Gandásegui, The US-China trade war’s weakest link

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US and Chinese warships playing chicken in the South China Sea. US Navy photo.

The weakest link in the war between China and the United States

by Marco A. Gandásegui hijo, translated by Jordan & Joan Remple Bishop (ALAI)

The aggressive reaction of the United States against Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic has to do with the trade war declared by Washington against China. In addition, it has to do with the North American superpower’s interest in destabilizing Latin American governments. President Donald Trump unilaterally increased the tariffs on Chinese products that enter the US market. This measure was rejected by China, the big US industrialists and the rest of the world. Next year, US consumers will feel the impact in their pockets.

The United States also feeds into a territorial conflict with Beijing over the South China sea. Since the English involvement in this area of intense regional trade in the XIX Century and the US victory in the Second World War (1945), the Chinese have been forbidden to control these waters. In the XXI Century, Beijing now wants to recover its sovereignty over its own sea. Building up the offensive, the United States has imposed sanctions on the Equipment Development Department company (EDD) — responsible for the Chinese Army’s weapons and equipment — and on its director, Li Shangfu, for having purchased armaments from the Russian state firm, Rosoboronexport, the greatest arms exporter, that had already been sanctioned by Washington.

These points make up the context in which the United States revealed their threatening communiqué that causes concern in the Latin American region.

The United States accuses “the countries of the region” of seeking “relations with unknown partners” that use “methods that lack a positive record” and exhibit a “disturbing tendency.” The Washington pronouncement adds that “many of these transactions lack transparency.” In spite of the communiqué’s ambiguity and lack of transparency, it is clear that the United States wants to create anxiety in the region because of its relations with China

The United States claims the right to “prevent and combat corruption” in Latin America. The actions that Washington can undertake “are essential for having strong and functional democracies in the whole American continent.” The communiqué originated from the US Embassy in El Salvador. I am not aware of the reason why it was not sent from the Department of State in Washington. Nevertheless, it is a clear addition to the Monroe Doctrine promulgated 200 years ago.

In their interventionist strategy, the United States emphasize the ‘fight against corruption.’ It is not by chance that they managed to indict Lulu in Brazil through unfounded accusations of corruption. The same thing is happening with former leaders in Argentina and Ecuador. They are trying to do the same with the current governments in Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. All of these, at certain moments, have questioned the arbitrary policies of the United States. The response has been rapid and emphatic from Washington.

This is a clear message to the governing political parties of the three Central American and Caribbean countries. Especially the FMLN, which has maintained a very difficult equilibrium between its social policies and its relations with the United States, over two administrations. With a clear electoral majority in El Salvador, the guerrilla army has its hands tied by Washington. The Chinese connection could give the most reactionary interests in the United States the chance to initiate a destabilizing campaign similar to that promoted in Nicaragua.

In the case of Panama, President Varela replied that the decision of Trump to summon their diplomats for consultation is related to “internal issues of the United States government,” and that Panama respects and is convinced that relations with China will bring many benefits to the isthmus and will in no way affect relations with a strategic partner. Varela reminds the US government that relations with China are not intended to affect the special relationship that Panama has with the United States.

The root problem that explains the ‘trade war’ and the aggressive diplomacy of Washington must be found within the United States. Economic stagnation has generated internal policy problems that become phenomena — scarcely understood by many — such as Trump. Social protests with class and racist elements appear ever more frequently and with greater force. These phenomena translate into a crisis of hegemony for the establishment that lost the White House and that wants to avoid the collapse of its project of “globalization.”

China is part of the establishment’s project of “globalization.” It is the driving force of the capitalist world, oiled by those who control global finance. Trump, on the other hand, represents the sector of US capital that wants to concentrate industry in the United States and speaks of “making America great again.” For the resident of the White House, the enemy is China, while Russia is the friend.

It is in this geopolitical game that the weakest links of Latin America have become trapped: Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador.

 

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