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Workers Vanguard No. 1036

13 December 2013

U.S./Japanese Imperialists: Hands Off China!

Correction Appended

On November 23, the Chinese government declared an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, requiring any aircraft passing through airspace off its coast to identify itself. The ADIZ is an elementary measure of China’s defense. As Japan’s Nikkei (29 November) noted, not only do Japanese surveillance aircraft patrol these waters, but also for U.S. spy planes “it is not rare to fly close to the Chinese coast and collect information.” Despite the fact that the U.S., Japan and South Korea have their own ID zones, each of their governments was quick to denounce China’s declaration as an act of aggression.

It is the U.S. and Japanese imperialists and Washington’s South Korean underlings who are dangerously escalating tensions in the region as they firm up their alliance against China, a bureaucratically deformed workers state. Shortly after Beijing’s declaration of the ADIZ, two U.S. B-52 bombers flew through the zone without filing flight plans, radioing ahead or registering their radio frequencies. This provocation served to test China’s response and demonstrate U.S. capacity for airborne attacks from Guam. According to Chinese defense ministry reports, ten Japanese early warning, reconnaissance and fighter planes as well as South Korean planes also made unannounced overflights.

While refusing to recognize the ADIZ, the U.S. has advised commercial airlines to notify Chinese authorities of flight plans over the East China Sea “for safety reasons.” This posture should not blind anyone to the danger posed by Washington’s determination to “roll back Communism.” On 1 September 1983, the U.S. sent more than 200 passengers on Korean Airlines Flight 007 to their deaths when it directed the aircraft to pass over sensitive Soviet military installations in order to trigger and then monitor the USSR’s air defenses. After the pilots of the aircraft, which appeared to the Soviets to be a warplane, refused requests to identify themselves or to land, it was shot down.

U.S. imperialism has dominated the Pacific since its defeat of Japan in World War II, a conquest sealed with the incineration of 200,000 Japanese civilians in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That atrocity was intended to send a message to the Soviet Union about who ran the world. The destruction of the USSR by capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92—a historic defeat prepared by decades of imperialist economic and military pressure as well as internal Stalinist misrule—removed what had been the U.S.’s supreme military target and the most substantial counterweight to its aim of world domination.

China, the most powerful country remaining where capitalist rule was overthrown, then became the central target of the imperialists’ counterrevolutionary machinations. In March 1996, the Clinton White House positioned two aircraft carrier groups in the Taiwan Strait that separates mainland China from capitalist Taiwan. In April 2001, under George W. Bush, a U.S. spy plane flying just off China’s Hainan Island collided with a Chinese fighter jet. Subsequently, the “war on terror” served to distract Washington from its main focus on China.

Since 2010, the U.S. has been moving battleships and aircraft carriers to the Far East, signing military pacts and carrying out joint exercises in the name of the “pivot toward Asia,” a top priority of the Obama administration. Among other things, the pivot poses a challenge to China’s access to the Pacific Ocean. In the service of this shift, the White House has eased some of the punishing economic sanctions against Iran in return for an agreement by that country’s new regime to freeze its nuclear development program. At the same time, Washington has found no small amount of difficulty in extricating itself from its quagmires in the Muslim world, from Afghanistan to the Near East.

Although the rulers of U.S. and Japanese imperialism have their own distinct and competing interests, they are aligned behind the goal of destroying the workers state that emerged out of the 1949 Chinese Revolution. Despite its deformation by the rule of a parasitic bureaucracy, that state provides an obstacle to imperialist domination, shielding the country from the full impact of the capitalist world market and allowing for explosive though uneven industrial development. The Chinese workers state must be defended against the imperialists, who aim to return the country to its prerevolutionary status as the supine victim of their depredations, and against the domestic counterrevolutionary forces they promote and support.

For acceding to the demand that flight plans covering the East China Sea be communicated to China, the U.S. incurred criticism from elements of the more bellicose Japanese bourgeoisie as well as its South Korean counterpart. Both Tokyo and Seoul have pressured their domestic airlines to stop informing China of such flight plans. Actually, the U.S. position reflects the strategy of combining military pressure with further economic penetration of the Chinese mainland, as displayed during Vice President Joe Biden’s recent meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping.

In order to gain access to foreign capital, resources and markets, the Beijing Stalinist bureaucracy has acted as labor brokers for capitalists around the world, offering up Chinese workers for exploitation in designated sectors of the economy. The “socialist market economy” has also fostered a nascent capitalist class and other counterrevolutionary forces within the country, with yawning social inequality as well as a sharp rise in workers struggles accompanying economic growth.

Despite these inroads, China today is not capitalist. It continues to be ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) apparatus that emerged from the peasant-based 1949 Revolution, which smashed bourgeois rule. Heavy industry, the land and the core of the financial system continue to be held as collectivized state property. Capitalist counterrevolution would be an enormous defeat not only for the Chinese workers and peasants but for working people around the world, who would be confronted by a strengthened and emboldened imperialist class enemy.

Robber Barons’ Alliance

The U.S.-Japanese military alliance, hatched after World War II as a key part of the anti-Soviet Cold War, remains crucial to American interests in Asia. Reaffirming the alliance, an October 3 joint security statement recognized the U.S.’s “commitment to the security of Japan through the full range of U.S. military capabilities, including nuclear and conventional” and projected “expanding security and defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.” A major component of this alliance continues to be the U.S. military presence in Okinawa.

Over the past two decades, there has been a loosening of some of the restraints on the overseas deployment of Japanese military forces that are codified in Article Nine of the country’s Constitution. As our comrades of the Spartacist Group Japan noted: “With memories of the slaughter of tens of millions by Japan’s imperial army during the Pacific War still very much alive, it is only through its alliance with Washington that Japanese imperialism has been able to deploy its already highly advanced military overseas” (“Down With Japanese Provocations Against China, North Korea!” WV No. 842, 18 February 2005).

Under the hawkish government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Japanese imperialists are accelerating their rearmament drive, recently announcing plans to deploy more F-15s, radar planes and a new helicopter carrier and to build a new army base on an island in the East China Sea by 2016. With China already deploying drones, Japan is also considering buying American drones to patrol the area. As Tania Branigan reported in the London Guardian (27 November), China’s establishment of an ADIZ was “a response to Japan’s extension of its own zone this spring and its recent warning that it was willing to shoot down unmanned drones it regarded as a threat to its airspace.”

Japan’s ADIZ was established by the U.S. when it occupied the country after WWII. Similarly, South Korea’s ADIZ was declared by the U.S. in 1951, during the Korean War against the North Korean Communist regime and Mao’s China. Both these zones overlap with the one China recently declared, with Japan’s running less than 150 kilometers (95 miles) from the Chinese coast in some places. And now South Korea has expanded its ADIZ further over the East China Sea, also jutting into the zone declared by Japan, Korea’s former colonial overlord.

China’s ADIZ includes airspace over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, a chain of rocky, uninhabited outcrops claimed by both Japan and China, and an underwater reef—called Ieodo in Korean and Suyan Rock in Chinese—on which South Korea has built a research station and a heliport. While the U.S. claims to have no position on Senkaku/Diaoyu sovereignty, American spokesmen have made clear that the pact with Japan covers any military clashes over the territory.

In general, the question of the ownership of these uninhabited rocks and islets does not in itself pose defense of the Chinese deformed workers state. However, it is crucial for the international proletariat—particularly in Japan and the U.S.—to oppose imperialist provocations over this territory and, in the case of military attack on China, to stand for defense of the workers state. As Trotskyists, our defense of China in the military sense is not conditional on whatever policies the CCP bureaucracy may pursue.

Japan’s claim of ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dates back to its military victory over China in 1895, when as a rising imperialist power it seized Taiwan (Formosa) and extracted other concessions from the moribund Manchu dynasty. In the dispute over the islands, the CCP has been able to tap the deep popular reservoir of anti-Japanese feeling in China, which is fed mainly by memories of the horrors of Japanese imperialist occupation beginning in the 1930s. It took the 1949 social revolution to break the chains of Western and Japanese imperialism.

However, the CCP regime from Mao Zedong’s time to today has been defined by the narrow nationalism inherent in the Stalinist dogma of “building socialism in one country”—a grotesque perversion of the communist program of world proletarian revolution. In fomenting nationalist opposition to Japan, the CCP drives a wedge between the Chinese workers and peasants and their potential allies in the Japanese, South Korean and other working classes of the region. The bureaucracy’s nationalism also obliterates the class divide between the People’s Republic of China and capitalist Taiwan, whose bourgeois rulers have been courted by Beijing in the effort to catapult China to the status of a world power.

Another criminal expression of Stalinist nationalism is the wrangling between the Chinese and Vietnamese workers states over fishing and mineral exploration rights in the South China Sea. Outright military clashes between the two erupted in 1988 and 2011, in addition to smaller police actions as when the Chinese Navy shot and killed nine Vietnamese fishermen in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2005. Hostilities between the Chinese and Vietnamese regimes provide an opening for imperialist maneuvers and pose a direct danger to both workers states, particularly with the U.S. seizing on the rivalry to secure Vietnam as an ally against China (see “Stirring Up the South China Sea—U.S. Imperialism Tightens Military Vise on China,” WV No. 1005, 6 July 2012).

Typhoon Haiyan and Imperialist Machinations

In another move aimed clearly at squeezing China, the U.S. and Japan seized on Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation of the Philippines to enhance their military presence in contested areas of the South China Sea. The U.S. deployed an aircraft carrier group, marines and surveillance planes, while Japan sent up to 1,000 troops and three warships.

The Philippines, a dependent country long under the thumb of the U.S., is a key theater in the imperialist military encirclement of China, as underscored by joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises conducted earlier this year near the disputed Scarborough Shoal. Following China’s deployment of its one aircraft carrier to the area on November 26, the Philippines appealed to the United Nations to press its claim to these lumps of rock. Beijing’s declaration that it will not abide by a UN resolution on the matter is notable. The same Stalinist regime has criminally contributed its own armed forces for several “peacekeeping” operations conducted by the UN on the imperialists’ behalf far from its own shores.

In seeking to tighten the military vise on China, Washington has resumed aid to special forces in Indonesia, restored diplomatic relations with Myanmar (Burma) and stationed marines in Darwin, Australia. The capitalist regime in South Korea is building a new naval base for 20 warships, ostensibly to protect shipping lanes in the East China Sea for its exports. Behind South Korea’s rulers stands a U.S. military presence that dates back to the 1950-53 Korean War. To maintain the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed there today, the American military has launched an $11 billion project to modernize its aging bases, described by U.S. officials as the biggest military construction effort since the digging of the Panama Canal.

Taiwan, which sent C-130 military transports into the Philippines after the typhoon, has recently received dozens of patrol aircraft and Apache helicopters from the U.S. Ruled by the Chinese bourgeoisie who fled the 1949 Revolution, Taiwan has been viewed by Washington as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” for use against “Red China” ever since 1950, when the U.S. Seventh Fleet occupied the waters between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. Counterposed to the CCP’s program of uniting with Taiwan on the basis of “one country, two systems”—i.e., maintaining Taiwan’s capitalist property relations—Trotskyists call for revolutionary reunification through proletarian political revolution on the mainland to oust the CCP bureaucracy and social revolution on the island.

China and the Capitalist World Economy

For Marxists, the increased development of Chinese military capacity, including nuclear capacity, is a welcome development. This has been achieved in part while U.S. forces were bogged down in the bloody occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the September 11 terror attacks diverted the U.S.’s attention to Afghanistan and Iraq, the concocted “war on terror” also served to strengthen the imperialists’ military arc around China, with military bases placed in Central Asia and military agreements struck with neighboring countries. China’s Stalinist leaders undercut defense of the workers state by endorsing the “anti-terror” campaign.

As one of the largest holders of U.S. government debt, Beijing has also helped to finance the arms buildup directed against China. While this financial relationship induces a certain delicacy in Washington’s posture toward the Chinese leadership, the flare-ups over the East and South China Seas show that it by no means secures the workers state from imperialist maneuvering and military aggression. The Beijing Stalinists’ perspective of offsetting imperialist hostility through diplomatic appeasement and greater trade ties is premised on the illusion that China can steadily develop economically and militarily within the framework of a world dominated by imperialism. In that effort, Xi Jinping discussed with Biden continuing economic sanctions and military pressure to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The result of such betrayal would be both the further weakening of that deformed workers state and the tightening of the imperialist squeeze on China.

To counteract Beijing’s growing economic and diplomatic clout, the U.S. has been pursuing trade deals in the region to exclude China and secure markets for its own industries. The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect in March 2012, is one of more than 20 such pacts in existence. The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. is currently negotiating with numerous countries on the Pacific Rim, including Japan and Australia, excludes China. In the course of the current anti-China furor, South Korea has declared its intention to sign up.

With the global market dominated by the advanced capitalist powers, there is no way for China or the other deformed workers states to develop socialism or to secure lasting peace. Achieving socialism is contingent on material abundance. This goal requires the revolutionary seizure of power by the proletariat on an international scale, crucially within advanced capitalist countries such as the U.S. and Japan. Such a perspective guided the Bolsheviks, who led the October 1917 Russian Revolution.

In The Revolution Betrayed (1936), his classic analysis of the degeneration of the Soviet Union under Stalin, Trotsky noted both the advantages of a collectivized economy in mobilizing industry for military defense and the limitations that sprang from the isolation of the workers state. He wrote:

“Who shall prevail—not only as a military, but still more as an economic question—confronts the Soviet Union on a world scale. Military intervention is a danger. The intervention of cheap commodities in the baggage trains of capitalist armies would be incomparably more dangerous.”

Ultimately, either the combative Chinese proletariat will overthrow the bureaucracy and establish a regime based on revolutionary internationalism and workers democracy, or the bureaucracy will open the way for the destruction of the workers state, as it did in the former Soviet Union. Counterrevolution in the USSR brought nothing but disaster for working people: life expectancy plummeted as millions were thrown into dire poverty and previously guaranteed jobs and services disappeared. Meanwhile, Russia became the land of a few mega-rich oligarchs who plundered the country’s formerly collectivized economy.

Key to defending and extending the gains of the Chinese Revolution is the fight against the imperialist rulers in their own homelands. Together with our comrades in Japan, the Spartacist League/U.S. stands for smashing the counterrevolutionary alliance between Japanese and U.S. imperialism through workers revolution on both sides of the Pacific. Victory for the working people in these struggles requires the forging of Leninist-Trotskyist parties as sections of a revolutionary international.


In “U.S./Japanese Imperialists: Hands Off China!” (WV No. 1036, 13 December 2013), we incorrectly referred to “battleships” being shifted to the Far East as part of President Obama’s “pivot toward Asia.” We should have used the generic term “warships.” The U.S. Navy no longer has any battleships commissioned (nor does any other navy worldwide). (From WV No. 1043, 4 April 2014.)


Workers Vanguard No. 1036

WV 1036

13 December 2013


U.S./Japanese Imperialists: Hands Off China!


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