VI. The Acceleration of Inter-Imperialist Rivalry and the Global Trade War




Note of the Editorial Board: The following Chapter contains several figures. For technical reasons these can only be viewed in the pdf version of the book which can be downloaded here.





Given the historic crisis of capitalism and the massive shift in the relation of forces between the Great Powers, it is hardly surprising that the tensions between the imperialist states are accelerating. Trotsky always emphasized how crucial it is for a revolutionary organization to carefully analyze the political process, the contradictions and the changes in the relations between the states and classes in order to prepare politically for coming imperialist wars.


The first prerequisite for success is the training of party cadres in the correct understanding of all the conditions of imperialist war and of all the political processes that accompany it. Woe to that party that confines itself in this burning question to general phrases and abstract slogans! The bloody events will crash over its head and smash it.[1]


Taking this advice into account is particularly important in the coming period of increasing tensions between the Great Powers. One has to understand the lawfulness of the processes taking place in the imperialist world system. The emergence of the extraordinary chauvinistic (and bizarre) Trump Administration is therefore not a bad joke of history (albeit it often looks like this) but an expression of historical necessity. “Make America Great Again” reflects objectively the desperate attempt of US imperialism to stop and to reverse the historic decline of its hegemonic position. [2] Likewise, the grotesque person of Trump symbolizes the failure of the U.S. to achieve such a goal. [3]


This massive acceleration of Great Power rivalry has been reflected in the looming Global Trade War, in the cancellation of the INF Treaty by the U.S. Administration [4], the tensions in the South China Sea [5], the U.S. aggression against Iran [6] as well as various sable-rattling statements by leading politicians and military of both sides.




At the Onset of a New Cold War




Let us give a few examples from the recent past. Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, warned at the Warsaw Security Forum that “in 15 years (...) it is a very strong likelihood that we will be at war with China”. [7] Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned while visiting Iran that a single small event could spark off a First World War-style catastrophe in the Middle East. [8] The former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson recently warned of the risks of an “Iron Curtain” descending between the world’s two largest economies. [9] According to Chinese media, President Xi Jinping has told his military commanders to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war” as tensions continue to grow over the future of the South China Sea and Taiwan. [10] U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton stated that the U.S. is determined to push back China’s and Russia’s growing influence in Africa. [11]


Another example of the increasing influence of aggressive imperialists is the rise of Peter Navarro in the U.S. Administration. He is the current White House adviser on trade and he has been the author of several publications in the last years which identify China as the main rival of the U.S. One of them has the self-explanatory title “The Coming China Wars”. Unsurprisingly, he is a strong advocate of high tariffs against the Middle Kingdom. [12]


Graham Allison, a former U.S. assistant secretary of defence, advocates a similar foreign policy. Allison has introduced the phrase of the “Thucydides Trap”. He argues that in most cases in history the confrontation between a rising power and a ruling power has resulted in bloodshed. Consequently, he is convinced of the likelihood of a major confrontation between the U.S. and China. [13]


Official Chinese media have similar sober expectations about the future relations between the Great Powers. Global Times, a kind of international English-language central organ of the ruling CCP, published an article which stated that even if China and the U.S. can avert a trade war in the short term, there is no reason for optimism:


In the short term, due to the win-win nature of trade, there is still room for negotiation in the trade disputes. Nevertheless, in the medium term, the US has become aggressive toward the rise of China's manufacturing sector and the narrowing of the gap in high-tech areas. In the long run, amid the concerns over the Thucydides' Trap, an overall US containment of China is not entirely impossible. In this sense, China will likely face more conflicts with the US at different levels, and it is essential to be prepared for a protracted war.[14]


In the past years a whole series of books and studies have been published which focus on the increasing tensions between the Great Powers and warn of major confrontations in the foreseeable future. The Eurasia Group wrote for example: “We aren’t on the brink of World War III. But absent a global security underwriter, and with a proliferation of subnational and non-state actors capable of destabilizing action, the world is a more dangerous place. The likelihood of geopolitical accidents has risen significantly, a trend that will continue. At some point, we’re likely to have a mistake that leads to a confrontation.[15]


Minxin Pei, a Chinese expert living in the U.S., warned: “The escalating trade feud between the US and China is increasingly viewed as the opening campaign of a new cold war. This clash of titans, should it continue to escalate, will cost both parties dearly, to the point that even the winner (more likely the US) would probably find its victory Pyrrhic.[16]


It is important to recognize that it is not only China which is challenging the hegemony of the Western Great Powers. Russia too is globally expanding its political, military and economic influence. [17] The military interventions in the Ukraine [18] and in Syria [19], the increasing role of Moscow in the whole Middle East [20], in Africa [21], etc. – all this alarms the old imperialist powers. This is even true for Latin America – the traditional hinterland of U.S. imperialism – which “Russia is discovering a new ‘El Dorado’”. Moscow has expanded its relations not only with the ALBA states like Venezuela and Cuba but also with countries like Argentina, even under the right-wing President Mauricio Macri. [22] The latest tensions between the Great Powers after the clash between the Russian and the Ukrainian Navy in the Kerch Strait only confirm this trend. [23]




Tianxia – China’s Ideological Challenge




Naturally, China’s and Russia’s rise as Great Powers goes hand in hand with a rising ideological self-confidence. Beijing views itself increasingly as a power which should play a central role in world politics. President Xi emphasized China’s global leading role in a speech in autumn 2017 when he said: "It is time for us to take centre stage in the world and to make a greater contribution to humankind." [24]. The CCP’s flagship newspaper, People’s Daily, stated in a substantive editorial that China faces a “historic opportunity” to "restore itself to greatness and return to its rightful position in the world." It emphasizes: ““The world has never focused on China so much and needed China so much as it does now”. It states: “The historic opportunity is an all-round one, which refers to not only economic development but also the speeding up of science, technology and industrial revolution, the growing influence of Chinese culture and the increasing acknowledgement to the Chinese wisdom and Chinese approach (...) We are more confident, and more competent, than any time in history to grasp this opportunity." Furthermore, the editorial points out that “the global governance system is undergoing profound changes; and a new international order is taking shape.” Reflecting the imperialist drive, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s biggest daily newspaper owned by Jack Ma’s Alibaba, titled a report about this manifesto “Make China great again”! [25]


Elisabeth C. Economy, a bourgeois Asia expert at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, is certainly not wrong in observing that China’s President Xi is globally advocating the “Chinese model”: "Xi seeks his own model of politics and foreign policy: a uniquely Chinese model that he believes will deliver his Chinese Dream and perhaps become a standard bearer for other countries disenchanted with the American and European models of liberal democracy." [26]


The increasing ideological self-confidence of China’s ruling class is also reflected in the revival of old concept of Tianxia (which literally means “all under heaven”), an ancient Chinese concept. This concept was historically based on an understanding of the world in five concentric zones with the Emperor (“Son of Heaven”) resp. the royal domain in the centre, the domains of the princes, the pacification zone, the zone of allied barbarians, and the zone of savagery. [27] An alternative interpretation is to divide the world into three areas with diminishing Chinese influence: inner vassal area, outer vassal area, and temporary non-vassal area. [28] Despite modifications throughout history, the concept of Tianxia has always been a classic Confucian concept legitimizing the empire of the ruling class of Han-Chinese Empire.


Today, various Chinese and non-Chinese pro-Beijing ideologists present Tianxia as a peaceful alternative model to the Western-dominated imperialist world order. [29] Pepe Escobar, for example, a key ideologist who combines propaganda for Moscow and Beijing with a left-liberal color [30], argues for the superiority of Chinese Tianxia world view by referring to the writings of Zhao Tingyang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He characterizes Tianxia as a world view “to tackle universal problems in a process of dynamic formation that refers to globalization. (…) Tingyang shows that the Tianxia concept refers to a world system where the true political subject is the world. Under the Western imperialist vision, the world was always an object of conquest, domination and exploitation, and never a political subject per se. So we need a higher and more comprehensive unifying vision than that of the nation-state – under a Lao Tzu framework: “To see the world from the point of view of the world”. Plunging into the deepest roots of Chinese culture, Tingyang shows the idea that there’s nothing beyond Tianxia is, in fact, a metaphysical principle, because Tian (heaven) exists globally. So, Tianxia (all under Heaven), as Confucius said, must be the same, in order to be in accordance with heaven. Thus the Tianxia system is inclusive and not exclusive; it suppresses the idea of enemy and foreigner; no country or culture would be designated as an enemy, and be non-incorporable to the system.[31]


However, this is obviously bourgeois ideological nonsense since the whole history of the Chinese Kingdom is characterized by expansionism and subjugation of non-Han people as many neighboring people in East Turkestan, Vietnam, Korea, etc. had to experience. Naturally, this makes China no different to Western Empires as the latter were also always trying to expand and subjugate other peoples. However, Marxists have to oppose any historical ideological myths – be they pro-Chinese or pro-Western. Neither China’s Empire, not any other Empire in history, was inclusive or peaceful. They were brutal state machineries for the purpose of serving the class interests of the ruling elite via exploiting the working people as well as via subjugating other peoples. The same is true today. Whether it is called “global values of civilization”, “human rights and democracy” or Tianxian, these are all bourgeois ideological concepts serving as justifications for the imperialist policy of Great Powers.


There are a number of ideologists advocating the view point of Russia and China. Naturally, in contrast to the pro-Western ideologists, they observe rather cheerfully that “the transfer of the geopolitical center of gravity to Eurasia is something the West will have to get used to”. [32] Such ideologists, in addition to various Stalinists, range from writers like the already mentioned Pepe Escobar to William Engdahl, who is close to the semi-fascist LaRouche movement and the Russian fascist Aleksandr Dugin. [33] The later is a leading figure of the Eurasian movement, a current which is extremely reactionary in nature, lauds great power chauvinism and authoritarian forms of bourgeois regimes, and also includes a number of positions akin to fascism. It calls for the formation of a totalitarian empire with Russia as its center which will form an alliance with Europe against the US. Dugin proclaimed already two decades ago: “Russia is the incarnation of the quest for an historical alternative to Atlanticism. Therein lies her global mission.” [34]




Protectionism and Militarism




All these tensions reflect the fundamental shift which is taking place in world politics. We have entered a new era. Making a historical review we can say that there was the era of Cold War between the imperialist states (led by the U.S.) and the Stalinist workers states (led by the USSR) in the years 1948-1989/91. After this we experienced an Inter-Cold War Era characterized by the absolute domination of U.S. imperialism. And currently, we are entering a new Era of Cold War between the imperialist Great Powers – first and foremost between the U.S. and China. [35]


The Global Trade War, which began in 2018, is a good example for the rapid deterioration in the relations between the Great Powers. As we have discussed in recently published documents, the political and economic tensions between the Great Powers have massively accelerated in the last few months with US President Trump triggering an open trade war. [36] However, this clash is not a sudden, unexpected development or a result of Trump’s madness. It is rather the result of the rising number of protectionist measures by the US as well as other Great Powers in the last years. (See Figure 18)


This is why the brighter minds among the political and business leaders on both sides already prepare for a long Cold War. Chen Hongtian, a leading Chinese billionaire who is member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee and chairman of the Harmony Club, a group of about 150 Chinese tycoons, expects a long period of Cold War between the two Great Powers. In a speech to fellow monopoly capitalists he warned that the coming “political winter” will be “colder and longer than expected” and “all that I can say is that difficulties [for private enterprises] are much bigger than people expected.” [37]


As we demonstrate in Figure 19 there has been a stagnation of world trade since the Great Recession in 2008 after decades of massive growth (“Globalization”). In short, the period of Globalization has ended in the last years as a result of the decay of capitalism.




Figure 18. Protectionist Measures dominate and distort Global Trade [38]




Figure 19. World Trade as Percentage of World GDP, 1960-2016 [39]






The Global Trade War, the warmongering in the Middle East, the US aggression against Iran, the tensions in the South Chinese Sea, the conflict about North Korea’s nuclear weapons, the conflict in the Ukraine, all these are logical consequences of the acceleration of the rivalry between the Great Powers.


As a result, it is only logical that global armament is increasing again. While it has not reached the level of the highpoint of the Cold War in the 1980s, the process of increasing arms production and sales since the early 2000s is evident. (See Figure 20 and 21)


According to the SIPRI institute, global military expenditure was $1,739 billion in 2017, an increase of 1.1% in real terms on 2016. Total military spending accounted for 2.2% of global Gross Domestic Product in 2017.




Figure 20. The Trend in Transfers of Major Weapons, 1950–2017 [40]






Figure 21. World military expenditure, 1988–2017 [41]








The Imperialist Drive for Control of the South




The same fundamental factor which accelerates the rivalry between the Great Powers – the desperate drive of the imperialist ruling classes to increase their share of the cake (i.e. the global capitalist value product) – is also behind their desire to increase the super-exploitation of the oppressed peoples and the semi-colonial world. The relevance of this process – an essential feature of the whole epoch of imperialism – has substantially increased in the past decades. We refer readers to our book “The Great Robbery of the South” and other publications for a detailed account of the imperialist super-exploitation of the South.


At his point we limit ourselves to a study of the IMF which analyzed the role of “foreign investors” (i.e. mostly imperialist capital) in the so-called Emerging Markets (i.e. the semi-colonial countries plus China and Russia). The report concludes that the role of “foreign investors” has considerable increased – particularly since the Great Recession in 2008: “We estimate that total foreign investors held about US$1 trillion of Emerging Markets government debt (excluding foreign official loans) at end-2012.[42] (See also Figure 22)




Figure 22. Emerging Markets: Foreign Investors as an Investor Class, 2004-12 [43]






These figures demonstrate the process of strengthening position of imperialist capital in the countries of the South since the beginning of the new historic period in 2008.


As we have emphasized many times, the increasing drive of the imperialist monopolies to extract such extra-profits from the semi-colonial countries and to control their cheap labor and their raw materials is the main factor for the rising number of direct or indirect imperialist wars and interventions in the South. Examples for this development are the U.S. occupation wars in Afghanistan since 2001 and Iraq since 2003, Russia’s war against the Chechen people, or Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people including its recent three wars against Gaza (2009, 2012, and 2014). Other examples are the military intervention of the US in Somalia as well as in Northern and Western Africa or of European powers in Mali and other central African states. In the same category falls the US aggression against semi-colonial states like North Korea and Iran.


In addition, we have seen in recent years an increasing number of cases where imperialist powers collaborate with allied regimes of semi-colonial states and equip and finance military forces composed mainly of soldiers from these countries. Examples for this are the Ethiopia-led AMISOM which acts, in close collaboration with US and EU imperialism, as an occupation force in Somalia fighting against Al-Shabaab; the recently constituted G5 force in Western Africa which shall fight against Islamist “terrorists” under French command; or various Iraqi special units which have been trained and equipped by the U.S. While the troops might come from semi-colonial countries, they act as imperialist proxies and their wars have to be characterized as imperialist wars.


Such forces basically resemble the colonial troops of the British, French as well other Empires. The British Empire, for example, built the so-called “Indian Army”. This army commanded several hundred of thousands Indian soldiers (during World War II even 2.5 million) which were deployed under British command and for British interests not only in colonial India itself but all over the world. [44]


In summary, we see that the historic crisis of capitalism accelerates both the tensions between the Great Powers as well as the imperialist aggressiveness against the oppressed peoples in the semi-colonial world.




Rivalry between U.S. and China as the Main Axis of Inner-Imperialist Contradictions




Let us conclude this overview of the fundamental changes in world politics in the past decades with the following observations. As we have said, there are basically five Great Powers: the U.S., China, the European Union, Russia and Japan. (In addition there are several smaller imperialist states like South Korea, Australia, or the Switzerland.)


Of course we can not make a prediction about the exact lineup of the future rivaling alignment of the Great Powers and their alliances. However, there is good reason to assume that the a major faultline will be between the “sated” and the “hungry”, i.e. the old imperialist powers U.S., EU and Japan which divided up the world among themselves in the past decades and the newcomers China and Russia which are rising but have to push back the established incumbents in order to find space for their foreign investment, their market shares and military bases. [45]


It seems most likely to us that the main poles of any imperialist camps will be the U.S. on one side and China on the other. This is because these two Great Powers are the respective strongest forces among the ““sated” and the “hungry”. Furthermore it is possible and necessary to arrive at a certain “hierarchization” among these Great Powers. As we noted above, Lenin also undertook such a “hierarchization” among the Great Powers.


In our view the two strongest, most important, the development of world politics and word economy most determining imperialist powers are the U.S. and China. As we have shown above, these two states are without doubt the two strongest economic powers. While Russia is militarily superior to China (and all other imperialist powers except the U.S.), it is economically so much weaker that we can not treat Moscow as equal with Beijing.


Other imperialist powers might come close to the U.S. respectively China in this or that area. But in their totality they do not match these two dominant Great Powers. Japan, for example, is economically strong. But for various reasons, one of them the consequences of its defeat in World War II, it is politically and military subordinated to the U.S. and does not play an independent role. Germany, the economically strongest European power, faces also the consequences of its defeat in World War II and, as a result, still can not play an independent military role in global affairs.


Furthermore, one has to make a certain reservation about the EU as a Global Power. Basically it is not a unified state but rather a federation in making with various inner contradictions. This substantially limits its ability to intervene politically and military in global affairs. As a matter of fact, the EU stands at a crossroad: either it succeeds, realistically under the leadership of Germany and France, to make a great leap forward and to create a Pan-European proto-state which could take an independent stand as a Great Power defending its imperialist interests against the rivals in East and West. Or it becomes an object of desire for the other Great Powers and will inevitable weaken and collapse. However, we will not focus on this issue here since we have dealt with it elsewhere and, furthermore, it does not alter the fundamental argument in this place. [46]


Of course, each of these Great Powers is an independent power following their own interests. But they can only act in the world arena (and actually do so) if they operate in an alliance with one of the two dominating Great Powers U.S. resp. China. They can hardly play any significant role without the support of one of the two. And in any alliance with one of them, it is the U.S. resp. China which will play the dominant role but neither can the EU, Russia nor Japan.


Furthermore, when analyzing the Great Powers it is crucial to take into account the dynamic of the development. The U.S., the EU and Japan are old, declining, imperialist powers while China and Russia are new, rising powers. To illustrate this dynamic once again we compare the economic development of the U.S. and China since 1985. In Table 14 we show the dramatic changes in the U.S. resp. China’s share in world manufacturing production as well as among the global Top 500 corporations.




Table 14. Economy: US Decline and China’s Rise between 1985 and 2018 [47]


                                                                                                             Global Share (in %)


                                             1985                                       1998/2001                            2011                                       2016/18


                                             US          CHN                      US          CHN                      US          CHN                      US          CHN




Production                         32.4%    4.3%                       25.4%    6.3%                       20.5%    16.4%                    16.3%    23.5%


Top 500


Corporations                     -               -                               43.0%    2.0%                       26.0%    14.6%                    25.2%    24.0%




Table 15 also demonstrates the dramatic shift and the increase of China’s global weight since the beginning of the century. This overall picture confirms once again, that China has become an imperialist Great Power.




Table 15. China’s Increasing Global Weight, 2000 vs. 2015 [48]


                                                                                                2000                                       2015


Population                                                                            20.7%                                    18.7%


GDP                                                                                       3.7%                                       15.1%


Exports                                                                                  3.9%                                       13.8%


Imports                                                                                  3.4%                                       10.1%


Reserves                                                                                 6.6%                                       30.1%


Inward FDI                                                                           3.0%                                       7.7%


Outward FDI                                                                        0.1%                                       8.7%


Inward Portfolio Investment                                              0.5%                                       1.5%


Outward Portfolio Investment                                           0.8%                                       0.6%




In the field of world politics, it is the relationship between the U.S. and China which is the single most important factors in global inter-states relations. It is the relationship between these two Great Powers which will cause major economic and political crisis, which will result in military tensions, and which will provoke a polarization of states, of parties as well as of the labor movement in opposing camps.


In his polemic against the Stalinist program adopted at the Comintern congress on 1928, Trotsky criticized, among others, that this program failed to emphasize the crucial role of the relationship between Europe and America for world politics: “If in the past decade the main source of revolutionary situations lay in the direct consequences of the imperialist war, in the second post-war decade the most important source of revolutionary upheavals will be the interrelations of Europe and America.[49]


Nearly a century later, we can say that it is the relationship between the U.S. and China which will play a similar role in the next years and decades. It is impossible to find a correct orientation in world politics without understanding this issue!


Naturally, this dynamic is a highly important factor for the political self-confidence and the appeal of China resp. Russia. China’s President Xi statement in a recent prominent speech – “No one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done” – reflects such increasing self-confidence. [50]


At the same time, the U.S. President announces officially a historic shift of its foreign policy. Defending his decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria and half of those in Afghanistan, Trump declared that the U.S. cannot continue to be “the policeman of the world”. He added: “We are spread out all over the world. We are in countries most people haven’t even heard about. Frankly, it’s ridiculous.[51]


Such a dynamic of decline has also profound consequences for the domestic stability and cohesiveness. Just look at the U.S. or the European Union. The ruling class of the strongest imperialist power is deadlocked in a political civil war with Trump as a dysfunctional President who is detested by the majority of the monopoly bourgeoisie as well as of the population. An increasing number of commentators compare the decline of the U.S. with the final period of the Roman Empire and Dumbass Trump with the notorious Emperor Nero. [52] And the imperialist governments of the European Union are self-absorbed with their conflicts between each other, with the issue how to deal with Brexit, with migration, the U.S. aggression against Iran, the global trade war, etc.


Related with this decline of the old imperialist powers is the undermining of the social fabric in the U.S., Western Europe and Japan. Historically, these richest imperialist powers were able to afford for many decades a relatively stable bourgeois democracy because their wealth allowed them to build a social alliance of the ruling class with the middle class and the labor aristocracy. Politically, this “historic bloc” (to lend a category of Antonio Gramsci) has been expressed in relatively stable governments (sometimes as coalition governments) – of the Republican resp. the Democratic Party in the U.S., of the leading conservative resp. reformist party in Europe, etc.


All this is changing now as we see with Trump, Macron, the M5-Lega government in Italy, etc. In short, the decline of the old imperialist powers has provoked a lasting disintegration of this “historic bloc” and resulted in the break-away of sectors of the middle class (expressed in the emergence of radical right-wing racist movements or radical liberal-democratic movements). Likewise, we see crises or even splits in reformist parties like Corbyn’s Labour Party in Britain, the collapse of the French Socialist Party and the rise of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise, the rise of Podemos in Spain, etc.


In short, the decline of the old imperialist powers has provoked a fundamental social and political destabilization. This domestic political crisis weakens these Great Powers in addition to their economic decline.


One of the consequences of this rupture of the social fabric in the old imperialist states is a crisis of the political and ideological identification of the people with their state. Of course, this must not be confused with a political conscious anti-imperialist or defeatist attitude. It is rather a “subliminal social mood” where people rather focus on their immediate needs, on consumerism, etc. But there exists hardly a mood among the population in North America, in Western Europe or Japan to willingly make scarifies so that “the nation” can get stronger; there is little enthusiasm for military adventures abroad and every government is anxious to minimize causalities in wars abroad. Trump is a reactionary chauvinist par excellence but he gains points amongst his supporters by reducing of number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the Middle East. The highpoint of his chauvinist glory is … to build a wall at the border with Mexico! Not a chauvinist aggressiveness of a Great Power but rather a defensive chauvinism of a decaying former super-power! It is no exaggeration to say that there is a touch of defeatism (understood in the literal sense, not the Leninist meaning of the category) in the social atmosphere in Western countries as it was the case in France in 1939/40 before the state machinery unceremonial quickly collapsed when faced with the German offensive in May/June 1940.


Finally, a note about those bourgeois ideologists, who are so “fascinated” with the decline of the West and the rise of China that they already talk about the replacement of the U.S. by China as the world’s hegemon. We consider the idea of an orderly replacement of the U.S.-dominated world order by a China-dominated world order as one-sided and impressionist nonsense. Yes, the U.S. and the West in general are declining and, yes, China is rising as we have argued since a number of years. However, it is sheer nonsense, a kind of bourgeois pacifism, to imagine that such a replacement would be possible without a major world war (or, theoretically, a successful socialist revolution in one of the major imperialist powers). The decline of the West and the rise of the East mean, in the first place, an acceleration of the contradictions between the Great Powers. It means more trade wars, more proxy wars and, eventually, major wars between the rivals. The West will not go down without a desperate struggle for hegemony. And it would be foolish to exclude the possibility that the West could win such a confrontation. If the working class does not succeed in overthrowing the capitalists bandits in time, it is, however, also possible that the result of such a world war will be rather annihilation of all participants.


[1] Leon Trotsky: War and the Fourth International (1934), in: Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1933-34, p. 324

[2] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting and Almedina Gunić: How the Pentagon Views the World Situation. A New Study by the US Military Confirms Marxists' Analysis of the Current Historic Period, 25 July 2017,

[3] There exists already a myriad of literature about the Trump Administration. While we do not agree with all aspects of his analyses, the American socialist John Reimann has published a number of insightful articles on the website

[4] See on this e.g. RCIT: Trump threatens to withdraw from INF Treaty: No to a New Imperialist Arms Race! The Acceleration of Rivalry between the Great Powers Increases the Risks of World War III, 25 October 2018,

[5] See on this e.g. Michael Klare, Is a War With China on the Horizon? June 19, 2018,; Jane Perlez: Xi Jinping Extends Power, and China Braces for a New Cold War, 27 February 2018 NYT,; James Reinl: Is a US-China war in Asia inevitable? 2018-10-30 These tensions are rising not only because of the conflict between the U.S. and China but also because of the increasing assertiveness of Japanese imperialism. See e.g. Justin McCurry: Japan to get first aircraft carrier since second world war amid China concerns, 29 Nov 2018; U.S. to blame if any South China Sea clash: Chinese researcher, January 9, 2019,

[6] See on this e.g. Peter Oborne: How US sanctions on Iran could herald a profound global power shift, 2 November 2018; for the RCIT’s position see e.g. Warmongering in the Middle East: Down with all Imperialist Great Powers and Capitalist Dictatorships! Joint Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), Alkebulan School of Black Studies (Kenya), Pacesetters Movement (Nigeria), Pan-Afrikan Consciousness Renaissance (Nigeria), Marxist Group ‘Class Politics’ (Russia), and Sınıf Savaşı (Turkey), 13 May 2018,; Yossi Schwartz: Israel's Attack on Iranian Forces in Syria, 14.5.2018,; Michael Pröbsting: The Mad Man plays with fire, again. A Commentary on Trump’s Decision to Pull the U.S. out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, 9 May 2018,

[7] The Associated Press: Retired US General Says War With China Likely in 15 Years, Oct. 24, 2018

[8] UK foreign secretary warns of 'First World War risk' in Middle East, 20 November 2018

[9] Gordon Watts: Hope springs eternal for a China-US trade deal, November 9, 2018

[10] Xi inspects PLA Southern Theater Command, stresses advancing commanding ability, Xinhua, 2018-10-26; Jamie Seidel: President Xi tells military to ‘concentrate preparation for fighting a war’, October 29, 2018,

[11] See e.g. Steve Holland, Lesley Wroughton: U.S. to counter China, Russia influence in Africa: Bolton, December 13, 2018,; Michael Cohen, Samer Al-Atrush, Henry Meyer, and Margaret Talev: America’s Moment of Truth in Africa: It’s Losing Out to China, 14. Dezember 2018,

[12] See e.g. How China’s Economic Aggression Threatens the Technologies and Intellectual Property of the United States and the World, White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, June 2018; Peter Navarro: Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World, Prometheus Books, New York 2015; Peter Navarro and Greg Autry: Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – A Global Call to Action for the Western World, Pearson Education, New Jersey 2011; Peter Navarro: The Coming China Wars – Where They Will Be Fought and How They Can Be Won, Financial Times Press, New Jersey 2006

[13] See e.g. Graham T. Allison: Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York 2017; Graham Allison: China and Russia: A Strategic Alliance in the Making, December 14, 2018; Graham Allison: The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War? Sep 24, 2015 The Atlantic,

[14] Shen Jianguang: China needs to prepare for long-term rivalry with the US even if trade deal is reached, Global Times, 2019/1/9

[15] Eurasia Group: Top Risks 2018, p. 6

[16] Minxin Pei: The Sino-American cold war’s collateral damage. October 19, 2018; see also Minxin Pei: China’s Crony Capitalism. The Dynamics of Regime Decay, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2016

[17] See on this e.g. PONARS Eurasia: Russian Foreign Policy after Crimea – How To Understand And Address It, Policy Perspectives, September 2017; Bobo Lo: Russia and the new world order, Chatham House, London 2015; Rob de Wijk: Power Politics. How China and Russia Reshape the World, Amsterdam University Press B.V., Amsterdam 2015; Robert Ross: Naval superpower race: China ‘to overtake US in 15 years’. November 28, 2018; Robert Ross: The End of U.S. Naval Dominance in Asia, November 18, 2018,

[18] On Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine see various RCIT statements which we published on our sub-page In particular we draw attention to Michael Pröbsting: The Uprising in East Ukraine and Russian Imperialism. An Analysis of Recent Developments in the Ukrainian Civil War and their Consequences for Revolutionary Tactics, 22.October 2014,

[19] For our assessment of Russia’s role in Syria see numerous statements and articles which can be read on a special sub-section on our website:

[20] See on this e.g. Yury Barmin: Russia and Israel: The Middle East vector of relations, Russian International Affairs Council, Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) Briefing No. 13/2018 10 November 2018; Alexey Khlebnikov: 2018: A year of many challenges for Putin in the Middle East. If Russia fails to meet regional actors' expectations over Syria, Libya or Israel/Palestine, it will ruin its image as a credible partner, Middle East Eye, January 15, 2018,; Maxim A. Suchkov: Can Russia, China cooperate on the Middle East? December 12, 2018

[21] Nathan Ghelli: Russian Investment in Africa Contributes to Its Development, June 18, 2018; On Russia’s role in Africa see e.g. How Russia is boosting its role in Africa with weapons, investment and ‘instructors’, 14 August, 2018,

[22] See on this e.g. Roberto Mansilla Blanco: Russia in Latin America: Geopolitics and pragmatism, November 28, 2018; Russian companies get green light to mine gold in Venezuela, 26 Dec, 2018

[23] See on this e.g. Military Escalation between Russia and Ukraine at the Kerch Strait. Down with the Reactionary Warmongering on Both Sides! Emergency Statement of the RCIT and the Marxist Group "Class Politics" (Russia), 28 November 2018,

[24] BBC: Xi Jinping: 'Time for China to take centre stage', 18 October 2017,

[25] All quotes are taken from Bill Bishop: China wants to reshape the global order, in: Axios China, Jan 19, 2018,; Nectar Gan: Make China great again: Communist Party seeks to seize ‘historic’ moment to reshape world order. High-profile comment piece urges country to rally around Xi and realise nation’s global aspirations, 18 January, 2018,; Xinhua: CPC newspaper says China should "grasp historic opportunity", 15.01.2018,

[26] Elizabeth Economy: The Third Revolution. Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State, Council on Foreign Relations, Oxford University Press, New York 2018, p. 12

[27] See on this e.g. Wang Mingming: All under heaven (tianxia). Cosmological perspectives and political ontologies in pre-modern China, in: HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2 (1), pp. 337–383; Bart Dessein: Faith and Politics: (New) Confucianism as Civil Religion, in: Asian Studies II (XVIII), 1 (2014), pp. 39–64; Huang, Yang: Perceptions of the Barbarian in Early Greece and China, in: CHS Research Bulletin 2, No. 1 (2013).

[28] See e.g. Zhang Feng: Rethinking the “tribute system”. Broadening the conceptual horizon of historical East Asian politics, in: Zheng Yongnian (Ed.): China and International Relations. The Chinese view and the contribution of Wang Gungwu, Routledge, New York 2010

[29] See e.g. Ban Wang (Ed.): Chinese Visions of World Order. Tianxia, Culture, and World Politics, Duke University Press, Durham and London 2017; Chinese Beginnings of Cosmopolitanism: A Genealogical Critique of Tianxia Guan; Zheng Yongnian (Ed.): China and International Relations. The Chinese view and the contribution of Wang Gungwu, Routledge, New York 2010; Wang Gungwu and Zheng Yongnian: China and the New International Order, Routledge, New York 2008; see also: Salvatore Babones: American Tianxia, Chinese money, American power, and the end of history, Policy Press, Bristol 2017

[30] See e.g. Pepe Escobar: How the New Silk Roads are merging into Greater Eurasia, December 13, 2018; Pepe Escobar: Welcome to the G-20 from Hell, October 14, 2018; Pepe Escobar: Eagle-meets-Bear and the Syria tug-of-war, July 5, 2018; Pepe Escobar. Here comes the 30-year trade war; September 23, 2018, Pepe Escobar: Economic war on Iran is war on Eurasia integration, August 14, 2018; Pepe Escobar: How BRICS Plus clashes with the US economic war on Iran, July 28, 2018; Pepe Escobar: Here’s the real reason the US must talk to Russia, July 21, 2018; Pepe Escobar: Trump, NATO and ‘Russian aggression’, July 13, 2018 ; Pepe Escobar: Tariffs ‘kick off 50-year trade war’ with China; July 6, 2018; Pepe Escobar: The Pivot to Eurasia, July 23, 2015,; Pepe Escobar: The Eurasian Big Bang. How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington, 23.7.2015,; Pepe Escobar: What the BRICS plus Germany are really up to? February 27, 2015; Pepe Escobar: The Geopolitical Earthquakes Reshaping Eurasia’s Economy, May 19, 2014,; Pepe Escobar: ; Pepe Escobar: Liquid War Across Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific: Postcard from Pipelineistan, in: The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 21-2-09, May 23, 2009,; Pepe Escobar: Empire of Chaos. The Roving Eye Collection, Vol.1, Nimble Books 2014.

[31] Pepe Escobar: All under Heaven, China’s challenge to the Westphalian system. Beijing is tweaking the rules of the Western order to reflect its revitalized geopolitical and economic power, but some Americans see this as a threat to their way of life, January 10, 2019; see also Pepe Escobar: Chinese scholar offers insight into Beijing’s strategic mindset. Essay by security expert Professor Zhang Wenmu gives a glimpse of China's geostrategic outlook, from the 'Western Pacific Chinese Sea' to the far side of the moon, January 5, 2019 

[32] William Engdahl: The Eurasian Century Is NOW Unstoppable  October 7, 2016,; see also F. William Engdahl: The Lost Hegemon. Who the Gods Would Destroy, mineBooks, Wiesbaden 2016; F. William Engdahl: Target: China. How Washington and Wall Street Plan to Cage the Asian Dragon, Progressive Press, 2014; F. William Engdahl: Transformational Projects in Eurasia Land Space, 2016-09-10,

[33] Aleksandr Dugin: Last War of the World-Island – The Geopolitics of Contemporary Russia, Arktos, London 2015; Aleksandr Dugin: Eurasian Mission: An Introduction to Neo-Eurasianism, Arktos, London 2014; Aleksandr Dugin: Putin vs Putin – Vladimir Putin Viewed from the Right, Arktos, London 2014; Aleksandr Dugin: The Fourth Political Theory, Arktos, Eurasian Movement, London 2012.

[34] Aleksandr Dugin in 1998; Quoted in Marlene Laruelle: Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire, Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2008, p. 119

[35] The Russia expert Stephen F. Cohen already spoke in 2009 about a new Cold War Era between the U.S and Russia. (See Stephen F. Cohen: Soviet fates and lost alternatives: from Stalinism to the new Cold War; Columbia University Press 2009).

[36] See on this e.g. our recently published documents: Joint Statement: Global Trade War: No to Great Power Jingoism in West and East! Neither Imperialist Globalization nor Imperialist Protectionism! For International Solidarity and Joint Struggle of the Working Class and Oppressed People! 4 July 2018,; Yossi Schwartz: Capitalist Trade and the Looming 3rd World War, 15 July 2018,; Michael Pröbsting: The Global Trade War has Begun. What is its Meaning and what should be the Response of Socialists?, 13 July 2018,; Michael Pröbsting: Where Do Socialists Stand in Face of the Looming Global Trade War? A Showcase of the Practical Consequences of the Assessment of the Class Character of the Chinese State, 17 June 2018,; Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries, RCIT Books, Vienna 2018,

[37] South China Morning Post: China’s private economy set for winter ‘colder and longer than expected’, warns billionaire tycoon, 28 December, 2018,

[38] Credit Suisse: Getting over Globalization, 2017, p. 28

[39] Martin Armstrong: World Trade – Who is Really Hurt in the Trade War, April 7, 2018; see on this also Eastspring Investments: Trade and Tariffs, Lessons from History, 2018, p. 2

[40] SIPRI Yearbook 2018 (Summary) p. 9

[41] SIPRI Fact Sheet, Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2017, May 2018, p. 1

[42] Serkan Arslanalp and Takahiro Tsuda: Tracking Global Demand for Emerging Market Sovereign Debt, International Monetary Fund, Working Paper, March 2014, p. 19

[43] Serkan Arslanalp and Takahiro Tsuda: Tracking Global Demand for Emerging Market Sovereign Debt, International Monetary Fund, Working Paper, March 2014, p. 19

[44] On the British Indian Army see e.g. Kaushik Roy (Ed): The Indian Army in t