Inter-imperialist rivalry: U.S. and China


While the living conditions of the working class and farmers (the vast majority of the world population) remain dismal across the globe, wealth in the homes of the richest families is surging to all-time highs. In both the U.S. and China two thirds of the wealth is held by the top 10 percent of households. According to capitalist think tank Mckinsey Global Institute, the money is held 35 percent in land, 33 percent in housing and buildings, 11 percent in infrastructure, 8 percent in inventories, 6 percent in machinery, and another 6 percent in intangibles.

Over the 20-year period between 2000 to 2020, net worth in China grew by 50 percent. In the U.S. over the same period, net worth grew by 22 percent. It is important to note that these statistics also include an increase in wealth of the top 10 percent of households. Meaning that a greater portion of economic power is being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. In China from 2000 to 2015, the increase of the top 10 percent grew from 48 to 67 percent, while in the U.S. between 2000 and 2019, the top 10 percent increased their share from 67 to 71 percent.

The bottom 50 percent in both countries saw their share of the wealth drop. In China the transfer of wealth from poor to rich was stark. Between 2000 and 2015, the share of wealth for the bottom 50 percent dropped from 14 to 6 percent, while in the U.S. over a similar period wealth dropped from 1.8 to 1.5 percent.

The transfer of wealth to the top in China also coincides with the expansion of the “Belt and Road” initiative and a growing presence of the Chinese military internationally. The arrival of China as an imperialist power is creating many problems for the U.S., who for a time during the post World War II period, dominated the world economically, politically, and militarily. There is clearly an increasing fear in the U.S. capitalist class that China represents real competition. Capitalist media outlets are putting out a growing number of articles concerned with the encroachment of Chinese imperialism on what was previously U.S. turf.

A BBC report quoted JP Morgan head Jaime Dimon, “I made a joke the other day that the Communist Party is celebrating its 100th year—so is JPMorgan.” Dimon continued, “I’d make a bet that we will last longer.” Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Chinese government-supported Global Times newspaper, replied on Twitter: “Think long-term! And I bet the CPC [Chinese Communist Party] will outlast the USA.”

At the same time that these jabs were being thrown, JP Morgan became the first foreign full owner of a securities brokerage in China. That fact helps to highlight the complex web of trade and international finance and how capitalist relations really work, making economic deals, sparring, or even in direct conflict all at the same time. For example, U.S. companies like Coca Cola operated in Nazi Germany right up until hostilities commenced between that country and the United States at the end of 1941. It was one of Hitler’s favorite drinks, and Coca Cola even ran advertisements featuring its logo next to the swastika. In 1945, Coca Cola reclaimed ownership of its German subsidiary and the profits that it had earned during the war, while promoting the CEO of the subsidiary, Harrison Keith, into the job of heading Coca Cola Europe, despite his past as a Nazi collaborator.

Business Insider recently posted an article about China’s ventures in space that includes attempts to reach Mars and the launching of satellites with militaristic capabilities. The vice chief of operations of U.S. Space Force, Gen. David Thompson is quoted as saying, “I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion they will be the leader in space at the end of the decade, but they are on an incredible pace.” He continued, “Our capabilities are the best in the world of space, but they’re moving aggressively. … They’re moving quickly and we need to adapt our approach.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. intelligence has learned of China’s plan to build a military base on Africa’s Atlantic coast in Equatorial Guinea. In April, General Stephen Townsend, commander of U.S. Africom, gave a report to the Senate on the threat of a useful Chinese military base on the Atlantic coast of Africa. He elaborated, “By militarily useful I mean something more than a place that they can make port calls and get gas and groceries. I’m talking about a port where they can rearm with munitions and repair naval vessels.”

Then in October, President Biden dispatched national security advisor Jon Finer to Equatorial Guinea to persuade the country’s president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, to reject any Chinese offers. Inter-imperialist tensions between the U.S. and China continue over the issue of gaining sufficient political influence to win in the competition for global markets. The U.S. seems to be scrambling around the globe using both diplomacy and threats of force to counter the Chinese presence in the global South.

Both countries are vying for influence in Honduras. China may edge out the U.S., as incoming President Xiomara Castro initially laid out in her campaign manifesto a strategy that seeks formal ties with Beijing. This type of connection to China could also potentially mean that Honduras severs ties with Taiwan in return for greater economic and diplomatic relations. Honduras is currently one of the few countries that recognize the legitimacy of Taiwan.

The shift would be a significant political victory, as China has been on a campaign in Latin America to delegitimize Taiwan. The Dominican Republic, Panama, and El Salvador have already broken ties with Taiwan. A recent article points out that U.S. diplomatic visitors have been assured by Xiomara Castro’s advisors that no formal decision has been made. However, a Honduran shift toward China seems plausible as Castro’s presidency begins, more than a decade after her husband, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted from government in 2009 by a coup orchestrated in Washington, D.C.

Over the past year Taiwan has been a flash point of controversy as China has increasingly made military threats to the island, which it considers to be a breakaway province. This raises the question of whether China will seek to reabsorb the island under its direct control, as it has done with Hong Kong. As Socialist Resurgence reported in January, Taiwan has also been the point of a bottleneck in the production of microchips, which has crippled automobile and other manufacturers that depend on the chips.

As the U.S. and China battle for political influence and supremacy over the global markets, the working classes of all nations find themselves in an ever more precarious situation. Working people everywhere are forced to endure exploitation in the mines and manufacturing shops run by ruthless corporations based in both imperialist nations. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where cobalt is mined at the Tenke Fungurume mine—which is owned 80% by a Chinese company—a worker claims, “The relationship between us and the [mine] is like a slave and a master.”

The Congo is just one example of Chinese exploitation of workers internationally. Those same mines owned by Chinese companies are supplying the cobalt for automakers like Tesla and Ford for the production of electric cars. Both companies have no regard for their workers’ lives. Ford recently shut down factories in India and Brazil, leaving in their wake hundreds of unemployed workers. Ford set up shop in India in the 1990s, hoping to capitalize on the emerging market, but faced consistent labor unrest as they implemented concessions over the years.

Looming in the background are two possible realities for the working class. First, the methods of capitalist production are putting massive amounts of carbon in the atmosphere, destroying our environment, and creating climate catastrophes. Already, thousands of people are turned into climate refugees each year looking to escape desertification, hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters. Second is the very real threat of an actual war between imperialist nations to redivide the world in the interests of the capitalist class.

Workers and farmers are poised to be on the front lines of both of these crises, which will be compounded due to the ongoing global pandemic. The U.S. and Chinese governments and ruling elites offer no solutions for the working class. The question remains: Can the working class form an international leadership that connects the thousands of daily strikes, mass actions, and revolutionary organizing by workers across the globe to present an alternative to the current path of capitalist destruction? The answer to that question for all sincere revolutionaries, despite the myriad of difficulties ahead, should be an emphatic “yes.”

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