After years of struggle, the working class women of Maldives are succeeding in earning the seats they deserve at the helm of the nation. Today we find independent, educated and successful women leading every industry, be it politics, tourism, business management, engineering, health or even education.
Women are rising through the discriminations and inequalities set in stone in our society and fighting against the daily exploitation. They are building-up careers which our mothers would not have even dared to dream of. But one lingering fear that haunts every working class women is the sexual harassment and sexual assaults they face from their work environment and from within the society as a whole.
In Maldives the first Anti-Harassment Act was established in year 2014. However, for many working class women in Maldives, the Act was no more than just a piece of paper as it has served no real purpose in facilitating justice for victims of such harassment. Let’s look into some of the recent high profile cases of sexual harassment within the government. But, let me warn you, in all these cases the victims were denied justice.
In November 2020, former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed was charged with seven criminal offense including one count of attempted rape, one count of sexual abuse, one count of indecent exposure, one count of sexual harassment and one count of attempted sexual harassment. He was also charged with two counts of solicitation of sexual favors. Though he was charged with all seven criminal offences, the disgraced former Minister was allowed to depart the country on 09th February 2021, on the grounds that he required urgent medical attention from abroad.
In early January 2021 reports were circulating in Media of a woman who was raped in a resort and the Indian national suspected of committing the heinous crime was allowed departed before the case was reported to Maldives Police Services.
Another recent case of sexual harassment which came into limelight is the allegations of sexual harassment against the Communication Director of Fisheries Ministry. The case was also closed with the Maldives Police Service citing that they could not produce any culpable evidence even though the victims repeatedly came forward with evidence of harassment.
In early February 2021 a Sexual Harassment case was filed against Deputy Managing Director of Maldives Gas. As per media reports being circulated, a female employee disclosed that Deputy Managing Director had been commenting on her appearance and clothing while at the workplace as well as sending explicit images and messages with attempts to acquire personal information. An investigation was initiated by the board of the State Trading Organization (STO) against Deputy Managing Director of Maldives Gas Pvt Ltd.
These are just but the few cases that had come into limelight due to the political connections surrounding these cases. My heart goes out to the thousands of women who are unable to report and unable to get justice for the fear of losing their jobs. For the fear of being demoted. For the fear of being transferred and being victim blamed.
But as with anything else, there is a silver lining. Our society is slowly opening up to addressing the sexual harassment that has gone unchecked since time immemorial. Today is a better day for us than yesterday. Surely, if we support each other in this fight, and hold our heads high just as our mothers did, then tomorrow would be a better day for our daughters.
Rising Economic Polarization in the U.S.:Truth and Facts
Being the largest economy in the world, the United States is also the most economically polarized among Western countries. It has long been stuck in the conundrum where the rich get richer and the poor become poorer. Since the onset of COVID-19, the United States has adopted massive fiscal and financial stimulus measures. However, these measures fail to address the fundamental difficulties facing the have-nots, but rather offer billionaires a chance to expand their wealth. Economic inequality has become even more prominent.
Through facts and figures, this report aims to reveal the current state of wealth disparity in the United States, the entrenched political and social causes behind it, and the implications of the problem.
I. Deterioration of Economic Polarization in the United States
Since the 1970s, income inequality and wealth disparity in the United States have continually deepened. The rich keep getting richer, the poor keep getting poorer, and the middle class is squeezed. Today, these perilous trends continue.
◆ The Gini coefficient, which measures inequality in income distribution, has kept rising in the United States. According to the World Bank, the U.S. Gini coefficient has gone up from 0.353 in 1974 to 0.415 in 2019, exceeding the alarming level at 0.4 indicating a large income gap. During the same period, other developed countries have largely kept their Gini coefficient below 0.35, or even 0.3 in some cases.
◆ In the United States, the wealthy population have enjoyed much faster income growth than the low-income group. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 1970 and 2020, the average income of the top fifth of families increased by 182 percent to 253,000 U.S. dollars, while the middle-income households and the bottom fifth saw their average incomes grow by just 133 percent to 72,000 dollars and 113 percent to 15,000 dollars respectively. In 1975, the average income of the top fifth was 10.3 times that of the bottom fifth. The gap widened to 17.4 times by 2020.
◆ The share of national income held by upper-income households has risen markedly. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the income shares of the top fifth and top 5 percent have both been climbing. Standing at 43.3 percent and 16.6 percent respectively in 1970, their shares rose to 52.2 percent and 23.0 percent in 2020. In the meantime, the shares held by middle- and low-income households have both declined. The share of the middle-income group dropped from 52.7 percent in 1970 to 44.7 percent in 2020, and that of the low-income group in the bottom fifth fell from 4.1 percent to 3 percent. Since 1993, the income share of middle-income families, who make up 60 percent of total households, has remained lower than that of the top fifth, and is becoming increasingly disproportionate.
◆ The income share of the ultra-rich has reached its highest level since World War II. According to the World Wealth and Income Database, after an initial fall in the early 20th century, the income share of the ultra-rich, or the top 1 percent, in the United States had kept rising, and hit 22.3 percent in 1928. After World War II, a prevailing call for equal opportunity and economic equality, along with the introduction of economic systems such as progressive tax, inheritance tax, strong trade unions and financial regulation, helped restrain the concentration of wealth. By 1970, the income share of the top 1 percent had fallen to 10.7 percent. But it has since risen gradually, and reached 19.1 percent by 2021, almost doubled in 50 years.
◆ A main cause for the widening income disparity is the huge pay gap. According to Equilar, the median income of CEOs of listed companies in 2021 was 20 million dollars, up 31 percent from 2020, while that of average employees increased from around 69,000 dollars to some 72,000 dollars, up about 4 percent. According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, CEO pay had skyrocketed by 1,322 percent between 1978 and 2020, while typical worker compensation had risen just 18 percent.
◆ The economic divide is also reflected in wealth inequality. According to Federal Reserve statistics, the richest 1 percent of U.S. households hold more than 20 percent of national household wealth, a share that has continued to grow sharply in recent years. According to Fed statistics in 2021, the top 1 percent held a record 32.3 percent of the country’s wealth, up from only 23.6 percent in 1989, while the bottom 50 percent (about 63 million households) held only 2.6 percent, down from 3.7 percent in 1989.
◆ The middle class is shrinking. A “middle-class America” was formed in some 20 years from the end of World War II to 1970. Afterward, however, despite the continued growth of the U.S. economy, the middle class has not expanded, but shrunk significantly. The share of American adults who live in middle-income households fell from 61 percent in 1971 to 51 percent in 2019. The share in the upper-income tier rose from 14 percent to 20 percent over the same period. Meanwhile, the share in the lower-income tier increased from 25 percent to 29 percent. The size of middle-income families has continued to shrink.
◆ Social stratification is severely rigid. According to a paper by Raj Chetty and other American economists, the percentage of Americans earning more than their parents fell from more than 90 percent in the 1940s to about 50 percent in the 1980s, with the largest declines for families in the middle class. The opportunities for young people to increase their incomes are fading. Most of the decline is driven by the more unequal distribution of wealth rather than the slowdown in aggregate growth rates. Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration, believes that high inequality in American society has resulted in a low level of inter-generational mobility and formed a “Great Gatsby Curve” where one’s economic standing is more dependent on the wealth of the parents.
◆ The poverty issue in the United States has never been effectively addressed. The overall poverty rate in the country dropped by more than 10 percentage points from 1959 to 1969, but has lingered around 12.5 percent ever since. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 46.2 million American people were living in poverty in 2010, and the poverty rate reached up to 15.1 percent, the highest in 52 years. In 2020, the poverty rate climbed by 0.9 percentage points to 11.4 percent from 10.5 percent in 2019. Currently, 37 million American people are still living below the poverty line.
◆The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified economic inequality in the United States. The economic recession triggered by the pandemic has led to massive job losses and further deterioration in the economic situation of low-income earners. At the same time, excessive money supply and large-scale fiscal spending drove up stock and housing prices, bringing enormous benefits to wealthier asset owners. According to a Fed report on household wealth, the total wealth of the richest 1 percent reached a record 45.9 trillion dollars at the end of the fourth quarter of 2021, and their fortunes increased by more than 12 trillion dollars, or more than a third, during the course of the pandemic.
II. Multiple Factors Driving U.S. Economic Polarization
The polarization between the rich and the poor in the United States is caused by multiple factors, including monopoly, electoral politics, government policies, weakened labor unions, and racial discrimination.
◆ Polarization and unequal distribution of wealth are a chronic malaise and an inevitable result of capitalism, giving rise to both wealth accumulation and poverty in the United States. Since the 1970s, conservatism and liberalism have thrived in the country, and marketization and internationalization have been prioritized over equality. The shift in the U.S. economic system toward promoting privatization, repealing progressive taxation, weakening labor unions and loosening financial regulation has made addressing wealth inequality even more hopeless.
◆ The 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement epitomized the American people’s grievances about unfair capital accumulation and the disparity of wealth. The core message of the movement was to oppose embezzlement and corruption in the financial sector, economic inequality and social injustice. Slogans such as “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” reflected people’s profound frustration with the ever-widening wealth gap in the United States. The movement was portrayed by Wall Street as a “mob”, and dispersed violently by the U.S. government. But 12 years on, the economic disparity is only getting worse.
◆ Partisan conflict and government alternation have led to flip-flops in U.S. policies. Tax policy plays an important role in narrowing the wealth gap. But the rivalry between Democrats and Republicans on taxation has resulted in a failure to effectively tax the rich who have tried every possible means to “legally” avoid taxes. According to a report by the news outlet ProPublica, the true tax rate of the richest Americans is only 3.4 percent, far lower than that of ordinary wage earners.
◆The weakening of trade unions has aggravated such polarization. In the 1950s, about a third of American workers belonged to unions, and the union membership rate was 23.8 percent in 1978. But the number fell to 11.3 percent in 2011 and further to 10.3 percent in 2021. Since Black workers are more likely than workers of other races to be unionized, the decline in unionization has particularly affected them and exacerbated poverty among the Black community.
◆ The wealth gap is closely related to race. Black, Hispanic or Latino households in the United States earn about half the average income of white households, and own only 15 percent to 20 percent of the latter’s net wealth. The divide has widened significantly over the past few decades according to Fed statistics. Since 1989, the median wealth of white households has tripled, while the wealth of Black, Hispanic and Latino households has barely increased. According to a Fed survey in 2019, the median white household has a net worth 10 times that of the median Black household, and the 400 richest American billionaires have more total wealth than all 10 million Black households combined.
◆Racial discrimination is entrenched in the job market. The unemployment rate of Black workers has long been about twice that of whites. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the unemployment rate in the United States hit a record low of 3.5 percent, but the number was far higher for Black and Hispanic workers. Black professionals are poorly represented in high-paying corporate jobs. In 2020, there were only four Black CEOs among Fortune 500 companies.
III. Serious Negative Implications for American Society
The widening wealth gap is one of the main causes for the deepening social crisis in the United States. Problems including growing ethnic conflicts, increasing homelessness, urban riots and violent crimes are all closely related to it.
◆ Social unrest is intensifying. Due to the widening polarization between the rich and the poor, the United States has witnessed frequent demonstrations in recent years. From the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 to the Black Lives Matter protests against police violence in the United States in 2020, some demonstrations have even turned violent. Through these large-scale demonstrations, the underprivileged American people have tried to combat racial discrimination, rigid class stratification and economic polarization. During the COVID-19 pandemic, although the multiple rounds of economic stimulus policies and vast subsidies rolled out by the U.S. government temporarily eased social tensions, such measures have made the debt crisis more entrenched and inflation pressure more difficult to deal with.
◆ The human rights situation is worrying. The wealth inequality has further worsened the human rights situation in the United States. First, average life expectancy has declined. According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, the average life expectancy in the country has dropped 2.7 years from 2019 to 2021, with 3.1 years shorter for men and 2.3 years shorter for women. Second, access to higher education is disproportionately skewed toward the rich, while the low-income group has no equal access to education. As a result, public dissatisfaction with higher education is increasing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 82 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds from high-income families participated in college, compared with just 45 percent of those from low-income families. Third, the homeless are living in a dire situation. The growing wealth disparity, especially extreme poverty, is the main reason for homelessness. A report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showed that more than 580,000 people were homeless in 2020, with 226,000 sleeping outside, in cars or in abandoned buildings.
◆ The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the poor the hardest. After collecting data from more than 3,200 counties in the United States, and comparing the poorest 10 percent of the counties with the richest 10 percent, the Poor People’s Campaign found that the poorer counties reported coronavirus death rates nearly double those in the wealthier ones. Within the 300 counties with the highest death rates, 45 percent of the population live below the poverty line. Galax County, Virginia, had the highest death rate, which reached 1,134 deaths per 100,000 people during the pandemic. With 538 deaths per 100,000 people during the pandemic, Bronx, New York, was also among the 10 percent of counties with the highest coronavirus mortality rates. More than half of the borough’s population, 56 percent of them Hispanic and 29 percent Black, live below the poverty line. The fact that COVID-19 took a heavy toll on poorer communities has further highlighted the systemic failure of the United States to address poverty.
◆ COVID-associated orphanhood has aggravated the poverty problem. More than 200,000 children in the United States have been orphaned by the pandemic. One in every 12 orphans under the age of 18 has lost a guardian due to COVID-19. More than twice as many Hispanic and Latino children in American public schools have lost their guardians as white children. Most COVID-19 orphans have been living at the bottom of the social ladder since they were born. Losing their parents in the pandemic has made their lives even more hopeless. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the US federal government has handed out trillions of dollars in bailouts, but no legislation or executive order has been rolled out to provide help to these COVID-19 orphans.
Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere is an important sustainable development goal of the United Nations. Development is fundamentally for the common prosperity of the people, which should become a consensus and common action of all countries.
In the United States, the world’s number one capitalist country, polarization between the rich and the poor is crying out for attention. The yawning wealth gap has become a chronic malaise of American society, leaving an indelible stain on the country’s democracy and human rights record. The United States should face up to the grim reality of the ever-widening wealth gap at home, reach out to the people at the bottom, and take earnest measures to solve the problem.
US Hegemony and Its Perils
Since becoming the world’s most powerful country after the two world wars and the Cold War, the United States has acted more boldly to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, pursue, maintain and abuse hegemony, advance subversion and infiltration, and willfully wage wars, bringing harm to the international community.
The United States has developed a hegemonic playbook to stage “color revolutions,” instigate regional disputes, and even directly launch wars under the guise of promoting democracy, freedom and human rights. Clinging to the Cold War mentality, the United States has ramped up bloc politics and stoked conflict and confrontation. It has overstretched the concept of national security, abused export controls and forced unilateral sanctions upon others. It has taken a selective approach to international law and rules, utilizing or discarding them as it sees fit, and has sought to impose rules that serve its own interests in the name of upholding a “rules-based international order.”
This report, by presenting the relevant facts, seeks to expose the U.S. abuse of hegemony in the political, military, economic, financial, technological and cultural fields, and to draw greater international attention to the perils of the U.S. practices to world peace and stability and the well-being of all peoples.
I. Political Hegemony — Throwing Its Weight Around
The United States has long been attempting to mold other countries and the world order with its own values and political system in the name of promoting democracy and human rights.
◆ Instances of U.S. interference in other countries’ internal affairs abound. In the name of “promoting democracy,” the United States practiced a “Neo-Monroe Doctrine” in Latin America, instigated “color revolutions” in Eurasia, and orchestrated the “Arab Spring” in West Asia and North Africa, bringing chaos and disaster to many countries.
In 1823, the United States announced the Monroe Doctrine. While touting an “America for the Americans,” what it truly wanted was an “America for the United States.”
Since then, the policies of successive U.S. governments toward Latin America and the Caribbean Region have been riddled with political interference, military intervention and regime subversion. From its 61-year hostility toward and blockade of Cuba to its overthrow of the Allende government of Chile, U.S. policy on this region has been built on one maxim-those who submit will prosper; those who resist shall perish.
The year 2003 marked the beginning of a succession of “color revolutions” — the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia, the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine and the “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan. The U.S. Department of State openly admitted playing a “central role” in these “regime changes.” The United States also interfered in the internal affairs of the Philippines, ousting President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in 1986 and President Joseph Estrada in 2001 through the so-called “People Power Revolutions.”
In January 2023, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released his new book Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love. He revealed in it that the United States had plotted to intervene in Venezuela. The plan was to force the Maduro government to reach an agreement with the opposition, deprive Venezuela of its ability to sell oil and gold for foreign exchange, exert high pressure on its economy, and influence the 2018 presidential election.
◆ The U.S. exercises double standards on international rules. Placing its self-interest first, the United States has walked away from international treaties and organizations, and put its domestic law above international law. In April 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would cut off all U.S. funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with the excuse that the organization “supports, or participates in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” The United States quit UNESCO twice in 1984 and 2017. In 2017, it announced leaving the Paris Agreement on climate change. In 2018, it announced its exit from the UN Human Rights Council, citing the organization’s “bias” against Israel and failure to protect human rights effectively. In 2019, the United States announced its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to seek unfettered development of advanced weapons. In 2020, it announced pulling out of the Treaty on Open Skies.
The United States has also been a stumbling block to biological arms control by opposing negotiations on a verification protocol for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and impeding international verification of countries’ activities relating to biological weapons. As the only country in possession of a chemical weapons stockpile, the United States has repeatedly delayed the destruction of chemical weapons and remained reluctant in fulfilling its obligations. It has become the biggest obstacle to realizing “a world free of chemical weapons.”
◆ The United States is piecing together small blocs through its alliance system. It has been forcing an “Indo-Pacific Strategy” onto the Asia-Pacific region, assembling exclusive clubs like the Five Eyes, the Quad and AUKUS, and forcing regional countries to take sides. Such practices are essentially meant to create division in the region, stoke confrontation and undermine peace.
◆ The U.S. arbitrarily passes judgment on democracy in other countries, and fabricates a false narrative of “democracy versus authoritarianism” to incite estrangement, division, rivalry and confrontation. In December 2021, the United States hosted the first “Summit for Democracy,” which drew criticism and opposition from many countries for making a mockery of the spirit of democracy and dividing the world. In March 2023, the United States will host another “Summit for Democracy,” which remains unwelcome and will again find no support.
II. Military Hegemony — Wanton Use of Force
The history of the United States is characterized by violence and expansion. Since it gained independence in 1776, the United States has constantly sought expansion by force: it slaughtered Indians, invaded Canada, waged a war against Mexico, instigated the American-Spanish War, and annexed Hawaii. After World War II, the wars either provoked or launched by the United States included the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the War in Afghanistan, the Iraq War, the Libyan War and the Syrian War, abusing its military hegemony to pave the way for expansionist objectives. In recent years, the U.S. average annual military budget has exceeded 700 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 40 percent of the world’s total, more than the 15 countries behind it combined. The United States has about 800 overseas military bases, with 173,000 troops deployed in 159 countries.
According to the book America Invades: How We’ve Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth, the United States has fought or been militarily involved with almost all the 190-odd countries recognized by the United Nations with only three exceptions. The three countries were “spared” because the United States did not find them on the map.
◆ As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter put it, the United States is undoubtedly the most warlike nation in the history of the world. According to a Tufts University report, “Introducing the Military Intervention Project: A new Dataset on U.S. Military Interventions, 1776-2019,” the United States undertook nearly 400 military interventions globally between those years, 34 percent of which were in Latin America and the Caribbean, 23 percent in East Asia and the Pacific, 14 percent in the Middle East and North Africa, and 13 percent in Europe. Currently, its military intervention in the Middle East and North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa is on the rise.
Alex Lo, a South China Morning Post columnist, pointed out that the United States has rarely distinguished between diplomacy and war since its founding. It overthrew democratically elected governments in many developing countries in the 20th century and immediately replaced them with pro-American puppet regimes. Today, in Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen, the United States is repeating its old tactics of waging proxy, low-intensity, and drone wars.
◆ U.S. military hegemony has caused humanitarian tragedies. Since 2001, the wars and military operations launched by the United States in the name of fighting terrorism have claimed over 900,000 lives with some 335,000 of them civilians, injured millions and displaced tens of millions. The 2003 Iraq War resulted in some 200,000 to 250,000 civilian deaths, including over 16,000 directly killed by the U.S. military, and left more than a million homeless.
The United States has created 37 million refugees around the world. Since 2012, the number of Syrian refugees alone has increased tenfold. Between 2016 and 2019, 33,584 civilian deaths were documented in the Syrian fightings, including 3,833 killed by U.S.-led coalition bombings, half of them women and children. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) reported on 9 November 2018 that the air strikes launched by U.S. forces on Raqqa alone killed 1,600 Syrian civilians.
The two-decades-long war in Afghanistan devastated the country. A total of 47,000 Afghan civilians and 66,000 to 69,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers unrelated to the September 11 attacks were killed in U.S. military operations, and more than 10 million people were displaced. The war in Afghanistan destroyed the foundation of economic development there and plunged the Afghan people into destitution. After the “Kabul debacle” in 2021, the United States announced that it would freeze some 9.5 billion dollars in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank, a move considered as “pure looting.”
In September 2022, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu commented at a rally that the United States has waged a proxy war in Syria, turned Afghanistan into an opium field and heroin factory, thrown Pakistan into turmoil, and left Libya in incessant civil unrest. The United States does whatever it takes to rob and enslave the people of any country with underground resources.
The United States has also adopted appalling methods in war. During the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War, the United States used massive quantities of chemical and biological weapons as well as cluster bombs, fuel-air bombs, graphite bombs and depleted uranium bombs, causing enormous damage on civilian facilities, countless civilian casualties and lasting environmental pollution.
III. Economic Hegemony — Looting and Exploitation
After World War II, the United States led efforts to set up the Bretton Woods System, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which, together with the Marshall Plan, formed the international monetary system centered around the U.S. dollar. In addition, the United States has also established institutional hegemony in the international economic and financial sector by manipulating the weighted voting systems, rules and arrangements of international organizations including “approval by 85 percent majority,” and its domestic trade laws and regulations. By taking advantage of the dollar’s status as the major international reserve currency, the United States is basically collecting “seigniorage” from around the world; and using its control over international organizations, it coerces other countries into serving America’s political and economic strategy.
◆ The United States exploits the world’s wealth with the help of “seigniorage.” It costs only about 17 cents to produce a 100 dollar bill, but other countries had to pony up 100 dollar of actual goods in order to obtain one. It was pointed out more than half a century ago, that the United States enjoyed exorbitant privilege and deficit without tears created by its dollar, and used the worthless paper note to plunder the resources and factories of other nations.
◆ The hegemony of U.S. dollar is the main source of instability and uncertainty in the world economy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States abused its global financial hegemony and injected trillions of dollars into the global market, leaving other countries, especially emerging economies, to pay the price. In 2022, the Fed ended its ultra-easy monetary policy and turned to aggressive interest rate hike, causing turmoil in the international financial market and substantial depreciation of other currencies such as the Euro, many of which dropped to a 20-year low. As a result, a large number of developing countries were challenged by high inflation, currency depreciation and capital outflows. This was exactly what Nixon’s secretary of the treasury John Connally once remarked, with self-satisfaction yet sharp precision, that “the dollar is our currency, but it is your problem.”
◆ With its control over international economic and financial organizations, the United States imposes additional conditions to their assistance to other countries. In order to reduce obstacles to U.S. capital inflow and speculation, the recipient countries are required to advance financial liberalization and open up financial markets so that their economic policies would fall in line with America’s strategy. According to the Review of International Political Economy, along with the 1,550 debt relief programs extended by the IMF to its 131 member countries from 1985 to 2014, as many as 55,465 additional political conditions had been attached.
◆ The United States willfully suppresses its opponents with economic coercion. In the 1980s, to eliminate the economic threat posed by Japan, and to control and use the latter in service of America’s strategic goal of confronting the Soviet Union and dominating the world, the United States leveraged its hegemonic financial power against Japan, and concluded the Plaza Accord. As a result, Yen was pushed up, and Japan was pressed to open up its financial market and reform its financial system. The Plaza Accord dealt a heavy blow to the growth momentum of the Japanese economy, leaving Japan to what was later called “three lost decades.”
◆ America’s economic and financial hegemony has become a geopolitical weapon. Doubling down on unilateral sanctions and “long-arm jurisdiction,” the United States has enacted such domestic laws as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, and introduced a series of executive orders to sanction specific countries, organizations or individuals. Statistics show that U.S. sanctions against foreign entities increased by 933 percent from 2000 to 2021. The Trump administration alone has imposed more than 3,900 sanctions, which means three sanctions per day. So far, the United States had or has imposed economic sanctions on nearly 40 countries across the world, including Cuba, China, Russia, the DPRK, Iran and Venezuela, affecting nearly half of the world’s population. “The United States of America” has turned itself into “the United States of Sanctions.” And “long-arm jurisdiction” has been reduced to nothing but a tool for the United States to use its means of state power to suppress economic competitors and interfere in normal international business. This is a serious departure from the principles of liberal market economy that the United States has long boasted.
IV. Technological Hegemony — Monopoly and Suppression
The United States seeks to deter other countries’ scientific, technological and economic development by wielding monopoly power, suppression measures and technology restrictions in high-tech fields.
◆ The United States monopolizes intellectual property in the name of protection. Taking advantage of the weak position of other countries, especially developing ones, on intellectual property rights and the institutional vacancy in relevant fields, the United States reaps excessive profits through monopoly. In 1994, the United States pushed forward the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), forcing the Americanized process and standards in intellectual property protection in an attempt to solidify its monopoly on technology.
In the 1980s, to contain the development of Japan’s semiconductor industry, the United States launched the “301” investigation, built bargaining power in bilateral negotiations through multilateral agreements, threatened to label Japan as conducting unfair trade, and imposed retaliatory tariffs, forcing Japan to sign the U.S.-Japan Semiconductor Agreement. As a result, Japanese semiconductor enterprises were almost completely driven out of global competition, and their market share dropped from 50 percent to 10 percent. Meanwhile, with the support of the U.S. government, a large number of U.S. semiconductor enterprises took the opportunity and grabbed larger market share.
◆ The United States politicizes, weaponizes technological issues and uses them as ideological tools. Overstretching the concept of national security, the United States mobilized state power to suppress and sanction Chinese company Huawei, restricted the entry of Huawei products into the U.S. market, cut off its supply of chips and operating systems, and coerced other countries to ban Huawei from undertaking local 5G network construction. It even talked Canada into unwarrantedly detaining Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou for nearly three years.
The United States has fabricated a slew of excuses to clamp down on China’s high-tech enterprises with global competitiveness, and has put more than 1,000 Chinese enterprises on sanction lists. In addition, the United States has also imposed controls on biotechnology, artificial intelligence and other high-end technologies, reinforced export restrictions, tightened investment screening, suppressed Chinese social media apps such as TikTok and WeChat, and lobbied the Netherlands and Japan to restrict exports of chips and related equipment or technology to China.
The United States has also practiced double standards in its policy on China-related technological professionals. To sideline and suppress Chinese researchers, since June 2018, visa validity has been shortened for Chinese students majoring in certain high-tech-related disciplines, repeated cases have occurred where Chinese scholars and students going to the United States for exchange programs and study were unjustifiably denied and harassed, and large-scale investigation on Chinese scholars working in the United States was carried out.
◆ The United States solidifies its technological monopoly in the name of protecting democracy. By building small blocs on technology such as the “chips alliance” and “clean network,” the United States has put “democracy” and “human rights” labels on high-technology, and turned technological issues into political and ideological issues, so as to fabricate excuses for its technological blockade against other countries. In May 2019, the United States enlisted 32 countries to the Prague 5G Security Conference in the Czech Republic and issued the Prague Proposal in an attempt to exclude China’s 5G products. In April 2020, then U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the “5G clean path,” a plan designed to build technological alliance in the 5G field with partners bonded by their shared ideology on democracy and the need to protect “cyber security.” The measures, in essence, are the U.S. attempts to maintain its technological hegemony through technological alliances.
◆ The United States abuses its technological hegemony by carrying out cyber attacks and eavesdropping. The United States has long been notorious as an “empire of hackers,” blamed for its rampant acts of cyber theft around the world. It has all kinds of means to enforce pervasive cyber attacks and surveillance, including using analog base station signals to access mobile phones for data theft, manipulating mobile apps, infiltrating cloud servers, and stealing through undersea cables. The list goes on.
U.S. surveillance is indiscriminate. All can be targets of its surveillance, be they rivals or allies, even leaders of allied countries such as former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and several French Presidents. Cyber surveillance and attacks launched by the United States such as “Prism,” “Dirtbox,” “Irritant Horn” and “Telescreen Operation” are all proof that the United States is closely monitoring its allies and partners. Such eavesdropping on allies and partners has already caused worldwide outrage. Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, a website that has exposed U.S. surveillance programs, said that “do not expect a global surveillance superpower to act with honor or respect. There is only one rule: there are no rules.”
V. Cultural Hegemony — Spreading False Narratives
The global expansion of American culture is an important part of its external strategy. The United States has often used cultural tools to strengthen and maintain its hegemony in the world.
◆ The United States embeds American values in its products such as movies. American values and lifestyle are a tied product to its movies and TV shows, publications, media content, and programs by the government-funded non-profit cultural institutions. It thus shapes a cultural and public opinion space in which American culture reigns and maintains cultural hegemony. In his article The Americanization of the World, John Yemma, an American scholar, exposed the real weapons in U.S. cultural expansion: the Hollywood, the image design factories on Madison Avenue and the production lines of Mattel Company and Coca-Cola.
There are various vehicles the United States uses to keep its cultural hegemony. American movies are the most used; they now occupy more than 70 percent of the world’s market share. The United States skilfully exploits its cultural diversity to appeal to various ethnicities. When Hollywood movies descend on the world, they scream the American values tied to them.
◆ American cultural hegemony not only shows itself in “direct intervention,” but also in “media infiltration” and as “a trumpet for the world.” U.S.-dominated Western media has a particularly important role in shaping global public opinion in favor of U.S. meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.
The U.S. government strictly censors all social media companies and demands their obedience. Twitter CEO Elon Musk admitted on 27 December 2022 that all social media platforms work with the U.S. government to censor content, reported Fox Business Network. Public opinion in the United States is subject to government intervention to restrict all unfavorable remarks. Google often makes pages disappear.
U.S. Department of Defense manipulates social media. In December 2022, The Intercept, an independent U.S. investigative website, revealed that in July 2017, U.S. Central Command official Nathaniel Kahler instructed Twitter’s public policy team to augment the presence of 52 Arabic-language accounts on a list he sent, six of which were to be given priority. One of the six was dedicated to justifying U.S. drone attacks in Yemen, such as by claiming that the attacks were precise and killed only terrorists, not civilians. Following Kahler’s directive, Twitter put those Arabic-language accounts on a “white list” to amplify certain messages.
◆The United States practices double standards on the freedom of the press. It brutally suppresses and silences media of other countries by various means. The United States and Europe bar mainstream Russian media such as Russia Today and the Sputnik from their countries. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube openly restrict official accounts of Russia. Netflix, Apple and Google have removed Russian channels and applications from their services and app stores. Unprecedented draconian censorship is imposed on Russia-related contents.
◆The United States abuses its cultural hegemony to instigate “peaceful evolution” in socialist countries. It sets up news media and cultural outfits targeting socialist countries. It pours staggering amounts of public funds into radio and TV networks to support their ideological infiltration, and these mouthpieces bombard socialist countries in dozens of languages with inflammatory propaganda day and night.
The United States uses misinformation as a spear to attack other countries, and has built an industrial chain around it: there are groups and individuals making up stories, and peddling them worldwide to mislead public opinion with the support of nearly limitless financial resources.
While a just cause wins its champion wide support, an unjust one condemns its pursuer to be an outcast. The hegemonic, domineering, and bullying practices of using strength to intimidate the weak, taking from others by force and subterfuge, and playing zero-sum games are exerting grave harm. The historical trends of peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit are unstoppable. The United States has been overriding truth with its power and trampling justice to serve self-interest. These unilateral, egoistic and regressive hegemonic practices have drawn growing, intense criticism and opposition from the international community.
Countries need to respect each other and treat each other as equals. Big countries should behave in a manner befitting their status and take the lead in pursuing a new model of state-to-state relations featuring dialogue and partnership, not confrontation or alliance. China opposes all forms of hegemonism and power politics, and rejects interference in other countries’ internal affairs. The United States must conduct serious soul-searching. It must critically examine what it has done, let go of its arrogance and prejudice, and quit its hegemonic, domineering and bullying practices.
U.S. unilateral sanctions, dollar hegemony compound woes of Mideast countries
* In the face of heavy casualties in Syria, the United States, bowing to international pressure, announced on Thursday a temporary easing of sanctions on the war-torn country. Yet the compromise came too late for too many, whose lives have perished under the rubble while waiting for the much-needed relief aid blocked by the United States.
* With the U.S. dollar as the world’s leading reserve currency, the United States could use the dollar’s overwhelming might to transfer its crisis to the rest of the world, regardless of the repeated warnings by economists that the hikes will disrupt the world economy and foreshadow a recession.
* To hedge against the risk of falling into Washington’s financial trap, more countries are embarking on the de-dollarization process, exploring ways to circumvent the U.S. currency.
by Xinhua writer Shuai Anning
CAIRO, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) — Having been ravaged for years by wars and sanctions, Syria is now being battered again by catastrophic earthquakes on Monday, shattering the dreams of thousands who had hoped for a better life in 2023.
In the face of heavy casualties in Syria, the United States, bowing to international pressure, announced on Thursday a temporary easing of sanctions on the war-torn country. Yet the compromise came too late for too many, whose lives have perished under the rubble while waiting for the much-needed relief aid blocked by the United States.
The tragedy is yet another testament to the U.S. misconduct in the region, which has for years fallen victim to wars, sanctions and inflation “exported” by Washington.
The U.S. decision to lift sanctions on Syria in the wake of international condemnation contradicts what it has claimed, namely that the sanctions did not target humanitarian aid to the quake-hit country, according to Syrian political experts.
“The United States knows that the sanctions imposed on the Syrian people were unjust and led to worsening the living conditions of the Syrians over the past few years,” said political expert Kamal al-Jafa.
By maintaining the airspace’s closure and blocking the entry of any medical or relief equipment to the area, the U.S. sanctions have prevented any effort to help the affected area’s residents, said Mazen Shamieh, former assistant minister for the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.
Prior to the earthquakes, 90 percent of Syrians live in poverty. In the war-torn country, parents are skipping meals so their children can eat; electricity and fuel are scarcer than ever; many are increasingly unable to access clean water and health care or even to communicate with loved ones or colleagues, because of connectivity outages and failing infrastructure, said UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen in December.
Salem Abu Al-Oyoun, a displaced Syrian who moved from Aleppo to Al-Wazani camp in southeastern Lebanon, believed that the decision of the U.S. treasury to remove sanctions is a big lie that does not serve the people who have suffered from the unjust U.S. siege.
Tawfiq Abu Salwan from Idlib, another refugee who moved to the town of Hasbaya in southern Lebanon, said that the U.S. lifting of part of the sanctions is a desperate attempt to improve and polish its global image. “It will not have any effect on the ground in our country, Syria, and we consider it as non-existent.”
The earthquakes came at a time when life was already hard enough for the people in the Middle East. The double-digit inflation in the region has choked many who have already been struggling to feed themselves.
Fuelling their economic woes, many scholars said, is the irresponsible monetary policy of the United States, whose eight consecutive interest rate hikes have disrupted the world economy and dampened the outlook of an economic recovery.
In Türkiye, the rising consumer price inflation hit a 24-year high of 85.5 percent in October.
In Lebanon, food prices skyrocketed 143 percent between September and December in 2022, ranking third in food price inflation in the world, according to a World Bank statement.
In Egypt, whose currency has lost half of its value from a year ago, the prices of rice and some vegetables have doubled over the course of a few months last year.
The price of chicken in January 2023 rose to 72.26 Egyptian pounds (2.39 U.S. dollars) per kilo, a staggering 230-percent increase from 2013. The price of bread witnessed a 460-percent hike in the same period, with 10 loaves of unsubsidized bread now costing 14 Egyptian pounds, up from 2.5 pounds in 2013.
Sameer Mousa, a retired veteran living in Amman, the capital of Jordan, said he has not brought fruit home for two months.
“The prices are soaring all over the world, but people living in other countries with better salaries can live well. Our salaries are low, even not enough for paying house rent, electricity bills, or water bills,” he complained.
The picture is much the same in Tunisia, where local residents find it difficult even to get a packet of milk. The shortage of dairy products in Tunisia resulted from the rising price of fodder, which forced many local cow breeders to sell their livestock.
Youssef Meriah, a 52-year-old cow farmer, used to keep 10 dairy cows and more than 40 sheep in Sidi Thabet, northwest of the capital Tunis. Now he has sold a third of his herd due to the high price of hay.
“I, just like many other farmers across the country, was forced to sell our cows as economic conditions worsen,” he said.
U.S. DOLLAR’S DOMINANCE
Jomai Gasmi, a Tunisian political and economic analyst, said the soaring inflation in his country was closely related to the interest rate hikes of the Federal Reserve of the United States.
“If you compare the timetable, you can see that the inflation in Tunisia suddenly increased after the Fed hikes,” Gasmi said, referring to the U.S. Fed’s moves of raising the dollar’s interest rate.
“It also forced the central bank of Tunisia to raise the interest rate. The last surprise rate rise was on Jan. 14, and the central bank’s benchmark rate now stands at 8 percent,” Gasmi said.
It is impossible for countries like Tunisia and Egypt not to take the Fed’s monetary policies into account when making choices because of the dollar’s hegemonic status, said Waleed Gaballah, a professor of financial and economic jurisdictions at the Cairo University in Egypt.
“The U.S. dollar becomes a more attractive and safer haven for investors after the rises of the interest rate,” said Gaballah, noting that since March 2022, a total of 25 billion U.S. dollars of indirect investment in the local debt instruments existed in the Egyptian market.
“When fleeing Egypt, foreign investors needed to buy U.S. dollars, causing a drop in Egyptian pound value,” he explained.
With the U.S. dollar as the world’s leading reserve currency, the United States could use the dollar’s overwhelming might to transfer its crisis to the rest of the world, regardless of the repeated warnings by economists that the hikes will disrupt the world economy and foreshadow a recession.
Gasmi said that it is “disappointing and infuriating that the U.S. is exporting inflation for its own benefit and making the world pay for it.”
The dollar’s strength has also increased the debt-repayment burdens and deepened poverty in many developing countries, such as Lebanon which is being pushed to the verge of national bankruptcy, Gasmi added.
Adnan Bourji, director of the Lebanese National Center for Studies, said it is such a shame that the Middle East region, with its natural resources and strategic location, should suffer inflation that has been spiraling out of control.
Solutions are possible if the dependence on the West and its deadly directives are abandoned, said Bourji, adding that right now the United States and other Western countries still have the upper hand in forming some of the governments in the region and imposing directives to serve its goals.
Gaballah said it is “not logical for Egypt’s central bank to continue raising the interest rate and follow the U.S. Federal Reserve.”
He called for a “de-dollarization” approach to limit U.S. irresponsible loosening or tightening of monetary policy in favor of its own interest.
To hedge against the risk of falling into Washington’s financial trap, more countries are embarking on the de-dollarization process, exploring ways to circumvent the U.S. currency.
India, for example, is discussing plans with the United Arab Emirates to settle bilateral transactions in their local currencies. The central banks of South Korea and Australia also extended their currency swap agreement by five years to 2028.
As the de-dollarization is gathering momentum, Michael Hudson, a professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, noted that putting an alternative monetary system in place will take time.
“The whole structure will change and there’s still going to be many countries using the dollar. But the dollar will just be like other countries’ (currencies). It will have to pay its own way,” Hudson said. “It can’t just issue dollar debt without pressure.”
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