TikTok, Consulate Closures and the Cold War between the U.S. and China


Socialists must oppose all Great Powers!


Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 10.08.2020, www.thecommunists.net




1.             In the past few weeks the Cold War between the two largest imperialist Great Powers has escalated one step further. On 19 June, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo characterized China a “rogue actor” in a major speech at the so-called Copenhagen Democracy Summit. He called Europeans to join the U.S. in a grand alliance against Beijing. On 14 July, the U.S. announced in an official statement that it “will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire”. It formally rejected China’s maritime claims and stated its support for “our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources.” Both sides have conducted naval exercises in the South China Sea since then. In addition, the Trump Administration closed the Chinese consulate in Houston, citing alleged cyber-espionage activity there. In retaliation, Beijing closed of the US consulate in Chengdu. Likewise, Washington imposed sanctions against leading officials in Hong Kong after Beijing introduced the draconic “National Security Law” in order to clamp down against the pro-democracy movement. This, in turn, prompted retaliatory sanctions of Beijing against U.S. senators. And most recently, President Donald Trump has issued a decree banning two popular Chinese social media apps – TikTok and WeChat – from operating in the U.S. within 45 days.


2.             Indicating a dangerous dynamic of escalation, there is increasing talk about the possibility of war between the two Great Powers. While such speculation was mostly restricted to military experts in the past, this is now discussed by prominent representatives of the ruling class. Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of Global Times – the international mouthpiece of the Stalinist-capitalist regime – recently published an article titled “If war breaks out between China and the US, which side will have the upper hand?” A few days ago, Kevin Rudd, a former Prime Minister of Australia, published an essay in Foreign Affairs – the most prominent journal of the U.S. foreign policy establishment – which discusses the same issue. Titled “Beware the Guns of August – in Asia”, Rudd compares the current situation with August 1914 when World War I started. He concludes: “The once unthinkable outcome – actual armed conflict between the United States and China – now appears possible for the first time since the end of the Korean War. In other words, we are confronting the prospect of not just a new Cold War, but a hot one as well.


3.             The recent escalation has certainly been triggered by the gloom prospects of Trump for the Presidential elections in early November and his desperate attempts to avoid defeat by any means necessary. It is a realistic possibility that the mad man with the orange hair might be prepared to risk a military confrontation in the South China Sea if this could help him staying in the White House for the next four years.


4.             However, it would be totally wrong to explain the Cold War between the U.S. and China by Trump’s electoral politics or his dysfunctional personality. As the RCIT has pointed out in a number of documents, the accelerating rivalry is a result of the decline of the U.S., the world’s absolute hegemon among the imperialist powers for many decades, and the rise of China as the a new imperialist power and the most important challenger of the U.S. Hence, while Trump’s methods are highly disputed in America’s ruling class, there is a broad consensus – including the Democrats Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders – that Washington must confront the new Asian power as a rival. Hence, the conflict between the two largest imperialist Great Powers started already several years ago and accelerated in spring 2018 with the beginning of the Global Trade War.


5.             More generally speaking, the aggravating rivalry between U.S. and Chinese imperialism is a result of the decay of capitalism and its global order in the current historic period which started in 2008. In such a period, all contradictions between classes and states unavoidable accelerate as history has demonstrated in the first half of the 20th century.


6.             In such a period, it is of utmost urgency to have a clear understanding of the character of the rivalry between the Great Powers and the resulting program. The RCIT emphasizes once more that in order to understand the world situation socialists must recognize the imperialist character not only of the U.S., Western Europe and Japan, but also of China and Russia. Socialists cannot support either side. They must rather advocate the program of revolutionary defeatism as elaborated by Lenin and the Bolsheviks and which has been summarized by Karl Liebknecht in the famous slogan the main enemy is at home“.


7.             Hence, the RCIT opposes all forms of Great Power chauvinism and militarism. Down with sanctions and reactionary patriotism by all imperialist states! No to sable-rattling and the Global Trade War! Instead, socialists should utilize any conflict in order to weaken and eventually overthrow the ruling class. In case of conflicts between Great Powers, the RCIT advocates a revolutionary defeatist position on both sides, i.e. refusing to support either of the two camps. The same tactic is appropriate in the case of a conflict between one of these Great Powers against a semi-colonial proxy of an imperialist rival (e.g. a war between China and Taiwan or between China and India).


8.             Both Washington as well as Beijing try to exploit domestic problems of their rivals. Hence, the U.S. lends rhetorical support to pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong as well as the Muslim Uyghurs who are brutally suppressed by the Chinese regime. Likewise, China’s media report extensively and fully of sympathy about the Black Lives Matter movement. Socialists must denounce such cynical maneuvers. At the same time they must call for independent international solidarity campaigns of workers and popular organizations in support of all legitimate democratic struggles (like those in Hong Kong, Xinjiang/East Turkestan or the mass movement against racism and police violence in the U.S. and other countries).


9.             We repeat that all forms of support by so-called “socialists” for one or the other Great Power represents nothing but shameful social-imperialism. SYRIZA in Greece as well as PODEMOS and the PCE in Spain are examples for “socialist” parties serving EU imperialism as part of coalition governments. Various Stalinists who praise China and Russia as a kind of “anti-imperialist pole” are other examples.


10.          The RCIT calls on organizations and activists around the world to fight for such a revolutionary strategy. We urge all those who share our programmatic principles in the general outline to get into contact with us and to join us in building a Revolutionary World Party!




International Bureau of the RCIT




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We refer reader also to the following documents of the RCIT relevant for this issue:


On the rivalry between the imperialist powers see e.g. our book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019. The book can be read online or downloaded for free here: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/anti-imperialism-in-the-age-of-great-power-rivalry/. On the RCIT’s analysis of China and Russia as emerging imperialist powers see the literature mentioned in the special sub-section on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/


The RCIT’s documents on the Global Trade War have been collected at a special sub-page on our website: see https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/collection-of-articles-on-the-global-trade-war/; our fundamental position has been summarized in a programmatic statement “Global Trade War: No to Great Power Jingoism in West and East!” which has been published in 10 languages (in English: https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/joint-statement-on-the-looming-global-trade-war/). The latest article is by Michael Pröbsting: A Temporary Truce … to Prepare for another War. On the Meaning of the “Phase One” Deal for the U.S.-China Cold War, 17 January 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/a-temporary-truce-to-prepare-for-another-war/