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Trust mainstream media commentators to get their priorities right! While they dished out hell to Donald Trump the other day over his 10-minute conversation with the president of Taiwan, they could hardly have been more accommodative all these years of a rather more consequential American affront to mainland China: Barack Obama’s so-called “pivot” to Asia.
As the London-based journalist John Pilger points out, the absurdly named pivot, which has been a central feature of U.S. foreign policy since 2012, is clearly intended to tighten America’s military containment of the Middle Kingdom. In Pilger’s words, Washington’s nuclear bases amount to a hangman’s noose around China’s neck.
Pilger makes the point in a searing new documentary, The Coming War on China. Little known in the United States, Pilger has been a marquee name in British journalism since the 1960s. First as a roving reporter for the Daily Mirror and later as a television documentary maker, he has spent more than fifty years exposing the underside of American foreign policy – and very often, given London’s predilection to play Tonto to Washington’s Lone Ranger, that has meant exposing the underside of British foreign policy also.
Pilger built his early reputation on opposition to the Vietnam war; more recently he emerged as a scathing critic of the Bush-Blair rush to invade Iraq after 9/11.
In his latest movie, Pilger, a 77-year-old Australian, argues that the “pivot” sets the world up for nuclear Armageddon. The Obama White House probably disagrees; but, not for the first time, Pilger is asking the right questions.
This is not to suggest that Washington doesn’t have legitimate issues. But its China strategy is upside down. While it rarely misses an opportunity to lord it over Beijing militarily, its economic policy in the face of increasingly outrageous Chinese provocation could hardly be more spineless. Instead of insisting that China honor its WTO obligations, U.S. policymakers have looked the other way as Beijing has not only maintained high trade barriers against American exports but, far worse, has contrived to force the transfer of much of what is left of America’s once awe-inspiring reservoir of world-beating manufacturing technologies.
In the case of the auto industry, for instance, Beijing’s proposition goes like this: “We’d love to buy American cars. But those cars must be made in China – and the Detroit companies must bring their best manufacturing technologies.” Such technologies then have a habit of migrating rapidly to rising Chinese rivals.
By indulging China economically and provoking it militarily, the Obama administration would appear to be schizoid. But this is to judge things from a commonsensical outsider’s perspective – always a mistake in a place as inbred and smug as Washington. Seen from inside the Beltway, everything looks perfectly rational. Whether Washington is giving away the U.S. industrial base, on the one hand or arming to the teeth against a putative Chinese bogeyman on the other, the dynamic is the same: lobbying money.
As the U.S. industrial base has been shipped machine-by-machine, and job-by-job, to China, America’s ability to pay its way in the world has correspondingly imploded. Although rarely mentioned in the press (does the American press even understand such elementary and obvious economic consequences?), this means America has become ever more dependent on other nations to fund its trade deficits. The funding comes mainly in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds. And guess who is the biggest buyer? The Communist regime in Beijing, of course. In effect, the bemused Chinese are paying for the privilege of having nukes pointed at them!
That is not a sustainable situation. Beijing no doubt has a plan. Washington, tone-deaf as always in foreign affairs, has not yet discovered there is a problem. We have been fated to live in interesting times.
Pilger’s documentary will air in the United States on RT on December 9, 10, and 11. For details click here.
Eamonn Fingleton is the author of In the Jaws of the Dragon: America’s Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008).