“Peak China” – a new low in Western attempts to persuade China to commit suicide / By John Ross

Image credit: The Economist, May 11, 2023

Posted in MR Online on May 23, 2023

One of the latest covers of the magazine The Economist carries a headline “Peak China”. This, as its name suggests, is a claim that while during the last seven decades China’s has enjoyed a peaceful “rise”, specifically in relation to the U.S., this has now ended:

Whereas a decade ago forecasters predicted that China’s GDP would zoom past America’s during the mid-21st century (at market exchange rates) and retain a commanding lead, now a much less dramatic shift is in the offing, resulting in something closer to economic parity… One view is that Chinese power will fall relative to that of its rivals… The Peak China thesis rests on the… observation that certain tailwinds are turning to headwinds… All of this is dampening long-run forecasts of China’s economic potential. Twelve years ago Goldman Sachs thought China’s GDP would overtake America’s… and become over 50% larger by mid-century. Last year it revised that prediction, saying China would… peak at less than 15% bigger. Others are more gloomy. Capital Economics, a research firm, argues that the country’s economy will never become top dog, instead peaking at 90% of America’s size in 2035… the most plausible ones [of these projections] seem to agree that China and America will approach economic parity in the next decade or so—and remain locked in this position for decades to come.

| Will China be next | MR Online

The first reaction, was really to literally laugh at what, as will be seen, was the latest of decades long wildly inaccurate predictions by The Economist regarding China. Indeed, the record shows that probably a good working guide to what will happen in China is to take what The Economist says and assume that the opposite will occur! Second, to reflect on what are the deep reasons for such a combination of ignorance and arrogance that it leads to a refusal to make any balance sheet of entirely wrong analyses repeated for these decades but when it still claims to be taken seriously on an issue on which it has such a provenly lamentable record. As the latter applies not only to The Economist but to many other Western publications that make similar claims it will be returned to at the end of this article.

The Economist on China and the Asian Financial Crisis

First, however, in order to avoid any suggestion that we are misrepresenting The Economist, let us factually establish its prolonged inaccuracies on China. Similarly, to avoid any suggestion of seizing on incidental or secondary remarks, taken out of context, which do not represent the central views of the publication, only front pages, and special supplements, that is the journal’s most important publications, on China will be used.

| Out of Puff | MR Online

A suitably distant starting point is to go back 25 years to The Economist’s analysis of China and the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98. The Economist’s front page on 24 October 1998, referring to this, was “Will China be next?” Inside it posed the question: “whether China’s growth is slowing or even grinding to a halt… yes”. It then posed the question:

whether the resulting unemployment will prompt political unrest, or a power struggle among the leadership… yes.

In fact, as is well known, China was fundamentally economically stable during the Asian financial crisis. There was no unemployment leading to political unrest, let alone a “power struggle”. In short, The Economist was completely inaccurate.

The Economist “out of puff”

Moving ahead four years, on 15 June 2002 The Economist published a a special supplement on China. This had the title “A Dragon Out of Puff”—a self-explanatory analysis. Its conclusion on China was the following:

the economy still relies primarily on domestic engines of growth, which are sputtering. Growth over the last five years has relied heavily on massive government spending. As a result, the government’s debt is rising fast. Coupled with the banks’ bad loans and the state’s huge pension liabilities, this is a financial crisis in the making… In the coming decade, therefore, China seems set to become more unstable. It will face growing unrest as unemployment mounts. And if growth were to slow significantly, public confidence could collapse, triggering a run on banks.

| How India | MR Online's growth will outpace china's

Turning from The Economist’s analysis to reality, what actually happened in the decade that followed was simple. China’s economy from 2002-2012 expanded by a total of 173% or an annual average of 10.5%. For comparison, in the same decade world GDP grew by a total 37%, or an annual average 3.2%. The U.S. grew by 21% or an annual average of 1.9%. In summary, China’s GDP grew 4.7 time as much as the world average and 8.4 times as time as much as the U.S.

And this is supposed to be China “out of puff”? It is just known as The Economist being hilariously wrong.

The Economist wrong on China and India

Let us now turn to another major sortie of The Economist into analysing China. Its front cover headline of 2 October 2010 was “How India’s Growth Will Outpace China’s”—also self-explanatory. The analysis this headline referred to stated: “Chetan Ahya and Tanvee Gupta of Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, predict that India’s growth will start to outpace China’s within three to five years… For the next 20-25 years, India will grow faster than any other large country, they expect. Other long-range forecasters paint a similar picture.” The Economist approvingly quoted that India would “outpace” China because socialist “China’s growth has been largely state-directed. India’s, by contrast, is driven by 45m entrepreneurs.”

Once more, turning from a comparison of what The Economist predicted to what happened, the reality was clear and is shown in Figure 1. Taking the data from the Economist’s prediction in 2010 up to the present, that is to the end of 2022, China’s economy grew by 116.0% and India’s by 94.6%. Far from India “outpacing” China, China’s total economic growth in this period was 23% greater than India’s. China’s annual average GDP growth was 6.6% compared to India’s 5.7%.

Figure 1

| Figure 1 | MR Online

Regarding the supposedly negative features of China’s socialist “largely state-directed” economy even more striking, because it is an index of overall economic efficiency, was the result in terms of per capita GDP growth. From 2010-2022 China experienced an average annual population increase of 0.4% and India of 1.2%. So, China’s more rapid growth of total GDP than India was despite the fact that India had significantly more rapid population increase.

In terms of per capita GDP, as Figure 2 shows, China’s total growth from 2010 to 2022 was 105% and India’s 69.6%. That is, China’s per capita GDP growth was 51% higher than India. China’s annual average per capita GDP growth was 6.2% compared to India’s 4.5%. It turns out that China’s socialist “state directed growth” was far more effective at producing per capita GDP growth than India’s “45 million entrepreneurs”. Once more The Economist was not wrong on details but got the entire course of events wrong.

The significance of population trends in China’s economic growth will be considered in more detail below.

Figure 2

| Figure 2 | MR Online

The current claims by The Economist

Having established the successive previous errors of The Economist on China let us now turn to its claims in its most recent issue. This, as already noted, is summarised in the front cover issue with the headline “Peak China?”—that is the claim that China’s rise has stopped. Regarding the details of this inside we read supposedly regarding the “certain tailwinds are turning to headwinds” that:

The first big gust comes from demography. China’s working-age population has been declining for about a decade. Last year its population as a whole peaked… Wave goodbye to the masses of young workers who once filled ‘the world’s factory’.

The Economist then goes on to claim: “China has this year liberated its economy from the lockdowns, quarantines and other strictures of its ‘zero-covid’ regime. But it has not freed itself from longer-term worries about its growth prospects. Its population is shrinking. Its epic housing boom is over.” Supposedly China has problems from “a regulatory crackdown on e-commerce firms.” Regarding comparison with the U.S.: “Some ask how much longer China’s economy can grow faster than America’s.” Quoting works which it considers notable, and which coined the “peak” claim:

Hal Brands and Michael Beckley, two American political scientists, argue that China’s rise is already coming to a halt. The age of ‘peak China’, as they call it, is upon us.

As already noted, The Economist justifies these claims in particular with reference to population trends—the bogus claim, promoted for several years, that “China will grow old before it grows rich.” More precisely: “What accounts for the lower expectations for China’s economy?… Start with population. China’s workforce has already peaked, according to official statistics. It has 4.5 times as many 15- to 64-year-olds as America. By mid-century it will have only 3.4 times as many, according to the UN’s ‘median’ forecast.” It then goes on to discuss issues such as productivity—which are analysed below.

The Economist then goes on to conclude:

It also seems safe to say that China and America will remain in a position of near-parity for decades. In Goldman Sachs’s scenario, China maintains a small but persistent lead over America for more than 40 years… in Capital Economics’s projection, China’s GDP will… be over 80% of America’s as late as 2050…. if China’s peak is more Table Mountain [a flat-topped mountain in South Africa only slightly over 1,000 metres high] than K2 [Qogir Feng, the world’s second highest mountain at 8,611 metres] its leaders will have little incentive to rush to confrontation before decline sets in.

Leaving aside that China’s leaders have not shown any desire whatever to “rush to confrontation” let us dissect this evaluation of The Economist.

Elementary reality checks

Because no angle should be ignored in dealing with this analysis by The Economist, we will discuss below its assertions using technical methods of economic “growth accounting”. But actually, elementary reality checks and calculations, which can be understood by almost anyone (apparently apart from The Economist’s writers), shows their falsity.

Start with the question of population, on which The Economist lays such emphasis. China’s average annual population growth from 1978-2022, that is since the start of “Reform and Opening Up” is 0.9%. China’s annual average GDP growth in the same period is 9.0%. So, 8.1% a year GDP increase, that is 90% of the growth, could not possibly be accounted for by population changes. In summary, even before doing detailed growth accounting, it is clear that population growth could have played only a very small role in China’s economic development. This will be fully confirmed by the growth accounting data.

Turn to the second feature. According to The Economist we ae entering “the coming age of superpower parity”. What this means in GDP terms is that China and the U.S.’s economies will be roughly the same size—one possible a little bit bigger than the other. Let us analyse the implications of this claim.

Of course, no one doubts that after the “century of humiliation” China’s economic starting point was far behind the U.S. In 1950, in purchasing power parities (PPPs), on the calculations of Angus Maddison, who was the world’s leading expert on long term economic growth, China’s per capita GDP was slightly under 5% of the U.S.. By 2022, measured in PPPs by the IMF, China’s per capita GDP was 28% of the U.S.. That is, since the creation of the People’s Republic in 1949, China has improved its per capita GDP position relative to the U.S. by more than five times.

What is the overall implication of this? In 2022 Mainland China’s population was 4.24 times that of the U.S.—put in other terms, the U.S. population was less than 24%, approximately a quarter, that of China. That means, in turn, that for China to remain having the same, or a smaller, GDP than the U.S. its per capita GDP would have to remain less than one quarter of the U.S..

Why should China be incapable of reaching anything more than one quarter the per capita GDP, with therefore roughly one quarter the living standards, of the U.S.? Is it some xenophobic illusion that the average Chinese person is only one quarter as smart, or only works one quarter as hard, or cannot work out a way to achieve more than a quarter of the living standard of an average American? Or to put it the other way round, that the average American works more than four times as hard, or is four time as smart, or can work out a way to remain living more than four times as well as the average Chinese person?

That type of thinking is delusional and is also leaving the U.S. open to a terrible shock not only in regard to China but a second one later in this century when it finds out that the average member of the more than 1.4 billion Indian people is just as smart, just as hard working and just as capable of working out how their country can develop as the average American.

In fact, China’s development has come from successful policies by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and work by the Chinese people—not from economic “miracles”. China is perfectly aware that, given its extremely low economic starting point after a century of foreign intervention in 1949, it has set its goal of becoming a “strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious, and modern socialist country” to be achieved only by 2049. In the more immediate term, at the 20th Party Congress, its goal was stated as reaching the level of a “medium-developed country by 2035”. Slightly earlier, in 2020’s discussion around the 14th Five Year plan, it was concluded that by 2035 for China: “It is entirely possible to double the total or per capita income”. These two goals are essentially the same. This target requires an average annual growth of GDP of at least 4.6% a year by 2035. That this target can be achieved will be shown in detail below.

But the size of China’s population, and the speed of its economic development, does have an inevitable consequence. Those who believe that China will never significantly exceed one quarter of the per capita GDP of the U.S. and therefore that China’s GDP will never become significantly greater than the U.S., are deluding themselves. It is only necessary to be able to multiply by four to know what will be the final result.

Growth accounting

So far only issues that can be understood by anyone, whether or not they are an economist, regarding the elementary errors of the thesis of “peak China” have been dealt with—that is, the facts that the very slow growth of China’s population compared to its GDP growth shows that increase in labour supply plays only a very small role in its economic growth, and the consequences of the fact that China has over four times the population of the U.S. Actually, these are quite sufficient to understand why the theory of “peak China” is false. The fact that these false arguments can ignore such elementary realities shows how blinded people can be by their own propaganda. But nevertheless, it is also useful to analyse more detailed issues of economics—it should not be thought that any questions are being avoided. Therefore, more detailed issues of economic growth will now be examined. Analysing these, furthermore, does cast a light on important questions and further clarifies the fundamental errors of the theory of “peak China”—and what lies behind it.

Turning from the most fundamental trends to detailed growth accounting the most recent data will be examined in order to avoid any accusations that what is really being analysed is the effects of the period immediately after 1978—which almost no one would dispute brought gains but which some claim have now disappeared. Figure 3 therefore shows the latest 10 years, 2011-2021, for which detailed growth accounting data exists—it is not yet available for 2022.

Changes in labour inputs in China

As labour is the aspect most concentrated on in the theory of “peak China” it will be dealt with first. Initially, to get these out of the way, some elementary conceptual mistakes of the “peak China” brigade will be dealt with and then their most fundamental fallacy will be shown.

The detailed data on labour inputs in Figure 3 immediately shows one of the first elementary arithmetical fallacies of the old “China will get old before it gets rich” argument—which is essentially the same as that of “peak China”. This is that this fails to distinguish between the “quality” of labour inputs (that this their level of education, training etc) and the “quantity” of labour inputs—that is simply the number of hours worked.

Figure 3

| Figure 3 | MR Online

This fallacy can be easily illustrated for non-specialists in economics. Take an hour of labour in South Korea—this country is chosen because today it has one of the highest levels of higher education in the world. In 1945 85% of South Korea’s population lived in rural areas and Illiteracy was 88%. Today 85% of South Korea’s population lives in urban areas and enrolment in tertiary education is equivalent to the entire population of the relevant age groups. China’s is passing through the same historical process from its own extremely rural past—with urbanisation reaching 65% by 2021, and enrolment in higher education reaching 60% by 2022.

The value produced by an hour’s labour by someone with a university degree in Korea, very possibly a PhD in engineering or computing, in 2022 is obviously far higher than that of a peasant who was illiterate in 1945. Similarly, as China’s population becomes more and more highly educated and trained the inputs of “labour quality” (to use the technical economic term) will rise even if “labour quantity” (the total number of workers and therefore the number of hours worked) goes down.

This is precisely what occurred in China from 2011-2021. As Figure 3 shows, the total number of hours worked (labour quantity) fell, reducing GDP growth by 0.4%. But the contribution of labour quality, that is better training and education, increased GDP growth by 0.4%. Therefore, the actual change in total labour inputs was zero. (As a side note for technical economists, calculating labour inputs simply by hours worked, without taking into account labour quality, was an error in Solow’s original formulation of growth accounting which has been replaced in modern growth accounting. For non-technical economists the difference between the value created by an hour of labour by someone who is illiterate with someone who has an engineering PhD makes the point clear).

But even leaving aside this basic distinction, actually regarding labour quantity itself China’s position is not remotely as bad as claimed by “peak China”. For example, approximately a quarter of China’s working population is still in the countryside—the passing of a substantial part of this into urban areas, as will occur over the coming decades, will increase productivity, China’s current retirement age, of 60 for men and 50-55 for women, is extremely low by international standards and is bound to gradually increase given China’s great increase in life expectancy—which will produce an increase in available labour quantity compared to if the retirement age had not been raised .

In short, because they make the elementary mistake of failing to distinguish between labour quantity and labour quality, because they do not take into account the consequences of shift of labour from the countryside to urban areas, and because they do not note that China’s very low retirement age is bound to gradually increase with growing life expectancy, claims about the reduction of labour inputs in the theory of “peak China” are greatly exaggerated even in their own terms.

The small role of increases in labour inputs in China

But actually, even all the above issues are secondary to the main one which was already analysed in fundamental terms above—the point that China’s average annual population growth from 1978-2022 is 0.9% and China’s annual average GDP growth in the same period is 9.0%. Therefore, 8.1% a year GDP increase, that is 90% of the growth, could not possibly be accounted for by population changes. What this shows is that the increase in labour inputs has played a very small role in China’s economic growth.

Turning to analyse this in detail, it was already noted that in 2011-2021 the contribution of labour inputs to GDP growth was zero—a 0.4% annual increase in GDP due to improvements in labour quality, offset by a 0.4% of GDP fall caused by a reduction in labour quantity (hours worked). Even if the longer period from 1990-2021 is taken, the contribution of labour inputs to GDP growth was only 0.7% a year out of an average of 8.7% annual GDP growth—that is 92% of GDP growth was due to factors other than increase in labour inputs.

The reason that a slowdown in labour inputs will not produce a very sharp fall in China’s economic growth is therefore very simple. Because the detailed growth accounting data naturally confirms what was already obvious from the most fundamental facts on China’ population and GDP changes since 1978. That population and labour input changes have only played a very small role in China’s economic growth!

The fundamental factors which really do affect China’s economic growth, and their consequences, will be analysed below.

The reasons for China’s rapid economic growth

Turning from what has not made a large contribution to China’s economic growth, labour inputs, to those which have made a big difference, again the latest period 2011-2021 will be taken. China’s annual average GDP growth in that period was 6.7%. The detailed contributions to growth of the different inputs are shown in Figure 4. This chart is simply a different way of presenting the facts given in Figure 3—which showed the relative weight of different inputs into China’s economy. Figure 4 is merely more convenient for present purposes because by showing how much of China’s GDP growth is due to different inputs it makes it easy to see which changes would, and which changes would not, seriously affect China’s economic growth. That is, what would, and what would not, create a real situation of “peak China”. It also allows an easy calculation of whether China can or cannot achieve the 4.6% annual average economic growth necessary to achieve its target of doubling per capita GDP by 2035.

Figure 4

| Figure 4 | MR Online

The role of labour inputs

The first reality from these facts which is obvious, as already noted, is the relatively small effect that changes in labour supply will make. Assume that no changes are made to offset the decline in labour quantity, for example there is no increase in the retirement age, and this continues to deduct 0.4% a year from GDP growth. Assume also that the increase in the beneficial effect of increases in labour quality is eliminated and therefore this deducts the 0.4% a year from GDP growth due to this factor—there is no justification for making such an assumption as China’s education and training growth will continue, but it is hypothetically assumed here just to analyse a “worst case” scenario. What then happens? It means that China’s GDP growth would fall from 6.7% a year to 6.3%—easily enough to surpass the 4.6% a year growth required to achieve the doubling of per capita GDP by 2035.

The role of Total Factor Productivity

Now consider productivity, more precisely Total Factor Productivity (TFP)—for non-economists, TFP measures all processes raising the output of the economy which are not due to increases in capital or labour (for example, improvements in technology, the benefits of larger scale of production, improvements in management techniques, scientific discoveries, benefits of increased specialisation in production etc). Assume a catastrophic case that China’s rate of TFP increase fell to zero—once again there is no justification for such an assumption and China’s rate of TFP growth is one of the fastest in the world, but it is analysed here just to demonstrate the effects of the most extreme negative assumptions. What then happens is that China’s GDP growth would fall by 1.5% a year—from 6.7% to 5.2% a year. China would then still achieve the 4.6% a year target to double per capita GDP by 2035.

Even if the ludicrous assumption is made both that China achieved no increase in labour quality, deducting 0.4% of GDP growth a year, and that its rate of TFP growth collapsed to zero, deducting 1.5% a year from GDP growth, then the combined slowdown of 1.9% a year would still leave China growing at 4.8% a year—enough to achieve its 2035 target.

These negative assumptions are of course themselves ridiculous—there is no reason China’s improvement in labour quality will fall to zero, on the contrary it is pouring resources into education and training, and there is equally no reason why its TFP growth will fall to zero. But these extremely unrealistic assumptions have the benefit that even with them the thesis of “peak China” will not work.

Cutting China’s investment

It is factually clear that only one assumption would justify the argument of “peak China”—i.e. that a drastic slowdown in China’s economy will occur. This is that there is a huge fall in China’s level of investment in GDP—that is, in technical terms, in capital inputs into the economy (it should be understood that by “capital” in this sense is simply meant fixed investment—it is irrelevant whether this investment is carried out by the state, private capitalists, or any other form of ownership). This is, indeed, an inevitable result of the fact that 78% of China’s economic growth is due to capital/investment inputs—or in other terms that these account for 5.2% annual GDP growth out of a total of 6.7% growth. China’s dependence on capital inputs for economic growth is furthermore fairly standard, the average percentage contribution of capital inputs to economic growth of the world’s 20 largest economies in 2011-2021 being 81%. This is indeed why reductions in the level of investment in GDP do produce very large slowdowns in economic growth. This was analysed in the earlier article 它曾成功“谋杀”了德国、日本、四小龙,现在想要劝中国“经济自杀” and is dealt with in detail below.

In reality, although they spend large amounts of space discussing other issues which would have no great effect even if true, the statistics of those arguing for the theory of “peak China” show that they arrive at their claims because they assume that China will drastically cut the percentage of its economy devoted to investment. The reasons this claim is made will be analysed below, but first, to clarify the issue, the arithmetic of those who present serious quantified justifications for the “peak China” arguments will be examined—although, it is striking, that some who makes such claims don’t even bother to attempt to quantify them.

Taking first, among those studied by The Economist, an analysis by Roland Rajah and Alyssa Leng for the Lowy Institute with the self-explanatory title “Revising down the rise of China”. This concludes regarding China that: “our projections suggest growth will slow sharply to roughly 3% a year by 2030”. This analysis precisely assumes a huge fall in the percentage of China’s economy devoted to fixed investment/capital inputs:

total investment falls from the current 43% of GDP to 33% of GDP on average over the coming decades.

The same assumption is made by Goldman Sachs, which projects that China’s GDP growth will fall from an annual average 6.0% in 2013-2022 to 3.4% in 2023-2032—that is a decline of 2.6%. The reason for this alleged slowdown is because of the overwhelming effect of a single fact that the annual increase in GDP growth created by capital investment is projected to fall by 2.4%—from 4.8% to 2.4%. As this fall in capital investment accounts for 92% of the decline in the GDP growth rate, only 8% of the decline the Goldman Sachs report projects, or 0.2% GDP growth a year, is attributable to factors other than the decline in investment. Without the investment decline, the Goldman Sachs report’s data shows that China’s annual GDP growth would only fall from 6.0% to 5.8%—a level which would easily allow China to exceed its own targets for 2035. In short, Goldman Sachs shows that only the decline in investment makes a decisive difference to China’s growth rate, and therefore, to use The Economist’s terms, accounts for “peak China”.

Of course, these calls for, or predictions that, China will cut the level of investment in its economy are put forward in a concealed way. They are presented as calls for China to increase the percentage of consumption in its economy. But as consumption and capital creation/investment combined necessarily add up to 100% of China’s economy the call for China to increase the percentage of consumption in its economy is necessarily to call for it to reduce its level of investment. This would indeed, of course, for the reasons already given, lead to a drastic slowdown in China’s economy—to “peak China”. But it would simply be a case of China deciding to commit economic suicide.

While the studies published by the Lowy Institute and Goldman Sachs at least have the virtue of being clear, others don’t—so these will be examined below.

A leader is certainly different

There is no doubt that from the facts already given that if China drastically cuts its level of investment its rate of economic growth would indeed substantially fall—as capital inputs account for 78% of China’s economic growth that is inevitable. But why should China make such a drastic cut in its level of investment in GDP?

The alleged reason for this is because China is different from other “Western” economies. For example Capital Economics, which unlike the Lowy Institute or Goldman Sachs studies, does not even properly quantify its findings, but is nevertheless cited by The Economist as a source, argues: “we expect China’s trend rate of economic growth to fall to around 2% by 2030.” It notes:

China… has an unusually large capital stock…. If China’s capital stock to GDP ratio were to continue to rise at the rapid pace of the past decade, it would soon be much higher than in other major economies.

Similarly, Goldman Sachs argues that China’s level of investment in its economy will fall sharply: “Investment as a share of GDP is forecast to decline from 42% in 2022 to 35% by 2032.” The reason that this will happen is apparently because China is at present an upper middle-income economy, although approaching the level of a high-income economy by World Bank standards, and:

Investment as a share of GDP in upper-middle-income countries is 34%.

Well certainly China is different from other economies. Why? For the simple reason that its economy is growing much more rapidly than they are! Therefore, it is producing a more rapid increase in average living standards than they are, it has produced a more rapid reduction in poverty than they have etc. Naturally the leader is different to those who are further behind£ The economy with the most rapid economic development is different to the countries with slower economic development.

Why should the more rapidly developing copy the less rapidly developing

But then it is a completely bizarre logic that says that the economy which is most rapidly developing should change to become like the less successful ones! What would a client of Goldman Sachs, or any other bank or consultancy, say if it argued “We notice that you are developing more rapidly than your competitors—so you need to stop that and reduce yourself to their level.” Or if they said to a company: “We notice that in this field one company is developing much more rapidly than the others. Therefore, you should ignore that company and copy the less successful ones. Incidentally we are advising this most successful company to abandon its advantages and instead accept the approach of its less successful competitors.” Anyone who made such a proposal would be laughed at—in the few seconds before the contract with them was immediately terminated.

But that is exactly what those who are arguing the case for “peak China! are doing. They are saying: “We note that China’s economy is developing more rapidly than others. Therefore, it should abandon the reasons for this success and adopt the methods of the less rapidly developing.” Instead, of course, what any sensible person would argue is: “China is different because it is the most rapidly developing. Therefore, other countries should learn from the reasons for China’s success (which is not, of course, to pursue the impossible course of mechanically copying it).” This entirely logical argument is, of course, what other countries are doing. It explains the increasing international interest in China’s socialist development strategy.

Instead, what those arguing the case for “peak China” propose is that China should voluntarily commit economic suicide. That it should abandon the methods that have made it the most rapidly developing economy in the world and adopt the methods of the less successful. If China decides to commit economic “suicide” then that certainly would produce “peak China”—if someone decides to commit suicide they will undoubtedly be dead. But it would be very bizarre for China and the CPC to adopt such a logic! Why, having brought China from almost the poorest country in the world in 1949, after a century of foreign intervention, to achieve the most sustained rapid economic growth of any major country in world history should the CPC decide to adopt a less successful approach? Gorbachev may have decided that the USSR should commit suicide, bringing ruin to his country, by adopting Western approaches, but the CPC has shown no similar inclination.

The reasons for blind arrogance

Turning from these specific economic points to more general considerations, these factual issues are so obvious to anyone who thinks about them seriously, that it takes us back to a point made before the discussion of detailed analysis of growth accounting. That is, what is the explanation of the blindness to reality, to facts, that is created by unconscious arrogance?

The Economist, Goldman Sachs etc note that China’s economy differs from their capitalist ones. But instead of drawing from the more rapid development of China’s economy than theirs the conclusion that China’s system shows its superiority, they conclude that necessarily China must be wrong—and that they are right! The reason is because to accept the facts would be to overturn their, conscious or unconscious, arrogant way of looking at the world. It is worth looking at just a few of these implications to understand the reasons for the blindness.

The first is the role of CPC. It is the CPC, no other political force, which created the socialist market economy, an economic system which had never before existed in history, which has created the most rapid economic growth of any major country in human history, which has produced the most rapid increase in living standards or any country, which has produced the greatest reduction in poverty in any country in human history, and which overall has produced the most rapid sustained improvement in the living standards of any country in human history. The idea that such gigantic achievements could occur by “accident”, that is without thought or theory leading it, is laughable. What it means is that the CPC not only produced better practical results for its people than any other political force but that the CPC out thought every other political force.

Second, it means that China has achieved what every country that was once dominated by imperialism dreams of—that China, and China alone, will decide its destiny. This is indeed the greatest of all the CPC’s national achievements. That after a “century of humiliation”, in which China was simply trampled on by other states, only China will now decide its own fate. If China takes wise decisions it will prosper. If China takes foolish decisions it will suffer. But no one else will decide the outcome. In a fundamental sense that is precisely the basis of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”..

Third, China’s success, brought by the CPC, brings to an end an entire centuries long epoch in human history—perhaps this is particularly to be commented on by someone from Europe? During approximately the last 500 years, “white” European countries, and their offshoots, became the most powerful in the world. That 500 years is certainly a short period in the approximately 5,000-year history of human civilization. For most of that time it was Asia’s people—China, India, West Asia/parts of North Africa (falsely labelled the “Middle East” in Eurocentric worldviews) who were the most advanced. But, of course, 500 years is far longer than the life of anyone alive today. And during that 500 years these “white” countries built into the foundations of their capitalist system the vile dregs of racism—this is a point particularly emphasised in recent material produced by the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research which should be regarded as of fundamental importance. Slavery, the treatment of non-“white” people as not equal in order to justify colonialism, were built into the foundations of that European originated capitalist system.

China’s rise, that of almost one fifth of humanity, which it should be remembered is more than the population of all “advanced” economies in the world put together today, not only creates a socialist society but completely destroys the entire cultural basis and assumptions of that 500-year-old epoch in human history. A long time Afro-Caribbean friend of mine, knowing I followed China as closely as I could, once said to me “but what does China’s rise mean for the rest of us?” I said: “Well among other things it destroys the myth of the ‘superiority’ of the white race”. To which their reply was “well that’s a victory for everyone.”

Indeed, in terms of the entire moral dignity of humanity, China’s success is playing an indispensable role in putting an end to the shameful traits of an entire period of human history. It is in large part because of that entire 500 year history that those proclaiming “peak China” can continue to write views that are so completely out of touch with the facts and with reality and why they refuse to draw any lessons even when they are repeatedly shown to be wrong—as was shown with the test case of The Economist at the beginning of this article (and many more examples could be taken). The stubborn blindness of the refusal of Western reporters and analysts to face the fact they have repeatedly been proven entirely wrong reflects not only bad journalism or a love of capitalism. It reflects the blindness to reality produced by 500 years of an unconscious cultural arrogance produced by a system which is fortunately now progressively disintegrating.

Xi Jinping noted carefully at his first press conference after becoming General Secretary of the CPC that China directly sees its own national rejuvenation as a part of the overall progress of humanity:

Throughout 5,000 years of development, the Chinese nation has made significant contributions to the progress of human civilization… Our responsibility is… to pursue the goal of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, so that China can stand firmer and stronger among the world’s nations, and make new and greater contributions to mankind.

This is not simply a goal for the future. This is a process that is underway today. It is a part of China’s great achievement, brought about by the extraordinary struggle of its people for national rejuvenation, that the rest of humanity benefits from it. That certainly involves economics. But it goes far beyond it.

[This article was originally published in Chinese at Guancha.cn.]

John Ross is a senior fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He was formerly director of economic policy for the mayor of London.

Corporate donations to Japan’s ruling party driving government’s anti-China military buildup / by Shimbun Akahata

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) escort ship ‘Kurama,’ left, navigates behind destroyer ‘Yudachi,’ with an Imperial Japanese rising sun war flag, during a fleet review in water off Sagami Bay, south of Tokyo. | Itsuo Inouye / AP

Originally published in the People’s World on May 15, 2023

TOKYO—Behind the Japanese government’s policies prioritizing a huge military buildup and the promotion of nuclear power generation lies the huge donations made by corporations in the relevant industries to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

New data shows that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s party is raking in cash from arms manufacturers and atomic power companies.

According to the 2021 Political Funds Report released by the Internal Affairs Ministry, in the arms industry, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and other 11 major firms which have procurement contracts with the Defense Ministry made donations totaling more than 166 million yen ($1.2 million USD) to the LDP’s political fund management body, the People’s Political Association.

Mitsubishi’s Heavy Industries division manufactures missiles for the Defense Ministry, including surface-to-ship guided missiles whose range exceeds 1,000 kilometers, high-speed gliding missiles, and research prototyping technologies to realize hypersonic-speed guided missiles.

The Defense Ministry on April 11 announced that it awarded the company a contract to develop a long-range missile capable of being launched from Maritime Self-Defense Force submarines. The ministry will spend 58.4 billion yen ($429 million) in tax money to conduct this project as part of the government’s policy seeking Japan’s possession of enemy base strike capabilities.

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, another division of the conglomerate, gave 20 million yen ($147,000) in donations. The company supplies improved intermediate-range ground-to-air guided missiles, a network e-war system, air-to-air guided missiles, and other advanced weapons to the ministry.

Mitsubishi in 2021 donated 33 million yen ($242,000) to the LDP’s fund management body and received a total of 459.1 billion yen ($3.37 billion) in defense contracts, comprising 25.5% of the total value of the ministry’s procurement.

The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc. (JAIF), consisting of electricity providers and nuclear power-related companies, enthusiastically welcomes the Kishida government policy sticking to the promotion of nuclear power generation.

The Internal Affairs ministry data showed that JAIF member companies, including Hitachi, Ltd. and Nippon Steel Corporation, in 2021 donated nearly 638 million yen ($4.7 million) in total to the LDP. For example, Hitachi, which engages in research and development of an innovative water reactor, and Nippon Steel, which supplies steel materials needed to construct nuclear power plants, made a contribution of 40 million yen ($294,000) and 27 million yen ($198,000), respectively.

Based on the political funds report of the People’s Political Association of the LDP, Akahata found out the amount of political donations provided by the top 20 contract corporations that were awarded the Defense Ministry’s procurement contracts.

The LDP Kishida government is promoting a major military buildup, seeking Japan’s possession of an enemy-strike capability. The government-proposed budget draft for fiscal 2023 allots more than ten trillion yen ($73.5 trillion) for military spending.

Shimbun Akahata (しんぶん赤旗) is the daily newspaper of the Japanese Communist Party.

‘Whole Process People’s Democracy’ in China: What does it mean? / by David Cavendish

Ethnic minority delegates leave after the closing ceremony for China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 13, 2023. | Andy Wong / AP

Originally published in the People’s World on May 9, 2023

The expulsion of two African American representatives from the Tennessee state legislature recently is only the latest in what seems to be a never-ending series of attacks on democracy in the United States. Add to it the endless voter suppression tactics like racist purges of voter rolls, bans on mail-in ballots, restrictive voter ID hurdles, reduced poll hours, and more.

And of course, one need look no further than to the machinations of former President Donald Trump in the wake of his defeat at the ballot box in 2020 to see these attacks underway at the highest level.

Though the United States was founded on democratic principles (“All men are created equal…”), they applied to only a small segment of the population—white men who owned property.

As a result, the last two-and-a-half centuries have been marked by a continuous struggle by the working class, African Americans and other people of color, women, Native Americans, and immigrants, among others, to make those principles a living reality for all people.

The simple fact is that those who exercise power, that is the moneyed class, don’t want to give up what they see as a good thing. Hence, the class struggle.

For over a hundred years, the United States government has set itself up as the arbiter around the world of what is to be considered “democracy.” From Woodrow Wilson’s “Make the world safe for democracy” during World War (1917-18) to Joe Biden’s two “Summits for Democracy” (2021 and 2023), there has been a consistency of message: The United States knows best.

The problem is that what the U.S. government projects as “democracy” is a version coming out of centuries of Western political thought, which it tries to apply to all peoples, in all places, at all times.

Democracy is a common aspiration of all peoples, but not all democracies are identical, even among the capitalist democracies of the West. The United States’ system (the presidential model) is markedly different in many ways from what exists in Britain (the parliamentary or Westminster model). And democracy today is vastly different from that which existed in the “Birthplace of Democracy”—Athens—in the sixth and fifth centuries, BCE.

More importantly, democracy differs markedly in other economic systems. Working class democracy, based on a socialist mode of production, draws on the basic ideas of political democracy, but expands and deepens it to the economy. For example, the idea of Bill of Rights Socialism, proposed by the Communist Party USA, applies this concept to the United States.

Unfortunately, there is little chance for Bill of Rights Socialism being adopted in the near future.

There is today, however, a working-class system of democracy in practice that is growing stronger every day—in China. Called “Whole Process People’s Democracy,” its basic ideas are virtually unknown in the United States. It is vital at this critical juncture in world history that people should learn about it because we can never live and work in peace with China if we do not know the basic facts about how that country functions.

It goes without saying that most Americans would call China an “authoritarian” government controlled and run by the Communist Party of China (CPC). While no one disputes the central role of the CPC in Chinese life, few people know that there are eight other political parties that have roles to play in the government and daily life. Under the Chinese constitution, these nine parties work within a system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation led by the Communist Party.

The core principles of Whole Process People’s Democracy were expressed in a 2021 newspaper article by Guo Wei, the Chinese ambassador to Seychelles. She explained:

“The most basic criterion for democracy is whether people have the right to participate extensively in national governance, whether people’s demands can be responded to and satisfied. In China, the people participate in the management of state affairs, social affairs, and economic and cultural affairs; they provide opinions and suggestions for the design of national development plans at the highest level and also contribute to the governance of local public affairs; they take part in democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management, and oversight….”

China, much like the United States, is organized on a federal system. There are three basic levels of government: national, provincial (equivalent to U.S. states), and local—cities, counties, towns, and villages. Each level is governed by a congress elected directly by the people. At the national level is the National People’s Congress (NPC), which meets for two weeks every year.

But Whole Process People’s Democracy is more than that. At the local level it is called Community-Level Self-Governance. There is a network of local committees, be they urban resident committees, villager committees, or trade union committees. Today in China there are 112,000 urban committees, 503,000 villager committees, and 2,809,000 trade union committees. All committees are elected by secret ballot with open vote counting (with results announced on the spot).

The villager committees must have between three and seven members, include at least one female, and a member from an ethnic minority (if there are such in the village). The urban residents committees are similar, though they can have as many as nine members. All members serve terms of five years.

All committees are empowered to “carry out democratic consultations on local affairs in various forms, and practice democratic decision-making in handling community issues and public services through committee meetings and congresses.”

The third type of committee is the trade union committee. Found in private enterprises and public institutions, its main roles are to “advocate on behalf of employees on equal footing with employers.” The trade unions have the right to negotiate with their employers [to] seek “corrections” from the employers if they violate employee rights,” such as “deducting or delaying payment of employees’ wages, [or] failure to provide safe and healthy working conditions, extending working hours arbitrarily, infringing on the special rights and interests of female and juvenile employees, [and] other serious violations of employee labor rights and interests.”

These committees are funded through membership dues as well as via “employer contributions (employers must pay a monthly fee equal to 2% of the aggregate monthly wages of all the unionized employees.)” The whole discussion on the role of China’s trade unions, organized in the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is something for another day.

This description of aspects of China’s “Whole Process People’s Democracy” provides only the briefest and most general overview of a vast and complex subject. Yet, China’s ideas on democracy should stimulate a discussion that we in the United States need to have.

In the struggle for American democracy, the working people need a clear vision of what type of future they want, one based not on money but human needs. The People’s Republic of China provides a treasure trove of ideas to study.

David Cavendish is a retired teacher, active in the union movement, the peace movement (many years in an anti-Iraq/Afghanistan War vigil), and other progressive political activities. He is a longtime contributor to People’s World. David Cavendish es un maestro jubilado, activo en el movimiento sindical, el movimiento por la paz y otras actividades políticas progresistas. Colabora desde hace mucho tiempo en People’s World.

The simple reason why the US wants ‘full spectrum dominance’ of the Earth / by Roger McKenzie

US troops on patrol in Iraq in 2006 (Photo: US Department of Defense)

Originally published in People’s Dispatch on March 31, 2023

Imagine the uproar if China or Russia—or any other country for that matter—said it aimed to exercise military control over land, sea, air, and space to protect its interests and investments.

This amazingly has been the stated United States policy since 1997.

Full spectrum dominance, as the doctrine is known, is the reason the United States behaves the way that it does on the international stage.

The United States demands that the world bow down to its leadership. A failure to do so is met with the full force of the international military-industrial complex controlled by the US government.

Enforcement has included everything from the funding of opposition forces in sovereign nations, the removal or even assassination of political leaders who refuse to toe the line, economic sanctions, and military intervention.

Of course, there are choices to be made by the United States about which approach—or combination of approaches—it might take. There are also decisions to be made about the degree of action within each approach.

But fundamentally the point is that Washington believes it has a right to inflict on the rest of the world its interpretation of democracy—which seems to essentially amount to agreeing with whatever course of action the United States wants to take.

So what is full spectrum dominance really for?

There’s a famous scene in the Oscar-winning film Reds where the great revolutionary journalist and activist John Reed, played by Warren Beatty, was asked at a dinner what the war in Mexico he had just returned from was all about. Before sitting down he said just one word: profits.

The United States is interested in safeguarding the profits of monopoly capital, which carries politicians in Washington around in its pockets like loose change.

The United States also will not tolerate others, such as China, muscling in on potential new markets or swaying people away from its sphere of influence.

China is seen as the biggest threat to the profits of the companies that currently decide pretty much what we will eat and even when we can eat it.

Anyone who expects the Chinese to simply sit back and take the provocations dealt out by the two-faced United States is living in cloud cuckoo land.

China’s State Council Information Office recently issued a report that accused the United States of being the world’s biggest offender of human rights.

In “The Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2022,” the Chinese government said the United States “has sanctions in place against more than 20 countries, including Cuba since 1962, Iran since 1979, Syria since 2011 and Afghanistan in recent years.”

Calling the United States out as the most prolific enforcer of unilateral sanctions in the world, the report said Washington pursues power politics in the international community, frequently uses force, provokes proxy wars, and is a saboteur of world peace.

The report added that under the guise of anti-terrorism activities, the US has killed some 929,000 civilians and displaced some 38 million others in 85 countries.

Between 2017 and 2020, the United States launched 23 “proxy wars” in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific region, the report stated.

The report said that violations of immigrant rights and the refusal of Washington to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp created “an ugly chapter of unrelenting human rights violations.”

The report slammed the United States for holding up to 780 people at Guantanamo, most of whom were held without trial for years, while subjecting them to cruel and inhumane treatment.

Essentially the United States will go to any lengths to enforce what it sees as its unipolar dominance of the world.

As far as it is concerned, “might is right,” and there are no consequences for its behavior.

There is no legal redress as the United States is not part of the International Criminal Court—which it lauds for threatening to prosecute Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though Russia is also not a signatory.

It has a veto at the United Nations and much of the world relies on its military shield as well as the mighty dollar with which to trade.

Given the cards stacked against those of us who oppose US full spectrum dominance and the seemingly invincible power of the biggest bully on the planet, the question is: What can we do?

The answer to full spectrum dominance is full spectrum resistance and organizing.

It is necessary to gear our efforts away from piecemeal change and toward revolutionary transformation.

This will mean bringing together unions, climate activism, equality organizing, and a range of other social and economic movements in a serious change away from liberal posturing.

The guardians of capital are highly organized and put the resources where they need to go to protect and expand what they have. Activists generally just pretend that we are organized and fall out with each other at the first available opportunity.

I am not arrogant enough to believe I have all the answers. But what I do know is that we have to gaze beyond the Global North for what radical transformation might look like.

It really is time to shift the paradigm and bring movements together to work out how to pool our resources for real results—full spectrum resistance and organizing.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Roger McKenzie is the international editor of the Morning Star newspaper. Follow Roger on Twitter at @RogerAMck.

In China, Lula pushes peace as U.S. prepares for Asia-Pacific war / John Wojcik

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping after a signing ceremony held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Friday, April 14, 2023. | Ken Ishii/Pool Photo via AP

Originally published in the People’s World on April 14, 2023

The follies of U.S. plans for war and more war are being exposed now by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during his current visit to China.

On Friday, the day that the Washington Post reported the U.S. is planning to continue pouring weapons into the Ukraine war well into next year, Lula is in China backing that country’s peace plan for Ukraine by calling for an immediate ceasefire and negotiations.

China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang declared Thursday that his country supports that approach and will send no weapons to either side in the Ukraine war. The U.S., simultaneously, was busy carving military landing strips in the jungles of Tinian, a small Pacific island, to be used against China if it makes any moves to claim its own territory—the island of Taiwan.

The military airstrips are close to where the U.S. launched the bombers that carried the atomic bombs dropped during WWII on the people of Japan.

U.S. militarization of Asia is driven by the increasing economic importance of the region, upon which both the U.S. and Europe have become dependent. In the view of powerful capitalist interests in the U.S., the region now needs to be controlled by the West militarily and economically. Hence the efforts by the U.S. to drive a wedge between Europe and China, just as it drove a wedge between Europe and Russia.

The U.S.’ anti-China and anti-Russia policies—along with the sanctions and threats of sanctions against them—have put the two countries in a position of shared resistance.

At the same time that Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russia recently, Japan’s leadership was in Kiev, reflecting that the U.S., as it did with Germany in Europe, is pushing Japan to get involved in military activity against China and Russia.

Both Germany and Japan have been encouraged to give up their post-WWII pacifism and trade it in for militarization—with Germany’s armed forces turned eastward toward Russia and Japan’s against China.

The public in both Germany and Japan, remembering the horrors of fascism in the last century, has not been as quick as the U.S. would like in trading pacifism for war preparation. Peace demonstrations in both countries are growing larger by the week.

In addition to supporting China’s peace plan for Ukraine, Lula is joining with Beijing in a strong push to eliminate U.S. economic penetration of the entire global South. Some of the most powerful action that can be taken against U.S. control of the Asia-Pacific region is, in Lula’s eyes, economic action.

Key to this are efforts by Brazil and China to end the global South’s reliance on the U.S. dollar in trade and other financial transactions.

The two countries have agreed to carry out bilateral trade in their own currencies and ditch the dollar. Work is now underway on developing a new currency for the global South.

The New Development Bank, based in Shanghai, will play a major role in this process. Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a close adviser to Lula, just became the bank’s new head, and her successor attended her swearing-in during his visit on Thursday.

The institution will provide an alternative to the U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund and World Bank, being focused on the BRICS group of developing nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Some 99 loan projects have already been issued by the new bank, totaling $34 billion in new infrastructure.

“The New Development Bank is the product of a partnership among BRICS countries with a view to creating a world with less poverty, less inequality, and more sustainability,” Lula said on Thursday.

The efforts by Brazil and China to end the global South’s reliance on the U.S. dollar is not just in trade but in many other financial transactions, the Chinese and Brazilians say.

During his meeting with Xi Friday, Lula is also discussing investment, reindustrialization, energy transition, climate change, and peace agreements, according to the Brazilian government.

“As comprehensive strategic partners, China and Brazil share extensive common interests,” Xi said, according to information about the meeting released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

China is Brazil’s biggest export market, each year buying tens of billions of dollars of soybeans, beef, iron ore, poultry, pulp, sugar cane, cotton, and crude oil. Brazil is Latin America’s biggest recipient of Chinese investment, according to Chinese media.

One of the at least 20 bilateral agreements that Lula has signed in China already is for the construction of a sixth satellite under a binational program to monitor conservation and illegal logging in areas such as the Amazon. Under former President Jair Bolsonaro, the rainforest saw significant deforestation by the right-wing leader’s corporate allies.

When discussing the ceasefire and negotiations to end the Ukraine war, Lula saw the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine as all having shared responsibility for ending the war.

He said Ukraine should consider offering to relinquish its claims on Crimea which has a majority Russian, not Ukrainian, population. Before Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian President Zelensky had said that the status of Crimea and even other Russian ethnic-majority areas were negotiable.

Subsequently, Britain and the U.S. signaled “not so fast” to Kiev and increased the seemingly endless military aid being shipped to Ukraine. Zelensky, though he has previously expressed interest in China’s plan for a ceasefire, now says ideas such as the proposal by Lula are unacceptable.

In any case, Lula said there has never been a war in which a ceasefire and negotiations were an unreasonable approach. He turned down requests by the U.S. that he send weapons to Ukraine, saying he was interested instead in working for peace.

Lula is putting Brazil at the heart of issues crucial to the whole planet. The Asia-Pacific region is home to 60% of the world’s population and accounts for 65% of the world’s gross domestic product.

This is something too important for imperialism to pass up and explains why the U.S. military, NATO, and the Pentagon want to focus on this region—in addition to Europe, Ukraine, and Russia.

Roger McKenzie contributed to this article.

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

China, Brazil Lead in Chipping Away at U.S. Economic Power Abroad / By W. T. Whitney Jr.

United States hegemony in Latin America is in question | credit Prensa Latina

The United States proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine 200 years ago and ever since has arranged Latin American and Caribbean affairs to its advantage. Nevertheless, struggles for national and regional independence did continue and the poor and marginalized classes did resist. Eventually there would be indigenous movements, labor mobilizations, and progressive and socialist-inclined governments. Cuba’s revolutionary government has endured for 63 years.

The U.S. political hold may have weakened, but U.S. control over the region’s economies remains strong; after World War II it extended worldwide.  Now cracks are showing up. In particular, the U.S. dollar’s role as the world economy’s dominant currency may have run its course. 

In 1944, 44 allied nations determined that the value of their various currencies would correlate with the value of the U.S. dollar instead of the value of gold. The nations since then have relied on the U.S. dollar for their reserve currencies, for foreign trade and in banking transactions.

There seemed to be good reason. The United States was supreme in producing and marketing goods and so, presumably, the dollar’s value would remain stable and predictable. The dollar would be readily accessible to bankers and traders and its valuation would be unambiguous. Nations could also build their currency reserves through the dollars they accumulated in the form of bonds sold by an increasingly indebted United States.  

The United States has benefited. In currency exchanges involving the dollar, U.S. companies and individuals experience only minor add-on costs. U.S. importers know that the more the dollar strengthens in value, the less expensive will be products they buy abroad. U.S. borrowing costs overseas are relatively low because U.S. bonds, and the investments they represent in dollars, are appealing abroad, for a variety of reasons.

Dollar dominance has caused pain abroad. Exporters to the United States take a hit when the exchange value of the dollar weakens. Importers of U.S. goods are hurt when the dollar strengthens.

Most importantly, the U.S. government gains an opening to punish enemy countries through their use of dollars in international transactions. It imposes economic sanctions requiring that dollars not be used in a targeted country’s overseas transactions. The U.S. Treasury Department penalizes foreign banks and companies that disobey. Sanctioned nations have included Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and more recently, China and Russia.

The U.S. government’s frequent resort to economic sanctions has greatly contributed to new stirrings on behalf of a new international currency system. Confiscation of currency reserves deposited in U.S. and European banks that belong to Iran, Venezuela, and Afghanistan have likewise encouraged calls for change.

On March 29 China and Brazil announced they would use their own currencies in trading with each other. China is Brazil’s biggest trade partner.  China’s renminbi currency presently constitutes a major share of Brazil’s currency reserves.

Earlier in 2023, Brazil and Argentina proposed cooperation toward creating a common currency for themselves.  At the January meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Brazilian President Lula da Silva opined that, “If it were up to me, I would promote a single currency for the region.” He would call it the “SUR” (South).  The ALBA regional alliance in 2009 proposed an electronic currency called the “Sucre” aimed at reducing dollar dependency.

Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is the recently named head of the New Development Bank which, headquartered in Shanghai, serves the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The bank represents an alternative to the U.S. -dominated International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The shift away from dollar dependency is evident elsewhere. At a Russian-Indian “Strategic Partnership …Forum” recently, a Russian official announced that the BRICS states would be creating a new currency and that the formal announcement would be made at the BRICS summit meeting in Durban South Africa in August.

The BRICS countries account for “40% of the global population and one-fourth of the global GDP.” According to People’s Dispatch, Iran and Saudi Arabia, having recently signed a peace accord, will soon be joining BRICS.  Egypt, Algeria, the UAE, Mexico, Argentina, and Nigeria apparently are giving consideration.  The values of new currencies will rest not on another currency but on the value of “products, rare-earth minerals, or soil.”  

Iran and Russia in January agreed on methods useful for bypassing the SWIFT banking system, the U.S. tool for servicing its dollar dominance.  To evade U.S. sanctions, the two countries reply on their own currencies for most transactions.

At their summit in March, Russian and Chinese leaders reiterated their intention to expand bilateral trade and utilize their own currencies. China increasingly is using its own currency in transactions with Asian, African, and Latin American countries. The yuan “has become the world’s fifth-largest payment currency, third-largest currency in trade settlement and fifth-largest reserve currency,” according to Global Times.

Saudi Arabia is on the verge of selling oil and natural gas in currencies other than the dollar, and China occasionally pays Arabian Gulf nations in yuan for those products.   

The finance ministers and governors of the central banks of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Indonesia on March 28. At the top of their agenda were “discussions to reduce dependence on the US Dollar, Euro, Yen, and British Pound from financial transactions and move to settlements in local currencies”. The ASEAN nations, an alliance of 10 southeast Asian nations, are developing a digital payment system for member states’ transactions.

Dollar dominance may be losing its appeal closer to home.  Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill claims that, The U. S. dollar plays a far too dominant role in global finance … Whenever the Federal Reserve Board has embarked on periods of monetary tightening, or the opposite, loosening, the consequences on the value of the dollar and the knock-on effects have been dramatic.”

Gillian Tell, chair of the Financial Times’ editorial board notes that, “concerns are afoot that this month’s US banking turmoil, inflation and looming debt ceiling battle is making dollar-based assets less attractive.” Plus, “a multipolar pattern could come as a shock to American policymakers, given how much external financing the US needs.”

There are wider implications. Argentinian economist Julio Gambina bemoans “disorder in the world economy …[and] this attitude of unilateralism represented by the US sanctions.” Interviewed on March 29, Gambina points out that “wealth has a father and a mother: labor and nature.”

He adds that, “Latin America and the Caribbean … where inequality is growing the most …  have a highly skilled working class, willing to carry forward the production of wealth. We have the resource of assets held in common for sovereign development through which the interests of our peoples and the reproduction of nature, life and society are defended.”

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

A Singular Reality, or Not / by Paul Buhle

Posted on MR Online on April 6, 2023

John Bellamy Foster, John Ross, Deborah Veneziale, and Vijay Prashad, Washington’s New Cold War: A Socialist Perspective (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2023), 108 pages, $15.

The “singular reality” (my phrase) on display here is the imagined reality in the mind’s eye of Beltline/Pentagon global strategists. Few readers will be surprised at the cravings of neoconservatives to control every inch of the planet. Many readers will be surprised to learn about the bipartisan nature of the vision and strategy, and the wide shifts of heretofore accepted perspectives, following the collapse of the East Bloc. Most shocking for readers of this volume will likely be the apparent embrace of the huge dangers of nuclear war now staring us in the face.

Perhaps it is best to start in the middle of the story, and with economics before politics. Following the meltdown of the US financial sector in 2008, and in the face of a seemingly unstoppable growth of the Chinese economy, large parts of the world economy began to shift gears ominously—from the US standpoint, that is. The creation of a BRICS block and the widening sense in the global South that the dollar might no longer remain a reliable currency, accompanied by the accelerating Chinese pace in technological sophistication as well as economic volume. The prize that had, for a decade or two, seemed so temptingly close, appeared to be slipping away. The weaponization of the dollar did indeed successfully freeze a trillion dollars in Russian assets (along with those in a number of other countries, including Venezuela and Iran) but with something like the opposite of the desired results, weakening the dollar still further.

A multitude of other factors complicate any picture, but within the world of fiercely competitive global commerce, a kind of multi-polarity had already been effectively reached, ideologies notwithstanding. China was rapidly becoming Germany’s main trade partner, to point up one very sore and revealing spot in Washington’s expectations. Various Asian nations, across the usual political grounds, had begun organizing their own trading bloc, blatantly in the face of US resistance. Many African and Latin American leaders likewise showed less and less willingness to follow Washington’s lead on strategies for their own economies.

Thus a dilemma, or series of dilemmas, piled up, one after another. If a clash of ideologies has traditionally driven various wings of US politics, the stable or even predictable lines of contrast between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, have become, in important ways, harder to discern.

One of these shifts is most obvious, if sometimes overlooked because of its bipartisan character. Looking back now to the early 1990s, we are reminded of the formulations of Paul Wolfowitz, formerly an aide to super-hawk Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (best remembered in Congress as the “Senator from Boeing” and AFL chief George Meany’s favorite for president in 1972). According to a crucial document of the years shortly after the East Bloc collapse, Wolfowitz insisted that the multi-polar world forced upon the US by the Cold War and accompanying colonial challenges had now come to an end. The US had the opportunity and every reason to nail down total control. Nominally a Democrat, Wolfowitz had since become a favorite advisor of Republicans and for good reasons. “Wolfowitz of Arabia,” a New York Times acronym gained and lost in record time during the presidency of George W. Bush, personally symbolized the expectation of victory in Iraq leading to the near-time collapse of all unfriendly regimes in the Middle East, i.e. those contesting US leadership of the region.

The larger global strategy had already been envisioned through a crucial first step, the advance of US hegemony into Eurasia. Zbigniew Brzezinski, erstwhile advisor to President Jimmy Carter, made this very clear when sketching out the “grand chessboard” of the strategic future, also a few years after the fall of the East Bloc. The expansion of NATO eastward, most especially encompassing the Ukraine, would, according to Brezinski, complete a task already advancing rapidly with the collapsed Russian economy under the aegis of the US favorite (Time came close to calling him an appointee), Boris Yeltsin. Bill Clinton himself had gotten the ball rolling more swiftly, accomplishing through the Balkan Wars a larger NATO, more firmly controlled from Washington. The new Russia would, in this view, recede forever from strategic rivalry and more than likely, be broken up into any number of states more readily controllable by the West.

This initiative also required a military backup: an advance in nuclear strategy. A year after Putin announced in 2007 that a unipolar world would be unacceptable to Russia, a NATO Summit in Bucharest made clear that the inclusion of the Ukraine had become highly desireable, even inevitable in time. “Unipolar” and “multipolar” now and most terrifyingly, had both become potentially deadly conceptions of world order.

Historian E. P. Thompson, a global peace leader, had warned decades earlier that the placement of Cruise missiles in Western Europe marked a new and increasingly dangerous phase of weapons rivalry. In a massive game of “chicken,” strategists had begun speaking more about “first strike” as an imagined possibility. The doctrine of MAD, mutual assured destruction, was an acceptable if inevitably short term solution to the threat of Armageddon. But Reagan’s Star Wars finalized a strategic shift already underway with Jimmy Carter.

“Counterforce” strategy, that is to say the deployment of American weapons specifically as a first strike, would as envisioned wipe out Russian nukes before they left the ground, while nuclear submarines would also be destroyed before their misiles could fire. Anti-ballastic missile systems would finish off the job by picking off those few missiles that the other side managed to launch. Thompson called this prospect the “Long Afternoon,” beyond which lay only societies in ruin, their futures hopeless poisoned.

The Chinese, a newly-emerging opponent of the early twenty-first century, had remained in these calculations hopelessly behind. Now, amidst the economic race for superiority, the Chinese suddenly aspired to catch up to military strategies as well. The Pentagon and the national security advisors quietly advised that the US had now reached the verge of nuclear primacy, i.e., first strike-capability, but the advantage was likely to remain for a limited time only. That is to say: the Armageddon-like strategy could, but probably only for in the near future, be wielded, either by action…or by threat, “threat” being naturally the preferred means of maintaining an otherwise downward-slipping US global control.

Daniel Ellsberg wrote eloquently that he considered the US strategy to be highly dangerous nonsense. In time, the Russians and Chinese would catch up anyway, as they seem to be doing with their own technologies of horror.

Thus the Ukraine and the Standoff. Here we are today, apparently amidst of a test of wills. That is to say, we face a test of firepower, and a test of something described more and more as West vs East, as if the rest of the planet had remained the bystanders that they seemed to be in the high days of the Cold War. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the US is preparing, even looking toward a confrontation of some kind with a badly weakened Russia and an ever-stronger China. The world is a dangerous place, and the rhetoric increasingly threatens to boil over to something worse than words.

Paul Buhle is an old-time peacenik, still at work producing non-fiction historical graphic novels. The latest is W.E.B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk: A Graphic Interpretation, drawn by Paul Peart-Smith. Buhle has been a contributor to Monthly Review since the 1970s.

Full Text of Xi Jinping’s keynote address at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting

Image: socialistchina.org/

Originally published by The State Council Information Office, PRC on March 16, 2023

On March 15th in Beijing, leaders and representatives from hundreds of political parties and organizations from around the world gathered virtually for a discussion with leaders of the Communist Party of China. Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and President of the People’s Republic of China, delivered the keynote address. We reprint here the full text of General Secretary Xi’s speech in recognition of its significance and timeliness at this fraught historical moment. Readers will find additional coverage of this consequential meeting, Xi’s speech, and “the responsibility of political parties” at cpmaine.org in the weeks ahead.

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote address at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting via video link on Wednesday.

The following is the full text of the address:

Join Hands on the Path Towards Modernization

Keynote Address by H.E. Xi Jinping

General Secretary of the Central Committee of The Communist Party of China

And President of the People’s Republic of China

At the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting

Beijing, 15 March 2023

Leaders of political parties from around the world,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It gives me great pleasure to join all of you for the discussion on “Path Towards Modernization: The Responsibility of Political Parties”.

The history of human development is full of twists and turns. Similarly, the journey of each country to explore the path to modernization is also arduous. In today’s world, multiple challenges and crises are intertwined. The global economic recovery remains sluggish, the development gap is widening, ecological environment is deteriorating, and the Cold War mentality is lingering. Humanity’s modernization process has once again reached a crossroads of history.

Polarization or common prosperity? Pure materialistic pursuit or coordinated material and cultural-ethical advancement? Draining the pond to catch the fish or creating harmony between man and nature? Zero-sum game or win-win cooperation? Copying other countries’ development model or achieving independent development in light of national conditions? What kind of modernization do we need and how can we achieve it? Confronted with these questions, political parties as an important force steering and driving the modernization process are duty bound to provide answers. Here, I wish to share some of my observations.

We must put the people first and ensure modernization is people-centered. The people are the creators of history and are the strongest bedrock and force in advancing modernization. The ultimate goal of modernization is people’s free and well-rounded development. For a modernization path to work and work well, it must put the people first. Modernization is not only about indicators and statistics on the paper but more about the delivery of a happy and stable life for the people. With a focus on the people’s aspirations for a better life and further progress of civilization, political parties should strive to achieve material abundance, political integrity, cultural-ethical enrichment, social stability, and pleasant living environments so that modernization will better address the concerns and meet diversified needs of the people. In this way, modernization will promote the sustainable development of humanity by not only increasing the wellbeing of this generation but also protecting the rights and interest of future generations.

We must uphold the principle of independence and explore diversified paths towards modernization. Modernization is not “an exclusive patent” of a small handful of countries, nor is it a single answer question. It cannot be realized by a cookie cutter approach or simple “copy and paste”. For any country to achieve modernization, it needs not only to follow the general laws governing the process, but more importantly consider its own national conditions and unique features. It is the people of a country that are in the best position to tell what kind of modernization best suits them. Developing countries have the right and ability to independently explore the modernization path with their distinctive features based on their national realities. We must develop our country and our nation with our own strength, and we must maintain a firm grasp on the future of our country’s development and progress. We should respect and support the development paths independently chosen by different peoples to jointly usher in a new prospect for humanity’s modernization that is like a garden where a hundred flowers bloom.

We must uphold fundamental principles and break new ground and ensure the continuity of the modernization process. In the face of various new issues, conditions and challenges in the modernization process, political parties should boldly take on responsibilities and excel in their work. We should break the shackles of stale thinking, remove institutional barriers, explore new methods and new approaches, and break new ground in theories and practices to instill unceasing dynamism into the modernization process. We should work together to reform and develop the global governance system and make the international order more just and equitable as we advance humanity’s modernization in an environment of equal rights, equal opportunities and fair rules for all.

We must help others to succeed while seeking our own success and ensure all can enjoy the outcomes of modernization. Humanity lives in a community with a shared future where we rise and fall together. For any country to achieve modernization, it should pursue common development through solidarity and cooperation and follow the principles of joint contribution, shared benefits and win-win outcome. The frontrunners should sincerely support other countries in their development. One will not be seen in a more favourable light after blowing out others’ lamp; nor will they go farther by blocking others’ paths. We should share opportunities, create a future together and make the pie of humanity’s modernization bigger to ensure more people enjoy the outcomes of modernization in a fairer way. We stand firmly opposed to the practice of preserving one’s own development privilege by suppressing and containing other countries’ endeavor to achieve modernization.

We must forge ahead with enterprise and ensure firm leadership over modernization. Modernization does not fall into our lap automatically. It is the result of hard work with the strong historical initiative. Political parties are the leading and driving force for modernization. Their values, ability to lead and govern, ethos, willpower and character have a direct bearing on the orientation and future of the modernization process. As an ancient Chinese philosopher said, “He who conquers himself is strong.” Political parties should integrate party building with national modernization, forge ahead with enterprise and resolve, and excel themselves. In this way, they will have the confidence, determination and capability to respond to the challenges and questions presented by the times, meet people’s expectations, and steer the course and marshal strength for the modernization cause.

Ladies and gentlemen,


Achieving modernization is a dream that the Chinese people have strived to fulfill since modern times. The journey of over 100 years that the Party has traversed to unite and lead the Chinese people in pursuing national rejuvenation is also an exploration of a path towards modernization. Thanks to the unremitting efforts of generation after generation, we have found our own path to modernization.

The 20th National Congress of the CPC has proposed advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization. Chinese modernization is one of a huge population, of common prosperity for all, of material and cultural-ethical advancement, of harmony between humanity and nature, and of peaceful development. It is rooted in our national conditions and also draws on the experience of other countries. It carries the imprint of history and traditional culture and also contains modern elements. It delivers benefit to the Chinese people and also advances common development of the world. It is a sure path for us to build a stronger nation and realize the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It is also a path we must take to seek progress for humanity and harmony for the entire world. We will stay committed to the right direction, right theories and the right path. We will not veer off course by changing our nature or abandoning our system. As our own future is closely connected with that of other countries and peoples, we will strive to provide new opportunities for world development, add new impetus to humanity’s exploration of paths towards modernization and make new contributions to the theory and practice of humanity’s modernization as we make new progress in Chinese modernization.

The CPC will continue to pursue high-quality development and promote global growth and prosperity. We will accelerate the building of a new development paradigm that promotes high-standard opening up and steady expansion of market access. China’s door will only open wider. As we further modernize our industrial system, we will provide the world with more and better products made and created in China, and with a Chinese market of a larger scale and stronger demand. We will continue to support and help developing countries in their pursuit of faster development, industrialization and modernization and offer Chinese solutions and strength for narrowing the North-South gap and achieving common development. The CPC stands ready to work with political parties of all other countries to advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, accelerate the solid implementation of the Global Development Initiative, foster new drivers for global development and build a global community of development.

The CPC will continue to safeguard international fairness and justice and promote world peace and stability. In advancing modernization, China will neither tread the old path of colonization and plunder, nor the crooked path taken by some countries to seek hegemony once they grow strong. What China pursues is the right course of peaceful development. We seek to settle differences through dialogue and resolve disputes through cooperation. We firmly oppose hegemony and power politics in all their forms. We advocate solidarity and win-win mentality in handling complex and intertwined security challenges to set up a fair and just security architecture that is built and shared by all. The world does not need a new Cold War. The practice of stoking division and confrontation in the name of democracy is in itself a violation of the spirit of democracy. It will not receive any support. What it brings is only endless harm. A modernized China will strengthen the force for world peace and international justice. No matter what level of development China achieves, it will never seek hegemony or expansion.

The CPC will continue to promote inter-civilization exchanges and mutual learning and advance the progress of human civilizations. Around the world, countries and regions have chosen different paths to modernization, which are rooted in their unique and long civilizations. All civilizations created by human society are splendid. They are where each country’s modernization drive draws its strength and where its unique feature comes from. They, transcending time and space, have jointly made important contribution to humanity’s modernization process. Chinese modernization, as a new form of human advancement, will draw upon the merits of other civilizations and make the garden of world civilizations more vibrant.

Ladies and gentlemen,


A single flower does not make spring, while one hundred flowers in full blossom bring spring to the garden. As the future of all countries are closely connected, tolerance, coexistence, exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations play an irreplaceable role in advancing humanity’s modernization process and making the garden of world civilizations flourish. Here, I wish to propose the Global Civilization Initiative.

We advocate the respect for the diversity of civilizations. Countries need to uphold the principles of equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness among civilizations, and let cultural exchanges transcend estrangement, mutual learning transcend clashes, and coexistence transcend feelings of superiority.

We advocate the common values of humanity. Peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom are the common aspirations of all peoples. Countries need to keep an open mind in appreciating the perceptions of values by different civilizations, and refrain from imposing their own values or models on others and from stoking ideological confrontation.

We advocate the importance of inheritance and innovation of civilizations. Countries need to fully harness the relevance of their histories and cultures to the present times, and push for creative transformation and innovative development of their fine traditional cultures.

We advocate robust international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation. Countries need to explore the building of a global network for inter-civilization dialogue and cooperation, enrich the contents of exchanges and expand avenues of cooperation to promote mutual understanding and friendship among people of all countries and jointly advance the progress of human civilizations.

We are ready to work together with the international community to open up a new prospect of enhanced exchanges and understanding among different peoples and better interactions and integration of diversified cultures. Together we can make the garden of world civilizations colorful and vibrant.

The CPC is committed to strengthening exchanges and cooperation with other political parties to pursue the just cause together. We are ready to deepen interactions with political parties and organizations in other countries to expand the convergence of ideas and interests. Let us leverage the strength of a new type of party-to-party relations for the building of a new type of international relations and expand global partnerships by fostering stronger partners with world political parties. The CPC stands ready to share governance experience with political parties and organizations of other countries so that together we can make big strides on the path to modernization toward the goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Ladies and Gentlemen,


There are bound to be setbacks on humanity’s journey to modernization, but the future is bright. The CPC is willing to work with all of you to ensure that different modernization drives form a mighty force driving prosperity and progress of the world and forge ahead nonstop in the long river of history!

Thank you. 

Xi Jinping has served as the president of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) since 2013.

TikTok, TikTok…the countdown toward a new Cold War speeds up/ by Wei Yu, Nuvpreet Kalra, and Melissa Garriga

Rep. Earl Carter, R-Ga., questions TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew during a Congressional hearing on the platform’s consumer privacy and data security practices, March 23, 2023. | Jose Luis Magana / AP

Originally published in the People’s World on April 3, 2023

Ten years ago, Edward Snowden told the whole world the truth about the U.S. global surveillance programs. If Congress cares about our digital privacy as some members are claiming, it should first begin by investigating the surveillance policies of its own U.S. agencies. The campaign against TikTok is a fear-mongering tactic to wage war on China.

In 2020, the FBI used social media to monitor racial justice protesters who were targeted for arrests. For example, activist Mike Avery was arrested after posting about protests on Facebook, and his charges were dropped without explanation a few weeks later. An FBI official was so frustrated with the extensive social media surveillance that he told The Intercept, “Man, I don’t even know what’s legal anymore.”

The dissonance between accusing TikTok of security concerns and working with other companies to invade people’s privacy rings loudly in our ears. Social media has long been a tool used by federal agencies to target individuals and communities designated as “threat.”

The Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have monitored the social media activities of immigrant rights activists for years. The State Department used social media screening to discriminate against the Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities under the Trump administration’s “Muslim ban.”

It was only last year that the post-9/11 NSA phone surveillance program was reported to have finally been shut down. Major telecom companies like Verizon gave the government access to hundreds of millions of calls and texts. Dataminr, a startup Twitter partner, provided police with data about BLM protests. One focus on “potential gang members” targeted Black and Latinx people, including school-aged children.

Meta’s (Facebook’s) subsidiary WhatsApp was reportedly used by the Saudi government to hack journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s phone before he was abducted and murdered. Meanwhile, Meta itself used a VPN to spy on users’ smartphones for market research in exchange for bribes. WhatsApp is not banned on government devices, but TikTok should be?

If our lawmakers are concerned about protecting digital privacy, then Congress should start by investigating American federal agencies. Unlike China, as well as other Western countries, such as many EU member-states, the U.S. does not have any digital privacy laws on the federal level.

The U.S. could cooperate with China to better ensure people’s privacy is protected, instead of driving fear to target one single social media platform.

The ongoing effort to investigate and ban TikTok is not about our privacy, but about fueling more aggression against China. Fear-mongering about China has also caused the rise of anti-Asian racism in the U.S.

In banning TikTok, the US is projecting its invasive policies onto another government. Warmongers are using the issue to create paranoia and justify even more aggression towards China.

It is not a coincidence that these recent bans have come about shortly after the so-called Chinese “spy balloon” was shot down over the U.S. Privacy concerns are being used to wage war on China. The U.S. should focus on passing federal data privacy laws instead of targeting one app.

Double standards and warmongering against China need to stop. China is not our enemy.

Wei Yu is coordinator of the “China is Not Our Enemy” campaign at the anti-war organization CODEPINK. Born in Tianjin, China, she has lived in the U.S. since her high school years. Wei is passionate about anti-imperialism and peace-building work and enjoys experimenting with vegan recipes in her free time.

Nuvpreet Kalra is a social media intern at the anti-war organization CODEPINK. She is studying towards a Masters degree in Internet Equalities at University of the Arts London. Her main organizing interests are anti-imperialism, de-colonialism, anti-racism, digital oppression, and workers’ rights.

Melissa Garriga is the media relations manager at the anti-war organization CODEPINK. Born and raised in a Mississippi coastal town where the local economy is and remains dependent on government contracts to build navy warships, Melissa witnessed early on how the war economy exploited poor and working-class people in the United States in order to kill and injure poor and working-class people abroad. She previously worked for the Poor People’s Campaign.

A U.S. general hypes China as threat in Latin America / by W.T. Whitney Jr.

General Laura Richardson, Commander of United States Southern Command testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee. | Jose Luis Magana / AP

Published in the People’s World on March 29, 2023

The U.S. government has long intervened in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Now, the U.S. military is paying attention to China’s economic activities there.

Gen. Laura Richardson on March 8 reported to the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on the actions and needs of the Southern Command, which she heads. She has charge of all U.S. military operations in the region.

Citing the 2022 National Security Strategy, Richardson declared that “no region impacts the United States more directly than the Western Hemisphere… [There,] autocrats are working overtime to undermine democracy.” And security there “is critical to homeland defense.”

Richardson stated that “the PRC (People’s Republic of China) has both the capability and intent to eschew international norms, advance its brand of authoritarianism, and amass power and influence at the expense of the existing and emerging democracies in our hemisphere.” The Southern Command’s “main priority…is to expose and mitigate PRC malign activity.”

She sees a “myriad of ways in which the PRC is spreading its malign influence, wielding its economic might, and conducting gray zone activities to expand its military and political access and influence.” A “gray zone,” according to the NATO-friendly Atlantic Council, is a “set of activities…[like] nefarious economic activities, influence operations, …cyberattacks, mercenary operations, assassinations, and disinformation campaigns.”

Richardson highlighted China’s trade with LAC that is heading toward “$700 billion [annually] by 2035.” The United States, in her view, will be facing intense competition, and presently “its comparative trade advantage is eroding.”

She added that “The PRC’s efforts to extract South America’s natural resources to support its own population…are conducted at the expense of our partner nations and their citizens.” And opportunities for “quality private sector investment” are disappearing.

Competition extends to space: “11 PRC-linked space facilities across five countries in this region [enable] space tracking and surveillance capabilities.” Richardson complained of “24 countries [that] have existing Chinese telecommunication infrastructure (3G/4G), increasing their potential to transition to Chinese 5G.”

She expressed concern both about surveillance networks supplied by China that represent a “potential counterintelligence threat” and about Latin Americans going to China “to receive training on cybersecurity and military doctrine.” Richardson denounced China’s role in facilitating environmental crimes and pointed to “potential dual use for malign commercial and military activities.”

“Relationships absolutely matter,” she insisted, “and our partner democracies are desperate for assistance from the United States.” Plus, “if we’re not there in time, they…take what’s available, creating opportunities for the PRC.”

Moving beyond China, Richardson indicated that “many partner nations…see TCOs [transnational criminal organizations] as their primary security challenge.” That’s because drug-cartel violence leads to deaths and poverty, and “illicit funds exacerbate regional corruption, insecurity, and instability.”

Her report avoids mention of particular countries other than offering brief references to Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. She criticized Russia for “military engagements with Venezuela and Nicaragua” and for spreading “false narratives.” Richardson praised Colombia for providing military training in other countries.

The Southern Command gains “exponential return” on supplying various countries with U.S. weapons and supplies. It conducts joint military exercises, and “provides professional military education to personnel from 28 countries.”

Richardson reported at length on processes she sees as fostering useful relationships between her command and the various governments and military services. The tone of urgency characterizing her discussion on China was entirely lacking.

Economic intervention

Gen. Richardson’s view that China has greatly expanded its economic involvement with the LAC nations is on target.

Since 2005, China’s state-owned banks have arranged for 117 loans in the region worth, in all, more than $140 billion. They averaged over $10 billion annually. Since 2020, China has made fewer loans.

Chinese trade with Latin America grew from $12 billion in 2000 to $448 billion in 2021. China’s imports of “ores (42%), soybeans (16%), mineral fuels and oils (10%), meat (6%), and copper (5%)” totaled $221 billion in 2021. The value of exported manufactured goods that year was $227 billion. By 2022, China had become the biggest trading partner in four Latin American countries and the second-largest in many others.

China’s foreign direct investment (FDI) has long represented China’s strongest economic tie to the region. FDI signifies funding of projects abroad directed at long-term impact. China’s FDI from 2005 to mid-2022 was $143 billion. Energy projects and “metals/mining” accounted for 59% and 24% of the total, respectively. Of that total, Brazil and Peru received 45% and 17%, respectively.

The FDI flow since 2016 has averaged $4.5 billion annually; worldwide, China’s FDI has contracted.

Chinese banks and corporations have invested heavily in lithium production in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, which, together, account for 56% of the world’s lithium deposits. China is the largest investor in Peru’s mining sector, controlling seven large mines and owning two of Peru’s biggest copper mines. Brazil is the world’s largest recipient of Chinese investments.

China’s government has linked FDI to its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that began in 2013. As of May 2022, 21 Latin American and Caribbean countries were cooperating with the BRI and 11 of them had formally joined.

On the ground

U.S. military intervention in LAC is far from new. Analyst Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein complements Richardson’s report with a three-part survey, accessible herehere, and here, of recent U.S. military activities in the region.

He indicates the United States now has “12 military bases in Panamá, 12 in Puerto Rico, 9 in Colombia, 8 in Perú, 3 in Honduras, 2 in Paraguay, as well as similar installations in Aruba, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Cuba (Guantánamo), and in other countries.”

Rodríguez maintains that “levels of aggressive interference by Washington in the region have increased dramatically,” and that U.S. embassies there are supplied with more military, National Security Council, and CIA personnel than ever before.

Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina Garcia, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang shake hands following the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, at a ceremony in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Sunday, March 26, 2023. Honduras formed diplomatic ties with China on Sunday after breaking off relations with Taiwan, which is increasingly isolated and now recognized by only 13 sovereign states, including Vatican City. The U.S., meanwhile, is upset about China’s growing ties of cooperation and trade in Latin America. | Greg Baker / Pool Photo via AP

Rodríguez notes features of the LAC region that attract U.S. attention, among them: closeness to strategically important Antarctica; reserves of fresh water and biodiversity in Amazonian regions; the Guarani Aquifer near the triple frontier of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, the largest in the world; and huge reserves of valuable natural resources.

Among ongoing or recent U.S. military interventions are these:

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is implementing a “master plan” for the navigability of the Paraguay River and Plata River Basin. The nearby Triple Frontier area supposedly harbors international terrorism and drug trafficking.
  • The U.S. military facility in Neuquén, Argentina, is turning from its alleged humanitarian mission to activities in line with local preparations for oil extraction.
  • S. officials on Oct. 13, 2022, announced that 95 military vehicles were being donated to Guatemala for drug-war activities.
  • In Brazil in September 2022, General Richardson indicated that U.S. forces would join Brazilian counterparts to fight fires in the Amazon.
  • The Southern Command’s fostering of good relations with Peru’s military has borne fruit. Under consideration in Peru’s Congress is a proposal to authorize the entry of foreign military forces. To what nation would they belong? Hint: former CIA operative and U.S. Ambassador Lisa Kenna met with Peru’s Defense Minister the day before President Pedro Castillo was removed in a parliamentary coup on Dec. 7, 2022.
  • In March 2023, two U.S. congresspersons proposed that U.S. troops enter Mexico to carry out drug-war operations.
  • Presently the United States is making great efforts to establish a naval base on Gorgona island off Colombia’s Pacific coast. It would be the ninth U.S. base in Colombia, a NATO “global partner.”
  • In Colombia, U.S. troops acting on behalf of NATO, are active in that country’s Amazon region supposedly to protect the environment and combat drug trafficking.
  • The U.S. National Defense Authorization Act of December 2022 awarded the Southern Command $858 million for military operations in Ecuador.
  • In a second visit, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stone was plying Uruguayan waters in February ostensibly to train with local counterparts for search and rescue operations. The ship was also monitoring the nearby Chinese fishing fleet.

Rodríguez does not comment on U.S. interventions in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. That’s because they’ve persisted for “more than 60, 40, and 20 years, respectively” and each requires a “special report.”

John Quincy Adams returns

Proclaiming the Monroe Doctrine 200 years ago, Secretary of State Adams informed European powers that the United States regarded “any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.”

Gen. Richardson would apply the warning of that era to the PRC. Yet signs of hegemonic aspirations from that quarter are absent.

Commenting recently, Argentinian economist and academician Claudio Katz notes that “China concentrates its forces in the economic arena while avoiding confrontations at the political or military level.… Investments are not accompanied by troops and bases, useful for guaranteeing return on investments.”

Besides, China “does business with all governments, without regard to their internal politics.” That tendency, Katz writes, stems from the PRC having “arisen from a socialist experience, having hybrid characteristics, and not completing a passage to capitalism.” He maintains that China, with its economic involvement, contributes nothing to advancing socialism in the region.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.