Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

From War on Terror to "Belt and Road Initiative".

"The War on Terror"

In July 2021 the United States and its NATO allies moved their military out of Afghanistan ahead of the official end date of 11 September, announced by President Joe Biden earlier this year. The war on Terror, begun in 2001, had cost $815.7 billion and 241,000 lives. As the military left the Taliban took more and more territory, seizing rural districts and surrounding some larger cities. The debacle in Afghanistan was similar to the war in Vietnam which saw a brief period of civil war between the US leaving the country and the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975.

So who won the war on terror? The US certainly was supreme in the terror it caused, killing unknown civilians with destructive drones and aircraft strikes. The poppy fields producing heroin are secure and the Taliban might well become the new government although that may still prove to be a poisoned chalice.

One winner is Chinese capitalism. China looks at Afghanistan for investment and strategic influence opportunities. It is part of its great imperialistic plan to dominate the region to the exclusion of the United States.

The earth rich with minerals, the oil, the trade routes and strategic sphere of influence are now lost to the United States. In comes Chinese capitalism.

Kabul authorities, have become much more deeply engaged with Chinese authorities as the two work toward a commercial deal to invest in Afghanistan's infrastructure through China's international "Belt and Brace Initiative".

"The Belt and Braces Initiative"

The "Belt and brace Initiative" is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations

"Belt" is short for the "Silk Belt Economic Belt", referring to the proposed overland routes for road and rail transportation through landlocked Central Asia whereas "road" is short for the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road", referring to the Indo-Pacific sea routes through Southeast Asia to South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Examples of Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure investments include ports, skyscrapers, railroads, roads, airports, dams, and railroad tunnels.
(Kuo, Lily; Kommenda, Niko. "What is China's Belt and Road initiative?" THE GUARDIAN 5 September 2018).

The project has been used by the Chinese Communist Party to grow its influence by providing infrastructure loans to poorer countries in return for control over local resources. The deal would extend the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of the Beijing-led initiative.

The project has included the construction of highways, railways and energy pipelines that reach to Afghanistan. The construction of a major road between Afghanistan and Peshawar, a city in north-western Pakistan, is one of the specific projects on the table.

Trade, competition and International Rivalry

The United States does not like this project. It would create a trade network dominated by China to the exclusion of United States Capitalism. The US has created in 2019 its own initiative with Japan and Australia called the "Blue Dot network".

So as one conflict ends another begins. War and conflict is a fact of life under capitalism where the world is split into competitive nation states.

We live in a world capitalist system shot through with international rivalry and conflict. As one war ends so another begins. With each passing decade tens of thousands of people are maimed and killed while the weapons used to "degrade", "take-out and inflict "collateral damage" become more sophisticated and deadly in their use and consequences.

US warships have passed through the South China Sea with increasing frequency in recent years, in a show of force against the Chinese claims. China has also stepped-up its military presence in the region in recent years, including building artificial islands and air bases, where it has installed missile systems and other equipment.

Recently Forbes Magazine carried an article "Anticipating War with China, The U.S. Air Force Is Fanning out across the Pacific" (June 7 2021). The author, David Axe wrote:

"For years, the U.S. Air Force concentrated its warplanes at just two bases in the western Pacific: for fighters, Kadena Air Force Base in Japan's Okinawa prefecture; and for bombers and big support planes, Guam's Andersen Air Force Base".

Beijing looked at these bases and devised a simple strategy for suppressing U.S. air power in the region. China constructed a couple thousand non-nuclear ballistic missile silos which, in wartime, could be fired at the US bases until their runways, aprons, hangars, fuel tanks and warehouses were nothing but ash blowing in the wind.

After years of build-up, the Chinese rocket force possesses around 1,300 ground-launched missiles with sufficient range to hit Kadena and Andersen from mainland China.

In response, the US government is getting its hands on as many islands to construct mini air force bases thereby dispersing its military over the whole region.

And the military build-up of air craft carriers and destroyers in the region has also increased the likelihood of conflict. Two super powers facing each other for the spoils of the region. And it could all go terribly wrong. According to Bloomberg

"As the world's biggest economies spar on everything from trade to the coronavirus, fears have grown that a miscalculation between warships could spark a wider military confrontation" (December 17 2020).

Capitalism causes war but it is not through market competition and trade - the buying and selling of commodities for profit - that causes governments to go to war. War is usually fought over the acquisition and protection of raw resources, trade routes and spheres of strategic influence.

Raw Resources, Trade Routes and Spheres of strategic influence

Nearly a decade ago, in an edition of FOREIGN POLICY, an article by John Reed, under the heading Surrounded: How the US military is encircling China (20th August 2013), highlighted the increasing conflict between China and the US in the Pacific. The writer was no socialist but the content of the article confirmed the socialist analysis and reasons for war, particularly the consolidation and expansion of spheres of strategic influence.

As John reed, the author of the article wrote:

"The U.S. military is encircling China with a chain of air bases and military ports. The latest link: a small airstrip on the tiny Pacific island of Saipan. The U.S. Air Force is planning to lease 33 acres of land on the island for the next 50 years to build a "divert airfield" on an old World War II airbase there. But the residents don’t want it. And the Chinese are in no mood to be surrounded by Americans.

The Pentagon's big, new strategy for the 21st century is something called Air-Sea Battle, a concept that's nominally about combining air and naval forces to punch through the increasingly-formidable defenses of nations like China or Iran. It may sound like an amorphous strategy -- and truth be told, a lot of Air-Sea Battle is still in the conceptual phase. But a very concrete part of this concept is being put into place in the Pacific. An important but oft-overlooked part of Air-Sea Battle calls for the military to operate from small, bare bones bases in the Pacific that its forces can disperse to in case their main bases are targeted by Chinese ballistic missiles
".

The report also highlighted plans by the USAF to send fighter jets and bombers to bases from countries as far apart as Australia and India.

"In addition to the site on Saipan, the Air Force plans to send aircraft on regular deployments to bases ranging from Australia to India as part of its bulked up force in the Pacific. These plans include regular deployments to Royal Australian Air Force bases at Darwin and Tindal, Changi East air base in Singapore, Korat air base in Thailand, Trivandrum in India, and possibly bases at Cubi Point and Puerto Princesa in the Philippines and airfields in Indonesia and Malaysia..."

China has responded in kind by courting friendly governments like Tonga with vast sums of money for the use of ports and infrastructural development in which to construct military and naval bases. In countries across the South Pacific, Chinese money is pouring into infrastructure and construction projects.

In Tonga, the Chinese have built roads, invested in telecommunications, and just completed a huge wharf that can accommodate cruise liners and container ships. The investment infrastructure has also built influence.

Of course, the wharf could equally be used to support "military assets" such as warships while the investment to infrastructure across the island could lead to the construction of airfields for fighter-jets and ballistic missiles. Chinese capitalism is just as imperialistic as its 19th century European counterparts. Military build-up in the region has not been seen since the Second World War.

And it is not just the Pacific area that the increasing international rivalry between the US and China asserts itself. China’s recent colonial adventurism to take control over disputed islands in the potentially energy-rich waters of the East and South China Seas, against the interests of Japan and the Philippines (both enjoying political and military support from the United States), sets the grounds for future wars not just regionally, but potentially globally too.

If we were living in global socialism and not global capitalism war, death and destruction would not take place. The reasons for war and conflict would not exist. There would be no trade, no buying and selling and no markets.

In socialism, the world would not be connected by trade routes but by the direct transportation of goods and services to where they were needed. Free access and production for use would be the guiding motivation. There would be no artificial barriers, trade competition and hostility over spheres of influence. There would be no countries and no international rivalry. If global war is to be avoided then the world’s working class must democratically and politically organise for the establishment of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution for everyone.

Back to top

Socialist Studies

email: enquiries@socialiststudies.org.uk | www.socialiststudies.org.uk