Bannon: China Key to Understanding Working-Class Despair, Brexit, Trump, ‘Party of Davos’

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon participates in a conversation during the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center February 23, 2017 in National Harbor, Maryland. Hosted by the American Conservative Union, CPAC is an annual gathering of right wing politicians, commentators and their supporters. …
Alex Wong/Getty

Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon gave an address hosted by Citizen Power for China in Tokyo on Tuesday night, in which he talked about China’s aggressive agenda for the 21st Century and the working-class revolt against the elites in democratic societies around the world.

Bannon connected those two phenomena by bluntly stating the elites who seek to “manage the decline” of America and the Western world have personally profited from the rise of China. This alignment of interests led to a third element of the populist uprising: the loss of manufacturing jobs in the heartland, which unleashed a wave of despair that produced rising levels of substance abuse and rising working-class mortality rates.

In Bannon’s view, populism in the United States and the United Kingdom is simply the working class refusing to accept the managed decline scheduled for them by domestic elites and ambitious foreign rulers. “It’s a new day for mankind when working-class people and middle-class people combine together and take their fate in their own hands,” he said.

Bannon was almost prevented from giving the speech by pressure from the Chinese embassy in Tokyo. Local sources familiar with the incident said the Chinese embassy contacted the Japan National Olympic Youth Memorial Center where the conference was being held and argued it was inconsistent with the spirit of the Olympics.

The embassy took particular exception to a screening of the movie “In the Name of Confucius,” which documents China’s use of its Confucius Institute academic program to suppress free speech and spread government propaganda overseas. These sources said China also protested to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and there were reports of Japanese translators quitting the event because they were nervous about the Chinese objections. The Japanese government considered China’s objections and concluded they were unreasonable, allowing the event to proceed.

Bannon mentioned the Confucian character of China’s “mercantilist” and “authoritarian” system several times during his remarks. He said the fundamental error of Western thinking over the past few decades was the belief that China would become more open and democratic as it became more prosperous.

Instead, China inaugurated the next stage in its plan for global hegemonic dominance by 2050 with President Xi Jinping’s marathon 3-hour address to the 19th Communist Party Congress in Beijing, a speech Bannon described as “a wake-up call to the world.” He found the sparse, disinterested Western media coverage of this epochal speech astounding, but sadly exemplary of how the European and American elites are more focused on managing their own national declines than facing the rising challenge of Chinese authoritarianism.

Bannon outlined three essential pillars of China’s strategy: dominance in certain critical industries to control global manufacturing; the audacious “One Belt, One Road” trade route as a means of exerting economic, cultural, and political influence; and developing China’s financial technology until the West no longer has the ability to impose sanctions, and China’s currency has supplanted the U.S. dollar in energy markets. He made the provocative prediction that “political Islam” would prove to be highly compatible with China’s “Confucian mercantilist market” when the One Belt, One Road project joins China with the Middle East.

Bannon accused China of stealing the very heart of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism through forced technology transfers, which he portrayed as the “tribute” Western entrepreneurs have paid to gain access to China’s tightly controlled emerging markets. The $3.5 trillion price tag of this intellectual theft does not capture the damage done by the loss of innovation during the formative years of the Internet revolution.

There has been grievous social damage as well. Bannon argued that China is the vital link between the Brexit phenomenon in England and the election of President Donald Trump in the United States, as both were reactions to China’s exporting of “deflation and excess capacity” in a manner that “gutted” the industrial heartland of the U.K. and upper Midwest of the United States.

He cited J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy as an indispensable chronicle of the result: a tidal wave of despair swamping American workers left behind, especially men who could no longer be breadwinners for their families. These workers “understand where the factories and jobs went,” in Bannon’s view, no matter how often elite economists assure them America’s trade agreements are working just fine. They rallied around Donald Trump because they simply are not satisfied with a future of managed decline, much less mismanaged decline.

“Working men and women don’t want to live in communities that are being eviscerated by the opioid crisis,” Bannon declared.

Trump’s successful linkage of his opponent Hillary Clinton to the corruption, arrogance, and incompetence of the elite was a key factor in unexpectedly winning constituencies that were supposedly unreachable for a Republican candidate.

The political structure of the Western world has been deformed as well. Bannon charged that the ascendant industries in America – Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Hollywood, and the “imperial capital” of Washington, DC – are not interested in taking on China because they have “benefited from it at the expense of the middle class.”

Bannon cautioned that the coming 30-year struggle for global hyperpower status is beginning at the same time the world finds itself in a “difficult situation” that is growing “more and more precarious every day.” He likened the conflicts brewing in the Middle East, as powers like Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia duel for power while long-oppressed groups like the Kurds seek independence, to the powder keg that detonated into the horrific wars of the Twentieth Century.

The vital resource for both Western democracies and those seeking independence is courage, which Bannon quoted Thucydides and Churchill to present as the basic ingredient to freedom, happiness, and virtue. Obviously, the aggressive agenda of aspiring hegemons like China or terrorist masterminds requires fear to succeed, but Bannon’s speech also highlighted fear as the reason people accept messages of despair and allow the elites to manage their decline.

He saw it as the reason populist movements fail, because they accept the assurances of those in power that they cannot possibly win. Fear of losing what they have causes the middle-class backbone of populist movements to accept the rule of inept bureaucrats, and passively watch what Bannon derided as the “Party of Davos” write the rules to take care of themselves while working people languish.

Realizing how close this sounds to the socialist critique, Bannon declared during the Q&A session after his speech, “I’m not a communist, I’m a capitalist. But I’m a true capitalist, and we don’t have true capitalism in the United States.” There certainly wasn’t much room left in 2050 for true capitalism in that three-hour Xi Jinping speech Steve Bannon thinks the free world ignored at its peril.

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