China’s 'Frankenstein' Meets the U.S. 'Wolfman'

4-14-08, 9:24 am

When I was a child, I remember watching a Hollywood B horror movie, “Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman,” which frightened me. I was reminded of it when while reading chapter three of Gerald Horne’s Blows Against Empire, “China’s Peaceful Rise/U.S Imperialism’s Inexorable Decline.” It also frightened me.

Starting with Richard Nixon’s late life comment to his old servant, William Safire, that the U.S. “may have created a Frankenstein” in its use of China to encircle and destroy the Soviet Union, Horne goes on to look at a rapidly developing world economy in which China and India, both as consumers and producers play a quantitatively and increasingly qualitatively larger role, new world situation where U.S. imperialism’s past and present actions appear to be producing a new contradiction—that is U.S. imperialism (my comment, not Horne’s) may be encircling itself.

First, Horne makes important critical points about China’s role in recent history. The “strategic alliance” the U.S. developed with China against the Soviet Union in the 1970s, Horne writes forcefully “led directly to China’s waging war on Socialist Vietnam, aiding in genocide in Cambodia (then Kampuchea), collaborating with U.S. imperialism in Southern Africa and Afghanistan, and forcing an overstretch of Moscow’s resources, which led directly to the 1989-1991 crisis.”

But Horne understands that China is still led by the Chinese Communist Party, that it still contains a huge productive public sector (goods producing industries) and that its role in the global economy, from the Middle East to Africa, to Latin America, is both developing and extremely complicated.

What isn’t so complicated though is the fact that China is too big and too strong to be the target of “containment/encirclement” as was the Soviet Union, which was never an economic competitor of the United States or its imperialist allies and certainly did not hold a significant part of the U.S. debt, which was largely amassed to fight the cold war against the Soviet Union and its allies.

Although Horne’s chapter is titled, “China’s Peaceful Rise/U.S. Imperialism’s Inexorable Decline,” the first part of the title is something of a misnomer. Horne deals with a world in which the U.S. government and military is constantly frustrated by China’s refusal to toe its line, constantly seeking to make its rise anything but peaceful, China works with Iran and Venezuela. China maintains friendly relations with North Korea. While China is presented by U.S. media as an economic and potential military threat, the U.S. can’t really mobilize an economic and military bloc against it in Asia or globally, although it continues to try.

It cannot, I would say, certainly mobilize an ideological “holy war” against “Red China” like the not so good old days because too many people in the world are wearing the clothes and using the goods produced in “Red China” in the rich capitalist countries and also developing areas of their economies in cooperation with “Red China” in the poor countries.

India, a historic geopolitical rival of China, is now playing a new, greatly expanded, and complex role in the world economy and is improving relations with China significantly. Japan is also too powerful economically and also very unlikely to play the role in an “Asian NATO” that Britain played in a European NATO, that is a military partner of the U.S. against China

Horne also mentions that U.S. attempts to focus on China’s internal policies towards dissenters as it did against the Soviet Union won’t (the immediate complicated Tibet issue aside) play so well in much of the world. Particularly in Asia and Africa, the racist history of both U.S. and European imperialism and ongoing racist portrayals of Asian, African, and Latin American people are very visible to those peoples, if not to the Europeans and the North Americas whose media perpetrate those stereotypes.

Finally, although classic “spy scares” of the kind that led to political show trials in the U.S. in the late 1940s and 1950s have been floated in the case of Los Alamos scientist, Wen Ho Lee in the Clinton administration, they have so far fallen flat. While anything is possible, anti-Chinese spy scares and show trials to effectively create a hysteria about the China menace, whether that menace is defined as “red,” or military, or capitalist, seems at the moment to be very unlikely

Horne’s chapter is rich in fascinating and valuable detail about the rapidly changing world economic, political and military scene. “Globalization,” another name for imperialism to smug U.S. policy planners, is in many areas of the world creating relations between China and other nations and regions that undermine U.S. imperialism’s maneuvers.

Let me conclude this review of chapter three with a few comments. The first is that some critics on the left, I am sure will, contend that what China is doing in the Middle East, Africa, etc., isn’t that different from what the U.S. is doing in economic terms and is also “imperialist.” While I wouldn’t take that position, Horne doesn’t address the specific content China’s role in the world economy except to act as a counterweight to U.S. imperialism.

For the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America, will China’s role in the world really undermine global imperialism or will the U.S. China rivalry really end up like that old B movie, as the peoples of the world face a Chinese Frankenstein and a U.S. Wolfman?

Also, my fear from reading this chapter is that U.S. imperialism’s frustrations and defeats vis-à-vis China, may lead it to new interventions and military based conflicts, which would have disastrous consequences for the world. Just as the imperialist powers intervened over and over again with relative ease in terms of casualties in China, Africa, the Middle East in the late 19th early 20th century, seeing war as a simple way to get what they wanted until they finally found themselves trapped in a big war, the biggest in human history, there is a danger, I think, that U.S. imperialism will become more aggressive in its frustrations and defeats, unless the American people act now and in the future to both reject militarism and develop a peace policy that will undue the huge damage of the Bush administration and previous administrations.