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Why Are Russia and China (And Iran) Paramount Enemies for the U.S. Ruling Elite?
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Does it not seem strange that, with the Cold War long over, the Paramount Enemies of the United States remain Russia and China? That is not a bad question to ponder during Vladimir Putin’s visit with Xi Jinping in Beijing.

And there is no doubt that Russia and China hold this pariah status in the eyes of the U.S. imperial elite. In the last months we have watched the U.S. try to push Russia East and tear it apart. At the same time Obama traversed East Asia trying to stitch together an anti-China military and economic alliance in the Western Pacific with Japan as the linchpin. In fact it is striking that the U.S. has allied itself with neo-Nazism in Ukraine and Japanese militarism on the other side of Asia. This is happening despite the considerable changes that have taken place in both Russia and China, neither of which would any longer claim to be interested in an anti-capitalist crusade. The only country that comes close in the opprobrium heaped upon them by the West is Iran. Why do these countries, especially Russia and China, remain the enemies of the West? With the struggle against Soviet-style Communism long over, the reason is certainly not ideological.

This riddle finds its answer in a suggestion by Jean Bricmont in his Humanitarian Imperialism. He observes that the main political development of the last 100 years was not the defeat of fascism nor the fall of Soviet style Communism, but the battle against Western colonialism. And this battle is far from over, for most of the world is still subject to total or partial domination by the West, a condition that Sartre and Nkrumah dubbed neocolonialism. The colonized peoples of the world, the overwhelming majority of humanity, still live under the worst of material conditions. Originally Nkrumah described neocolonialism thus

The result of neo-colonialism is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than for the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment, under neo-colonialism, increases, rather than decreases, the gap between the rich and the poor countries of the world. The struggle against neo-colonialism is not aimed at excluding the capital of the developed world from operating in less developed countries. It is aimed at preventing the financial power of the developed countries being used in such a way as to impoverish the less developed.

In the post Cold War world, the domination of the West has increasingly taken the form of direct military action by the U.S. with its Empire of Bases, subversion of defiant governments or “integration” of their military with the West, as is proceeding apace in Africa now.

How do Russia and China fit into this sweep of history?

Before the Bolshevik Revolution Lenin saw WWI as a war between the great European colonial powers, pitting England and its allies against Germany and its allies, for colonial spoils and imperial power. Or as has been said, England owned the world and Germany wanted it. That inter-imperial war precipitated the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, with the simple call for “Bread, land and peace,” and also a German Socialist Revolution which failed, forcing the Bolsheviks to turn inward.

The Bolsheviks were deadly serious. They took Russia and then the rest of the USSR out of the Western orbit, out of the ambit of the Western colonial powers, and they brought industrial development to their backward land. The failure of a revolution in Europe and the post WWI military assault on Russia by the West, including the U.S., meant that the USSR could no longer look to the West for advancement toward “socialism.” And because of Lenin’s view that the colonized nations needed to rebel against imperialism to advance and develop, the Bolsheviks also took up the cause of anticolonialism – from Africa to Latin America to Asia and, most importantly, to China.

In the end Russia became a great power and it remained out of the orbit of the West for over 70 years, almost three generations. Socialism and Communism were certainly not achieved, whatever one might mean by them. And that is a thing that disturbs most Left wing or “progressive” Western intellectuals to this day, most notably the Trotskyites and their ideological fellow travelers mired in the past. That outlook, however, misses the essential point in light of the struggle against colonialism. A proud independence, an escape from poverty and a severing of almost all institutional and economic ties with the West became accomplished facts in Russia. Few Russians studied abroad and few Westerners studied in Russia. There were no old school ties between the two.

Then came WWII, an attempt by Germany to conquer Europe and to destroy the Soviet Union. Out of this war came another great revolution, the Liberation of China. China had tried many things to escape the humiliation imposed on it by the West, including an attempt by Sun Yat-Sen and his followers to set up a Chinese democracy, Western style. One of those followers was Mao Zedong. With the failure of Sun and the victory of Lenin, Mao saw his chance, and he too adopted a Leninist Party structure but with emphasis on the peasantry. As Mao himself put it in July, 1949, “The Russians made the October Revolution … and the revolutionary energy of the…laboring people of Russia, hitherto latent and unseen by foreigners, suddenly erupted like a volcano, and the Chinese and all mankind began to see the Russians in a new light. Then, and only then, did the Chinese enter an entirely new era in their thinking and their life.”

By 1946 China had defeated Japan and by 1949 the Chinese Communist Revolution secured victory. And then China closed the door to the West and established its independence. Ties with the West were severed decisively for nearly two generations. With its independence secured by Mao and baseline development achieved, China could “open the door” but from a position of strength. Deng’s reforms turned China into a great economic power. China today is the second most powerful nation on the planet, once again interacting with the West – but on its own terms, as does Russia.

So the Communists of Russia did not achieve Communism. But they did achieve independence and great economic and military power. Surely China’s achievement was the greatest blow against colonialism in the wake of WWII and the greatest anticolonial victory in history. Western Europe and the U.S. did all they could to defeat the Chinese Communists, and they failed. They were on the wrong side of history – the colonial side, the side of domination and humiliation of entire peoples.

So today we find these two great powers, Russia and China, recently driven into one another’s arms by the endless crusades of the West to undermine them. Together they constitute a great power center outside the control of the U.S. Empire. Bent on global domination, the U.S. cannot tolerate such a defiant and alternative center of power. The reason is that such a center provides an alternative for others who would gain their independence from the West. Such an organization as BRICS would not exist, or if it did would not mean much, without the “R” and the “C.”

But the battle against colonialism has not ended. Certainly India, most of Latin America, much of East Asia and most of Africa have yet to break free of the West and develop their full economic potential. (They certainly have not escaped underdevelopment while in the embrace of the West.) In some places governments defiant of the U.S. have emerged as in Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador. Where once the U.S. fought battles against insurgent liberation movements, now it fights to bring down defiant governments or leaders, another insight of Bricmont. That is also a feature of neo-imperialism. Some, like Mossadegh, Allende and Chavez, were genuine democrats who wished to bring their people out of poverty. Others have not been so democracy minded, but defiance of the West has been the common denominator for those whom the West seeks to destroy. As the world knows by now, “democracy” and “human rights” have nothing to do with U.S. neo-imperial strategy. The two cross paths only by accident.

Let us be clear about this outlook. This view is not intended to be a paean to the Communist nature of the great 20th Century revolutions. In fact these revolutions were failures in terms of the goals that they set themselves. They did not achieve an egalitarian society at any point. But they did find the road to independence and development and now to advanced development, which they are still undertaking today. And they serve as an alternative to the West – a powerful one. In this sense they might be termed accidental revolutions. Little in history goes according to script no matter who writes it. It can be said, though, that in terms of the great struggle against colonialism and for human development the Russian and Chinese revolutions were on the right side of history. And they were the major steps in that battle in the 20th Century.

Finally, Iran is the third of the big three Paramount Enemies of the U.S. and the West. Interestingly, Iran followed the same course as China and Russia. After the overthrow of the duly elected social democrat and nationalist Mossadegh by the CIA and the imposition of a brutal dictator, the Shah, a revolution, led by clerics in this case, and a peaceful one at that, overthrew the Shah and cut ties with the West. The clerical establishment played the same role in Iran that the Communist Parties of China and Russia played there. They led a revolution for independence and development and they have kept Iran largely outside the orbit of the West for 35 years. They will engage the West now largely on their own terms, just as China and Russia have done. The form of organization to break free is not critical nor is the ideology. It can range from Communism to Islam and other ideologies and organizations may serve as well. Perhaps we are witnessing some new forms of organization in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. The resolve and intelligence with which the break is carried out and the degree to which the common people support and benefit from it are the crucial factors.

But for those on the Left, religious antiwar activists and Libertarians who have campaigned over the years against the wars of the West, this is good news. Those who have fought against Western “interventionism” have been on the right side of history – wittingly or more often unwittingly. Given the different ideologies that the anticolonial movements in the West have adopted, it might well be that the core motivation is the side of us which is humane, perhaps our inner Bonobo versus our inner Chimpanzee.

Now, unfortunately, the dominant “progressive” strain in the West has largely abandoned an anticolonial stance. The world is no longer viewed through the lens of the far from finished anticolonial struggle but through the dubious categories of “human rights” and “real, true democracy.” The likes of Pussy Riot have replaced Mao in the eyes of the Western “progressives.” And all too many progressives, Juan Cole and Amy Goodman among them, for example, cheered for the Obama/Hillary war on Libya as Gaddafi was crushed. It went unmentioned in such “progressive” circles that Gaddafi gave Libya the highest Human Development Index in all of Africa, stood in the forefront of the struggle against U.S.-backed Apartheid, both in South Africa and Israel, and advocated a Pan-Arabism and Pan-Africanism that would make for independence from the West.

In sum the “progressives” of the West are now viewing events on the world stage through the wrong lens, the same one used by their rulers when it suits them. It is time to return to the proper way of looking at what is going on in the world. Only then will the anti-colonial and anti-interventionist movement be restored on the Left.

For the genuine libertarians the matter is simpler. They have always held to the view that our government has no business interfering in the life of other nations. For them the emphasis has been on the other side of neocolonialism, neo-imperialism. They simply do not want their government intervening abroad, do not believe it is moral, and do not want to pay for it, a bit of good solid Ayn Randian self-interest. If progressives pull free of the faux cry for democracy and human rights peddled to them, the door is open for a very broad antiwar, anti-Empire movement. And the need for such cooperation is essential lest we stumble into a world conflagration.


John V. Walsh writes for The Unz Review,, and By day he has toiled over the physiology of neurons. He can be reached at [email protected]

• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: China, Russia, Vladimir Putin 
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  1. Not sure if neocolonialism is the right lens. Perhaps it would work for the backward left, but that doesn’t make it “right”.

    I don’t see China and Russia as independent from the West. China is the world’s greatest capitalist and has been the major beneficiary of globalization, this redistribution of wealth from the West’s middle class to Chinese workers. If that’s neocolonialism, then it sure isn’t working as intended. That’s why the concept of colonialism doesn’t really apply to today. The West isn’t exploiting “the colonies” emptying them of gold, water, or labor or some such thing. The West is gaining very little these days from it’s actions.

    Some of those Latin American countries are learning the hard way that embracing China ain’t all that great either. Just ask Ecuador, who rushed to make all sorts of deals with China (and irrelevant deals with Iran) only to find out the Chinese are worse than the IMF and WB; and now Ecuador is back to begging the West for money.

    But the West still possesses the greatest draw and influence–Western culture. And almost everybody on earth wants to be part of it. If there is an alternative it’s not Russia, China, or Iran, it’s some strains of Islam.

    • Replies: @Truthster
  2. Ecuador, and, maybe, Cuba? – if hoped to get something for nothing, than surely got disappointed. Russia, and perhaps China – stopped funding the Aswan Big Dam and other nation-building enterprises. At the same time the USA “invested” 5 billion in Ukraine. Not for help, but to suck it dry, eventually. Of course, after fragmenting and making pliant.
    There are other motives, but these are described elsewhere, and quite well.
    What these small countries see – is that there is business, mostly.
    Bismarck was right, when he said: be honest with Russia – and that will be profitable.
    Bismarck was a German statesman – in case someone thinks it is Putin.
    Sorry for mentioning Putin’s name just two times… Just like Prince Charles, who mentioned lately also Hitler, along. He could not resist to put his (Charles) name next to these two.
    So, it goes: Charles (prince…), Putin, Hitler. Nice.

  3. Chris says:

    I would have to question whether the mainstream progressive movements have abandoned anti-colonialism. In many ways, the left wing anti-war movements today still view the current conflicts, such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to be a sort of giant corporate handout. That being said, the progressive movement does have some pretty serious problems, including a lack of unity, a platform that is not solidified, and demographic divisions. Perhaps its inevitable for the progressive and maybe some of the libertarian movements that movements that promote the idea of critical thinking will always suffer from this, people think differently.

    That being said, you are right. The main thing that Russia, China, and Iran accomplished was independence from the colonial empires. The current tensions are a legacy of that .

  4. James says:

    In many respects, this article is right on the money. The discussion about neo-colonial objectives and the struggle for nations to stay outside of the imperial masters control is the key historical drama being played out. Brzezinski’s doctrine for US foreign policy has never been off the table as we saw so clearly in the recent Ukraine situation.
    I wonder at the comments above that seem to be so reluctant to employ the concept of neo-colonialism as if it were some political anachronism. In particular, as Raymond suggests, the relative success of China somehow invalidates the critical thrust of neo-colonialism as a concept. If any country is successful in world markets independently of American control, it seems that this is taken as evidence that there is no true neo-colonial project.
    This is an odd suggestion.
    The best evidence of imperial aspirations proceeding unabated can be found in the number of military bases around the world, and the planned expansion of military bases – for example as we see in Africa right now, and the recent talk of a foreign policy “pivot” towards Asia to curtail rising power of China.

  5. Clover says:

    By 1946 China had defeated Japan and by 1949 the Chinese Communist Revolution secured victory. And then China closed the door to the West and established its independence. Ties with the West were severed decisively for nearly two generations. With its independence secured by Mao and baseline development achieved, China could “open the door” but from a position of strength. Deng’s reforms turned China into a great economic power. China today is the second most powerful nation on the planet, once again interacting with the West – but on its own terms, as does Russia.

    So the Communists of Russia did not achieve Communism. But they did achieve independence and great economic and military power. Surely China’s achievement was the greatest blow against colonialism in the wake of WWII and the greatest anticolonial victory in history. Western Europe and the U.S. did all they could to defeat the Chinese Communists, and they failed. They were on the wrong side of history – the colonial side, the side of domination and humiliation of entire peoples.

    Yawn. Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, all embraced the West and are now first world nations. You forgot to mention the whole thing about 40 million people dying in China. I guess that’s the cost of “baseline development.” I am no supporter of our foreign policy but I think it can be termed “pathological altruism” rather than imperialism. In a standard empire the vassals pay the empire tribute, we give “aid” to our “allies.”

  6. Clover says:

    @James, the point is why does the United States, and it’s “allies” like Saudi Arabia trade with China, enriching it? When the European states had their empires they imposed trade restrictions on their colonies so that they could only trade with the mother country. Today our various “allies” are allowed to trade more or less freely, look at Afghanistan which supposedly has a trillion dollars worth of minerals to be mined. Companies from China and India are developing those resources, why?

  7. Paul says:

    @Clover, Certainly Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” had some horrific consequences. The death of approximately the same number of peopled who died in WWII was an unacceptable price to pay. As unjustified as it was, and Stalin’s brutality should also be included in the reckoning, there were other results for China and Russia. Among them – independence from the West. The other Asian countries you mentioned did not achieve that.

    Your references to “standard empire” are examples from the colonialism of old. There are reasons for the added prefix of neo-colonialism. The old methods have changed, It’s not an imperial tax collector that sucks them dry today, it’s the IMF and the World Bank as debt collectors. Predatory lending is a more devious and cost effective method. Countries are allowed to trade and govern themselves freely, as long as they don’t work against the empire. When they do, US troops in 130 countries around the globe step up to put them back in line. Some things don’t change. Among other offenses, Libya didn’t want to continue international trade in US dollars. Ukraine wanted to accept Russia’s aid, not the IMF’s, etc. More than fifty governments since WWII have been overthrown by direct or indirect US actions to ensure that “freedom and democracy” will prevail in the peculiarly empire-serving way that the USA defines it.

    I don’t know why companies from China and India are being allowed to mine the resources in Afghanistan, but based on existing evidence and patterns, it would be a large surprise to find that this is happening because the US government has succeeded in creating a more free country. Based on what’s been going on for many decades, I guess that it’s part of a deal, rather than evidence of economic freedom in Afghanistan.

  8. Truthster says:
    @Raymond R.

    This commentator failed to understand the article completely, a remarkable feat.
    That Russia and China (and Iran) are now market economies does not mean they are not independent of the West. Far from it. They can have some of the same economic arrangements as the US but be completely independent of it politically. They remain free and sovereign to pursue the interests of their own peoples.
    Their dependence is a thing of the past.
    US corporations made a bundle from cheap Chinese labor, but the Chinese also got an increase in wages over what they had before. This helped to build China’s new prosperity. But the Chinese entrepreneurs did more – making money in an export oriented economy and raising the wages of their workers over time. Now with wages higher American business looks to the giant Chinese market. None of this has been altruistic.

  9. ingotus says:

    For large nations like Russia and China, closing up to flourish to then re-open in strengthened form may be a plausible strategy. For smaller nations, that may not be possible – e.g. Cuba.

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