Bannon kowtows to Chinese dictatorship

Socialist Action and League of Social Democrats protest against Steve Bannon in Hong Kong.

Anti-racist protest as Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon speaks in Hong Kong

Adam N. Lee,

Racist politician Steve Bannon made a brief visit to Hong Kong on 12 September. President Trump’s former ‘chief strategist’ was met by shouts of “No Bannon, No Racism” from protesters organised by Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong). The aim of the Hong Kong protest – widely reported in global media – was to support refugee rights and anti-racist struggle and also show how Trump-Bannon’s right-wing nationalist agenda mirrors rather than opposes the policies of the Chinese dictatorship.

Bannon’s speech, to an elite gathering of hedge fund managers and bankers as the guest of a Chinese government-owned company, provided very clear proof of this political similarity.

Just days earlier, Bannon had compared China to Germany in the 1930s – inferring a political trajectory towards militarism and war. On another occasion he predicted war between the US and China “in five to ten years” over the South China Sea.

But in Hong Kong this ‘lion’ became a ‘pussy cat’, with Bannon verbally if not physically performing the kowtow before China’s emperor Xi Jinping (kowtow: kneel and touch the ground with the forehead in worship or submission as part of Chinese custom).

His Hong Kong speech stressed the need for the two powers to work together and Bannon even made the bizarre claim that he’d “never been an anti-China guy”.

In a message that clearly appealed to the assembled Western and Asian businessmen, Bannon heaped praise on China’s dictator. “Xi is very impressive… He is very smart, very tough but fair. He is direct and to the point – just like President Trump. That is why they like each other so much.”

Bannon lauded China’s state capitalist economic system saying the “Chinese way of running their economic system is quite brilliant. I tip my hat to them.” One commentator described his speech as “a love letter to authoritarianism”.

Breitbart censored?

Not surprisingly, Bannon’s effusive praise of the Chinese regime went unreported on Breitbart News, the racist far right media outlet over which he is boss. This shows the hypocritical and deceitful nature of right-wing populism a la Bannon and Trump, which says one thing to one audience and the exact opposite to another. Hence their pretence to stand up for the rights of “American workers” when in fact their policies are a head-on attack on workers’ rights, welfare, and the rights of women and minorities.

Breitbart News instead carried a wholly misleading report headed Steve Bannon in Hong Kong Speech: ‘To Avoid a Trade War, China Must Cease Its Economic War Against America’. In fact, the foregoing quoted passage is from a separate interview Bannon gave to Britain’s Daily Mail and is not from his Hong Kong speech. Bannon’s tributes to Xi Jinping which were the most sensational part of his speech were completely deleted from the Breitbart report, in a manner worthy of China’s state censors.

The China issue was a major factor that led to Bannon’s exit from the Trump administration in August. He lost out in the internal power struggle to a more pro-China and pro-globalisation faction around Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. With Trump due to visit China in November for a summit with Xi Jinping, Trump’s self-proclaimed ‘wingman’ outside the government was evidently served with a gag order – so much for Bannon’s boasts of “going to war” for the Trump agenda.

At bottom, this political u-turn (which is probably not the last) reflects the pressure of US capitalism and the big corporations upon Trump, compelling his administration to step back from economic confrontation with China. This in turn reflects the very deep fears within the ruling class, despite a show of positivity, over the health of the global economy. A US-China trade war, given its multiplier effects throughout the world, would tip the global economy into recession and possibly even a 1930s-style depression.

The capitalists – whether the liberal pro-globalisation or economic nationalist wings – have no solution to this crisis of their system. Mass struggle is needed in the US, China, and globally, and the creation of a genuine working class alternative to fight for a socialist world.

Socialist Action and League of Social Democrats protest against Steve Bannon in Hong Kong.