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

The Bosses Are the Workers’ Enemies, Not China

Feb 6, 2023

The first week of February, a Chinese “spy” balloon floated over the United States. It was the lead story on every TV news program, in spite of the fact that the military said clearly, and early, that it posed no threat. After milking it for every drop of propaganda against China they could, they shot it down.

Whatever this balloon is or isn’t, undoubtedly, the Chinese government does spy on the United States—just as the U.S. spies on China. But to imagine that China is somehow threatening the U.S. is to turn reality on its head.

Look at a map. The U.S. has long had military bases or close military alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Taiwan. In the last few months, it signed new deals to increase its military presence in the Philippines. The U.S. is making closer military ties with India. The U.S. has a massive fleet of aircraft carriers with all their support ships stationed close to Chinese waters at all times.

The U.S. has China militarily encircled, and it has been drawing that circle tighter.

On the other hand, there is not one Chinese military base in Latin America, or Canada, or the Caribbean. Rather, the U.S. complains that China is trying to extend its control into the South China Sea. You don’t need a map to know that sea is right next to China, not the U.S.!

The rulers of China and the U.S. have many interests in common. For decades now, U.S. corporations have made huge amounts of money, investing in China to exploit Chinese workers. This investment profited the Chinese ruling class as well.

But the Chinese state came out of a nationalist revolution that gave it the means to act more independently of U.S. domination than most underdeveloped countries. And while the ruling classes of the U.S. and China share in the profits extracted from Chinese workers, they fight over how big a share each one gets.

So even as the two economies are deeply intertwined, their ruling classes have become rivals in many parts of the world. More recently, China has begun investing abroad to extract profits from other countries, just like U.S. companies have done for a century—though China does so on a much, much smaller scale.

This remains a deeply unequal rivalry. The U.S. has budgeted $858 billion dollars for its military in 2023, not counting military support for Ukraine or the cost of veterans’ benefits. In 2022, China spent about $230 billion on its military.

But in reality, the U.S. advantage is much bigger. For all its recent growth, China remains an underdeveloped country. One measure of this: with more than four times as many people, the Chinese economy is still officially smaller than the U.S. economy.

The U.S. also has at its disposal the militaries of most of the rest of the world—after all, the U.S. largely built those militaries after World War II! The U.S. has 750 overseas bases. China has one.

On top of that, China has only recently ramped up its military spending, while the U.S. has been spending so much for so long that it has an enormous reserve of weapons, bases, and experience. This gives the U.S. a massive advantage not just in a war with China, but in the ability to maintain control over huge parts of the globe.

Nonetheless, in some places, including Indonesia and many countries in Africa, China is able to give another option to governments looking for outside investment, presenting itself as an alternative to the U.S. or Europe. The U.S. ruling class thus has an interest in checking the growth of China’s power, so it can continue to wring profits out of every corner of the globe.

The latest spy balloon incident may be a bit of a joke. But it’s part of a campaign to convince workers in this country that “the Chinese” are our enemies, to convince us to accept to live even worse in order to “contain” China—or maybe even fight an open war.

The working class has no interest in any of this.

That $858 billion spent on the U.S. military is taken from our pockets, and away from the services we need. It is more than double the federal government’s combined budgets for the departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation!

And if a war with China does come, it won’t be the wealthy who fight it—it will be workers. We’ve seen the costs of war in this country, borne by workers in body and mind. By one count, more than 125,000 veterans have died by suicide since just since 2001. And a shooting war with China would be incomparably destructive, posing the threat of nuclear annihilation for humanity.

But beyond that: we are the same class as the workers in China. Many of the goods workers make in this country are partially worked up in China. Every factory, warehouse, hospital, and school in this country uses equipment and products made by workers in China—and they use equipment produced here.

And we have the same enemies as the workers in China—the bosses who exploit us all. Does Ford care more about its workers here than those it exploits in China? No—it cares about just one thing, profit. Walmart pays as low as it can to its Chinese contractors—and also, as low as it can to its U.S. workers.

Workers in the U.S. have no interest in the buildup toward war, whether against China, or Russia, or whatever country the U.S. will threaten next. Our enemies are right here: the ones who drive down our wages every day, take the money needed for our children, for the services we need—and pull us into one war after another so they can continue to dominate the world.