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When the Generals talk - who is listening?

Written by: Ned K. on 18 July 2020


One of rock band Midnight Oil's songs had the lyrics "when the Generals talk, you better listen to them". The "Generals" referred to US multinationals such as General Electric and of course General Motors. The song was highlighting the power and influence of these multinationals, including their influence on politicians and government policy.

At the moment there is growing tension between US imperialism and the new power on the blocks, China. Listening to Trump one may get the impression that the decisive sections of the US ruling class are behind him regarding his anti-China position on almost everything.  

However, "The General", in this case General Motors, has more to lose from an all-out war with China than Trump would have us believe.

General Motors are in big trouble in their struggle to maintain and increase market share of car sales in China. 

"Global carmakers are looking to China where sales have rebounded more strongly than in the US and Europe...and few carmakers are as reliant on China as GM, which typically records almost half its global unit sales in the country" (The Wall Street Journal 16 July).

"GM'S commitment to China has never wavered" said a GM spokesperson. Over the last quarter GM sales dropped by 25% in China but rather than make a decision to withdraw from the market which Trump would probably applaud, General Motors are responding by launching new models with a big focus on electric cars at its plant in Liuzhou.

European and Japanese multinational car companies are picking up what General Motors is losing in market share in China. 

Adding to the contradictions between the US and China is that in China, the big car multinationals from the US, Japan and Europe rely on joint ventures with Chinese car manufacturers as well to keep afloat in the massive China car sales market which of course they need to grow their global profits.

So, while there are sections of US imperialism who favor all-out attack on China including war if it comes to that, there are headaches for them as so many US multinationals in particular have economic interests in China that they cannot afford to lose.

How this plays out in coming years is no certainty.

So maybe if Midnight Oil rewrote the lyrics to their song about the Generals, it would go like this, "When the Generals talk, who is listening?"


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