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Revisions on China: Abandoning the Nixon Legacy

There is little doubt about it. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is the puffed-up hawk of the Trump administration, talons at the ready, beak protruding. While the president coos at the prospect of seeing, or admiring, the next strongman of international relations, Pompeo hovers over selected authoritarian targets. This Jekyll-Hyde appraisal of foreign policy is a ready recipe for chaos and one that has done much to confuse Washington’s friends and foes.

The largest authoritarian target for the Trump administration remains China. China is convenient; China is destiny. The US imperium has always needed, on some level, handy demons to justify vast military budgets and its sprawling network of military bases. Lacking enemies would naturally lessen the case and show up the jingoes as men and women of straw. When the Soviet Union vanished, ending the most expensive, phoniest confrontation in modern history, the rogues’ gallery suddenly seemed empty, largely because many of those rogues were sponsored or backed by the US imperium. This was a time ludicrously called the “end of history” by that most fatuous of political observers, Francis Fukuyama. But candidates of wickedness were eventually found: President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil”, born in the embers of New York’s World Trade Centre; the shop-for-terror al-Qaeda network; a miscellany of terrorists.

Pompeo’s speech, delivered at the Nixon Library in California on July 23, was a dusted off version of innumerable statements made during the Cold War, notably in its initial freeze. The capitalist and communist blocs had taken shape, and the language of freedom was much in use. On March 12, 1947, President Harry Truman appeared before a joint session of Congress to explain why the United States should care whether Greece or Turkey should fall to communism or not. Turkey was “freedom-loving”; the Greeks were “threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by communists.” Both countries needed aid – in the order of $400 million.

In justifying his position, Truman laid out what would become the doctrine that bore his name. “I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” He was adamant that “[t]he free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms.”

Now, the communist Asiatic demonology has shifted, finding form in the Chinese state tinged yellow and red. According to Pompeo, battle cries are needed, a good stiffening of the sinews. “It’s time for free nations to act. Not every nation will approach the China challenge the same way, nor should they. Every nation will have to come to its own understanding of how to protect its national security, its economic prosperity, and its ideals from the tentacles of the CCP.”

There was no small measure of irony in the fact that Pompeo’s speech was made at a library named after the US president that insisted China be engaged as part of a policy that came to be known as détente. During that period, the Soviet Union was, within limits, tolerated. The PRC was brought in from the cold. President Richard Nixon, the greatest ideological shape changer of the Cold War, was happy to hunt communists actual and fictional in domestic politics just as readily as he was to accommodate them in foreign policy when it suited.

Pompeo called Nixon “a brilliant student of China, a fierce cold warrior, and a tremendous admirer of the Chinese people, just as I think we all are.” But, he urged, “We must admit a hard truth that should guide us in the years and decades to come, that if we want to have a free 21st century, and not the Chinese century of which Xi Jinping dreams, the old paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won’t get it done. We must not continue it and we must not return to it.”

The Trump administration’s tweet and sound bite understanding of history is incapable of understanding accommodation of the Nixon sort. This is the Bogeyman reading of discomfited imperialists, all adolescent and power point. “We imagined engagement with China would produce a future bright with the promise of comity, and cooperation,” Pompeo spoke with resignation. “But today we sit wearing masks and watching the pandemic’s body count rise because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) fail in its promises to the world … reading news headlines of repression in Hong Kong and Xinjiang … seeing staggering statistics of Chinese trade abuses that cost American jobs and strike blows to our companies … watching the Chinese military grow stronger and more menacing.”

Pompeo’s rhetorical questions to his audience merely served to illustrate an encyclopaedic ignorance, matched only by its colossal naiveté. “What do the American people have to show now 50 years on from engagement with China? Did the theories of our leaders that proposed a Chinese evolution towards freedom and democracy prove to be true? Is this China’s definition of a win-win situation?” Arrogant, even dotty questions, but typical of a superpower finding its crown of hegemony a bit loose, an increasingly poor fit. To engage China was to only do so on US terms. China should have, to use that irritating sporting metaphor, “played ball.” More money somehow makes one freer, a claim nonsensical in its envisaging, and disproved by historical examples such as the Chile of Augusto Pinochet.

The questions posed by Pompeo merely serve to justify the US case for encircling China, a measure that will only serve to divide, not unite, nation states, and titillate eager war mongers. It will also put Washington’s allies in a damn awful mess. But this will not bother the think tankers in countries such as Australia, where deputy sheriffing is not only natural but deemed necessary. Into the breach they go, folly-ridden.

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  1. mark delmege

    I wrote this for elsewhere yesterday but it fits here too…
    Normally when countries exist out side of Western Domination that is the American Empire – think Libya Iraq Iran Syria Brazil Russia Venezuela Cuba Nicaragua Bolivia – you get the picture – the USofA use sanctions soft power coups coloured revolutions or any means possible right up to invasion to change takeover or destroy said state. With China they are just pissing on their boots and in each others pockets.
    It was Obama and Killary who started the Pivot to Asia malarkey and our Gillard who acquiesced with her permission to allow the USofA to have a marine base in Darwin and it will be Scott Morrison who takes us one more step down that path into darkness.

  2. Kerri

    America cannot survive without and enemy.
    Whether it be Gaddafi, Hussein, Bin Laden and the list goes on.
    Pompeous strives to control and direct the American sheeple as well as the half wit in the Whitehouse.
    For all his desires, Pompeous sees Trump as a “useful idiot” as do most in the legal, business and conflict quarters.

  3. A Commentator

    Perhaps the author would provide a simple list of the countries that have good relations with China.

  4. ajogrady

    The Oxford Dictionary defines a rogue nation as a nation or state regarded as breaking international law and posing a threat to the security of other nations.
    There has been enough evidence in the public arena for a very long time that the USA fits the definition of a rogue nation. Governments of the USA have been purely there for the protection and promotion of USA business interests to the detriment of all others especially their massive war machine. When will the rest of the world call out the USA for all its terrorist activities?The USA is a curse on the world and civilised societies.

  5. leefe

    Does anyone in the US really think they can survive a major military cnfrontation with China? If so, that truly wiill be the end of civilisation as we know it, because it will quickly lead to full-scale nuclear war.

  6. Jack Cade

    The US will not attack a nation which has the will and capacity to fight back. It is a ‘heel spurs’ nation. It has had its arse kicked by Vietnamese peasants and Afghan tribesmen. And half it’s casualties are ‘friendly fire’ , meaning inept stuffups by soldiers who can’t write their own names in joined up writing. Ask any Aussie Vietnam vet what it’s like to be in the jungle near US troops…their own generals called them McNamara’s morons, handpicked simpletons.

  7. Neilwal

    How utterly offensive to be told with whom we can relate and in what circumstances – Pompeo, apparently a law graduate, should read some international legal theory.

  8. A Commentator

    Are those that supported the organisation/individual responsible for the (well timed) leaking of material against Hilary Clinton, which is ultimately the reason Trump is president, pleased with the result?

  9. Jack Cade

    A commentator

    Hillary Clinton was possibly the most loathed person in the United States. She is very able but very disliked. It’s possible that ANY Republican would have REALLY beaten her, without the aid of the Electoral College. It is certainly likely that the Republicans that faced Obama would have, Make America Grate Again notwithstanding.

  10. Terence Mills

    Even so, according to the independent, non-partisan Cook Political Report, Hillary Clinton’s final tally came in at 65,844,610, compared to Donald Trump’s 62,979,636, with a difference of 2,864,974. The total number of votes for other candidates (sanders, Colin Powell) was 7,804,213.

    Hillary Clinton captured nearly as many votes as Barack Obama did to win in 2012 (65,915,795), she lost the electoral college, clocking in at only 227 votes compared to Trump’s 304.

  11. Jack Cade

    Terence Mills

    Yes. The US idea of ‘democracy’ does not actually apply to the USA. Neither does it apply in the UK. Unpleasant as it is for many of us to accept, our compulsory voting almost produces a democracy, even with the huge influence the Nationals have. At least governments here get close to a majority of the national vote. Under the US Electoral College system, combined with the deliberate disendorsement of ethnic voters by the various state governors, democracy is unlikely ever to apply. And the UK ‘First Past the Post’ system means you could – and have- seen seats won with 26% of the vote, if your 26% is the highest for any candidate.

  12. A Commentator

    Firstly, calling the system of an electoral college undemocratic is odd.

    It isn’t proportional representation, it is a system that provides national and local campaigning. A system of proportional representation does not facilitate a focus on local issues, The electoral college is no less democratic than Australia’s parliament, with a government requiring a majority of the seats, regardless of whether they win a majority of the national votes.

    A system based on winning the majority of the votes would result in an entirely different campaign by all candidates, so predicting the result of such a campaign is purely speculative.

    Secondly, are the electoral candidates that supported the organisation/individual that leaked to derail Clinton’s election satisfied with the result?

    Thirdly, is anyone willing to provide a list of nations (particularly their neighbours) that support China?

  13. wam

    I won money on trump because I was sure the septics would not vote for a woman but I was nearly wrong Who would have thought that the voters would be so shallow as to ignore the excesses, the sleaze and the lies and vote for the man? I did!
    Will they vote for him again??
    As an americaphobe I expect he will get a second term but until he gets to 5/2(currently 7/4) my meagre bet money will stay.but my mouth will still flap and stir the australian gops and their southern xstians friends and relatives. Had a few threats when go an insult too far.
    if anyone is feeling down find SBS 32 and watch a french film called ‘the finishers’ Absolutely inspiring

  14. Jack Cade

    A commentator

    A definition of democracy is rule by the majority
    Clinton got 3,000,000 more votes than fart.


    China has considerably more friends than the USA, not having bombed the shit out of half the world. The US actually no friends – just a clutch of followers. It is not the same thing. A French friend, well travelled, told me ‘In Asia, NEVER let anybody think you’re American. Especially the Philippines.’

  15. Matters Not

    A Commentator, Perhaps a necessary starting point re ‘support’ for China might be a definition of same because it can be answered in so many different ways. Suspect that any intelligent response will begin with Depending on

    But yes, historically, China has invaded neighbouring countries and nations like Vietnam hold grudges.

  16. Phil

    Don’t start a war with China FFS I’m waiting on a parcel.

    If a war starts, I will paint an arrow on the roof of my house pointing to Canberra and the GPS Coordinates for parliament house. Underneath the arrow I will write, nothing to do with me, that way to the imbeciles that started it all.

  17. mark delmege

    ‘A Commentator’ Just as a matter of interest are you suggesting
    – HRClinton was a fit and proper person to be POTUS? (recalling Honduras Libya Syria and the Ukraine and all that)
    – That it wasn’t a DNC staffer like Seth Rich who downloaded the data and passed it on to Assange via Craig Murray because of his upset with the treatment of Sanders?
    But I’m sure you are not suggesting US voting system is a fit and proper representation of voting intentions or any sort of a democratic model for others – or are you?
    Phil you might like to try tracking your flight parcel here. I’ve got a few in transit too but not many flights heading my way …,-158.84/2

  18. Phil

    Eany meany miny mo. That one.

    None of the present day politicians in the US and here alike, could run a school tuck shop.

    Let’s face it, Murdoch will decide our fate and it has always ever been thus.

    I refuse to take any of it serious anymore.

    This whole Chinese US. imbroglio is about getting Trump reelected. No more no less.

    I can say with out the slightest doubt, Trump couldn’t find China on a map. He is just a ventriloquists dummy. ‘ Gottle of Gear, Gottle of Gear.

  19. Egalitarian

    Lets face it the USA is looking for a war. This is the new weapons of mass destruction moment.

    Though China can’t be trusted and nor can the USA.And off course it’s very important that Phil gets his parcel.

  20. Terence Mills

    The fact that we have capitulated to Trump and Pompeo and agreed to send our Defence Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister to Washington at this time is playing right into the Trump administrations election game plan.

    The Trump administration are waging a war of words on China and creating a straw man to assist in their cynical re-election strategy and we are being sucked in as the only ally who is prepared to play ball.

    So far the US have moved two aircraft carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz ,into positions in the South China Sea. Australia’s two Anzac-class frigates, HMAS Anzac and HMAS Toowoomba, and one Durance-class replenishment ship HMAS Success in the same area. I am not aware that any other country with interests in the region (Philippines, Vietnam, Japan etc) has joined in these exercises – not a good look !

    Just a few months ago Morrison was saying that we don’t take sides in issues like this involving our biggest trading partner (China) and our biggest ally (USA) : evidently as other allies of the USA have walked away from Trump in his final 100 days, we have changed our position.

    I note that the coming G7 meetings in Washington are scheduled for September and already participants like Angela Merkel are saying that they won’t be attending in person due to COVID-19 : so why are we sending senior ministers to Washington now ?

    In my view, we should have politely declined the invitation to send ministers (and their entourage) to the US in the middle of a pandemic and we should have carried out these talks by video conferencing if they were, in fact, necessary at all.

  21. ajogrady

    Once again under the fawning forelock tugging leadership of the L/NP Australia is Americas puppet agent provocateur. These extraordinarily provocative actions by the L/NP government is jeopardizing Australias already fragile economy. Who do they work for?
    So from Americas prostitute in the Pacific, Australia performs lurid acts at the behest of its pimp. More weapons of mass destruction. More words of mass deception. More acts of mass distortion. More ploys of mass diversion. More continual mass dishonesty. More events of mass dysfunction. More evidence of mass desperation. More times of mass discord. This is what Australians voted for and knew what they would be getting when they voted for the criminally corrupt L/NP. Those who voted for the L/NP are complicit in the crimes perpetrated on the Australian people and others around the world.

  22. Jack Cade

    If your closing comments are correct, and I assume they are, then the fact that we knew what sycophantic US fellatrices they are and voted them in means that they are doing what they want.

  23. Egalitarian

    Great points Terrence you have taught me a lot.

  24. Jack Cade

    According to George Galloway on MOATS, the USA presently has embargoes/sanctions against 39 countries.
    One of Galloway’s callers referred him to the Peter Sellers film ‘Being There’, in which the nonsensical ramblings of a gardener called Chance were taken to be nuggets of wisdom.
    Even Nostradamus wasn’t as accurate in his prognostications as the writers of Being There.
    Mind you, the US has elected several
    Semi-Chances since the film was released, but Donald J. Fart is the full bottle.

  25. Phil

    I got my parcel from China this very morning.

    So go right ahead have your war but, don’t call me I’ll call you.

  26. A Commentator

    It’s a reasonable question (I think) – is the author, a fierce critic of Trump and a former candidate of the Wikileaks Party, satisfied with the role played by wikileaks in (probably) being the single most important factor in having Trump elected?

  27. Egalitarian

    Gee I thought I was blocked from here for a moment there Terrence ? I’m sure it was glitch of some sort.

    Great news Phil

  28. Matters Not

    A Commentator re the reasonable question and a response in search of a clarification. Here’s a citation that’s somewhat ‘true’:

    Australia and OBOR
    Within Australia, enterprises, banks and law firms are promoting the OBOR initiative as an economic opportunity for the country and, with Chinese endorsement, an Australia-China OBOR Initiative has been established to promote Chinese engagement in the Australian economy.

    Does that situation make Australia a supporter of China or not?

    Given One Belt One Road (OBOR) impacts at least 60 plus Nations across the world, how does one determine whether to classify them as supporters or not?

    For my part, it seems to me that it’s not ‘black or white’ – with there being ‘support’ for some things but not others. And that’s changeable almost on a daily basis.

  29. Jack cade

    Matters Not

    Game, set and match.

    Now list ALL of the FRIENDS of the USA…
    I’ll give you Australia (boots and all) UK, Israel because it needs the weapons, and Saudi Arabia because they need a friend, too.
    Over to you…

  30. Jack Cade

    The secret to power diplomacy is the old saw ‘walk softly but carry a big stick.’ The US has never mastered the art of walking softly. Violence is their answer to everything.

  31. A Commentator

    I see, so because the OBOR “impacts at least 60 Nations across the world, how does one determine whether to classify them as supporters or not?”

    …and Australia’s foreign aid is provided to 113 nations across the world… what does that say about whether or not they are “supporters” of Australia?

    But – which of China’s neighbours have strong relations with them?

  32. Matters Not

    A Commentator – once again, it might be useful to define the odd word or two. Sri Lanka, for example, is now heavily in debt to China. Many of the locals are outraged at the deal(s) done, the renminbi owned, the concessions made etc etc. with China effectively now the master of the domain. It might be argued that it was all the fault of the previous regime but the current administration proceeds down the same path – making even more concessions etc. So while the locals might be overflowing with resentments, it might also be argued that those in charge have strong, positive relations with China. And it’s likely that the next government won’t radically alter that – even though there will be many that want a new direction.

    Again – IT DEPENDS … Lots of strong feelings against China in Vietnam for historical wrongs like invasions etc but those living on the borders seem to get along on a day-to-day basis. But I have no expertise so what I say has no validity when compared to anyone who might ‘know’. Then there’s relations with North Korea – which run hot and cold. Is North Korea a supporter of the United States? Sometimes the US President thinks so. But (really).

    Revisions on China: Abandoning the Nixon Legacy

  33. Phil

    Message from the Home Office.

    Don’t tell me those damned ‘ Coolies ‘ are getting uppity again. It may well be time to send in Britannia and teach these uppity ‘ Coolies ‘ another lesson. What happened to the good old days, when the British were keeping these Oriental lay about’s in luxuries like food and clothes. We have had a request from the distinguished PM of Australia, who believes the Antipodes are under threat of invasion from the Chinese. .Over the top what?

    A bit of a worry it would seem. Back in the old days, in that part of the world, when Britannia ruled the waves and the sun never set on our glorious empire we could sit in the Raffles Hotel quaffing back large icy cold Gin Slings and the bed warmers as they were affectionately known, would know their place. I remember the old Rickshaw races outside the Raffles, where we would have a few too many drinkie poos and we were rather over weight as I remember it, we would make these Coolies run flat out up and down the street pulling a load of us gentlemen and were pleased to do it. You would think you were at the Aintree races, the only thing missing were the horses wah wah wah, there was much merriment and guffaws a plenty. You know the Chinese are such a misunderstood people, they were very sporting about it all as I recall it. They were well compensated too, we would give them a couple of jars of dried fish and a bag of rice.

    I think Mr Morrison may be exaggerating about the situation but , we will see how things develop. We will keep a Destroyer on standby and send it up the Yangtze river if required.

    Admiral Sir Peter Lead Bottom.

    Commander of Her Majesties forces in South East Asia.

  34. mark delmege

    I’m still wondering if A Commentator thinks Hillary is a fit and proper person to be POTUS.

  35. Jack Cade

    Insofar as AIMN is concerned, ‘a commentator’ is its very own contrarian.
    A Karen, perhaps…

  36. mark delmege

    Biden of course is no better (than killery) caught with his fingers in the cookie jar and elsewhere. Trump is basically politically retarded and there is no re-call setting. The quicker it crashes and burns the better imo. As they say ‘creative destruction’ could be the best course ahead.

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