World in View: China’s and U.S.’s imperial maneuvers

November 17, 2021

From the November-December 2021 issue of News & Letters

by Gerry Emmett

Demonstration in Taiwan on Sept. 29, 2019, in support of Hong Kong protests. Photo: KOKUYO

Following the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan, the frontline of imperialist confrontation has been redrawn in the Pacific Ocean. The question of Taiwan’s independence from China has once again become a hot button issue.

The last few months have seen competing military exercises in the region by the Chinese navy along with its Russian ally, and also the U.S. Navy and its regional allies. Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared that the U.S. would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

In reality, short of a nuclear response, the U.S. doesn’t have that capacity, nor could Taiwan defend itself.


The situation in the Pacific mirrors other inter-imperialist conflicts. These would include eastern Ukraine, where fire has been exchanged between Ukrainian troops and breakaway forces supported by Russia.

These conflicts aren’t reducible to great power rivalry. Ukraine has seen two revolutionary uprisings in this century, 2004 and 2014. Though both were betrayed by a corrupt oligarchy, they testify to the desire for genuine self-determination.

Likewise, politics in Taiwan have gone beyond the old nationalist Chinese rulers to include recognition of the aspirations of Indigenous Taiwanese.


As the leading imperialist powers, a war between the U.S. and China would already constitute a world war, even before the involvement of their allies. It would be disastrous for humanity.

Further, a new arms race is threatening as China is expanding its nuclear arsenal and has recently tested a new low orbit missile. This must be taken seriously.

But the deep ties between the U.S. and China, developed as their ruling classes jointly exploited their working classes, should also be considered. The Pentagon farming out bio-warfare research to China exemplified these ties, as did Gen. Milley calling up his Chinese counterpart at a moment of crisis in U.S. government.

Significantly, Chinese officials have indicated that their only concern in the Pacific is with Taiwan—and that otherwise they are willing to recognize the U.S.’s sphere of influence.

Both imperialist powers are currently experiencing economic difficulties. As imperialism begins with exploitation at the point of production, the rulers will be forced to direct attention toward controlling their own working classes.


Thus one aspect of this conflict is a message sent to all humanity, that our very survival depends upon the continual rule of these state-capitalist gangsters. Like the “mutually assured destruction” of the Cold War, this shows capital’s willingness to bring down the temple if it is seriously threatened.

These imperialist threats demand a peace movement that links the U.S. and Chinese working classes to those struggling for self-determination under local oppressors as well as global capital.

Such a movement would be in fact a new humanism, and challenge the dismal national socialist tendencies that aim to bury every last vestige of solidarity, culture, and hope.

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