Saturday 5 October 2019

China: scapegoat and diversion from what ails western capitalism

We all know the United States of America was built on an ancient Native American burial ground, courtesy of European immigrants. Another original sin was slavery; kidnapping men, women and children from Africa for the brute workforce that built so much of America's wealth.

Then there's the 1 per cent ripping off the American people for decades, failing to invest in infrastructure, education, housing, healthcare while the richest 26 individuals took as much as the bottom half of humanity.

And now the US teeters on the edge of the worst economic recession since 1929. The national debt increased to $22 trillion with Trump adding over $2 trillion so far and China's new wealth is expected to pick up the declining superpower's tab as a result of Trump's trade war shakedown.

The next recession will have no China in shock absorber mode as the world's growth engine the way there was in 2008. By allowing other nations to devalue their currencies next to the yuan while China took a massive hit, they helped float the global economy out of the bankers' crash. The next time we hit the buffers, China can't keep us out of trouble because someone sawed off the branch we're all sitting on.

How can it be that in three years the whims and caprice of one man has brought us to the brink of a major recession against which we have no more ammo? Trump and his billionaire friends have the reckless assurance of men with access to luxurious nuclear shelters as far away as New Zealand who assume they can flit off and leave us to face the mess they created if this goes to a hot war. They probably think the planet is overpopulated anyway, so what's a population cull to them? Having tried to short China and Europe into the ground, they'll buy up everything at firesale prices in the wreckage they've made of our human society.

A whole new Orwellian narrative has been shaped to justify the coming grand larceny: Trump's US and its supporters at home and abroad accusing their mark of exactly the same crimes and misdemeanours of which they themselves are guilty.

Manipulating the currency? China spent vast amounts of its reserves propping up the yuan even under assault from Trump's trade war and resulting negative market forces. Trump's real demand isn't that China should stop manipulation (which isn't happening) but that it should start manipulating its currency upwards in favour of the dollar.

Theft of intellectual property? Hawkish commentators conflate actual theft (against which there are laws) with the agreed exchange of assets between one side that had cash (Edit: and access to their huge 1.4 billion market, a fifth of humanity) and one that had know-how. The Art of the Deal, remember? Besides which, the tech ship has sailed.

China has caught up and now outpaces the previous pack leader. America's security forces aren't that worried about Huawei spying on them. That's America's own trademark schtick as we know from a blizzard of information: Edward Snowden whistleblowing on the NSA, US tech's own back doors (hello, Cisco) and that pesky bug that sat on Angela Merkel's personal mobile for ages. No, America is alarmed because Huawei's new technology has overtaken the US with unhackable quantum cryptography at the core of 5G, which means they will no longer be able to spy on their friends, enemies and their own people. (See Crypto AG)

Cruelty? That good ol' Yellow Peril trope always comes in handy. China may be heavy-handed in dealing with murderous terrorist attacks and trying to avoid its own 9/11 but so far it hasn't bombed a string of third countries leaving depleted uranium, land-mines and cluster bombs to continue their destruction.

A manic energy has gone into turning China into America's dark mirror, eclipsing and absolving the US of its Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo horrors in the public eye. Reading claims about three million Uyghurs supposedly being tortured to death by nazis, I'm reminded of New Labour's dodgy dossier insisting on the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Chalabi's role banging the wardrum for the Iraq War.

In 2002, the year following the 9/11 attacks, the United Nations Security Council declared an official terrorist threat in a region of Stans that's been named "East Turkistan" [EDIT that's territory within China]:

'The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is an organization which has used violence to further its aim of setting up an independent so-called “East Turkistan” within China. Since its establishment, ETIM has maintained close ties with the Taliban, Al-Qaida (QDe.004) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (QDe.010). It was founded by Hasan Mahsum from Xinjiang, China, who was killed by Pakistani troops in October 2003. ETIM is currently led by Abdul Haq (QDi.268), who was also a member of Al-Qaida’s Shura Council as of 2005. ... In recent years, ETIM has set up bases outside China to train terrorists and has dispatched its members to China to plot and execute terrorist acts including bombing buses, cinemas, department stores, markets and hotels. ETIM has also undertaken assassinations and arson attacks and has carried out terrorist attacks against Chinese targets abroad. Among the violent acts committed by ETIM members were the blowing up of the warehouse of the Urumqi Train Station on 23 May 1998, the armed looting of 247,000 RMB Yuan in Urumqi on 4 February 1999, an explosion in Hetian City, Xinjiang, on 25 March 1999 and violent resistance against arrest in Xinhe County, Xinjiang, on 18 June 1999. These incidents resulted in the deaths of 140 people and injuries to 371.'

There have been many more since then.

Friendly advice on how to deal with jihadiism humanely and allowing Uyghur cultural integrity (the vast majority lead normal lives), should be welcomed, only not from the nation that's used two nuclear bombs on civilian populations, waged a vicious war in Indo-China, destroyed Iraq and Libya, and destabilised so much of the world while ripping off its own workers for decades. If peace could be achieved for Northern Ireland and South Africa, then maybe some sort of peace and reconciliation could be had here if Certain Parties stopped stirring it up.

Meanwhile, it's a year since Jamal Khashoggi was butchered in a Saudi consulate in Turkey but Trump rewards the regime behind the killing with more weapons, and now even plans to provide nuclear technology despite US bombs still killing citizens in Yemen.

At home, baby prisons, child death and disappearances; a president in thrall to the National Rifle Association (NRA) while mass shootings at schools and public places proliferate; deaths of African Americans by cops; a president expressing a raging tyrant's desire to maim, hurt, kill, destroy with dark age punishments such as snakes and alligators, flesh-piercing spikes and shooting migrants in the legs. Climate change, the environment, fossil fuels ...

Perhaps Trump is only clumsily trying to finish what Obama started with his pivot to Asia and setting up the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 2014, since when the US has poured $29 million into Hong Kong. I'm curious to see how Britain and America will deal with street protests when similar eruptions occur at home.

The Hong Kong protesters had me at democracy. There's an unpleasant authoritarianism in Chinese society (and increasingly out in the open in Britain and the US) that should be challenged from below. That's healthy. But they lost me at "Democracy" when that word is used as a Stars 'n' Stripes and Union Jack-waving euphemism for bringing back the old colonial oppressors ... as if Trump and Boris Johnson are really defending the principle of free speech. How much actual democracy did Hong Kong Chinese enjoy under British rule?

It is hardly a class war for liberation when HK protesters, who are not prospering under this vestigial British imperial system, refuse to take on the property tycoons who manipulated some of the most expensive real estate in the world. For a potted history and illuminating overview, read this:

'British imperialism, in the 155 years it ruled Hong Kong, denied rights to millions of workers. There was no elected government, no right to a minimum wage, unions, decent housing or health care, and certainly no freedom of the press or freedom of speech. These basic democratic rights were not even on the books in colonial Hong Kong.

For the past 25 years, including this year, Hong Kong has been ranked No. 1 in the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s list of countries with the “greatest economic freedom”—​meaning the least restraints on capitalist profit taking. Hong Kong’s ranking is based on low taxes and light regulations, the strongest property rights and business freedom, and “openness to global commerce and vibrant entrepreneurial climate … no restrictions on foreign banks.” For this Hong Kong is the “freest society in the world.”

This “freedom” means the world’s highest rents and the greatest gap between the super-rich and the desperately poor and homeless. This is what Hong Kong youth face today. But the youth are consciously being misdirected to blame the city administration for the conditions Hong Kong is locked into under the “One Country, Two Systems agreement.”'

Like Trump and Brexit, the Hong Kong protest is a revolution from the right. Trump just threatened to mention Hong Kong, but do us a favour and investigate the Bidens. All of this happening now just as America is hitting the buffers and China's economy and 1.4 billion-strong market presents a juicy prize.

As the late Hugo Young told me when we were concerned that his newspaper, the Guardian among several others, was blaming the UK Chinese for starting the 2000 Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak (and for which Chinese Brits were vindicated) in a diversion for Tony Blair: "There are wheels within wheels." He had to tell the staff to knock it off around the same time that even more examples of anti-Asian bias emerged after a Readers' Editor's investigation.

As far as the bourgeois liberal commentariat goes ... now, him I miss.

Winston Churchill on the partition of China: "I believe in the ultimate partition of China—I mean ultimate. I hope we shall not have to do it in our day. The Aryan stock is bound to triumph."

New York Times Xinjiang papers "Absolutely no mercy" ... but for who?