Europe, and 11 members of the council’s secretariat.
During a meeting with the WPC delegation, the President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee Do Van Chien emphasized that Vietnam has suffered great pains and losses during wars so the Vietnamese are deeply aware of the value of peace.
He expressed a wish that the agenda of the WPC’s 22nd assembly will be realized so that people in the world and the Vietnamese in particular can live and cooperate for common development in a peaceful world.
Leaders of the WPC and foreign delegates expressed their respect for President Ho Chi Minh and admiration of Vietnam’s traditions and achievements. They said they want to work together with Vietnam to maintain world peace and strive for a fair and just world order.
The WPC, an organisation leading the world peace movement, gathers 135 organisations of communist and left-wing parties in more than 100 countries. From an international anti-imperialist movement of the masses, after more than 70 years of development, it has become part of the world peace movement closely cooperating with international movements and countries to promote peace around the globe.