It began asserting itself in Latin America by the end of the 19th century and became moreaggressive in the 20th century.The US emerged from World War II as the number one power. While the European powers had exhausted themselves on the battle field, the US was building up its economic and military might. It was hardly scratched during that war having entered almost at its end, in 1944, and being separated from Europe by the Atlantic Ocean.
The reconstruction of Western Europe created a great economic dependency on the United States. To consolidate that hold on Europe the US created a military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), with two goals in mind. In passing, it was very lucrative for the military industrial complex since all NATO armies had to have the same type of weapons.
The first one was to keep Europe tied to its apron strings. All of Western European countries military became subjected to the US within the NATO alliance.
The second reason was to be in position to try to defeat the one country which stood up for its sovereignty, the Soviet Union. Thus, it launched the Cold War in the late 1940s. At that time, it was the only country that possessed a nuclear weapon. Historians believed that the US used those destructive weapons on Japan in 1945 more as a blackmailing tool than was necessity to defeat Japan.
It began to confront every country that sought an independent path. War in Korea in the early 1950s, overthrow of the government of Iran and Guatemala in 1953/54. Supporting the British to crush the independence movement in the then British Guiana, now Guyana, in 1953. Later the war in Vietnam and scores of others.
The US relation with China was more complex.It was hostile to the Chinese revolution from its inception in 1949. It was US support that kept Taiwan, a part of China in a separate status, encouraging and instigating Taiwan to break away from China. The US influence kept the People’s Republic of China out of the United Nations for more than 20 years. The world had the ridiculous situation of Taiwan sitting in the UN as the representative of the Chinese people from 1949 to 1971.
However, during the 1970s, as its struggles with the Soviet Union became more intense, it reduced its hostility to the PRC while at the same time keeping the Taiwan situation alive to be used as a tool against China whenever it so required. Moreover, the seating of the PRC at the UN was difficult to halt as more colonies became independent and supported mainland China as the true representative of the Chinese people.That forced the US to retreat on that issue. It sought better relations with China as it focused its hostilities on the USSR.
That is why from the late 1970s, when China adopted new strategies of opening up to accelerate its economic development from 1978, it did not meet very strong resistance from the US. China’s opening up was seen as a great possibility for enhancing profits for US companies. For the PRC it was a necessary stage to build a strong working class and to acquire modern technologies to develop its economy.
China’s economy began to grow rapidly and very soon it surpassed Europe and Japan to become the second largest economy in the world. At the same time, in keeping with its internationalist philosophy,and its new position of opening up to the world, China began to create links with the rest of the world, both developed and developing countries.
For the developed countries, China became one the main investment destinations. China’s and West Europe’s economy and that of the US became very much linked. As China becamestronger economicallyits investments began pouring into the economies of North America and Western Europe. Indeed, China has become the largest holder of US government bonds. It was a tune example of real mutual economic benefits for all concerned.
With developing countries, the People’s Republic of China began to assist, first the very poor countries. Those countries were the ones which could not get any loans from the International Financial Organizations. They were considered high risk countries and practically ignored by Western governments.
It was that selfless assistance that raised China’s reputation as a true friend to peoples in the developing world, Africa in particular, which had the greatest need.During those times the US, from time to time, made criticism on China. Those criticisms grew in hostility particularly after the 2008 global financial crisis.
In this period, China’s economic importance to the world economy became manifest. The PRC became the greatest driver of the international economy and the number one trading partner for most countries in the world. From this time the relations with the US and the People’s Republic of China began to encounter choppy waters.
US changed position on China
The main reason for this was an unreasonable fear by the US of China’s growing economic strength and the goodwill that the PRC enjoyed from many developing countries which were previously deliberately underdeveloped by European Colonialism.
It is apposite to note that the expressed fear of China by the US was not because China was threatening any country militarily, nor because it attacked any state. It was China’s successes in building a strong economy and because it has been helping poor countries to improve their productive capacity that gave China tremendous good will.
This was the same type of fear that started the Cold War. The US feared that the Soviet Union was going to overtake it economically and influence more countries to follow a socialist path of development. That they wanted to halt at all costs.
The West began a massive propaganda campaign against the PRC. Disinformation is being spread quite lavishly by the mainstream corporate news media. The whole idea was to create a false image of China as an exploitative state.
What they have clearly done is to dust off the materials that progressive forces used against the IMF and World Bank’s imposition on poor developing countries and turned it against China. Terms such as ‘debt trap’, ‘creating dependence’ and ‘imperialist imposition’ are now being used by imperialism against China.
The reality has been vastly different.China’s loans to Africa and other Third World countries have been oriented towards building up the capacity for more sustained economic growth. Those projects were all decided on by the countries that borrowed money and not imposed by China.These include roads linking various parts of individual countries and also linking countries with each other.
For instance, Chinese built a railway from Adis Ababa, Capital of Ethiopia, all the way to the ports of Djibouti. This is because Ethiopia is land locked and that project has helped Ethiopia’s foreign trade greatly.
We saw decades earlier the Tan-Zam railway which allowed Zambia to export its copper via Tanzania. That made it possible for Zambia to become less dependent on then apartheid South Africa. It allowed it to give support and solidarity to the African National Congress (ANC) during the battle for liberation of South Africa.
It is true that, from time to time,countries that borrow from China get into some problems with repayment. What has been China’s response? Did it seize property of those countries as is being propagated by the West? No!
The facts debunk those attacks. All those who got into difficulties with the loans were supported by China. The PRC, in the first place, renegotiated the loans and gave the borrowing countries much more time to repay. That allowed the repayments to be made on much easier terms. It also allowed countries to pay their debts with produce that it has in abundance, thereby reducing pressures to repay in hard currency.
In other cases, Chinese wiped off interest payment and in some cases even wiped out the debt completely.
This was real help. Moreover, the Chinese made no political demands on those countries. It was aid and trade without strings. This is confirmed by all countries that do business with China. It is the finding of academics who study in depth China’s role in the international economy, such as Professor Deborah Brautigam.
Compare that with what happens with the IMF and the World Bank. Whenever a borrowing country got into repayment problems, the IMF and World Bank imposed much stiffer conditions on poorer countries. In most cases, they demanded privatization of state property at knockdown prices and pose all kinds of political stinges. They even dictate what laws countries should make;laws which were invariablyunfavorable to the working people of those countries.
But that was not all. They demanded wage freeze and removal of subsidies to the poorest of the poor. The IMF/World Bank medicine created more complications for the developing world.
In almost all the cases, they made things much worse for the masses than before. That is the reason for large protests against the IMF and the World Bank in developing countries. Those oppressive impositions by Western controlled financial situations led to serious disruptions and hardships. Very often violent clashes occurred in which mainly the poor were shot. Governments become more repressive as they seek to fulfill IMF/World Bank conditionalities.
True over the last decade or so the multi-lateral institutions began to do some debt write offs. That too was subject to conditionality. Most important though, is to note that more favorable conditions developed because of the newrelations that China was known to be forging with Third World countries. That forced the imperialist states of US and Europe to make concessions to the developing world. It was an attempt to improve their own image and to try to maintain some influence in the developing world. Their objective is to try to displace China in the Third World. They fear competing with that socialist state.
The US has been making no secret of its intentions. At the last G-7 meeting, the US urged that the other rich capitalist countries build up a fund to lend the poor countries, mainly in Africa. At that meeting they had announced that they had some $600 Billion to lend to the Third World.
On the face of it, this seems laudable. However, they have left nothing to the imagination. They announced publicly that its main purpose was to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is attracting more and more participants. Therefore, it is clear that development of poor countries is not a priority for the G-7 countries. Most important is the countering of China’s influence as a friend of the peoples of the developing countries.
Despite the propaganda offensive of the West against China and their belated attempts of the G-7 to ‘assist’ poor countries, the PRC’s reputation as a reliable partner and a real friend to the developing countries continue to grow. As China’s reputation grows, the US hostility to her has increased.
The US has nowbegun applying economic sanctions on China. In order to slow down the PRCs progress the US has banned the selling of computer chips and other technologies to the PRC. China’s leading high-tech companies are now being barred from the US market. Companies such as Huawei and Tik Tok are subjected to bans and other restrictions. Many of the Chinese exports are subjected to high tariffs.
In addition, the US has been using its political and military influence to force Europe and the United Kingdom to ban Chinese companies. It is also pressuring other countries to stop their ties with China.Some succumb to such pressures but in most cases the Third World values China’s friendship.
Attacks on China are not confined to the politics and economics but they have been upping the ante on the military front of recent.
The United States continues to arm Taiwan, a breakaway province of China, and to instigate that regime to adopt a hostile position to the PRC.They have also imposed themselves in the South China Sea where they have taken a lot of military hardware and their well-equipped Navy. The main aim is to retard China’s progress by threatening it militarily. It is clear that they hopeto push China into an arms race, similar to what they did to the Soviet Union, in the hope of exhausting and forcing it to spend more on defense. Using this method they believe that they will be able to slow down China’s spending on the welfare of its people on the one hand and to restrict the PRCs assistance to the Third World countries, thus reducing its popularity.
Clearly, the US is very scared of China. Not because it believes that China wants to dominate the world military. No. the main reason is the example that China has become for many countries in the world. It shows that another road to freedom is possible and very viable.
What they cannot appreciate is that China has a strong anti-imperialist and anti-hegemonistic positions. These are philosophical positions of the Government of Beijing.Therefore, it cannot become imperialistic despite how strong it becomes economically. Its philosophy orients it to seek partnerships and building friendships with all peoples and cultures, to promote peace and development through trade and cultural links between peoples. It is one of solidarity with the less fortunate of the world. This position is rooted in its Marxist World outlook and in its own Chinese culture.
The Chinese saying that “the rising tide must float all boats” is a guide to China’s assistance. This is not a policy that seeks domination, it remains anti-imperialistic. The policy of peaceful co-existence has been an unchanging principle of Beijing. It is not a tactic but a strategy for building sound international relations.
It is time that the US review its positions on China and abandon its irrational fears. It is important that doctrines such as the Monroe Doctrine be discarded and for the US to find strength in its own history as it once fought against European colonialism.Replacing European Colonialism by US world domination is not tenable in our times!
*Guyanese economist, political analyst and former president of Guyana (2011-2015)