That is a very different world from what we grew up with, where the US ruled the globe and wanted to enforce its ‘stability’ and order and hated disruption.
China and Russia are not a New Europe
Europe equals NATO. Even the “neutral” European states like Sweden join NATO in its campaigns of aggression. For example, Swedish planes took part in the war against Libya. So functionally, Europe equals NATO. And NATO is not an alliance of equals; it’s a bloc of the US and its satellite states. The US runs NATO. The US runs Europe, in the final analysis.
We could analyze the history that has led up to this, from the total weakening of the core European countries after World War II, through the Marshal Plan that tied their economies to the US, to the trumpeting of the “Communist Threat” idea that was pounded into every Western person’s head for 50 years. The fact remains that the US supplanted the old British and French colonialists, while upholding their global interests fundamentally, especially through the formation and maintenance of the NATO alliance and much more.
Different Systems, Not Just a Geo-political Alignment
Indeed, the common political systems of the Western countries have also greatly facilitated the integration of their economies by masking the changes behind a facade of multiparty theatrics. All the Western countries see regular rotation of two, or possibly three, “ruling” political parties that all serve the established ruling classes. These parties and their parliamentary debates and activities mask class rule behind empty verbiage about democracy and a great deal of public antics. A psychology takes hold of the masses that any significant change is simply utopian and impossible, because for all their debates and elections, the politicians really can’t change the general trajectory of issues that directly affect the masses. Therefore, the masses have become accustomed to the idea that all that one can hope for would be minor ‘tinkering’ with the status quo. This situation inures people to even sharp economic downturns as if they were some sort of natural disaster. “The politicians can’t do much about it anyway,” is the commonly accepted notion there, because even if you vote the president/prime minister out, the process will generally continue with his successor. There is a reason why this political structure has established itself in all the Western countries.
By contrast, it is noteworthy that the political systems that are functioning in China and even Russia are quite different. In Russia or China, political and economic rule, in a sense, is much ‘closer to the surface’ of the societies. I meant that in the Western countries real power resides in the oligarchies and ‘deep state’ functionaries that you almost never see, that operate behind the scenes. These big interests – be they Bilderburgers or the military-financial-security complex or whatever sorts of organizations they may have – manipulate the political parties and politicians who act like entertainers.
In China and Russia, on the other hand, the economy is still largely subject to the control, or at least guidance, of the political leaders. The political leaders are known. They make the decisions and can veto decisions by big corporations, even private ones. In China, for example, the exact workings of the Politbureau and Central Committee and Central Military Commission, etc., may be behind closed doors but basically you know that the Communist Party is in charge. And the big businesses, even the private ones, even private ones in Hong Kong, have to pay attention to the ‘guidance’ of the authorities or they may suddenly find themselves denied contracts.
Formally and officially in the West, the corporations are subject to the law. But the laws are drawn up in accordance with the demands of lobbyists and basically with a view to serving corporate interests. The state serves the corporations. In China and in Russia, the state directs or sets limits for the business world, basically laying down developmental strategy. Private capital functions because and to the extent that it can contribute to national development. In the West, national development takes place insofar as it suits the business interests – which is why the US is being ‘de-industrialized’ as capital finds it can reap better profits by producing outside the US, and it makes no difference that workers in the US are laid off.
Obstacles to Joining the Globalist Imperialist System
So, basically, if the Chinese and Russians are going to be integrated into the US-led global order, that would require that the political leaders – the Communist Party of China and Putin’s leading group – change course and set new guidelines and policies and strategies for their business world. This change can’t occur mysteriously, the way that the corporate world can embark on new strategies and courses that affect national development entirely behind closed doors and in secret in the West. In China such changes would show up in five-year plans, and in fact before that in the various conferences that they have in various party/government sectors.
So that’s what I mean by saying that political leadership is more on the surface in China and Russia. The known, public political leaders and their political parties or elites are actually in charge. In the West, real power is not in the hands of the politicians who must cater to the interests of corporations that are – to us in the public – largely unknown, faceless, and mysterious in their identities and interactions.
Both China and Russia are characterized by dominant single parties that seek to represent the nation rather than political blocs that represent only the jockeying of a small elite of office-holders for power and authority. As a result, you don’t have a situation in Russia or China where the actual long-term class control of the country is masked by rotating politicians and their theatrical posturing. Individual politicians may come and go, but political leadership (not just economic control) remains in the same party’s hands. It is therefore difficult on a very deep level to integrate Russia or China into the Western camp. Whereas Western integration can be conducted on a financial level by private businesses behind the scenes of political activity as a kind of ‘natural growth’; trying to integrate Russia or China would require major public realignments of the open and obvious political leaderships of those countries, since the dominant political elites (Putin and his party in Russia and the Communist Party in China) still set the priorities of their countries’ economic forces. Chinese and Russian banks and big businesses cannot independently set their agendas.
So without major political changes in Russia and China, those countries are not going to be “sucked into” the US-dominated globalist system, even though you might see Chinese banks operating all over the world and Chinese businesses investing in Europe or the USA or Western companies investing in Russia and China.
A Platform of National Sovereignty
Russia and China are not seeking to submit to NATO rule. They certainly are not recipients of any American Marshal Plan today. In fact, if anything, the reverse is the case – the West is practically begging for money from the Chinese. The Russians and Chinese are not joining the chorus of the West in expressing fear of a common external threat – like the ‘fear’ of “Communism” that was used to unite the West during the cold war. And the Russians and Chinese are not stepping into the shoes of the Western colonialists around the world, boosting their own and the Americans’ and Europeans’ economic interests at the expense of Asians, Africans, and Latin Americans.
So there’s no sign that the Russia and China are integrating into the Western, US-run NATO world, the way the Europeans did. There is burgeoning economic integration for sure, but the control of Russia and China’s economies is still outside the reach of the US-led globalist system. There’s no point speculating on what might happen if there were upheavals and regime changes in Russia or China. But today with the current regimes in place in Moscow and Beijing are not copying the behavior of Europe after World War II.
Totally Different Historical Trajectories
It should be noted too that really if we’re talking about alternatives to the US, NATO and US-led globalism, we’re talking about Russia and China. The rest of the BRICS – Brazil, India, and South Africa – are much less independent of the West. The vote on Syria on 4 February, when Russia and China vetoed the Western motion, exposed Brazil, India, and South Africa as siding with the US. This reality highlights the fact that the political independence of the leaderships in China and Russia are actively promoting the independent economic development of the BISA and other Third World countries. This is in contrast to the way that historically the US and the old colonialist European powers all facilitated continued Third World subjugation. Today, by contrast, only 12 years after Putin came to power in Russia, and after a similar period of rapid economic development in China, we see that the effect has been a dramatic contrast to the days when the US stepped into the shoes of the old colonialists. Today Brazil, India, and South Africa are rising, the ASEAN countries are advancing in East Asia, the CELAC countries are advancing in Latin America, and several African states are also scoring gains as they now can set somewhat independent developmental goals based on the leverage they are gaining thanks to the rising role of China and Russia. And this is happening even though many of the political leaderships of those countries are far from being single-minded anti-imperialists.
Tackling Local Separatists More Forcefully
At some point, Russia was subjected to threats from minor countries like Georgia. But let’s not forget here that Georgia was backed by the US and the Zionists, as have been the Chechens and other ‘minor’ countries. In fact, this situation is simply another continuation of the Western attempts to break apart the Soviet Union and its political bloc – which has a very long history and involved a lot of ‘minor’ countries, proceeding from Yugoslavia (1948) and Czechoslovakia and continuing into Soviet space after the break-up of the USSR. What is new and different is that under Putin the Russians drew a line and said that no more breakups or secessions would be allowed, beginning with Chechnya. The unraveling of Russia had to stop, and if the Chechen separatists don’t get the message, they’re in for a very painful clash with the new cold hard Russian realities. Similarly, Russia would accept no challenges from Georgia and therefore crushed the Georgians and recognized two breakaway sections of Georgia as independent states, rolling back the Western-led schemes to use ‘minor countries’ to break up Russia.
The New Dynamic of Global Power Politics
Now, this rise of Russia and China has been underway really for just over a decade. The US is still the dominant global military power, yet its economic leadership is severely undermined. The economies of the US and Europe are in difficulty. Europe now admits it can only ‘save’ itself by increasing unemployment and undermining the ‘economic miracle’ of domestic consumption that kept the system functioning for the last 60 or 70 years. The same fate awaits the US whenever the US dollar is dethroned as global currency – something that the Russians and Chinese are eagerly but quietly pursuing. The Chinese recently signed agreements to settle trade between China and Australia (yes, even Australia!) in Yuan and Australian dollars. So this process of disestablishing the US dollar is making inroads even into the American economic backyard.
In this situation, where China and Russia are increasingly seizing the high ground economically, while the US continues to dominate the world militarily, how is the US trying to stop its slide into the abyss? (Because obviously, the US cannot sustain global military dominance for a long time without a sound economy.) How is the US responding to the economic, and therefore political, rise of China and the BRICS? It is responding militarily, as you might predict, – by stirring up color revolutions, ‘Arab springs’, Islamist insurgencies in Central Asia, China, and Russia, by expanding NATO to include even Mongolia and Vietnam as ‘partners’ or ‘candidate partners’ of one sort or another. The US is responding by stirring up political turmoil that it hopes to turn into military intervention for itself and its allies. This is not necessarily to control the world, but to destabilize any power not accepting US hegemony and US-led globalism.
In this context, no, the Russians and Chinese are NOT going to arm resistance movements against the US imperialists. If they did, they would immediately be drawn into a conflict that would weaken their own strongpoint (their economies) in order to confront the US in precisely the one area where the US still has an overwhelming preponderance (the military). That would, in effect, be falling into the American trap. It’s elementary strategic thinking: you simply do NOT fight the enemy at his strongest point. Opting for a direct military confrontation with the US could bankrupt China and Russia economically, leading to the downfall of their states. But continuing to foster their own economic growth, while increasing their own defensive potential gradually and unobtrusively, starting with their own geographic regions, will drain the US of its resources and eventually force Washington to disband its massive military complex.
The Implications for International Institutions and International Law
With their economic power, the Russians and Chinese are seeking to reverse the process whereby NATO took over at the end of the Cold War as the “enforcer” for the United Nations – (in fact a situation in which the UN was brought under the control of the US). The Chinese and Russians are trying to turn international institutions against the US by using their own economic power.
Legal institutions – whether inside a country or internationally – simply reflect the power structure that wields them. A policeman in a fascist country defends fascism. A policeman in the USA defends the US imperialist state. A policeman in China defends the Chinese social system currently defined as ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics.’ Similarly, the United Nations and international law work for the states that control them. At the moment that is largely the USA. But the US control, like the US economic position in the world is beginning to slip. At the end of the Cold War, in the 1990s, Kofi Annan blessed the relationship of NATO with the UN, in which NATO was allowed to play the role of ‘enforcer’ of whatever the UN (under US domination) declared to be international law.
The rising power of Russia and China has enabled those countries to block the use of NATO to overthrow the Syrian regime. This means that now the mechanisms of international law are not being wielded exclusively by the United States as they were 10 or 15 years ago. Russia and China invoke classic doctrines of national sovereignty and territorial integrity to block the US from intervening and overthrowing states it doesn’t like. The US, on the other hand, invokes ideas of ”universal” (“universal” meaning that they are not limited by borders or national sovereignty) ’rights to protect civilians’ and ‘human rights.’ Again - notions that do NOT recognize borders or national sovereignty – to justify its intrusion into every place on earth.
Promoting “Human Rights” As A Façade for Imperialist Aggression
Thus US military intervention relies on the pretext of transnational ‘defence of universal rights’ and ‘defence of civilians.’ Washington can and frequently does declare any regime that refuses to accept US-led global hegemony as a ‘violator of human rights’ and then the US asserts its ‘right’ to support ‘defense of human rights’ – by peaceful means or armed insurgency within those countries.
The Chinese and Russians counter this by insisting on the inviolability of borders and on national sovereignty.
In this situation, it is the US that has a major interest in stirring up armed ‘resistance’ to ‘oppression’. The US has a political interest in doing this since it’s linked to the US doctrines of regime change on human rights pretexts, and the US has a military interest in doing this because by shifting the emphasis of international affairs to struggles between ‘democratic’ peoples and ‘oppressive regimes’ the US military preponderance places the US squarely in the center of all international disputes. The US is the only state with such total military force that it can cope with armed disputes anywhere on the planet. Incidentally, it is almost irrelevant if the US is drawn in to support ‘democratic insurgents’ or to suppress ‘terrorists’ or ‘drug cartels’ or ‘pirates.’ All armed conflicts are an excuse and an open invitation for US involvement simply because the US has the most firepower.
Regarding Syria and the Way Forward for Third World Revolutionaries…
Accordingly, yes, China and Russia do not want to see armed conflicts anywhere, because conflicts ‘feed’ the US Empire. They keep it going, keep it justified, and give it opportunities. Take Syria for example. Calm in Syria would not benefit the US, NATO, the Zionists, or US-led globalism. Calm allows the Syrian state to strengthen itself on the basis of its own resources – with or without reforms, depending on the domestic political situation. Syria could speak to the globalist hegemonists from the position of at least being in control of Syrian space – and, indeed, with the friendship of Russia and China, too. That is bad news for the West. But the West can benefit from Islamist insurgency, guerrilla warfare, and political unrest in the country. All those allow the US to meddle in the country – to ‘protect the victims’ to ‘support democracy’ and what not else.
Accordingly you will not hear about the Chinese and Russians arming insurgents. That will be the talk you hear openly in Western client regimes and privately in the US and Europe. For one thing, the Chinese and Russians are seeking to build an international order based on national sovereignty, not on ‘universal rights’ (that are always an excuse for intervention). For another thing, armed insurgencies that rely on Russia or China would be outgunned by the Americans anyway and would suck Russia and China into debilitating wars with the US – just at the time when the US’s ability to wage war is being undermined by its faltering economy.
Now what does this international situation mean for the people of the Third World and the Arab World? Does it mean that they should give up and sit back and wait for China and Russia to take over the world? No, it does not. In fact the Chinese and Russians are in a position to offer increasing support precisely to states that act independently (but not overtly provocatively). They cannot easily support political parties or movements or guerrilla groups without giving carte blanche to the US. But the cornerstone of the new world order that they are trying to build is national sovereignty, not human rights or rights of the oppressed classes. In Marxist terms, this is the ultimate outcome of the shift from class struggle within individual states under laissez faire capitalism to the struggle for national liberation against imperialism in the age of imperialism. Therefore, today, within states it’s up to the social forces to struggle for national welfare so that those states, when they address the world, address it with a nationalist rather than a comprador voice. If oppressed nationalists in a given country seek to take power by armed struggle, they must be mindful that any armed struggle will be an invitation to US involvement on terms that the US can largely dictate. On the other hand, a state that defends its independence and works with the Chinese and Russians can expect from them support to the extent that their own state interests are not significantly undermined.
This new political ‘terrain’ is not ‘better’ than what we were used to during the Cold War. The conditions for “protracted people’s war” which was a kind of direct adaptation of class struggle, are now very different and much more unfavorable than they were then. Invocation of concepts of democracy, human rights, anti-dictatorship, are also guaranteed to open the door to US intervention. Clearly the best way forward, outside the context of directly occupied states and foreign invasions where military resistance is certainly warranted, is to back the assertion of national sovereignty by the state. That is the option best suited to today’s political climate, although given the comprador regimes installed in most Arab states, this is far from being a simple issue. The rise of laissez faire Islamists who are open to US-led globalist economic dominance, but make a show of ‘looking non-Western’, is also going to complicate matters. But this is the situation we’re faced with. For sure, Russia and China won’t be backing armed revolutions the way the USSR once did. But that doesn’t mean that they are indistinguishable partners with the USA and NATO either. That is far from being the case.
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!