Rule makers and rule takers

Liam Byrne, a Labour MP and member of the foreign affairs select committee, helped to raise the tempo of the war drumbeat recently when he stated: “What we’ve got to do is make sure that Britain isn’t the weak link in the defences of the western alliance.

“China is building a digital Silk Road around the world. And there are very real concerns about how China will exfiltrate data and technology to provide power that its leadership is seeking by 2030.”

This was reported by Gareth Corfield in the Telegraph of 8 July in an article titled Russia and China accused of trying to turn Britain into a ‘rule-taker’ – a title which in itself encapsulates the blatant imperial arrogance displayed by figures such as Byrne when addressing governmental institutions on matters of foreign policy.

In that article, Corfield quoted MI5’s director general Ken McCallum, who spoke alongside the US’s FBI chief Chris Wray at MI5’s Thames House headquarters last week.

McCallum introduced his speech with the following series of statements:

“The most game-changing challenge we face comes from the Chinese communist party. It’s covertly applying pressure across the globe. This might feel abstract. But it’s real and it’s pressing. We need to talk about it. We need to act.

“I want to be really clear up front on a couple of points:

“First, the aim here is not to cut off from China – one-fifth of humanity, with immense talent. China is central to global issues: economic growth, public health, climate change. Having, for example, almost 150,000 Chinese students in the UK’s universities is, in almost all cases, good for them and good for us. The UK wants to engage with China wherever it’s consistent with our national security and our values.

“There are situations where the risks are sharper – and you’d expect the head of MI5 to focus on those. But even then, our aim is to make conscious choices on issues that are rarely binary. We want a UK which is both connected and resilient.

“My second point is we’re talking today about the activities of the Chinese communist party and certain parts of the Chinese state (I’ll mostly use the shorthand ‘CCP’). [In fact, the proper name is CPC – the Communist Party of China – which for some reason western officials and media refuse to acknowledge – Ed.] We’re not talking about Chinese people – in whom there is so much to admire. We wholeheartedly welcome the Chinese diaspora’s hugely positive contribution to UK life. Responding confidently to specific covert activities is just us doing our job. If my remarks today elicit accusations of Sinophobia from an authoritarian CCP, I trust you’ll see the irony.”

What is really ironic is the spectacle of the head of MI5 standing alongside the head of the FBI and lecturing an audience of business people about how Britain “wants to engage with China wherever it’s consistent with our national security and our values”.

The fact that McCallum felt the need to make a clear distinction between the Chinese state and the Chinese diaspora in Britain makes the position of MI5 fairly clear: if you’re a Chinese person who might side with imperialism against the Communist Party of China, you could be useful. If you’re a Chinese student studying in Britain, McCallum will be doing his best to try and work out if you have any links to the CPC so you can be expelled as a foreign threat.

The spymaster crowed about booting out 50 or so students who had connections to People’s Liberation Army universities back in China, while claiming that the vast majority of Chinese students studying in Britain do so to the benefit of both nations – something which doesn’t quite add up considering that the main thrust of his advice consisted of urging British businesses to treat all engagement and correspondence with Chinese businesses and citizens as a possible espionage operation being carried out at the behest of the CPC.

Not so long ago, the attitude of imperialism was one that led to links being built between Chinese academic institutions and British universities. This was a way of projecting ‘soft power’, and was based on the assumption that such exchanges were steadily exporting western liberal values to China, and would eventually culminate in the demise of the CPC and the People’s Republic and the outright restoration of unfettered free-market capitalism (and neocolonial status) in China.

Whilst some aspects of McCallum’s speech inferred that this strategy has not been wholly abandoned as an avenue of influence, there was also an inherent admission that the overall project has been an abject failure for imperialism. Not only has China failed to divest itself of the CPC, but it has also become a global superpower prepared to defend its economic and political independence.

The FBI’s Chris Gray stressed that the transfer of technology and research from western companies to China is now recognised as “an even more serious threat to western businesses than even many sophisticated businesspeople realised”, citing a case where a Chinese agent had “dug up seeds” from a GM crop farm in the American mid-west in a daring action that, according to Gray, saved China billions of dollars and a decade in research.

And there we have the astounding arrogance of imperialist logic on full display once again. For whilst the arguments in defence of intellectual property rights for western businesses are advanced by Messrs McCallum and Gray as moralistic positions, in reality they are concerned only with protecting the right of a handful of parasites to control the global economy in the interests of extracting maximum profit, immiserating the workers who produce their fabulous wealth for them in the first place.

These servants of the super-rich apparently see no irony in complaining about competition from China, which they accuse of “lying, cheating and stealing” to advance its national interests, whilst at the same time claiming the right to ‘set the rules’ for the rest of the world on the sole basis of their dominant economic and military position in the imperialist world order, and in the sole interest of preserving profits and living standards for a miniscule minority at the expense of the mass of humanity.

(They also seem to have ‘forgotten’ how former CIA director Mike Pompeo boasted that of course the USA routinely “lies, cheats and steals” – yet another case of one rule for us and another for you!)

The simple fact is that putting new technologies to use in a way that benefits people and society as a whole is not compatible with the generation of maximum profit.

That China is able (through having retained some measure of regulation over the market economy and through its Communist party leadership) to curtail some of the market’s most socially-destructive effects whilst pursuing a long-term goal of national rejuvenation and development, evidently infuriates the high Aldermen of imperialism.

Their fears of a world in which considerations other than the rights of multinational corporations to suck the planet and its population dry in the pursuit of profit may come to the fore along with the growth of a multipolar global consensus are well-founded. Such a situation would indeed be terrible news for the capitalist-imperialist bloodsuckers, who require everything from lifesaving medicine to housing, from education to public transport, to exist only in the form of commodities – available for those able to pay and provided for only as long as they are profitable.

Only when the rules are made with the interests of humanity at their core, and are implemented by the working majority of the population (with the former exploiting classes forced to ‘take’ them), will Britain and the wider world be free of characters such as Byrne, McCallum and Gray, and the imperialist institutions they represent.

Byrne worries that Britain is in danger of becoming the weak link in the imperialist chain. To break that link would be in our greatest interest as British workers. Indeed, when it finally comes to pass, it will be the crowning achievement of the British working class.

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