inter-imperialist rivalry (was Re: Forwarded from John Gulick)

John Gulick jlgulick at
Wed Dec 12 14:15:22 MST 2001

Got a little nervous with my name plastered all over the place ...

Mark Jones wrote:

The 'resource war' ongoing now in South-Central Asia is a case in point.
Far from it being an illustration of a police action by an emergent
'superstate', this is a war of proxies and subalterns at the behest of the
great powers who are dividing and redividing this regions for the purpose
of imperial loot and plunder. America is in Afghanistan to secure the
region against nascent world powers, above all China.

I ask:

To frame it in overly vulgar fashion, is the implication here that by means
of increasing its military and client state presence in C Asia, the US can
more control over whether long-distance fossil fuel pipelines are built to
Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and so with metropolitan coastal China via Xinjiang ?
A person who subscribes to the "super-imperialism" hypothesis might reply:
The PRC can't keep up its mighty growth rate w/o sourcing more
extra-national hydrocarbon inputs, including those from C Asia (in addition
to Siberia,
Sakhalin, etc.). Capital accumulation in the US is to some significant
degree dependent (and perhaps increasingly dependent what with the PRC
joining the
WTO) on exporting feed grains, industrial equipment and machinery, and so on
to the PRC, as well as the repatriation of profits made by US TNC's in the PRC
(not just Boeing, Mattel, etc., but increasingly business and financial
And US capital producing on US soil keeps it wage bill down with cheap
consumer goods imported from PRC. Since the fate of PRC economic growth and
US capital accumulation are tightly linked, why should the US seek to
divert fossil fuel inputs from the PRC ? Is it about the _"nationality"_ of
the energy sector firms which are involved in supplying the PRC with C
Asian natural gas ? That is, is the US not opposed to dynamic strength of
PRC economy (at least at the moment), but opposed to the fact that it is
Sinopec and not Exxon/Mobil or UnoCal or whomever who is tapping and
delivering C Asian natural gas to the PRC ? That seems to be awfully
reductionistic, and plays into single-note conspiracy theories of US
imperial policy (like the Unocal Afghan/Pakistan pipeline hypothesis). (Not
implying that anyone here has endorsed such views,
just posing the contrasting arguments).

Mark wrote:

In Asia a tremendous struggle is going on between Japan and China, which
China is winning. China still has a 7% growth rates, Japan is declining
(the Nikkei is catastrophically on the 10k mark; this means that Japan Inc
is not a going concern, it is literally bankrupt). Japan lost its
competition with the US for global hegemony in the 1980s and is now losing
its regional hegemony to China. This singifies the creation of a new Asian
power-axis in which the declining regional imperialism (notionally part of
the 'North') --Japan-- is destined to be economically and politically
subordinated to China (which is notionally part of the South). Surely this
reversal of fortunes will be set in concrete after the coming slump is over
(assuming growth ever does resume without another world war). In fact, the
domination of China over Japan is an aftershock from the collapse of
Japanese competitivity against the USA. This means that any future
restructuring of the world order must also include the definitive emergence
of a powerful Asian politico-military competitor to the US and Europe.

I comment:

Among others, a hidden issue here seems to be, will the Japanese ruling class,
which will have to swallow its intense national pride, tack east or tack west ?
My sense of things is that to the extent they can raise the funds, Japanese
TNC's have been repositioning their overseas sourcing networks to coastal
China and away from SE Asia, especially in the wake of the 97-98 meltdown.
At the
same time the Japanese ruling class is terribly worried about the role that
inadvertent technology transfer will play in boosting the competitiveness of
the rising regional economic power. And, if I'm not mistaken (if I wasn't
so lazy
I'd look it up), despite the strengthening of the ultra-nationalist wing of
the LDP
and fringe rightist parties in recent years, didn't Japan and the US re-up the
security pact not long ago ? But my sense of things is that belligerent US
unilateralism in all things (penalties against dumping of Japanese steel in the
US, opting out of Kyoto Protocol after Japanese establishment most reluctantly
signed on, all the various and sundry violations of the UN charter by the US)
will increasingly reconcile Japan to NE Asian economic integration and even
tentative steps toward some kind of NE Asian security alliance. Dunno, just
firing shots into the dark.

Charles Brown wrote:

The imperialist wars have shifted to attacks on the colonies that have been
freeing themselves from the colonial system that existed in Lenin's era.
The notion of future or potential wars between the U.S. and EU or Japan is
highly speculative, and is not a solid basis for defining the current
situation. We already have the fact of wars of a world scale between the
U.S. and the colonies.

I remark:

Aren't US-led wars in the post-colonial world, especially since 1991,
largely about inter-imperialist war by other means ? Mark's comments about
C Asia
seem apropos. One could argue that US took such a central role in bombing and
destroying Serbia b/c it was afraid that leaving resolution of Kosovo-Serbian
situation to the EU (as it had the Balkan wars earlier in the decade) would
strengthen EU countries' position (especially Germany's) in "post-war
reconstruction." US propped up bloody Suharto dictatorship for all those years,
then showed sudden interest in East Timorese irredentism when it looked like
the EU (via the UN) would take the lead in brokering a settlement there. Etc.
I don't know, just some hypothetical propositions.

John Gulick

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