SPECIAL Q&A WITH DIRECTOR JOHN PILGER FOLLOWS THE SCREENING.
4/5 .PETER BRADSHAW. THE GUARDIAN (UK)
The Coming War on China is John Pilger’s 60th film for ITV. Pilger reveals what the news doesn’t – that the United States and the world’s second economic power, China (both nuclear armed) are on the road to war. Pilger’s film is a warning and an inspiring story of resistance.
“The title of John Pilger’s new film reminded me of a now-forgotten conservative tract from 1991, The Coming War With Japan by George Friedman and Meredith Lebard, a hawkish work which argued that the Soviet collapse meant America should be on its guard against the resurgent old enemy from the second world war.
Paradoxically, Pilger’s documentary is about paranoia and pre-emptive military belligerence in the Pacific: a 21st century alt-yellow-peril. It’s a subject which tends to be ignored, especially now that we are (justifiably) concerned by Putin’s Russia.
Pilger politely reminds us that Nobel peace laureate Barack Obama presided over a massive increase in nuclear spending and a new strategic objective, the super-modern “pivot to Asia”, which for the arms business is like the exploitation of a lucrative new market. It means a colossal but unacknowledged buildup of military bases under China’s nose, specifically intended to smack down any thoughts China might be having about translating its commercial prosperity into power in the region and answer with an overwhelming show of strength China’s own disputed claim to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Their semi-secret bases are tracked by academic David Vine in his observation project Base Nation. Pilger fills in the historical context: from turning the Marshall Islands and their peoples into vivisectional nuclear-test guinea pigs after the war, the US government has turned many places into missile bases whose weapons are trained on China. (Pilger could – but doesn’t – point out how close America came to a nuclear strike on China during the Korean war.)
It’s a bizarre, dysfunctional situation, a buildup which shows no sign of abating, certainly now that Donald Trump has encouraged America to believe China is its new enemy. This is a gripping film, which though it comes close to excusing China (“Yes, there are issues with human rights …”) does point out China’s insecurities and political cruelties. A strong corrective to our bland and complacent indifference to the new war-game scenario in the Pacific.”