Caitlin Johnstone: US Constantly Provoking China

The way the U.S. has been positioning its war machinery around China would have sparked a third world war had the roles been reversed. Nonetheless,   talk inside the U.S. empire is all about Chinese “aggression.” 

U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta fires the Mark 45 gun while in the Philippine Sea on Jan. 15. (U.S. Navy, Greg Johnson)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to a reading of this article.

Punchbowl News reports that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is planning a trip to Taiwan, which will be yet another incendiary provocation against Beijing if it occurs. The previous House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, sparked a significant escalation in hostilities with her visit last year, the consequences of which are still reverberating today.

Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp explains:

“Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was viewed in Beijing as a major provocation, and it sparked the largest-ever Chinese military drills around the island. The exercises included China firing missiles over Taiwan and simulating a blockade of the island, both unprecedented actions.

China has kept up the military pressure on Taiwan since Pelosi’s visit, and its warplanes regularly now cross the median line, an informal barrier that divides the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Before Pelosi’s trip, China barely crossed the line. Now, it’s an almost-daily occurrence.

Beijing views the U.S.  House speaker visiting Taiwan as an affront to the one-China policy and the understanding the U.S. and China reached in 1979, when Washington severed formal relations with Taipei.”

U.S.-led provocations and escalations against China are becoming a regular occurrence, both from the U.S. and from imperial assets such as Australia and Taiwan. Yet according to the Western political/media class, the urgent threat of our day is “Chinese aggression.”

After the House of Representatives voted to approve the new Select Committee on China — a Republican initiative designed to increase internal pressure in the U.S. government to ramp up the new cold war — the committee’s chairman, Mike Gallagher, put out a statement saying that it is “time to push back against the Chinese Communist Party’s aggression in bipartisan fashion.”

Gallagher is a particularly noxious warmonger who says urgent efforts must be made to stop China from “destroying the capitalist system led by the United States in order to make way for the triumph of world socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

He advocates the “selective decoupling” from specific sectors of the Chinese economy and says the U.S.  is in “the early stages of a new cold war” against China. He advocates pouring weapons into Taiwan in much the same way the U.S. did in the lead-up to its proxy war in Ukraine, and asserts that the U.S. needs to be preparing for a direct hot war with China in the near future.

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Gallagher’s hawkishness on China is quickly becoming the mainstream consensus position in the Western political/media class as the U.S.-centralized empire ramps up aggressions while continually complaining about Chinese aggression.

The U.S. empire has been increasingly positioning its war machinery around China since the Obama administration’s “Pivot to Asia” in ways that would have led to an immediate third world war if the roles were reversed, and its aggressions have escalated with each subsequent administration.

Just in the last couple of months we’ve had news that the U.S.  is planning on returning to its Subic Bay base in the Philippines as part of its encirclement campaign against China, and also intends to station missile-armed marines along Japan’s Okinawa islands.

The U.S.  is also reportedly working on building a network of missile systems on a chain of islands near the Chinese mainland, explicitly for the goal of countering China. The U.S. and its allies have dramatically increased their naval presence in disputed waters near China, viewed as acts of aggression by Beijing.

None of this would be tolerated by the United States if China were openly moving its war machinery into adjacent areas with the stated goal of “countering the U.S.” If China were doing this, it would be a near-unanimous consensus throughout the Western world that China was engaged in hostile provocations and was clearly the aggressor. Nobody would listen to China if it claimed it was militarily encircling the U.S. for defensive purposes.

But that’s exactly what happens with U.S. aggressions against China. It’s just taken as matter of fact when the U.S. says it’s moving more and more war machinery into the waters around China as a defensive precaution to deter Chinese aggression.

Because the narrative is coming from the most effective propaganda machine ever devised, we hear, “No bro, the U.S. is militarily encircling its number one geopolitical rival on the other side of the planet defensively. Because like what if China tries to do something aggressive?”

In a surprisingly decent Foreign Affairs article, “The Problem With Primacy,” Van Jackson argues that the U.S. is behaving in such a transparently aggressive manner toward China that it can’t possibly claim to be acting in the interests of preserving peace and stability in the region.

“This is not the rationale of a country that is simply balancing Chinese power or trying to stop Beijing from creating a sphere of influence,” writes Jackson of the recent U.S. semiconductor export ban against China. “It is not the strategy of a state trying to decouple from the Chinese economy. It is containment in all but name.”

“The Pentagon has promised that 2023 will be ‘the most transformative year in U.S. force posture in the region in a generation,’ a line likely meant to be reassuring but that comes off as ominous,” Jackson writes. “The Department of Defense is making good on this promise by modernizing its large traditional presence in Northeast Asia while increasing its footprint in the Pacific Islands and Australia — areas that the Chinese military cannot seriously contest.”

Jackson argues that Washington’s efforts to halt China’s rise will likely achieve nothing besides provoking China into militarizing against it, saying, “There is no reason to believe that spending over a trillion dollars modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal or selling submarines to Australia will cause China to do anything but continue arming itself as quickly as possible.”

This aligns with the warnings of an anonymous U.S. official cited in a November article by Bloomberg, who said that “the hawkish tone in D.C. has contributed to a cycle where the U.S. makes the first move, interprets Chinese reactions as a provocation, and then escalates further.”

It’s the U.S. making the first move every time.

Taiwan is an odd case because empire apologists will openly tell you that Beijing must never control the island as it’s a geo-strategically crucial location with essential semiconductor manufacturing, and then turn around and still try to tell you that Washington’s interest in Taiwan is because it wants to protect freedom and democracy. It’s even more transparent than when they were pretending to yearn for the liberation of nations that just so happened to sit on a lot of oil.

I don’t know if Beijing will ever launch an attack on Taiwan or some other future flashpoint, but if it does it seems a safe bet that it will be because the U.S. empire kept ramping up aggressions and provocations until it got to the point that China felt it was losing more from inaction than it would from action. And then empire apologists will spend all day shrieking at anyone who tries to talk about those provocations.

Because that’s the rule now, if you weren’t aware. As of February 2022 we’re all meant to pretend that the concept of provocation is not a commonplace idea that everyone understands and learns about as children, but that “provocation” is rather a nonsensical propaganda word that was invented by Vladimir Putin last year.

It is now no longer permissible for you to talk about the aggressions that led up to a nation going to war; we must all pretend that history began the day their troops crossed the border.

History is being re-written with Ukraine, and if war erupts over Taiwan it will probably be re-written there as well. But note to the future: the road to war was paved by mountains of U.S. aggression.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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19 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: US Constantly Provoking China

  1. A Boyles
    January 27, 2023 at 01:03

    I am convinced we have the most inept, rationally-bankrupt, emotionally drunk, hypocritical and skilless group of politicians in recent history (since I was born in 1964). I have read a considerable amount of history and I admit every generation has a similar crowd running things. And it seems pathetic and sad the USA which had potential to be a great nation squandered it badly and became yet another empire gone wrong, drunk on its power and self-perception of invincibility. So many people around the world see the USA for what it is – a nation that cheats, steals, lies and projects its aggression onto others. It is rapidly losing respect all around the world and despite its control of the media and corporations, many countries and peoples see the truth. The USA will lose its perception of power around the world, will lose its reserve currency, and will be a second or third tier country within two to three generations – by 2100. And it will be written about in the history books with scads of analyses of what went wrong, when it’s abundantly clear right now. But because the democracy is a facade and doesn’t work, what the people think is of no importance.

  2. James White
    January 26, 2023 at 00:45

    “Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was viewed in Beijing as a major provocation, and it sparked the largest-ever Chinese military drills around the island. The exercises included China firing missiles over Taiwan and simulating a blockade of the island, both unprecedented actions.”
    And what single U.S. interest was advanced by Pelosi’s trip?
    Absolutely none. It was the ultimate ego trip for Pelosi. A pathetic effort to project her personal ‘power.’
    Washington D.C. is rapidly falling into the type of decline that ended the Roman Empire. Silly unserious people are in charge. Drunk on power with no moral compass and their minds in the gutter. It wasn’t enough for Pelosi to have bankrupted the country, getting nothing in return. She felt the need to strut and preen on the world stage. Her recent effort to exorcise her demons is too little too late. There must be a special place in hell for this wicked witch.
    And now McCarthy wants to poke China in the eye once again? How can these people forget that Mr. Magoo is presently our Commander in Chief. Look no further than his pathetic performance in Afghanistan. Going to war with the three Stooges in charge, Biden, Austin and Milley. Neither Xi not Putin is that kind of imbecile.
    The media are driving mass hysteria around the clock. The war in Ukraine is a constant stream of disinformation. Overwhelming vulnerable minds into believing that up is down. Thought control has become our reality. This cannot stand.

    January 26, 2023 at 00:03

    Are you ready for WW3? If not, seek the Lord while He may be found. Jesus has an appreciation of what you are going through, so knock on His door, He is just waiting to open it to you.
    He was the creator of the Universe and everything created in it.
    So, even if everyone in the world wanted his attention at once, he is able to give it.
    How does an eternity of joy and peace sound?
    Just turn to Him.

  4. Johnny
    January 25, 2023 at 23:59

    The world’s largest corporations and their psychopathic owners have been profiteering from fear for the last one hundred and twenty years.
    Nuclear war? Nah, it’s too risky.
    Fear? It’s a win, win, every time.

  5. Cynic
    January 25, 2023 at 23:43

    The US empire is indeed in its death throes, as human history has shown us over and over again. All the signs are there: moral decay of leaders, constant lying and manipulation of public perceptions, sexual debauchery, debasement of currency (the US dollar is based on nothing but trust! And how do you trust someone who lies all the time and will seize your money at anytime when he feels like it?), abject poverty at the bottom, corruption throughout all the ranks of bureaucracy, a national policy rooted in the refusal to look reality in the eye and choosing instead to indulge in fantasies of invincibility and limitless power, attempting to usurp God’s position in the world by trying to remake the world in USA’s image (why did God create people so different from each other in the first place?), constantly relying on violence and the threats to get others to submit to its way thus making enemies of everyone, refusal to compete fairly and hoping to win by containment and sanctions instead etc. In summary, Pride, Hubris, Perversions and Violence. Every empire that shows such signs inevitably collapses. At first gradually, then suddenly like Sodom and Gomorrah.

    • Bruce Edgar
      January 26, 2023 at 09:43

      Agreed re. empire. Since the last half of your comment was devoted to advancing your religious views, I would like to respond on that part.

      The gods have been created in the image and likeness of “humans.” They are our creations. It is simply not the other way around as you insist.

      Furthermore, gods are often tyrannical. Your Jehova, for example, drowned the entire world simply because earthlings were not “righteous.” He perpetually banished his original children for opening their eyes via the apple.

      In that regard, Jehovah would resemble what it is you say about Ameria’s insistence that everyone do what we say. I guess what one might conclude is that Religious belief is also a motivator for human mis-behavior–say like the Spaniards depredations in the name of their Jesus.

  6. DHFabian
    January 25, 2023 at 19:12

    In recent years, the US/UK has alternated between provoking Russia via Ukraine and China via Taiwan, back and forth, one then the other. Senselessly working to provoke two of the three world nuclear superpowers. We have tried to prod the public into considering the consequences of a nuclear world war. None of this gets through to people today.

  7. Jack
    January 25, 2023 at 18:04

    This dementia is rooted in 1947 and slowly grew until 1988 when 1947’s germ matured into all there was, now all there is. Now the once laughed at Deep State becomes what reality is. The fantasy of a lunatic asylum infests more and more clearly with each MIC-driven administration, corrupt, incompetent, bullying.

    Our decision-maker’s dreams are fascistic hallucinations driven by egos gone array that believe they still have the power to reconstitute the world in our image. So just as Iraq was supposed to take a week and that Syria would collapse in a minute or Afghanistan in a month our entire, so-called executive level public servants bathe in the bubbles of wealth acquired by killing others. China would be the plum.

    We are perhaps the world’s first nihilistic government, mad, chaotic, beyond saving or restructuring. We will strike out until we have struck out and there is nothing left of the world. It is simple Darwinian extinction of a failed species despite the toys of brilliance that were created along the way. We are the last of the human peacocks.

    • DHFabian
      January 25, 2023 at 19:30

      We’ve been closing in on the economic, social and political collapse of the US for years now. The US no longer has the power it once had, and there’s a pretty good chance we’re now on the last chapter. I think the current administration wants to finish this book with a nuclear world war.

      • James White
        January 26, 2023 at 00:54

        Early this morning I read about how the state of Arizona is flying incoming illegal aliens around the U.S. at a staggering cost. And has been doing so ever since Biden opened the border. And yet, the voters of Arizona saw fit to elect a Democrat as Governor to keep the people coming and the planes flying and the cost rising. That is, if you believe that we have legitimate elections anymore. I thought to myself: Who does this? Every action taken by our political leadership is an ever greater feat of sheer madness.

  8. CaseyG
    January 25, 2023 at 17:30

    I wonder why so many think that America is invincible. When any nation thinks that, that nation is pretty much over.
    When I watched the Zylensky person visit Congress and when Pelosi and Kamala tried to give him the flag in the tricornered box—–watching Zylensky was amusing. He was grabbing it as if he had won the world. I guess his wife did win though as she certainly brought lots of expensive things in Paris. Was she using the American money that was sent for war?
    Joe Biden is very odd too as he seems to think that saving Zylensky is making Biden himself look good. NOT!
    Meanwhile, Americans are getting laid off in so many occupations—– please leave Zylensky where you found him—he’s not worth the trouble—but sadly , neither are you, Joe Biden.

    • James White
      January 26, 2023 at 07:46

      The very same tri-cornered glass case containing the U.S. flag that is presented to the wives or family of -deceased- service members. Was the intent that Zelensky was being awarded the Ukraine flag as a symbol of the death of his country, or perhaps of Zelensky himself? It would be unimaginable for practically any other world leader to participate in anything resembling this level of ignorance or carelessness. It demonstrates and signals to the world that the U.S. is led by amateurs. Who are entirely lacking in self-awareness, let alone any sense of decorum or understanding of their diplomatic roles and responsibilities. Just silly, uneducated, unserious incompetents. Is there any doubt that Zelensky holds these fools and unlimited U.S. funding for his corrupt enterprise in the palm of his hand?

      • Bruce Edgar
        January 26, 2023 at 20:14

        I see the tradition here seems to be that one does not comment. Still I must break with the unwritten rule, but to praise, not condemn: Your comment was precious.

        • James White
          January 27, 2023 at 03:49

          Thank you Mr. Edgar. I praise you CN and you and other commenters here for breaking through the reality distortion field that is the vast majority of news and media corporations. We are being conned into WW3, of all things with the constant Ukraine cheerleading.

  9. Rob Roy
    January 25, 2023 at 16:44

    Ditto all the comments thus far. High praise for Caitlin’s always-onpoint article. No one says it better.
    Wish for the demise of the arrogance of the U.S. and Israel for a possibly better world….and that corrupt Ukraine as well.

  10. Lois Gagnon
    January 25, 2023 at 15:41

    From the perspective of the Washington/Wall Street waning empire, every country that disobeys its demands looks like an act of aggression. The people of this country had better decide to part with their illusions and deal with the reality of our circumstances before the nitwits in charge get us all blown to bits.

  11. Jeff Harrison
    January 25, 2023 at 15:30

    Right you are. By the time you get finished with Edward Gibbons classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman empire, you realize that, in the end, Rome was militarily defeated. We have been being defeated pretty regularly for the last 70 years but this time, I suspect that the coup de grace will be financial, not military. Our castles are built on sand… er debt.

  12. Steve Naidamast
    January 25, 2023 at 13:42

    Time to turn the US guns on China since the war in Ukraine has gone so well…

    Complete lunacy…

  13. shmutzoid
    January 25, 2023 at 13:40

    The USA is an empire in slow-motion collapse now lashing out in a desperate attempt to stave off the emergence of a multi-polar world. That is the context in which US actions in the world must be viewed……..
    ………………. US imperial managers plan to instigate a military confrontation with China over Taiwan much as it did with Russia over Ukraine. This should be apparent for all to see.

    For all the ‘inside the beltway’ sniping between Dems and the GOP, there is absolute bipartisan unity when it comes to prosecuting wars on behalf of US oligarchs. The few GOP politicos who ‘threaten’ to vote to deny funding arms shipments to Ukraine are merely trying to leverage the situation to extract more concessions in reducing social spending. Their perceived reluctance to fund the Ukraine war will also play well with antiwar libs who are too disoriented to suss out the Kubuki-esque nature of those actions.

    When Biden speaks of the hallowed need for a ‘strong Republican Party’, it is for this bipartisan unity in prosecuting imperial war(s) ONLY.

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