Tillerson China-bashing turns counterproductive

Source
China Daily
Editor
Zhang Tao
Time
2018-02-06

Like many US politicians who like to make China their bogeyman, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heaped blame on China in Texas last Thursday before embarking on his five-nation Latin American trip.

His many accusations made at the University of Texas at Austin included one that implies China is a new imperial power in the region.

"Latin America does not need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people," Tillerson said. "China's state-led model of development is reminiscent of the past. It doesn't have to be this hemisphere's future."

Tillerson's style came in a stark contrast to his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who made a trip to Latin America about 10 days ago without any finger-pointing at the US.

The former CEO of ExxonMobil, however, has been unsuccessful in distracting the public with his China bashing.

In Mexico City on Friday, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray dismissed Tillerson's suggestion that Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro could be toppled by his own military.

"Mexico, in no case, would back any option that implies the use of violence, internal or external, to resolve the case of Venezuela," Videgaray told a news conference, flanked by Tillerson and Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland, according to a Reuters report.

"It will have to be the Venezuelans themselves who find a peaceful route, a peaceful solution to this crisis," Videgaray said.

Tillerson's suggestion reflects a long US imperialist policy toward Latin America. It is just like the Monroe Doctrine that Tillerson defended in his speech last Thursday, a policy that started in 1823 and treated Latin America as a US sphere of influence.

Tillerson's defense of the doctrine betrayed a statement by his immediate predecessor John Kerry in November 2013 that "era of the Monroe Doctrine is over".

Noam Chomsky, a famed MIT scholar, has argued that in practice the Monroe Doctrine has been used as a declaration of hegemony and a right of unilateral intervention.

It reminds me of a talk by my fellow journalist from El Salvador of the Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 2004 when he revealed his findings of the US Army School of the Americas (SOA) based in Fort Benning, Georgia.

The SOA, a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, was first established in Panama in 1946 but expelled by the country in 1984 when then Panamanian President Jorge Illueca called SOA the "biggest base for destabilization in Latin America". Some have dubbed the SOA as the "School of Assassins". In 2001 SOA was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).

According to SOA Watch, a Washington-based independent organization, the SOA has since 1946 trained more than 64,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people.

"Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, 'disappeared,' massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins," said the SOA Watch.

Views about the US in Latin America are not favorable. Just a week before Tillerson's trip, Gallup published an article titled Outlook Grim in Latin America for Relations under Trump. It showed that approval of US leadership plummeted to a new low and declined in every country in the region in 2017.

Of the five countries on Tillerson's itinerary, the approval for the job performance of US leadership is 28 percent in Peru, 26 percent in Colombia, 23 percent in Jamaica, 16 percent in Mexico and 13 percent in Argentina, while the disapproval rating is 57 percent in Peru, 60 percent in Colombia, 53 percent in Jamaica, 72 percent in Mexico and 69 percent in Argentina.

When The Atlantic magazine ran an article titled Tillerson to Latin America: Beware of China on Saturday, sympathetic to Tillerson's rhetoric, it immediately triggered strong backlash from readers.

"What's the worst China could do? Overthrow democratically elected leaders to instill brutal dictators friendly to their own cause?" wrote eon47.

"Hmm, we have invaded, occupied, bullied, and manipulated nations to the South of us. The 45th President wants to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. Oh, and nations that aren't populated by Caucasians are 'shitholes'," wrote Jrgolden Golden.

Tillerson is clearly wasting his time trying to distract the public by bashing China instead of a self-criticism of the US foreign policy, especially the one pursued by his boss.

 

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