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Issue #1876      July 10, 2019

Taking Issue – Rob Gowland

Hong Kong: regime change vs change the world

The victory of the Red forces in China’s civil war in 1949 was a huge setback for imperialism and especially for the leading imperialist power, the USA. The USA had emerged from WW2 as pre-eminent among the capitalist allies, aided immeasurably by the fact that it had not had to endure invasion and associated fighting (and the accompanying destruction) on its own territory that Britain and especially the Soviet Union had experienced. The USSR lost a staggering 26 million dead. It had met and overcome the Axis’ best weapons and their best troops and won most of the really significant battles (and done most of the dying, let us never forget).

Attempts by imperialism post WW2 to cower the USSR with nuclear blackmail failed utterly and a revolutionary wave swept the former colonies in Asia and Africa. The US tried to “roll back communism” in the Berlin Airlift, then in an invasion of Albania by fascist remnants (thwarted by Soviet intelligence agent Kim Philby). In 1949, the revolutionaries won in China and the USSR revealed that it had broken the USA’s monopoly on nuclear weapons.

The US ferried an “invasion force” of former Chiang Kai Shek soldiers from Taiwan to the China-Burma border to “liberate” China from the evil Reds, but to no avail: the “liberators” embraced the drug trade as easier and more profitable than fighting for Washington. A panicked but still super confident USA launched the Korean War the following year still hoping to “roll back Communism”, only to find that it couldn’t.

Set-backs for imperialism in China were doubly shocking because the imperialists had enjoyed virtually a free hand there for the preceding century. That bastion of virtue and nobility, the British Empire, had introduced opium into China and then waited for the profits to roll in. Attempts by the Chinese authorities to stop the deadly trade did not go down well in Whitehall. In 1842, Britain sent its navy to teach China to respect its betters. This was the First Opium War. One result of that war was that Britain seized and kept the port of Hong Kong.

Other European imperialist powers seized outposts up and down the coast of China. The USA, being ostentatiously opposed to European colonies in the Americas, could not itself seize colonies in China. Instead, it supported what it called an “open door” policy, which kept China accessible to imperialist investment and exploitation without technically claiming territory there. When the Boxer Rebellion tried to expel the foreigners from China, the imperialists (including the USA) combined forces to suppress it.

These days, however, imperialism has had to learn how to maintain economic control without actually owning colonies. They have become adept at using all manner of financial levers and especially innumerable front organisations. In Hong Kong, for example, they rely on no less than a staggering 37,000 NGOs, with a staff in the tens of thousands. Many of these actually receive funding from the US and Europe. (But of course, the imperialists would be aghast if you were so ill-mannered as to accused them of interfering in China’s internal affairs.)

This is only possible because China, to secure the return of its stolen territory, has had to agree to permit Western corporations and other capitalist entities to have access to that territory. Even with a close watch and careful control, this has provided openings for imperialism to exercise what is known as “soft power” options.

In Hong Kong, the USA’s National Endowment For Democracy (a State Department/CIA front) provides financial support to such soft power outlets as the innocuously-named Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management, the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association, the Civic Party, the Labor Party, the Democratic Party, even the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions. All of these took part in the recent “anti-government” demonstrations in Hong Kong.

The clever folk employed by US imperialism to develop their soft-power tactics have had plenty of practice in recent years in fostering attempts at “regime change” in places like Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Haiti, Ukraine, and Syria and before that in the break-up of Yugoslavia and other adventures. They have become adept at prising countries away from progressive groupings so that they can become outposts of finance capital and tools of imperialism.

For the first 30 years of its existence, People’s China had to endure an embargo by the capitalist world that deliberately held back its development. However, with the help of the Soviet Union and by skilfully managing its human resources, China was able to use the greed of the imperialists to foster the development of China’s economy and eventually to lift its people out of the poverty linked to imperialism.

The price of this development, however, was a strengthening of the capitalist class in China. And imperialism is intent on furthering that process by every possible means. The protests in Hong Kong were focused on changes to the city’s extradition laws. As an International Action Centre article points out, these laws are a relic of British colonialism. “Nowhere else in the world does a city have independent extradition laws, with authority above that of a sovereign country.”

“Despite decades of multimillion dollar western funding Hong Kong has a poverty rate of 20 percent (23.1 percent for children) compared to less than 1 percent in mainland China. In the past 20 years poverty in Hong Kong has remained high while mainland China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.” Recent protests, much like the “Occupy Central” protests in Hong Kong in 2014 have not raised this issue (which they surely would have if they had genuinely been reflective of the aspirations of the Chinese people.)

Instead, the protests have been directed at leadership connected to mainland China while ignoring the US-connected banks and ultra-wealthy capitalists based in Hong Kong who clearly show no interest in addressing poverty or other real needs of the people.

The US claims to be concerned with free speech in Hong Kong and with preventing politically motivated extraditions. At the same time it aggressively pursues the extradition of Julian Assange for exposing the genuine crimes of US imperialism.

The corporate media in the US, Europe and Australia have enthusiastically reported on the Hong Kong protests, in stark contrast to the meagre, often critical coverage of mass protests in Gaza, Honduras, Sudan, Yemen. Or even the “Yellow “Vest” protests France or the recent general strike in Brazil. The difference in coverage exposes a difference in the forces behind the protests, a difference in who stands to benefit from them.

Imperialism is only interested in promoting protest movements if those movements can be used to destabilise the working class and can be misdirected into anti popular channels.

For over 200 years the working class has striven to achieve revolution, preferably a socialist revolution, while the US has recruited an enormous collection of specially selected college graduates to plot how to “defend democracy”.

Utterly convinced as to the rightness of their cause, these willing tools of big business use every conceivable technique of advertising/propaganda to achieve regime change and to further “US interests”.

For all their resources of finance, materiel, eager personnel and skilled application of the techniques of persuasion, the objective conditions affecting the working people push them towards the revolutionary path. And it is the role of the Communists to explain and guide them along that path, the path that will result in changing the social system from one of exploitation to one that functions solely in the interests of working people.

In other words, it is the role of the Communists to “Change the World”!

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