U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met for more than three hours at the G20 conference November 14 and 15 in Indonesia. They needed to discuss each other’s “red lines,” Biden said.
The meeting wasn’t just about Taiwan, where U.S. war ships cross China’s “red lines” constantly. China “is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and… the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to advance that objective,” Biden wrote in the new U.S. Defense Strategy document issued in October. That document focused on China and Russia as key “threats” to U.S. hegemony.
Xi warned at the 20th CPC congress last month that China is “confronted with drastic changes in the international landscape, especially external attempts to blackmail, contain, blockade, and exert maximum pressure on China.” But China is committed to deepening and expanding global partnerships, safeguarding the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order underpinned by international law, and building a human community with a shared future, Xi said.
During the meeting, Biden spoke of what China calls the “Five Noes,” which he committed to at last year’s summit: not to seek a new Cold War; not to try to change China’s system; not to forge alliances against China; not to support “Taiwan independence;” and not to look for conflict with China. Biden added that the U.S. does not seek to halt China’s economic development, or to contain China.
“We hope the U.S. can implement President Biden’s commitment instead of always saying one thing and doing another,” commented the influential Chinese newspaper Global Times.
In a November 13 leadup to the G20 conference, Global Times editorialized that “the G20 was established due to global financial crises… When the U.S. was hit by a financial crisis, even with the G7, it couldn’t handle it, so there was a real need for it to strengthen coordination and dialogue with emerging countries.”
Global Times adds that “the G20 is also a symbol of the transformation from the West having the only say to common governance across the globe… G20 is not an expanded G7… While the latter is just a coterie of rich countries, the former is a sign of multipolarity. The G20 consists of the world’s major developed economies and emerging markets, which together account for about 85 percent of the global economy…” It concludes that “the whole world is pinning their hope on G20 to be a catalyst of global economic recovery, especially for developing countries.”
The International Monetary Fund’s research department director said last month that “a wave of debt crises” are coming in the Global South, and “the global economy is headed for stormy waters.” The world faces a “geopolitical realignment” that will be “permanent.” He warned “the worst is yet to come,” as the depreciation of most currencies against the dollar and rising interest rates make it hard for both governments and companies to service their dollar-denominated debt. The director, Pierre‑Olivier Gourinchas, made these comments in a press briefing in October, reported November 14 by Ben Norton of Multipolarista.
The members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. Several are also members of BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, hence BRICS. Argentina, Iran and Saudi Arabia are also candidates for BRICS membership.
Together the BRICS countries comprise well over half the global population, and their combined GDP of $25 Trillion is greater than that of the U.S. at $23 trillion. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Argentina’s combined GDPs would add about $2.3 trillion. (If Saudi Arabia follows through with joining BRICS, and welcomes Xi in an upcoming visit, it could be a game changer.) Other prospective BRICS candidates include Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, adding their combined GDP of nearly $4 trillion. (The EU, Japan and South Korea have a combined GDP equal to that of the U.S.)
Stops along the way
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited India November 11, enroute to Indonesia for G20. She made it clear the U.S. goal with G20 was to try to reshape the global economic order so “allies depend on one another for the goods and services that power their economies.” USAID is providing half a billion dollars to finance a U.S. solar manufacturer’s new facility in southern India, specifically to “move away from China,” which leads the world in solar technology. Yellen used the canard of “forced labor” in Xinjiang—an evidence-free claim—to smear China.
India “shows little interest in U.S. overtures,” the Times report says. India refused to join the U.S. campaign against Russia over Ukraine. Its imports from Russia rose 430% since February, mainly due to oil and gas imports from Russia. “There is a layer of apprehension if not outright mistrust in Delhi,” said Eswar Prasad, a former IMF official and professor of trade policy at Cornell University, according to the Times article.
Biden stopped in Cambodia enroute to Indonesia, to attend the East Asia Summit (EAS) there. EAS includes the 10 members of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) plus China, Russia, USA, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov represented Russia. He said the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy ignores “inclusive structures” of regional cooperation and would lead to “the militarization of this region with an obvious focus on containing China, and containing Russian interests in the Asia-Pacific.”
The “U.S. better give up attempts to contain China by utilizing Southeast Asian countries,” was the headline of a Global Times November 3 report by top opinion writer Hu Xijin. It said: “The U.S. has always wished to build an anti-China united front in the South China Sea with Japan, Australia, and Southeast Asian countries.
Among them, Vietnam is a key U.S. target to rope in. However, Vietnam is clearly aware that the U.S. wants to use it as a pawn, so Hanoi is vigilant while developing relations with the U.S.” Hu wrote that during Vietnamese leader Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit following the 20th CPC Congress, “Trong reiterated that Vietnam will not allow any country to establish a military base in Vietnam, or join any military alliance, or use force against any country, or work with one country to oppose another.”
A New York Times report November 13 said “ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] leaders at the EAS conference reiterated their strong ties with Beijing and issued a joint statement with China supporting the One China Policy, opposing independence for Taiwan.”
“China and ASEAN are each other’s largest trading partner,” a Global Times November 12 report said. Indonesia’s Jakarta-Bandung high speed railway approached 90 percent completion in October. It is “a flagship project of China-Indonesia cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative,” Global Times says. “When fully completed, it will be the first high speed railway in Indonesia and the entire Southeast Asia. This month, the total quantity of freight transported by the China-Laos Railway had exceeded 10 million tons, with the cross-border cargo transportation value hitting $1.7 billion.”
Biden met in Cambodia with Japanese and South Korean leaders, focusing on “security issues,” a week after the U.S. and South Korea launched their largest ever combined military drills, with hundreds of warplanes from both sides staging mock attacks 24 hours a day for most of a week, involving “about 240 warplanes conducting about 1,600 sorties,” according to a U.S. Air Force statement.
The exercises included the USS Ronald Reagan carrier group in the first U.S.-South Korea joint military training involving a US aircraft carrier since 2017.
The U.S. has nearly 30,000 troops stationed in South Korea, with another 50,000 in Japan, mainly in Okinawa, with nuclear missiles ready to launch. Anti-base protests are constant. The U.S. is in a “state of permanent war in Asia and the Pacific today,” with 375,000 Indo-Pacific Command personnel scattered across hundreds of military bases in the west Pacific, according to Mark Tseng-Putterman, writing in Monthly Review.
He refutes the concept of an “inter-imperial rivalry” between the U.S. and China, which gives false justification of the U.S. militarized posture as “’defensive’ in the face of ostensible Chinese belligerence.” He says this “lazy condemnation of ‘inter-capitalist competition’… obscures the centuries-long project of U.S. Pacific hegemony” that is now being “reconsolidated, operationalized, and expanded” in a hostile Cold War posture aimed at China.
Germany and France seek to boost economic ties with China
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz led a high-level business delegation to China November 4, seeking to boost economic ties, in the midst of major economic difficulties caused by the loss of cheap energy from Russia. Xi told Scholz that as large nations with influence, China and Germany should work together during “times of change and turmoil” for the sake of world peace, according China Central TV (CCTV).
Xi also met French President Macron at the G20. Macron said both France and China are committed to peace, development and economic prosperity in the world, Xinhua reported. The French president added that amid a volatile international landscape, France hopes to continue working with China in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, increase high-level exchanges and dialogue, and deepen cooperation in areas such as trade, economy, aviation and civilian nuclear energy.
Scholz heard heavy criticism from German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who threatened to break up Germany’s governing coalition over the Scholz visit. Germany’s further right CDU party representative, Norbert Roettgen, said “the chancellor is pursuing a foreign policy which will lead to a loss of trust in Germany among our closest partners.” (Which partners might those be?)
The G20’s location in Indonesia recalls the 1955 Conference of Non-Aligned Countries, held in Bandung, Indonesia. The Bandung conference drew 29 non-aligned countries, led by Indonesia, India, Egypt and Yugoslavia. Today a majority of the world’s countries are members of the UN’s Non-Aligned Movement—essentially all of Asia, Africa and Latin America. They’re the ones who abstained or voted against the NATO countries’ vote to condemn Russia this year.
China’s then-Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai was an invited observer to the Non-Aligned conference. He narrowly missed an assassination attempt enroute to Bandung. The Taiwanese assassin was flown out of Hong Kong to Taiwan on a CIA-sponsored aircraft. The attempt took place in the wake of the first Taiwan Straits crisis of 1954-55. This was just after the July 1953 armistice in Korea ended open warfare, but left tens of thousands of U.S. troops there. China recently celebrated its decisive role in stopping the U.S. assault in The Battle at Lake Changjin, the most expensive film ever produced in China. China remembers all this very well.
In 1965, Ten years after the Bandung conference, the CIA engineered a coup d’etat in Indonesia, known as the “Indonesian genocide.” An estimated one million people were killed in an effort to destroy the left and popular movements in the country. Indonesia’s President Sukarno, who convened the Bandung Conference, was overthrown; replaced by anticomunist General Suharto who ruled Indonesia with an iron fist until the mid 1990s.
The incident is documented in The Jakarta Method, by Vincent Bevins. The book goes on to describe subsequent replications of the strategy of mass murder, against left-wing and reform movements in Latin America and elsewhere.
Biden at COP27 Climate Change Conference in Egypt
President Biden touched down in Egypt to speak at the COP27 UN climate talks, on the weekend before continuing to Cambodia and Indonesia. A New York Times report November 12 said “he exhorted other nations to follow America’s lead and increase their efforts to make swift and deep cuts to the pollution that is driving climate change.” He highlighted the Inflation Reduction Act, passed earlier this year, which would impose fines of $1500 per ton of methane gas released into the atmosphere.
Methane is a greenhouse gas that “traps about 80 times as much heat as CO2” (NYT 11/12/22). A proposed EPA regulation would cut emissions by 30% by 2030 and eliminate 36 million tons of methane emissions by 2035, Biden said. It raises a question: how much methane escaped from the North Sea when the Nordstream pipelines were destroyed?
A Danish official said Nord Stream gas leaks could emit a CO2 equivalent of 14.6 million tonnes (32 billion pounds), similar to a third of Denmark’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps the EU should impose a $1500 per ton fine of $22 billion on the perpetrator–widely assumed to be the US. That would be about a third of the $66 billion the U.S. has so far approved in war aid to Ukraine.
The U.S. and its allies are blocking calls at COP27 for “loss and damage” funding for countries in the Global South. Rich countries are concerned that it would lead to “unlimited liability,” and that determine how much it would cost is difficult. Estimates of financial costs of weather events in low- and lower middle-income countries, just for damages between 1998 and 2017, are over half a trillion dollars. Assessing only the immediate damage, these figures do not include long term economic impacts, such as food insecurity or health disorders. It raises another question: how much is due for a century and a half of western industrialization, and six centuries of colonialism and slavery?
There’s a trust problem for the U.S. at all these global conferences. Power Shift Africa’s founder Mohamed Adow said at the climate conference in Egypt that “Joe Biden comes to COP27 and makes new promises. He’s like a salesman selling goods with endless small print.” In India, Treasury Secretary Yellen found “a layer of apprehension if not outright mistrust.”
In Cambodia, “ASEAN leaders at the EAS conference reiterated their strong ties with Beijing and issued a joint statement with China supporting the One China Policy, opposing independence for Taiwan.” And in Indonesia, the U.S. finds the G20 to be “a symbol of the transformation from the West having the only say to common governance across the globe… G20 is not an expanded G7.” Joe Biden and his team are finding a whole new world out there.
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About the Author
Dee Knight is a member of the DSA International Committee’s Anti-War Subcommittee.
He is the author of A Realistic Path to Peace (just out from Solidarity Publications), and a memoir, My Whirlwind Lives: Navigating Decades of Storms.
Dee can be reached at: email@example.com.