'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Silk Road 

[This post is by guest blogger Richard Estes. Richard lives in Northern California, and co-hosts a radio program, with an emphasis upon peace, civil rights, labor and environmental issues, on KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, CA.]

As President Bush discovers to his chagrin on an almost daily basis, his ability to reconfigure the world according to the principles of the “war on terror” is non-existent. Different peoples, cultures and economies go their merry way, most recently demonstrated by events in countries like Venezuela, Ecuador and Uzbekistan, and possibly, next year, even in neighboring Mexico.

But to what extent is the left passively accepting the Bush template, albeit in an oppositional respect, as a paradigm for evaluating world events? Recently, I had an experience that provoked me to ask this question. At an event, I encountered some people, and they engaged me in a discussion about the influence of pro-Israel organizations like AIPAC and JINSA on US foreign policy. While acknowledging their power (after all, they publicize it as a form of self-promotion), I responded that there are other comparable organizations, suchas, for example, the Taiwan lobby. Blank stares all around.

Apparently, they were unaware that this lobby is so influential that it has procured a US commitment to sell weapons to Taiwan for possible use against by China, leaving open the prospect of direct US military intervention, with a recent US/Japan statement that, for the first time, explicitly includes the Taiwan Strait within their areas of common strategic concern, even as both countries outwardly profess to support a “one China” policy. Japan will not clarify whether US/Japanese military cooperation includes possible intervention in a conflict between China and Taiwan.

Ignorance on the left may not be bliss when it comes to China. Far sighted neo-conservatives have already become bored with the Middle East, seeking new fields of conquest, and China, as has it been for many centuries, is an alluring prize. The Pentagon and the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission describe China as a multifaceted threat that would seem to easily surpass the perils posed by Islamic fundamentalism. So, perhaps, it is time for the left to decide whether the neo-conservatives are bluffing on this one, and, if not, how to respond. Otherwise, we may find ourselves faced with the comical, yet politically effective, transformation of Hu Jintao into the Saddam Hussein of Asia, say, sometime around 2009.

Furthermore, there are other reasons for the left to reemphasize China, hopefully in a much more mature way than it did when many uncritically celebrated Maoism in the 1960s and 1970s. Like much of the rest of the world, China is a turbulent society, as the globalization process, combined with a corrupt, autocratic political system, intensifies income disparities between rich urbanites and poor peasants, as described most vividly in Survey of Chinese Peasants. Wang Bing’s epic documentary film trilogy, West of the Tracks, is a compelling, real time portrayal of the disintegration of the Chinese proletariat.

Meanwhile, China has been described as a unique, contentious zone of cultural synergy arising from the intersection of pre-modern, modern and post-modern values as China enters the global marketplace. If anything, for an American like myself, it echoes what has been transpiring in Mexico. Could it be possible that the left must prevail within the sweatshops, academia and culture industries of countries like these in order to overcome the imperial neo-conservative vision?

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