When it comes to China, Democracy Now, Jacobin, The Nation and others on the imperial-minded U.S. ‘left” are allies of white supremacy.
The United States is waging a New Cold War against China. In rapid time, sanctions against the Communist Party of China have been leveled, the Houston consulate closed, and a host of other provocative measures employed by the U.S. political establishment. Largely missing from worldwide opposition to U.S. aggression toward China is the American Left. The U.S. political establishment has successfully convinced majorities in the United States that China is an inherently monstrous country controlled by organ-harvesting and Muslim-suppressing communists. This includes the American Left, which has said or done absolutely nothing to stop the U.S. elite’s dangerous maneuvers toward the People’s Republic.
The American Left has helped lay the ideological foundation for the U.S.’ New Cold War against China. U.S. economic, political, and military warfare toward the second largest economy in the world would not be possible without an intense propaganda campaign centered on the dehumanization of the Chinese people. Far-right evangelicals such as Adrian Zenz have been recruited by the corporate media to spread lies daily about China and the American Left has joined in the mainstream chorus. Only a few organizations on the left such as The Black Alliance for Peace have denounced U.S. war provocations toward China. Many more have aligned themselves with the State Department’s anti-communist crusade against a mythical “China threat” that has brought relations between the two major powers to their worst point since normalization.
Left support for anti-China U.S. policy comes from the usual suspects. Democracy Now! has regularly run headlines repeating corporate media and State Department talking points on everything from Hong Kong to Xinjiang, but has been largely silent on U.S. war maneuvers in the South China Sea or the Asia Pacific. Jacobin has routinely agitated its DSA-heavy readership to support Hong Kong “pro-democracy” protestors despite ample evidence that the National Endowment for Democracy has poured hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars into spurring the unrest. The Nation has condemned the American Left for doing less to support democracy in Hong Kong than Marco Rubio. Now that U.S. imperialism has ratcheted up military and economic pressure against China, the consequences of the so-called American Left’s anti-China posture are becoming clearer by the day.
The American Left is, for the most part, an American exceptionalist Left, a Democratic Party-oriented Left, and a white liberal Left. China is not the first target of its imperialist gaze. Since 1959, American Leftists have condemned socialist Cuba for not being sufficiently communist enough and have stood by and watched as the Monroe Doctrine-led U.S. imperialist albatross has attempted to economically starve Cuba and Venezuela into submission. In 2011, U.S. and Western intelligence spread lies about a Viagra-infused mercenary army organized by the Libyan government to suppress “its own people” and found ample support from the American Left for NATO’s jihadist insurgency that toppled the most prosperous country on the African continent. That same year, the American Left stood side by side with the U.S. regime change operation in Syria and even supported egregious imperial lies about the ruthlessness and inhumanity of the Syrian government.
In every case, U.S. militarists in situation rooms and editorial offices of major corporate media outlets created a dehumanized target for the American Left to aim its ideological opposition. The case of China has only added fuel to the American Left’s lust for war. Claims of China’s so-called Uyghur concentration camps, repression of Hong Kong “pro-democracy” protestors, or so-called espionage operations to steal U.S. patents make China out to be the aggressor nation within a world poisoned by the U.S.’ endless wars. None of these claims contain a shred of evidence, but the truth behind them is never the point. The point is to reinforce the ideology of American exceptionalism which is so effective at seducing even the most progressive forces in the U.S. to support the notion of a Chinese bogeyman and all of the imperialist policies being put into place to curb it.
The centrality of race cannot be understated in the massive support that exists in the U.S. for the New Cold War against China. Widespread anti-China sentiment comes at a time when U.S. law enforcement and Department of Homeland Security troops are repressing protestors opposed to racist policing and mass incarceration against Black Americans at home. U.S. imperial aggression toward China also comes amid a global pandemic set to kill 200,000 people in the United States by November 1st, a devastating yet avoidable catastrophe that disproportionately terrorizes Black and indigenous communities. This is not to mention the fact that Black workers in the U.S. are suffering through a second Great Depression in less than fifteen years. The American Left’s willingness to participate in a hostile New Cold War against China rather than place full attention on the myriad of crises engineered by the United States’ political economy is an indictment of its racist character.
Race relations, which is a politically correct term for white supremacy, are often misconceived by the American Left and its liberal class as an ugly individual trait shared only by Donald Trump. But the racism that undergirds the New Cold War against China is nothing new. It is part of a centuries long process of colonialism and imperial subjugation that has historically been met by anti-colonial and even revolutionary resistance. China’s century of humiliation was not merely experienced on the mainland. In mid-19th century United States, migrant workers from China faced brutal discrimination, exploitation, and racist violence. White supremacy in the form of Yellow Peril led to the passage of anti- “coolie” laws and eventually the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which enforced immigration bans based solely on race. The dehumanization of Chinese migrants as unfit for white citizenship would influence the U.S.’ imperial approach to the Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam and encapsulate more than a centuries-worth of history filled to the brim with examples of genocide, internment, military invasion, and racial discrimination.
This context is left out of the American Left’s condemnation of modern China entirely. To acknowledge the history of imperialist aggression toward China would require humility and more importantly, a commitment to the right of oppressed nations to self-determination. Self-determination is the bedrock principle of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist resistance around the world. Since 1949, the People’s Republic of China has shown the world what a successful anti-colonial struggle can achieve when society is organized to defend the principle of self-determination in practice. Over the same period, the United States has operated as the chief violator of self-determination and sovereignty around the world; staging several hundred coups and direct military interventions in all corners of the globe.
A number of moves made by the United States in recent weeks point to the ever-increasing danger of military aggression toward China worsening in the coming weeks and months. The latest update to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes an increase in “defense” spending of close to $100 billion USD to counter the “China threat.” Closure of China’s Houston consulate will no doubt inspire the military industrial complex to pursue further escalations in the South China Sea. U.S. sanctions against the 98 million-strong Communist Party of China impacts a large section of the population of China and erodes the material basis for peace and solidarity. American exceptionalism requires an enemy to justify military conquest abroad and racist terrorism at home. In the case of China, the American Left has shown itself to be a force in search of an enemy rather than a force in search for peace and liberation.
There is no time to appeal to the sensibilities of an American Left that is criminally complicit in the machinations of imperialism. What is needed now more than ever is a return to the self-determinationist principles of the Black Radical Tradition. Black Alliance for Peace organizers and BAR editors Ajamu Baraka and Margaret Kimberly demonstrated these principles in their remarks given at the No to the New Cold War online event on July 25th. Kimberley and Baraka made clear that the racist and imperialist war on the U.S. mainland against Black Americans and the oppressed at home is directly connected to the wars that the U.S. wages abroad. Revolutionaries and peace-loving people fight the roots of war, injustice, and exploitation, not the people who find themselves targeted by them. That is what the Black Radical Tradition has done for centuries. As the U.S. Empire threatens war with China to halt its ongoing decline, engagement with the principles of the Black Radical Tradition will be a key ingredient in the survival of humanity itself.