The US sows hysteria about China because Washington can no longer dictate global affairs without any significant challenge.
“AFRICOM’s growth is aligned with the ‘pivot to Asia’”
The following remarks were given by this writer at a symposium organized by the Black Alliance for Peace on September 24th entitled “Full Spectrum Dominance: From AFRICOM to the Indo-Pacific Command.”
It is an honor to be speaking at this symposium organized by the Black Alliance for Peace on behalf of the No Cold War campaign. I am also humbled to be a co-coordinator of BAP’s Supporter Network and to assist in whatever capacity possible to strengthen Black and African-led organizations such as BAP working toward peace and liberation.
We have a monumental problem on our hands. The issue of the U.S.’ policy of Full-spectrum Dominance is one that is connected to a host of contradictions afflicting the U.S. imperial order at this time. For nearly a decade, U.S. military power has made an enormous strategic shift to both the Asia Pacific and to Africa. At the center of the transition is the growth of China as an economic world power and the decline of the U.S. as a global hegemon.
China has much to offer Africa and the Global South at this time. China shares a common history of colonialism and imperialist humiliation with Africa. It has the experience of successfully carrying out a struggle for national liberation and defending that struggle from the challenges of a hostile global context. And now, China is in possession of an economic miracle that it is committed to sharing with African nations as well as nations in Latin America and Asia. That miracle comes with advanced infrastructure such as high-speed rail and 5G technology , both of which are a necessity for breaking down some of the barriers to economic sovereignty that colonial underdevelopment has placed on much of the Global South, Africa included.
“U.S. military power has made an enormous strategic shift to both the Asia Pacific and to Africa.”
The “China threat” mentioned so often by U.S. officials in all quarters of Washington D.C. is a different kind of projection of power—a psychological projection of the coming end of the U.S.’ ability to dictate global affairs without any significant challenge. The United States, unlike China, has little to offer Africa or the rest of the Global South. U.S. share in the global economy has shrunk and the economic crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic will only accelerate this trend. Many nations in the Global South, especially African nations, have experienced generation after generation of poverty and underdevelopment under the U.S.-dominated financial arrangements of the IMF and World Bank . U.S. imperialism has deployed much of its military arsenal to Africa and Asia to arrest the possibility of South-South cooperation replacing U.S. and Western domination.
The U.S. ruling class is not in complete agreement over how to carry out the related tasks of containing China and suppressing the self-determination of African nations. Former president Barack Obama expanded the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to all but a single African country principally to gain political and military influence over African governments and persuade them over time to reject China. AFRICOM’s growth also aligned with the Obama administration’s “Pivot to Asia,” which ultimately laid the basis for the massive militarization of the Asia Pacific that Trump now oversees. China’s containment was primarily regarded as a project of military coercion where nations in Africa and Asia would bow to the dictates of the United States without needing to engage in direct conflict with China.
“The U.S. share in the global economy has shrunk.”
Large sections of the Pentagon were not satisfied with this strategy. Out of the lust for a more confrontational approach with China came the strategy of “Great Power competition.” This strategy did not neglect the “Pivot to Asia” but rather buttressed the military encirclement of China with a host of maneuvers. Even more military assets have been shifted to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, once called the Pacific Command, to the point of potentially draining AFRICOM of its own military resources. This would, as AFRICOM Commander General Stephen Townsend pointed out in his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, leave the U.S. vulnerable to losing access to rare earth minerals and other vital resources on the continent that “America needs.”
The disagreement within the military industrial complex over how to best contain China is a matter of form, not substance. Full-spectrum Dominance is where the entirety of the U.S. political and military apparatus has reached a uniform consensus. China and Africa are thus not only connected by their hundreds of billions worth in trade arrangements but also by their shared experience as targets of imperialism. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is currently in possession of over half of all U.S. military assets with more coming. Four hundred U.S. military bases surround China in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. colony of Guam . While AFRICOM may be partially reduced to strengthen the U.S.’ military presence in the Asia-Pacific, there is no doubt that the U.S. will continue to undermine African sovereignty and use China, and to a smaller degree Russia, as justification.
The last and perhaps most important point I want to make is that the struggle for self-determination of oppressed nations is always an ideological struggle. Full-spectrum Dominance is a racist project. U.S. and Western media portray Africa and China in much of the same light. Africa is portrayed as a chaotic and backward continent where corruption is endemic and inherent to political life. Africans need the U.S. military to be safe and secure from themselves. China, on the other hand, is the chief “authoritarian” country in the world for its supposed suppression of Muslims in Xinjiang, protestors in Hong Kong, and, according to the Economist , people in mainland China by way of its campaign to alleviate poverty. Asia therefore needs the U.S. military to be safe and secure from China. These jingoistic portrayals of China and Africa provide fertile ideological ground for the U.S. empire to maintain and expand military operations under the guise of stamping out terrorism or countering the “China threat.”
“Full-spectrum Dominance is where the entirety of the U.S. political and military apparatus has reached a uniform consensus.”
The transformation of Africa into a terrain for U.S. militarism has also brought about an ideological shift in the U.S. from a white savior industrial complex attitude of charity to a return of the White Man’s Burden mentality of re-civilizing the continent through force. Just as we know AFRICOM to be a coordinated military assault in the broader project of U.S.-led neocolonialism in Africa, so too is the U.S.’ military buildup in the Asia-Pacific part of a broader project to establish U.S.-compliant governments in Asia, including China. China is no longer just a convenient scapegoat for the hollowing out of the U.S. economy. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon directly fund think-tanks like the Austrailian Strategic Policy Institute to villainize China so that the U.S. can ban their social media apps, close their consulates, and sanction Chinese government officials in the name of the U.S.’ military strategy of Great Power competition.
A key task in developing a united movement to eradicate U.S. military expansionism in Africa and in Asia is to be very clear about its severe consequences for the future of humanity at large. The U.S.-led overthrow of Libya in 2011 paved the way for the death and displacement of millions in Africa and the Middle East, as well as an explosion in the expansion of AFRICOM. U.S. attempts to gain political and military control of the Asia-Pacific means that nations in the region will be subject to the same economic and political development model employed in Africa. China and Africa are targets of the same criminal system that produces conditions of economic and political instability all over the world. And while the U.S. would be foolish to provoke a hot war with China, anti-imperialist forces the world over must understand that to leave the cause of peace and self-determination up to the aggressors is akin to political suicide.
We have but one enemy, comrades, and that is U.S. imperialism and its mission of Full-spectrum Dominance. A dying empire is a dangerous empire. China will continue to rise as a global power and will not be bullied into submission. China’s connections to the Global South and Africa in particular cannot be arrested. The people of China and the people of Africa must be free to determine their destinies without interference from the U.S. military. It is thus our duty to demand that the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command withdraw its forces from the Asia Pacific and the U.S. Africa Command withdraw from the African continent, wholly and completely.
Danny Haiphong is co-coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace Supporter Network and organizer with No Cold War. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News–From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). He is also the co-host with BAR Editor Margaret Kimberly of the Youtube show BAR Presents: The Left Lens and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @spiritofho.