Counterrevolutionary Clamour Threatens China in the South China Sea and Beyond

Pictured: Australian and American warships trespassing China’s waters

R. Beiterin, July 2020

The Australian government has recently written a letter to the United Nations claiming that China’s claims in the South China Sea are “illegal”. This diplomatic posturing occurred mere days after, in a show of blatant aggression and attempted intimidation, Australian warships skirted at the borders in China’s waters to try and destroy China’s military build-up in the South China Sea. That is not to mention months of joint US and Australian warships going past the borders to actively trespass in China’s waters. These fresh threats against China comes in the wake of Liberal Party Prime Minister Scott Morison’s recent announcement of his plan to spend $270 billion in building up the Australian Military. His reasons for doing so are simple. An Indo-Pacific “free from coercion and hegemony […] guided by international rules and norms” – that is, “free” from the spectre of  “Chinese influence” throughout the Indo-Pacific and specifically in China’s own waters in the South China Sea which capitalists worldwide try to claim as “international” (read: imperialist controlled). Their goals are not subtle. They want to “take back China” for imperialist plundering, to before the Chinese Revolution drove them out, establishing an, albeit bureaucratically deformed, workers state. As Trotskyists we maintain an unconditional defence of all workers states, no matter how bureaucratically deformed, which includes defending China’s developments in the South China Sea as a key measure in ensuring its security by both protecting its shipping routes as well as allowing access to the reserves of natural resources located there. 

What is an “Australian Influenced Indo-Pacific Free from Coercion and Hegemony”?

To understand Australia’s actions, one must first look to see the true goals of the Australian state behind their stated reasons. That is, one must see the history of Australia’s imperialist terror throughout the pacific in their efforts to maintain Australian and US imperialist domination in the region. This can easily be seen in the 1987 Fiji coup where a joint Australia-US operation overthrew the Fijian government who had banned visits by American nuclear warships – an action seen as a threat to imperialist domination in the region in their anti-Soviet drive at the time. It is obvious that Australia has never been a force to “defend the waters” for smaller nations of the Indo-Pacific, but rather they are a force to maintain all waters under imperialist control, and will do anything to keep it that way. Using the same language as many anti-Communists of today, the Wall Street Journal commented that “Australia and New Zealand, assuming they would prefer not to be surrounded by outposts of the Russian empire, might have to face up to some greater responsibilities for the peace of the region” – what “peace” they brought! 

While claiming to be a representative of “international law”, Australian imperialists consistently disregard those laws whenever it is to their benefit. In 2002, Australia had withdrew their recognition for the International Court of Justice’s maritime boundary between itself and Timor-Leste in order to squeeze more profits from the poverty stricken nation. And successful they were. In 2004, Australia took blatantly criminal actions when it enlisted the Australian Secret Intelligence Service to actively spy on the Timorese government. They did so in order to further undermine the country in negotiations over access to the Greater Sunrise oil fields. The result was a deal which was a boom for Australian and US imperialists at the expense of Timor-Leste, who lost tens of billions of dollars in profits. Since this fact was revealed the Australian state has embarked on a legal crusade to attempt to prosecute and jail the whistleblower who publicised it, a project continuing to this day in a secret trial hidden from the public. Today, Timor-Leste remains one of the most impoverished nations in Asia while Australia has taken billions of dollars from oil and gas which lay in what should be Timor-Leste’s jurisdiction, eventually after decades “settling” on a horrid deal where Australia still directly pockets a huge chunk of profits extracted from the sea just off the coast of Timor-Leste. It is clear that international law is just a weapon to imperialists. To be used to bash in the heads of their enemies, while ignoring them when it inconveniences them. To put it simply, Australian imperialists don’t want an “Indo-Pacific free from coercion and hegemony”, they want an Indo-Pacific free for Australian/US imperialist coercion and hegemony

What is being fought for in the South China Sea?

The South China Sea through the straits of Malacca allows sea access throughout the Indian Ocean, and as such is a key location for maritime trade. It is estimated that one third of global shipping goes through the South China Sea1. In 2016 $1460 Billion USD of trade value was through the sea by China alone, 39.5% of China’s total trade in goods2. This leaves China extremely vulnerable as it is quite economically dependent on its access to the South China Sea. For years this has been a major concern to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with its youth wing controlled paper China Youth Daily stating in 2004 that “It is no exaggeration to say that whoever controls the Strait of Malacca will also have a stranglehold on the energy route of China”. With approximately 80% of China’s oil imports being dependent on the strait, such a statement is no exaggeration. As such, the US and Australia both look to controlling this vital trade route so that when they so wish, such as in the event of a war, they could easily cut off access of the South China Sea to China crippling them economically.

If the recent war postures were to actualise, it is likely that the US and Australia with the aid of its local capitalist lackeys of Taiwan, Malaysia, et al would specifically seek out such a naval blockade to strangle China’s capabilities. To stop such a situation, China has built up a presence throughout the South China Sea through establishing military control in several islands and reefs. Capitalists have not turned a blind eye to this. And with the spread of coronavirus they have begun invoking mass anti-Chinese sentiments which were preparations to up their provocations against China. With Morrison’s new military funds being the latest of such actions. By treading through the South China Sea, American and Australian imperialists seek to reassert their dominance over the waters to weaken and drive out China, leaving the entire area “free”, that is, free for economic domination and exploitation by imperialist powers. Australia playing the role of junior imperialist to the US has in recent months, begun to take an even more proactive role in fighting against China. With taking the lead in the coronavirus induced China-bashing as well as a huge increase in military spending being two huge examples. These actions must be opposed. Marxists take a military side with China in their military build-up in the South China Sea as an effective measure to defend its interests against any attempted imperialist chokehold.

The Bogeyman of “Chinese Influence” spurs Yellow Peril Hysteria

As US and Australian imperialism has long dominated the Indo-Pacific, even the smallest investments by China into the region has put them into an anti-China frenzy. In reality, China’s minor investments do not do much to impose its “coercion and hegemony” in the region, and are completely dwarfed when looking at Australia’s bloody imperialist terror which has plagued the Indo-Pacific for so long. This fear of “invasion in the backyard” is part of the greater racist myth that China is currently slowly surrounding Australia with de facto puppet governments and is slowly “invading” Australia itself. First China “invades” and controls its own city in Hong Kong, then it “invades” the rest of Indo-Pacific before finally making Australia nothing more than a puppet government. And this is not just a delusion of the most belligerent rightists, but also common sentiment with the anti-racist posturing Greens and the ALP. Clive Hamilton’s book, “Silent Invasion” perhaps symbolises this sentiment perfectly – where the cover is of a Chinese flag hoisted upon the parliament in Canberra, replacing the current Australian flag. A member of the Greens party, he is emblematic of how capitalists’ anti-racist posturing is thrown out the window the second it suits their “little Australia” nationalist interests. The text spreads the fiction of China “invading” Australia through universities, government institutions and even preparing to make sovereign claim over Australia itself. Such invasion would be done through supposed Chinese immigrants who act as “China’s Fifth Column in Australia”, marking every Han Chinese person as a potential spy, traitor and enemy of “Australian democracy”. And the mere toleration of Chinese Australians – barring amorphous blob of “the good ones” of course – is paving the way for “Chinese Hegemony” in Australia. This “Protocols of the Central Committee of China” has become a rallying text for many anti-China chauvinists to gather around. And represents the key ideas which seeps throughout much of the ruling class of Australia.

Vietnam’s treacherous alliance with US and Australian imperialism

In Morrison’s speech announcing his counterrevolutionary crusade his against China he states how Australian imperialism has “deepened defence and security cooperation with partners new and old, including the United States, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.”3 It is no accident that he has honoured the bureaucratically deformed Vietnamese workers’ state alongside its imperialist allies and capitalist lackeys. Decades after its social revolution which drove out the capitalists and landlords as well as its imperialist patrons, Vietnam has in recent years joined hands with US imperialism and has begun acting as its cat’s paw. This has included allowing the US and Australian war ships to visit Vietnamese ports as well as receiving funding by the US for its coast guard.

Such actions are reminiscent of when China acted as America’s cat’s paw in assisting the anti-Soviet crusade which culminated with counterrevolution, creating the current world order where China has become the main target of imperialists. In 1979 China had invaded Vietnam at the interests of America, where they were thankfully beaten back. This is a reflection of the fact that the ruling bureaucracies of both China and Vietnam uphold the nationalist dogma of “socialism in one country”. These actions are not a reflection of the good of the world proletariat, but of the interests of the narrow nationalist castes that sit atop the workers’ states. The solution to this is proletarian political revolution to sweep away the bureaucracies of both the deformed workers’ states. Healthy workers’ states would be able to solve such territory squabbles easily. With both countries cooperating through mutual defence and sharing of resources they would both work towards the best interests of world revolution and refuse any such treacherous alliance with imperialists.

For Workers Democracy in the Chinese Workers’ State

The recent provocations by Australian and American Imperialists are nothing new, it is the latest in a long line of aggression towards China. It is clear that nothing will satiate them short of counterrevolution. In spite of all this, the CCP still chooses to attempt to reconcile with them. This is in line with their Stalinist Dogma of “socialism in one country” where you can avoid butting heads with world capitalism and just build socialism nationally. Trotskyists counterposes this with international socialism, and we fight for the political overthrow the patristic Stalinist caste that threatens the very existence of the workers’ states it sits atop to establish genuinely Marxist leadership. In spite of the bureaucratic leadership of the CCP, we take a military side with China in its actions in the South China Sea as defensive measures against imperialist encroachment and encirclement. This does not mean we put faith in the CCP, who are acting only because it serves their narrow bureaucratic interests to defend the state they extract their privileges from, albeit in a very limited fashion which in the long run will only lead counterrevolution.

Defeat Australian Imperialists’ Counterrevolutionary Crusade!

US and Australian military presence out of the South China Sea and all of the Indo-Pacific!

  1. https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/rmt2018_en.pdf []
  2. https://chinapower.csis.org/much-trade-transits-south-china-sea/ []
  3. https://www.pm.gov.au/media/address-launch-2020-defence-strategic-update []