We must say no to war with China – and understand the propaganda tricks taking us there

May 7, 2021

China is an authoritarian state, which appears bent on creating a system of steady totalitarian control lasting decades, if not longer. It is bent on consolidating the country that was fractured by colonialism and politics, with the eventual reincorporation of Taiwan and Hong Kong.

There is no possibility that Tibet will re-emerge as a fully independent polity. In order to stymie the least possibility of secession in Muslim Uyghur Xinjiang, it is filling the province with Han Chinese and running a system of concentration camps of unknown extent (unknown since there is so much propaganda about it).

Twenty years ago, it began extending its economic heft around the world, with loans and direct infrastructure assistance to the developing world. These have had the same effect, of extended economic dependence by said world, with the exception that the Chinese actually built roads, ports, etc, rather than simply draining such countries dry.

It is vital to try and understand the moral and political character of a state that combines elements of German “transition” Marxism, neo-Stalinist cultural control, and the corporatist dimension of Mussolini’s fascism.

But in any of this, is there any evidence that China has global military ambitions beyond regaining control of its region, from the remnant presence of the last Western empire, the United States? There is none, none at all.

Yet daily we are being marched to war by the same crowd who always march us to war, the ruling elite, the self-appointed military experts, compliant dictaphone editors and journalists, sock-puppet military thinktanks, Spenglerite ideologues, the whole gang.

Overpowering propaganda

There’s a whole range of tricks that go into this, and the first task is simply to identify them in one’s own mind. Because the propaganda is so overpowering that there are times when the boundary of it falls within your mind, and you really can’t tell what’s real and what’s not.

If there’s a master technique to what’s going on at the moment, it’s Western presumption and privilege presented as a commitment to a liberal world order, and presented back to its own public as a casus belli. This starts with the misconstruction of Taiwan and Hong Kong as independent entities, rather than still-internal creations — as if China was threatening to invade the UK for the cause of Scottish independence, or involve itself in the removal of self-government of Norfolk Island.

The absurdity of those propositions shows you what a fun-house mirror you’re looking into when you draw the line of struggle through a sea between China and one of its islands.

The second trick is to presume that the global extension of Western empires is a “natural” condition, rather than encirclement. Mainland China has, on its doorstep, a US-funded and armed Taiwan, a pro-US Japan being encouraged to drop the neutrality provisions of its constitution, a historical ally in the Philippines, and so on. It’s as if Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Tasmania were Chinese vassals, and we were required to say nothing about it. Such hypocrisy extends to trade treaties.

The Belt and Road is treated as war by proxy. The now-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty was a far more explicit form of encirclement — in which US financial interest was sacrificed for strategic gain — yet was treated in the compliant press as a purely commercial venture.

The third element is a wider mischaracterisation of all trade moves as a form of war. That is a particularly crafty and hypocritical move, given that every Western power has built its wealth on sharp practice. China breaks copyright and IP law, against agreements it has signed; but since the agreements are iniquitous IP rents on technology, why not? It may be duplicitous, but it’s not war.

Yet it is constructed as a precursor of such. And in a gesture of unbelievable hypocrisy, China is reproved for charging interest on developing country loans! The horror! The very worst of this, at the root, is racist orientalism, still popping up in the military academies, journals and think tanks — garbage about the “Asian mind”. Global trade, military projection, state-building — these are held to be Western things. Asians doing them are taken as “mimic men”, less than real.

That’s another building block of the push to war — to encourage fear and suspicion of China based on their surprising surge to economic dominance over the last three decades, and the possibility that we are now the dependent ones.

The West was betrayed by its elites — an alliance of nihilist transnational capitalists and neoliberal ideologues — to give away decades of accumulated physical, social and intellectual “plant”, which was then shipped — often literally — to China, who had never drunk the Kool Aid.

The transnationals were making a buck, the neolibs were giddy with the paradox of bourgeois economics — that a steel mill and 100 wedding planners could generate the same amount of GDP — and the more absurd and counter to common sense, the better. Now, this corrupted, gullible belief in some post-national world is turned around to be yet more evidence of Sino-inscrutability.

No one put a gun to our head and told us to sell our northernmost port, the entry point our geopolitical enemies will use, if it comes to that. Those who sold us this cracked version of the 21st century are now trying to cover their tracks, rather rapidly.

We have to talk back to this sleazy and desperate tactic, by a cross-party, cross-politics elite who have made us economically dependent on someone they are now constructing as an identity-defining enemy.

They can’t decide whether to make chest-beating Periclean statements of principle, or whine when they won’t buy our cheese anymore. We need a plain old-fashioned anti-war movement, led by Green parties, left parties, community groups, just a simple “no” at this stage. We need to, prior and simultaneously, fight this fight in our own heads, as the powerful propaganda machine turns us, once again, towards death rather than life.

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