The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) for Prosperity is another futile U.S. effort to diminish China's economic prowess. But IPEF also demonstrates systemic failure and a crisis of legitimacy.
This article originally appeared in the author’s blog on Substack.
U.S. President Joe Biden is in trouble. The crisis of legitimacy afflicting his administration continues to worsen. A new AP-NORC poll suggests that Biden’s approval rating is now 39 percent, with the biggest drop coming from registered Democrats. Only two of ten adults believe that the United States is heading in the right direction, down from three of ten just one month ago. Rising inflation and shortages in basic needs such as baby formula have played a major role in Biden’s declining popularity, as has an undue focus on prolonging the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The Biden administration is set to send $40 billion in military aid to Ukraine despite the fact that the war does not make the list of major issues of concern for voters, let alone the general population.
Though Biden has only begun to respond to baby formula shortages, his administration has been busy fanning the flames of war and not just in Ukraine. Biden recently reversed Donald Trump’s removal of U.S. Special Forces in Somalia. Furthermore, the U.S. under Biden has been quietly building up its New Cold War on China while the world watches developments in the Russia-Ukraine conflict unfold. In February 2022, the White House unveiled its Indo-Pacific Strategy which directly names China as the primary target of U.S. foreign policy:
This intensifying American focus is due in part to the fact that the Indo-Pacific faces mounting challenges, particularly from the PRC. The PRC is combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological might as it pursues a sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and seeks to become the world’s most influential power.
Joe Biden’s declining political legitimacy has not stopped him from carrying forward the Indo-Pacific Strategy on multiple fronts, the most recent being the pursuit of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Biden took his first trip to Asia on the weekend of May 20th, visiting Japan and South Korea to promote the IPEF. The IPEF is a loose agreement meant to expand the U.S.’s economic influence in Asia through enhancing trade networks with as many major Asian economies as possible not named China. Its primary goal is to create a supply chain to the United States that is independent of China, thereby economically weakening the most powerful country in Asia.
The IPEF is but one example of how Joe Biden personifies an empire in decline. Its goals are largely unachievable given China’s central role in Asia economically and the fact the U.S. is unwilling to expand market access to so-called Asian partners. Richard Haas, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), noted that the trip to boost the IPEF had little impact domestically. The CFR, known as “Wall Street’s think-tank,” plays an important role in advising and organizing the U.S. foreign policy establishment at the behest of finance capital. With fifty-six percent of Biden’s administration having close connections to the CFR, Haas’s words are a stark indication of the growing disconnect between the U.S.’s policy pursuits and the interests of humanity.
That disconnect has only grown since Biden returned from his IPEF promotional tour in Asia. The following day, a mass shooting occurred at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen children and one teacher were killed in the tragedy. This came just ten days after ten Black people were killed by a white supremacist in a Buffalo grocery store. The revelation that the Supreme Court is pursuing the elimination of Roe v. Wade protections on abortion rights and skyrocketing prices due to inflation have not helped matters, either. Each of these events is a clear sign of an empire rotting from the inside.
The more unstable the rule of capital becomes in the United States, the more that the Biden administration leans on militarism to maintain U.S. global hegemony. Taiwan is a case in point. Concerns about the viability of the IPEF were followed up by remarks from the administration that the U.S. possesses a “commitment” to intervene militarily in Taiwan. While the State Department appeared to walk back the comments, the threat of a U.S. war with China is very real. The DoD and Northrup Grumman-funded Center for a New American Security (CNAS) staged simulated war games on NBC’s Meet the Press earlier in May that detailed what a possible military conflict between China and the United States over Taiwan would look like.
This is the third time that Biden has made a break from the One China Policy to provoke China and it likely won’t be the last. The obsession with provoking China is part and parcel of the dangerous political trajectory that the U.S. empire finds itself on. Like a runaway train with too many faulty parts to slow down, U.S. imperialism is on a crash course toward collapse and has only become more belligerent in the process. The deepening alienation that characterizes life under late-stage racial capitalism is an afterthought to a ruling class that views chaos, strife, and instability as opportunities to increase profits and decrease overhead, often times at the expense of human life itself.
The vast majority of humanity is merely collateral for maintaining the domination and private wealth of capital. Only in the process of uprooting and removing the contagion of capitalist rule will the people find relief. A crucial step in the initial phase of this process is the extrication of the Democratic Party’s influence over the mass movement. The Biden administration has demonstrated that even the most incompetent Democratic Party leadership can get away with plunder and murder. While Biden’s latest polling numbers reveal great dissatisfaction with Democratic Party rule, it is only when the power of the people is organized to sustain movement activity that disdain and disillusionment can be channeled into a force for social transformation.
We must pursue this course by any means necessary and prepare for the already fierce opposition that exists from the Democratic Party.
Danny Haiphong’s work can be followed on Twitter @SpiritofHo and on YouTube as co-host with Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report Present's: The Left Lens. You can support Danny on Patreon by clicking this link. He is co-author of the book “American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People's History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror.” You can contact him at [email protected].