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We must resist US pressure on China that could lead to war

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 pm, February 20th, 2021 - 41 comments
Categories: australian politics, China, defence, International, jacinda ardern, leadership, Media, Propaganda, Russia, uk politics, us politics, war - Tags:

In February 2002 I was at a union-NDP conference in Ottawa watching US television in my hotel room. Back home I reported on the conference to the Labour Party caucus and stated as an aside that the US was going to war with Iraq. Helen Clark stood up straightaway and said “we won’t be going with them.” Jacinda Ardern needs to do the same now.

The US tv coverage I watched in 2002 was wall-to-wall anti-Iraq. Saddam had nuclear weapons, was murdering his people wholesale, and also had other chemical “weapons of mass destruction”. In early 2003 George W Bush did take the US to war with Iraq, in order to “restore democracy.” 17 years later the country is wrecked, the oil is looted, the Iraqis want the Americans out but they won’t go.

And it was all shown subsequently to be based on lies – most notably Colin Powell’s testimony to the UN Security Council. Also the infamous 45 minutes to mass destruction by chemical weapons relied on by Tony Blair. But they were lies with a purpose; to prepare the US and the UK people to be willing to condone the already-decided upon war, with all its subsequent horrors.

This has been the pattern through the history of the last one hundred and fifty years, from the filthy Hun to the vicious Nips to the subhuman Gooks. Now its the Russian thugs and the good old Chinese “yellow Peril.” The “War on Terror” that spawned the everlasting invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq has been replaced by the war against states – China, Russia, Iran and North Korea – all explicitly named in recent strategic documents.

The reason for this shift from the failed war on terror is because the failing states – the US and the UK – have become aware they are being out-thought and out-stripped by the rising Eurasian linkage between China and Russia, and points between, with all its attendant institutions – BRI, SCO, AIIB, RCEP to name just a few. New Zealand is involved in three of them.

The motivation for US and UK hostility is the same as it was in the nineteenth century with the Opium Wars – a refusal to surrender hegemony – total factor domination – coupled with a demand that the massive Chinese consumer market and the massive Russian resource base be opened up to Western finance capital for plunder.

The Russians and the Chinese have seen this coming, and they are determined that the 21st century outcome is not going to be the same as in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with the Opium Wars and the Cold War. They do not wish war, but are not going to be run over again. They wish to be treated with respect.

The problem is that this war, if it were to happen, would not be like the war on Iraq, destructive for  many millions of innocent people as that was. It would not be by invasion of Russia or China; as Michael Hudson points out in this excellent essay America no longer has the capacity to wage a ground war, so any such war would rapidly turn nuclear. As an example, the US Marine Corps, the naval expeditionary or invasion force, has turned its strategy from infantry attack to missile attack, planning to ring China with yet more short-range strategic missiles.

Assuming rationality, as always with all those weapons roiling around our region the main danger is mistake, the sort of problem Daniel Ellsberg warned against when he worked for the Rand Corporation and released the Pentagon papers in 1986, and emphasised again in his recent excellent book The Doomsday Machine in 2019. The Doomsday Clock run by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is at 100 seconds, the closest point to midnight it has ever been.

I do not think Jacinda Ardern was right when she said that “climate change is the nuclear issue of the 21st century,” as though the nuclear issue has been settled. It has not been. Both issues are in critical balance, and the nuclear danger is the more proximate.

That danger is very real. The Biden administration has carried on the ramping up of rhetoric and planning from the Trump administration with very little change. A Task Force has been set up in the Defense Department headed by the hawkish Ely Ratner to come up wit a new strategy in the next few months. The US political parties, the Washington foreign policy elite, and the vast range of think tanks are convergent on the need to bring China to heel. The US media is in full rage mode with the anti-China narrative. Billions have been poured into further development of nuclear weapons.

The main difference from the Trump administration is that Biden has announced that the US will now be relying on its allies to support its “extreme competition” with China. This means they will certainly be knocking on New Zealand’s door, reinforced by the Australians. While no doubt some in our foreign policy and defence establishments will enjoy being welcomed back to the cocktail parties and insider meetings, now more than ever we need to maintain our independent stance.

Our interests do not lie in extreme competition with China, as we continue to benefit so much from co-operation with them. We must resist being pulled into support for the US position against China, while supporting its efforts to deal with climate change in co-operation with them.

The underlying issue will be framed as the democratic US-led West against the authoritarian Eurasians. This is facile in the extreme. The United States is much more accurately described as a gerontocratic oligopolistic plutocracy. The Chinese governance system is consensual and meritocratic.

The other key difference is in priorities. The Chinese system prioritises communal welfare, so it has raised millions out of poverty. Corporate finance is state-c0ntrolled, and seeks massive investment in infrastructure for the common good. In the US infrastructure is decaying, evidenced most notably by the recent collapse of the energy system in Texas; and the private Federal Reserve has funneled four-fifths of the post-Covid stimulus to the private corporate sector.

There are very few Asian voices in our media, so Kiwis don’t have a good idea about what Asia thinks. One voice I do like is Kishore Mahbubani, a Singaporean academic, diplomat, and author. He is knowledgeable and balanced, and widely consulted and available on YouTube. In his recent book, “Has China Won?” he provides a penetrating analysis of the different perspectives of China and the US, and argues for co-operation rather than competition. He concludes:

At the end of the day this is what the six billion people of the rest of the world expect America and China to do: to focus on saving the planet and improving the living conditions of humanity, including those of their own peoples. The final question will therefore not be whether America or China has won. It will be whether humanity has won.

Humanity demands that we are kept safe from nuclear war. That should also be Aotearoa/New Zealand’s demand.


41 comments on “We must resist US pressure on China that could lead to war ”

  1. Stuart Munro 1

    Our best strategy with respect to China, or the US for that matter, is to set a good example. Our country has much to do, with rampant growth in inequality, and crisies in housing and sustainability, never mind the Covid crisis. If we mind our country well, our voice will carry more weight than if we offer criticism white-anted by our own poor responses to challenges.

    But it should not be assumed that either China or Russia are immune to the operations of interest that have corrupted America. None of these self-styled superpowers are to be trusted entirely. NZ's foreign policy needs to serve NZ for a change, and not be sacrificed every time some larger country drops hints about a trade deal.

  2. Subliminal 2

    Great post Mike. The likelihood of cooperation between the USA and China seems to be very low. Biden is already letting the chance for mending the JCPOA with Iran slip away. Continuing the confrontational approach of Trump with as you rightly point out the new twist of enlisting the support of friendly nations seems to be the way forward. To be successful, there will need to be further ramping of the anti China rhetoric. As you point out, demonising the targeted enemy is a necessary first step. It's incredible that we are subjected to this so frequently but seem to retain no memory of it. On WMD:

    Alan Foley, the head of the CIA's Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC). WINPAC led the CIA's analysis of Iraq's purported WMD…

    Goodman thanked Foley for addressing the students and asked him what weapons of mass destruction he believed would be found after the invasion. "Not much, if anything," Goodman recalled that Foley responded….

    One day in December 2002, Foley called his senior production managers to his office. He had a clear message for the men and women who controlled the output of the center's analysts: "If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so."

    It is to be hoped that even if it is not possible for us to understand the nature of manufacturing consent for war and are led by the nose to the feeding trough of anti China rhetoric, then at least we do realise the catastrophic results for such a war and say firmly that we do not want to be involved. I for one, forgive Helen Clarke for absolutely everything for the one truly great thing that required a lot of strength, to say no to the war on Iraq

  3. Castro 3

    The PRC is the new Nazi Germany; the best thing No Zealand can do in relation to the Plague Kingdom is to have absolutely nothing to do with it. Some wanted to appease Hitler, I recall. Perhaps there are those like Mr Smith who are primarily concerned about maintaining their property values or are receiving money from the Chinese dictatorship in one form or another? https://www.britannica.com/topic/appeasement-foreign-policy Ethnocide and genocide and lebensraum-seeking for the “volk” are evils.

    [don’t attack authors on this site. You have a history of this, my suggestion is you up your game or you will get banned – weka]

  4. RedLogix 4


    Simple question – if the PRC do invade Taiwan as they seem intent on doing – what would be your position?

    Cheer it on? Or try and pretend it wasn't happening?

  5. Sanctuary 5

    The frontline in the defense of our democracy runs through the Formosa strait. An attack on Taiwan – a free, democratic country – should be seen as an attack on us. And no amount of Quisling prevarication should obscure that.

  6. Andrew Miller 6

    No, we don’t want war with China but nor to we want grotesque apologia for its appalling human rights abuses.
    I think it’s safe to say virtually no one wants nuclear war, but given your postings when you say ‘humanity’ you appear happy to exclude the Taiwanese, Uighur and the numerous other victims of the CCP.

    The Standard should be ashamed of itself.

    [read the Policy. The Standard is a machine, not an editorial board. The politics are fair game, but I’ve got short patience for people having a go at authors. If you don’t like what Mike is saying, then critique that – weka]

    • weka 6.1

      mod note for you.

    • Mike Smith 6.2

      As I said in the post Red we should assume rationality and the most likely cause for concern is a mistake. The whole point of the post was to warn against the danger, but it is the US that is encircling China not the other way around.

      • RedLogix 6.2.1

        Last I looked at the map, China is encircled by 17 neighbouring countries – virtually all of whom have good reason to be concerned at it's expansionary ambitions.

        The US won't invade China, it doesn't have to. All it has to do is withdraw it's Navy from providing Freedom of Navigation for any merchant vessels sailing to or from any Chinese port. And the PRC's fraction of GDP involved in imports/exports is one of the highest on earth – the impact would be massive across virtually all sectors of it's economy.

        Personally I don't think it's at all rational for the PRC to invade Taiwan – but the fact that they keep saying – and acting as if they will – shouldn't be ignored totally.

        • Mike Smith

          China's expansionary ambitions are about trade, as exemplified by the Belt and Road Initiative. They are well aware of the maritime threat from the US and soon to be the UK which is why the Belt land-based part is important to them.

          • Populuxe1

            The Belt and Road are about trade. That is a completely different issue to Tibet, Taiwan and the Nine Dash Line which China has always maintained is about their interpretation of traditional territorial integrity. Then there is the issue of SAE defense agreements with the US, which ironically, since Vietnam, the US has been reluctant to act on.

      • Populuxe1 6.2.2

        I suspect that would come as a surprise to the four other nuclear powers sharing a border with China.

    • Muttonbird 6.3

      Yet you've been happy for the last 30 years to buy goods made in China.

  7. Ad 7

    Our government offered to broker between Australia and China just last month. We've just pulled our last soldier out of Afghanistan last week. So Ardern understands diplomacy in this area just fine.

    • Mike Smith 7.1

      The real pressure hasn't started yet. It will come on after the US has completed its review. The government will need a great deal of support from all of us to retain an independent stance. We also need to be much more aware of other voices in Asia than we appear to be at the moment.

      • Populuxe1 7.1.1

        We also need to be much more aware of other voices in Asia than we appear to be at the moment.

        Like Taiwan perhaps? Hong Kong? Vietnam? The Philippines (if Duterte ever works out whose side he's on)? India (currently in a military standoff with China)? The US might have its own interests to push, but they're singing to the choir.

  8. Incognito 8

    My admittedly naive view is that Biden has inherited (and contributed to) a divided nation and will do whatever to repair the widening schism within. A robust jingoist story with associated rhetoric to divert attention away from internal issues might just do the trick. Expect some military chest-beating and prowess to stimulate national pride.

    I know even less about China but they seem to be playing a psychological game of poker with Taiwan. The ruling Party has it owns internal issues to deal with.

    As another commenter was saying, this feels like a number of coinciding exercises in manufacturing consent on a global scale. It’ll be interesting to see if NZ buys into it, literally, and dives deeper into the rabbit hole. Personally, I don’t think Aotearoa-New Zealand should demand anything but work on strengthening relationships between peoples because that’s what humanity is all about, isn’t it?

  9. Simbit 9

    "The Chinese system prioritises communal welfare, so it has raised millions out of poverty." Not sure if you mean the Chinese Communist Party or some sort of traditional Chinese society. The CCP plunged China into famine which it took many years to dig itself out of. They now look like any other kleptocracy, exemplified by the US, which should mean no war as they are more alike than different…

  10. DukeEll 10

    The filthy hun and devious nip both went on to invade numerous neighbours and commit terrible atrocities and genocide to those neighbours. China under the CCCP has form with taking over its neighbours. Namely Tibet and Mongolia.

    So fears of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan are not without merit.

  11. Byd0nz 11

    The US is a military regime with the Comander in Chief being the President of this multi party one system military state, a state that has an economy based on producing and selling military hardware with salesmen spouting about evil enemies, enemies who's military budgets combined together dont come anywhere near the US. The world must be getting sick of this sick US State, even the NATO countries people dont agree with this redundant organization using their money to fund American paranoia and hegemony. I note that US propaganda still resonates with some on this site. Fuck money systems, time for a United world, a world without money and the corruption that money is.

  12. Obtrectator 12

    "The Chinese governance system is consensual and meritocratic."

    Try telling that to the Uighurs and Tibetans!

    (Would have had this up earlier, but the site seemed to be down for much of yesterday (Sunday).)

  13. Tiger Mountain 13

    Intelligent post Mike Smith.

    Nuclear weapons have to be opposed now as they were in the 80s. New Zealanders, street by street, Council District by Council District, marched, rallied and attended vigils to achieve a Nuke Free NZ.

    The UN Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons has come into effect, having been ratified by 50 countries as of 22 January this year. This country was among them, not on the roll of dishonour–9 Nuclear capable nations, and all the NATO ones plus Australia! and others.

    Demonising China in support of US Imperialism because of 5 Eyes is not the way forward in 2021. New Zealand, particularly in the COVID, Climate Disaster era, should practice the most independent, non aligned political and trade position possible.

  14. "The Chinese governance system is consensual and meritocratic"

    That seems to be a very interesting take on it ? Please explain ?

  15. Corey Humm 15

    "The Chinese governance system is consensual and meritocratic."

    Excuse me? Consensual? Consensual is democracy, USA is not a democracy it's a federal republic but it's a lost closer to a democracy than the CCP, whose human rights attrocities make the us look like rank amateurs. You think chinese people like the CCP seriously? A country where they disappear you if you disagree with the govt , where celebrities overseas have to tow the party line or their families are disappeared back home. Where slavery is rampant , you go work in one of those suicide net factories for $2 a day and then tell us all how great china is, I haven't even gotten on to Hong Kong where they arrest and disappear protesters and major political parties for wanting democracy. One of the great shames of this country who was once so ready to condemn major powers in the past won't condemn china's treatment of Hong Kong , muslims or basic human rights, but we'll crap all over the west though cos we don't sell the west milk.

    Look closer to the pacific and the debt trap china's getting our neighbors in soon they'll get one so broke they'll demand an island or a bit of land as compensation and have a naval base right next to Australia.

    Look at universities cramping down on students and professors who critcize China, the main political parties are absolutely infiltrated by China and woe be anyone who brings it up, china has brought our soul for milk, yay neoliberalism.

    I'm no defender of western imperialism but a lot of people seem to defend chinese imperialism.

    But seriously … consensual govt in china? Since when? Maintain our independent foreign policy? What independence? We offer meek criticism and have govt ministers spewing CCCP party lines and offering condescending advice to other countries on how to make nice with china, we're not independent, we're dependent.

    And last thing the rise of russia ? Russia? A petrol station that manufactures vodka and dash cam crash footage? Again try speaking out against the govt there.

    • Scud 15.1

      NZ well never have a proper Independent Foreign Policy, if whatever NZG keeps Foreign, Trade, Defence and Aid Development in separate Silo's. For NZ to have a truly Independent Foreign Policy all 4 dept's have to be treated as equal if NZ is to avoid being caught up in the coming shit sandwich and time is running out for NZ. Especially when both sides of the house incl most here at The Standard wants to keep on salami slicing cuts the NZDF inparticularly the most equipment hungry/ expensive arms of the NZDF the Navy and Airforce.

      NZ is an export led economy and unlike Ireland, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland NZ's export markets is 4-5 sailing days away to our closet market Australia. But it doesn't even the capability to maintain its SLOC's to Singers ie access the SEA markets or to the like of Sth Korea, Japan Taiwan, Western US or Canada and let alone the UK/ EU.

      In other words if NZ can't export, it can't import which means NZ economy will tank quicker than it did during the Great Depression of the 30's thanks to 40-30yrs of the NeoCon Lib economic market BS theory.

    • Subliminal 15.2

      The "debt trap" is another western myth being used to fuel anti China rhetoric. If you read the Michael Hudson article linked in the main post you would realise that China has a much more nuanced understanding of debt. Often debt must necessarily be restructured or forgiven. Most importantly, debt that cant be paid must be forgiven. Western society is alone in history in not understanding this fundamental principal.

      So the "seizure of islands" isnt going to happen and serious analysis of this fear has shown that there has never been this type of pressure and likely never will be:

      Our research shows that Chinese banks are willing to restructure the terms of existing loans and have never actually seized an asset from any country, much less the port of Hambantota. A Chinese company’s acquisition of a majority stake in the port was a cautionary tale, but it’s not the one we’ve often heard. With a new administration in Washington, the truth about the widely, perhaps willfully, misunderstood case of Hambantota Port is long overdue.

  16. Mike Smith 16

    Never let the facts get in the way of a poor argument.

    Have a read of this article "As U.S. Views Of China Grow More Negative, Chinese Support For Their Government Rises" https://www.npr.org/2020/09/23/913650298/as-u-s-views-of-china-grow-more-negative-chinese-support-for-their-government-ri

    It's not surprising that 73% of US respondents have a negative view of China in. Pew Research poll in July 2020 – they've been fed on the sorts of views that you express.

    In contrast, a long-term Harvard study found as follows

    The survey team found that compared to public opinion patterns in the U.S., in China there was very high satisfaction with the central government. In 2016, the last year the survey was conducted, 95.5 percent of respondents were either “relatively satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with Beijing. In contrast to these findings, Gallup reported in January of this year that their latest polling on U.S. citizen satisfaction with the American federal government revealed only 38 percent of respondents were satisfied with the federal government.


    • Stuart Munro 16.1

      Violent suppression of dissent and nationalism allows even very poor leaders to maintain a fictitious popularity.

      Stalin Is More Popular Than Ever in Russia, Survey Shows | Best Countries | US News

      US antigovernment propaganda, as typified by Norquist

      "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

      has been largely successful, the poor Republican response in Texas exemplifying a constituency that cannot anticipate federal or state relief no matter what the crisis.

      Talk to a few Chinese New Zealanders – they'll soon sophisticate your naive view of the PRC.

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