For those who espouse the false premise that the 20th century’s Cold War was bloodless, they should ask the civilians of Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Laos, Angola, Mozambican, Zimbabwe, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Argentina, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Libya just how bloodless such a Cold War is. While the US and Soviet Union and for that matter the US and China did not fight against one another directly after 1953 (at the end of the Korean War), multiple conflicts across the world continued to claim the lives of millions of civilians as well as soldiers throughout the Cold Era epoch.
Thus, while the streets of Moscow and New York did not fill with blood between 1945 and 1991, the streets of many other capitals did flow with much blood as a result of the rivalry between superpowers. Likewise, while a trade war is often characterised as even more bloodless than a Cold War, this is historically not the case.
There is a powerful argument to be made that economic protectionism (now perversely called economic nationalism) was the primary cause of the First World War. As businesses in one given nation became increasing cut off from customer bases, supply chains and business partners in rival states and alliances, there became an impetus among the private sector to encourage the military-industrial complex of its day to destroy rival nations so as to open their protected markets to businesses from the militarily victorious nation.
By contrast, in a system based on and reliant on the free flow of goods and capital throughout the world, it is in the mutual interests of the wider business community to seek peace as any conflict along the belts and roads of a free trading network can have adverse effects on continued growth, innovation and progress in the marketplace. It is this model of free trade through which China seeks to build a world predicated on the principle of peace through prosperity within the framework of international connectivity, multilateral cooperation and rules based respect for national sovereignty and each nation’s cultural characteristics.
While Donald Trump is often called a racist within the context of US politics, it is important to realise that he is not a racist in the sense of the 20th or 21st century definitions of the term. 20th century racism reached its peak during the 1930s and 1940s in Europe. It was then that racist ideas led to the systematic genocide against those deemed inferior to a master race. In the 21st century, racists who realise the visual horror and high cost of 20th century style genocides have instead decided to promote their racist ideology by using the power of censorship and economic sanctions to remove those speaking and thinking freely from the digital as well as the physical public square.
19th century racism expressed itself in a rather a different manner. In the 19th century, racist ideologies were seen as important motivating factors to encourage the growth of economic and military imperialism. While a lust for stolen resources and strategic geographical spaces was the desired outcome of 19th century imperialism, its clarion call was that of racism. This was expressed by justifying the theft of land, goods and even human chattel through theories that attested to the “fact” that some races have a kind of divine right to rule over others because of an inherent superiority.
It is through this 19th century prism that Donald Trump views nations like China. While China aims for win-win relations with all foreign powers based on mutual respect, dialogue and pragmatic people-centred rational thinking, for Trump, the 19th century’s zero-sum mentality is very much at play. Trump seems to believe that America has an inherent superiority in the world and this means that the US can act in a criminally lawless way against foreign powers, including and especially China. This reality is made all the more surreal when one realises that Trump seems not to realise that China is an economic and military superpower in the 21st century but instead imagines that China is the broken state that it was in the 19th and early 20th century.
Thus, one sees the flowering of 19th century racism combined with post-modern delusions of grandeur in Trump. This was indeed the motivation behind his protectionist/nationalistic trade war. And now this trade war has claimed its first human victim.
A totally innocent woman who violated no law in any nation is now behind bars as Canadian authorities heeded their self-evident US overlords and arrested the CFO of the Chinese company Huawei. A previous piece from Eurasia Future deals with the specific issues behind this lawless move by the US and Canada, but on a human level it is now clear that as Trump tries to gain leverage against China in the midst of trade negotiations while trying to unseat Huawei as the world’s top manufacturer of smart phone technology months after it overtook the US manufacturer Apple – a trade war that many felt only had economic implications now has very human implications. As a result, those who support protectionism have been exposed as the obscurantist reactionaries that they are and always have been.
Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the first official victim of the First World War although there were many signs that such an outbreak of conflict was inevitable well before his death. Likewise, Julian Assange is the most visible casualty of the wider global infowar against independent journalists. Jamal Khashoggi was both a victim of the Middle East’s regional infowar and the internal purges in his native Saudi Arbaia and now an innocent Chinese woman who languishes in prison in spite of committing no crime is the first official victim of the trade war. Meng Wanzhou’s life has literally been ruined because of a trade war that has predictably spiralled out of control just as the pre-WW1 trade war did the same.
Those who thought that trade wars were somehow less serious than hot and cold wars should hang their heads in utter shame.