The Coming War on China: Enclosure and abuse of the commons in the Pacific


This documentary film, which is just hitting the cinemas, reveals a looming clash of giants – the world’s biggest military power versus the world’s second largest economy. As often said, “where two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”. The people and the environment of the Pacific Islands within range and surrounding China have been caught up in a dangerous situation which is not of their own making, with some indeed standing up for their right to protect their own commons – their land, soil, water, plants, fish, animals, as well as their health and livelihoods.

Historical Context

According to this documentary, when Japan was nuked, it had been deemed by the States to having an ambition to dominate the world – obviously an unacceptable scenario in as far as the United States was concerned. In the same manner, China is currently perceived to be on the same ambitious path as Japan then was. Its economic rise is deemed to be a threat to the International Order, hence the rhetoric by Trump that ‘the US is going to once again show its greatness to the world’. It must be remembered that China was once invaded and colonised, with the Chinese opium drug money funding the rise of one of the first industrial cities in Massachusetts, among others. After the revolution, successfully led by Mao, China extended a hand of friendship to President Truman and other American leaders but this was rebuffed. American-Chinese relations have never been cosy ever since the time of the Opium and Korean wars. Given this scenario, the rise of China as a global economic powerhouse therefore only serves to cement the perception that it is a threat to America’s global dominance and the current International Order.

Rise of China

According to one Chinese commentator in this documentary, ‘China has managed to match the US at its capitalist game’ and this is unforgivable, hence Trump campaigning on allegation that the US has lost its global authority and needs to reassert it. As a result of this gigantic economic leap, it is claimed that China has raised millions of its people from abject poverty into a new, thriving middle class in rising cities like Shanghai. As one Chinese entrepreneur and socialist activist asserts in this documentary, China is a one-party State that is however, good at changing policies but not political parties. He goes on to say that capitalism in China is state-controlled, citing one Chinese leader who said in 1977 that ‘socialism does not mean shared poverty’. Moreover, as he claims, in China, capital does not rise above political authority while in the US, capital has risen above political authority. Notwithstanding this economic, however, China has become one of the countries with the greatest inequality in the world, confirming the observation by some development theorists that as a country’s GDP rises so does the inequality. In these sprawling cities, migrant workers are said to be living in squalid conditions. Besides, as the industry grows, it is taking up farmers’ land with very insufficient compensation to the farmers. This has given rise to some revolutionary resistance to this land-grab – enclosure of the people’s commons.

Prevailing Abuse of the Pacific Islands Commons

It is revealed in this documentary film that the US has increasingly occupied and established military bases on Islands in the Pacific and the South Sea, all within reach of or surrounding China. It is claimed that China is now surrounded by 400 US military bases, all with their arsenal aimed at China. Among the occupied territory are the Pacific’s Marshall Islands and specifically, Okinawa (a Japanese island). Some of these islands and their inhabitants are said to have been used as guinea-pigs – testing missiles and researching on how humans absorb nuclear radiation. This has resulted in extensive radioactive contamination of the environment (soil, plants, water and food) and subsequent various kinds of cancers that are currently killing the population. It is claimed that some areas of the islands have been hit constantly with Hiroshima-sized bombs for around twelve years. The Pacific Islands’ commons are under serious threat as revealed.

Consequently, resistance groups to this occupation and abuse are emerging – most vocally, religious organisations since political opposition and activism are not tolerated in this region. It stands to be seen how effective the resistance activists can be. In light of this revelation, it is no wonder when Trump threatens to pull out of the Paris agreement on sustainable development because this US activity in the Pacific Islands is really the antithesis of sustainability.


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