Narrative, that is. By all appearances, to many commentators the US has entered a new Cold War, this time with China. Russia has now been relegated to second place in the annals of American enmity. That doesn’t mean Russia is off the books, far from it. But the new great power competition in the eyes of the US is all about countering China. The question is, do we really need to do so, and if so, why? We will explore that here, along with some astrology. This will be Part I of a two-part article on why relations have gone so far south between the US and China, especially given the latest manifestation of blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic.
US news, and to a lesser extent across the Western world, is flooded with stories about the need for independent investigations into the origins of the coronavirus, as if some kind of blame has to be affixed to its country of its origin. That is strange, because we have not seen those sorts of ‘investigations’ into any other epidemic, with the onus on affixing blame. But if experiences in Iraq and Syria are any indication, the blame game will only lead us down a dark and destructive path and destroy any trust in institutions and governments that should otherwise be impartial and more attendant to needs at home, not to mention America’s standing in the international community.
The Trump administration and the Republican Party have instituted the ‘blame China’ game for various reasons. And when it comes to the truth and the source of such blame, it rests squarely on the back of the United States. No other nation was calling for or seeking to blame China for the coronavirus prior to the Beltway instigating such rhetoric. For their part, the Chinese see through it, as do most nations, and to get to why we need only ask the question: Who would gain benefit from such a state of affairs? The campaign thus far (and that is what this really is) has swayed American public opinion squarely against China, as in 2/3 of the public now having a negative view of China. Trump has won his propaganda war with China, though only on the shores of the United States. That has more to do with conditioning than truth, as we will see. So, before going further, we know what the American view is: China did it! But the Chinese have a view of the situation, too, and it basically runs as follows:
To get to the bottom of what is happening with this latest attempt at manufacturing consent against another nation, we need a historical perspective, which begins with the period immediately after the end of WWII, with the communist revolution in China, resulting in the PRC (People’s Republic of China, chart), governed by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party). We have covered China in other posts, so there is no need to rehash those items here. But it is necessary to understand how China came to be the economic powerhouse it is now and why it is seen as a great power competitor in order to understand the animosity toward China shown by Washington. Thus, this first instalment will deal with China and how it came to be the world’s richest nation in terms of purchasing power parity.
The PRC was born out of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the resulting Chinese Civil War, pitting the communists against Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the American-friendly Chinese Nationalist Party. Kai-shek and his forces were pushed out of mainland China into Taiwan at the end of the civil war. There was also the factor of colonialist pressures from Western nations and Japan which resulted in unequal treaties, the ‘Century of Humiliation’ that weighed heavily on the populace, along with marked inequalities, especially between landowners and farmers.
All of those factors mentioned above gave rise to workers’ revolts and nationalism, with WWII being the final catalyst that brought the revolution and civil war to a head. When the war was settled and the PRC was declared by Mao (1 Oct 1949 at 3:01 PM, Beijing), the US severed ties with Beijing and made Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Hong Kong its outposts in the Far East. From there we had the ‘two Chinas’ policy. Then, when Nixon came to office, things began to change.
Nixon took the US off the Bretton Woods gold standard in 1971 with his ‘Nixon Shock’, thus floating the US dollar as a fiat currency. This period was at the height of the Cold War between the communist bloc (Russia, China, Eastern Europe and Cuba) and the Western powers, headed by the US and to a lesser extent, the UK. In an effort to prop up its hegemony, pay off or cancel its debt from the Korean and Vietnam wars and to break up the communist bloc, Nixon (along with various Washington hawks and Henry Kissinger) turned his sights toward China. Why?
Corporate America and the Beltway saw China as a vast, untapped resource – a willing labor pool – and had seen it that way since the 1800s. At the time Nixon went to China, in 1972, the majority of Chinese were living in the worst sorts of poverty, estimated at around 85%. China’s population then was close to 850 million people. Mao’s leadership had been failing China. The Great Leap Forward initiatives had only served to worsen the situation of the average Chinese, with the resulting Great Famine of 1961, which killed 30 million in China. To shore up his leadership position, Mao instigated the 1966 Cultural Revolution, actually a great purge, which itself resulted in the deaths of a further 20 million Chinese, according to one source.
- To give the US more flexibility on the world scene, generally
- To get the attention of the Soviets and gain more leverage over them
- To get help with bringing an end to the Vietnam War. China was supplying the North Vietnamese with weapons and aid.
Nixon and Kissinger were successful on all three points. And that is pretty much where Nixon’s ambitions for China ended. Kissinger achieved his goal of splitting off China from Russia and weakening the communist bloc. Corporate America had other ideas.
The US had imperialist designs on China since the end of the 19th century, as did many nations. The first Open Door Policy was introduced at the end of the 1800s by the US, but was shunned by European powers, who had wider vested interests. Hong Kong, for instance, was a British colony at that point, and China had been reduced to a vassal state, essentially a balkanized European colony with competing interests vying each for their piece of the Chinese pie. The Japanese and the Russians had their interests there, too. That period was the height of the ‘Century of Humiliation’ that has conditioned Chinese thought to this day.
The first Open Door Policy with China was set into stone on 6 Oct 1900 with the signing of the Yangtze Agreement between Germany and the UK, which was an assurance against the partitioning of China into economic zones. However:
The results of the Open Door did not live up to American hopes. Dreams of a vast “China market” were not realized; American investments, while considerable, did not reach major proportions; the United States could not prevent other powers, especially Japan, from expanding in China; and Chinese leaders, while willing to seek American aid, were not willing to play the passive role that the Open Door implied.
That idea of a ‘vast Chinese market’ has been in the background of American foreign policy toward China all along. So long as China remained as a market for US interests, Washington had no problems with the Chinese. Communism in China brought a halt to that dream, temporarily. Then came Deng Xiaoping and the 2nd wave of China’s Open Door Policy. Only this time, it would turn out to be on China’s terms.
Deng Xiaoping rose to power in China two years after Mao’s death in 1976. Deng has been called the ‘Architect of Modern China’, and it was he who introduced the term, “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Deng introduced the 2nd version of the Open Door Policy in December of 1978, which opened China to direct foreign investment. It was then divided into Special Economic Zones by the CCP in 1980, after which time American manufacturing began to disappear from America overseas and China quickly became ‘the world’s factory’. Those moves also pulled over 500 million people in China out of poverty and went on to make China the economic powerhouse that it is currently. Then came Xi Jinping.
Modern China has never played solely by American/capitalist rules. It has its own ideas about how affairs in China should be run and because of its history, is very resistant and sensitive to outside interference in its internal affairs. The end game of the CCP is to pursue a more egalitarian form of socialism within China, but based upon economic security, which in turn would eventually lead to a communist society as described in Marxist orthodoxy. Xi’s thinking is along those lines, and does not accord with the American form of free-market capitalism. This is where we get to the crux of the antagonism Washington feels toward China, and why the Beltway pundits and think tanks are all for derailing China’s progress. Particularly alarming to them were two of Xi’s signature initiatives: the Made in China 2025 Initiative (from 2015) and Xi’s pet project, the Belt and Road Initiative (from 2013). Washington would have no control over either initiative. And therein lies the problem.
Here is something to keep in mind as we go along. Trump was painted as a kind of maverick in the 2016 election. But one of his signature campaign talking points was always to bash China. Given the threat that China poses as Washington sees it, and has done for years, behind the scenes we might well imagine that Trump has been welcomed by the Beltway, and for other reasons as well. He is continuing, and more vigorously, the ‘Pivot to Asia’ as envisioned by Obama and Clinton in an effort to ring in and suppress if not collapse China and its signature projects. Trump is fully on-board with the so-called ‘deep state’ in that regard.
Why was there a ‘pivot to Asia’, then? That relates to economic realities and the emerging Asian markets. Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ came on the heels of an announcement by the Asia Development Bank (ADB):
A 2009 report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) stated that between 2010 and 2020, there was a need for US$8 trillion in infrastructure projects throughout Asia. Since existing international institutions do not have the capital or capacity to address this shortage, China announced the BRI as a response [in 2013]. It created international institutions—the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Silk Road Fund—to finance BRI projects. Chinese leaders have emphasised that the initiative is meant to complement the existing international structure, not challenge it. Foreign Minister Wang Yi addressed this directly, stating: “China is not building a rival system. On the contrary, we are seeking to play a bigger role in the existing international order and system.” Nevertheless, the BRI has extended Chinese influence substantially, and BRI-related projects are perceived as a means of economic statecraft that provide political leverage for Beijing.
Emphases added. The preceding is why we see the animosity toward China, because it has decided against playing by the American ‘rules-based order’ and has gone on to map out its own destiny. The announcement by the ADB came during the 2008/9 financial crisis, at a time when the US could barely meet its own infrastructure needs, and when China was in full swing of developing its higher-tech infrastructure, like its high speed rail networks, for instance. Its response to the 2008 crisis was to pour money into infrastructure and put people to work, a sort of ‘Chinese New Deal’ (p. 72). The point to be made here is that China was in a phase of expansion, internally and externally, while the West was struggling due to the collapse of housing markets.
In continuance of the ‘pivot to Asia’, on 31 Dec 2018, Trump passed ARIA – the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act – which is but a continuation of Obama’s plan. The Trump administration pledged $1.5 billion in spending for a range of US development projects throughout East Asia, in order to “…develop a long-term strategic vision and a comprehensive, multifaceted, and principled US policy for the Indo-Pacific region.” India was to be a key part of that strategy, as was Australia, in what came to be known as ‘the Quad’. It is an idea that never really gathered steam, and which China perceived as a threat to its interests. And in terms of financing projects, $1.5 billion is a drop in the Indian Ocean compared to what China is putting forward.
Given this background, there are two charts to examine – one for the directions to the PRC chart in December of 1978, and in the 2nd part of this article, a general look at a defining transit and progression that has, in a way, defined American policies. The directions to the PRC chart are shown below (bigger):
The 1978 directions to the PRC chart also accompanied the PRC’s first Saturn return, which took place in the 7th house. The latter indicated a shift in its partnerships with other nations and its emphasis then on forming business partnerships. It also marked Deng Xiaoping’s decisive control over the CCPCC, giving him and his senior supporters control over CCP policy.
Most notable in those directions is the Asc/MC midpoint to the Uranus/Pluto midpoint, showing a revolutionary initiative, which had been developing in the months before. The directions to or from that Asc/MC midpoint mark very important developments in the evolution of a state or a person. A couple of years before, relative to the Ura/Plu midpoint, saw the death of Mao, the arrest of the Gang of Four and the end on the Cultural Revolution, shown by the direction of Mars/Ura to the PRC MC.
The next direction of note is that of the Sun/Moon midpoint to the PRC Uranus, marking an inner rebellion in China and a departure from Maoist ideology. Deng knew that the changes had to be implemented, as there was rising discontent among the rural populace. He feared a peasant uprising. China was still a very poor nation at that point and drastic reforms were needed to prevent a mass rebellion.
The next direction was that of Jupiter to the PRC Venus/MC midpoint – ‘the desire to give a lot of love’, according to Ebertin – in other words, to raise the lot of the average Chinese citizen. This was further emphasized by the direction of the Ven/Mars midpoint to the PRC horizon axis – ‘the revelation of love, a physical union’. These two directions gave the strong drive toward partnerships with foreign interests in order to raise the standard of living in China. And with Aquarius rising in the PRC chart, these reforms were a natural outcome in the evolution of the PRC.
Finally, the directions to the PRC Mercury show the daring of the initiative (Ura/MC midpoint), the focus on foreign banking and income derived from foreign partnerships (Saturn direction to Mercury), and a little over a year later, with the Sun/Plu midpoint direction, “Aspiring intellectual supremacy, prudence, organisation, consciousness of aim or objective, restless creative activity,” China thereafter quickly became the ‘world’s factory’. The ‘Chinese Miracle’ was born.
From 1980 onward, America set up shop in China. China is Apple’s engineering and manufacturing hub, for instance, as are a host of other American and European companies. And the Chinese miracle sat very well with the US so long as it just supplied the West with cheap consumer goods, provided a cheap corporate labor pool (thus pushing up the corporate shareholders’ profit margins) and didn’t rival the US economically.
When Xi Jinping became the President of the PRC in 2013 and announced the BRI, also in that year, China surpassed the US in purchasing power parity (PPP), a key economic indicator and now leads the US by 25% in that measure. PPP is the measure of the true economy of a nation, the amount to which its citizens can consume domestically, in distinction to the financial markets.
As if the BRI were not enough to get the attention of the US, in 2015 Xi announced the ‘Made in China 2025’ project, wherein the leadership of the CCP decided China no longer wanted to simply be ‘the world’s factory’. From then on the effort would be to boost manufacturing capabilities in high-tech fields like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and robotics – areas where the West and its allies had previously been world leaders. That simply could not be allowed. BRI was bad enough, but to lead the world in tech was unconscionable in the eyes of the think tanks and Western establishments. It would mean China’s independence from the West, lower profit margins for US corporations operating in China, and would replace the West as a functional power in Central and East Asia.
And then, to make matters worse, China and Russia were seeing increasing cooperation and rapprochement, with crazy ideas like the Greater Eurasian Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Chinese economic and investment forays into Africa and South America, and so on. Put simply, America was being supplanted as the world’s leader. Worse still were efforts to bypass the US dollar in international payments, this too by Russia, China, Iran and a few other nations. This thumbnail description of events from the founding of the PRC to present gives us the background we need now in looking at the US and why it is so reactive toward China, continued in Part II.
Featured pic from Prophesy Again