Due to the rise of the extreme right-wing movement gathered arround the former US President, Donald Trump, “white supremacy“ has now become a widely popular notion. When the number of the people who claim that the American nation needs to be reconstituted on the basis of its White Anglo-Saxon Protestant foundations has risen up to almost seventy million, thereby producing a potential basis for creation of a separate, exclusively white American nation – as opposed to the existing, multi-racial one – it has become difficult to ignore the concept of “white supremacy“ on which this movement seems to have been built. However, one of the basic questions is whether this movement is really built on these ideological foundations, or simply flirts with the concept of “white supremacy“ in order to acquire a degree of ideological articulation and thereby overcome the populist chaos that marks its imminent appearance? More importantly, is the populist movement surrounding Trump, presumably based on racial supremacy, a pattern that can successfully resonate with other parts of the world where members of the white race find themselves in the position of power and domination?
Above all, however, we should ask the question whether supremacist ideology in the US is a truly racist one, or simply a part of a new type of American nationalism? For, mobilizing people on the basis of racial identity can also be a best available instrument for implementation of a nationalist ideology, rather than a genuine goal to put a particular race in the dominant position, a goal based on the deep-seated belief in one’s racial supremacy. But then, we should also ask, why a robust form of nationalism, flirting with the principles of “white supremacy“, has emerged in the US?
In the first place, a robust form of nationalism has emerged in the United States due to the long-term domination of the neoliberal economy, which caused a dramatic widening of the socio-economic gap between the richest few and the rest of society. This widening has made the gap between these two layers economically, but also socially, unsustainable, leading to the increase of labour-socialist tendencies that may become a threat to the capitalist system itself. The mechanism is simple: the more aggressive exploitation of the labouring classes, the wider the gap; and then, the more robust nationalism required, as a solution that engages the potentially revolting masses with the ideology of absolute allegiance to the idol of national unity, behind which the very system of capitalist exploitation is safely hidden. However, the systemic crisis of capitalism in the period 2008-2021 has gradually brought the system to the breaking point, so that the need for more robust and aggressive forms of nationalism has arisen in an increasing number of countries.
This is becoming particularly visible in the birthplaces of both capitalism and nationalism, as well as neoliberalism, such as Great Britain and the United States. While counting on the system’s stability, their elites championed liberal democracy as the ultimate form of government. However, since they were the most active in a thorough application of the neoliberal doctrine, they have also dramatically widened the gap between the richest 1% and the rest of their populations. Therefore, as a logical consequence, they had to introduce the extremely aggressive nationalist narratives of America First and Brexit in order to mobilize the most affected parts of the population in a war-like mode and generate in their minds the radical nationalist idea of their exceptionalism and supremacy over the rest of the world. However, this mobilization has not turned out to be an end in itself, as was usually the case with nationalist narratives. At the same time, it has allowed the right-wing governments representing the top 1% to further legitimize enormous concentration of power by introducing certain authoritarian elements, while surpassing the hitherto unavoidable democratic procedures and institutions. This also demonstrates that a systemic crisis is at stake and that the system itself can hardly survive it in the same form. Indeed, the contemporary nationalism may reach a point of total divorce from democratic principles, those that characterized nationalism from the 19th and 20th centuries. The 21st-century nationalism, acting in alliance with the hitherto most robust form of capitalism, may actually become fully linked with the most robust forms of authoritarian government.
Therefore, the lesson to be learnt from the emergence of robust, semi-authoritarian nationalisms in the US and other Anglo-Saxon countries is the following one: if the widening of the gap between the richest and the rest happens to go beyond the point of reparation, so that the crisis develops into a systemic one, then nationalism in a common form, no matter how aggressive it may be, cannot serve as the only cure. Then it has to be implemented in the form of a lasting authoritarian or totalitarian regime, in which the rebellious tendencies among the masses are going to be suppressed in a double-key, with nationalism imposed, rather than proposed, as the only dimension of human existence.
What is the role of “white supremacy” within such a system? As we could see it during the riots on January 6 and the following attack on the Capitol Hill, launched by Donald Trump’s most extreme supporters, the new White Anglo-Saxon nationalism is closely related to both authoritarian tendencies and the concept of “white supremacy”. For, it was a coup attempt with the ultimate ambition to overtake both legislative and presidential power, with abolishment of democratic institutions and introduction of an authoritarian regime and one-man rule. On the other hand, the rioters and their ideologues, in their effort to seize power and give it back to Trump, legitimized the whole enterprise with the narrative of the necessity to empty the framework of the official American national identity from the multiracial content of the current US population and fill it in with the exclusively white, Anglo-Saxon one. Does that narrative imply the existence of an inherent “white supremacy” over other races contained in this concept of the American nation? Is the mono-racial concept of the American nation based on the idea of superiority of the white race over others?
If we look at the original concept of the American nation, the one framed by the Founding Fathers, to which Trump’s supporters refer as their guiding light, it is not based on the idea of inherent racial superiority. It is rather based on the idea of private property: the white Anglo-Saxons who founded the American nation did not perceive themselves as legitimate founders because of their declared racial superiority over the native inhabitants of America, but because they were the first to appropriate the land, having introduced the concept of its private possession, a concept that was totally unknown to the native Americans. The concept of private property over land is what initially separated the white Anglo-Saxons in America from the native Americans: the skin color was far less relevant than the concept of private property. But it also consequently detached the former from the British Crown and its sovereignty and led them to proclaim their own sovereignty over that land. In other words, those who appropriated the land and turned it into private property eventually had to claim sovereignty over it. For, they may have initially appropriated the land on behalf of the British Crown, but once they turned it into private property, they felt an urge to claim their own sovereignty over it. Thus, the founding and legitimizing principle of the American nation is not to be identified with the concept of racial superiority, but rather with the concept of landed property. It was only with the introduction of black slavery, several decades later, that racial hierarchy was introduced into the American society as a relevant principle.
The white Anglo-Saxon fundamentalists, those who belong to Trump’s political movement and now claim their exclusive right to nationhood, do not advance such claims on the basis of racial superiority over other inhabitants of the United States. Their claims to exclusive nationhood are based on the exclusive right to land possession, the right inherited from those white Anglo-Saxons who initially appropriated the land in America and turned it into landed property. In their views, private property, especially the one over land, constitutes the very spirit of the American nation: from this perspective, non-whites are not regarded as inferior in racial terms, but rather as those who disturb the spirit of exclusive landed property that pervades the American nation. For, these non-whites are coming to live in urban slums and the possession of land is equally alien to them as it once was to the native inhabitants of America. In this sense, these newcomers are not treated as racially inferior to the so-called “white trash”, the white blue-collar inhabitants of poor urban areas: they are all treated as equally inferior in terms of absence of landed property.
Property, rather than racial supremacy, has also remained the foundation of American global expansion and domination: American appropriation of natural resources in foreign lands has always been legitimized exclusively by their capital, by their ability to possess. If we go back to these roots of the American nationhood, a nation whose all-pervading spirit is the possession of land is, in effect, a nation of the propertied land-oligarchy: constitutional democracy that their Founding Fathers established in the 1770s was actually a democracy tailored for this oligarchy; it was never meant to be applied to the entire population located there. Hence the founding slogan, “Life, liberty, property”: only the propertied white Anglo-Saxons were meant to be free to elect their political representatives. Therefore, other racial groups, but also other social classes, were not granted the right to vote until the mid-1960s.
When the right to vote and elect their representatives was extended to the entire population, the oligarchic spirit of the original American nationhood was lost, so that the concept of democratic rule also became disputable to those who were seeking a return to the property-related foundations of the American nation. The fundamentalists are, therefore, ready to change the very rules: in order to preserve the oligarchic spirit of the original American nationhood, they are ready to abandon a democracy that applies to the entire population and introduce an authoritarian regime that would more securely protect their property, with power concentrated in a small oligarchic group or a single person. Donald Trump intuitively recognized all these tendencies and therefore received unlimited support from the fundamentalist groups that wanted the American nation to return to its oligarchic, property-related foundations. On the surface, it may have looked like a white supremacist movement, but beneath the surface it was much closer to an oligarchic fundamentalist movement.
However, the concept of “white supremacy” is closely related to the expansion of European powers into other continents in the process of the former’s colonization of the latter. In this sense, those who point to the fact that the true foundations of the American nation are exclusively white and Anglo-Saxon are formally correct – it was the white Anglo-Saxons, supported by some other white Europeans, that colonized the American continent and eventually established a nation-state for themselves, having withdrawn from the position of suzerainty to the British crown. The very idea of colonization and the subesquent ideology of colonialism were based on the concept of white men’s intrinsic right to exploit the lands that had previously been occupied by non-white populations. Of course, colonialism was a consequence of capitalism’s perpetual expansion, indeed, of its inherent need for perpetual expansion and its consequent conquest of the entire world. As such, it had no moral grounds other than mere exploitation of the resources identified as suitable for that purpose in the conquered and colonised lands.
However, the ruthless exploitation of non-European lands by the European powers was always covered and legitimized in a specific way, as a historical mission of white men to civilize non-whites and include the latter into the world of the European civilization. In this respect, exploitation was practically equated with ‘civilization’. This is where the roots of the concept of “white supremacy“ are to be located: within this narrative, only the European capitalist system was presented as ‘civilization’, while all other civilizations were presented as a state of barbarity that had to be ‘civilized’ by the European exploiters. Moreover, in the Anglo-Saxon colonialist folklore, exploitation of the lands inhabited by non-white populations was presented as the “the white man’s burden“, a phrase taken from the poem under the same title written by an ideologue of both Anglo-Saxon colonialism and “white supremacy“, Rudyard Kipling. So, within this narrative, it was not only a God-given right of white men to exploit other people’s lands under the guise of the latter’s ‘civilizing’; moreover, it became a moral obligation, a moral burden to exploit and thereby ‘civilize’ those who were proclaimed ‘uncivilized’ for not having been part of the capitalist system. Thus the right to exploit non-white peoples and their lands and resources became translated into a moral obligation of white people to manage the affairs of non-white peoples, so as to bring the latter closer to the former’s level of economic, social and cultural development, that is, to make them part of the former’s capitalist system. In this respect, the concept of “white supremacy” is directly linked to one specific economic system, that of capitalism.
There were systems, such as feudalism, in which conquest and exploitation of foreign lands were very important parts of the economy, no less than they have been in capitalism. Although the only resource to be exploited in the pre-capitalist epochs was land itself, its conquest and inclusion into hierarchical structures was an unavoidable part of the feudal economy: more conquered land always meant more wealth for the conqueror. Legitimization of such conquests was derived from the same principle upon which the legitimacy of rulers themselves relied in those times: while the legitimacy and sovereignty of rulers was based on the principle of “divine right”, as interpreted and supported by corresponding religious institutions, their conquests were also legitimized by these religious institutions: if the conquered belonged to the same religion as the conquerors, conquests were legitimized by the former’s proclaimed deflection from the official religious course; if the conquered belonged to a different religion, conquests were legitimized by proclaimed superiority of the conqueror’s religion over the religion of the conquered; in both cases, the conquerors were legitimized as executors of the “divine will”.
In the context of European conquests in this epoch, the Crusades come up as a paradigm: the proclaimed supremacy of Christianity over Islam served as an ideal legitimization of a pan-European military enterprise with clear economic goals. However, once the concept of “divine right” was abolished as the founding principle of legitimacy and sovereignty, with the rise of capitalism and its introduction of another principle of legitimacy, that of “popular sovereignty”, foreign conquests and expansion of the capitalist system could no longer be legitimized by spiritual causes: superiority as a legitimizing principle for expansion and colonialization had to be founded on something tangible and material. In this sense, it was only in this relatively short period that racial differences served as the most obvious material cause for legitimization of the European capitalist expansion and consequent exploitation of non-European lands, under the slogan of “white supremacy”.
After the decline of colonialism, the relevance of the concept of “white supremacy” has certainly decreased. The question is, then, to what extent is the current European type of economic expansion and political domination rooted in any genuine belief-system, as it once was based on the concepts of religious and racial supremacy? There is a vague image of European supremacy, despite the fact that it cannot be supported by economic success anymore. Also, this supremacy cannot be defined as racial or religious, since capitalism and colonialism have also produced an enormous amount of immigrants from other continents and consequent mixing of races and religions on the European soil. Then, what is this feeling of supremacy actually based on? Similarly to Kipling’s concept of “white man’s burden”, according to which white men defined their identity on the basis of their ‘burden’ to civilize others, Europeans tend to define their identity on the basis of supremacy that is supposed to serve as a guiding light to other ‘inferior’ civilizations, regardless of the fact that such a supremacy is now very much void of content.
Yet, where does this concept of European supremacy come from? Although some prefer to say that it comes from the Ancient Greek concept of Greek supremacy over ‘barbarians’, it is not plausible to claim any actual continuity between the Ancient Greek civilization and the current European one. It is much more plausible to say that the current concept of European supremacy has been derived from the first truly pan-European enterprise, that of the Crusades, which gave birth to the European civilization. The Crusaders’ concept of supremacy over their Muslim counterparts was, of course, religiously based and militarily projected. Although the European civilization has eventually adopted secular values, economic means, and particular national identities on the internal level, its concept of identity directed towards the outside world has remained rooted in the Crusaders’ concept of religious supremacy, remaining primarily counterposed to the civilizations based on Islam, but also projected against civilizations based on other non-Christian religions. However, it does not lead towards any authentic “clash of civilizations” (as Huntington labelled big world’s religions and their hypothetical conflict). It rather leads towards a Crusader-like type of unilateral ravages, still legitimized in terms of religious/civilizational supremacy.
Air Balloon and U.S.-China Relations
The story of the Chinese Automatic Drifting Balloon (ADB) violating the U.S. airspace in late January–early February 2023 will be a symbolic marker for a new phase of deterioration in the US-China relations.
The relations were rapidly eroding throughout 2022 and early 2023. In some aspects, U.S.-China relations in 2022 evoked obvious associations with U.S.-Russian relations in 2021. While trying to engage in cooperation with Beijing on certain issues (particularly on Ukraine), Washington simultaneously kept imposing increasingly painful sanctions against the country.
Among important steps recently taken in this direction, there have been restrictions on supplies of advanced microchips and equipment for their production to China, effective since October 2022, as well as the pressure exerted on Japan and the Netherlands (key manufacturers of equipment for the microelectronics industry) to join these restrictions. Licenses to supply virtually any components and equipment to China’s Huawei have been terminated, and a significant number of sanctions were imposed on smaller Chinese companies and individuals.
Most of the Chinese measures have been defensive and involved steps to ensure the security of production chains and the national economy. In the meantime, Beijing is also discussing measures to limit certain items of Chinese exports, with potential thermonuclear consequences. Semi-finished products, raw materials and equipment for the production of solar panels can be affected—given China’s monopoly on a number of products, this could be a shock for the renewable energy industry in the West.
The visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in early August 2022 played a disastrous role in the military and political situation in East Asia. That trip, despite repeated warnings from Beijing, triggered a period of rapid increase in Chinese military activity around Taiwan, which still continues.
Chinese activities include numerous live-fire exercises in the waters around the island, large groups of combat aircraft and drones flying along the island’s perimeter, and systematic violations of the median line in the Taiwan Strait by PRC ships and aircraft. For its part, the U.S. is increasing military aid to Taiwan, although it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so against the backdrop of ongoing hostilities in Ukraine.
The November 2022 meeting of Xi Jinping and Joseph Biden in Bali was similar in content to the Geneva summit of Biden and Vladimir Putin in June 2021. We saw similar attempts to achieve at least partial stabilization of relations, establishing rules of the game, unblocking channels for political communication by creating joint working groups, and the same predictable failure. So far, we can only hope that the final outcome of these efforts will not be so disastrous as the one between Moscow and Washington.
The U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s visit was canceled due to the balloon incident, while it was supposed to restore the ruined channels of dialogue. The U.S.-Chinese relation is still lagging far behind the U.S.-Russian relationship in matters of mutual alerting, preventing dangerous incidents, and maintaining emergency channels of communication, where relevant experience has continuously been accumulated since the 1960s. Given the rapid progress of China’s transformation into a new nuclear superpower, conservation of this situation could be dangerous.
Nothing more was expected from Blinken’s visit – no U-turn in relations, no strategic deals, including those concerning Beijing’s positions on the Ukrainian issue. Now, the visit has been postponed indefinitely and the dialogue has been suspended amid the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the Pacific.
The circumstances of the very incident with the Chinese ADB over the United States allow us to take a fresh look at the behavior of China’s leadership in the heating confrontation with the United States. According to U.S. military statements, the ADB shot down on February 4, 2023 was the fourth Chinese apparatus to violate U.S. airspace. The previous three ADBs that visited the U.S. during Donald Trump’s tenure were not detected by U.S. airspace controls in time, and the Americans became aware of their existence belatedly via intelligence channels.
If this is true, China is deliberately and systematically doing what the USSR never afforded during the entire Cold War—flying reconnaissance aircraft directly over U.S. territory. For its part, the U.S. used ADBs on a large scale for flights over the USSR and the PRC in the 1950s and 1980s, and the explanation of their purpose was exactly the same as that used by the Chinese now: border violations due to navigation error or malfunction, meteorological research, observations of airstreams, etc.
China’s contemporary political culture attaches great importance to careful observance of the principle of reciprocity, avoiding situations that could be interpreted as Beijing’s recognition of its unequal position vis-à-vis any major power. This is partly due to the severe historical trauma of the “century of humiliation” in 1840–1945, a time of foreign domination over China.
The current use of the ADB over the United States is by no means a retaliation against historical grievances. Rather, it is a response to some U.S. actions within its “freedom of navigation patrols” in the South China Sea, where U.S. ships and aircraft deliberately violate 12-mile territorial water zones around a number of Chinese-controlled islands. The Americans justify their behavior by saying that these Chinese islands are artificial and do not create rights to territorial waters.
Surely, China believes that the Americans are violating the integrity of its national territorial. From China’s perspective, the U.S., as a power external to the region, should not interfere in any of its territorial disputes with the countries of Southeast Asia. Besides, the high activity of U.S. reconnaissance aircraft along China’s borders—and sometimes over disputed water bodies—has long been a matter of Chinese concern.
From China’s perspective, the use of ADB over U.S. territory may well look like an appropriate response to the U.S. actions. Chinese leaders may have seen this action as a necessary step to confirm China’s status as a great power equal to the United States, even if only a limited number of people knew about these operations for the time being.
The political motivation behind the use of the ADB can also be discerned in the Chinese response to the incident. In a normal situation, if the balloon lost control and inadvertently entered (or risked entering) U.S. airspace, the owner would have contacted the Americans, provided the necessary data and information, and tried to avoid a fallout.
China, for its part, responded to the incident only twelve hours after Pentagon’s statement to that effect. There was a dry statement from the PRC about the loss of control of the weather balloon due to force majeure, for which “regret” was expressed.
Shortly thereafter, China declared that it would not tolerate “hype and speculation” about the balloon and accused the United States of indiscriminate and excessive use of force after it was shot down, threatening some “consequences.”
Under the circumstances, it is difficult to assess this as anything other than China’s deliberate humiliation of the United States as well as demonstration of its own strength and confidence. The Chinese consciously chose this course of action in the run-up to Blinken’s visit—now, as the conflict in Ukraine is escalating, the U.S. is more interested in dialogue than the PRC.
The Americans had to choose between continuing the dialogue in a poorer bargaining position after the humiliation they had endured and abandoning the dialogue altogether. The reaction of American public opinion predetermined the choice for the latter. However, this decision was apparently not easy to make.
The visit has not been canceled, but postponed, and the U.S. will probably look for opportunities to carry out negotiations in the not-too-distant future while saving face. Alongside with Blinken’s visit, there were plans for an even more important visit to China, to be paid by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. On February 9, 2023, Yellen announced that she was still planning a trip to China, although it was not yet possible to give a date.
The incident has shown that the Americans are not overly prepared for a tough confrontation with a comparable superpower as soon as it stops playing at giveaway with them. As it turned out, the few previous Chinese ADBs had not been detected at all, and the last one was shot down only after it had crossed the entire U.S. territory, flying over, among other things, an intercontinental ballistic missile base.
There is nothing surprising or particularly embarrassing about it: the ADB is an extremely difficult aerial target because of its low radar visibility, extremely low speed, and a very high flight altitude. The Soviet Union has been practicing its tactics against ADB for decades. The ability to counter such targets was taken into account in the design of some Soviet air defense interceptors. These include, for example, the MiG-31 still in service in Russia, which has the highest maximum flight altitude among modern fighters and is equipped to fight balloons with a GSh-23-6 cannon.
In the United States, reconnaissance ADBs did not show up during the Cold War, simply because the Soviet Union lacked the necessary technical capabilities in the early decades of the confrontation, and the late-Soviet gerontocracy was later afraid to respond in kind to violations of its airspace. Now, the Americans faced a more active opponent and have yet to learn many new skills.
The traditional U.S. propensity to make up for real-world failures with media victories was not very convincing either. Covering the incident, U.S. propaganda followed two lines. They claimed that, first, the Chinese balloon could not have caused any serious damage to the U.S. compared to China’s existing reconnaissance satellites, and second, that the vehicle was not shot down so as not to pose a threat to civilians on the ground.
The second claim is patently absurd: a significant part of the Chinese ADB route passed over deserted or sparsely populated areas, where the risk of harm to civilians was equal to zero. As for the former, the ADB surely remains a valuable reconnaissance tool that can significantly supplement satellite data. For its part, the U.S. has made extensive use of balloons in the operations against Iraq and Afghanistan.
The reconnaissance satellite operates at altitudes of hundreds of kilometers above the ground, while the balloon does so in the altitude range of 20–30 km. This gives it additional capabilities to conduct electronic reconnaissance and detailed ground surveys. The ADB is capable of monitoring atmospheric chemistry and making other measurements useful for the reconnaissance of nuclear-weapons-related targets. Finally, the balloon is capable of remaining over the same territory for long periods of time, tracking the situation there dynamically, and its flight time over an area is not predictable, unlike that of satellites.
Was the incident with the balloon an intentional attempt to disrupt Blinken’s visit from the very beginning? Hardly. If the Chinese had flown around the U.S. three times in the Trump presidency with their ADBs and got away with it, it would make sense to continue this successful practice. When the “balloon case” became public, the Chinese might have chosen an escalatory course of action based on their view of the situation. It is likely that Beijing concluded that it would not lose with any possible U.S. reaction to the incident, and this is probably true.
From our partner RIAC
Can Lula walk the tightrope between Washington and Beijing?
As Brazil’s New President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (popularly known as Lula) prepares to visit China later this month, maintaining neutrality would be difficult as the winds of change enwrap Beijing.
Brazil is Back
President Lula’s coming to power has marked a decisive shift in Brazilian foreign policy. With the Pink Tide resurging in South America, the new President has clearly spelled out his foreign policy aims: restoring Brazil’s neutrality and importance in international affairs at par with both the West and East after nearly 4 years of impasse under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who had adopted a Sinophobic, pro-Trump foreign policy.
Brasilia’s 39th President, who previously presided over the office between 2003-2010, will have a lot to talk about as he visits his nation’s largest trading partner that imported $89.4 billion in 2022 mostly in soy and iron ore which added a surplus of $28.7 billion to Brazil’s coffers. Boosting the economic partnership with China will be a priority for Lula, who intends to integrate South America into a closely held economic unit. Another important item on the agenda includes the appointment of former President Dilma Rousseff as the new BRICS Bank president.
Lula and the West
Lula had rattled swords with Washington on several occasions during his previous tenure such as alleging the United States for reducing South America to its “backyard” by intervening in its internal politics as well as by opposing the Iraq War. Even though he recognises the importance of maintaining good relations with the superpower up North; several of Lula’s moves including sending a delegation to Maduro-led Venezuela, refusing to sign a UN Human Rights resolution condemning human rights violations in Nicaragua, allowing Iranian warships to dock at Rio de Janeiro, maintaining an ambiguous approach on the Russia-Ukraine War and refusing to send arms to Kyiv, dubbing the ‘Balloongate’ incident a bilateral issue between the US and China and defining the Taiwan issue as Beijing’s internal matter, have deeply irked the West.
While tensions remain, Lula’s focus on combating climate change and call for saving the Amazon have earned a thumbs up from the Biden administration as the former’s election to power comes as a breath of fresh air after his staunch “Trump of the Tropics” predecessor adopted a not-so-friendly approach towards Biden’s entry in the White House. Lula understands Washington’s support is required and hence it was a top spot on his foreign visits list. Lula and Biden held talks amidst a cordial ambience and vowed to reboot bilateral ties by promising to protect democracy and combating climate change.
Winds of Change in Beijing
However, winds of change in the East have dispersed the clouds of ambiguity and China now stands more vocal, more critical and more confident in dealing with the United States.
The recent session of the National People’s Congress, which won Xi Jinping a never-seen-before third term as the President, saw him voicing his criticism against “Washington-led attempts” to “contain, encircle and suppress” China which pose ” serious challenges to its development” (“以美国为首的西方国家对我实施了全方位的遏制、围堵、打压，给我国发展带来前所未有的严峻挑战。”). Sino-US relations have been in the trough since President Trump’s tenure with the recent point of clash being the ‘Balloon incident’ which made Anthony Blinken call off his visit to Beijing.
Xi recently unveiled his new 24 Character Foreign Policy which, Dr. Hemant Adlakha believes, marks “China’s new foreign policy mantra in the ‘New Era’ ” acting as its “ideological map to attain national rejuvenation by 2049”. The characters “沉着冷静；保持定力；稳中求进；积极作为；团结一致；敢于斗争 ” which translate as “Be calm; Keep determined; Seek progress and stability; Be proactive and go for achievements; Unite under the Communist Party; Dare to fight” are set to replace Deng Xiaoping’s 24 Character Strategy focussed on never seeking leadership and assuming a low profile.
China’s confidence is further boosted by its successful attempt to broker peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have been staunch rivals for the past many years. With the handshake that brought the Sunni Arab Kingdom and the Shiite Persian theocracy together, Beijing has garnered accolades from nations across the region and is all set to play a greater international role by not just pulling American allies such as Riyadh to its side but also through actively putting forth its plans to end wars with Xi all set to pay Putin a visit over the Russia-Ukraine War before he meets Lula at Beijing. Lula too eagerly anticipates what Beijing has to say as he told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz “it is time for China to get its hands dirty”.
Neutrality no more?
If the state of Sino-US relations does not improve, things would get hard for many leaders like Lula who seek to balance between the two superpowers. Lula knows neutrality is his best bet but money matters– as his former Foreign Minister Celso Amorim noted “Our surplus with China—and I’m talking just about our surplus—is bigger than all of our exports to the United States. It is impossible not to have good relations with China.” Isolating China, with which Brazil has had a long strategic partnership since the 1990s, at the expense of moving closer to the US might come hard on the purse and exacerbate the many economic challenges he faces. Nor can Washington be isolated– not just because of the economic necessities but also in the face of challenges from far-right forces that both Lula and Biden face.
Lula realises the risks of placing all his eggs in one basket but would he be left with the choice to divide them equally into both? The issue is bound to get stickier but if he successfully manages to escape the quagmire of the unfolding great power rivalry, Lula will set a precedent for not just South America but nations across the globe. The only viable solution would be to strengthen regional alliances in Latin America and boost partnerships with developing nations like India while using the collective strength to push Beijing and Washington to come together.
The Malvinas feud as a Global Constant
As an event gets bigger, it’s more likely that interesting things will happen behind the scenes, that is, in unplanned activities.
The seventh meeting of G20 foreign ministers in India in 2023 confirms this. Bilateral meetings between Qing-Jaishankar, the Blinken-Lavrov dispute, and the meeting between Santiago Cafiero and James Cleverly, during which the former notified the latter of the end of the Foradori-Duncan agreement.
On March 2, 2023, by rescinding the Foradori-Duncan agreement, the Argentine government de facto reopened one of the most important territorial disputes in the Western Hemisphere, perhaps the most important, and did so in the most theatrical way possible: at the G20, the main North-South dialogue platform.
What was the purpose of the Foradori-Duncan agreement?
The idea behind the agreement was for the Argentine government to renounce its claims and any serious discussion regarding the territorial dispute over the sovereignty of the Malvinas (Falklands) Islands and the adjacent territories in the South Atlantic. Instead, the Argentine government would adopt a position of claiming “light sovereignty” in order to obtain benefits, mainly economic ones, through joint exploitation of the natural resources of the islands and adjacent territories in the South Atlantic with the United Kingdom (UK), as well as through British investments in the country.
In practice, this agreement implied the Argentine government’s resignation to discuss sovereign rights over the Falkland Islands and their adjacent territories in the South Atlantic. It can be inferred that this was a disguised surrender clause by the government of Mauricio Macri to continue with Argentina’s sovereign claim over the Malvinas Islands.
The purpose of the Foradori-Duncan agreement was in line with the foreign policy stance of the Macri administration (2015-2019), which had a marked pro-Western (and more Atlanticist) position than previous governments (Kirchnerism 2003-2015).
This geopolitical code (if we can speak of the existence of a “Macrista geopolitical code” coming from the geopolitical code of the traditional Argentine ruling class) consisted of a series of agreements (tacit and official) of Argentine resignation and subordination to traditional Western powers (of which the Foradori-Duncan agreement was one of its greatest exponents) which aimed –in theory– to obtain greater economic benefits and a renewal of the country’s public image in the supposed “international community.”
These types of foreign policy positions would be a constant of the Macri government. Even the Argentine scholar Juan Gabriel Tokatlian has conceptualized such a stance as “Concessive Peripheral Unilateralism” to define the foreign policy of the Macri government .
In practice, these ideas and plans, were shown to be totally ineffective and unproductive. Argentina practically did not receive economic benefits from such positions, nor did its public image have a significant and positive international projection. And the Foradori-Duncan agreement is the most scandalous example of this reality.
Why did the Argentine government of Alberto Fernández decide to end such an agreement?
The first explanation is the internal conformation and political identity of the government of Alberto Fernández, which logically demanded a change in the previous government’s (Macri) stance on the Malvinas agreements, his predecessor and opponent. But this inference raises another question: Why were such measures not taken before? The answers to this question are only conjectures.
Since the end of the Malvinas War (1982) until today, except for the years of the Menem governments (1989-1999), Argentina’s bilateral relationship with Great Britain has always been marked by a strong “Malvinense”  component on the agenda of their interaction, which has often led to high-pitched disputes between both parties. The “agenda” of the Malvinas cause was a constant trend of the Kirchnerist governments (2003-2015), such claims were made, denouncing British illegal occupation of the Falkland Islands on numerous occasions in various international forums, bilateral meetings, and multilateral forums.
But as mentioned earlier, the Macri government would have a diametrically opposed position to its Kirchnerist predecessors regarding the Malvinas question. However, the reality of the country and its foreign policy changed again when Argentina “presented” a new government in 2019, with Alberto Fernández as the head of the presidency.
The government of A. Fernández has an eclectic political character , as a result of a coalition between several political sectors, so the foreign policy of his government also reflects the heterogeneous internal conformation of the government coalition sectors.
In such conformation, sectors such as Kirchnerism, as well as more orthodox Peronist sectors, are present, both of which have traditionally had a more “Post-Western” stance, aiming to “rewrite the Argentine geopolitical code” and the vectors of Argentine foreign policy, projecting an alternative foreign policy, in first place towards their own region: South America, Ibero-America, the Caribbean, and in more modern times, especially towards the Global South, the BRICS, and Asia. In such guidelines, the action of rescinding the Foradori-Duncan agreement was logical. But logic also makes us wonder, why were such measures not taken before? Such questions enter the realm of speculation.
Another analysis could be given in an electoral key reading, this year 2023, presidential elections will be held in Argentina, and Alberto Fernández has expressed on several occasions through words and gestures , that he is willing and interested in being re-elected as the head of the Argentine executive branch.
Facing a public image tarnished by the covid-19 pandemic, and mainly a negative macroeconomic situation, the electoral nature of this foreign policy measure cannot be ruled out: the Malvinas cause is a cause that mobilizes emotions in Argentine society and remains a deep wound to national pride, and is a valid rhetorical and practical tool to antagonize the Argentine opposition (liberals and conservatives), which has never had (and perhaps never will have) a firm geopolitical stance nor interest in the Malvinas question.
Also, the reading of tensions within the coalition of the current Argentine government can’t be ruled out, in this last aspect, this measure could be read as a gesture of balance from the “Albertismo” towards Kirchnerism, a sector of the government in which many leaders believe that the sector identified with the president has geopolitically leaned too much towards Washington and the West since the 2022 debt agreement with the IMF and the war in Ukraine.
Argentina informed the British of its decision during the G20 foreign ministers’ summit, which was dominated by the BRICS. Is it a coincidence that such a measure was taken at one of the most representative events of the Global South?
it clearly cannot be considered a coincidence.
The symbolic weight of such an action, in such a context, must be clearly considered. The G20 has a dual character as the main forum in which traditional (Western) powers dialogue but also reflects their tensions and antagonisms with emerging powers and peoples, including those of the so-called Global South.
With tensions between former metropolis countries and former colonies that make up the G20, and which are now emerging in material capabilities, a post-colonial and decolonial reading cannot be ruled out, and therefore a strong message from Argentina to the world’s emerging powers and the Global South.
Did China have any influence on the finalization of the pact?
No, there is no such “Chinese hand” that has driven such a measure by the Argentine government. These are paranoid arguments with a stubborn anti-Chinese bias that also ignores Argentina’s own reality. To put it plainly, if we use common sense, the decision was not elaborated nor driven from Beijing.
As mentioned earlier, the issue of the Malvinas is a deeply rooted national cause in Argentine society, and a constant in the foreign policy of Kirchnerism, which today is part of the coalition that compose the current Argentine government, which with such measures such as revoking the Foradori-Duncan agreement seeks to “retake the ownership of the Malvinas and South Atlantic issue in its agenda,” marking a clear differentiated stance from the current political opposition (Juntos por el Cambio) that made such a pact in the previous presidential term.
The decision was not elaborated nor driven by Beijing, and in any case, recent and clear positions of support for Argentina’s sovereign claim in the Malvinas Islands by powers such as China  and Russia  were considered within the decision-making process to take such measures. Therefore, the positions of Beijing and Moscow influenced, but did not condition or generate, Buenos Aires’ decision.
The future of the Malvinas Question
It’s very difficult to envision a future scenario for such a specific and complex issue, especially in the long term. But a prospective scenario can be envisioned in the short term, which is basically and probably that the situation will not change significantly under current conditions. Unless the world is altered by seismic events.
It’s highly unlikely that we will see a dialoguing UK government in the short and medium term that is willing to negotiate the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. And it is similarly unlikely to see a future Argentine government, especially if it has the characteristics of a Peronist, Kirchnerist, or progressive government, openly giving up its claims to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.
Such a proposition would surely change if there were a liberal-oriented government in Argentina, such as Mauricio Macri’s.
The problem with the current Argentine government, as well as future ones, regarding the Malvinas dispute, is that the country does not have, and will not have in the short and medium term, the set of soft and hard capabilities (economic, diplomatic, military, ideological influence) to press and force the UK hard enough to revise its traditional stance on the occupation of the islands. At least until the current balance of power and the position of emerging powers, such as China, would consolidate even further in the world order.
But in any case, such changes and opportunities will depend on the international context and the agency of third parties, which are independent variables for the positions that future Argentine governments may take.
Most experts in international relations and geopolitics agree that the territorial dispute over the Falkland-Malvinas Islands between Britain and Argentina will not have an easy or predictable resolution in the short term.
Some experts point out that the strategic geographical position of the Malvinas Islands and the presence of significant natural resources in the area, such as fishing and hydrocarbons, make the dispute even more complicated.
Moreover, many experts believe that Britain’s position has been strengthened in recent years thanks to the exploitation of the area’s natural resources and the lack of a clear strategy on the part of Argentina to resolve the dispute.
A hypothetical Chinese presence in the region, through the southern Argentine city of Ushuaia, through the construction of a logistics hub, has added an intervening element that makes it even more complex to envision a prospective scenario .
However, some experts believe that the issue of the territorial dispute over the Falkland Islands, Argentina’s position is legitimate, which has won it great support and sympathy among peoples and emerging powers, most of them with a colonial past .
 Tokatlian, J. G. (2018, 2 de febrero). Relaciones con EEUU: ¿nueva etapa? (Relations with the US: a new phase?) Clarín.
 Porto, J. M. (26/03/2022). Despite diplomatic ups and downs, the Malvinas claim became a state policy. Telam. https://www.telam.com.ar/notas/202203/587606-diplomacia-soberania-argentina-islas-malvinas.html
 In its composition as a coalition, including important elements of what might be called “Centre-Right” sectors that have Western – especially Washington – affinities.
 Its relevant to remember that on 22 February Alberto Fernandez led a public act in situ celebrating 119 years of Argentine presence in Antarctica. “Alberto Fernández visits Antarctica“. Sputnik. (23/02/2023). https://sputniknews.lat/20230223/alberto-fernandez-visita-la-antartida-1136141105.html
 Joint Statement between the Argentine Republic and the People’s Republic of China on Deepening the Argentina-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. (06/02/2023). https://cancilleria.gob.ar/es/actualidad/noticias/declaracion-conjunta-entre-la-republica-argentina-y-la-republica-popular-china
China’s support for the Malvinas deepens a relationship with many agreements. Telam. (03/07/2021). https://www.telam.com.ar/notas/202107/560027-apoyo-china-malvinas-cada-vez-mas-explicito-profundiza-relacion-muchos-acuerdos.html
 United Russia leader Medvedev celebrates Argentina’s termination of Foradori-Duncan agreement. Sputnik. (2023, March 6). https://sputniknews.lat/20230306/el-lider-de-rusia-unida-celebra-que-argentina-haya-terminado-el-acuerdo-foradori-duncan-1136503626.html
Putin defended Argentina’s sovereignty over Malvinas and took aim at Boris Johnson and Margaret Thatcher. Política Argentina. (2022, May 30). https://www.politicargentina.com/notas/202206/44954-putin-defendio-la-soberania-argentina-sobre-malvinas-y-le-tiro-a-boris-johnson-con-margaret-thatcher.html
 The details of the Ushuaia Logistics Hub to supply Antarctica. El Cronista. (24/12/2021).
An Antarctic logistics hub: official plan opens the door to strategic partners. El Cronista. (11/10/2021).
 The Group of 77+China gave strong backing to Argentina’s position on the Malvinas Islands question. Telam. (2022, November 12). https://www.telam.com.ar/notas/202011/534875-el-g77china-dio-un-fuerte-respaldo-a-la-posicion-argentina-en-la-cuestion-malvinas.html
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