War with China?

Award winning journalist and filmmaker John Pilger has a new documentaryThe coming war on China“. He was recently interviewed on the Thom Hartman show , there was a lot of interesting things said (highlights below) but the broader discussion of the film will be a good source of ev for the 2nd semester


Thom Hartmann: So, John Pilger, why does the West struggle to understand China and how does that relate to our current tensions?

John Pilger: The West struggles to understand China because the West doesn’t have a free media, and that’s it in a nutshell. And those who haven’t woken up to that, especially given recent events, when you had an entire US election campaign with these great issues of war and peace effectively left out, not up for debate. We do not have the kind of free movement of information that we’re so proud that we do have. That’s the short answer to that.

Why is it that, as I mentioned at the beginning, that the news talks about the airstrips that China is building in the South China Sea but anything to do with the US build up, this so-called pivot to Asia, which I would suggest most of the American public has never heard of, and yet it represents the biggest buildup of air and naval forces in the world since World War Two. It wasn’t an issue. It’s not discussed. It’s downplayed, and that includes the respect – I’m not talking about Fox News here, I’m talking about the so-called respectable media if you like: New York Times, Washington Post and the rest. We seem to be in that, at least it’s familiar to me, it may be familiar to you, that catatonic embrace of the Cold War, what it was.

The difference with the Cold War – the old Cold War – is that there were red lines, then. There were red lines that you only crossed at your extreme peril. And both sides knew where they were. These days, there are no red lines. You have NATO, American-led NATO forces on the western borders of Russia. That would have been unheard of during the old Cold War. You have – as I just mentioned – a great armada of US Navy ships now heading for China. You have the greatest military – seagoing military – exercise in recent memory, Operation Talisman Saber which rehearsed a blockade of China across the Straits of Malacca. That happened only last year.



Thom Hartmann: John Pilger, given that, why are we threatening China with this naval Asian pivot and I guess it goes beyond just the Navy, and why has the US surrounded China with military bases given that?

John Pilger: There’s a long answer to that, Thom, and it doesn’t have to do with Donald Trump or really any other president. It’s about a rapacious foreign policy that’s run pretty well in a straight line since the Korean War. And it’s about dominance. Listen to Ashton Carter, the present defense secretary, and he’s made it very clear. He’s a very verbose provocateur. He likes speaking in public – speaking his mind, as he says. And he says those who confront us, wishing to deny our dominance – my paraphrasing – then they will have to deal with us. And he was referring to China and Russia, but mainly China.

Now, that’s an attitude, that’s a policy that has become almost vivid since 9/11. It existed before that. It’s existed actually since 1950. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, which cost probably a million lives and dispossessed about four million people, all of it based on deception. That was part of that policy. So there’s a long answer to your question, but the short answer is that China has become the second biggest economic power in the world. It may well be the biggest economic power now. There’s never been a rise like it. It’s happened in a very, very short time and the US knows that its dominance across, for instance, trade deals, goodbye to all those US-dominated trade arrangements and banking arrangements.

The Chinese have set up a parallel banking system that challenges the whole Bretton Woods architecture of banking. And China has become the developer, the builder, not only the workshop but the builder, leaving the United States with one well-defined power: that of its military. That’s why the sabers are being rattled, because that is the power of the United States. This is not to say that anyone wants to have a nuclear war, but it doesn’t work like that.

There was a panel in the US, I think last year, in which general James Cartwright made some very interesting remarks about the the interval of decision-making when a country knows that it’s possibly going to be attacked with nuclear weapons. It’s about 12 or 15 minutes. China until recently, according to the literature, used to keep its, kept its nuclear weapons on low alert. That means they separated the missiles and the warheads.

They’re now on high alert. Why?

In China there are many like Eric Li. He was educated in the United States. They admire so much about the US. One strategist said to me, ‘look, we’re not your enemy, but if you want us to be your enemy we have to prepare’. And that’s, I think that is certainly the reluctant view in Chinese ruling circles.


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