The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Moderated Conflict, or War?

Jun 18, 2023

Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting China this week, supposedly seeking to “moderate” the conflict that has grown up between the U.S. and China before it turns into open war.

But conflict in this capitalist world will not be overcome by a diplomat’s soothing speeches.

For decades, China was the “workshop of the world,” providing low-paid labor that produced clothes, electronic games, TV sets and so on for foreign investors, a large share of which were U.S. companies. The enormous value produced in Chinese factories went into the banks of Western companies, especially those in the U.S.

But China’s history, resting on its 1949 national revolution, allowed it to construct its own state in a more independent fashion than normal in formerly colonized countries. Providing labor for companies like Apple, China developed its own technology base. The Chinese state began to pour money into developing heavy industry, as well as aeronautics and weapons industries. And the Chinese state kept control of the banking system.

By 2010, China had become the second biggest economic power in the world. And its population—almost one and a half billion people—provided not only labor, but increasingly an internal market.

Certainly, the U.S. was much more powerful, and—what is most significant—its economy, which remained much bigger, was able to pour three times as much money into the military. Nonetheless, China stood as a significant new power in the world.

This did not mean that China could really compete with the U.S. at every economic level. Nor did it mean that U.S. imperialism was blocked by China. But it did mean that the U.S. did not have a free hand in Asia. And Asia had become the focus for American corporate investments.

As U.S. investment shifted to Asia, Asia also became the focus of U.S. diplomatic and military strategy. This put China in U.S. military cross-hairs. Today, well over half of all U.S. armed forces are in Asia. U.S. warships patrol in the seas close to China. U.S. planes run surveillance.

Remember all the talk about a Chinese spy balloon? Well, with bases set up in countries around the East China Sea, the U.S. could cut off all overseas Chinese trade if it so desires.

Regardless of what announcements come out of Blinken’s trip to China, conflict between the U.S. and China is not going away. It is the product of the capitalist world, divided into nation states, and dominated by imperialism—specifically, by U.S. imperialism.

Will those conflicts lead to war? The interdependence between the U.S. and Chinese economies today could make that seem unlikely. But such linking of economies never prevented war from breaking out before when the capitalists found their economy on the ropes.

Today, war, even a global war, is much more likely because capitalism has been unable for almost half a century to extricate itself from an economic crisis that eats into its profit.

The answer to that crisis—the only one that capitalism has ever found to give—is that the stronger try to take more from the weaker. In other words, the big imperialist countries drain wealth from the rest of the world. But, twice before, when that was not enough, the big imperialist powers took the world to war on a global scale.

The only thing that can prevent war is a revolution to eliminate the capitalist system that produces war. The social force that can carry out that revolution exists. The working class in China, just as in the U.S., not only has the capacity to throw out capitalism, it has the capacity, when linked to workers around the world, to build a new society, a collective one that will find the way to answer the needs of all humanity.

The workers in China have a recent history of struggles, massive and determined struggles. Despite a state that is repressive, they organized themselves. They can serve as a beacon for workers everywhere—in underdeveloped countries, just as in the biggest imperialist countries. Here first of all.