Is poverty reduction the real reason why the US seeks war with China?

US-China relations continue to sour, mainly because the US refuses to recognize China’s status as the rising economic powerhouse in the world. In an attempt to “contain” China, the US has facilitated a pivot to Asia. The pivot has surrounded China with US military installations across the Asia Pacific. US allies such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia have predictably partaken in the US “pivot,” indicating that a big power confrontation is in the works. The rationale for the pivot’s naval provocations against China has mainly centered on the curtailment of China’s so-called aggression in the South China. With the Trans Pacific Partnership acting the pivot’s economic motor in South East Asia, such reasoning is nothing but a smokescreen that hides the true intentions of the United States.

US hostilities toward China date back over a century. The US played a significant role in keeping China an underdeveloped semi-colony up until its revolution in 1949. It then waged a viscous anti-communist campaign against the Peoples Republic of China. The campaign included the US invasion of Korea and Vietnam. These wars ended in the US-sponsored murder of millions of civilians in the name of “containing” communism.

Today, the US led effort to contain China takes a slightly different form. China instituted far-ranging market reforms during the Deng Xiaoping era beginning in 1978. These reforms were ostensibly supposed to bring the US closer to China. Economically, the reforms brought increased cooperation between US private capital and Chinese production. Yet over this period, the US share in the global economy has shrunk while China has experienced rapid economic growth.

China surpassed the US in purchasing power in 2014. Mainstream economists predict that China’s economy will be greater than the US in real GDP terms in 2018. This has often been cited as the primary reason for US hostilities toward China. The imperial think-tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) released a report in 2015 that argued the need for a revision of US strategy toward China. The report, co-written by Henry Kissinger, cited that detente with China has given rise to “new threats to US primacy in Asia.”

In other words, peace with China must be replaced with war. The US “pivot” to Asia is critical to this shift in policy. A recent Hague Tribunal decision on a 2013 arbitration case filed by the Philippine government against China’s activities in the South China Sea ruled in the Philippines’ favor. The decision came just weeks after the RAND corporation released a report simulating the potential impact of a direct military conflict between the US and China. These events reveal the intentions of the US to create the necessary conditions for a war of aggression in China.

It is obvious that the US views China as a global threat. The right-wing, racist establishment sees China through the lens of a developing country controlled by non-white peoples. China’s rise is a direct challenge to a nation-state empire built on white supremacy. The left has more clearly understood US warfare against China as a move to curb China’s growing economic influence. However, the question as to what about China’s influence so offends the US is rarely examined.

During the Cold War, the US warned the world of the dangers of Chinese socialism to “democracy” and “freedom.” A shift in this political orientation occurred in 1978 when China eased relations with the US. However, the market reforms that came with eased relations did not mean an end to socialism in China. The US developed a deep economic partnership with China but never fully ceased hostilities toward its model of development. US war maneuvers against China must be seen in the context of a continued war on socialist development.

Market reforms in China have been criticized by the Western left as a betrayal of socialism. However true this may be, it is also true that Chinese socialism has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. An IMF study of China between the years of 1978-2002 concluded that the population living in poverty has decreased by 22.9 million per year over this period. In 2013, it was found that China accounted for a hundred percent of the world’s reduction in poverty. US hostility must be seen as an attack on China’s achievements in raising the standards of living for its people.

The US would have zero issues with China if it followed the dictates of US capital. But US capitalism is on the decline, and subservience to the US would mean a journey back to the underdevelopment that characterized pre-revolutionary China. US capitalism has provided nothing but intensified poverty and chaos for workers all over the world. Wages in the US remain lower than they were in 1997 despite the so-called 5.2 percent median income increase reported by the Census in 2015. The US rate of profit continues to stagnate and decline. And nations such as Libya have suffered immensely from US-led regime change operations.

US capitalism’s primary mission is to maximize the profits of the bourgeois class in control of the means of production. Socialism’s primary mission isto develop the productive forces necessary to socialize the economy under the direction of a workers’ state. These two systems are entirely antagonistic to each other. The US capitalist system is desperately trying to contain China’s influence through military means. However, no amount of “pivoting” has stopped the expansion of China’s economy. The US is on a collision course toward a World War III confrontation with China at the expense of the rest of us. It is up to the people of the United States to extend solidarity with China and demand the US cease hostilities immediately.

This article was written by Danny Haiphong for American Herald Tribune on Oct. 6, 2016. Danny Haiphong is an activist and radical journalist in the Boston Area.