Australia's aggression in the growing trade war with China is not about human rights

Graphic: Green Left

The Socialist Alliance recognises that Australia has joined with imperialist allies, including the United States, as the aggressors in the growing trade war with China. The growing tension does not arise from concerns about human rights in China, but from the imperialists' drive to contain the growing economic and political influence of China following its delayed industrialisation.

China’s underdevelopment, like that of other countries of the global South, was imposed by the rich imperialist states that have monopolised and plundered the world’s resources for hundreds of years.

Following a severe global capitalist economic crisis in the mid-1970s, the imperialist countries, enabled by China’s “reform and opening up”, began to shift their manufacturing industries to China to take advantage of lower labour and other costs. This burst of foreign investment fuelled a rapid growth of the Chinese economy.

Australian capitalists have eagerly exploited China’s growing markets to sell their corporations’ raw materials and services, including full-cost tertiary education, at premium prices. In 2007, China became Australia's largest trading partner.

While the imperialists still seek to exploit lower costs in China, the resulting development has also made China a competitor to the imperialists’ powers on several fronts.

Powerful groups within the international capitalist class, especially in the last half-decade, have come to see China’s economic development as a fundamental threat to their world dominance. The current trade war is an attempt by the imperialists to roll back this competition. China’s products and technologies are being hit with tariffs and trade bans. Imperialist governments are now pressuring firms to shift their supply chains elsewhere.

The imperialists’ military threats against China are being stepped up. The US and its imperialist allies still ring China with military bases and regularly engage with provocative manoeuvres, including with Australian warships in the South China Sea, and “training exercises” around China’s borders.

China’s military budget has increased in recent years, largely in response to these threats (though China's claim to ownership of nearly the whole of the South China Sea also leads it into conflict with its smaller neighbours such as the Philippines and Vietnam).

Australia’s current military build up and new security measures, including the ban on Huawei’s participation in the 5G roll-out and the “foreign interference” laws, are related to this military aggression. It goes hand-in-hand with the militarisation of Japan, another imperialist power in the region which is part of the informal “Quad” military grouping (US, Australia, Japan, India), aligned against China. Australia is also about to join with Japan in the Reciprocal Access Agreement that will promote joint military exercises.

Australian politicians, especially the anti-China hawks grouped together in the “Wolverines” group of politicians (which include some rightwing ALP MPs as well as Coalition MPs), are brazenly promoting anti-Chinese racism in Australia. Blaming China for the COVID-19 pandemic is a central part of this racist campaign and small far-right groups are taking the campaign to the streets with racist graffiti about the “Wuhan virus” and the “Chinese virus”.

Another section of Australian politicians and ideologists proclaims a threat to Australian democracy from Chinese “infiltration”. This is scaremongering. It exaggerates the aims and capacity of the Chinese state and ignores the regional and world dominating influence of imperialism in which Australian capitalism and its state actively take part. This arm of the imperialist assault on China is especially dangerous because of its potential to disarm those who might otherwise question imperialism’s role.

There has been a sharp rise in anti-Chinese racist abuse and violence in Australia as a result. The victims of these racist attacks are anyone of “Chinese appearance” meaning that a range of Asian communities have suffered its impact. By promoting the US campaign to blame China for the pandemic, the Australian government made itself a leader of this racist campaign.

While the Socialist Alliance continues to campaign for democratic rights in China, supports the democracy movement in Hong Kong, and opposes the repression of the Uighurs and Tibetans, we note that the imperialist forces are seeking to hide their real agenda against China by feigning support for democratic rights in China. The imperialist powers have long demonstrated their callous disregard for the rights of the Chinese people and their double standards on human rights. Australia’s shocking incarceration rates of First Nations peoples and the war crimes in Afghanistan are just two of many proofs of these racist double standards.

Therefore, the Socialist Alliance condemns Australia and its imperialist allies as the aggressors in the trade and political conflict with China and calls on the Australian government to break from its imperialist war alliance with the US, stop its attacks and reverse all measures that discriminate against China. We also call for the end to Australia’s support for the racist campaign to blame China for the COVID-19 pandemic. Such measures would lay a basis for reversing the sharp deterioration of trade and diplomatic relations with China.

[The Socialist Alliance adopted the above resolution at its 15th National Conference on January 9-10.]