The left must resolutely oppose the US-led New Cold War on China

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.

Continue reading The left must resolutely oppose the US-led New Cold War on China

International peace movements unite against the New Cold War

On 26 September 2020, the No Cold War campaign held its second webinar: an international peace forum, bringing together peace movements from around the world (including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Stop the War Coalition, CODEPINK, Black Alliance for Peace, Pivot to Peace and Vrede vzw) to analyse the dangerous deterioration in US-China relations and discuss what measures we can take to reverse the tide of war.

The first panel was chaired by Indian historian and journalist Vijay Prashad of the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, and was focused on an analysis of the current political situation. Vijay opened the event by paying tribute to his fellow anti-imperialist journalist Andre Vltchek, who tragically died just a few days prior to the webinar.

Vijay noted that the Doomsday Clock, maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, is currently set at 100 seconds to midnight. The threat to humanity is very high, and a significant component of this is the bullying and belligerent attitude that the US is taking towards China and Russia. We are living through dangerous times, and it is the responsibility of all of us to fight for peace.

Jodie Evans, a co-founder of the US-based women-led grassroots peace organisation CODEPINK, spoke of how the US administration is using Cold War tactics in a bid to divert attention from the parlous state of American capitalism. She pointed out that the US today is a country in decline; a country characterised by increasing homelessness and poverty, failure to respond appropriately to the climate emergency, disastrous handling of the pandemic, mass incarceration, and the extensive use of solitary confinement.

While it paints itself as a force for peace and democracy in the world, the US has attacked over 80 countries since the end of World War II, has dropped bombs on 39 countries, and is the only state in the world to have used nuclear weapons.

Jodie also pointed to the standard pattern of propaganda that’s employed whenever the US defines an ‘enemy’ that it wants to attack, building a sophisticated media campaign to demonise countries and create a popular sentiment in favour of war.

Jodie concluded by stating that the US peace movement has a huge responsibility to mobilise the widest possible alliance of forces to stop the drive to war.

The second speaker was Chris Matlhako, Second Deputy General Secretary of the South African Communist Party. Chris spoke of the campaign in the West against China’s involvement in Africa, with many politicians and analysts decrying China as being the new imperialist force on the continent. This is particularly hypocritical given that Europe and North America are both deeply involved in pursuing economic and political domination in Africa, supporting civil wars, promoting uneven trading relationships, and – via Africom – driving increased militarisation. Chris pointed out that France continues to be in charge of important fiscal policy instruments in much of West Africa, such that several countries are prevented from asserting their sovereignty and pursuing progressive policies that would benefit their populations.

Chris noted that China’s involvement in China has served to offset the West’s negative influence, and that African countries have benefitted from Chinese investment in infrastructure, schools and other important projects. With the Belt and Road Initiative, there’s huge potential for an expanded mutually beneficial relationship between Africa and China – not simply an extractive relationship, but a process that cultivates African manufacturing and economic sovereignty. The sort of multilateralism promoted by China is key to developing a new type of civilisation, a new model of international relations.

Abdallah al-Harif, founder of Democratic Way (Morocco), described the bleak state of contemporary capitalism, exposed and accentuated by the pandemic. The desperate search for profits is leading to the immiseration of peoples and the destruction of nature.

However, this dangerous situation at the same time creates the conditions for the unity of humanity towards a better future. Faced with a vast disinformation machine, this process requires a radical change in consciousness and the emergence of a credible and attractive alternative to capitalism.

Abdallah pointed out that the long road to socialism contains many steps, and the first is to draw together a global front against US imperialism, which is the biggest threat to peace and to life on Earth.

Abdallah urged the meeting to work to make the movement against Cold War part of a general front against US imperialism, for peace and self-determination. We must patiently explain to people the enormous economic, social and environmental cost of this war, and the significant threat of Cold War developing into Hot War. The enormous resources being thrown at this project of aggression should be diverted towards meeting human needs and protecting the planet.

One of China’s leading experts in international relations, Victor Gao, warned that the world is at a very critical juncture. We’re no longer just facing the challenges of development, but also the threat of a disastrous war. How we act now will have a huge impact throughout the world.

Victor pointed out that China has no desire to engage in any type of war, hot or cold. China’s rise has been predicated on a peaceful international environment, and it is a top priority for China to continue to develop peacefully. Unfortunately the US sees that China is expected to surpass the US economically within the next 10-15 years and, as a result, is desperate to find a way to suppress China’s development. Victor drew a parallel with the figure skater Tonya Harding, who in 1994 was implicated in a physical attack on her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. Her then-husband paid a thug to break Kerrigan’s leg by whacking her knee with a baton. Having developed an acute case of Tonya Harding syndrome, the US is now trying to whack the knee of China, put China out of the economic competition. This runs against the principles of fair competition, against the interests of the Chinese and American people, and counter to the goals of peace and development.

Victor called on the meeting to spread a clear message of peace. Any war unleashed by the US will not be of benefit to the US. A Cold War would be tremendously damaging to US consumers, workers and businesses. There will be collateral damage to many other countries. We must unite to defend the legitimate right to peace. War can be avoided.

Bolivian journalist Ollie Vargas spoke to the meeting from the election campaign trail in Cochabamba, and described the setbacks suffered by Bolivia since the US-sponsored coup in November 2019 that removed Evo Morales from government. As a result of this coup, Bolivia has left the path of sovereign development and been forced into the US model of free market destruction and neocolonial dependency. Indigenous and working class people in Bolivia are now once again excluded from power, after 14 years of people-centred government by the Movement for Socialism (MAS). Neoliberal reforms have been introduced, social spending has been destroyed, unemployment has tripled, and poverty has reached the levels of 20 years ago.

Ollie said that China stands as an inspiration for countries in the Global South, because it has successfully taken the path of national development, using the state as the motor of development. And even though China doesn’t seek to impose its model on other countries, it’s a model that should be studied, because it’s a model that can bring peace and progress.

Ollie pointed to the broad cooperation that had taken place between China and the Morales government in Bolivia, including on the construction and launch of a telecommunications satellite. “Bolivia is a small country, it doesn’t have the expertise to launch a rocket into space, so it worked with China to launch the satellite which now provides internet and phone signal to all corners of the country, from the Amazon to the Andes, and here in the working class areas of the big cities.” Ollie said that the project had been a positive model of mutually beneficial cooperation, as China brought expertise and investment but it didn’t seek to take ownership of the final product; the satellite belongs to the Bolivian people. The world can learn a lot from this model of peaceful cooperation.

The second panel was chaired by CND General Secretary Kate Hudson, and focused on strategy and tactics against the New Cold War. Kate read out solidarity messages that had been sent to the meeting by Veterans for Peace (US), International Action Center, and Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War (Canada).

The first speaker in this panel was Margaret Kimberley, a leader of Black Alliance for Peace. Margaret pointed out that the US government is currently ramping up its war propaganda, noting for example that President Trump’s speech at the recent UN General Assembly meeting was made up of slurs and accusations against China. While the US acts as a rogue state in its international relations – for example with the assassination in January this year of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani – it presents itself as the arbiter of justice and democracy. Meanwhile, many Americans are only exposed to corporate media opinions about China, and therefore believe that the Uyghur people are enslaved in concentration camps and that Hong Kong is not a historical part of China.

Margaret pointed out that the African-American population has a proud history of opposing US foreign policy. Black America opposed war in Vietnam and Iraq, and consistently questioned the justifications put forward for these wars. Sixty years ago, Fidel Castro stayed in Harlem and met with Malcolm X at the Hotel Theresa. The Black Alliance for Peace, founded three years ago, seeks to organise people of African heritage and to restore their traditional support for radical politics and opposition to US aggression.

Julie Tang, retired superior court judge and co-founder of Pivot to Peace, spoke of the impact of the New Cold War on the Chinese-American community. Many scientists, students and academics have come under suspicion and investigation; the FBI has foregrounded the threat of “Chinese government economic espionage”, and identified Chinese-Americans and Chinese students and academics as the vectors of this threat. Even longstanding organisations such as the US-China Friendship Association and the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification are being targeted by the State Department.

The media is also participating in this demonisation of China and Chinese people. For example, PBS recently pulled its documentary about poverty alleviation in China. It’s undemocratic that people are only being allowed to hear one side of the story. Julie remarked that the peace movement has a responsibility to ensure that the mainstream media isn’t the only voice when it comes to the questions of China and Cold War.

Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, made the important point that, beyond the Cold War, there’s also the serious danger of a hot war with China. Trump is trying to damage China economically, but he’s also ramping up the military threat, agreeing an unprecedented arms deal with Taiwan, and upgrading US military capacity in a way that is very clearly directed towards confrontation with China.

Lindsey pointed out that there is now a bipartisan approach on China, both in the US and Britain. Joe Biden has been trying to present himself as every bit the ‘China hawk’ that Trump is, and meanwhile the Labour leadership in Britain has been urging the government to take stronger action against China. It’s crucial to unite the broadest possible forces against what the US and British governments are doing. Lindsey emphasised the importance of uniting people against war, even where they might strongly oppose certain aspects of the country under threat. We don’t necessarily have to agree 100 percent with everything China does, but we should nonetheless be able to unite against a war that would have devastating consequences for the people of China, the US and the whole world.

The final speaker was Ludo De Brabander, spokesperson for the Belgian peace organisation Vrede vzw. Ludo remarked that the rising hostility between the US and China is decidedly one-sided. The US is pushing for war while China pushes for peace. It’s true that China is trying to expand its global influence – just as other countries attempt to expand their influence – but so far China has been using strictly political and economic tools, and respecting the sovereignty of other countries. China has increased its military budget in recent years, but it remains less than a third that of the US. China has one overseas military base, compared the US’s several hundred. Hence we can say that China’s military policy is directed towards defending itself.

Ludo suggested that the peace movement work closely with the environmental movement, in which there are similar dynamics at play. While the US President continues to deny anthropogenic climate change, China has just announced its pledge to be carbon neutral by 2060. There’s an important opportunity at this moment in time to join forces and connect these social and environmental movements.

Following the speeches, the panelists responded to several questions that had been submitted by the audience. On the difficulty of countering incessant and pernicious anti-China propaganda in the media, Margaret Kimberley suggested that one of the most powerful ways to encourage people to think critically on this issue is to remind them about the media frenzy over Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, or the oft-repeated claims that Gaddafi’s troops were taking viagra and engaging in mass rape. These things turned out to be lies, but only after they’d done their job of winning support (active or tacit) for a war agenda.

In terms of building mass opposition to war, Lindsey German pointed out that public opinion in Britain tends to be surprisingly anti-war, in no small part because it’s working class people that have to fight in wars, and it’s working class people that suffer from insufficient services, health care and education because so much revenue goes towards the military. Julie Tang reiterated this point. Polling indicates that American voters’ main concerns are the pandemic, the environment and the economy; they’re not as concerned about China as the media makes us think. If political candidates want to attract the support of voters, they should address themselves to the really big problems in US society: racism, the pandemic, the environment, and rebuilding the economy.

This discussion concluded a very powerful and useful webinar that consolidated peace movements and activists from around the world. You can watch back on the No Cold War Youtube channel. You may also want to sign the statement ‘A New Cold War against China is against the interests of humanity’ and sign up to the No Cold War newsletter.

Labour should not be parroting Trump’s anti-China Cold War rhetoric

This article originally appeared in the Morning Star


There’s been a worrying upsurge in anti-China propaganda on both sides of the Atlantic. While imperialist hostility towards China’s rise has become an intrinsic characteristic of the current era – particularly since the launch of the ‘Pivot to Asia’ by the Obama administration in 2011 – the rhetoric has become increasingly hysterical and absurd over the last few months.

There are currently four main lines of attack being pushed on a daily basis by the US and British ruling classes:

  1. The newly-introduced National Security Law is an attack on the basic freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and violates China’s legal obligations under the Sino-British joint declaration of 1984.
  2. The Uyghur population of Xinjiang is being repressed in any number of indescribably brutal ways, including through mass incarceration in ‘re-education camps’ and forced sterilisation.
  3. China – as a result of its secrecy, incompetence, vindictiveness, or some combination thereof – didn’t give the world sufficient warning of the Covid-19 outbreak and must therefore bear responsibility for the havoc being wreaked by the pandemic.
  4. China’s technology companies are providing, or seek to provide, secret information to the Chinese state, and therefore their involvement in Western economies should be actively restricted.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the US government leading the charge. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accuses China of having “broken multiple international commitments including those to the WHO, the WTO, the United Nations and the people of Hong Kong”. He rails against China’s “predatory economic practices, such as trying to force nations to do business with Huawei, an arm of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state.”

This is a bi-partisan position in the US, sadly. Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden is keen to prove he’s also every bit the China hawk, threatening sanctions and promoting a zany and totally unfounded smear about the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women. Even progressive congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have joined in with this mindless China-bashing.

In both the US and Britain, relations with China are at their lowest point for decades. It’s no surprise that the Boris Johnson government, instinctively Atlanticist and desperately pursuing a post-Brexit trade agreement with the US at almost any cost, is largely parroting Trump’s line.

Having agreed in January to Huawei having a role in the development of Britain’s 5G infrastructure, the government is now considering dropping Huawei so as not to be “vulnerable to a high-risk state vendor”. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has stated there’ll be “no return to business as usual” in Britain’s relations with China. Meanwhile, leading government officials have been vocal in their criticism of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, going so far as to offer some three million Hong Kong residents the opportunity to settle in Britain and apply for citizenship.

Those of us who stand for peace and for mutually beneficial cooperation between Britain and China might hope that the Labour Party would provide some meaningful opposition to the government’s reckless behaviour. Unfortunately the indications thus far are that Labour is enthusiastically climbing aboard the New Cold War bandwagon.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy has been actively promoting anti-China propaganda and pushing the Tories to take a harder stance against China, for example urging that action be taken against British businesses that are “complicit in the repression” in Hong Kong (ie that don’t actively support the riots).

While Nandy’s words might bring disappointment to socialists, progressives and peace activists, they were at least welcome in certain quarters: notorious right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes celebrated the “welcome change in Labour Party policy – standing up to, rather than cosying up to despotic regimes.”

Nandy’s position is however positively nuanced in comparison to that of Stephen Kinnock, Shadow Minister for Asia and the Pacific, who accuses China of promoting its “model of responsive authoritarian government” worldwide. Kinnock describes the ‘golden era’ of Sino-British relations, inaugurated during the Cameron government, as being an “abject failure” in which Britain had “rolled out the red carpet for China and got very very little in return”.

It therefore seems that the Labour leadership in its current incarnation is moving towards unambiguous support for the US-led New Cold War on China. It’s particularly demoralising that, with a few honourable exceptions, most notably Diane Abbott, the Labour left isn’t currently putting up any serious resistance to this dangerous trajectory.

While very few Labour MPs have spoken of the dangers of a New Cold War, John McDonnell has recorded a histrionic (and hopelessly one-sided) denunciation of the Chinese state’s alleged mistreatment of the Uyghur Muslims. Apsana Begum has repeated these tropes in parliament, claiming that when the Chinese government celebrates its successful suppression of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement’s murderous bombing campaign, its “definition of terrorism is troublingly vague”. The usually-excellent Claudia Webbe has called on the government to “oppose state-sanctioned violence” in Hong Kong, choosing to ignore the United States-sanctioned violence of separatist protestors.

This is all frankly disastrous and worrying. The US administration is leading a very serious escalation of the New Cold War, trying to isolate China, trying to demonise it, trying to undermine it and to prevent its economic rise. The propaganda ‘soft war’ with regard to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Covid-19 is combined with moves towards economic ‘decoupling’ along with ‘hard war’ encirclement measures, including ramped up and provocative patrols in the South China Sea.

A New Cold War will bring no benefit whatsoever to ordinary British people. It will mean fewer jobs, reduced investment, reduced export markets and increased prices on imports. All this will be accompanied by rising anti-Asian racism and a renewed momentum along the ideological dead-end of empire nostalgia. Even the relatively more sane representatives of the ruling class such as Jeffrey Sachs recognise the danger of this wave of sinophobia “spiralling into greater controversy and greater danger”, resulting in a US-China Cold War that’s “a bigger global threat than the coronavirus.”

What British people need to do, in the interests of peace and progress, is to push for respectful, friendly and mutually beneficial relations with China. Opposing the New Cold War must become a key priority for the labour and anti-war movements.


Activists in Britain and the US are organising an international online meeting against the New Cold War, to take place on Saturday 25 July at 2pm BST. Speakers include Medea Benjamin, Vijay Prashad, Qiao Collective, Wang Wen, Jenny Clegg and Kate Hudson. More info at www.nocoldwar.org