Sinophobia – two new reads

15 Sep

On July 11 – see China Rising: humanity’s best hope? – I gave my view of the state we’re in:

  • Our world is capitalist in its advanced stage of imperialism – the export of monopoly capital from global north to south, and the south to north repatriation of profits.
  • The prime beneficiaries of this world order are rentier elites in the most successful imperialisms: i.e. most of the former colonial powers (including the USA) but also the Antipodes, Canada, Scandinavia and an EU led by Germany.
  • In its initial progressive phase capitalism freed humanity, albeit at terrible cost, from feudal ties and slavery while hugely advancing human productivity. Now its structures (means of wealth creation in ever fewer hands) and laws of motion (prioritising above all else of private profits and insatiable accumulation) demand unsustainable levels of narrowly defined and grossly distorted ‘growth’, condemning the world to:
    • environmental degradation;
    • ceaseless wars, normalised and monetised, and sold to us in tissues of lies;
    • levels of global and national inequality as dysfunctional as they are obscene, and a mortal threat to meaningful democracy.

I went on to say that:

The three broad strands of resistance in the West – social democracy .. ‘vanguard’ revolutionary sects .. grass roots activism pace Occupy, XR etc – all have useful features but, each for its own reasons, zero chance of success of the kind and magnitude needed.

And that:

While I’ve long welcomed the rise of China, I’ve done so not because of its intrinsic features – of which my knowledge could have been written on a postage stamp – but because I saw as A Good Thing any check to US Exceptionalism’s pursuit, blood-soaked and truly terrifying, of full spectrum dominance ... Lately though I’ve been taking a closer look at China – and I like what I see.

At start of this month, below a post on a separate matter, a debating adversary took me to task for failing to see that, since China is capitalist, it is no better than the West. I replied:

China’s capitalists (a) have been an important component in a miracle that’s lifted hundreds of millions from extreme poverty, (b) are subordinate to state policy – in the West it’s the other way round – and (c) exist precisely because the failure of the West’s Left to make its own revolutions obliged China to adapt to global neoliberalism.

I see China’s rise as to be welcomed, albeit cautiously. 

Why? Because I see that rise, and Belt & Road, as an engine capable of freeing the global south from the chains of imperialism. Instead of the neoliberally conditional loans of IMF and World Bank, which enforce fire sales of state sectors to the delight of Wall Street, imperialised nations can now look to Beijing, Shanghai and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank for capitalisations less cripplingly conditional.

Given that the same movement, to privatise the world and monetise every aspect of human experience, is found in global south and north alike, liberation of the south is liberation for all.

(One obvious and concrete aspect of this is that imperialism has globalised capitalist relations of production. As John Smith shows, capital-labour relations are now effectively north-south relations. This is why Trump, for all his insistence – which I think was sincere – that “American jobs are coming home”, was never going to be able to deliver.)

Of course, there are dangers. One is that Beijing will lose control of its capitalists, and fail to prevent their exporting capital to the global south on the same exploitative terms as the West. Such fears would appear to form part of the context for the current CCP crackdown. They also second guess the outcomes my debating friend predicts, and who’s to say he’s wrong?

(Though predictions without a time limit are worthless, and none of China’s ultra-leftist critics seem in any great rush to come forward with hard evidence of this already happening.)

Another forms the subject of my two reads. I mean the US-led response to this loosening of the Western investor stranglehold on southern economies. That response will be warlike, though couched in humanitarian terms, and may bring us by miscalculation or design to Armageddon.

But I see these as risks we cannot avoid. As any sane and tolerably informed person can surely see, our current road leads to Hell on Earth.  And such pockets of resistance as do exist in the West are woefully inadequate to the task of setting us on a better one.

*

Read 1 is short, so I’m reproducing it in full. It comes from Information Clearing House.

Pentagon Paid the Arms Industry at Least $4.4 Trillion Since 9/11

The top five profiteers were Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman

By Dave DeCamp

September 14, 2021.  Brown University’s Costs of War Project released a new report Monday detailing post-9/11 spending by the Pentagon. The study found that of the over $14 trillion spent by the Pentagon since the start of the war in Afghanistan, one-third to one-half went to private military contractors.

The report, authored by William Hartung of the Center for International Policy, said $4.4 trillion of the total spending went towards weapons procurement and research and development, a category that directly benefits corporate military contractors. Private contractors are also paid through other funds, like operations and maintenance, but those numbers are harder to determine.

Out of the $4.4 trillion, the top five US weapons makers — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman — received $2.2 trillion, almost half. To put these huge numbers into perspective, the report pointed out that in the 2020 fiscal year, Lockheed Martin received $75 billion in Pentagon contracts, compared to the combined $44 billion budget for the State Department and USAID that same year.

Besides getting paid for weapons and research, US corporations profit from private contractors that are deployed to warzones. The most notorious private security contractor previously employed by the Pentagon is Blackwater, the mercenary group whose employees massacred 17 people in Iraq’s Nisour Square back in 2007.

Besides armed mercenaries, the Pentagon employed private contractors for just about every task in US warzones. Demonstrating the Pentagon’s reliance on contractors, at the end of the Trump administration, only 2,500 US troops were left in Afghanistan, but over 18,000 Pentagon contractors were still in the country.

The report explained how China is the new justification for military spending:

The most likely impact of the shift towards China will be to further tighten the grip of major weapons makers like Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Raytheon Technologies on the Pentagon budget.

See also:

 Study says nearly half of “defense” spending for 9/11 wars went to private contractors
1,700 Former Acquisition Officials Moved on to Defense Contractors, Report Finds

*

Read 2, also in ICH, is by a man I place alongside Pepe Escobar as one of my most dependable sources on the big picture as it pertains to China. Michael Hudson begins his 3,000 worder:

The Vocabulary of Neoliberal Diplomacy in Today’s New Cold War

Mr. Soros has thrown a public sissy fit over the fact that he can’t make the kind of easy money off China that he was able to make when the Soviet Union was carved up and privatized. On September 7, 2021, in his second mainstream editorial in a week, George Soros expressed his horror at the recommendation by BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, that financial managers should triple their investment in China. Claiming that such investment would imperil U.S. national security by helping China, Mr. Soros stepped up his advocacy of U.S. financial and trade sanctions.

China’s policy of shaping markets to promote overall prosperity, instead of letting the economic surplus be concentrated in the hands of corporate and foreign investors, is an existential threat to America’s neoliberal priorities, he spells out. President Xi’s “Common Prosperity” program “seeks to reduce inequality by distributing the wealth of the rich to the general population. That does not augur well for foreign investors.” To neoliberals, that is heresy.

Criticizing China’s “abrupt cancellation of a new issue by Alibaba’s Ant group in November 2020,” and “banishment of U.S.-financed tutoring companies from China,” Mr. Soros singles out Blackstone’s co-founder Stephen Schwarzman (Note that Blackstone under Schwartzman is not to be confused with BlackRock under Larry Fink) and former Goldman Sachs President John L. Thornton for seeking to make financial returns for their investors instead of treating China as an enemy state and looming Cold War adversary:

The BlackRock initiative imperils the national security interests of the U.S. and other democracies because the money invested in China will help prop up President Xi’s regime … Congress should pass legislation empowering the Securities and Exchange Commission to limit the flow of funds to China. The effort ought to enjoy bipartisan support.

The New York Times published a prominent article defining the “Biden Doctrine” as seeing “China as America’s existential competitor; Russia as a disrupter; Iran and North Korea as nuclear proliferators, cyberthreats as ever-evolving and terrorism as spreading far beyond Afghanistan.” Against these threats, the article depicts U.S. strategy as representing “democracy,” the euphemism for countries with minimal governments leaving economic planning to Wall Street financial managers, and infrastructure in the hands of private investors, not provided at subsidized prices. Nations restrict monopolies and related rent-seeking are accused of being autocratic.

The problem, of course, is that just as the United States, Germany and other nations grew into industrial powers in the 19th and 20th century by government-sponsored infrastructure, progressive taxation, and anti-monopoly legislation, the post-1980 rejection of these policies has led them into economic stagnation for the 99 Percent burdened by debt deflation and rising rentier overhead paid to the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sectors. China is thriving by following precisely the policies by which the former leading industrial nations grew rich before suffering from the neoliberal financialization disease. This contrast prompts the article’s thrust, summarized in its summary of what it hopes will become a Congressionally supported Biden Doctrine of escalating a New Cold War against non-neoliberalized economies, juxtaposing U.S.-sponsored liberal-democratic imperialism against foreign socialism:

Last month, Mr. Blinken warned that China and Russia were ‘making the argument in public and in private that the United States is in decline – so it’s better to cast your lot with their authoritarian visions for the world than with our democratic one …

Read Professor Hudson’s piece in full …

* * *

4 Replies to “Sinophobia – two new reads

  1. One reality Hudson’s article succinctly highlights is that on the basis of its own criteria Capitalism is practiced better in China and Russia than in and across the West. Particularly in regard to replacing feudal rentier parasitism.

    • It’s not hard to see why. The Chicago School are fantasists at best. So are capitalism’s more general apologists. Capitalist ruling classes, like all ruling classes since the dawn of farming made class society possible, want all the protections of the state with none of the obligations. But the system that serves them so well always did need the state to save it from itself. Its internal contradictions are many, some of the more obvious being:

      • One, capitalism is premised on competition, but the drive to up market share and eliminate rivals through economies of scale itself begets monopoly.
      • Two, in driving down the value (and price) of two essentials of wealth creation for profit, it jeopardises the future of both. One essential is labour power. The other is the earth’s bounty.
         

        • On labour power, Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century saw the need for legislation like the Factory Acts, Food Adulteration Acts and so on. (The idealist versions of history which generations of schoolchildren have been raised on stripped these necessary moves of their materialist origins and sold them as an ideas-led march to moral progress based on Enlightenment values. In truth, the working class was at risk of being worn out. Such minimalist interventions were made to secure the future of profits. I don’t say humanitarian interventionists were cynics and fraudsters: rather that (as with Abolitionism) they were aided by material imperatives few of them understood.)
        • On nature’s resources, one sign that capitalism unbridled = rule by and for the criminally insane is that, as man made climate change melts polar ice, speculators – no longer the intrepid risk takers of capitalist folklore but huge and decidedly risk-averse monopolies – rub their hands with glee at the ability to get at the oil reserves beneath.
      • Three, aside from being nuclear powers, two reasons China and Russia cannot be cowed by the USA, though their arms budgets are far smaller, are that (a) their defence spending really does prioritise defence rather than profits and (b) in both cases is subject to the same controls as the economy at large: i.e. the state-as-arms-procurer dictates to capital rather than vice versa. One upshot is the capacity to produce superior weapons despite that much lower arms spend. Right now, to give one example, a central plank of Pentagon strategy – take out the bulk of Russia’s defence systems with a first strike, then shoot down the remnants of her response capacity with ‘star wars’ technologies – has been made obsolete by Russia’s new hypersonic missiles, to which the West has no answer.

      In truth I see Eurasia Rising as a fragile sliver of hope, no more. To borrow from Sartre, I look to the future – not my own of course; I turn 70 next year – not with pessimism but with stern optimism. Stern being the operative word.

      • The reliance of the those at the top of the manufactured social hierarchy on the majority placed below them for their human labour in maintaining their own position has always been problematic for them. Hence the occasional need for controlled concessions.

        From that perspective one route out of their dependency culture is to replace the human labour necessary for their own survival as well as position by working in stages towards automating those systems and meta-systems. Gradually making the majority they have always depended on surplus to requirements.

        It’s not easy to gauge how far we are into that process except to say it would be surprising, given the observed and recorded behaviour patterns of that class, if we were not already on such a trajectory. At least in the West.

        • You open up a huge theoretical issue, Dave. It is certainly true that a workerless factory can yield profits. Capital as a whole confronts and exploits Labour as a whole, with profits distributed within the capitalist classes not on the basis of surplus value extraction at point of value production, but broadly commensurate to scale of investment.

          But can Capital generate profits without surplus value extracted from human labour somewhere? I say it can’t, even in the highly financialised monopoly forms of imperialism which now hold. Either I, like all who explain profits through a labour theory of value, am wrong or capitalism is about to be superseded by new forms of exploitation.

          Or a return to old ones like feudalism or slavery, as Marxist geographer David Harvey believes is already happening. (FWIW I disagree.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.