Re-Orientation

A sneeze or mortal threat?

In the preface to his last and perhaps most significant work, Andre Gunder-Frank cited what he called “Fairbank’s Rule No. 2”: “Never try to begin at the beginning. Historical research progresses backward not forward… Let the problems take you back.”1 My mother was a forensic photographer. One of her less appetizing assignments was for the record of corpses returned from Jonestown, Guyana, after what has since been billed as a mass suicide by a bizarre religious sect led by an American named Jones.2 My arguments in these pages have implicitly followed that rule and perhaps derive from that inclination to the historical that all forensics involves.

I have already argued in previous essays that the ruling elite in the West — let us call them the owners of NATO for simplicity — by virtue of their education and indoctrination possess a degree of consistency and determination which is not generally shared among the bulk of the far less organised population. Wealth and power permit not only an exercise of the will but a formation of interests which are far more focussed and of longer duration than the desires of ordinary people who are managed by advertising or police. If we continue to assume that the ruling elite has a rationality that is coherent with that of the broad mass, the majority of the population, we deny ourselves the vantage point needed to understand events through the past.

Of course, it is easy to get lost in debate as to the constitution of the ruling elite, to attempt to disaggregate groups and interests to show — as normative political scientists and sociologists do — that concerted behaviour is ultimately short-lived or impossible because of intra-elite competition. This is part of the same theoretical apparatus used to justify the current economics ideology — marginalism. With the nominal end of the Western chattel slavery regime, the ideology of white supremacy upon which it became based was modified. That was the real intellectual accomplishment of what was later called in the US the “Progressive Era”. Progressivism became the dominant Western ideology by the end of World War I and the military-industrial complex became the standard bearer of that ideology. It remains the ideology of what passes for “Left” in the US and has always been the underlying philosophy of liberalism. Hence when all debate transcripts are read and/ or burned it is the progressive consensus that maintains Western empire, led by the Atlantic alliance. Progressivism is embedded in modern mass media and its particular form of communication — one which is ultimately military and not democratic in nature (unless one means the form of democracy tied to the slavery system).

Given the foregoing, the problem that should now take us back is the current panic produced by the incidence of an illness known popularly as the “corona virus”, a kind of influenza detected in central China, in or around the major city of Wuhan. The result of this detection has been a combination of central government measures and a mass media saturation, which together make it impossible to assess with absolute certainty what has happened and the degree of seriousness or urgency; i.e., the risk involved.

The temptation is to look for the origin, the beginning of it all and then to argue the consequences both present and future.

However, it may be more fruitful to look at the essential problem created and work back to the range of issues upon which this problem is based.

The essential problem is not new, but it has become critical for the West. From the end of the Opium Wars in the first half of the 19th century until 1949, China was practically a tribute state of the Western powers. In 1949 the People’s Liberation Army under Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese Communist Party succeeded in expelling the last of the tributary forces led by Chiang Kai-Shek. Chiang had seized control of the Kuomintang, the original nationalist organisation led by Sun Yat-sen and driving out the communists made it into an instrument of European collaboration until the Japanese invasion in 1937. The Kuomintang was driven to the island of Formosa where they remain today.

Until Richard Nixon was elected POTUS in 1968, the People’s Republic of China had been formally isolated from all international fora. Following US diplomatic recognition and its replacement as “the” China in the UN Security Council, successive leaders of the People’s Republic of China have promoted the industrial modernisation and development of the country. This meant expansion of foreign trade — also to obtain resources insufficiently available domestically — and increased exchange to obtain know-how and increase goodwill.

The Western empire, both its North American and European components, saw the opening of China as a vast new opportunity to deindustrialise and further undermine the organisation of their own working class and unemployed — in the interest of higher profits as always. Thus a strange reverse occurred. Whereas in the 19th century the West destroyed Asian industry to promote its own factory system, now the West was using China to destroy its own aging factory system, not for modernisation but for wealth extraction. The intensification of this process only became possible after 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Until 1989 the Soviet Union was the most crucial ideological challenger to the Anglo-American system of piracy and plunder. It was visible, linguistically assessable and although incapable of expansion given NATO forces on all its outer borders, still an inspiration for the newly emerging independent states — the former colonies and protectorates of Euro-American empire.

Once European state socialism had been overthrown, Progressivism could rejuvenate its imperial attributes. Hence Progressives defended, even advocated, the destruction of Yugoslavia and the dismantling of social infrastructure that had been created as bulwarks against local socialist demands (going back to Germany’s “progressive”, Otto von Bismarck, the original author of that country’s social security programs).

The collapse of the Soviet Union and with it the strangling of the anti-imperial struggle in what was once called the Third World left China as the only communist country on the planet.

Contrary to Western expectations the industrial penetration of China was unable to dislodge the Chinese Communist Party or its claims to Chinese sovereignty.

China’s sovereignty has what might be called natural causes. With some 20 per cent of the world’s population in the fifth largest national territory, it is virtually self-contained. However, like all large populations in history, adequate distribution of food, housing and amenities has been a challenge, aggravated by the great size of the country and complexity of logistical tasks to be accomplished. For most of recorded history China has been the centre or the fulcrum of world population and society. One would not know that from any history classes or books and other media in the West. In fact, one only has to look at the standard Mercator projection to see the way in which China has been presented to the West — despite the fact that Europe was an insignificant population of nut and berry eaters on the Eurasian peninsula until about 1600.

Returning to the problem: ostensibly it is the incidence of an influenza strain in the world’s most populous nation and meanwhile second largest economy (whatever that really means).

Since this incident with a reported toll of deaths and infections, not even approaching the constant annual death toll in the US for ordinary surgical procedures or common influenza, the major corporate and state propaganda instruments of the West —  including especially the BBC which still profits from widely held if misguided trust around the world — has presented China as the source of an outbreak comparable to bubonic plague. Some 200 – 300 deaths have been presented as an impending extinction event. Thus magnifying the already cultivated fear that China’s development will trigger the climate catastrophe St Greta is preaching.

Unlike Western governments that routinely deny the existence or risk of the illnesses and hazards that arise in their territories — unless there is pecuniary advantage in their exaggeration — the Chinese government has taken what measures which would be impossible in the West, even under conditions of World War. At this writing it is impossible to say how long these measures will remain in effect. They are public health measures of a basic nature that amaze and awe simply by the scale in which they have been imposed. Thus we see the degree of social and political organisation which China has developed for protecting 50 million people in Hubei Province where Wuhan (population 11 million) is located. If one takes a country in the West of comparable size, let us say the United Kingdom, one can see how incompetent Western political organisations really are. Or perhaps we should say that organised selfishness for the benefit of whites — the guiding principle of Western “civilisation” — is incompatible with the very notion of public health and welfare.

Nonetheless, the events in China are disturbing. They do not reflect on China but on the West. If one goes from the apparent problem, an influenza incident developed into a public health crisis, to the historical context in which it arose, then it is necessary to see the current conflict honestly.

The Anglo-American Empire and hence its vassals are at war with China. This is not a cold war. It is a very hot one. It is being fought on all continents and with every conceivable weapon. The imperial propaganda apparatus (80% of the world’s mass media, including the unacknowledged control over the Internet — which after all runs on US servers everywhere except in China) — has focused on the narrow issue of “trade war” between the US (reduced to Trump) and China. This is a significant distortion of the facts. With substantial US manufacturing assets in China and China as holder of some 20% of outstanding US government debt, intellectual property and dumping prices — in US markets — are trivial points. Nonetheless these are the kinds of points that fill the pages or broadcast minutes of the media consumed by the “educated classes” in the West.

The climate crusade, the covert wars and coups in Latin America and Africa and the manipulation of stock markets for which Western “banks” (e.g. Goldman Sachs) are notorious are all directed at maintaining the marginal power of the West over China in the face of declining population and shrinking economies.  These measures are intended to deny China access to resources and markets for obtaining those resources that are scarce domestically.

The covert funding and support for border actions in Hong Kong, Tibet and the Muslim-dominated provinces are — following the strategy Brzezinski applied to the Soviet Union — aimed at diverting resources to military operations and creating a “terrorist” threat. Until now — and despite intensification of these actions last year — the Chinese government has refused to fall into the trap that Brzezinski bragged was his special contribution to destroying the Soviet Union.

In other words the two principal weapons of the West, “cold war” and “border terrorism using religious/ political sects” have thus far aggravated China’s external relations but were unable to provoke negative action or induce serious destruction.

However, the most serious threat to the West is not China’s foreign trade. Rather it is the return to sovereign economic self-sufficiency. At a time when the West has destroyed its own internal markets through financialisation and reintroduction of debt peonage, the loss of China as a tributary is something no Western banker, investor or member of the military-industrial-banking complex can view with equanimity.

The resistance to Google and other corporate machines for dominating the commercial internet — nonsense about “net neutrality” notwithstanding — and a body of users big enough to bear the cost of even a hermetically sealed domestic internet system is a genuine threat to Western Empire. An independent Internet in China — perhaps even shared with Russia — would ruin Silicon Valley and the military organisation that really manages it.

So what does this mean in viral terms? The attack on China with biological — mass media weapons—and they must be seen together as a kind of binary weapon (like the types developed in the West for combat) — is an attempt to invade the domestic economy. The incident satisfies the prima facie conditions for any covert action: it is deniable and it is in the interests of the authors. Does this prove that the viral agents were introduced by some folks in trench coats and dark glasses with a pocket full of vials? Quite the contrary, the mythology of covert action has distorted entirely the perspective needed to see this event accurately.

It can be immediately argued that the incidence of the virus in question in other parts of the world, including Europe and North America, shows that it must be a genuine infectious incident with no specific target. This underlines the deniability — whether or not fatalities occur.

The covert action is not primarily the disease incident itself regardless of its putative lethality. It would be misguided to focus on the possible origin of the disease or its introduction to vulnerable persons. Such a disease incident in the West would go relatively unnoticed or neglected — like AIDS or the deliberate nicotine enrichment of cigarettes by American tobacco product manufacturers or innumerable industrial toxins sold and released in the West which still kill, not even counting atomic power.

The covert action lies in the remarkably overt action that everyone seems to take for granted: namely, the intensity of the mass propaganda campaign which, given the sensitivity of the Chinese government to all health issues among its enormous population, had to induce actions of an unparalleled kind. The Chinese government could not be provoked to using the PLA against Hong Kong protesters. Nor has it used its military abroad where it was clearly threatened. However, the West has provoked the Chinese government into taking actions that have impaired its domestic economic and social activity at a critical moment. These actions will incur costs that have to be borne by China alone. They are probably not insurmountable but the combination of a minor virus and a viral Western mass media have exposed the Chinese domestic economy to an enormous threat.

In a sense China finds itself with a reincarnation of the strategy pursued by Britain and its vassals in the Opium Wars. After invading and corrupting the Chinese regime with the opium trade, the British were able to humiliate China and together with France, Germany and the United States force it to pay tribute, to function as a subordinate part of the Western empire.

Seventy years ago that subordination ended. But for the indoctrinated ruling elite of the West no nation enjoys a natural right to its sovereignty and no escaped prisoner is ever forgiven. Recovered slaves were permanently disfigured and if they were free too long they were killed to prevent contamination of those still in chains. This is the deep cultural tradition that shapes Western relations to China (and the rest of Asia).

The effectiveness of China’s response to the disease is only important for its own people. The far more dangerous virus has its epicentre elsewhere beyond China’s shores. China’s sovereignty will rely upon the capability to protect the consciousness of its people from the insidious viruses that infect most of the West — and it would seem incurably. The rest is little more than a common cold.

  1. Andre Gunder-Frank, ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age, University of California Press, July 31, 1998. []
  2. Since the Jonestown incident significant indications point to the “sect” actually having been a cover for offshore pharmaceutical experiments, in particular precursors to Prozac. Jones appears to have been a CIA asset connected to the infamous Dan Mitrione. Both came from the same town and apparently had contact while Mitrione was in Brazil. Shortly after this incident CIA director GHW Bush joined the Ely Lilly board. Lilly had also been an LSD supplier. In short, human experiments offshore not only serve putative defense purposes but help the drug industry. []
Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is also the author of Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa. Read other articles by T.P..