This article first appeared in Ebb Magazine on 24 June 2021. Reproduced with permission.
Since the launch of Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ in 2012, the US has prioritised China containment over all other foreign policy commitments. This includes steadily increasing its presence in the South China Sea and encouraging China’s neighbours in their various territorial claims. Obama also initiated an expansion of US military, diplomatic and economic cooperation with other countries in the region. The overarching strategic goal of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was to isolate China and to draw East and Southeast Asia back into the US economic – and ideological – orbit.
The Trump administration, while dropping the TPP due to its domestic unpopularity, escalated the Pivot in other respects: launching a trade war in January 2018, imposing a ban on Huawei, attempting to ban TikTok and WeChat, spreading conspiracy theories about the origins of Covid-19, and turning ‘decoupling’ into a buzzword. Anti-China propaganda became – and has remained – pervasive in the West.
Alongside the economic and information warfare, there has been a rising militarisation of the Pacific and a deepening of a ‘China encirclement’ strategy that goes back to the arrival of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet in the Taiwan Straits in 1950, just a few months after the establishment of the People’s Republic. Recent years have witnessed ever more frequent US naval operations in the South China Sea; increased weapons sales to Taiwan; the encouraging of Japan’s re-armament; the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile defence system in South Korea and Guam; the establishment of a US marine base in northern Australia; and the bulking up of the Indo-Pacific Command.
Wars hot and cold, new and old
The term ‘Cold War’ was originally coined by US financier Bernard Baruch in 1947 to describe the increasingly tense post-war relationship between the capitalist world and the socialist world. ‘Let us not be deceived; we are today in the midst of a Cold War. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at home. Let us never forget this: Our unrest is the heart of their success.’ The term ‘came to signal an American concept of warfare against the Soviet Union: aggressive containment without a state of war.’ (Odd Arne Westad. The Global Cold War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Historians in the West typically regard the Cold War as an elaborate ideological struggle between two superpowers with comparable motivations – a ‘clash of civilisations’ in which the capitalists and communists slugged it out for supremacy. Such an interpretation ignores the fundamental class struggle dynamics at play. The Soviets hoped to avoid a return to hostilities following the shared Allied victory in World War II; rather they consistently proposed a system of ‘peaceful coexistence’ in which they – and other countries – would enjoy the right to build the society of their own choosing, without the constant threat of war. Vladimir Shubin, former head of the Africa section of the international department of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, writes that
the ‘Cold War’ was not part of our political vocabulary; in fact the term was used in a strictly negative sense… For us the global struggle was not a battle between the two ‘superpowers’ assisted by their ‘satellites’ and ‘proxies’, but a united fight of the world’s progressive forces against imperialism.(V. G. Shubin. The Hot ‘Cold War’. London: Pluto Press, 2008, p. 3)
‘A man is judged by the company he keeps’, goes the saying. During the Cold War period, the Soviet Union’s allies included the people of Vietnam and Korea fighting against imperialist domination; the people of South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Guinea Bissau, Algeria and elsewhere, fighting against colonialism and apartheid; and the people of Cuba, Grenada, Chile, Nicaragua and elsewhere, fighting for the right to construct socialist societies.
The US and its allies fought a very different kind of Cold War: a global hybrid war against socialism and non-alignment. President Truman said fairly bluntly in 1947 that the Cold War was ‘designed to foster a world environment in which the American system can survive and flourish.’ (R.L. Walli. U.S. Foreign Policy of Interventionism. Social Scientist 4, no. 6 (1976): 41-48) The essence of the Cold War was thus a protracted struggle by the US and its allies to protect the long-term viability of the imperialist world system – and, by corollary, weaken the global socialist and anti-imperialist movement. And this war was not always very cold. From Vietnam to Angola to Chile, the Cold War wrought horrifying death and destruction.
A new enemy in a new century
The US won the Cold War by default when the Soviet Union ceased to exist on 31 December 1991. The USSR’s dissolution was not accompanied by the promised ‘peace dividend’. Rather, the removal of the Soviet Union as a bulwark against imperialist hegemony meant the launch of a new era of NATO expansionism and war; an untrammelled and invigorated US-led militarism, which has thought nothing of destroying Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Martin Jacques writes that the Soviet collapse ‘greatly enhanced America’s pre-eminent position, eliminating its main adversary and resulting in the countries of the former Soviet bloc opening their markets and turning in many cases to the US for aid and support. Never before, not even in the heyday of the British Empire, had a nation’s power enjoyed such a wide reach.’ The US’s global position ‘seemed unassailable, and at the turn of the millennium terms like “hyperpower” and “unipolarity” were coined to describe what appeared to be a new and unique form of power.’ (Martin Jacques. When China Rules the World. 2. ed. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2012, p. 1)
Along with expanding the US’s sphere of economic and political influence into the former socialist countries, strategists developed a new obsession: maintaining the new single-superpower status quo and forestalling the rise of any potential geopolitical challenger. These aims are captured in rather stark terms in the Wolfowitz Doctrine, the Defence Planning Guidance for 1994–99 led by then-Deputy Secretary for Defence Paul Wolfowitz: ‘Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union… Our strategy must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor.’
The adoption of the Pivot to Asia reflects a consensus in US ruling circles that the ‘future global competitor’ in question is China. This in turn reflects China’s emergence as the principal driver of global economic growth and the corresponding rise in its influence. China containment is now blossoming into a multifaceted hybrid war – ‘a combination of unconventional and conventional means using a range of state and non-state actors that run across the spectrum of social and political life.’ (Vijay Prashad. Washington Bullets. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2020, p. 118) The picture Jude Woodward paints of the original Cold War bears a chilling resemblance to the current state of US-China relations:
The USSR was variously surrounded by a tightening iron noose of US military alliances, forward bases, border interventions, cruise missiles and naval exercises. Economically it was shut out of international trade organisations, subjected to bans and boycotts and excluded from collaboration on scientific and technological developments. It was diplomatically isolated, excluded from the G7 group of major economies and awarded an international pariah status. It was designated as uniquely undemocratic. Any opponents of this ‘Cold War’ and accompanying nuclear arms race were stigmatised as disloyal apologists, closet ‘reds’ or spies and subjected to McCarthyite witch-hunts.Jude Woodward. The US vs China: Asia’s New Cold War? Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017, p. 31
The techniques of the original Cold War have been updated and adapted for a new enemy in a new century, but the political essence is the same. The US and its allies still seek to maintain the overall stability and long-term viability of the imperialist world system. This system is under threat from China, which is coalescing forces throughout the world in support of a new, multipolar world order; by definition a negation of the US hegemonist project for military and economic control of the planet. Thus, much like the original Cold War, the New Cold War is a sustained conflict, initiated and led by the US, between the forces of imperialism, hegemony and unipolarity on the one hand, and the forces of socialism, sovereignty and multipolarity on the other.
Much is made of the ‘China threat’, which forms the basis of a new McCarthyism in the West. This threat is real enough, albeit not in the sense it’s used by bourgeois politicians and journalists. China does not seek to rule the world, nor does it seek to ‘undermine democracy worldwide’. It is however increasingly challenging the established imperialist world order – economically, strategically and ideologically.
To the extent that China’s extraordinary growth was driven by low-cost, low-margin, low-tech, large-scale manufacturing within US-led supply chains – and to the extent that the abundant supply of cheap, competent and well-educated Chinese labour has made a lot of Americans very rich – the US cautiously tolerated China’s emergence from generalised poverty. Politically, the US administration under Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger hypothesised that, by reaching out to China, they could increase US pressure on the Soviet Union and entrench the Sino-Soviet split. From the time of Nixon’s 1972 Beijing visit onwards, the two countries managed to build a mutually beneficial relationship, albeit one rife with complexities, contradictions and the ever-present possibility of confrontation.
But China’s long-term strategy was not aimed at permanently playing a subservient role in a globalised economy dominated by the US. As Yang Weimin, a senior economist in the Chinese government, said in 2018 discussing the nascent trade war: ‘You can’t let China only make t-shirts while the US does high-tech. That is unreasonable.’ (Bob Davis and Lingling Wei. Superpower Showdown. New York: Harper Business, 2020, p. 241)
China’s economic structure gives the Communist Party of China (CPC) government various powerful levers for directing production. In particular, the publicly-owned banks, the dominance of state-owned enterprises in the ‘commanding heights’ of industry, and the enforcement of a strict set of regulations on private business have allowed the government to steadily rise up the global value chain and construct an advanced economy. ‘China is the only authentically emergent country’, wrote Samir Amin. Chinese scientific research is increasingly world-class. China is the biggest trading partner of most countries in the world, and has become a major source of investment in developing countries. It’s leading the way in the battle against climate breakdown – the sort of thing the West expects to dominate, that feeds into a pervasive (albeit largely subconscious) assumption that the predominantly white nations of Western Europe and North America are fundamentally more ‘civilised’ and ‘enlightened’ than the rest of the world.
If China’s progress were occurring within a framework of US-led imperialism, if US finance capital were able to exercise meaningful control over the process, it would be less of a problem. Japan, Germany, and South Korea have all become significant players in the global economy in the post-war era, but since their rise has occurred within the boundaries of the imperialist world system, it hasn’t provoked any strategic crisis in Washington. These countries largely play by the US’s rules, and are to a greater or lesser degree militarily and politically beholden to the US.
As a non-white country – a country that consistently aligns itself and identifies with the Global South, a country with a Communist Party government, a country that rejects the neoliberal consensus, a country where the capitalist class does not dictate policy – China represents a substantial threat in the battle of ideas. China’s unprecedented increase in economic strength and geopolitical influence has provoked a renewed resolve in the US ruling class to ‘contain’ China; to apply the methods of Cold War against it in order to limit its rise and to secure a ‘New American Century’.
Trump to Biden – plus ça change
Barack Obama was explicit that the purpose of his ‘pivot’ was to preserve US hegemony: ‘We have to make sure America writes the rules of the global economy… Because if we don’t write the rules for trade around the world – guess what – China will.’ Nevertheless, Obama’s overall anti-China strategy was accompanied by some level of sensible cooperation with Beijing, particularly around environmental issues – the Paris Climate Agreement came about in no small part due to the coordination between the US and China.
The Trump administration maintained Obama’s overall anti-China stance but dropped the sophistication and cooperation. Trump came to power with a promise to stop China ‘raping’ the US economy. Key members of his top team included such fanatical China hawks as Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, Stephen Bannon, Robert Lighthizer and Peter Navarro. Their approach was characterised by threats, bluster, blackmail, demagoguery and racism.
Trump insisted that China – aided and abetted by previous US governments – was the cause of all the US’s economic problems. China’s trade imbalance with the US was ‘the greatest theft ever perpetrated by anyone or any country in the history of the world’. (Cited in Peter Frankopan. The New Silk Roads. London, England: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018, p. 112) The decline of US manufacturing was attributed to Chinese currency undervaluation rather than to the ruthlessness and decrepitude of neoliberal capitalism. (Singaporean academic and former diplomat Kishore Mahbubani noted wryly that, rather than blaming China for everything, living standards in the US might improve ‘if America stopped fighting unnecessary foreign wars and used its resources to improve the well-being of its people.’) (Kishore Mahbubani. Has China Won? New York: Public Affairs, 2020, p. 263)
The Trump team initiated a trade war, imposing increasingly heavy tariffs on Chinese imports. Essentially they wanted China to agree to buy hundreds of billions’ worth of US produce that it didn’t need; end state subsidies to key industries; allow US companies unrestricted access to Chinese markets while accepting tariffs on Chinese exports; and stop negotiating technology transfer deals with US companies. Alongside this attempt at a new round of unequal treaties, they moved to protect the US domination of hi-tech industry, imposing a ban on Huawei and seeking to ban popular Chinese mobile apps TikTok and WeChat.
Trump and Pompeo generated mass hostility towards China by engaging in flagrant racism, most notably blaming the coronavirus pandemic on China and referring to it as ‘kung flu’ or ‘the China virus’. Meanwhile the White House revived the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (‘the Quad’), a strategic alliance of the US, Japan, Australia and India, widely understood to be an instrument of China containment. Mike Pompeo confirmed that the objective for the Quad was to become an ‘Asian NATO’.
With Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential elections, many hoped for an easing of tensions between the US and China. Five months into the Biden presidency, such hopes have to all intents and purposes been dashed. The New Cold War has become an invariant of a declining US capitalism determined to hold on to global hegemony via whatever means it can muster. Hostility towards China is a consensus, bipartisan position in the US. Biden has made his view abundantly clear, stating that ‘China has an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world; that’s not going to happen on my watch.’
There are of course some tactical differences between Trump and Biden when it comes to Pacific strategy. Trump tended towards a unilateralist position, demanding that allies in Japan and Europe fall in line behind the US. Biden is attempting to construct a more consensual alliance among traditional US partners, albeit within the framework of ‘restored American leadership.’
One of the Biden team’s first acts following the election was to start undermining the EU-China investment deal. Having failed to prevent the deal being signed, the US coordinated with the EU, Canada and UK to impose a set of sanctions on China over its alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken talking up ‘our ongoing commitment to working multilaterally to advance respect for human rights’. When China then imposed reciprocal sanctions, the EU decided (at the State Department’s urging) that it would ‘freeze’ the deal.
There is little sign that the trade war will be dialled down, in spite of the fact that it has manifestly failed in its stated aim of restoring US manufacturing greatness – a failure Biden himself noted on the campaign trail last summer. Biden has repeated Trump’s talking points about China’s ‘coercive and unfair’ trade practices and its ‘abuses of the international system.’
There is also a basic continuity at the military level, with the new US administration heavily promoting the ‘Quad’ alliance and, according to the Chinese Ministry of Defence, significantly increasing the US military presence and surveillance in the Pacific.
If nothing else, Joe Biden has dialled down the racist rhetoric a few notches, but this hasn’t stopped him resurrecting the racist lab-leak conspiracy theory, studiously ignoring the report carried out by the World Health Organization (the UN agency with the appropriate competence and mandate) and calling on Western intelligence services to conduct their own investigation. As Danny Haiphong notes, this is the behaviour of ‘a Democrat with Trumpian Characteristics on China.’
A crucial difference between the original Cold War and the current one is that the US is very unlikely to ‘win’ the New Cold War. Compared to the Soviet Union in the 1980s, China is much stronger economically, much more integrated into the global economy, and frankly has much stronger leadership and a more coherent vision for the future of socialism.
Soviet GDP never exceeded 40 percent of US GDP, but China will surpass the US in absolute GDP terms in the next couple of years. China has been able to avoid an arms race, and has not been involved in direct military confrontation with the imperialist powers – having made a strategic choice to prioritise the strengthening and defence of its own revolution over taking a leading role in the promotion of global revolution. Meanwhile its deep integration into global value chains, and the fact that it is the largest trading partner of the majority of the world’s countries, mean that stability in China is crucial for the global economy. As such, in economic terms, even the capitalist world has a clear vested interest in the People’s Republic of China not collapsing.
The recently-signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership puts China at the centre of the largest trade bloc in history, comprising 30 percent of the world’s population (it includes Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam). China is not in any meaningful risk of becoming economically isolated.
‘Decoupling’ from China would be highly detrimental to the US economy, as it would mean losing access to a Chinese market of 1.4 billion people and increasing the production cost of a vast array of commodities. Tariffs on Chinese goods have a direct and immediate impact on US businesses that rely on these products (most are intermediate goods, used in the production process for consumer goods). Even Foreign Affairs magazine, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, has described the trade war as ‘unwinnable’, noting that ‘tariffs have hit US consumers harder than their Chinese counterparts.’
The US will also likely be unsuccessful in its attempt to deny China access to markets and components it needs to further upgrade its economy. As Peter Frankopan has observed: ‘If, as seems likely, necessity is the mother of invention, then it may well prove that attempts to strangle technological developments by starving other states of components and knowledge will only serve to accelerate them.’ (Frankopan, op cit, p. 176)
The outlook for the New Cold Warriors is not promising. China is not internationally isolated, is not suffering economic stagnation, and is not facing a crisis of legitimacy. The Chinese government enjoys enormous popularity at home, the result of ever-improving living standards at all levels of society. Wages are rising, social welfare is improving. According to an extensive study conducted by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, 93 percent of Chinese people are satisfied with their central government.
The chances of China suffering the fate of the USSR are therefore vanishingly small, and the New Cold War is doomed to failure. But it can do plenty of damage along the way. Cold War tensions can easily develop into violent confrontation. As noted above, millions of people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean experienced the Cold War as being decidedly hot. And history indicates that the US and its allies are not above using military means in order to maintain their ‘sphere of influence’ intact.
Meanwhile climate change presents an unprecedented global threat. If humanity is to avoid triggering any of the several planetary tipping points, it will have to address its environmental challenges with the utmost coordination and cooperation. Mahbubani puts it pithily: ‘If climate change makes the planet progressively uninhabitable, both American and Chinese citizens will be fellow passengers on a sinking ship.’ (Mahbubani, op cit, p. 264) Much the same logic applies to the major public health threats faced by humanity: pandemics and microbial resistance. China has consistently raised its voice in favour of such cooperation. For example foreign minister Wang Yi says that, ‘as the world’s largest developing country and the largest developed country, both [China and the US] bear a major responsibility for world peace and development.’ Contrast this with Joe Biden, who says that the US is ‘in competition with China’ to ‘win the 21st century.’
At an economic and cultural level, Cold War will mean a reduced global division of labour, reduced productivity, reduced learning, reduced cross-pollination of knowledge and ideas. In terms of geopolitics, it threatens to slow down and complicate the process of creating a more multipolar and democratic system of international relations.
Neither Washington nor Beijing?
It seems that every Cold War must have its own ‘third camp’ in the Western left. During the original Cold War, in particular in Britain, a significant proportion of the socialist movement rallied behind the slogan Neither Washington nor Moscow, withholding their support from a Soviet Union they considered to be state capitalist and/or imperialist. These forces called for workers in the imperialist countries to reject alignment with the ruling classes in Washington or Moscow, and instead to join ‘the camp of proletarian internationalism, of the socialist revolution, of the struggle for the emancipation of all the oppressed.’
A few decades later, this slogan has been resurrected as Neither Washington nor Beijing, with China taking the place of the Soviet Union as the evil ‘social imperialist’ power to be opposed. Presenting the New Cold War as an inter-imperialist conflict means that a number of prominent organisations and individuals on the left are failing to take an effective anti-war position. If China is ‘an emerging imperialist power’; if ‘socialists should side with workers — not the Chinese or American ruling class’; such socialists are unlikely to take a strong position against the rising US-led militarisation of the Pacific, or the China containment strategy, or economic ‘decoupling’, or against the varied forms of hybrid warfare being leveraged against China by the US and its allies.
Particularly under the Biden administration, phoney human rights allegations form a centrepiece of the attack on China. These allegations are being used to attempt to cut China out of global value chains, to disrupt the Belt and Road Initiative, to diplomatically isolate China and to generate anti-China sentiment worldwide. Unfortunately, much of the Western left – even if it has a stated position of opposing Cold War – is parroting this slander unquestioningly. The Socialist Party for example is only too willing to repeat absurd tropes about China’s construction of a ‘police state’ in Xinjiang. The Socialist Workers Party repeats the lie that ‘one million are locked up in internment camps’ and that what the CPC government is perpetrating in Xinjiang is a ‘racist horror.’ Counterfire offers uncritical support for violent, Western-backed ‘pro-democracy protestors’ in Hong Kong. (For those wishing to research these issues, Qiao Collective have done an excellent job of consolidating resources on both Hong Kong and Xinjiang.)
The situation is reminiscent of the Western left’s failure to effectively oppose the NATO war on Libya. In theory, these pseudo-socialist groups claimed to be against bombing (with a few dishonourable exceptions that supported the No Fly Zone), yet they simultaneously echoed idiotic and unsubstantiated claims about the Gaddafi government which were clearly designed to build public support for war. When NATO bombed the ‘rebels’ to victory in August 2011, Counterfire declared that ‘the Gaddafi regime was a brutal dictatorship and it deserved to be overthrown just as much as that of Ben Ali’s in Tunisia or Mubarak’s in Egypt.’ Similarly, the Western left largely failed to build an effective movement against the war in Syria, instead participating in the propaganda campaign against the Syrian government.
The anti-China propaganda is having an impact, particularly in the imperialist heartlands. In the US, it has produced ‘a bipartisan consensus in Washington towards getting tough with China that is now extending to the broader public.’ Anti-China sentiment is at an all-time high, to the point where it is fomenting a rise in anti-Asian racism – tragically exemplified by the Atlanta massacre in March. For the left to echo imperialist propaganda against China in the context of a burgeoning Cold War is to comprehensively abdicate its most basic responsibilities in the global struggle against imperialism.
Unite to oppose the US-led New Cold War on China
The original Cold War was waged by the US and its allies not just against the Soviet Union but against the forces of socialism and national sovereignty worldwide. It was a protracted and multifaceted struggle to ensure the preservation of an imperialist status quo. The same is true of the New Cold War. It’s being waged by the US and its allies not just against China but the entire Global South, against the very notion of multipolarity, against the possibility of a democratic system of international relations and the end of hegemony.
China is a strong and increasingly consistent supporter of multipolarity – an international order in which there are multiple centres of power, creating an equilibrium that increases the costs of war and conflict, and promotes peaceful cooperation and integration. British academic Jenny Clegg, who has written the canonical book on China’s multipolar strategy, writes:
A multipolar world involves a pattern of multiple centres of power, all with a certain capacity to influence world affairs, shaping a negotiated order. Multipolarisation involves not only readjustments in the relations between the major powers with the growing role of Europe and Japan but also the rise of developing countries, their regional associations such as ASEAN, the African Union, the South American communities as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and their international organisations such as the G77 and the non-aligned movement (NAM). The rising forces of the Third World in fact play the key role in multipolarisation, with the support of the world’s other progressive forces and states, to provide the basis for a genuine multilateralism coordinated through the United Nations.Jenny Clegg. China’s Global Strategy. New York: Pluto Press, 2009, p. 13
Multipolarity provides a path for the defeat of modern imperialism; it involves weakening the forces of polarisation of wealth and power; it deprives the imperialist bloc of its power to determine the fate of the rest of the world through military action, sanctions and destabilisation.
Because it enhances the sovereignty of the non-imperialist countries, it also by corollary helps to create appropriate conditions for those countries to pursue socialist experiments. Thus Samir Amin: ‘Multipolarity will provide the framework for the possible and necessary overcoming of capitalism.’ (Samir Amin. Beyond US Hegemony? New York: Zed Books, 2006, p. 149) Or as Xi Jinping rather poetically put it in Moscow in 2013:
All countries, irrespective of size, strength and wealth, are equal. The right of the people to independently choose their development paths should be respected, interference in the internal affairs of other countries opposed, and international fairness and justice maintained. Only the wearer of the shoes knows if they fit or not. Only the people can best tell if the development path they have chosen for their country suits or not.
Real-world examples of the benefits of multipolarity can be seen in the various ‘21st century socialist’ experiments in Latin America, all of which have benefitted from sustained Chinese support.
Such a situation is precisely what the US ruling class is trying to avoid. This is the most powerful driver of the New Cold War. The imperialist powers – particularly the US, but generally supported by Canada, Britain, Western Europe and Japan – seek to maintain a unipolar status quo which provides maximum benefit to the US (with some crumbs to its allies) at the expense of the rest of the world. China by contrast is leading the construction of a multipolar world in which each country can choose its own development path and all countries are free to build mutually beneficial relations.
Those that oppose imperialism must therefore resolutely and consistently oppose the US-led New Cold War in all its manifold forms. To sit on the fence would be to uphold the imperialist status quo.