We should fight climate change, not prepare for war on China

Earthcare not warfare
Earthcare not warfare, Sydney anti-AUKUS protest September 16. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Not only are we being told to prepare for war with China, but to expect it. The determination with which our rulers and media are beating the war drums makes it clear: even if China doesn’t strike first, we are drifting to war anyway. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

What a rude reminder that in the competition for profits, capitalism means war. It always has and always will.

Of course, this is not news for the people of the Global South. Our prosperity comes at their expense and this exploitation is enforced with violence every day of the week.

But, for the 15% of the world’s population living in the Global North, the post-World War II period of unrivalled United States military dominance, or Pax Americana, has suppressed inter-imperialist war and fostered the illusion that peace is the norm.

That era is at an end.

The United States is absolutely determined to stop the growth of China’s influence and its further economic development — by force if necessary.

With its vassal states Britain and Australia in tow, the US has seized on the invasion of Ukraine to galvanise support for military escalation.

However, this has been its intention for some time now. An important turning point was Barack Obama’s 2009 East Asia Strategy or “Pivot to Asia”. This was continued by Donald Trump, complete with all his unhinged rhetoric, and now by Joe Biden.

The Australia, United Kingdom, United States (AUKUS) agreement must be seen in the wider context of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and the proposal to extend NATO to the Indo-Pacific.

AUKUS will further militarise Australia and further turn the country into a US garrison.

This means: more deployments of US aircraft, vessels and joint war games; four new military bases, two new bases for the militarisation of space; and greater support for combined military operations in the region.

Also being proposed is greater co-operation in hypersonic weapons and cyber warfare, underwater systems, artificial intelligence and long-range strike capabilities.

Annual US military spending is triple that of China, and has been for many years. Furthermore, China is ringed by US bases, which the latter intends to supplement with a network of precision-strike missiles.

Every step China takes to break out of this military encirclement is presented by our media as more proof of its aggressive intent.

China’s military posture is overwhelmingly defensive, designed to protect its own coastline and preserve its access to the world via the South China Sea.

However, it is possible that it may overreact and take measures that lead to full-scale war. That seems to be what the US is trying to provoke.

Socialist Alliance is absolutely opposed to any attempt by China to achieve reunification with Taiwan by force.

Nevertheless the US policy of actively encouraging such a conflict is utterly reckless.

It is simply impossible to confront the existential threat posed by runaway global warming while also pouring billions into a new cold war in the expectation that it will one day become a hot one.

This will become a defining issue of Australian politics and, while it’s early days, we need to go on the offensive and popularise the need to fight climate change, not prepare for war.

This is not just a slogan, but a decisive choice for humanity.

It’s one or the other and, right now, Australia’s government is choosing war over serious climate action.

We need to find ways to really popularise this understanding.

Unfortunately we start on the back foot. A propaganda campaign whipping up the “China threat” has had a real impact.

According to a poll conducted by the Lowy Institute in 2018, 52% believed China would act responsibly in the world. In two years that had dropped to 23% and, by 2021, it was down to only 16%.

It is truly frightening to see how easily public opinion can be manipulated. However, the small but growing networks and activity in opposition to AUKUS and the war drive more generally is a good sign.

We need to strengthen anti-AUKUS coalitions where they exist, and start educating people about the war drive and where it comes from. In doing so, we have to turn the language of the warmongers on its head.

Australia's government is committed to war, not security. We are the ones with a security policy — security based on demilitarisation and uniting humanity in the fight to confront climate change.

[Sam Wainwright is a national co-convener of the Socialist Alliance.]