Poor People’s Campaign and China’s anti-poverty program

We are pleased to reproduce this article by Sharon Black, originally carried by Struggle/La Lucha in the United States. Sharon begins with moving personal recollections of her participation, as an 18-year-old working-class woman, in the Poor People’s Campaign initiated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in May 1968, and goes on to outline the very different approaches to poverty by the US and China. Having outlined the steadily worsening situation in the US, she states: “All this contrasts with the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government, which made eradicating poverty one of its major goals.”

According to Sharon, China’s historic eradication of extreme poverty is not solely due to China’s economic growth, as important as this has been. However: “Without a conscious effort by the Chinese government, economic growth in [and] of itself would not have solved the problem.”

Having outlined the concrete steps taken by China, including young urban students and professional workers giving up relatively comfortable lives to go and participate in the anti-poverty campaign in rural villages, Sharon likens this to Cuba’s literacy campaign. Of course, comparisons could also be made with the millions of Chinese youths, including future President Xi Jinping, who went down to the countryside in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sharon concludes: “What cannot be argued is that socialist China is going in the opposite direction of the capitalist West… Our challenge is to learn from what China has done.”

On May 12, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign officially began with a Mother’s Day march led by Coretta Scott King and welfare mothers.

I was barely 18 years old. Pregnant with my son and filled with the kind of hope that only the young possess — who know little of the hardships ahead — I participated in the Poor People’s Campaign.  

My neighbors were from Appalachia; my mother from the coal mining area of eastern Pennsylvania. As much as I was motivated by empathy for the people I loved who were my family and neighbors, it was the civil rights movement that lit a fire inside of me.  

So when I saw a flier posted by a group of Vista workers soliciting people to go with them to the D.C. Poor People’s Campaign, I called immediately.

I lied to my parents and pretended to stay with a friend, then left for Washington with a small group of older, certainly more sophisticated, participants. Most of them were graduates from the University of Delaware. 

I was the youngest, the only woman at the time. I was awkward; I couldn’t accompany them to bars because of my age, had no money and had never eaten in a restaurant. 

Continue reading Poor People’s Campaign and China’s anti-poverty program

China, Ukraine and the Belt and Road Initiative

On Saturday May 21st, Friends of Socialist China joined the Belt and Road Initiative Quarterly (BRIQ) journal, the Russian Cultural House in Ankara, the Turkish Students Union in China and the Istanbul Kent University as a co-organizer of a conference themed on ‘The Challenges and Opportunities for BRI Under the Background of the Ukraine Crisis’. It was a hybrid event, held both online and physically at Kent University.

Our co-editors Danny Haiphong and Keith Bennett both presented papers and we reproduce them, slightly edited for publication, below. The other speakers were Adnan Akfirat, Chair of the BRIQ journal; Professor Hasret Comak of Istanbul Kent University; Professor Ma Xiaolin of Zhejiang University; Daria Platonova of Moscow State University; Rajiv Ranjan, Associate Professor at Shanghai University; Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussain; Dr Vali Kaleji of Tehran University; and Dr. Ahmet Shahidov, Chair of the Azerbaijan Institute for Democracy and Human Rights.

The full event can be viewed on Facebook Live.

Danny Haiphong: Why the Belt and Road Initiative won’t be derailed by the Ukraine crisis

Thank you to all the organizers of this event, including the Belt and Road Initiative Quarterly Journal, the Russian Cultural House in Ankara, the Friends of Socialist China platform which I co-edit, the Turkish Student’s Union, and Kent University. My discussion centers on the politics of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and how they ensure that the development plan won’t be derailed by the monumental crisis underway in Ukraine.

The Ukraine crisis has revealed quite starkly that there is a huge divergence between the path that’s being taken by the United States, NATO, the EU, and that of China. The former, perhaps more aptly called the Western imperialist sphere, has poured gasoline onto the fire that is the Ukraine crisis. The consequences have been enormous. Sanctions on Russia have sent shockwaves throughout the global economy. Economic growth has declined and inflation skyrocketed. The IMF’s economic forecast is dimmer now than it was prior to the Ukraine crisis and much of this is due to Western imperialist policy.

On the other hand, for China and the BRI, the situation is quite different. A commitment to peace and neutrality, cooperation, and robust and quality growth characterizes the partnerships within the BRI. It is clear that the massive trade and infrastructure project is not a prisoner of the moment. The BRI is not just about a single region or a particular country but rather an overall vision for global development that seeks to harness the present to brighten the future. The BRI does what Western-led economies such as the United States and its allies cannot and will not do, which is to offer opportunities for economic progress and true investment in all areas social and economic development.

The BRI, as Xi Jinping remarked, began in China but its achievements belong to the world. There are 140 countries and 30 international organizations that have already signed on to the BRI since 2013. Thus far, 8 trillion USD in trade and investment has been directed toward the BRI to cover the cost of more than 2,500 projects worldwide. The size and scope of the BRI demonstrates that it is not dependent upon the whims and the interests of the U.S. and the West. The BRI operates almost entirely independent of from Western imperialism, with the exception of the European countries which have accepted China’s invitation to join the project.

It is also worth noting that China is no stranger to operating in conflict zones. The world has been engaged in a war against the COVID-19 pandemic over the past several years and yet China has not only been able to extend solidarity and cooperation over this period but also advance the aims of the BRI. China has adjusted its own economic and political development in a way that takes into account the challenges of the global pandemic. That’s why China has achieved so much success in containing the pandemic and led the way in providing critical solidarity in the form of vaccines and protective equipment to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The pandemic has been a flashpoint for a people’s war to protect human life and this war is inextricably linked to the BRI’s overall vision.

China has also prioritized Belt and Road Initiative relationships with countries such as Pakistan that have been embattled with external and internal conflict. Pakistan has been subject to numerous conflicts over the past decade alone, whether in the form of the U.S.’s drone strikes killing thousands of civilians or the ongoing struggle in Kashmir. While these sensitive issues have inevitably caused economic difficulty, Pakistan and China’s cooperation in the BRI through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has only grown. The BRI has already brought about significant achievements in Pakistan such as the launch of the first transit system in Lahore in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

No matter what is happening internally in Pakistan, the BRI’s vision of development which emphasizes win-win cooperation rather than political interference or influencing the politics internally of any one country has been a major reason as to why these two nations have been able to build such a strong friendship despite internal and external threats to Pakistan’s stability. This includes a recent change in political administration just in the last few months.

The Biden administration recently completed his first trip to Asia, visiting South Korea and Japan in an attempt to organize the Southeast Asia into a conflict with China. The region has quickly become the most important flashpoint in the U.S.’s New Cold War and has been flooded with hundreds of U.S. military bases and hundreds of thousands of U.S. military personnel. Still, China has been able to build even stronger relations with the region that have led to remarkable achievements in the last few years alone. In 2021, the Sino-Laos high-speed railway was launched and is projected to increase economic growth for Laos by several percentage points. Laos is a country that was bombed by the U.S. more times than the entire number dropped in World War II during the U.S. invasion of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s.

In January 2022, Syria joined the BRI as a major step in its own rebuilding process from the U.S.-led war on the country. The U.S. currently occupies 30 percent of Syria’s territory. Despite being engaged in a deadly conflict that has displaced millions and killed more than 300,000 people, the Syrian government is committed to rebuild the country through the BRI.

Of course, the Ukraine crisis has indeed inflicted damage on the global economy. Mainstream media reports have emphasized disruptions in rail traffic that have slowed global trade to Europe. While these short-term challenges will delay certain aspects of the BRI, particularly the Eurasia rail link, the vision of the BRI is more than a century long and remains an incredibly attractive project for development. The Ukraine crisis does not take away from the BRI’s global advantages. In fact, the Ukraine crisis is likely to make the BRI even more attractive to countries around the world, including Ukraine.

For one, the United States and its allies offer few alternatives in the form of financial and economic arrangements to help rebuild from conflict and war. Furthermore, the United States and the West is pursuing a policy that will make the Ukraine’s economy “scream,” to paraphrase Henry Kissinger’s description of Chile in 1970s during the U.S.-backed coup there. The U.S. has provided predatory loans to Ukraine since the war began. In addition, the U.S.-sponsored lend-lease program has provided Ukraine billions in military aid, $40 billion of which was just passed in the U.S. Congress. Ukraine will be expected to pay back what it has received in conditional aid, making these arrangements detrimental to Ukraine’s long-term economic stability and growth.

The neoliberal policies of the U.S. and the West are laying the foundations for the BRI to become an even more important feature of Ukraine’s economic future. Ukraine is one of the earliest member of the BRI. China’s capacity to maintain a stable relationship with Ukraine and strengthen the Russia-China partnership at the same time has demonstrated what it means to place narrow and selfish interests to the background and the interests of humanity in the foreground. Whatever short term difficulties arise from the Ukraine crisis will not derail Latin America, Africa, and Central Asia’s desire to adhere to the BRI’s principles of creating a win-win model of infrastructure and economic development that addresses the need for real South-South cooperation, decreases extreme poverty, and reduces dependency on external lenders.

The BRI is already doing just that. The World Bank has acknowledged that the BRI offers a path forward out of extreme poverty. Monumental achievements have already come out of the BRI in countries such as Pakistan and Laos. Though the Ukraine crisis is a warning shot about the dangers of war and the neoliberal path led by Western imperialism, China’s approach to global development as manifested in the BRI will not just remain consistent but is also likely to strengthen its influence within the international order in the coming period.

Keith Bennett: China, Ukraine and the Belt and Road Initiative

Thank you for your invitation.

I would like to offer some brief comments on four of the topics you raise, namely:

  • The effect of the Ukraine crisis on the use of national currencies in foreign trade
  • The consequences of US and EU sanctions on the BRI
  • The impact of the crisis on the international pro-USA terrorist network
  • The impact of the crisis on the energy security of the EU and China

With regard to the first issue, namely the effect of the Ukraine crisis on the use of national currencies in foreign trade, I believe it is likely to have a profound impact. Developing countries, especially Russia and China, but also others, such as the other members of the Eurasian Economic Union, some African countries, the ALBA grouping led by Venezuela and Cuba, and so on, have been exploring this for some time. But this will now intensify. As will the development of digital currencies by countries like China.

The major sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus will undoubtedly cause considerable difficulties in the short to medium term.

However, strategically they are an example of what the Chinese leader Mao Zedong called, lifting a rock only to drop it on your own feet.

In fact, they really announce the end of dollar hegemony. Measures like excluding Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system were prefigured, for example, in the sanctions imposed on Iran. But this is the first time that such measures have been taken against a G20 economy, a member of the Permanent Five on the United Nations Security Council and a major nuclear power.

We know that China is looking very closely at the implications of this for its own economic and financial security.

We’ve also seen the imperialist powers freezing the assets of so-called Russian oligarchs. Literally stealing them. Incidentally, one should note that the likes of Roman Abramovich, Alisher Usmanov and Oleg Deripaska are always described with the pejorative term oligarch, whereas the likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Bill Gates are described as entrepreneurs. However, the combined wealth of the last named three equals the combined wealth of all of Russia’s top 20 ‘oligarchs’ – that is before the recent assault on their wealth.

Such actions are again in a sense nothing new. We’ve seen them in numerous cases recently, like Afghanistan, Venezuela, Iran and so on. Even as far back as the Albanian gold illegally held by the Bank of England from 1948-1996, a full half century.

But again, this is unprecedented in its scope – being against a major power and not just against its national institutions, but also against numerous individuals, some of them apparently designated solely as a result of citizenship or even just ethnicity.

The implications of this are huge.

If you are a citizen of any country of the Global South – be it Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, or wherever – how secure should you now feel about investing, depositing funds, or acquiring assets in the United States or the United Kingdom? When, should your government do anything to displease Washington or London, they can be frozen or confiscated overnight, apparently on a whim and with little or no regard for the so-called ‘rule of law’.

Yet it is partnerships such as these that financial centres like the City of London, on which the UK economy is disproportionately dependent, are increasingly reliant upon. It will therefore lead to the relative decline of long-established financial centres in the UK and elsewhere and impel the growth and development of new ones, along the Belt and Road, including in countries like Turkiye and Kazakhstan, as well as in the Far East, including in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Regarding the consequences of US and EU sanctions on the BRI, I think it will have a contradictory impact. On the one hand, part of the dynamic of the BRI was to draw to draw together the whole of the Eurasian space through increased trade, enhanced connectivity, developed infrastructure and so on. Clearly the EU is to a large measure and for now excluding itself from a number of these aspects, which is absolutely not a situation that China wishes to see. However, the unity of the EU in this aggressive policy is not so solid as is being suggested. Countries with energy supplies that have pivoted on Russia, those with traditionally strong economic or cultural ties, or who preserve some measure of independence and neutrality in their politics and diplomacy are already restive. This can only increase as the economic pain that Europe has brought on itself increases. There are already signs that Berlin, Paris and Rome do not share London and Washington’s apparent appetite for endless war.

However, there are other challenges, too. In general terms, conflict is simply not conducive to investment and development. Trade, transport, logistics, communications and connectivity are disrupted, not only by the fighting itself, but also by ruptured political relations, sanctions, such as on overflights, and so on. And the threat or use of secondary sanctions is also a very serious one.

But, whilst serious, many of these issues are essentially transient in nature. The potential of this conflict to reconfigure the international balance of forces lends greater urgency to BRI and to enhancing the unity of the Global South, something that is reflected, for example, in their almost unanimous rejection of sanctions on Russia.

Regarding the impact of the crisis on the international pro-USA terrorist network, again I think the impact will be contradictory. Terrorist networks instigated or manipulated by the imperialist powers may ultimately serve one goal, but they take different forms.

If Russia is successful in attaining its military objectives, then the anti-hegemonic front will be strengthened and it will be in a more advantageous position to confront and defeat terrorist forces.

However, the resilience of such forces should not be underestimated. For example, the leadership of the Taliban has repeatedly expressed a wish to have good neighbourly relations with China and other countries. But it seems hard for them to fully enforce this, including on some of their rank and file and regional commanders. Hence, there have been border incidents with Pakistan and Iran, the Pakistan Taliban has increased its activities and the central Taliban authorities are not yet in a position to completely suppress groups like the East Turkistan Independence Movement (ETIM) or  Islamic State – Khorasan Province (IS-K), the local franchise of Daesh, which has emerged as the Taliban’s rival.

In the case of Ukraine, we know that neo-nazi and far right elements are flocking there from throughout Europe and North America. In the future, some of them will definitely pose a threat to their own societies. This is exactly what we saw with Afghanistan from the 1980s onwards and with Syria and Libya more recently. This is precisely what the American political scientist Chalmers Johnson termed blowback.

Finally, regarding the impact of the crisis on the energy security of the EU and China. In a word the impact is likely to be negative for the EU and positive for China. That the results are not what the EU intended can already be seen from the spiraling costs of energy, Russia’s increased earnings from energy exports and the strengthening of the ruble. At present, Germany has wasted billions on the now mothballed Gazprom 2 project. Meanwhile, countries like Hungary, are already indicating their willingness to pay their energy bills in rubles.

Further, in seeking to find alternative energy sources, it is not all plain sailing for the EU. Most of Qatar’s natural gas production is tied up in existing, long-term contracts, principally with the Far East. Saudi Arabia, at least for now, is sticking to its OPEC+ agreements and refusing to increase production. And it is indicating a willingness to price its oil exports to China in RMB, the so-called petroyuan. Both France and Spain have issues with Algeria – France due to the colonial legacy and Spain due to its acquiescence to Moroccan demands concerning the liberation struggle of the Saharawi people led by the Polisario Front.

In the case of China, close energy ties with Russia have been developing for some time now, for example through Gazprom’s Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline, part of a deal generally valued at $400 billion.

Whilst there are obvious, and not insignificant, obstacles to be overcome, China is essentially well positioned to absorb whatever Russian energy that the EU elects not to purchase.

China can also be expected to increase its interaction with other regional energy suppliers that are not impacted by potential maritime chokeholds. Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Myanmar and, with enhanced BRI connectivity, Iran and Iraq, are all important in this regard.

China and Tanzania: a unique relationship

The “unique” relationship between China and Tanzania was highlighted by two important events last month.

On May 17th, Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li attended a symposium commemorating the centenary of the birth of Tanzania’s founding president Julius Nyerere via video link. The symposium was jointly hosted by the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation (MNF) and the Chinese Embassy in Tanzania.
Deng Li spoke highly of President Nyerere’s important historical role in the realisation of national independence, state construction and seeking strength through unity in Tanzania and Southern Africa. He stressed that the elder generation of Chinese leaders established a profound revolutionary friendship with President Nyerere, which jointly laid a solid foundation for China-Africa friendship.

The President of Zanzibar Hussein Ali Mwinyi and Executive Director of the MNF Joseph W. Butiku also spoke.

Meanwhile, Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe held video talks with Tanzanian Defence and National Service Minister Stergomena Lawrence Tax on May 31st. Wei said that the two countries were, “devoted brothers, trustworthy friends and sincere partners”, while Tax noted that the relationship between Tanzania and China is unique and that Tanzania cherishes the profound friendship between the two peoples and the two militaries.

The following reports were originally carried on the websites of the Chinese Foreign and Defence Ministries.

Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li Attends Symposium Commemorating the Centenary of the Birth of Tanzania’s Founding President Julius Nyerere

On May 17, 2022, Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li attended the Symposium Commemorating the Centenary of the Birth of Tanzania’s Founding President Julius Nyerere via video link.

Deng Li extended congratulations on the smooth holding of the symposium and spoke highly of President Nyerere’s important historical role in the realization of national independence, state construction and seeking strength through unity in Tanzania and Southern Africa. He stressed that the elder generation of Chinese leaders established a profound revolutionary friendship with President Nyerere, which jointly laid a solid foundation for China-Africa friendship. Over the decades, China and Africa have respected and treated each other as equals, supported each other on issues concerning respective core interests, and cooperated with each other in good faith on the journey of achieving modernization. At present, in a world of profound changes unseen in a century, we need to learn from Nyerere and other elder generation of African leaders and think about the way to create an even better future for China and Africa. Guided by President Xi Jinping’s calls to carry forward the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation and build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, China will work with Africa to continue to firmly safeguard respective sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, safeguard the equal rights to development and promote the establishment of a more just and equitable new international order.

President of Zanzibar Hussein Ali Mwinyi and Executive Director of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation (MNF) Joseph W. Butiku said, Nyerere firmly upheld the unity of the Tanzanian state and people and established the United Republic of Tanzania together with President of Zanzibar Abeid Karume, which has become a fine example of unity, self-improvement and economic prosperity for African countries. Nyerere made selfless contributions to the cause of national liberation in Southern Africa and actively developed friendly relations with China and other countries. They believe that this symposium will play an important role in carrying forward and developing the traditional friendship and deepening all-round friendly cooperation between China and Tanzania.

The symposium was jointly hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Tanzania and the MNF and attended by representatives of Tanzanian political and business circles, think tanks, media, non-governmental organizations and other circles, Nyerere’s family members and diplomatic envoys to Tanzania.

Chinese defense minister holds video call with Tanzanian counterpart

Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe held talks via video link with Tanzanian Minister for Defense and National Service Stergomena Lawrence Tax on Tuesday.

Wei said that China and Tanzania are devoted brothers, trustworthy friends and sincere partners. In June last year, President Xi Jinping and President Samia Suluhu Hassan exchanged phone calls, showing the right direction for the development of comprehensive partnership of cooperation between the two countries and presenting important opportunities for the development of China-Tanzania relations.

China is ready to work together with the international community including Tanzania, upholding the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, to implement the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and Global Security Initiative (GSI) with concrete actions, and contribute to building a world of lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity, said Wei.

China’s defense chief told his Tanzanian counterpart that the Chinese military will continue to strengthen strategic communication with the Tanzanian military, build and make good use of the cooperation mechanism, enhance the quality and effectiveness of joint exercises and training, carry forward the traditional friendship and push forward the relations between the two militaries.

Tax noted that the relationship between Tanzania and China is unique and Tanzania cherishes the profound friendship between the two peoples and the two militaries. The two militaries have maintained close cooperation and exchanges in such areas as joint training, equipment technology, mutual visits of delegations, and military medicine. Tanzania will continue to deepen military cooperation with China, Tax said.

The two sides also exchanged views on international and regional issues of common concern.

‘Summit of the Gringos’ set to be a lonely affair

The following article, by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez, is a slightly expanded version of a piece written for Global Times and published on 1 June 2022. Carlos discusses the forthcoming Summit of the Americas and the public relations crisis it is creating for the US, with a significant number of key politicians in Latin American and the Caribbean refusing to attend, in protest at the unilateral decision by the US to exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. The article concludes that the US should give up on its idea of Latin America as a “back yard”, and instead follow China’s example, developing an international relations strategy based on mutual respect, mutual benefit, equal treatment and non-interference.

The Ninth Summit of the Americas is due to take place from the 6th to the 10th of June in Los Angeles, the first time it has been hosted in the United States since President Bill Clinton convened the inaugural Summit in Miami in 1994. It comes as Joe Biden, 16 months into his presidency, is working on multiple fronts to rebuild a stable US-led imperialist alliance following four erratic years with Donald Trump in the White House.

When Biden announced in his first major foreign policy speech as president that “diplomacy is back” and that the US would “repair its alliances”, this was merely a promise to carry forward the century-old project of domination and hegemonism. So much is obvious from the proposed expansion of NATO, the fierce attempts to weaken Russia, the creation of AUKUS, the revival of the Quad, the flagrant encouraging of Taiwanese secessionism, and the recent launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity – a comically hopeless attempt to isolate China.

In this context, the Summit of the Americas 2022 provides an opportunity for the US to reassert its leadership in what it has considered its “back yard” for the last 200 years.

However, things are not going to plan. In response to a unilateral announcement by the US that the socialist governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua would not be invited to the Summit, multiple leaders in the region declared they refuse to attend. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated bluntly: “If everyone is not invited, I will not go.” In spite of a concerted lobbying effort from Washington, López Obrador stuck to his position, asking: “Is it going to be the Summit of the Americas or the Summit of the Friends of the US?”

Bolivian President Luis Arce echoed the sentiment of his Mexican counterpart, saying that he would not participate if Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were excluded. Likewise Xiomara Castro, the recently-elected leftist President of Honduras stated: “If all the nations aren’t there, it isn’t a Summit of the Americas.”

It may well be that the entire CARICOM – an intergovernmental organisation with 15 member states in the Caribbean – boycotts the Summit, with Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the US, asserting that “if the United States insists on not inviting Cuba to this meeting, it will immediately cause the CARICOM countries not to attend.” Biden is so concerned about the possible complete collapse of the Summit that he dispatched his envoy Christopher Dodd to Argentina to convince President Alberto Fernández to attend. Fernández did not confirm whether or not he would go to the Summit, but he did take the opportunity to reproach Dodd, saying “it’s shameful that the US maintains a blockade against Cuba and Venezuela.”

It is impressive to see so many Latin American and Caribbean leaders standing united in defence of their collective dignity and rejecting what senior Venezuelan politician Diosdado Cabello has characterised as a “summit of the gringos.” This is a reflection of a rising and irreversible trend towards sovereign development; an assertion of both independence and regional unity.

The Monroe Doctrine, first articulated by President James Monroe in 1823, denounced European colonialism and interference in the Western Hemisphere, not on the basis of any anti-colonial principle but as an assertion of the US’s exclusive rights to exploit the continent. Since that time, the US’s relationship with the countries of Central and South America has largely been characterised by neocolonialism, and the region’s land, natural resources, labour and markets have been subservient to the needs of US monopoly capital.

When the US has been unable to secure its interests through quiet pressure and economic coercion, it has not hesitated to use force. The 1954 coup d’état in Guatemala, overthrowing the elected government of Jacobo Árbenz, was engineered by the CIA (an interesting historical footnote is that this incident helped to radicalise Che Guevara, who was living in Guatemala City at the time). In 1961, the US orchestrated an invasion of Cuba, with a view to overturning the Cuban Revolution. The US backed brutal military coups in Brazil (1964), Chile (1973) and Argentina (1976). Following the Sandinista Revolution, the US financed and supported right-wing narco-terrorist militia in waging a decade-long civil war in the 1980s.

This tragically violent dynamic has not remained in the distant past. In 2002, the CIA backed a coup attempt against the Chávez government in Venezuela. The US supported the constitutional coup against Dilma Rousseff’s progressive government in Brazil (2016) and the coup that brought down the Evo Morales government in Bolivia (2019). Meanwhile, the US maintains harsh unilateral sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

But as hard is it might try, the US cannot stem the tide of multipolarity. The peoples of the region are simply not willing to accept the Monroe Doctrine any longer. Speaking in January this year, President Biden clearly thought he was presenting Latin America a valuable gift by upgrading its status from “back yard” to “front yard”. However, the peoples of the region are no longer willing to be any type of yard.

China’s rise has been an important boost to Latin America’s attempts to break its dependency on the US, with bilateral trade increasing from just 12 billion USD in 2000 to 315 billion USD today. Of the 33 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region, 21 have signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative. As veteran US peace activist Medea Benjamin noted recently: “China has surpassed the US as the number one trading partner, giving Latin American countries more freedom to defy the United States.”

With the expansion of investment, trade, aid and diplomatic ties with China, Latin America has a historic opportunity to climb the ladder of sovereign development, to improve the living standards of its people, and to affirm its status as a key player in an increasingly multipolar world. For this reason the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, speaking with Hu Jintao in Beijing in 2006, spoke of China’s relationship with Latin American as a “Great Wall against American hegemonism.”

As Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated recently, Latin America is neither a front yard or a back yard of the US. “And the Summit of the Americas is not the Summit of the United States of America.” If the US wants to improve its relationship with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, it should follow China’s example and adopt an international relations strategy based on mutual respect, mutual benefit, equal treatment and non-interference. In short, it should give up on the Project for a New American Century and come to terms with humanity’s trajectory away from hegemonism.

Demanding China’s exclusion: US blocks world access to vaccines

We are pleased to republish this very important article by Sara Flounders which originally appeared in Workers World. Sara contrasts in detail the diametrically opposite approaches to the international distribution of anti-Covid vaccines on the part of the imperialist United States and socialist China. Whilst China is now the world’s largest provider of Covid-19 vaccines, having provided over 2.1 billion doses to more than 120 countries and international organisations, accounting for one third of the vaccines administered outside China, US trade officials have announced that they will veto a global plan that would allow countries on an emergency basis to temporarily ignore patents and produce their own vaccines. This measure was first proposed by India and South Africa in 2020. The US is motivated by a desire to isolate China and to defend the mega profits of big pharma. China, meanwhile, has gone far beyond temporary intellectual property waivers for its vaccines, providing public access to the technology, along with raw materials and manufacturing ability.

Just how far is the U.S. government determined to go in the protection of corporate profits?

For the past two years the Biden administration and earlier the Trump administration have blocked every effort to make medicines for the COVID-19 virus widely available. U.S. control of the patents has been ruthlessly enforced.

U.S. trade officials have now announced that the government will veto a global plan that would allow countries on an emergency basis to temporarily ignore patents and make their own COVID-19 vaccines. The U.S. says it will block this plan unless China is explicitly excluded from the waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights. This ultimatum has created international shock waves. 

Health officials globally are concerned because U.S. opposition could kill even a limited international deal. Two years of discussions in Geneva were intensified this month in the hopes of signing a final pact in June. 

Corporate ownership of patents

Control of patents in technology and medicine play a crucial role in U.S. economic domination. Patents on intellectual property are a set of laws that protect legal rights of products to be privately owned. Even if essential products are developed through the common labor of hundreds of thousands of people, were developed with public funds or are based on science and technology developed over many generations, the corporations that file for the patents can claim ownership of the product and of the manufacturing process. 

Continue reading Demanding China’s exclusion: US blocks world access to vaccines

Danny Haiphong: The Biden administration is escalating the war on China

Friends of Socialist China co-editor Danny Haiphong joined peace activist Margaret Flowers for an episode of Clearing the Fog to discuss the Biden administration’s escalating New Cold War against China. A particular focus was US president Joe Biden’s recent statement expressing a commitment to military intervention in Taiwan during his first trip as president to Asia, and the underlying motivations of the New Cold War being rooted in the US’s fear of China as a good example of stability, sovereignty, and a commitment to socialism that runs counter to the aims of US imperialism.