U.S. imperial Decline and the Belt and Road Initiative: The Most Important Global Struggle of the Century
U.S. imperialism views the One Belt One Road as an existential threat to the domination and monopoly of the dollar.
“China is becoming deeply connected to Asia, Europe, and Africa and this spells doom for U.S. imperial hegemony.”
The U.S. is once again mired in the political circus of the presidential election cycle. Corporate Democrats have aligned themselves firmly against the social democratic aspirations of the Sandernistas. The Republican Party has collapsed at the feet of chief arch-racist billionaire Donald Trump and will remain under his political thumb for as long as there is a White Man’s Party. A crisis off legitimacy has been set off by the economic condition of the U.S. imperial system where slow growth stagnation, austerity, and endless war reigns supreme. West of the United States, a new giant is emerging. China possesses a development plan that threatens to undo U.S. hegemony for good and one which has already laid the basis for the most important global struggle of the century.
The development plan is called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI was launched in 2013 under the leadership of president Xi Jinping. China invested an initial one trillion USD into the BRI with the hopes of connecting China to Europe by both land and sea. In 2013, BRI included 65 countries and an estimated 55 percent of global GDP. This has since increased to tentative agreements with 126 countries after the latest Belt and Road summit. The value of current trade arrangements from the BRI is nearly eight trillion USD, which accounts for over a quarter of all Chinese trade. In other words, China is becoming deeply connected to Asia, Europe, and Africa and this spells doom for U.S. imperial hegemony.
“China possesses a development plan that threatens to undo U.S. hegemony for good.”
The Belt and Road Initiative is the starkest example of how U.S. capitalist system and its current stage of imperialism has been eclipsed by China’s market-oriented socialist economy. China’s growth rate has averaged 10 percent since 1978as compared to the sluggish 2-3 percent that the U.S. has been garnering over the same period. China is becoming the world’s leader in both technological development and poverty reduction. Since 1978, the People’s Republic of China has accounted for the entire reduction in poverty in the world by lifting800 million Chinese workers and peasantsout of the underdevelopment that Western imperialism imposed on the nation prior to 1949. Old industries have been updated and new industries such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence account for over sixteen percent of China’s GDP.
China’s rapid industrialization and technological growth is important because technological advance under capitalism leads inevitably to a higher rate of exploitation. The capitalist system utilizes technological advances to speed up production and automate labor, which vastly increases the surplus value (profit) accumulated by capitalist enterprises. This widens inequality and raises the number of workers relegated to the reserve army of the unemployed. In China, the opposite has occurred. China has become a technological powerhouse while decreasing unemployment and raising the standard of living for all. While inequality between the rich and the poor has widened through the implementation of market reforms, colonial underdevelopment has become a thing of the past in China.
“Technological advance under capitalism leads inevitably to a higher rate of exploitation.”
One of the central objectives of socialism is the rapid development of the productive forces of society. Only the rapid growth of the productive forces within nations ravaged by colonial plunder and underdevelopment can ensure that the basic needs of the masses are met and that the revolution can move toward communism, or a classless society. Market reforms, while not without contradictions, have allowed China to preserve its socialist revolution and advance in ways the Soviet-led socialist bloc never could. In a hostile global environment characterized by U.S. imperialist destruction and provocation, China has been able to bridge the gap between the city and countryside by eradicating the backwardness left by semi-colonialism and imperialism. It is China’s success in this area which led late Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castroto remark that “China has become the most promising hope and the best example for all Third World countries . . .”
The People’s Republic of China is engaged in a constant struggle between the implementation and suppression of capitalist mechanisms. President Xi Jinping’s embrace of Marxism and “free trade’ is a manifestation of that struggle in the political realm. The Belt and Road Initiative represents the duality of China’s economic miracle. China has not required its partners to adopt a socialist command economy. Rather it has lent its technical and economic prowess to build massive railway projectsin both neocolonial states, such as Indonesian and Malaysia; and socialist countries like Vietnam and the DPRK, as part of a “win-win” arrangement.
“U.S. and Western imperial states have left the planet in utter catastrophe.”
Whatever contradictions exist within the Belt and Road Initiative are to be resolved by the people of China and the nations that participate in the project. It is worth noting that critics of China’s Belt and Road Initiative have almost entirely come from the U.S. and Western imperialist orbit. Corporate outlets have described the Belt and Road as a “scheme” designed to impose debt trapson participating nations and expand Chinese “imperial” influence across the world. Such criticisms are laughable when one takes stock of the enormous debts that the I.M.F. and the World Bank, two wholly U.S.-led institutions, have placed upon the throats of the former colonial world. U.S. and Western imperial states have left the planet in utter catastrophe and only have austerity and war to offer its inhabitants.
That the U.S. and its Western allies opposing the Belt and Road Initiative are primarily responsible for the fact that five individuals own more wealth than half the world’s populationtells us all we need to know about the legitimacy of U.S. and Western critiques of the BRI. U.S. opposition to China’s Belt and Road is evidence of a global struggle between the decline of U.S. imperialism and China’s market socialist economy. The Trump Administration has continued Obama’s “pivot to Asia” by labeling China (and its partner Russia) the gravest threat to U.S. “national security.” Trump’s regime has engaged in a “trade war,” purged Chinese scientistsin the U.S. mainland, and illegally placed the CFO of Huawei corporation under house arrest. Most recently, the U.S. has increased its military aid to Taiwanin a blatant violation of the One China policy. These provocations are a signal to China that its very existence as a global power is unacceptable to the U.S. imperialist albatross.
“U.S. opposition to China’s Belt and Road is evidence of a global struggle between the decline of U.S. imperialism and China’s market socialist economy.”
The One Belt One Road Initiative represents the biggest threat to U.S. imperial hegemony in this epoch. China offers the world’s nations access to what U.S. and European imperialism has historically prevented in order to extract the wealth and labor of Third World at the cheapest price: technical expertise and infrastructure development. U.S. imperialism views the One Belt One Road’s objective of enhancing the productive forces of the poorest nations as an existential threat to the domination and monopoly of the dollar. The equation is simple. The more that China dominates trade and investment worldwide, the less likely that these nations will continue to use the U.S. dollar to conduct its economic affairs.
U.S. imperialism offers only austerity and war and is thus unable to compete with China’s Belt and Road initiative. To be more precise, U.S. imperialism is incapable of doing anything to the contrary given the current stage of the system. China doesn’t operate from the basis of unfettered capitalism where the “market” (a euphemism for private capitalists) dictates all affairs with private profit, and profit alone, in mind. Capitalism has reached its most advanced stage of imperialist development. Monopolies and finance capitalists call the shots. True competition and investment in the form of a different economic mode of development is nothing but an impediment to the maximization of profit. And because finance capital refuses to hedge its bets on anything that doesn’t bring a maximum return on investment for its shareholders, the U.S. military has been deployed to threaten China into submission.
“The more that China dominates trade and investment worldwide, the less likely that these nations will continue to use the U.S. dollar.”
China’s planned economy is here to stay. Military threats and trade wars have not weakened China. On the contrary, they have brought China closer to key allies such as Russia. The question is, what can people in the U.S. learn from the One Belt One Road process? First, the BRI teaches us that the U.S., as it is currently constructed, offers no hope for humanity. China’s plan offers more than hope; it offers an opportunity in the here and now to further erode the legitimacy of the U.S.-led austerity regime. In a moment where reparations and Medicare for All are both being uttered by Democratic Party politicians, movements for social transformation in the U.S., especially the Black left, should look abroad for relationships of solidarity.On this point, China cannot be ignored.
The One Belt One Road Initiative also urges us to defend China from U.S. imperialism. Some on the “left” in the U.S. have repeated corporate media and State Department talking points about China’s “imperialism” and other iterations of Yellow Peril critiques of China’s policies. Yet while these “left” forces condemn China’s infrastructure projects on the African continent as exploitative, they rarely if ever mention the U.S.’ neo-colonial military presence on the continent which has contributed to chaos and carnage in nations such as Libya. They also fail to mention that the U.S. military state has as its main priority the “containment” and ultimate destruction of China’s planned economy—a mission that can only end in nuclear war.
“Movements for social transformation in the U.S., especially the Black left, should look abroad for relationships of solidarity.”
A left that finds itself aligned with the militarist and imperialist U.S. state on the question of China is no left at all. Radicalism that searches for a “pure” socialism amid the incessant attacks from U.S. imperialism should not be labeled as such. The responsibility of an insurgent and organized left in the United States is to oppose war and develop cooperative relationships with nations around the world. As a journalist and witness of the achievements of the Belt and Road Initiative, Andre Vltchek notes, “BRI is the exact contrast to the Western colonialism and imperialism.” Condemning China without investigation reinforces Western imperialism and failing to engage with the Belt and Road Initiative only renders the people of the U.S. irrelevant in the most significant global struggle of the 21stcentury: that between the U.S. and China.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News -- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing).He can be reached at [email protected], on Instagram at danny_haiphong, and on Twitter at @SpiritofHo
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