Dee Knight: Traveling to prove China is not our enemy

This fascinating article by Dee Knight describes a recent peace tour to China by a small group of activists from the US, and includes Dee’s reflections on his visit and a number of topics related to China and the New Cold War.

The report includes mention of the group’s brief stopover in Taipei, and Dee briefly discusses the US’s recent undermining of the One China policy:

“Visiting Taiwan enroute to mainland China reveals something nearly everyone agrees on: Taiwan is very much part of China. Both Chinese governments agree, and the US government has shared this view since at least 1972, when US President Nixon and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping signed a treaty to that effect. It makes you wonder why the US is pushing for Taiwan to be ‘independent’ of the mainland, spending billions to arm it to the teeth, and sending war ships through the Taiwan Strait, thus violating China’s territorial waters, at the risk of triggering a flareup to war at any moment.”

Describing the group’s trip to Shanghai, Dee contrasts the relative affluence and modernity of the city today with the poverty and backwardness imposed upon it in the early part of the 20th century, when it was a playground for Western imperialists – a time when “the colonial powers forced China’s weak government to cede control of trade in both Shanghai and Beijing” and the streets of Shanghai’s ‘International Settlement’ concessions “had signs saying ‘No Chinese or Dogs Allowed.'”

Comparing Shanghai’s transport infrastructure with that of the US, Dee writes:

Underground, the metro hums along: more than 20 lines rival the extent of New York’s MTA, and humble it for cleanliness, courteous service and safety. All the stations I saw have escalators, elevators, and super-clean floors. They also have moving barriers between the passenger platforms and incoming trains, to protect riders.

On China’s network of high-speed rail, Dee observes: “These bullet trains now connect all of China’s major cities, following the gigantic infrastructure projects of recent decades. The US has no bullet trains, and can’t seem to find the financing for them, especially since the profit potential in military production is so much higher.”

Dee also includes some reflections on China’s system of governance, describing the mechanics of its whole-process people’s democracy and countering the Western media’s tropes about China as an authoritarian tyranny and police state.

We didn’t see homeless people anywhere in China. We also didn’t see any signs of repression or oppression anywhere – including Xinjiang. The Chinese people we encountered seemed both calm and content. Tension, conflict and stress are low.

Dee writes powerfully that “visiting China made me believe peace is possible”, that the Chinese people very much do not want war or confrontation with the US, and opining that the US’s policy of trade war and military brinkmanship is a dead-end for humanity.

Cooperation, common prosperity and a shared future make much more sense. That formula has found warm welcomes across the globe. It even includes major initiatives in green development, where again China is leading the way. It has more solar and wind energy generation than the rest of the world combined. And while it still uses more fossil fuel for energy than non-polluting sources, Xi Jinping has pledged that by mid-century fossil fuels will be phased out. That would be an accomplishment worth emulating. It’s much better to save the world from burning up than continue with the current US craze of military brinksmanship!

Dee Knight is a veteran of the US peace and socialist movements, and is a member of the International Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and of the Friends of Socialist China advisory group.

“China Is Not Our Enemy” was the theme of a ten-day visit to China in early November. The visit was designed to find and highlight a path to common prosperity and a shared future between China, the United States, and the rest of the world. Visiting China made me believe peace is possible.

We flew from JFK to Taipei to Shanghai. Then we took a “bullet train” to Beijing. From there we flew to Urumqi and Kashgar, Xinjiang. Then back to Urumqi to Changsha, Hunan, and from Changsha to Shanghai. Then back to Taipei and from there to JFK.

1. Taiwan is part of China.

Getting to China from the USA is easier now than it was centuries ago for Marco Polo when he traveled from Venice by camel over the old Silk Road. We boarded a jumbo jet at 1am November 1 at Kennedy Airport in New York – actually 1pm in Taiwan and China, which are 12 hours ahead of New York. The flight was a mere 17 hours, so we landed at about 6am November 2. We flew nonstop through northern Canada, then down past Japan and Korea to reach Taiwan. Service on the China Airlines jumbo jet was impeccable – two main meals, enjoyable movies, and plentiful snacks with beverage service.

Visiting Taiwan enroute to mainland China reveals something nearly everyone agrees on: Taiwan is very much part of China. Both Chinese governments agree, and the US government has shared this view since at least 1979, when US President Nixon and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping signed a treaty to that effect. It makes you wonder why the US is pushing for Taiwan to be “independent” of the mainland, spending billions to arm it to the teeth, and sending war ships through the Taiwan Strait, thus violating China’s territorial waters, at the risk of triggering a flareup to war at any moment.

Before landing in Taipei we spoke with a Chinese couple who were part of the original post-WW2 migration from the Mainland to Taiwan after the Red Army defeated Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang (KMT). Chiang transferred what was left of his army, plus thousands of camp followers and businesspeople across the strait, and took over the Taiwan government with US backing. There was no pretense of democracy – Chiang staged a military takeover and set up a dictatorship that lasted till his death in 1975, always with lavish US support. It was much the same in the southern half of Korea following Japan’s surrender at the end of WW2. There the US backed one dictator after another until the 1990s, when massive popular protests led to brief periods of democratic government – in each case ultimately suppressed by military takeovers backed by the US. Recently Biden held a summit with the leaders of Japan and South Korea to forge an alliance against China and North Korea.

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The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future

On 10 October 2023, China’s State Council Information Office released an important white paper: The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future. The document presents the achievements of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) since its announcement in September 2013.

A significant number of historic infrastructure projects in the developing world have already been built within the framework of the BRI. For example, the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway is the largest infrastructure project carried out in Kenya since independence. The China-Laos Railway – an electrified railway directly connecting Kunming (in China’s southwestern Yunnan province) to Vientiane, the capital of Laos – was completed in 2021. The white paper notes:

“As an important part of the central section of the pan-Asia railway network, the China-Laos Railway has helped Laos to realize its long-cherished dream of becoming a land-linked country from a landlocked one. It has promoted transport, investment, logistics and tourism, and injected new impetus into the economic development of Laos and areas along the line. By August 31, 2023, the railway had recorded a total of 20.79 million passenger trips and carried 25.22 million tonnes of cargo. It has become a safe and efficient international passageway connecting Laos with its neighbouring countries and regions and generating mutual benefits.”

The Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway – the first high-speed rail system in Indonesia – has achieved an operational speed of 350 km per hour, reducing the journey time between these important cities from 3.5 hours to 45 minutes.

A huge number of energy production and distribution projects have been built as part of the BRI, connecting China, Russia, Mongolia, Central Asia, Pakistan and further afield.

The white paper makes it very clear that, while the BRI was launched by China, “it belongs to the world and benefits the whole of humanity”, and that “irrespective of size, strength and wealth, all countries participate on an equal footing.” The aim is not to travel the well-trodden path of imperialist modernisation but rather to build a global community of shared future – “an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity, charting a bright future for human development.”

This is a model of development and international relations that “diverges from the exploitative colonialism of the past, avoids coercive and one-sided transactions, rejects the centre-periphery model of dependency, and refuses to displace crisis onto others or exploit neighbours for self-interest. Instead, it aims to achieve win-win outcomes and shared development and prosperity.”

Rather than competing with other initiatives, the BRI has successfully integrated and cooperated with many other strategies including Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union framework, Kazakhstan’s Bright Road economic policy, Indonesia’s Global Marine Fulcrum initiative, Vietnam’s Two Corridors and One Economic Circle plan, South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, and Egypt’s Suez Canal Corridor Project.

“By June 2023, China had signed more than 200 BRI cooperation agreements with more than 150 countries and 30 international organizations across five continents, yielding a number of signature projects and small-scale yet impactful projects.”

The document notes that the fruits of economic globalisation have hitherto been dominated by a small group of developed countries. Rather than contributing to common prosperity at a global level, globalisation “has widened the wealth gap between rich and poor, between developed and developing countries, and within developed countries. Many developing countries have benefited little from economic globalisation and even lost their capacity for independent development, making it hard for them to access the track of modernisation. Certain countries have practiced unilateralism, protectionism and hegemonism, hampering economic globalisation and threatening a global economic recession.”

The focus of the BRI is precisely on contributing to a form of globalisation that generates common prosperity, that brings benefits particularly to developing countries. As such, “most participants are developing countries, all seeking to leverage collective strengths to address challenges such as inadequate infrastructure, lagging industrial development, limited industrialisation, insufficient capital and technology, and a shortage of skilled workers, to promote their own economic and social development.”

Hence the BRI stands in defence of greater globalisation and economic integration, but in a form that is beneficial to all. It stands against certain concepts that have become popular in the West recently – “decoupling” and “derisking” – which seek to impede global cooperation, exchanges and mutual learning. “In a world full of uncertainties and instabilities, all countries should urgently bridge differences through dialogue, oppose rifts with unity, and promote development through cooperation.”

Especially in the last few years, the BRI has embraced green and low-carbon development, “emphasising respecting and protecting nature and following its laws, and respecting the right of all parties to pursue sustainable and eco-friendly growth.” Hence for example China pledged in 2021 to stop building new coal-fired power stations overseas, and is actively building financing mechanisms to encourage sustainable energy and infrastructure.

The document also discusses progress made under the BRI in numerous fields that are largely overlooked, for example cooperation in public health, digital governance and people-to-people exchanges and tourism.

All in all, “the BRI has become the world’s largest platform for international cooperation” and is providing a springboard for progress and prosperity throughout the world.

We publish the full text of the white paper below. It can also be downloaded as a PDF. It was first published in English on Xinhua.

Note that Friends of Socialist China and the International Manifesto Group are holding a webinar – Building a multipolar world: Ten years of the Belt and Road Initiative – on Saturday 4 November 2023, featuring an array of interesting speakers including Erik Solheim (President, Green Belt and Road Institute), Professor Zhang Weiwei (Director, China Institute, Fudan University), Li Jingjing (Journalist and political commentator, CGTN), Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi (Political analyst, Iran), Senator Mushahid Hussain (Chair, Pakistan-China Institute), Martin Jacques (Author, When China Rules the World), Fred M’membe (President, Socialist Party Zambia), Camila Escalante (Editor, Kawsachun News), Keith Bennett (Co-editor, Friends of Socialist China) and Radhika Desai (Convenor, International Manifesto Group). Registration is free via Eventbrite.

The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future

The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China                                                        


Over two millennia ago, inspired by a sincere wish for friendship, our ancestors travelled across grasslands and deserts to create a land Silk Road connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, leading the world into an era of extensive cultural exchanges. More than 1,000 years ago, our ancestors set sail and braved the waves to open a maritime Silk Road linking the East and the West, beginning a new phase of closer communication among peoples.

Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes were not only routes for trade but also roads for cultural exchanges. They made a great contribution to human progress. In the 1980s, the United Nations and some countries began to envisage the Eurasian Land Bridge, the Silk Road Initiative, and other plans, reflecting a common wish to engage in communication and cooperation.

In March 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed the vision of a global community of shared future; in September and October that year, he raised the initiatives of joining with others to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI). The Belt and Road Initiative is a creative development that takes on and carries forward the spirit of the ancient silk routes – two of the great achievements in human history and civilization. It enriches the ancient spirit with the zeitgeist and culture of the new era, and provides a platform for building a global community of shared future.

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US-Asean Summit exposes the US’s real priorities

This article by Austin Ong, originally published in the Manila Times, discusses US President Biden’s visit to Asia and the recent US-ASEAN summit, during which the US offered $150 million in infrastructure development funding to the countries of Southeast Asia. Ong notes that this is a very small amount compared with China’s ongoing investment in the region, which includes the recently-completed high-speed railway link between Laos and Yunnan, alone worth $6 billion. The US has also failed to offer ASEAN members tariff-free access to its domestic market; whereas China was a strong proponent of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which came into force at the beginning of this year. The US’s economic commitments to Asia pale in comparison to its military commitments such as the AUKUS trilateral pact, which will provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. This indicates very clearly that while China focuses on win-win cooperation and development, the US continues to pursue hegemony.

Optimism was replaced with frustration and disbelief after the much feted hosting by Washington of visiting Asean leaders resulted only in a paltry $150-million pledge. For such a vital region at the heart of great power competition, the sum is infinitesimal. It is hard to imagine how this small drop in the bucket will get to be apportioned to 10 countries with pressing developmental needs raring to recover from a pandemic.
Biden’s meeting with Asean leaders is the first meeting of a US President since 2017, was rescheduled twice, and came a year after Blinken did not show up for his first virtual meeting with the Asean ministers which the US had arranged. The US blamed it on a technical glitch as Blinken was enroute to Israel. Twelve days later, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi met with his counterparts in person at the Special Asean-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in China.

Furthermore, Biden’s pledge speaks volume of where the US is focused on — security — much to the dismay of regional countries which hoped the US will step up in providing economic goods to provide a counterweight to China. Of America’s $150 million commitment to the region, $60 million will go to deepening maritime cooperation led by the US Coast Guard ships in the South China Sea. Absent robust dialogue and crisis management mechanisms, this may only raise tensions and trigger an arms build-up in the region and chances for miscalculations.

The US only allotted $40 million in infrastructure. To put things in perspective, under China’s decade-old Belt and Road Initiative, the China-funded high-speed railway in Laos which opened last December is worth $6 billion. The two friendship bridges donated by China to help decongest Manila’s notorious traffic are already worth $150 million, in addition to over $350 million in grants for various livelihood projects from 2016 to 2021. Billions of dollars worth of major infrastructure and development projects across the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, even in Myanmar are being fast-tracked. While some projects face issues and may even get derailed, they are still light years away from what the US is investing in the region.

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Luna Oi showcases Hanoi’s new metro

In the following video, Vietnamese blogger and broadcaster Luna Oi, who spoke at our Summit for Socialist Democracy in December, showcases Hanoi’s new metro system, which opened to the public in January this year. Luna shows how efficient and convenient the metro is, and notes that, since it is subsidized by the Vietnamese government, it is also very affordable. The Hanoi metro is a good example of China-Vietnam cooperation: built by China Railway Sixth Group, its operation is 100 percent in the hands of the Vietnamese metro company.