Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

Re: Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

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Chris Hedges at the Community Church of Boston
Hosted by Joe Ramsey
Dec 20, 2020



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Re: Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

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After Trump, Is It Dangerous To ‘Return To Normal’? Cornel West Thinks So
by Dena Takruri #CornelWest #DonaldTrump #DenaTakruri
November 15, 2020



Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Tricia Rose join AJ+‘s Dena Takruri in a conversation about what went wrong in the 2020 election, what went right, and how progressives should be gearing up for a long fight ahead.
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Re: Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

Postby admin » Fri Jan 01, 2021 1:04 am

“America’s Moment of Reckoning”: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor & Cornel West on Uprising Against Racism
by Amy Goodman
DECEMBER 31, 2020



Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, assistant professor of African American studies at Princeton.
Cornel West, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University.

Scholars Cornel West and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor respond to the global uprising against racism and police violence following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “We’re seeing the convergence of a class rebellion with racism and racial terrorism at the center of it,” said Princeton professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. “And in many ways, we are in uncharted territory in the United States.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

As we continue to look at the uprisings against police brutality and racism, I want to turn to a conversation Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Shaikh and I had in early June with the scholars Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor of Princeton University and Cornel West of Harvard. I began by asking professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor to talk about the mass uprising and the police killing of George Floyd.

KEEANGA-YAMAHTTA TAYLOR: Part of what we are seeing is years and years of pent-up rage. Many people have referenced the 1960s, have referenced Ferguson in 2014, but I think it’s important to say that these are not just repeats of past events. These are the consequences of the failures of this government and the political establishment, the economic establishment of this country to resolve those crises, and so they build and accumulate over time. And we are watching the boiling over of that.

Imagine how angry, desperate, rage-filled you would have to be to come out and protest in the conditions of a historical pandemic that has already killed over 103,000 Americans, that has had a disproportionately horrendous impact in Black communities. I believe 23,000 or 24,000 Black people have died. To put it more bluntly, one in every 2,000 African Americans in the United States has died as the result of COVID. So imagine how difficult things have to be for people to come out in those conditions. So, I think that the buildup around police brutality, the continuation of police brutality, police abuse and violence and murder has compelled people to have to endure those conditions, because it is obvious that there is either nothing that our government can do about this or that the government is complicit and chooses not to do anything about this.

And I think that we have to add to that the crisis that is unfolding beyond police brutality in the country, as well, because we all know that the videotapes of police beatings, abuse, murder have never stopped. So, the movement that grew out of the Ferguson uprising, that became Black Lives Matter, the conditions that led to that never actually ended. And I think that what has reignited that is obviously the public lynching of George Floyd one week ago in Minneapolis, but also the conditions, the wider context within which that is spilling over. And because of that wider condition of mass unemployment, of the death that has been caused by the pandemic, that this is not just — I don’t believe these are just protests around or against police brutality.

But we see a lot of — hundreds, if not thousands, of young white people in these uprisings, making these multiracial rebellions, really. And I think that that is important. Some people have sort of described the participation of white people as outside agitators, or I know that there are reports of white supremacists infiltrating some of the demonstrations. And I think that those are things that we have to pay attention to, keep track of and try to understand. But I think we cannot dismiss in a widespread way the participation of young white people, because we have to see that what has happened over the last decade has gutted their lives, too. And there has been some discussion about this with perhaps their parents’ generation, with the description of deaths by despair.

So, we know that the life expectancy of ordinary white men and women has gone into reverse — something, by the way, that does not typically happen in the developed world. And it is driven by opioid addiction, alcoholism and suicide. And so, this generation, whose lives really — you know, if you’ve graduated from college, your life has been bracketed by war at the turn of the 21st century, by recession and now by a deadly pandemic. And so, I think we’re seeing the convergence of a class rebellion with racism and racial terrorism at the center of it. And in many ways, we are in uncharted territory in the United States.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Dr. Cornel West, could you respond to what professor Yamahtta Taylor said? You agree that, of course, the murder of George Floyd was a lynching. You’ve also said that his murder and the demonstrations that have followed show that America is a failed social experiment. So could you respond to that and also the way that the state and police forces have responded to the protests, following George Floyd’s killing, with the National Guard called out in so many cities and states across the country?

CORNEL WEST: Well, there’s no doubt that this is America’s moment of reckoning. But we want to make the connection between the local and the global, because, you see, when you sow the seeds of greed — domestically, inequality; globally, imperial tentacles, 800 military units abroad, violence and AFRICOM in Africa, supporting various regimes, dictatorial ones in Asia and so forth — there is a connection between the seeds that you sow of violence externally and internally. Same is true in terms of the seed of hatred, of white supremacy, hating Black people, anti-Blackness hatred having its own dynamic within the context of a predatory capitalist civilization obsessed with money, money, money, domination of workers, marginalization of those who don’t fit — gay brothers, lesbian sisters, trans and so forth. So, it’s precisely this convergence that my dear sister Professor Taylor is talking about of the ways in which the American Empire, imploding, its foundations being shaken, with uprisings from below.

The catalyst was certainly Brother George Floyd’s public lynching, but the failures of the predatory capitalist economy to provide the satisfaction of the basic needs of food and healthcare and quality education, jobs with a decent wage, at the same time the collapse of your political class, the collapse of your professional class. Their legitimacy has been radically called into question, and that’s multiracial. It’s the neofascist dimension in Trump. It’s the neoliberal dimension in Biden and Obama and the Clintons and so forth. And it includes much of the media. It includes many of the professors in universities. The young people are saying, “You all have been hypocritical. You haven’t been concerned about our suffering, our misery. And we no longer believe in your legitimacy.” And it spills over into violent explosion.

And it’s here. I won’t go on, but, I mean, it’s here, where I think Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer and Rabbi Heschel and Edward Said, and especially Brother Martin and Malcolm, their legacies, I think, become more central, because they provide the kind of truth telling. They provide the connection between justice and compassion in their example, in their organizing. And that’s what is needed right now. Rebellion is not the same thing in any way as revolution. And what we need is a nonviolent revolutionary project of full-scale democratic sharing — power, wealth, resources, respect, organizing — and a fundamental transformation of this American Empire.

AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts, Professor West, on the governor of Minnesota saying they’re looking into white supremacist connections to the looting and the burning of the city, and then President Trump tweeting that he’s going to try to put antifa, the anti-fascist activists, on the terror list — which he cannot do — and William Barr emphasizing this, saying he’s going after the far left to investigate?

CORNEL WEST: No, I mean, that’s ridiculous. You know, you remember, Sister Amy — and I love and respect you so — that antifa saved my life in Charlottesville. There’s no doubt about it, that they provided the security, you see. So the very notion that they become candidates for a terrorist organization, but the people who were trying to kill us — the Nazis, the Klan — they’re not candidates for terrorist organization status — but that’s what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a Trump-led neofascist backlash and clampdown on what is going on. We ought to be very clear about that. The neofascism has that kind of obsession with militaristic imposition in the face of any kind of disorder. And so we’ve got to be fortified for that.

But most importantly, I think we’ve got to make sure that we preserve our own moral, spiritual, quality, fundamental focus on truth and justice, and keep track of legalized looting, Wall Street greed; legalized murder, police; legalized murder abroad in Yemen, in Pakistan, in Africa with AFRICOM, and so forth. That’s where our focus has to be, because with all of this rebellious energy, it’s got to be channeled through organizations rooted in a quest for truth and justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Professors Cornel West and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. We’ll hear more from them in a moment, but first let’s turn to former Women’s March co-chair Tamika Mallory. She spoke at a rally in Minneapolis days after the police killed George Floyd.

TAMIKA MALLORY: We are not responsible for the mental illness that has been inflicted upon our people by the American government, institutions and those people who are in positions of power. I don’t give a damn if they burn down Target, because Target should be on the streets with us calling for the justice that our people deserve. Where was AutoZone at the time when Philando Castile was shot in a car, which is what they actually represent? Where were they?

So, if you are not coming to the people’s defense, then don’t challenge us when young people and other people who are frustrated and instigated by the people you pay — you are paying instigators to be among our people out there, throwing rocks, breaking windows and burning down buildings. And so young people are responding to that. They are enraged.

And there’s an easy way to stop it: Arrest the cops. Charge the cops. Charge all the cops, not just some of them, not just here in Minneapolis. Charge them in every city across America where our people are being murdered. Charge them everywhere. That’s the bottom line. Charge the cops. Do your job. Do what you say this country is supposed to be about — the land of the free for all. It has not been free for Black people, and we are tired.

Don’t talk to us about looting. Y’all are the looters. America has looted Black people. America looted the Native Americans when they first came here, so looting is what you do. We learned it from you. We learned violence from you. We learned violence from you. The violence was what we learned from you. So if you want us to do better, then, damn it, you do better.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Tamika Mallory speaking in Minneapolis over the weekend. Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, if you could respond to her extraordinary speech, and also the way in which public officials, including liberal officials like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, have responded to the protests, simultaneously saying they feel the pain of the protesters but condemning the violence and looting, as they say?

KEEANGA-YAMAHTTA TAYLOR: I mean, one thing that becomes so apparent with the cops on the street, one, you understand — I mean, for most of America, you get a glimpse of why people are so angry. I mean, look at the kind of wanton, reckless abuse and violence that the police are instigating, and attacking people who are trying to protest. I feel like what we’ve seen over the weekend is a national police riot. And, you know, it’s no wonder. They feel emboldened by the white nationalism of the president of the United States and, really, the lawlessness of the Republican Party writ large. And so, it feels like we’re bearing the consequences of that.

But I think that there is a bigger issue about the cops that is also worth talking about, which is, why these police are never arrested, prosecuted, punished, really, even beyond just arresting and prosecuting people, but just punishing them as public servants for their kind of racist, abusive and violent behavior. And I think that, you know, regardless of what these elected officials have to say, I think that we’re actually going to see a lot more of this, which is why the conflicts will continue.

And the reason why I say that is because it has been a strategy of cities across this country that have committed themselves to not investing in the civic and public sector infrastructure — so, public schools, public hospitals, public libraries — all of the things that make a city function. Those have been systematically defunded, increasingly privatized. And the way that cities manage the inevitable crises that arise from that, when combined with unemployment, when combined with poverty, when combined with evictions and all of the insecurities that we see wracking cities across this country, the police are used to manage that crisis. And that is why, in city after city, as other public institutions take financial hits, as other public institutions are defunded, it’s the police that always get to maintain their budgets. And we look around now, where, because of the COVID crisis, every city is talking about massive budget cuts, but not to the police. The police almost never have to incur layoffs. They never have to incur budget cuts, because they are seen as the public policy of last resort.

And so, this is — when we talk about defunding the police, it is that the police should not be absorbing a third of the budget, as they do in cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, while we’re closing public schools, while public hospitals don’t have the proper personal protective equipment. Look at the way that police are — the gear and the equipment that they have, compared to hospital workers dressing themselves in garbage bags, being forced to use the same N95 masks for weeks at a time. Look at the contrast between that, and then you understand what the actual priorities of the governing politicians and bodies are.

Which is why — and this is the last thing I’ll say — the hypocrisy of someone like Andrew Cuomo or Bill de Blasio or any of these politicians coming on television, on their press conference, wringing their hands about the police, talking about these issues as if they are passive bystanders or just concerned citizens, and not elected officials who have power, who have authority, who have the ability to punish the police, who have the ability to make budgetary priorities, who have the ability to shift resources in one direction or another, but they sit back and act as if they are just watching the train wreck in slow motion, and not that they are actually in control of the gears. And this is part of the hypocrisy that is making people so angry.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Princeton University professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Harvard University’s Cornel West.


Bree Newsome & Prof. Eddie Glaude: The Black Lives Matter Movement Helped the Democrats Defeat Trump
by Amy Goodman
DECEMBER 31, 2020

Bree Newsome Bass. artist, antiracist activist and housing rights advocate in North Carolina.
Eddie Glaude. author and chair of Princeton University’s Department of African American Studies.

As President-elect Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris prepare to take power, we continue to look at the growing debate over the direction of the Democratic Party. House Majority Whip James Clyburn recently criticized calls to “defund the police” and argued the phrase hurt Democratic congressional candidates. “It is actually insane that we would think the way to respond to the scale of problems that we confront as a nation is to harken back to an older form of politics that … seems to try to triangulate and appeal to this Reagan Democrat that they are so obsessed with,” responds Eddie Glaude, author and chair of Princeton University’s Department of African American Studies. “It makes no sense that we would go back to the politics that produced Trump in the first place.” We also speak to artist and antiracist activist Bree Newsome Bass, who argues Black voters “are scapegoated when it’s convenient, and then we are thrown under the bus when it’s convenient. … That’s a dynamic that has to end.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We end this holiday special looking at the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who will become the first woman vice president, as well as the first African American, Indian American, Caribbean American and Asian American elected to the office.

Two days after the election was called for Biden and Harris, I spoke to two guests: professor Eddie Glaude, chair of Princeton University’s Department of African American Studies and author of Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, and also, from North Carolina, I talked to Bree Newsome Bass, an artist and antiracist and housing rights activist. She made national headlines in 2015 when she scaled the 30-foot flagpole at the South Carolina state Capitol to remove the Confederate flag shortly after the massacre of eight African American parishioners and their pastor by a white supremacist at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When police ordered Bree Newsome down, she responded by saying:

BREE NEWSOME BASS: You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!

AMY GOODMAN: “You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!” she said. I began by asking Bree Newsome Bass about her reaction to the election results.

BREE NEWSOME BASS: Yes, I mean, it is undoubtedly a historic moment, right? I also see a lot of historical parallels right now. You know, I am repeatedly saying that I think that the central conflict in the United States is and has always been this tension between the ideology of white supremacy and this concept of having a multiracial democracy where everyone is allowed to participate in it. And I think that tension is continuing to play out today.

You know, of course, we just had the election of the first woman vice president, Black vice president, a woman of South Asian descent, a descendent of immigrants, I mean. And so, on one hand, you have what kind of like represents again this concept of multiracial democracy. On the other hand, you have — or on the other side, you have a blatant white nationalist movement. And then, somewhere there in the middle is this constant conversation around unifying the nation and trying to, like, heal that divide, which I frankly think is an ideological divide that cannot be unified. I think that part of the reason why this tension is ongoing and is unresolved is because those two things cannot coexist. And so, even while you have, on one side, the extension of the hand and this language around healing the nation and reaching across the aisle and unifying, the other side has still not even conceded the race. The other side is refusing to acknowledge the election results.

And I think it’s important to recognize, as well, that the entire Trump era was in many ways a backlash — right? — to this very concept of having a multiracial democracy, to the election of Obama and what that represented in terms of the shifting demographics. And I think that this election, again, is kind of like another echo of that, where Biden and Harris, they were elected because of this multiracial coalition, essentially, that formed among the voting base. And that’s why we are where we are. And so, while of course it is a very historic moment and you see people celebrating all across the nation, that central conflict has yet to be resolved, just as this election, really, in many ways, has yet to be resolved.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Professor Eddie Glaude — and feel free to channel James Baldwin, if you’d like, which I think you can’t help but do — if you can talk about what your feelings were on Saturday as you watched Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ascend the stage in Wilmington, Delaware, what this all means?

EDDIE GLAUDE: Well, you know, my initial reaction was, thank God we’re going to see the back of Donald Trump’s head, that the disaster of the last four years, at least embodied in the Trump administration — Stephen Miller, Betsy DeVos, William Barr, the whole gaggle of folk, Giuliani, the children — all of those folk will be behind us soon, and, of course, the symbolic significance of Kamala Harris as the first Black vice president, the first Black [vice] president of South Asian descent and Caribbean descent and the like. I was thinking about the National Council of Negro Women. I was thinking about the Atlanta washerwomen strike of 1881. I was thinking about the Women’s Political Council in Montgomery, who were the backbone of the Montgomery bus boycott. I was thinking about Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer. All of these folk are the wind behind Kamala Harris’s back that make her possible. But she’s a symbolic — also the symbolic importance of her, of course.

But we must understand that yesterday was a day, and the day before was a day, of celebration. Today is the day for the hard work. The country is deeply divided, as Bree said. And we have to get about the work of responding to the problems we face as a nation at scale, and not returning back to some sense of normalcy, which in some ways laid the foundation for the disaster that was and is Trumpism.

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue our conversation with Eddie Glaude and as well as Bree Newsome Bass, we’re going to turn right now to a comment that is brewing part of the debate that’s happening right now about the direction of the Democratic Party. This is House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, who went on several Sunday talk shows to criticize calls to defund the police, arguing the phrase hurts Democratic congressional candidates. Here he is on NBC’s Meet the Press citing the defeat of Jaime Harrison in South Carolina against incumbent Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN: Jaime Harrison started to plateau with “defund the police,” showed up with a caption on TV right across his head. That stuff hurt Jaime. And that’s why I spoke out against it a long time ago. I have always said that these headlines can kill a political effort.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Congressmember Clyburn speaking on the Sunday talk shows. Clyburn is credited with really Joe Biden winning the Democratic primaries, having endorsed him right before the South Carolina primary, which then launched him to victory. I wanted to first go to Bree Newsome Bass. You’re in the Carolinas, but you’re in the other one: You’re in North Carolina. Can you talk about this major debate, this debate for the soul of the Democratic Party right now, Bree?

BREE NEWSOME BASS: Yeah, certainly. Well, I mean, first of all, to this argument that is being made so fiercely right now, you know, attacking the “defund the police” effort, I mean, I have yet to see anyone provide any concrete data that supports that claim, other than people making this conjecture. I mean, I live in the Carolinas. I have seen all of the ads that have been running. I mean, they were also running a lot of ads trying to tie Jaime Harrison to Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. So, I mean, unless someone is showing data that can really show that one or the other is what led to Jaime Harrison specifically plateauing in South Carolina, which is a deeply red state, you know, was an uphill battle against Lindsey Graham to begin with, I frankly don’t give that a whole lot of weight.

And I think, again, we cannot gloss over the racial aspect of this whole situation. So, we’re talking about a situation where the Democratic leadership is making the claim — simultaneously making the claim that we need to reach across the aisle, we need to engage in bipartisanship with the party that is not acknowledging the election results; the party that just tried to prevent us from having a free and fair election; the party that engaged in rampant voter suppression, disenfranchisement and intimidation, and particularly in communities of color; the party that, you know, is completely opposed to the idea of our existence; the party that is essentially advocating a form of genocide through medical neglect, that has been ravaging our communities. And so, we can’t just gloss over when people are saying that the path forward is to build with Republicans and at the same time to essentially demonize, make a boogeyman of Black activism and Black causes.

It is the organizers, the same exact people who have been organizing Black communities around issues that impact us, that mobilized those voters for the Biden-Harris win. You know, I’ve also seen people making reference to progressives as being the ones who are being divisive or, you know, ending the truce within the Democratic Party. And it’s quite the opposite. You had a situation where you have a significant segment of people who either traditionally vote Democrat, a lot of people who are completely disengaged from the electoral process completely because they feel that regardless of who is in power, their needs are not met; regardless of who is in power, the police continue to kill us; regardless of who is in power, we do not have access to proper healthcare, we do not have access to housing. So, you had a lot of organizers who had to do a lot of heavy lifting to convince folks that it was worthwhile simply to get Trump out, to mobilize behind Biden and Harris. And that’s why you got Georgia turning out as it did. That’s why you got Arizona turning out as it did.

So, in my view, for anyone to look at the election results and for the takeaway to be we need to figure out how to appeal to the Lindsey Graham voters, you know, and the deeply red districts, as opposed to recognizing that there’s an entire electorate that is younger, that represents where the electorate is going — it’s younger, it’s more diverse, it can win you states in the South — this is the argument that Stacey Abrams has been making for quite some time — instead of looking at things and saying, “How can we invest more in Black and Indigenous and people of color organizing? How can we really look at those issues?” I mean, politically, that makes a lot more sense than saying, “How do we tap into the electorate that lost the presidential election, the electorate that is shrinking, and then, morally, the electorate that opposes democracy?” because they are more committed to racism than they are to the idea of a democracy that allows everyone to participate. So, you know, again, I just think that we cannot — we cannot gloss over.

Yes, I recognize, of course, that James Clyburn is a long-standing politician from South Carolina. He is Black. And I don’t — you know, I’m sure that he recognizes what the political landscape is like in South Carolina. But if we’re looking at the bigger picture, they’re going to cost themselves the Senate race in Georgia if the case that they’re making is that we’re going to try to lean more towards Republican than making it clear to people that unless they turn folks out for those Senate seats in Georgia, you’re not going to have access to the things that you need, like healthcare and all these other things. So, if they embrace a more centrist or Republican agenda, then the takeaway from folks is going to be, again, that it doesn’t matter whether they turn out to vote or not. So I think it’s just like the complete opposite.

And the fact that the focus in the immediate aftermath of the election, when we are still dealing with the situation of a president who does not acknowledge the election results, we’ve got him stoking violence among white supremacists who are threatening violence against sitting governors, who have threatened to blow up ballot-counting centers, that folks would pick defunding the police as the target, as the threat, as the danger, when you’re talking about communities that are still being killed by police and still turning out to support this party in spite of that, complete opposite direction of where they should be going.

AMY GOODMAN: That brings us to professor Eddie Glaude. Professor, you tweeted this quote from James Baldwin: “It has always seemed much easier to murder than to change. And this is really the choice with which we are confronted now.” Explain.

EDDIE GLAUDE: Well, you know, there’s a sense in which the reckoning that we find ourselves involves the question of whether or not we’re going to fundamentally embrace the idea that we are a multiracial democracy. And the history of the country suggests that we constantly, when faced with that question, will double down on violence, that white America will choose violence to defend its way of life, to defend those noxious assumptions, that have, in some ways, led to the organization of our way of life predicated upon this idea that white people ought to be valued more than others, that they will in fact exact a certain kind of violence to defend that view. And so, Baldwin, in this moment, is kind of marking this, right? That America is always talking about it changing, but it never changes, right?

And so, what’s so interesting about the conversation around the Democratic Party is that it’s actually insane — right? — that we would think that the way to respond to the scale of problems that we confront as a nation is to harken back to an older form of politics that is DLC, “Third Way” Democratic-oriented — you know, Democratic politics, that seems to try to triangulate and appeal to this Reagan Democrat that they are so obsessed with as a way of responding to this problem. It makes no sense that we would go back to the politics that actually produced Trumpism in the first place. That’s the first point. The second — or the second point.

The third point is this: We can’t allow these folk to disentangle Trumpism from the Republican Party. I think this is what Bree Newsome Bass is trying to suggest to us. We can’t allow them to disentangle these two things. They are one and the same. So what are you asking for when you talk about reaching across the aisle? What are you asking us to do when you talk about reaching across the aisle in unity? We won’t do that again. That’s not going to happen this time.

And then, lastly, we need to get beyond, I think, these narrow labels. The politics is much more muddled. Right? We need to get beyond these narrow labels. We need to get beyond big government and small government and smart government and get to transformational government. We need to understand what “defund the police” means. Budget your values. Budget your values. That’s what it means at the heart of it, right? Why are you spending 60, 70% of your municipal budgets on policing, when you have education, social services and the like? Stop lying. Stop lying.

And then what we need to pay attention to, lastly — I’ll say this really quickly — we need to pay attention to who Biden appoints as his secretary of treasury. If we get another Rubinite, if we see someone in that tradition, we know what we got. And so, remember, we celebrate yesterday and the day before, but today begins the hard work. The problems of this nation require us to break from the old frames. And we will not allow Clyburn, we will not allow Kamala Harris’s symbolic and significance, we will not allow the threat of Donald Trump to get us from seeing that that is the issue. We have to break the political frame that got us in this mess in the first place.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Professor Glaude, Black male voters, a lot is being made of, came out in higher numbers for Trump this time than last time. But my colleague, co-host Juan González did a brilliant analysis of the information that’s come out on who voted in this unprecedentedly high turnout campaign, the highest in absolute history. Now, what it looks like at this point, as he was pointing out, white voters did not increase that much. That meant people of color increased. Yes, there were more people of color who voted for Trump, but overwhelmingly more who voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Apparently, many people are concerned about — well, I mean, obviously, many people are concerned about how close the election was — Trump winning possibly about, at this point, 57% of the white vote. And you, in your piece in Time magazine, said, “Alongside the details of policy and the particulars of governing a deeply divided country, [Biden] will have to confront what Donald Trump refused to face: that our way of life is broken.” Can you end with that?

EDDIE GLAUDE: Sure. You know, I think we have to deal with the reality of our dead. Close to 240,000 Americans are dead, and there’s no communal, public rituals to acknowledge the collective grief and individual sorrow that we’re experiencing. We have to deal with loneliness and what does it mean for us to be stuck in our homes and hidden behind our masks, where social interactions are kind of overdetermined by the specter of death and the virus. And then, of course, the principal issue is selfishness, that you have folk who have simply given up stake in the American life for their own selfish ends. And so, when we look at those numbers among Black men and Latino men, we can say that, you know, the epidemic of selfishness doesn’t end at the doorstep of white people. And so you have people who are concerned about their 401(k)s, concerned about their own individual self-gain, individual self-interest. And so, these folk have opted out, in some ways, of any robust conception of the public good. So we’re going to have to deal with death, loneliness and selfishness and how it poses, I think, an existential threat to our democratic way of life.

But, you know, everybody is bringing up Black men. When you look at Black folk, when you think about what happened in Atlanta, when you think about what happened in Milwaukee, when you think about what happened in Detroit, when you think about what happened in Philly, you see the path for the Biden-Harris ticket to get to the White House through Black America, Black folk. Black men voted at 80-plus percent. They need to start talking about why white women have voted at 56% for Donald Trump, given what he’s done. But, again, who’s at the center of the gravity of our politics? Who are folks thinking about all the time in a certain sort of way? We need to — these numbers will allow us to drill down at some point, but we need to understand the reality for what it is.

AMY GOODMAN: Last 30 seconds, Bree Newsome Bass.

BREE NEWSOME BASS: Yes. I mean, I think that there is this constant abusive relationship between party politics and Black communities, where we are scapegoated when it’s convenient, and then we are thrown under the bus when it’s convenient. And otherwise, it’s, you know, “Show up to the polls to help us stay in power, because we can’t get elected without you.” And that’s a dynamic that has to end. When it’s time to try to scapegoat and talk about, you know, why did Trump do better, then they want to talk about Black men. When it’s time to talk about the issues and why 80% of Black men turned out to vote for Biden, no one wants to talk about defunding the police. That’s the dynamic that has to end.

And I think the last thing I would say is it’s important for everyone to recognize that the Black movement, the Black organizing of our communities, that is independent of the Democratic Party. We are interacting with party politics, but this movement began during the Obama administration, it continued through the Trump administration, and it will continue through the Biden administration.

AMY GOODMAN: Antiracist activist Bree Newsome Bass and Princeton University professor Eddie Glaude.
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Re: Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

Postby admin » Sat Jan 23, 2021 12:03 am

“The Work Continues”: Cornel West & Maria Hinojosa on the Promise & Dangers of the Biden Admin
by Amy Goodman
JANUARY 21, 2021 ... josa_biden



We host a wide-ranging discussion of the historic inauguration of President Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — the first-ever woman, South Asian and Black vice president — how we got here, and what comes next, with award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa and author and Harvard professor Cornel West. Hinojosa says she had “mixed emotions” watching the inauguration, her sense of hope tempered by memories of the Obama administration. “We all had these extraordinary expectations, and then things didn’t turn out that way,” she says. “The work continues.” West says that while getting Trump out of office was vital, he is still suspicious “of the capitulation to the neoliberal greed and lies and hatred, now that we’ve pushed back the neofascist forms of greed and lies and hatred.” On his first day in office, President Biden ended many of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies. Hinojosa says parts of this agenda are promising, but lack urgency. “In eight years, there could be a new administration. Everybody knows that,” she says. “Do you understand that if you were to do massive immigration reform right now … what that would do to boost the American economy across the board?”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on these actions of the Biden administration, on the overall inauguration and Inauguration Day itself, and what comes next, not to mention what came before, we’re joined by two guests.

Dr. Cornel West is with us, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University, author of many books, including Race Matters and Black Prophetic Fire. His new podcast is called The Tight Rope.

And Maria Hinojosa joins us, award-winning journalist and author of the new memoir, Once I Was You. She’s founder of Futuro Media, host of Latino USA and co-host of the podcast In the Thick.

We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! Maria Hinojosa, let’s begin with you. If you can talk about what we watched yesterday, from — and later in the day, the executive orders, a number of them dealing with immigration, not to mention a not exactly perfectly formed immigration plan, or defined, but some outlines of it, but also the swearing in of the first woman vice president, first Caribbean American, Indian American, African American vice president, daughter of Oakland, by Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latinx Supreme Court justice?

MARIA HINOJOSA: Yeah, it was pretty mind-blowing to see that moment, Amy. And it’s great to be here with you and with Cornel on — you know, on a new day, really, when we’re saying that it really is a new day. And I’m so thrilled to be here with you and your audience and Dr. West to talk about all of this.

Now, like you, there were a lot of mixed emotions. I mean, I was getting very emotional, which I was catching myself, because I had that level of emotion — of course, we all did — when Barack Obama was elected and brought into office, and we all had these extraordinary expectations, and then things didn’t turn out that way. So everything was just kind of like, “Oh my god, this is so beautiful! Oh my god, the United States of America! Oh my god, we’re back!” And then it was just like, “Wow! What just happened?”

My husband kept on saying to me, “It was by a hair.” He just looked at me at one point, and he said — he just went like this. By this much, we didn’t lose this democracy. And so, that is real. I mean, they were coming to murder people. This was an attempted coup d’état in the United States, and the entire world saw it.

On the other hand, we are breathing more freely as journalists. We knew that what we could be facing was an even more targeted assault on us. As a journalist who’s Mexican, an immigrant, not born in this country, I didn’t know what was going to come next for me. Like that.

At the same time, Kamala is vice president. This is incredible. This is extraordinary. Dr. Jill Biden continued working in community colleges.

So, you know, it was here in my household. My daughter, you know, who I was just like, “Aren’t you emotional?” And she was like — and she very much active in electoral politics for the first time ever in her life at 22. But she just kept on saying, “I don’t want people to just walk away now. I don’t want people to just think it’s all good.” And so, the work continues. La luta continúa.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Dr. Cornel West, if you could respond to what happened yesterday at the inauguration, and your sense of what this new administration might hold?

CORNEL WEST: Well, again, I’m just blessed any time to be with you, my dear sister, and Sister Amy, Sister Maria.

But I was just thinking about this fundamental pattern of American history, where 200,000 Black soldiers had to join the Union Army, break the back of white supremacist slavery, Black freedom movement in the '60s, break the back of white supremacist apartheid. Here again, you've got Black folk coming to keep us going off the neofascist cliff with the gangster Trump. And yet, at the same time, Black folk often, in the end, end up recrucified, especially Black poor, especially Black working class.

This is a point I think that Sister Maria was making about the disappointment, that there’s a rot in the system. And the rot is corporate greed and Pentagon militarism. And no matter how many people of color you sprinkle around, even in high places, if they can’t reshift that trajectory of the empire, then, in fact, you end up with a deep, deep disappointment, you see?

So, it is a new day. I’m so glad we stopped the neofascist threat. I want to thank Aimee Allison with She the People. I want to thank Stacey Abrams, of course, with Fair Fight; Refuse Fascism with Sister Sunsara and Brother Andy — and, actually, I was part of that myself as a co-initiator. But it’s not just mixed emotions, but I’m just now suspicious of the capitulation to the neoliberal greed and lies and hatred, now that we’ve pushed back the neofascist forms of greed and lies and hatred. And so, the issue of poor people, the issue of working people, that’s going to be the crucial thing for me.

And when you look at Biden, you know, you say, “OK, the old Biden is tied to three crimes against humanity”: the invasion and occupation of [Iraq], mass incarceration, especially for young Black and Brown brothers and sisters, and then you’ve got the Wall Street greed unleashed. And we haven’t even got to the vicious Israeli occupation. All of those, Biden, the old Biden, fundamentally tied to, used to brag about each and every one of them. We’ll see whether there’s a new Biden. I want to be open. You know, I’m a person of hope. But I wasn’t born at night, maybe — last night. I wasn’t born last night. Let me put it that way. I was born at night, but not last night. We’re going to see.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Dr. West, I’d like to ask you about comments that you made in a recent interview, saying that, effectively, there’s no democracy left in America because of the nihilism in the country, the various forms of nihilism. And you talk about the fact that the 74 million people who voted for Trump, of which a slim majority were both women and men, white women and men, but also one out of three Asians, one out of three Jews, more than one out of three Latinos, and even one out of five Black men. So, could you say a little bit more about that, the range of people who voted for Trump? And there are 74 million of them. What should happen to them? What will happen to them under this new administration? How should they be dealt with or engaged?

CORNEL WEST: I think part of the problem, though, my dear sister, is that with the corporate duopoly of the two parties — so, you’ve got the Republican Party, you’ve got the Democratic Party, both of them tied to corporate greed, both of them tied to Pentagon militarism, and all of the criminality that goes with that, the drones and so forth and so on — that the deep desperation, along with the deep suffering of people, forces them to have to choose between the two.

So, when neoliberal policies come along and you get all the rationalizers of globalization that don’t say a mumbling word about inequality, don’t say a mumbling word about mass incarceration and so forth, that they say, “OK, let’s try the Democrats.” Then, boom, 1% walks off with most of the wealth. “Let’s try populism.” Well, the populism was much more right-wing than left-wing. Many of us with Bernie tried left-wing. The neoliberals crushed us, unfairly, in many ways. So they try the alternative. Here comes Trump, the neofascist pied piper. What happened? They still get crushed.

How do poor and working people ever get their voices heard? And we know. You know, you’ve got social scientists like Brother Dylan and others who say that the voices of ordinary people are not heard. Seventy-two percent of American citizens want Medicare for All. Biden, the exemplar of empathy and common humanity and compassion, he says he’ll veto that bill in the middle of a pandemic. That doesn’t look like too much empathy for me at all.

What are we talking about here? As long as you’ve got a system with this rot — the neoliberal form of the rot, the neofascist form of the rot — we’ve got to have much more either left populist, much more radical, or we’re going to be right back where we were four years ago, because the neoliberal policy of the old Biden won’t work. But I’m giving the new Biden a chance. He might be FDR. We’ll see. He’s got to be bold. We’ll see. I’m not holding my breath, but we shall see. History has a mystery to it.

AMY GOODMAN: Former President Donald Trump did not attend the Biden-Harris inauguration, but three of his predecessors did: Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. They filmed a video message to President Biden Wednesday while standing in the Memorial Amphitheater at the Arlington National Cemetery.

BARACK OBAMA: Obviously, there was a personal element to see my former vice president become the 46th president, to see Kamala Harris as our first woman vice president. But, more broadly, I think inaugurations signal a tradition of a peaceful transfer of power that is over two centuries old.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think the fact that the three of us are standing here talking about a peaceful transfer of power speaks to the institutional integrity of our country.

BILL CLINTON: So, this is an unusual thing. We are both trying to come back to normalcy, deal with totally abnormal challenges, and do what we do best, which is try to make a more perfect union. It’s an exciting time.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I want to put this question each of you. That was President Clinton, before that, George W. Bush, and starting with President Obama. On the one hand, this sense that the country is returning to normalcy, to a bipartisan consensus, but you look at the men — you look at George W. Bush, responsible for how many deaths, invading Afghanistan and then Iraq; you look at President Clinton, the welfare, so-called, reform bill that led to the impoverishment of so many and mass incarceration, which, of course, Joe Biden was very much a part of; and then President Obama, called by his closest immigrant rights allies the “deporter-in-chief.” Now, on the other hand, you have this slew of executive orders on the first day. As they were recording this, you had President Biden signing off on the executive orders. And the executive orders include fortifying DACA. They include, at least for now, halting border wall construction. They approve reversing the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries and undoing Trump’s expansion of immigration enforcement within the U.S. If you can talk about this, what a return to so-called normalcy means, and if at this point, at this kind of breaking point in American history, does there need to be a break? And I’d like to put that question to both of you, starting with professor Cornel West.

CORNEL WEST: Well, no, when I see those three brothers, they’re tied to crimes against humanity — there’s no doubt about that — from drones dropped on innocent people, from a Wall Street greed that crushes poor people and actually kills them concretely and symbolically, when you look at the role that the occupations and invasions have played both — not just abroad, but even here at home, military occupations in our cities. You see? So that anytime you’re head of an empire, no matter what color, no matter what — either Democrat or Republican, you’re head of an empire, you’re going to be tied to crimes against humanity.

And I refuse to normalize that. You know, I refuse to just look at Bill Clinton and say nothing about a vicious, vicious crime bill and a withdrawal of resources for people who are hungry. You see, just morally and spiritually, that is — that’s wrong. And Obama dropping these drones and bailing out Wall Street rather than working people, and killing, assassinating American citizens with no no due process at all, and he walks around like he’s some grand progressive. Please, get off the crack pipe. We’ve got to tell the truth. The truth is bigger than all of us. Bush, we won’t even get into, in terms of the Iraq War and so on, and the lies and so forth.

This is what we don’t hear on corporate media. Thank God for Democracy Now! That God for what you all do, because we can’t normalize this kind of mistreatment of our fellow human beings. So it doesn’t make any difference what color they are. We’re going to check with Sister Harris and see whether she falls right in step. There’s a good chance she will. Then we have to be critical.

AMY GOODMAN: And Maria Hinojosa?

MARIA HINOJOSA: Look, yes to all of that. I mean, for me, everything that — well, let me just start with the three presidents, because I’m right with you. I think that — that is what America is. America is that country that forgets willingly. We were all alive. We covered what happened with Gore v. Bush and the Supreme Court deciding who was going to be president. That is not a democracy. You know, in my book, Once I Was You, everybody is so just kind of — their minds are blown, because it turns out, yes, it was Bill Clinton, in fact, who started building the wall. It was Bill Clinton who in fact signed all of those laws that led to where we are now, where people can be put into detention, prison-like conditions, simply not being born in this country. So, and George W. Bush, please, the largest liar, por favor. Colin Powell, we lived through this, the lies.

But, on the other hand, I actually disagree with professor, my brother, Cornel West in this. I don’t believe that democracy is dead yet. And I think this is the tricky part, right? Because, for example, more Latinos came out to vote than we have ever seen before. And this was extraordinarily important because they are the second-largest voting bloc in the United States of America. So, the fact that I’m here talking about this is really important, because the other side of the Latino coin for the last, what, 50 years is our invisibility, right? Which ties into what Dr. West was talking about, and this is where I completely agree with him.

The empire, which needs the militarization, which was built on mass incarceration, which is slowly being — slowly being deconstructed — slowly, OK, slowly — but what is it going to be replaced with? The immigration-industrial mass complex, that’s what it’s being. So, the immigration plan that Joe Biden said, it’s amazing that he is going to cut off the “Remain in Mexico” policy for refugees. But he said, “But if you’re there, you have to remain there now. You can’t move.” It’s like, what does this mean? We’re going to have immigration reform; it’s just going to take eight years. In eight years, there could be a new administration. Everybody knows that. Eight years?

So, I’m only hoping that what I want to see around me is more people understanding that democracy is not just about a vote. It is about everything. It is about Democracy Now! It’s about Cornel West and his professorship. It’s about the work that I do at Futuro Media, the books we write, the conversations we have. I’m a little bit in Trump territory here in Bethlehem, Connecticut, and I’m having to find my way to have these conversations with my neighbors. And I do that because that’s my job and because it’s my civic duty, because I chose to become an American citizen. So, all of this, for someone who chose to become an American citizen, oh, hell, yes, but who was also around when Nixon was the first one who I saw impeached. So, we’re not going away. And this fire, this fire that we have for this dynamic, this capacity to not all be on the same page, that is what democracy looks like. We need more of it.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And I’d like to ask each of you — Maria, if you could begin — what do you think — now the Democrats are in control of the House and of the Senate. What do you think the priorities should be? And also, how can more progressive Democrats push the Biden-Harris administration to pursue policies that will differentiate this Democrat administration from the Obama one? Maria, if you could begin?

MARIA HINOJOSA: Yeah. Well, look, if you ask me — and I suppose I’m a little bit of a radical on this — what I would do, because, you know, we are much stronger than we think, that we’ve been able to live through this pandemic and staying home and not seeing anyone, not hugging people, not seeing our family, but I want it to stop. I would do a full shutdown. I would. And I would pay people. I would pay people. I would have checks going out so that people can be home, that we’re protecting the most essential workers, really, so that the economy and people can chill out and relax and not be freaking out at this point. And that takes care of COVID and the economy, I think, you know, inspiring the economy.

Immigration reform, you know, people see it as kind of an issue. Do you understand that if you were to do massive immigration reform right now — and I’m talking like in three years — what that would do to boost the American economy across the board? So, I kind of feel like the neoliberalism stops this administration from being what they think is going to be called radical. And what I say — and I know what both of you say, too — is, this is not radical. What is radical is taking the uterus from a woman simply because she was not born in this country. What’s radical is putting children in cages. What’s radical is a police officer murdering a Black man for doing nothing, while being captured on camera. That is radical. The solutions — and the question here for the Biden administration — we’re on the same page here — is: Can you change the narrative? Can you take accountability, apologize in a very big way, the both of them, so that we can begin to trust that there will be a deeper commitment to this real new day that we want to get to?


CORNEL WEST: Indeed. Yeah, no, I’m with my dear Sister Maria. In fact, I would even go further in embracing Sister Maria here — and you tell me what you think, my sister — that, see, I would say, as long as there’s persons like all of us, as long as there’s artists like Yolanda Adams, as long as there’s poets like Sister Amanda and Gabrielle, her sister, and Joan, her mother, that democracy is alive in the hearts and minds of people. And as long as we’re willing to fight, as long as we’re willing to tell the truth, as long as we’re willing to hold onto integrity as opposed to superficial popularity, democracy is alive in the hearts and minds of people.

But it’s our structures that are profoundly anti-democratic. It’s the big money. It’s the lobbyists. It’s the Wall Street greed. It’s Big Tech greed. That’s what stands in the way. It’s the white supremacy and the male supremacy and so forth and so on, the hatred of gays and lesbians and trans and nonbinaries and so forth, so that, in that way, there’s always a struggle going on.

So, if I were asked what the Biden administration ought to do, they ought to look at the 14 points of the Poor People’s Campaign, that my dear Sister Theoharis and my dear Brother Barber, they lay it out — massive cuts in military, fundamental investment in schools, in housing, in jobs with a living wage, the empowerment of the trade union movement, the defense of rights and liberties.

And this is very, very important, you see, because when Bidens talk about — critiquing white supremacy is a beautiful thing. We’ve never had a president talk about white supremacy like that. Even Obama, with two inaugural speeches, never talked about white supremacy like that. But when he talks about domestic terrorists, the next thing you know, I’m a domestic terrorist, because I’m critical of Israeli occupation. If I’m critical of any form of Zionism by using the very term “Zionism,” that makes me an enemy of the state. So we have to be very clear that we’re not for massive repression and censorship and the defense of rights and liberties, even as we’re against white supremacy and male supremacy and any other ideology that leaves aside the humanity of people.

And this is going to be a very important challenge, but we must raise our voices no matter what, based in part on what the Poor People’s Campaign and other progressives are doing, not the fashionable, glitzy neoliberals who trot around as if they are progressives but in fact are in the hip pocket of Wall Street and corporate greedy elites and Big Tech elites and military militaristic elites. That’s going to be the challenge. And that’s the legacy of our dear brother this week, Martin Luther King Jr. That’s what is so powerful in the poetry of Sister Gorman and the music of Yolanda Adams, if we listen very closely and let it touch our souls.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of Martin Luther King and others, the new Oval Office decor has busts of Martin Luther King and César Chávez and Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks, among others, along with a portrait of FDR. We’re going to get final comments from Maria Hinojosa and Dr. Cornel West after break and after we play this remarkable five minutes during the inauguration, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Twenty-two-year-old Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history.

This is Democracy Now!, as we end our conversation with Dr. Cornel West, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University, and award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa. In the last few minutes we have, Professor West, you were in Charlottesville, Virginia, when the Klan marched, when the white supremacists marched. Amanda was writing her poem through the riot, the white supremacist attack on the Capitol. Your final thoughts?

CORNEL WEST: Just that we say to Brother Biden, you know, when he stood on the floor the Senate, November 18, 1993, and said, “These young Black folk are predators on the street beyond the pale, to be taken out of society,” if you’re going to talk about empathy, you ought to extend your empathy to the cousins of the brilliant, visionary poet Amanda on that street. They’re human beings, even when they’re incarcerated. Extend your sympathy to the immigrants trying to make their way, often coming into a country that used to be theirs, our Mexican brothers. Extend your sympathy to poor, no matter what color, working-class, no matter what color — yes, Jewish folk hated in France, Palestinians hated on the West Bank. Where is your concrete empathy and compassion and acknowledging common humanity?

That’s the kind of pressure that he’s going have to expect from love warriors, freedom fighters,, like both myself and the Amanda Gormans, with memories of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and Toni Morrison, and John Coltrane’s Love Supreme.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Maria, your final thoughts?

MARIA HINOJOSA: Wow! Just also Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells, my founding fathers and founding mothers, right? That’s why we do this.

Look, the only thing that I — and I’m trying to stay inspired. I really am. Because, otherwise, what happens? So, we just have to realize that those of us who have this understanding of what democracy looks like got to deepen it. OK, sometimes you can chill. You’ve got to take a — you know, relax, whatever. I understand. But we deepen it. That’s why I love being on with both you, Amy, who I’ve known for years, and Brother West, is because there’s such a humanity here. And I think that if Joe Biden and Kamala can do something, it would be to actually try to humanize, as Cornel was saying, the brothers and sisters of our dear poet, of Amanda, of so many — right? — to humanize those who were not born here, like myself.

So, this is our challenge. As I tell my students — I’m about to start teaching any minute now at Barnard, and I’ll tell my students: There are some days when you cannot, in fact, be that unifier. So don’t try it on those days. On the days when you can have dialogue, yes. But you know what? At the same time now, maybe this isn’t a time for that right now. Give ourselves a little bit of a break also to take critical pause for what we’re seeing and to understand, finally, we are much stronger than we think. We never thought we could make it this far. But also, we did not all make it. We did not all make it. And so, for that, I’m very sorry.

But I’m looking at the sun, and I’m incredibly hopeful. Nature is what grounds me, and I hope it grounds the both of you, too — the three of you. It’s been such a pleasure to be with all of you.

AMY GOODMAN: We thank you so much for being here on this post-inauguration broadcast, Maria Hinojosa, award-winning journalist, author and professor, and Dr. Cornel West, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University.
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Re: Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

Postby admin » Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:41 am

Vijay Prashad Warns Biden Is “Doubling Down” on Trump’s Anti-China Cold War Policy
by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now!
March 16, 2021 ... na_rivalry



Vijay Prashad, author and director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
Vijay Prashad on Twitter
"Biden continues the US conflict with China through the Quad"
"Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations"

Beijing has accused the U.S. of perpetuating a Cold War mentality as President Joe Biden and senior administration officials shore up alliances in the Pacific region to counter China’s growing influence and increasingly describe the country as a geopolitical threat. Vijay Prashad, director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, says the “bellicose” tone out of Washington is not because the U.S. sees China as a military threat, but because China threatens U.S. dominance in the scientific, technological and diplomatic spheres. “It’s very chilling what the U.S. government is doing in ramping up this cold war,” says Prashad.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show looking at U.S.-China relations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with their counterparts in Japan today and will next head to South Korea as part of their first overseas trip. The meetings are widely viewed as an attempt by the Biden administration to secure allies in Washington’s campaign to counter China’s growing power. Blinken spoke earlier today in Japan.

SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: We’re united in the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, where countries follow the rules, cooperate whenever they can, and resolve their differences peacefully. And in particular, we will push back, if necessary, when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way.

AMY GOODMAN: The Japanese foreign minister also spoke at the joint news conference.

TOSHIMITSU MOTEGI: [translated] We agreed to oppose China’s unilateral bid to change the status quo, including in the East China Sea and South China Sea, and shared concerns about China’s coast guard laws.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, also speaking at the joint news conference.

DEFENSE SECRETARY LLOYD AUSTIN: I know Japan shares our concerns with China’s destabilizing actions. And as I have said before, China is a pacing challenge for the Department of Defense.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, President Biden met virtually with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia in the first meeting of the so-called Quad, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. Beijing has accused the Quad of perpetuating a Cold War mentality. On [Thursday], Secretary of State Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska for the first direct talks between Beijing and the Biden administration. Earlier this month, Blinken described China as the “biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century” for the United States.

SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system, all the rules, values and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to, because it ultimately serves the interests and reflects the values of the American people.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as the United States and China are taking markedly different approaches to vaccines and the COVID pandemic. While the United States faces accusations of hoarding vaccines and blocking efforts to waive vaccine patent rights at the World Trade Organization, China has shipped millions of vaccine doses to nations in the Global South in what’s been described as a form of vaccine diplomacy. China has sent free samples of Sinovac’s vaccine to 53 countries and has exported it to 22 nations that have placed orders. Recipients include Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia.

To talk more about the U.S.-China relations, we are joined by Vijay Prashad, director of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, author of many books, including The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South. His latest book, Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations. He’s a senior nonresident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. His latest article for Peoples Dispatch is headlined “Biden continues the US conflict with China through the Quad.”

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Vijay. Well, let’s begin right there, with that headline. Can you talk about the Biden administration’s approach to China, how it compares to Trump, and what you see needs to happen and change?

VIJAY PRASHAD: It’s great to be back with you, Amy. The first thing I’d like to say is that there are deep continuities not only between the Biden approach to China and the Trump approach, but also, before that, the Obama approach, because Obama, after all, inaugurated something called a “pivot” to Asia.

I just want to point something out, which is that, you know, when they say that China is a threat, as Antony Blinken said in what I thought was a very sharp and rather bellicose speech — when he says China is a threat, what do they mean? I think, here, precision is important. They don’t mean that China is a military threat to the United States. After all, the Chinese military has the capacity to defend its homeland, but it’s not in any way threatening the United States. In fact, it’s U.S. naval vessels that are sailing very close to the Chinese mainland in so-called freedom of navigation sorties right close to Chinese territorial waters. So, the Chinese don’t have a military threat against the United States at all.

What they’re talking about has been very closely clarified at this Quad meeting, which is that the United States government understands that China’s scientific and technological developments, particularly in robotics, in telecommunications, in green technology and so on, has far surpassed that of U.S. and European companies. And this is an existential threat, as far as the United States is concerned, the U.S. government is concerned, to Silicon Valley. China doesn’t threaten the American citizen, the average American citizen. But Chinese telecommunication companies, like Huawei and ZTE, are perhaps a generation ahead of U.S. telecommunications companies. And rather than compete, you know, in a, as it were, free market with these companies, the United States government is using immense military pressure, diplomatic pressure and a sort of information war to push China back into its boundaries. It’s one thing, as far as the U.S. is concerned, Amy, for China to deliver its workers to produce products for U.S. companies. It’s quite another when Chinese companies are competing fair and square against U.S. companies.

That’s the real issue here. It’s not human rights. It’s not military pressure. It’s not what Lloyd Austin, I think quite gingerly, called destabilization. That’s not the issue. The main issue here is scientific and technological competition. And China, I’m afraid, as far as Silicon Valley is concerned, is ahead of the United States in that game.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Vijay, I wanted to ask you about how China is covered in the U.S. and the Western media. You mentioned the technological competition that often gets some play, but the main issues that the U.S. press seems to concentrate on are the trade deficit with China, the democracy movement in Hong Kong or the fate of the Muslim Uyghurs in China. Very little attention is paid to China’s role as the principal reducer of poverty in the world. Today, there are about 112 million manufacturing workers in China. That’s more than the combined workforce, manufacturing workforce, of the United States, Germany, France, Germany, Italy and Japan combined. So, what’s happened over the last 30, 40 years is that China has lifted about 700 million people out of extreme poverty. Could you talk about this role of China as really changing the nature of the distribution in terms of — now, of course, American companies have benefited from that, from the low wages in China, but the Chinese people have also had an enormous change in their living standards, as well, no?

VIJAY PRASHAD: The first thing I’d like to respond to, Juan, is you mentioned the U.S. media. Look, frankly, most of the U.S. corporate media have become stenographers of the U.S. State Department. You know, the credibility to have Mr. Mike Pompeo, former secretary of state, stand up there on behalf of the Muslims of China, after what the United States has done in Afghanistan, in Iraq — and, don’t forget, Pompeo used to head the CIA — I mean, it strains credibility. When the U.S. government is defending people in the Hong Kong — Hong Kong, which was a colony of the British Empire for a hundred years and was ruled as a colony, the British government now standing up for human rights and democracy, it’s extraordinary that nobody asks the question about their own integrity on these questions. But let’s leave that aside.

Yes, it’s certainly true that as far as a developing country is concerned, China has played an extraordinary role in producing the ability for the Chinese people to lift themselves out of poverty. Let’s be clear about one thing: China had the longest Second World War on the planet. It started in 1937, ended in 1949. That’s years more than the Second World War in Europe. The country was devastated when the Chinese communists took power in 1949. They have fought a very serious battle to end poverty. And they didn’t do it merely by transfer payments, by cash payments. They did it by improving social indicators, by improving healthcare, literacy, education in general, and so on. This is an enormous, enormous feat that they’ve done by lifting, as you say, 700 million people out of poverty. This should be the headline, but it’s not.

And even more so, you know, Amy, you’re quite right to mention what’s been called vaccine diplomacy, rather than the vaccine nationalism we’re seeing in North America, Canada, where, for instance, there’s double the number of vaccine doses needed, and Canada, shamefully, has taken vaccine out of the COVAX vaccine fund, which is supposed to provide vaccines to developing countries. Yes, China is producing a kind of vaccine diplomacy rather than vaccine nationalism. But more than that, Chinese medical personnel, like Cuban medical personnel, have been going around the world assisting countries in combating COVID-19. You know, we are all for the Cuban doctors to get the Nobel Peace Prize this year, but we should also recognize the number of Chinese doctors who have been overseas providing assistance in the Global South.

Recently, even The Atlantic magazine ran a story to show that the myth of the Chinese “debt trap” needs to be called into question. In other words, China has been lending enormous amounts of money for development purposes in the Global South, in countries like Bolivia, where the United States has come in with a project called American Crece, trying to undercut Chinese investments by bringing in U.S. private sector investments and strong-arming countries, as we saw in El Salvador, strong-arming the government, saying, “If you don’t take American money and cut the Chinese out, we’re going to make great trouble for you.” I mean, this is old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy, and people need to see it for what it is. If you’re going to talk about human rights, what about the human rights of the people of El Salvador to craft their own foreign policy? Why should they be dictated to by Washington, D.C.?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Vijay, I wanted to center on that a little bit, the situation in Latin America. Latin America has now become the second major region for Chinese investment abroad, and the kinds of projects that the Chinese are helping to finance, they are really astounding. There’s the $5 billion that’s being spent to build two hydroelectric dams in the Patagonia section of Argentina over the Santa Cruz River, a transcontinental railroad between Peru and Bolivia, and, of course, a new canal across Central America, across Nicaragua, that would basically compete with the monopoly that the Panama Canal has had over world shipping. Could you talk about the sheer size of these projects? Really, most Americans are not aware of this enormous infrastructure that is resulting from the Belt and Road policy of China.

VIJAY PRASHAD: You see, Juan, during this pandemic, people have been aware of what we call the digital divide, you know, some people not having access to the internet. This is, of course, very difficult at a time when 168 million children have not been able to go to school, because they don’t have access to the internet. It’s not just a digital divide. There’s an electricity divide. There’s an infrastructure divide around the planet. It’s one thing to live in the United States and bemoan developments overseas, but you have to understand that in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, even in the southern part of Argentina, there’s an electricity divide, there’s an infrastructure divide, there’s a lack of transportation and so on.

Very little capital has come into these countries from the World Bank, from the International Monetary Fund that’s enabled infrastructural projects. So what the Chinese have done with the Belt and Road Initiative is provide vast amounts of finance, as you mentioned, to develop some of this infrastructure, to bridge the electricity gap, to bridge the transportation gap.

This is very clearly in the case in Bolivia, where, during the administration of Evo Morales, they cut some very important deals with the Chinese, not only to mine lithium, which is a key component of batteries, but also to develop the processing of lithium in Bolivia and to create electric cars. I think people don’t know that during the last year of Evo Morales’s government, Bolivia produced electric cars for domestic consumption. It’s really quite incredible what’s happened in that partnership. They want to upskill these countries, not just leave them as a place to draw out raw materials and to sell products produced in China. They seriously have a project of upskilling, and I’m quite impressed to see, particularly in Bolivia.

But look at what happens to this. In Ecuador, the government of Lenín Moreno, under some pressure from the U.S. — but it must be said, Lenín Moreno of Ecuador doesn’t need much pressure from the U.S. government — decided to cut out Chinese loans, which had been taken by the previous government of Rafael Correa, and substituted for U.S. loans. You know, we looked closely at these two agreements. It was very clear that the Chinese loans were far less onerous than the U.S. loans that were coming in, because the Chinese, during the pandemic, essentially said, “We suspend all payments for another two years.” The U.S. has not been suspending debt servicing payments from developing countries. So, if you just look at the case of Ecuador, it’s a better deal to take the Chinese money.

Rather than accept this, rather than say, “Let’s have a collaborative approach between China and the United States” — I very much hope that in Alaska this becomes part of the worldview, that there should be a collaborative approach — rather than a collaborative approach, I’m afraid the Biden administration is doubling down on the Trump administration’s cold war policy against China.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Vijay Prashad, there is a tweet, a kind of meme, that a lot of the Chinese diplomats are putting out there right now, where they are saying that — oh, what is it? — China hasn’t dropped a single bomb on foreign soil in more than 40 years; meanwhile, the U.S. drops 46 bombs a day, on average. Your response to that?

VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, you know, Amy, the Stockholm Institute for Peace and Research releases their report every year on arms deals and on military spending. And the report recently released shows that the United States government has increased its military spending, and China has actually decreased its military spending. At the same time, just a few weeks ago, Admiral Philip Davidson of the Indo-Pacific Command went before the U.S. Armed Services Committee, and he basically has asked for $5 billion for the Indo-Pacific Command this year and $27 billion over the next period.

Mr. Davidson said something very chilling, Amy, at this hearing. He said the United States government must “be prepared to fight a war” against China. “Be prepared to fight.” The Chinese have not used any belligerent language. In fact, they have cautioned and said, “Look, we need to dial back this tension. This so-called freedom of navigation sorties by the U.S. Navy needs to stop. The United States needs to draw back. There’s no need to militarize Guam.” A conflict is unimaginable between two nuclear powers, and yet United States ramping up the language, spending more to militarize its Pacific outlets, the bases in Japan and so on. I haven’t seen anything comparable coming from China.

This is at a time when the U.S. government has developed a hypersonic cruise missile, which can fire from anywhere in the world, hit Beijing in 15 minutes. It’s very chilling what the U.S. government is doing in ramping up this cold war in the name of human rights, in the name of, you know, non-destabilization, democracy and so on. You’ve got to cut through the rhetoric and see who’s really violating the U.N. Charter.

For this reason, China and a host of other countries, about 10 other countries, have created a group called Friends of the U.N. Charter. This group of friends is going to be a group in the United Nations. They’re going to try and push the objectives of the Charter against groups like the Quad. You know, China has said that the Quad is fine. You can meet as the Quad, but don’t produce groupings like the Quad whose intent is to destabilize a country like China, destabilize another member nation of the United Nations. I think that was a very sober statement coming from Beijing. But more than that, this group of Friends of the U.N. Charter is a significant development, and I hope more people pay attention to it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Vijay, I wanted to ask you about the role of the major multinational American companies, which clearly have benefited from being able to offshore their production capacity in China while selling the products in the West. Their role, as increasingly U.S. administrations become more and more belligerent toward China, but yet the companies still have to make money as a result of their relationships with China?

VIJAY PRASHAD: See, Juan, these companies know that what they make money on is on the patents against the technology. You know, Apple doesn’t make anything. Apple collects rent off products made by, in fact, a Taiwanese company inside China. Apple doesn’t make iPhones. It outsources the production of the iPhone. They make money off the rent, you know, off the patent. So, when Chinese firms develop new patents — and, indeed, the last couple of years, China has registered more patents than U.S. companies — as China develops new technologies and so on, this is what’s going to outflank U.S. companies.

It’s very significant that during the Trump years, none of the Silicon Valley firms opposed the trade war prosecuted by Mr. Trump against China. In fact, when the head of Apple went to see Mr. Trump, he didn’t say, “Dial back the trade war.” I mean, this is really important. He didn’t say, “Dial back the trade war.” He said that the trade war is unfairly helping South Korean companies like Samsung and that there needs to be a way to figure out this trade war so that a South Korean, a third country, is not benefiting from the U.S. trade war on China, because the real beneficiary, as far as the CEO of Apple was concerned, should be Apple.

You know, in other words, Silicon Valley understands that they require U.S. pressure on China to make China surrender its advances in high-tech, in telecommunications, in robotics, in green technology and so on, so that U.S. firms can continue to make money off the patents, to continue to make money as rent-seeking companies, because they are certainly not making money as innovative producers. You know, what are the new major technologies in green technology produced in the United States? Not much. Most of the big developments have taken place in Germany and in China. This is the reason why U.S. high-tech firms are basically aligned with this Cold War mentality that has emanated in Washington from the Obama administration onwards.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Vijay Prashad, back to the issue of vaccine, this idea of China dropping vaccines all over, and the U.S. still involved in these wars around the world and fighting waivers at the Word Trade Organization that allow for more vaccines to be made available to the developing world. I mean, The New York Times has a front-page piece. China is giving Latin America vaccines and gaining leverage. It’s about during Trump — under Trump, taking on China. Brazil, which is now in a massive surge of coronavirus, because Jair Bolsonaro was considered the tropical Trump, such a close ally of Trump — he refused to deal with China and Huawei, the large telecommunications company. But now, in their desperation and with Trump gone, they are turning to China in a major way, both around telecommunications and, at the same time, asking China, “Can you get us vaccines?” Chile is the — China is the dominant supplier of vaccines in Chile and, as we said, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. And here the U.S. is either being accused of hoarding vaccines or fighting the ability to get these vaccines around the world.

VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, you know, India and South Africa — India, a major part of the Quad. Nonetheless, these two countries have asked that the patents on the vaccine be unlocked, so that anybody can produce these vaccines, you know, and that you would have, therefore, ramped-up production. It’s very clear when you talk to people at DHL and other couriers. They say that the issue isn’t getting vaccine places. The issue right now is that the production lines have slowed down, that people are not producing it at the scale that they have to.

Look, this pandemic should not be looked at politically. Countries need to come together under the leadership of the United Nations, under the leadership of the WHO. We need to ramp up the production of these vaccines. By the way, these vaccines are almost all produced with massive public financing. There should be no patent on these vaccines. They need to be unlocked. India and South Africa were quite right to ask for them to be unlocked.

What the Chinese are doing with the Sinovac is, essentially, treating it as if it’s an unlocked vaccine, delivering it at scale to countries around the world. This should not be seen as a political issue. Why should a Swiss company or a U.S.-based company be making billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars, on the pandemic? You know, we used to talk about something, Amy, called war profiteering, during a war, when companies made money producing armaments and so on. There should be no pandemic profiteering. Pandemic profiteering should be an immoral thing. Companies should not be making money during this pandemic. There should be no politics in this. There should be no profit in this. This should be treated as a human tragedy which has to be dealt with in a collaborative way by human beings.

And I must say, once again, here, the Chinese, but not only the Chinese, the Cubans, other countries are showing the way, because they are treating this as a human tragedy. Look, China doesn’t have a political litmus test where it sends its Sinovac. It’s not saying, you know, “Mr. Bolsonaro, you and your son have made horrendous, racist comments about the Chinese, therefore we won’t send you the vaccine.” No, the Chinese say, “We don’t really care what you say. It’s a human tragedy. The Brazilian people should not be held hostage by the ill humor of Mr. Bolsonaro.” And they’ve been providing vaccines. I think this is a very mature attitude.

And I hope this kind of attitude defines the policy not only at the United Nations, but at the WHO. We need a little more maturity in the world. And I feel that all of this warmongering, war talk, this false talk about destabilization and so on, should be set aside. I am not actually governed much by what Blinken said in his speech in early March. I thought a little bit of reality would have been useful. And despite the fact that Mr. Blinken is fluent in French, he is very, very, very much like Mike Pompeo.

AMY GOODMAN: Vijay Prashad, I want to thank you for being with us, author and director of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, senior nonresident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University in China.
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Re: Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

Postby admin » Tue Mar 30, 2021 4:25 am

Capitalism Without Accountability Is at Root of Suez Canal Shipping Crisis, Says Scholar Laleh Khalili (Excerpt]
by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now ... obal_trade



AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to end on a different issue, Laleh Khalili, and that is a piece that you just wrote about, talking about U.S.-China relations, in the London Review of Books, titled “Growing Pains: The Emperor’s New Road: China and the Project of the New Century.” On Friday, President Biden told reporters he discussed plans with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to counter China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: One of the things I suggested we do is — we talked about China and the competition they’re engaging in, in the Belt and Road Initiative. And I suggested we should have, essentially, a similar initiative coming from the democratic states, helping those communities around the world that in fact need help.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Khalili, your response?

LALEH KHALILI: So, it’s quite interesting, because it seems to me that the U.S. military-industrial-diplomatic complex has always wanted another enemy. And it benefits from having another cold war going. And so, to cast China’s provision of, for example, infrastructures in order to facilitate its trade seems to be a kind of an encouragement of this. Of course, there are lots of problems also associated with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. For example, in some of the places that these investments are happening, there are all sorts of human rights abuses happening, including in China’s own Xinjiang.

AMY GOODMAN: And briefly explain the Belt and Road Initiative, which is not explained at all in the media in the United States very much.

LALEH KHALILI: So, the Belt and Road Initiative is, essentially, a plan that was put into action in 2013 to actually gather under its title a whole lot of already existing infrastructure projects across the Asian, Eurasian landmass, all the way through Europe, for infrastructure, and particularly transport projects, so high-speed rail, train lines that went through different terminuses and would, for example, end up in Singapore, in Iran and in Budapest, and then, across the oceans, the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, and through the Mediterranean, essentially, a route for ships, so investments in port and maritime infrastructures. And so, this was called the maritime belt and maritime — the land belt and the maritime road.

And so, essentially, this massive program entailed investment, financing by China, close, actually, to how much — $400-and-something billion, close to actually what the World Bank had invested in that period of time on infrastructures. And part of the reason for this, of course, is that many of these countries did need infrastructures, and they’re often not given it because of sanctions or because of U.S. foreign policy or because of, of course, histories of European colonization of a lot of the places that are destinations for this investment.

And so, this is essentially the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. Of course, it facilitates Chinese capital accumulation. It’s not done out of Chinese goodness. And, as I said, it does also have, in areas — for example, in Balochistan and Pakistan or in various provinces in Myanmar or, indeed, in Xinjiang, there are issues associated with this. But it’s also the way that it is being cast. The way that it’s being addressed in Europe and North America is as if China is sort of the next great enemy.

It’s really important also to point out that China, despite sort of this expansion, has not, for example, established — I don’t know — 800 military bases, like the U.S. has done in lots of different places, but, rather, it does have one or two military bases outside of its own periphery, but it also depends on private military companies. So, it’s quite an interesting moment, because, essentially, what China is doing is the enforcement of capitalism with a Chinese face, if you wish, but it is seen as a threat to the U.S. national security, perhaps because, as I said, a cold war is always good for the military business in the U.S. and Europe.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Laleh Khalili, we want to thank you for being with us, author of Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula. And we’ll link to your piece in The Washington Post, “Big ships were created to avoid relying on the Suez Canal. Ironically, a big ship is now blocking it.” Professor Khalili teaches international politics at the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London.


Growing Pains
by Laleh Khalili
London Review of Books: The Emperor’s New Road: China and the Project of the Century
by Jonathan E. Hillman
18 March 2021

In​ a short story called ‘The Chinese Road’ written in the 1970s by the Yemeni-Ethiopian Mohammad Abdul-Wali, a Yemeni man befriends a Chinese construction worker on the new road from the port of Hodeida on the Red Sea, ‘cutting through the mountain’, to the capital, Sanaa, more than two hundred kilometres away. Abdul-Wali describes the competent and friendly Chinese labourers who live in tents with the Yemenis. They all learn Arabic, unlike an earlier group of foreigners: the British, sweaty and florid, with their colony in Aden, who remained aloof from the locals, and departed ‘leaving nothing behind but the hatred of [the] people’. The Chinese construction workers, by contrast, leave a lasting legacy.

The completion of the first paved road in Yemen in 1961 was commemorated in a series of stamps that also celebrated the building of a modern port in Hodeida with the help of Soviet engineers. By that point 1100 Chinese construction workers and engineers were building roads in Yemen. Work on the Sanaa-Hodeida road had begun in 1959, the same year China started blasting through the Himalayas to build the Karakoram Highway to Pakistan. In 1967, China completed the sky-high ‘friendship road’ between Lhasa and Kathmandu, and between 1970 and 1975 it built a railway between Tanzania and Zambia. Chinese railway experts were remembered respectfully by their local counterparts for passing on their skills.

These postcolonial Chinese construction programmes were intended to be different from the European schemes of the preceding decades, which were launched by colonial powers to enable the transport of extracted raw materials. As the Guyanese historian Walter Rodney wrote in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972), roads and railways

were not constructed in the colonial period so that Africans could visit their friends. More important still, they were not laid down to facilitate internal trade in African commodities. There were no roads connecting different colonies and different parts of the same colony in a manner that made sense with regard to Africa’s needs and development. All roads and railways led down to the sea.

In the exuberant but brief period immediately after decolonisation most postcolonial states looked to the Soviet Union or China to help with industrialisation and infrastructure, often trying to play these countries off against the US and Europe in order to secure better deals with fewer strings attached. At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet and Chinese politics of aid resulted in the construction of hydroelectric dams, steel mills, cement factories, ports and airports, as well as road and rail networks across Asia and Africa. There were more direct forms of aid too. After the Bandung Conference’s call in 1955 for Afro-Asian solidarity, China granted $4.7 million in hard currency to Egypt just as Britain, France and Israel were attacking it over the Suez Canal. China extended credit to a number of recently independent African states – Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, Kenya, Guinea – and gave millions to Nepal, Ceylon (soon to become Sri Lanka), Indonesia and Cambodia. It also provided military aid and armaments to anticolonial guerrilla groups across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

At the same time, the US Army Corps of Engineers was building roads, communication systems, airports and other infrastructure in Libya, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. These were always designed to meet US military and strategic needs, often connecting US bases to major transport facilities. In the 1970s I lived in Mashhad in northern Iran, in a neighbourhood next to the recently opened Cento Road. The road was funded by the Central Treaty Organisation, formed in 1955 and modelled after Nato. Its founding members were Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and the UK, with the US pulling the strings in the hope of preventing southward Soviet expansion. The US was happy to fund transport routes because, as the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Curtis LeMay, put it in 1962, ‘inadequacies of road and rail facilities in Iran’ limited the ability of the US military to travel easily near Iran’s border with the Soviet Union. We understood, as other collateral beneficiaries of such roads did, that the US never built a road unless its forces might one day travel along it.

There is a temptation in Washington policy cliques to see China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a continuation of Cold War politics. The BRI, which was launched with great fanfare by Xi Jinping in 2013, has two components. On land, multiple train routes are planned to cross the Eurasian landmass via Central Asia, Russia and Iran, with termini in Singapore, Isfahan and Budapest, from where it would connect to the railways of Western Europe. The maritime branch wraps around South-East and South Asia and from there extends to East Africa or through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean.

The numerous road, rail, port and airport projects that form the spine of these new Silk Roads are certainly strategic vectors of alliance like their mid-20th-century counterparts, but there is much less of the discourse of South-South solidarity that emerged out of Bandung, and more of an economic calculation. The China of the 1950s and 1960s was very different from the China of the 21st century. In 1959, when work began on the Karakoram and Hodeida-Sanaa highways, China had a GDP of $55 billion and was in the throes of famine. In 2013, when the BRI was announced (initially under the name One Belt, One Road), its GDP approached $9.5 trillion. In real terms, the Chinese economy grew twentyfold over that half-century.

After China opened up to foreign direct investment in the 1970s, first from Japan and later from Europe and North America, it quickly became the world’s factory. In the last decade of the 20th century, numerous new manufacturing centres grew up along its coasts. Its ports expanded in number and capacity to receive raw materials – coal, oil, ore, bauxite, copper – from all over the globe, and to dispatch in turn huge container ships laden with manufactured goods. By the early 2000s, Chinese ports dominated every top-twenty maritime list.

China’s response to the global crisis of capital in 2008 was a massive stimulus programme. Its central planners encouraged the movement of capital inland and used the state-owned banking system to cultivate manufacturing centres along China’s long land borders with South-East, South and Central Asian states. They also invested in extensive land transport infrastructures, accumulating expertise and manufacturing capacity in railway technologies, which are now being deployed in building the rail components of the BRI. This alternation between mobile capital and its immobilisation in infrastructure – a ‘spatial fix’, in the words of the geographer David Harvey – is one progenitor of Xi’s grand initiative. China’s treatment by the US is another.

In October 2011, Obama’s then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, announced the birth of ‘America’s Pacific Century’ in an article for Foreign Policy, and boasted that the Asia-Pacific region was ‘eager for our leadership and our business’. Although the Clinton manifesto made gestures to allay China’s fear of a new Cold War, only a few months later the Pentagon issued Defence Strategic Guidance which included a ‘pivot to Asia’. To the jubilation of armchair and actual generals, the strategy document declared the end of the boots-on-the-ground counterinsurgency era and warned of ‘the growth of China’s military power’. The document’s familiar jargon – it called for ‘credible deterrence’ and the need to ‘project power despite anti-access/area denial challenges’ – was followed up with action in the region: new military exercises with Japan, the decision to base US Marines in Australia, arms sales to the Philippines, and a range of other activities. All this built on the Clinton and Bush administrations’ placement of additional naval and air weapons systems in Japan and Guam, the deployment of another aircraft carrier to the Pacific and the construction of a naval base in Singapore.

Trump’s trade wars against China and his unabashedly racist response to Covid showed a US itching for a revival of Cold War rivalries. In his first days in office Biden declared that the term ‘China virus’ would be expunged from federal documents, but while criticising Trump’s approach, Biden’s new secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said that the former president ‘was right in taking a tougher approach to China’; the new secretary of commerce, Gina Raimondo, has said that she will continue Trump’s policy, using ‘the full toolkit at my disposal ... to protect America and our networks from Chinese interference’. Such attitudes have become firmly entrenched among US policymakers.

All this means we should be grateful that a long-established Washington think-tanker like Jonathan Hillman is downplaying the threat of China’s projects to US interests. Hillman is a senior fellow at the centre-right Centre for Strategic and International Studies. His research for The Emperor’s New Road included visiting a number of countries where BRI projects are underway in order to measure the gap between promise and reality. He aspires to a tone of gravity even when his fieldwork largely consists in finding out whether the trains run on time. The effect is disconcerting: in places, his reports read like stories from a Lonely Planet travel guide – trains are missed, there are troubles with Russian border guards, ferries don’t depart from their advertised docks.

Predictably, the book’s cover has a red star on it, and there are further clichés inside: from the travels of Marco Polo, to Central Asian Muslims who both pray to Allah and drink vodka, to the multiple urban centres branded ‘the new Dubai’. He sees China as undergoing an ‘education as a rising power’; it is in need of instruction, presumably from more experienced imperialists. But the imperialists that should serve as paragons and warnings, he thinks, are France and Britain, not the US. The Persian kings Xerxes and Darius are mentioned several times, but the pivot to Asia is not. He portrays the US as a well-meaning, bumbling giant whose best efforts are undermined by its being too nice, too concerned with democratic institutions, arriving too late on the scene in places like Pakistan, not understanding the locals, and not spending enough dollars to compete properly with China. On the ‘dangers’ of China to US national interests, Hillman is equivocal. While the overall message of the book is that the Chinese are too incompetent and their Asian clients too venal to endanger US ambitions in these contested spaces, we nevertheless hear about violent smuggling gangs in the port of Piraeus, Huawei’s supernatural reach, the Chinese military presence in the South China Sea, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia, and the corrupting influence of Chinese money wherever BRI projects are found.

Where Chinese infrastructure projects seem to have failed, Hillman tends to blame corruption and the machinations of local actors. He contends that it was a lack of principles and foresight on the part of Djiboutian politicians that led them in 2018 to invite the Chinese to take over the container terminal of Doraleh after they had seized control of it from the Dubai-based company DP World, which had held the concession. There is nothing here about DP World’s predatory practices in Indian Ocean ports, which resulted, for example, in Yemen buying back the concession for the port of Aden (only for it to be decimated by the Saudi-Emirati coalition’s war on Yemen). Hillman portrays China’s expansion in Piraeus as the Asian hordes at the gates of Europe, but doesn’t tell us that the European troika’s forcible privatisation of Greek state enterprises in the wake of the financial crisis offered the port on a platter to China’s Cosco Shipping. (During the same fire sale, airports on many Greek islands were sold to the German airport management company Fraport AG.)

Belt and Road investments are leading to the development of infrastructure long denied to African and Asian countries. China lends money on favourable terms to its allies, including states that otherwise fail to secure such loans as a result of unforgiving US sanctions. As well as investing in roads, railways and ports, China now manufactures technologies – especially in the field of telecommunications – that challenge US and European hegemony. Its less costly products are easier for countries of the global South to afford. And China’s ‘no interference’ policy means that it has largely avoided the crude regime-change politics emanating from Washington; its military expenditure is still only a third of America’s, and much lower still as a percentage of GDP. China is now at the centre of global capitalism. No longer economically peripheral and with no pretence of being a communist state, China uses its BRI projects to consolidate and expand capitalism ‘with Chinese characteristics’.

Data from Boston University’s Global Development Policy Centre show that between 2008 and 2019, China extended overseas development credit of $462 billion, only slightly less than the $467 billion provided by the World Bank in the same period. The money advanced by the China Development Bank and the Export Import Bank of China reached a peak in 2016, half of which was spent on infrastructure projects. Ten countries – including Venezuela, Pakistan, Russia, Angola, Brazil, Ecuador and Iran – received the lion’s share of the loans.

The terms under which these loans have been offered, and their economic effects, have differed from place to place. To finance development in the Pakistani port of Gwadar, China offered loans at zero interest, perhaps because of Pakistan’s strategic importance. In Sri Lanka, it signed a 99-year lease on the port of Hambantota, in which it has a 70 per cent stake. Hillman isn’t alone in regarding the Hambantota concession as a coercive debt-equity swap: China gets control of the port in return for forgiving some of Sri Lanka’s debt. But the story is more complicated. In 2016, Sri Lanka owed financiers $65 billion, $8 billion of which was owed to China. But 75 per cent of the debt was in government bonds bought up primarily by funds in the US, and much of that debt was accrued not to build infrastructure but to finance the counterinsurgency war against the Tamil Tigers. Ports, airports and other facilities that were built were the vanity projects of the then president, Mahinda Rajapaksa: they were badly situated, poorly designed and overpriced. The money from China intended for the port concession went instead to service interest payments. Rajapaksa, who was booted out of office largely because of the strength of popular feeling against the port, found his way back to power as prime minister in his brother Gotabaya’s administration. The reduction in China’s financing of projects in 2016 was perhaps influenced by its embarrassment over Sri Lanka.

Leaked documents show that, in 2013, Kenya used the port of Mombasa as security on loans taken out with China’s Exim Bank to finance the construction of a railway from Mombasa to Nairobi, with a branch – some of it as yet unbuilt – to the Rift Valley and the Ugandan border, a project that involved murky deals between different factions of the Kenyan elite. The loans Kenya has received from China amount to nearly $5 billion. Given that the railway is yet to turn a profit, Kenya may be forced to cede the port to China. More likely, China will renegotiate the debt, extending the repayment schedule.

Transport infrastructure has historically served to bind fractious peripheral territories to the centre. America’s Pacific Railroad, built in the 1860s, allowed businesses protected by US government troops to expand into Indigenous territories in the West. Where infrastructure goes, commerce follows – but so, often, does war. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which terminates at Gwadar on the Gulf of Oman, crosses Balochistan, where the Pakistani state has for decades disappeared or assassinated activists and waged a brutal war of pacification against those fighting for the region’s autonomy. In Myanmar, the corridor passes through Shan and Rakhine states, where counterinsurgency measures have led to mass killings and the expulsion of minority communities. This year the Shanghai International Port Group will take over the running of the port of Haifa, with the full co-operation of Israel’s security state. In China itself, the BRI train routes across Central Asia pass through Xinjiang, where millions of Uighurs are interned in re-education camps and forced to work in textile and electronics factories.

Although China has a large number of citizens working overseas, it has just one military base beyond its own periphery, in Djibouti. (The former French colony also hosts military personnel from France, the US, Italy, Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.) China has relied on private security firms to protect personnel and facilities in Africa and Asia. Chinese logistics firms in East Africa or South-East Asia can secure the assistance of, among others, the Frontier Services Group, a Hong Kong-based company backed by the Chinese state-owned CITIC Group, with offices in Kenya and Dubai. The founder and chairman of Frontier Services is Erik Prince, whose firm of mercenaries, Blackwater, became notorious for killing civilians in Iraq. Frontier Services is rumoured to have set up training camps in Xinjiang and has acted for Chinese firms working in the oilfields of South Sudan and Mozambique, the jade trade in Myanmar, aviation in Kenya and coltan mining in Congo.

Most​ accounts of the BRI focus on its geopolitics or geoeconomics. But large infrastructure projects have wider ramifications: lives are affected, connections forged and knowledge circulated. Chinese workers have a long history in Africa and Asia, going back well before the postcolonial period. At the end of the 19th century, the British Empire relied on Chinese labour to keep many of its mines and plantations going. From the 1850s onwards, Chinese workers toiled in South African gold and diamond mines, tapped rubber and extracted tin in Malaya, harvested Cuban sugar plantations, traded and farmed in Java and Sumatra, extracted guano on islets off the coast of Peru, and prospected for gold and built railroads in the US and Canada. Chinese merchants were, and still are, everywhere in the Indian Ocean basin. By the mid 2oth century, China was spreading its engineering knowhow across Asia and Africa and making its presence felt through sheer force of numbers. As Abdul-Wali wrote in ‘The Chinese Road’, many thousands of Chinese workers lived with and trained local labourers.

The Belt and Road Initiative has had a more mixed reception. Praise for its transformative effects is met by criticism of its meagre impact on local capacity building and knowledge transfer. Authorities in areas where projects are in progress often disagree with central administrations over the implementation and efficiency of the schemes. Unless the BRI host countries have the capacity to negotiate, the percentage of local workers on many construction sites is relatively small, relationships are hierarchical, and the interactions between local and Chinese workers are often fraught. The capitalist system of labour management has travelled along the Belt and Road. In Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania, Chinese administrators manage casualised and precarious African labour in mines and on construction projects, with workers’ collective bargaining rights recognised only in cases where mass protests have eventually led to state intervention. Decisions made by lower courts in favour of local workers have often been overruled by central governments. The lack of transparency in contracting and employment on the Mombasa-Nairobi railway project has led many Kenyans to complain not only about being shut out of well-paid, skilled jobs, but also about outright racism. In many places where Chinese construction firms employ both Chinese and local workers, the Chinese have better living quarters and don’t interact with the locals outside work. Something has changed since the age of anti-colonial solidarity. Trouble along the Belt and Road reflects the transition from state-led co-operation to the international public-private partnerships so characteristic of this era.
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