- Destabilization activities becoming more evident, book says
- Mistakes made in Hong Kong are being repeated on larger scale
- Countries can “only be liberal democracies or authoritarian dictatorships”
AMERICA’S OVERT AND COVERT actions to subvert other communities while claiming to spread liberal democracy are likely becoming apparent to people around the world, a new study says.
It’s evident that the US and its allies are just advancing their own interests while destabilizing perceived enemies, according to an analysis of present day geopolitical manoeuvring by top political scientist Paolo Urio.
Meanwhile, US attempts to cling to global supremacy in the face of China’s rise have been accompanied by “a surge in anti-China propaganda” focused on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, he writes in a new book, America and the China Threat.
The huge gulf between the surface narrative and what really happening is laid bare in the analysis by Urio, a highly respected Swiss professor of international relations, specializing in China-Europe relations.
It is increasingly hard to hide the contradictions between what the US says it does and its actual activities, says Urio. America claims to be taking the high road, but constantly hits perceived enemies with sanctions, and amplifies their genuine internal problems in the hopes of creating destabilization or regime change.
More people are likely to realize what’s happening, he believes. “Subversive activities against countries that do not comply with the interests of the establishment of the US empire are becoming ever more evident to global publics and elites, who may finally start getting the bigger picture,” he says in the new 587 page study.
[Paolo Urio, left, is based at the University of Geneva.]
America has always claimed to be horrified by non-democracies but its actions tell a different story. “The US empire has often cooperated, and it is still cooperating today, with authoritarian countries, such as Saudi Arabia, and has even replaced democratically elected governments with dictatorships, such as in Iran in 1953 and in Chile in 1973,” says the professor based at the University of Geneva.
SUBVERSION IN HONG KONG
What happened in Hong Kong epitomizes the problem, the top Swiss political scientist said. The city on the southern coast of China thrived under many years of executive-led leadership which carefully balanced Western and Chinese interests.
But in the 1990s, the UK took the political step of unilaterally imposing a temporary system of Western liberal democracy on the city, angering China’s rulers and leaving behind a fractured and polarized city.
The UK’s error in Hong Kong is being repeated on a much larger scale today, with the US urging China to adopt the allegedly superior Western model of governance, Urio says. The argument runs as follows: “In the 1990s Hong Kong should have turned democratic instantaneously by the magic hand of the UK, as China should today do the same under the magical hand of the US.”
The tension this creates is heightened by the West’s obvious double standards and its tendency to demonize the East. The result is increasing polarization and now the threat of war.
Yes, China has become more rigid in some ways, but that is at least partly a response to unfair treatment, the book explains. “Certainly, from the point of view of Western values, one may regret and strongly criticize China’s evolution towards an increasingly authoritarian state. But in doing so, we forget that we have done our part of pushing China in this direction, and were we not pushing so hard, China might not have felt it necessary to protect itself by such means,” the author says.
Meanwhile, the imbalance in the popular narrative is clear. The evidence that the US and its allies have engaged in operations of mass destruction in various places around the world for many years is beyond doubt. Yet the general discourse continually condemns the West’s enemies’ alleged mass destructions, despite them being far smaller in scale. “This corresponds to the well-known use of double standards exhibited by both the US and the EU,” Urio says.
RIGID VERSUS FLEXIBLE
A key problem lies in the two leading countries’ differences in self-perception. The United States, despite its widespread inequalities and troubled democratic system, has a rigid belief in its ultimate superiority (“American exceptionalism”) and its calling by God to spread its system around the world, which it sees as a set of countries which must be divided into a stark good-or-evil choice: democracy or autocracy. This division is echoed on a daily basis by major international media.
Urio’s analysis echoes the views of many Asians, who feel that the labelling system is brutally unfair. The media labels countries “democratic” OR “authoritarian”. In Hong Kong, people who are pro-American/ anti-China are labelled “pro-democracy” and anyone who dares to criticize this view in any way is cancelled as “pro-Beijing”. This silences many Hong Kong people, who have a more authentic, nuanced view.
Urio further points out that China, for all its faults and tendency to heavyhandedness, has a flexible, developing system of governance, and not the slightest interest in imposing its politics on other countries.
Yet the US has total propaganda dominance, keeping control of the narrative. “The US targets China by interfering in three very sensitive regions: Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet,” Urio writes. “This happens in the midst of a surge in anti-China propaganda embedded into the US Cold War mentality, with the usual mix of sanctions, military build-up in the China Seas, and support to subversive activities within China. Moreover, the US is trying to convince its allies in Europe and in Asia to unite against the purported existential threat represented by China.”
Talking up this “threat” to the world is of huge benefit to America in that it draws its allies to its side, acting like vassal states. “NATO is on track to become a global alliance for the perpetuation of the US empire,” the author says.
Result: We end up with the argument that can be seen in US military strategy documents that the East is a problem and the solution is to spend more public money on weapons.
“These documents regard it as increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with what is regarded as their authoritarian model,” Urio writes.
“The consequence that is put forward is the need to accelerate modernization programmes of the US military resources by investing more money in a sustained effort ‘to solidify our competitive advantage’.
“In particular, this requires, among other measures, the modernization of key capabilities as it concerns nuclear forces; space and cyberspace as warfighting domains; artificial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and missile defence.”
IT’S THE ECONOMY
Yet ultimately, the debate should not be about warfare at all – in its thousands of years of history as the world’s leading military and economic power, China has explored the world without colonizing it, Urio points out.
“It seems that the Biden administration has not understood that it is the economy and not military values, that will decide the alignment of secondary powers with the superpowers,” Urio says.
Asian countries, African countries, and ultimately European ones, are being drawn to China because it is a good economic partner, and active customer.
“Today, China’s attraction is a confirmation of this historical law: despite its weaker cultural resources, and the negative evaluation of its political system by liberal democratic countries, its power of attraction based upon its booming economy speaks volumes,” the author argues.
China has been quietly active modernizing itself and becoming integrated into the world economy for years. “The problem for the US is that not only is China back, but it has been back for a couple of decades since its accession to the WTO, without the US recognizing its rise as a world power.”
DANGER OF CHINESE LEADERSHIP
But there’s one another issue to deal with. The argument is made that China will be dangerous if it rises to the top, as it will become a US-style hegemonic power, lording it over the rest of the planet with economic and military supremacy.
This is unlikely, given the historical precedents, Urio says. “Again, Chinese history and culture suggest that China never had an imperial strategy such as that of the Western powers, who dreamt of conquering the world and imposing their rule. Contrary to the West’s clear manifestation of its intent, China has never invaded or colonized America, Africa, the Middle East, and large parts of Asia. It could have done so well before the discovery of the Americas by the West.
“Already during the 14th and the first half of the 15th centuries China had the economy, the military, and the technological resources to project its power all over the world as the West has done. Nevertheless, the Chinese Empire has always remained limited to the periphery of the ‘Chinese space’.”
Urio points out that even when China had the technological capacity to conquer the world, it did not. “Even when its vessels were much bigger and better performing than the feeble caravels Christopher Columbus used to discover the Americas, China limited its excursions abroad to establishing cultural and trade relations, and in any case, they were not motivated by the will to conquer foreign countries.”
What of the future? Urio believes that the Western model of democracy may not continue to spread to other countries around the world—and one key reason is that the US itself does not come across as a “real” democracy itself. He points out that commentators such as Michael Hudson have pointed out that those in charge of developing Western capitalism have diverted it from industrial capitalism, that creates real wealth, to greed-powered financial capitalism, that leads to the astonishing enrichment of a small minority of speculators.
“Given this reality, one can have little hope of seeing non-democratic countries enthusiastically embracing liberal democracy and capitalism,” Urio writes.
A HONG KONG HERO
The political scientist ends his book with a reference to a revered Hong Kong figure, Sir Percy Cradock, a former UK intelligence chief. Over the years, the late Sinologist had been a fearless critic of both China and the British, but had managed to bring the two sides together, becoming a key builder of the agreement that successfully enabled the community to move smoothly through the 1997 transfer of sovereignty.
Sir Percy (right) saw Britain’s last-minute switch to a temporary spell of Western liberal democracy for Hong Kong as a huge mistake, scoring cheap political points while creating long-lasting anger, distrust and division.
The exact same disregard for the values of the Chinese is being displayed by the Americans and their allies today, Urio says.
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Image at the top from Joel Rivera-Camacho on Unsplash
Image at the top from by jonjanego .