By Chris Fry
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence addressed the right-wing think tank the Hudson Institute on October 4 and presented the Trump administration’s policy toward the People’s Republic of China with a vicious attack on the Chinese government. “This is the Trump administration’s ‘evil empire’ speech,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington. “This looks to me like deliberate confrontation.” This is the first of a series of articles exploring the escalating Trump regime’s attacks on the People’s Republic of China and the increasing threat of a Pentagon war against that socialist country.
Francis Cabot Lowe and his family were on their way home to the U.S. from Britain in 1812 when their ship was stopped by an armada of British warships and held for several days at the naval base in Halifax, Canada. British soldiers repeatedly searched the Lowe family luggage looking for design drawings and technical descriptions. They found nothing. After several days, the Lowe family was released. Why did this happen?
Lowe was a wealthy Boston merchant. When he arrived in Britain, he told authorities he was on a “family vacation.” He “just happened” to visit several factories with the latest industrial technology — the steam-powered weaving machines — that were revolutionizing the British textile industry, which accounted for half of all British exports. This would generate huge fortunes for both the factory owners and U.S. slaver cotton growers, while at the same time force terrible working conditions on the British workers and increase the brutality, torture, rape and super-exploitation of the enslaved African people in the U.S. South.
Too late did the factory owners and their government minions figure out why Lowe was there. During that summer the U.S had declared war on Britain, and the authorities realized that Lowe was intent on stealing their industrial secrets. But Lowe knew that he would be stopped, so he memorized all the technical details of the machines that he had seen. With the help of a “genius mechanic” named Paul Moody, Lowe was able to develop several textile factories in the Northeast.
Before Lowe, the U.S. capitalist class already was eager to steal trade secrets. Entrepreneurs advertised openly for skilled British operatives who were willing to risk arrest and imprisonment for sneaking machine designs out of the country. Tench Coxe, Alexander Hamilton’s deputy at Treasury, created a system of bounties to entice sellers of trade secrets, and sent an agent to steal machine drawings, but he was arrested.” (Foreign Policy, Dec. 6, 2012)
Scientific development under socialism
The Soviet Union astonished the world in 1957 by launching Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. In 1961, they followed that up by sending the first person into space: Yuri Gagarin. The U.S. ruling class was stunned. How could a “backward” country like the USSR, a socialist state without the profit motive, pull off this technical breakthrough? After all, it was the U.S. which was sheltering Nazi mass-murdering scientists like Wernher Von Braun so that they could develop rockets for the Pentagon and NASA.
The U.S. had assumed that the Soviets developed the atomic bomb by stealing nuclear secrets, and in its unjust and vengeful fury, it executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg; however, Sputnik proved how incorrect their view of scientific development under socialism really was.
When the Trump regime announced $50 billion in tariffs set on Chinese imports, some in the “liberal” portion of the media complained that this move would raise prices and eventually lead to lower production and layoffs. This is true.
But both the right and left halves of the corporate elite and their talking heads agree that something must be done about China’s alleged “theft of intellectual property.” They imply to the workers and oppressed here that China’s technical development comes from spy rings stealing industrial secrets from U.S. corporations. They imply that the Chinese scientists and workers are incapable of developing sophisticated computer and other technologies. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The “intellectual property” that the capitalist class talks about is their patents. When a worker or team of workers invents something, the company owner will immediately draw up a patent, a legal declaration that protects the method to create that device or process from that company’s competitors. These are carefully kept secrets, and armies of lawyers are hired by corporations to resolve patent disputes among the capitalist class. Of course, all of this hinders overall technical development in the capitalist countries.
But China is not a capitalist country, despite decades of it allowing imperialist corporations to operate within China and exploit Chinese workers, along with some Chinese private companies. China is still a workers’ state, a term coined by Karl Marx to describe the 1871 Paris Commune, where the banks and government are controlled by the Communist Party of China, not the capitalist class.
As such, when it can, the government of China always seeks to expropriate the patents from the Western companies that exploit its workers. “‘Use’ patents are freely awarded for Chinese versions of Western inventions. High-value chips are denied import licenses unless companies allow the ‘inspection’ of their source code. Western partners willingly make Faustian bargains to contribute crown jewel technologies for the sake of immediate contracts. German companies that once supplied [magnetic levitation] technology to their Chinese high-speed rail partners now find themselves shut out by newly born Chinese competitors. [In 2011], GE made a similar deal involving its highly valuable, and militarily sensitive, avionics technology.” (foreignpolicy.com)
Threat to U.S. imperialism
A March 22 New York Times article points out that: “[U.S.] companies sometimes willingly strike deals with Chinese partners because they feel China is too profitable to miss out on.
“In some industries, like car production, China has long required foreign companies to team up with local partners. Auto giants like General Motors and Ford, for example, make cars in Chinese factories that are jointly owned by Chinese partners… Companies like Qualcomm, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Microsoft have also struck up Chinese partnerships in recent years to avoid political pressure or regulatory tangles.”
In 2015, the Chinese government launched the “Made in China 2025” initiative, combining heavy investments in education as well as research and development to gain a “a leadership position in the key technologies and industries of the future, from artificial intelligence to biotech and robotics.” (Forbes, Aug. 10)
The Chinese working class has endured decades of suffering at the hands of the imperialist exploiters. But they have won a four-fold increase in their wages and an annual economic growth rate of 10 percent for their country. By some measures, including that of the World Bank, China has already surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest economy.
In a socialist world, where the wealth that the world’s workers produce can be equally shared, this would not be a problem at all. But in a world still dominated by imperialism, headed by the U.S. ruling class and currently led by the fanatical Trump and his ultra-rightist clique, China represents a deadly threat to their imperialist hegemony. And that, as Lenin pointed out a hundred years ago, is the root of imperialist war.