Trump and Biden promise their fans a roaring hate-fest this election cycle, as they vie for the honor of defending America’s right to full spectrum dominance of every corner of the globe.
The Trump camp is now calling Joe Biden “Beijing Joe” and “Beijing’s ideal candidate,” and it looks like China-hating will be the main plank of his platform. Stupid will get stupider, dangerous will get more so.
I’m not eager to see how Trump might respond to Biden’s accusation that he’s 'all talk and no action on China.'
If there weren’t US military bases and nuclear weapons scattered all over the South China Sea, it would be tempting to laugh all this off and say "fair enough," since calling Trump a "Putin puppet" was the Democrats' main line of attack for the first three+ years of his presidency, until the Mueller Report belly flopped with insufficient evidence to indict Trump or anyone in the Trump campaign for “colluding” with Russians to elect him.
Newly released House Intelligence Committee docs now make it clear that there was never any hard evidence for the Crowdstrike writeup alleging that Russians hacked into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) computers in 2016, and the House Committee knew that years ago.
But the damage is done. Rachel Maddow and her ilk railed at us about demon Russia’s election interference for three years, even warning Midwesterners that Russia could turn off their heat in the dead of winter. Republicans, notably including former Republican House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, claimed to be as Russophobic as any Democrat, but without giving legitimacy to Mueller or Crowdstrike. As Russian Studies scholar Stephen F. Cohen said, “Russiagate, like Count Dracula, will never end because new political blood will be fed to this vampire. . . . The Russiagate fable — fraud — has become a kind of theocratic cult, and it has millions and millions and millions of self-interested and unwitting followers.”
If Russiagate is Count Dracula, then China hate is Godzilla. China is the USA’s greatest economic and geostrategic competitor, and now—OMG—it’s attempting to establish a military foothold off its own shores in the South China Sea. That couldn’t be more incompatible with full-spectrum dominance, the US military doctrine that calls for controlling “all dimensions of the battlespace” on land, at sea, in the air, and in outer space, cyberspace, and every other imaginable space. In John Pilger’s film, “The Coming War with China,” historian Bruce Cumings says:
No ocean has ever been dominated the way the US dominates the Pacific [with its] Navy and Air Force. In the Pearl Harbor headquarters of the Pacific Command, they claim to be responsible for 52% of the earth’s surface, and when you look at their logo, it shows an eagle over the Aleutian Islands with one talon coming down somewhere near Seattle and the other coming down right over Beijing. So Beijing looks at a network of bases, a real archipelago of bases that’s been built up since the Korean War.
To illustrate the empire’s eye-popping self-righteousness, Pilger clipped a CBS News Anchor’s warning into his film: “We continue our look this morning at what China does not want you to see. The United States says the superpower is reclaiming land in the South China Sea.”
She’s followed by a CNN anchor’s bone-chilling alert: “China’s creation of alarming new territory in the South China Sea is part of a broader push that some fear is a challenge to US dominance in the region.”
The Democrats can’t damn Trump enough for letting the number of coronavirus cases rise to 1,567,236, nearly a third of all cases worldwide, as of May 19. That’s not the kind of exceptionalism we can take pride in, and it certainly doesn’t justify full spectrum dominance, so it must be somebody else’s fault, and whose if not Trump’s? He’s such an aberration that we shouldn’t even call him an American, no matter how much he wraps himself up in the flag.
Never mind that Obama failed to restock the nation’s stores of N95 masks, or that profit maximizing “just-in-time” delivery of everything from jelly beans to medical supplies—a neoliberal practice preceding Trump’s election—left the US unprepared for the pandemic.
Since Biden and the Democrats have been blaming Trump for the soaring and humiliating number of coronavirus cases and deaths, Trump and the Republicans have been blaming China, demanding that China close its wet markets, and upping their complaints about unfair trade practices causing unfair trade deficits, and throwing Americans out of work, in addition to intellectual property theft and deadly fentanyl exports.
Biden then called Trump xenophobic, hitting him with the Democratic Party’s entire phony platform—racial and gender equity but not justice or peace, especially not in the South China Sea.
Trump said he’ll “hit” China harder than anyone, but one of Biden’s top advisers, Jake Sullivan, told Reuters that Trump is all talk and no action, and that Biden will soon roll out policies to prove he’s a more proactive China hater than Trump.
All this feeds the military industrial complex, which has a simple logic all its own. If deadlier weapons can be manufactured, we must manufacture them because if we don’t someone else will. And space is infinite, so we can’t cease our efforts to dominate it. Plus we all make more money this way.
If not always, hasn’t it been this stupid and dangerous for a very long time? The Red Scare of the 1950s paired with the Korean War robbed Americans of a peace dividend after World War II. Then, even as the McCarthy hearings wound down, the military buildup continued and the US went to war with communism again, this time in Southeast Asia. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the military industrial complex churned on, flailing around for a new enemy in the 1990s, targeting Middle Eastern terrorists after 09.11.2001, then taking aim at those heads of state it calls “dictators” and accuses of genocide. Their victims, we’re told, cry out for the Pentagon’s tender mercies.
Now the NGO industrial complex, a partner of the military industrial complex which includes Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, has identified China’s President Xi Jinping as one of those genocidal dictators, in this case committing ethnocide against its Uyghur Muslim minority in re-education camps. The Grayzone Project has published several investigations countering these US/NGO allegations, including “Inside the World Uyghur Congress: The US-backed right-wing regime change network seeking the ‘fall of China'.”
Whatever the actual plight of the Uyghurs, the US has, since 09/11, bombed at least seven Muslim nations, imprisoned and tortured Muslims in Guantanamo, tormented its own Muslim population, and banned Muslims entry, so it has zip-zero-nada-rien-لا شيئ credibility as a defender of Muslim minorities. Plus we have half a million homeless people, and hundreds of millions more living on the edge, to whom our government could more credibly turn its humanitarian attention before invading northwest China.
But don’t underestimate stupid and dangerous. The Pentagon already has an oversized presence on China’s northwestern borders, in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. So a proxy border war in the name of the Uyghur Muslims, much like that in eastern Ukraine, is quite conceivable if not already underway.
(See the Wikileaks movie Mediastan for details on US presence in the lesser known Central Asian nations.)
US belligerence in the South China Sea keeps heightening despite the global pandemic. The Joint Chiefs warn that China might take advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak on US nuclear aircraft carriers to attack Guam or other US bases, weapons depots, submarines, and the like even though they’re all right where they belong—just off China’s shores. (China did indeed get the virus under control, so they might have more time for devious Asian schemes to reclaim their own territorial waters.)
So yes, Dorothy, stupid can still get stupider. Dangerous can get more dangerous. China, which had no navy to speak of before 2010, is building its own nuclear aircraft carriers to match the US’s 14. And the US is commissioning its weapons manufacturers to build hundreds of hypersonic missiles to outnumber Russia’s.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Language Technologies Institute found that most political candidates use words and grammar typical of students in grades six through eight, but Donald Trump lags behind the rest. “Of the past fifteen U.S. presidents,” they concluded, “President Trump has demonstrated the lowest level of spoken literacy."
Can Joe Biden take us to new depths by matching Trump’s China-hating belligerence with more of the same plus his own cognitive decline? He seems to be trying to summon the energy, despite his curious seclusion in Delaware, or at least his handlers are.
I’m not eager to see how Trump might respond to Biden’s accusation that he’s “all talk and no action on China,” especially now that Trump has the new tactical, “usable” nuclear weapons that were part of his Nuclear Posture Review, and he’s repeatedly said that he can’t see why he shouldn’t use them. They include the new W76-2 low-yield Trident submarine warhead, with a mere 5-kiloton explosive yield—as opposed to the 150-ton destroyer of worlds. The W76-2s are now deployed on US nuclear subs, and there are so many of those in the South China Sea that the Defense News warns of a crisis. It seems there may soon be so many US and Chinese warships there that they risk ramming into one another “inadvertently.” KEWL.
The Trump-Biden China-hating contest has the depth of a mud pond and the danger of Dr. Strangelove, but there are economic relations that stand in the way of war. I don’t claim to understand all of these, so I queried three scholars, one Hungarian, one Korean, and one Congolese. I got three different takes that weren't terribly different descriptions of fact, but were different interpretations based on their own values and worldviews.
The Hungarian political scientist sees much of the world blaming China for the coronavirus, but thinks that too many multinational corporations are making too much money in China to want an all-out confrontation (even if they’re making money on the arms race).
The Congolese economist sees both practical economic collaboration and competition, including the Chinese state's collaboration in keeping Chinese labor costs low and manufacturing profits high, and also thinks that this tempers tension.
The Korean liberation psychologist said that China poses an existential challenge to western neoliberal capitalism and political economy.
Don’t forget to stock up on popcorn.
Black Agenda Report
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. Please support her work on Patreon. She can be reached at ann-at-anngarrison.com.