In an astonishing speech delivered in London on April 27, British foreign secretary Liz Truss called for the “globalisation” of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to pre-empt “threats in the Indo-Pacific”, namely China. Truss’s speech, entitled “The return of geopolitics” promoted a stronger NATO in response to the war in Ukraine, but reserved much of its venom for China.
It is almost a year since Britain sent its new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth for military drills in the South China Sea — the first such mission since the beginning of the Korean War. Truss visited Australia in January to further sound the drums of war, with totally unfounded denunciations of China’s intentions in the region.
Britain’s previous imperial exchanges with China include running opium into the country, launching the opium wars, and the seizure of Hong Kong. Given this history, Truss’s most recent outburst hardly endeared her to the Chinese.
Truss said the globalisation of NATO is a necessary step. China, the South China Sea, and the entire region is, according to her logic, within the sphere of influence and responsibility of NATO.
But the concept of globalising NATO is absurd. NATO is constituted as a regional military alliance concerned with the North Atlantic. Thus, China does not easily fit into NATO’s purported mission to protect Europe from security threats.
The hypocrisy of the Foreign Secretary when it comes to relations with China is unacceptable. Truss envisions “a world where free nations are assertive and in the ascendant. Where freedom and democracy are strengthened through a network of economic and security partnerships. Where aggressors are contained and forced to take a better path”. These few lines outline an entire world view that threatens us all.
First, there is the appeal for free nations to become increasingly “assertive”. Freedom, in this logic comes at the point of a bayonet. China has been routinely criticised over the past decade for being too assertive. But China’s "assertiveness" has often been in response to aggressive actions by successive United States administrations, with the loyal support of Australia.
Truss claims that economic and security agreements strengthen democracy and freedom. China and the Solomon Islands have just entered into a security agreement which might well include economic benefits, but this is being used as proof of China’s aggressive intent.
China’s economic rise is a fact. It is something that the US is fighting, and the British ruling class seems to think it a fight that can be won. Truss argues that “by talking about the rise of China as inevitable we are doing China’s work for it. In fact, their rise isn’t inevitable. They will not continue to rise if they don’t play by the rules". Some might see that as a direct threat.
The British anti-China campaign insists China observes certain rules. But these imperialist rules have nothing to do with observing democratic values. Instead, imperialism demands that China must not seek economic power, and must not influence others. Such imperialism cannot be simply dismissed: the actions of Britain are part of a broader movement that is gaining momentum and is becoming more strident.
Britain’s overt militarism in the region is often portrayed as a response to Chinese assertiveness and imagined aggression. But behind this an overarching agenda of struggle for control of the world economy.
The influential Australian Strategic Policy Institute is urging that Australia should begin to produce long-range missiles. The only possible target for such missiles would be China.
Australia, Britain and the US have pledged to expand their cooperation in the development and deployment of hypersonic weapons as part of the AUKUS security arrangement.
China has responded to this heightened threat by decrying what it describes as an “Asia-Pacific version of NATO”. China’s concerns are understandable and such provocative actions serve to make the region more insecure. These actions, along with the calls for a globalised NATO will only generate more fear and distrust.
This is a dangerous state of play. Threats are inevitably met by counter threats. Arms build-ups are met with arms build-ups. War preparations continue, and billions upon billions of dollars are spent on preparing for a war that is in no-one’s best interests. There will be huge ramifications for working people everywhere.
The global economy is fragile and growth is slowing. In the first quarter of 2022 the US economy shrunk by 0.4%, Germany’s rose by just 0.2% and China’s by 1.3%. Other economies have yet to release data, but the trend is clear. The International Monetary Fund forecasts total global growth for the next two years to be in the range of 2%. While all economies are slowing, China’s remains relatively healthy with annual growth predictions of about 5%.
If China does not play by the "rules" as determined by the US, Britain and Australia, then its economic growth must be curtailed, or so runs the imperialist narrative. If this is the case then the capitalist global economy is set for contraction, recession and depression, as it is largely due to the continued relative health of the Chinese economy that global capitalism is still keeping its head above water. These realities, it would seem, are secondary to the desire to stop China’s economic growth.
There is madness in this approach. The upholders of the rules-based order are prepared to fight tooth and claw to preserve capitalism, not democracy. They are prepared to do anything to maintain US domination. A confrontation with China is a fight against a capitalist rival. China does not threaten capitalism, but it does pose a real risk that US economic power will be lost.
The world has never been more insecure. Global capitalist growth is crumbling. The climate crisis is an existential threat. War rages in Europe, and the US and its allies are turning their attention to a potentially devastating conflict with China.
Truss is but the latest of a long line of warmongers who threaten the peace and stability of us all. She is not alone. She speaks on behalf of the nations of AUKUS — a cog in the wheel of a globalising NATO.