(A uniquely insightful article – stating both the problem AND the proposed solution!)
There is a crisis in the Western world. Both in terms of domestic affairs and foreign policy, Western nations are showing all signs of impending collapse. This is despite the fact that the flagship of the Western world, the United States, continues to expand its empire across the globe. At the same time, the world is witnessing the “rise of China,” an empire in its own right though no one seems to have any interest in calling it what it is.
The American empire has come to terms with itself to some extent. Through all the claims of support for “democracy” and “freedom,” the United States has transitioned to an authoritarian state at home and a rampaging military of conquest abroad. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Egypt, Somalia, Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria, Venezuela, Chad and Mali all serve as hot battles for the American military (in cooperation with other Western militaries, including Australia) in service of forcing governments into accepting the rule of private central banks, big biotechnology firms, pharmaceutical and industrial corporations and forcing those nations into providing raw materials for major industry centered in the Western world.
This says nothing of the American military bases in place across the globe. The US military posture of aggression coupled with threats of invasion against sovereign nations who are not compliant is well-known the world over and only the willfully blind do not see it.
But the US is definitely not alone in this.
China is also an empire and it is also marching across the globe attempting to expand its influence and control. However, most Westerners do not recognize it as such and even those anti-imperialist journalists in the alternative media find it difficult if not impossible to call China what it is; an expanding empire. Like the United States, China’s empire is one based on authoritarianism and control, though placing the collective in an even higher priority than its American competitor. Domestically, it has surpassed America in totalitarianism though the US is running as quickly as it can to the Marxist slaughterhouse.
The main reason China is still seen as a victim of American aggression rather than a mutual purveyor of imperialism is the fact that the boots of Chinese empire march much softer than the American version. While the US offers sticks, China offers carrots, albeit tainted ones. The US offers threats of overthrow and chaos, China offers roads and industry. The US offers bombs, China offers bridges.
Despite the manifestations, however, both countries are offering nothing more than empire in different packaging.
The Chinese Strategy
With the exception of its domestic oppression, China’s expansion of empire has been largely bloodless. It has focused on the maintenance of its status as a “developing nation” as well as benefiting from Free Trade globalism, the intentional de-industrialization of the West (particularly the United States) and the tyrannical repression of individual rights at home. China’s slave labor industrial model [see here also] has made it the number one dumping spot for jobs that once provided high wages and high living standards to workers in America and, though raising some Chinese out of the poverty of rural areas, has simply moved them to the poverty of the city. With its excessively long hours, authoritarian work culture, extreme pollution, and low living standards, China has made the Chinese people into the collective Mao slaughtered so many to bring about, a mass able to be molded and adapted to serve the whims of the ruling class.
China has used the designation of “developing nation” to its greatest benefit, allowing it to skirt virtually all environmental regulations, turning the country into a toxic cesspit of pollution, chemical pools, and fake food. Its “developing nation” status allows it to avoid the obnoxious “climate change” regulations that have hastened the de-industrialization of the West and heralds the low living standards that have already begun to make themselves manifest wherever climate hysteria takes hold.
Likewise, China has willingly acted as a depository for the Free Trade system, allowing it to soak up jobs and industry that should have remained in the West providing high wages and high living standards for Americans. Unfortunately, however, both the left and the right, as well as the well-meaning but uninformed middle have supported this transition under the name of Free Trade. But the result is not just the weakening of American economic might, it is the growth of China’s economic and, hence, political power.
Buying up US debt as well as manufacturing material that is essential for the US economy and national security has placed China in a position where attempts by the US to regain its industry puts America in a precarious position. If China sees its current status of economic powerhouse going by the wayside, it could decide to commit suicide by dumping the dollar. If this happens, it is highly likely that the US will be plunged into an immediate financial crisis. This time, however, the US will not be equipped with the industrial infrastructure it had before NAFTA, GATT, and the various Chinese trade agreements to survive such a destructive decision. It is obvious that mutual destruction is the only thing holding China back from pushing the button but, if it is assured of its own destruction, why wouldn’t China push it?
It is this fact, as well as the US law that allows for foreign nations to donate to political candidates and a myriad of organizations of influence throughout the country that has essentially created a system in which China is able to act as perhaps the second busiest lobbying firm in Washington after AIPAC. Together with buying up land inside the United States (land now owned by the Chinese government) including ports and industrial facilities, the US is slowly becoming more and more dependent on China than ever, weak attempts at tariffs notwithstanding. Even critical components of the American military, national security, and economic infrastructure have now been outsourced to China, demonstrating both how well the Chinese have played the game and how intelligent American “leaders” have spiked the football. The current situation is not an accident, it is a necessary consequence of Free Trade that was known long ago and was, in fact, one reason this disastrous policy was introduced.
The Strategy Of Bridges
While the US bombs its way across the world, threatening to overthrow uncooperative governments at the slightest sign of resistance, China has chosen to play the long game, armed with centralized economic control and captured American industry at its command, by using its economic might and promised (often real) guarantees of economic growth to the third and “developing” world. What China offers is development, infrastructure, and economic growth but what it takes in return is influence and control over sovereign affairs. Much like its position of holding America’s debt, China holds critical infrastructure and the purse strings of investment and growth. If one decides to balk at Chinese wishes, they will not face a color revolution or bombs, they will face having the financial spigot cut off. What happens after that is a natural flow of events that will most likely benefit the Chinese, as whoever is able to manage to get that spigot on is likely to be the next one holding the seat of power.
One such example of the rapid expansion of Chinese influence in world affairs is the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. OBOR is a global “development initiative” launched publicly by the Chinese government in 152 countries and “international organizations” spanning the globe in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The “Belt” aspect of OBOR refers to overland routes as well as road and rail routes (aka “Silk Road Economic Belt”) and the “road” aspect involves the sea routes, the 21st Century “Maritime Silk Road.” Interestingly enough, the plan involves the improvement of infrastructure on land routes that equate to the old Silk Road. It is essentially the creation of a trading network controlled and owned by the Chinese government.
But the Chinese initiative is about much more than mere trade routes. It is a neo-colonial project that is using the carrots of trade and infrastructure held in front of the third world as bait, while the subservience of the recipient nations is what is paid in return. Not all third world countries see sovereignty as a willing trade for infrastructure crumbs, however. In 2018, for instance, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad canceled a number of Chinese-funded projects warning that “there is a new version of Colonialism happening.”
China, of course, rejects such criticism and labels those who point out China’s “debt-trap diplomacy” as not being able to see beyond their own Western views of development as colonialism, while the Chinese have a pure, more equitable concept of it. Obviously, this is a fair response to critics from the Western world who have scarcely developed a third world country without also using it as a harvesting ground for labor or raw materials. But the West’s exploitation of the third world does not make China’s exploitation any less of a colonialist action.
Djibouti is a perfect example of Chinese neo-colonialism
One may look at the case of Djibouti to see an example of Chinese neo-colonialism at work. In this small, financially disadvantaged, East Africa country, China has planted its foot via the creation of two new airports, a new port, and the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway. The very size of these projects, particularly when taken into consideration the size of Djibouti and the financial situation of the country, make China’s presence there absolutely immense. And with such an immense presence comes immense influence and control. This is to say nothing of the fact that Djibouti is China’s first overseas military base. It thus stands as the first “pearl” in the string long desired by the Chinese government.
To be clear, Djibouti was in need of all the things China built. So why the controversy? These projects were built and developed with Chinese investment and Chinese money but they were also funded via debt in the host countries like Djibouti. The question then becomes whether or not these countries will be able to service their debt to China and, when they inevitably cannot, what will happen?
China is simply engaging in the same practices as the International Monetary Fund, wherein target nations are promised and provided some degree of development, only to see the debt service far beyond anything they are able to repay. At that point, the IMF privatizes essential services, natural resources, and industry. This “payments in kind” model is precisely what China is betting on. In this case, China is simply stepping in to become the IMF and stepping in to suck up the resources and industry that will inevitably be sacrificed to “service” the debt.
China is going after other countries with “debt traps”
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and Zambia have already suffered such consequences from China and Sri Lanka also has a story tell. To get an idea of how the Chinese “debt trap” works, examine the article “How China Got Sri Lanka To Cough Up A Port,” written by Maria Abi-Habib published in the New York Times on June 25, 2018.” Habib writes,
Every time Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, turned to his Chinese allies for loans and assistance with an ambitious port project, the answer was yes.
Yes, though feasibility studies said the port wouldn’t work. Yes, though other frequent lenders like India had refused. Yes, though Sri Lanka’s debt was ballooning rapidly under Mr. Rajapaksa.
Over years of construction and renegotiation with China Harbor Engineering Company, one of Beijing’s largest state-owned enterprises, the Hambantota Port Development Project distinguished itself mostly by failing, as predicted. With tens of thousands of ships passing by along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the port drew only 34 ships in 2012.
And then the port became China’s.
Mr. Rajapaksa was voted out of office in 2015, but Sri Lanka’s new government struggled to make payments on the debt he had taken on. Under heavy pressure and after months of negotiations with the Chinese, the government handed over the port and 15,000 acres of land around it for 99 years in December.
The transfer gave China control of territory just a few hundred miles off the shores of a rival, India, and a strategic foothold along a critical commercial and military waterway.
The case is one of the most vivid examples of China’s ambitious use of loans and aid to gain influence around the world — and of its willingness to play hardball to collect.
The debt deal also intensified some of the harshest accusations about President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative: that the global investment and lending program amounts to a debt trap for vulnerable countries around the world, fueling corruption and autocratic behavior in struggling democracies.
It should be noted that a sizeable portion of Chinese money was also funneled directly to the Sri Lankan President and his aides, ensuring that he and his administration would be more willing to agree to the ridiculous Chinese terms.
As far what lies ahead for Djibouti, ‘The debt with China increases exponentially. They are going to take this port, just like they did in Sri Lanka,’ Doualeh Egueh Ofleh, a deputy in the National Assembly with the opposition Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development told ISS Today.
This is what lies ahead for all the nations who take part in China’s OBOR initiative.
OBOR Is About Free Trade
With China expected to invest around $1.3 trillion in infrastructure projects across the globe, it should be remembered that what China is promoting is not even a plan designed to protect the Chinese economy, it is a Free Trade network that will see China at the helm of the exploitation of workers, worker’s rights, and the environment.
OBOR is not about fighting against Free Trade with the cooperation of third world countries, it is about expanding exploitation to those countries with a Chinese flavor instead of the Western Anglo version.
That, in a nutshell, is what Free Trade is all about. Indeed, Free Trade and colonialism have always existed side by side. The two are virtually inseparable.
In an article entitled, “Revisiting China’s Neocolonialism,” for the Japan Times website, Jean Marc F. Blanchard writes some of the most common complaints from “clients/victims” of China’s expansionist strategy. He writes,
First, they deride Beijing’s touted connectivity infrastructure, like pipelines and ports, essentially as initiatives to send more resources to China. They add that Chinese projects afford local countries a scant role and that the debts associated with these projects are depleting national treasuries.
Second, they stress that Chinese projects specifically and investments more generally insufficiently use local suppliers and partners.
Third, they assert Chinese companies and projects contribute little to job creation, partly because they use so many Chinese laborers. Fourth, they assert that China is not sharing important technology. Fifth, they contend that China is doing more harm than good regarding host country industrialization because its cheap goods destroy local manufacturing.
For the more pejorative of the critics, China’s vaunted slogan of “win-win” essentially means China wins twice.
China’s Empire Uses Military Might Also
That China’s empire takes the form of economics and “debt trap” diplomacy should not discount the fact that it also intends to spread through military force. Most notable is Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. Admittedly, the American assertion that it can police the sea is questionable at best, but it is also true that China has proclaimed ownership and territorial rights over portions of the sea that not only do not belong to Beijing but those that clearly belong to other countries. The fact that America has engaged in aggressive posturing and behavior in Asia in no way should diminish the fact that China has done the same and it is continuing to do so.
One need only look at the South China Sea to see a perfect example. The South China Sea is perhaps the biggest and most important oceanic shipping and trade route in Asia. China, of course, s, has laid claim to the vast majority of the SCS. However, there are more countries than China in the South China Sea and closer to the Spratly Islands, which China also has laid claim to. Known as the “9-Dash Line,” Chinese claims in the South China Seas encroach upon the territorial waters of Vietnam, the Phillippines, and Malaysia. So obviously overblown were the Chinese claims when the Phillippines took China to international court over its claims, the court ruled against China. Much like the empire across the ocean, China simply ignored the ruling and continued to act virtually as the sole owner of the South China Sea.
Partly in order to extend its “legitimate” claims to the sea and partly to expand its military footprint, China then began constructing man-made islands in the SCS for the purpose of deploying military forces to the islands. With the construction of the islands, China also likely believes it can argue its claims to even more of the South China Sea as a result of its placement on the islands it made as well as physically control the area where $5.3 trillion worth of trade takes place every year, $1.2 trillion of which belongs to the United States.
In addition to use as a trade route, the South China Sea also may contain around 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. SCS is also one of the most important fishing zones in the world, an industry that China is the overwhelming leader in.
Add to the aggressive military posture in the South China Sea, China’s own policy that Taiwan will one day be brought to heel under the current Chinese government (aka the “One China Policy), and the threat of Chinese military action becomes very real. Indeed, China has become more aggressive both diplomatically and militarily in its stance toward Taiwan.
Which Is The More Successful Strategy?
Although both America and China are spreading their empire across the globe, the immediate short term methods of doing so seem completely opposite to one another. But in the race to expand empire, which one is winning?
America has pushed its empire across the world by using bombs, color revolutions, invasions, sanctions, and other forms of imperialist aggression for a hundred years, most notably in the last two decades. The continuing destruction of governments, countries, and cultures has made American imperialism clear to all its victims and to all the populations watching the American war machine march forward.
The US empire has unmasked itself before the world. There is no longer any doubt as to the fact that the American military and all the power of the American government is being used to impose the Western-financier system on the rest of the world. Decades of watching their families being murdered, their culture and countries being destroyed has resulted not in the capitulation to the whims of America’s dictates but a deep-seated simmering hatred. It has also resulted in a growing resistance and ever-unified opposition to the spread of American influence. In many cases, it has resulted in the establishment of alliances of countries that otherwise would not have had common ground, based upon the common ground of a need for defense against the United States and NATO.
The Chinese empire has also been spreading for decades but the Chinese have been playing the long game and doing so in the most covert manner possible. While America’s bombs leave a bloody trail back to Washington, China’s bridges generally leave goodwill, increased investment, and, to some degree, economic growth within third world countries that desperately need it but are unable, for various reasons, to create it for themselves. That is, these investments bring goodwill for a short time until Chinese tentacles begin to squeeze tighter and tighter both at the economic and social levels. The Chinese version of empire is no less insidious but, over the long haul, it may be just as effective. By using the carrot instead of the stick, China is luring away countries that may have been clients or targets of the United States. It is expanding its empire by the day and doing so without firing a single shot.
The American empire is overextended and showing signs of collapse. It has repeatedly shown that it cannot be trusted to live up to even the most minor agreements it has made with its “clients,” and the threat of expressing one ounce of sovereignty by its concubines results in bombs, blood, and upheaval. China is, of course, there to pick the low hanging fruit and to capitalize on the failures of American empire and the fears of falling under its orbit. America’s clients see bombs in their future. China’s clients see bridges.
As a result, American influence in the world is waning while China’s grows by the day. America, in many respects, is spreading China’s empire itself.
How Could The US Turn It Around?
If the United States wishes to maintain its influence on the world stage, it must abandon its desires for an empire and it must cease attempting to force systems of government upon sovereign nations, particularly the Anglo-financier system. If the United States does not wish to see its influence eroded and eliminated in the coming decades, it must focus on providing tangible improvement in the lives of the citizens of the countries it wishes to influence and it must do so through an open and honest channel, unlike the Chinese debt trap and unlike and most unlike the carpet bombing American version. America has done everything in its power to squander the enormous good will many of the world’s people had in the past and still continue to have for it today. However, that need not be the case. America could once again establish good will for generations to come if it decides to influence the world by improving the living standards of its people. America’s legacy must cease to be war and destabilization and instead must become clean water, clean air, industry, infrastructure, and freedom.
After the second World War, the United States was able to rebuild a Europe that had been destroyed by years of war through what became known as the Marshall Plan. The United States should initiate a similar program, a Marshall Plan for the third world, that sees American investment in clean water systems and infrastructure development. This plan should not take the form of financial or monetary aid, however, as the U.S. should prioritize its own economy and living standards and because loans and cash tend to be swallowed up by the corrupt ruling classes. This new plan should see equipment, material, and expertise (manufactured in the U.S.) take the place of cash to skirt around the pitfalls of corruption. Instead of exporting “democracy,” the U.S. should export freedom and prosperity, the very thing populations trapped under the rule of Communist/Socialist and unrestrained capitalist governments so desire. When Eastern Europeans, oppressed by the tyranny of Communism, bolted their doors and windows shut at night to listen to the radio broadcasts coming in illegally from the West, it was not the American military they admired, it was the land of freedom and economic opportunity.
But in order to usher in a Marshall Plan for the World, America must first rebuild itself. It must boldly proclaim an end to Free Trade. America must return to a country that protects its own economic interests and national prosperity by enacting tariffs on goods coming into the country that can reasonably be produced domestically and return to a state of high wages and high employment. A 15% tariff across the board, not used as negotiating technique or a political hammer, but as a means to protect and encourage growth inside the United States that provides high wage and high skill jobs to American workers.
The creation of infrastructure and higher living standards in the third world will do more to expand American influence than all the bombs its military can drop. It is a legacy that will engender good will for generations and will improve the lives of billions of people in the process.
The Western world has finally routed itself into a crisis not only of culture and values but of its very existence. Decades of imperialist wars designed to force third world countries into accepting the Anglo-financier system have drained America’s resources and have set the country into upheaval at home. The American empire is primed for collapse. Only by abandoning the concept of empire at all can the United States return to a state where it is the greatest engine for wealth and freedom the world has ever known. Abandoning the neo-liberal policies of Free Trade would not only re-industrialize the United States, it would cut the knees out from under the competing empire quickly emerging across the ocean. The United States must focus on rebuilding domestically. If America wants to spread the principles of prosperity and freedom, doing so on the basis of respect, peace, and investment will win over the ideologies of Communism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism. Instead of dropping bombs, the U.S. should invest in building bridges. But more than bridges, America should be the symbol for clean drinking water, electricity, highways, airports, jobs, clean air, and a healthy environment the world over. If America wants to continue its influence across the globe, it has no other choice.
About Brandon Turbeville