by Danny Haiphong, published on Black Agenda Report, April 29, 2021
China’s communist party-led government and enormous non-white population strikes fear in the heart of the hegemon in ways that Russia alone simply cannot.
“Growing ties between Russia and China present a new vision for global development which is not bound to the violent limitations of U.S. empire.”
Whatever mass opposition exists to imperialism in the United States has yet to gain a full understanding of perhaps the most important global development of this epoch: the Russia-China alliance. Yet for the last half decade, Russia and China have become the focal point of U.S. imperial policy. Donald Trump’s single-term presidency inspired Democrats to blame Russia for their failures while Republicans and Democrats alike came to a near unanimous agreement that China presents a “threat” to the U.S. way of life in more ways than one. A New Cold War has emerged from the Pentagon’s declaration that Russia and China have usurped terrorism as the number one threat to U.S. hegemony in the twenty-first century.
What explains, then, the relative ignorance of Russia and China’s alliance in the United States? A cursory observation of the post-Obama period yields a very simple explanation—China has been deemed a “legitimate” threat to U.S. interests while Russia has not. When Russia was accused of “rigging” the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump, it was quite easy to dissect the lies behind the claim given the stark power imbalance between the U.S. and Russian governments. China is considered by many in the U.S. and Western world to be an economic equivalent, if not a superior, to the United States. Its communist party-led government and enormous non-white population strikes fear in the heart of the hegemon in ways that Russia alone simply cannot. Many have thus opted to treat China and Russia separately rather than together in accordance with the massive dip in American and Western public opinion toward China.
“A New Cold War has emerged from the Pentagon’s declaration that Russia and China have usurped terrorism as the number one threat to U.S. hegemony in the twenty-first century.”
The U.S. military brass sees things differently. China and Russia are the two principal adversaries in the U.S.’s national security strategy of “Great Power competition.” As the U.S. has expanded NATO along Russia’s border (with full support from Joe Biden ), so too has the Pentagon massively increased its presence in the Asia Pacific. Sanctions and other forms of political warfare have similarly been employed against Russia and China simultaneously. This includes the use of counter-insurgency warfare tactics such as those seen in Hong Kong and Ukraine .
The National Endowment for Democracy, for example, places much of its attention on openly funding proxy groups in China and Russia’s sphere of influence that the CIA once orchestrated in private. Despite clamors that Russia and China are “threats” to their own region, the U.S. has sponsored violent “color revolutions” directly on Russia’s borders in Belarus and Ukraine . In East Asia, U.S.-backed proxies receive millions of U.S. tax dollars to ignite unrest in Hong Kong, Thailand , and Myanmar .
“Sanctions and other forms of political warfare have been employed against Russia and China simultaneously.”
U.S. fear of a growing alliance between Russia and China isn’t a new phenomenon, either. U.S. elites have been sounding the alarm about the emergence of a Russia-China alliance for years, primarily through its many think-tanks. The CATO Institute spoke of George W. Bush’s early cooperation with Russia as being motivated by the desire to drive a “wedge” between Moscow and Beijing. The Center for a New American Security foreshadowed the Pentagon’s newfound focus on “Great Power Competition” by urging former president Barack Obama to shift the U.S.’s imperial gaze toward Russia and China and away from the Middle East. A more recent article from Politico co-authored by Council on Foreign Relations fellow Thomas Graham states clearly that current U.S. President Joe Biden must address Russia and China together:
… what should be the guidelines for the Biden administration in coordinating policy toward Russia and China? The point of departure must be what has been a central pillar of U.S. grand strategy since the beginning of the 20th century, namely, preventing an adversary or coalition of adversaries from dominating the Eurasian supercontinent or its strategically critical subregions, Europe, the Middle East and East Asia. Today that means preventing the emergence of a hard Russia-China alliance, which would wed Chinese dynamism with Russian natural resources into a potent threat to dominate Eurasia.
The Russia-China alliance, much to the chagrin of the U.S. foreign policy blob, is here to stay. Russia and China have only grown closer amid a U.S.-facilitated global climate of destabilization and chaos. The alliance serves as a bulwark against the growing threat of U.S. imperialism in Eurasia. It should come as no surprise, then, that Chinese and Russian diplomats met immediately after Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a killer” and Secretary of State Tony Blinken made clear that U.S. aggression toward China would continue indefinitely. Talks included extensive deliberation on how Russia and China would work together to counter color revolutions, sanctions, and U.S.-led misinformation campaigns.
“Russia and China have only grown closer amid a U.S.-facilitated global climate of destabilization and chaos.”
But the alliance between China and Russia is much more than a bulwark against U.S. imperial aggression. Far from a mere defensive measure, growing ties between Russia and China present a new vision for global development which is not bound to the violent limitations of U.S. empire. As Jude Woodward summarizes,
… a newly arisen China and a resource-rich and militarily powerful Russia acting in concert could offer each other critical mutual economic and military support, and exercise a formidable geopolitical influence. Hence it is well understood across the US foreign policy spectrum that success in containing China requires preventing Russia and China coming together, and instead redeploying the old Cold War triangular strategies for today’s circumstances.
The $400 billion dollar cooperation agreement between Iran and China, for example , should be placed in the context of a Russia-China led effort on the part of Global South nations to lessen reliance on the U.S. dollar and its various mechanisms of control. Global South countries have looked upon China and Russia to develop a system whereby their rich resources are transformed into serviceable goods and capital exchange rather than the copious amounts of debt and political dependencies offered by the U.S. and West. In 2014, Russia and China agreed to a $400 billion dollar deal for the exchange of natural gas. Russia hopes to double its trade volume with China by 2024, which currently stands at just over $100 billion dollars.
“It is well understood across the US foreign policy spectrum that success in containing China requires preventing Russia and China coming together.”
Deepening economic ties are supported by China and Russia’s geopolitical visions for Eurasian integration in the China-led Belt and Road Initiative and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union. As the U.S. economy has struggled to rebound from the 2007-08 crisis, China and Russia have been busy developing pipelines and economic corridors which connect the West and East of the continent. These projects include the Power of Siberia pipeline, the Turkmenistan to Xinjiang pipeline , and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor . According to geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar , these projects integrate China and Russia with the rest of Eurasia and pose a direct threat to dollar hegemony by creating extensive networks of infrastructure development that operate independent of the U.S.’s sphere of influence. The integration of Eurasia with China and Russia via land routes further ensures that a U.S.-led war in the South China Sea, the transit route accounting for more than half of all international trade, does not lead to economic catastrophe for China, Russia, or the continent at large.
Thus, U.S. aggression toward the alliance between Russia and China cannot be explained away as a battle between one imperialist world order and another. The position, while popular among the Western Left, has no basis in material reality. U.S. imperialism is being met with a very real challenge to the rule of austerity and imperial dependency. China and Russia are champions of a multipolar world, or one that ceases to be dominated by the interests of a singular nation. A multipolar world is fundamentally more democratic than the current arrangement dominated by the U.S. and is already paying dividends for Global South nations, whether it is through vaccine cooperation, the development of infrastructure such as Pakistan’s first urban transit system , or more favorable terms on financial loans serviced by China .
“China and Russia are champions of a multipolar world, or one that ceases to be dominated by the interests of a singular nation.”
The U.S. ruling class and its allies want as many people living within their borders as possible to feel superior to the rest of the world. The police murders of George Floyd, Daunte Wright and Ma’Khia Bryant, the plight of political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal , and the ongoing violence toward Asian Americans can therefore be viewed from the lens of American innocence—mere stains that are washed away in our historical memories with the help of National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s “Secret Sauce” of continuous improvement. The reality is, of course, much different. The world is on a move, and our collective futures depend on the capacity of U.S.-based movements to link struggles against racism and repression at home to the global struggle against imperialism abroad. China and Russia’s alliance will continue to grow as the world bids farewell to whatever stability existed under the U.S. and European models of imperialism.
This farewell process will be a painful one, and the people of the so-called “mother countries” of imperialism sit on the sidelines at their own peril. U.S. imperialism has constructed its entire strategy to maintain hegemony around the containment and overthrow of China and Russia. This means that the human need for healthcare, housing, economic security, and a world free from racism, war, and environmental destruction are off the political table. Furthermore, any movement for self-determination and liberation that ignores or opposes the world struggle against imperialism will escape victory; that is, if victory can even be defined under such an orientation. It is time for those in the belly of the beast to understand that the world struggle against imperialism has reached another monumental stage in its history, and that the alliance between China and Russia is leading the way.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the forthcoming book entitled “American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: The Fake News of US Empire” (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at wakeupriseup1990(at)gmail.com