Another 'Clash of Civilizations'

By N. Gunasekaran

Samuel Huntington, the political scientist, predicted that the future battle lines would be between Western civilization, on the one hand, and Chinese nationalists and Muslim fanatics acting singly or independently, on the other hand. With such theories that suit their hegemonic interests, the militarists and the corporatists in the US administration now speak in one voice against the threat coming from China's aggressive growth.

President Bush's recent visit to Japan, China, Mongolia, South Korea and India was another attempt to oblige these countries to stick to the hegemonic US Asian policy. Undoubtedly, the core of this policy is of containing the growing power of China, though many analysts say that both engagement and containment represent the two facets of the US policy toward China. But how can we explain the recent US military pacts with India and Japan, strengthening of the US military bases in Southwest Asia and the increased arms sales to Taiwan? The US policy is to contain China, and the US' moves in 2005 have definitely indicated this trend.

Against its encirclement by the US, China entered into defense agreements with Russia and other former Soviet states. China has released a 32-page policy document stating its willingness to choose Peaceful Development Road. In this document, the Chinese administration pledged to strive for a "harmonious world" with bigger markets, which all nations can share. Japan's foreign minister reacting to this statement described Beijing as a "considerable threat," due to its strong military buildup. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also criticized China's military buildup as well as its arms purchases and deployments.

According to the Pentagon's annual report to Congress, China is spending for defense some $60 to $90 billion. The current defense spending of the US exceeds $430 billion, more than a 25% increase from a decade ago.

Also, it was the US that had already stationed a great number of troops and become a predominant military force in Asia. Since it's difficult to further augment the forces, the US is now following a traditional imperial strategy of increasing the number of allies in Asia. They had a fresh agreement with Japan, a new defense agreement with India and continued joint military exercises with Mongolia. This strategy doesn't require any risks or commitments from the US, and at the same time, they can enjoy their predominant military status in Asia.

What will be the consequences of this strategy? One is the competitive arms race between the countries, exacerbating dangerous regional rivalries. Another is the increased military spending of Asian nations, ruining the social security of the poor.

China's growth rate is highest in the world, more than 10% a year, contributing to 13% of world economic growth. The US trade deficit with China has hit an all-time high $201.6 billion. Already, China has helped the US to reduce its trade deficit by financing billions of dollars on US Treasury bonds. But the US complains that Beijing is keeping its currency weak against the dollar to boost its exports. A stronger Chinese currency would make little difference to the US trade deficit. As pointed out by the G-20 countries, the problem is the structural weaknesses of the US.

Although the Chinese economy has the lowest import barriers, the US could not make use of this advantage; its huge trade deficit is mainly due to its inefficiency.

Do Americans long for all things foreign, from oil to cars and clothing?

The US corporate capitalists have no concern for improving domestic productive sectors. Instead of investing and developing the domestic sectors, they try to get quick profits through investing overseas and through huge cuts in labor costs.

Despite the persistence of poverty and inequality in China, its rapid rise lifted 220 million Chinese people out of poverty. The white paper of the state council of the China cabinet argues that China's development, instead of posing a threat, "can bring more development opportunities and bigger markets for the rest of the world."

This is also true for all other developing countries. If they take up development works so as to improve the conditions of their people and provide them with good education, heath care and food security, it would create wide opportunities for employment and simultaneously improve their peoples' well being. This would have a cascading effect on the purchasing capacity of tens of millions of people, resulting in much bigger markets. It would create much bigger opportunities not only for domestic workers but also for the workers of advanced countries -- including American workers, who are now losing their livelihoods due to the profit-hunting Corporations.

But such a scenario is unthinkable if the threat to China from the US leads to recurring military conflicts. Hence, those who aspire for an equitable and prosperous world should not take it flippantly.

N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.

From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2006

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