The capitalist press is busy speculating on the motives of the People’s Republic of China in setting up an Air Defense Information Zone that covers the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.
Some say it was a test of the U.S. government, others that it was a test of the Japanese government. Some say it was an attempt by the PRC to push the U.S. back in that region.
Whatever the intentions and expectations of the PRC, these are the wrong questions. The working class and the masses of Asia should be asking different questions. Such as:
What gives the U.S. military the right to send B-52 bombers to violate legally recognized rights and rules recently established by a sovereign government, representing 1.3 billion people, over air space that is just minutes of flight time from the shores of China? The bombers, which deliberately entered the ADIZ on Nov. 25 without notifying China, were more than 7,000 miles from U.S. shores.
The PRC had announced two days earlier that it was establishing the ADIZ over that area. The ADIZ requires that other countries notify China of any flight plans in advance before entering the zone. Over 20 countries have established such zones off their shores, including the U.S. and Japan.
Most importantly, the Japanese government has a similar zone that covers the disputed islands.
Another question should be: Why are the Diaoyu Islands called “disputed” by all the imperialists? There is no legal basis for any dispute over the islands. They belong to China and were stolen by Japanese imperialism in 1895.
Japanese imperialism now illegally occupies the islands with the blessing of U.S. imperialism. The islands lie 150 miles from China’s shores and 1,250 miles from Japan. They were stolen from China, annexed in 1895 by the rising Japanese imperialists, who renamed them Senkaku. The Cairo Declaration of 1943, signed by the U.S. and Britain, and the Potsdam Treaty of 1945, also signed by Britain and the U.S., stipulated that the islands should be returned to China.
Since then Washington has not acknowledged Japanese ownership, for fear of alienating its puppet on Taiwan, but it did allow the Japanese to hold onto the islands. Thus Japanese and U.S. imperialism have manufactured a false “dispute” to cover the imperialist annexation.
The ADIZ covers a territory of 1,250 square miles. The Diaoyu Islands are uninhabited rock and not themselves of any value, although they are said to be surrounded by undersea gas and oil deposits. This is undoubtedly a consideration on the part of both governments.
After Chinese youth held demonstrations about the islands in 2012, waving Chinese flags, the Japanese government bought three of the islands from private Japanese landowners, escalating the state-to-state struggle with the PRC.
Abe government and a Nazi constitution
It is no mystery why the PRC would establish an ADIZ in this region. It is a justified and necessary push-back against the aggressive designs of Japanese imperialism.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a right-wing militarist. From his first term as prime minister in 2006 up until today, his foreign policy has been to remilitarize Japan.
He has refused to apologize to the peoples of Asia for Japanese war crimes during World War II. He has refused to acknowledge that the Japanese military compelled thousands of Korean women to become sex slaves for its troops. He wants to rewrite Japanese textbooks to cover up the criminal imperialist past. He has threatened the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea many times and wants to push China back.
Abe wants to rewrite the Japanese constitution, which was imposed by victorious U.S. imperialism after World War II under the supervision of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. That constitution forbids Japanese imperialists from having any military capability to wage war or to settle any disputes by military means. The U.S. occupation forces in Japan guided the study of the country’s history to include condemnation of Japanese aggression.
Of course, there was no mention of U.S., British and French aggression in all of Asia during what was really an inter-imperialist war for control of the Pacific basin.
In practice, this constitution means that the Japanese military is forbidden from participating in imperialist wars and from having long-range bombers, long-range fighter planes, powerful missiles or any other weapon systems that can be used to strike another country.
Abe’s program is really to get around the humiliating terms imposed by U.S. imperialism after World War II.
To give a flavor of the thinking behind the Abe regime, it is worth quoting his deputy prime minister and finance minister, Taro Aso.
This summer, in a speech given to a right-wing group, Aso suggested that Japan change the constitution and remilitarize the country. A transcript of the talk was obtained by the major Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, and a British paper then picked up the story: “‘I don’t want to see this [changing the constitution] done in the midst of an uproar,’ Mr. Aso said. Since revisions of the constitution may raise protests, ‘doing it quietly, just as in one day the Weimar constitution changed to the Nazi, without anyone realizing it, why don’t we learn from that sort of tactic.’” (The Independent, Aug. 1)
Furthermore, Aso encouraged secret visits to the Yakushimi Shrine, which honors Japanese war dead, including 14 officers convicted of war crimes.
When calls for his resignation followed the leaks about his talk, Aso brushed them off, claiming he had been misunderstood. Both the Chinese and south Korean governments denounced the statement and warned against the rising threat of Japanese militarism.
Dual nature of U.S.-Japan relations
The statement by Aso and Abe’s program to remilitarize shed light on the U.S. rush to be the first to break China’s rules for its ADIZ.
Washington used the terms of the U.S.-Japan mutual defense treaty to justify its intervention. In fact, that treaty is totally irrelevant. It applies in the case of a military attack or imminent threat.
Imposing normal rules for air flights close to China’s border in no way reaches a threat level that would invoke the treaty — even from an imperialist point of view.
This move by the Pentagon was calculated to do several things. First, it aimed to confront China and show that the Pentagon’s so-called “Asian pivot,” a euphemism for increasing military pressure on China, was in force. So far, the pivot consists of sending 2,500 U.S. troops to Australia, beefing up joint operations with Japan, making more visits by warships to Asian ports, and other partial measures. The deployment of B-52s over the Diaoyu Islands was an answer to skeptics who question the “pivot.”
Second, it showed the Japanese imperialists that the Pentagon has their back. But it also showed the Japanese regime who is the real boss in the Pacific.
Washington wanted to quiet the right wing, which argues that it cannot depend on the U.S. military to police China and that Japanese imperialism needs its own military capable of aggression.
The U.S. knows that the Japanese imperialist ruling class, although thoroughly defeated in World War II and completely restructured by Washington, has never and will never give up its dreams of being a strong power in Asia. The U.S. fought most of World War II in the Pacific, precisely to prevent that from happening.
Iranian-U.S. negotiations and Pentagon policy in Asia
Powerful forces in the Pentagon are deeply concerned about China. This is reflected in the desire for a so-called “rebalancing” toward Asia and sheds light on the urgency the Obama administration is placing on various negotiations and maneuvers with Iran, Syria, the Palestinians and Afghanistan.
Some in the ruling class have said that the Obama administration is giving up on force in foreign relations. That is far from the truth. U.S. imperialism seeks “stability” in one region, not because it has become more peaceful, but to strengthen itself for aggression somewhere else. Gone are the days when the Pentagon could hold everyone in tow.
U.S.-Iran negotiations on the nuclear question could fall apart tomorrow. The relationship between U.S. imperialism and the Iranian revolution is inherently unstable. But there is a conjuncture of interests that has made the start of negotiations possible. Similarly, if the U.S. position in Syria deteriorates, Washington could still carry out a military adventure in that region.
The Iranians need a respite from crushing sanctions that have brought 40 percent inflation, a drying up of exports and imports, and mass privation. Washington, on the other hand, would like to see some stability in the Middle East in order to turn greater attention to China and the Pacific, with the majority of the world’s population and vast resources for plunder.
The essence of the pivot, as explained originally by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, was to change the relationship of U.S. forces stationed in the Middle East and Asia from 50-50 to 40-60, leaving 40 percent in the Middle East to secure the oil and the sea lanes.
If no settlement is achieved with Tehran, the pressure on Washington to bomb Iran will grow stronger at a time when China is also getting stronger. So there is a Pentagon interest in the negotiations. It should also be noted that the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, was opposed to bombing Syria.
People’s Liberation Army condemns Pentagon
If Japanese imperialism is a long-range threat, U.S. imperialism is a far more powerful and imminent one. It is totally understandable that the PRC would try to establish an international, legal boundary in the East China Sea against Washington, even if it cannot be militarily enforced at the moment.
The totally justified attitude in the People’s Liberation Army of political hostility and suspicion toward Washington was revealed in a 100-minute video called “The Silent Contest.” The video, which appeared on Chinese websites at the end of October, was undated. It was produced by the General Staff Department of the People’s Liberation Army, the National Defense University and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
An article in the Oct. 1 New York Times described the video:
“[T]he film appears to offer a remarkably straightforward glimpse into the Cold War mindset of the Chinese military leadership, as well as the deep suspicions of the United States festering inside one of the most influential institutions in the Chinese political system. …
“‘We have to take careful precaution and look out for the smallest detail, and build a strong political and ideological line of defense,’ General Wang says.
“The university’s president, Wang Xibin, a lieutenant general, appears on camera describing how the United States grooms ‘friendly forces, so-called democratic forces,’ inside China and on the ‘exterior goes against the party’s absolute control of the army.’ He also criticizes visits by American and Chinese military officials to the other’s country, saying that the exchanges will increasingly be used by the United States for ‘infiltration.’”
The video denounces by name a host of counterrevolutionaries inside China, many of whom have received Western honors. It attacks U.S. nongovernmental organizations such as the Carter Center, the Ford Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation and others for making a dangerous “cultural invasion.”
The video denounces the U.S. and British consulates in Hong Kong as virtual nests of spies and in general is a scathing indictment of the attempts by Washington to undermine China from within.
As to why China established the air defense zone, it is easy to believe that the political hostility and suspicion reflected in this video extend to military policy and the struggle against U.S. imperialism on China’s borders.
Goldstein is the author of “Low-Wage Capitalism” and “Capitalism at a Dead End,” which has been translated into Spanish as “El capitalismo en un callejón sin salida.” He also authored the pamphlet “Can socialism be revived in China?”