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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why the USA is declining and China rises

I just read
this interesting article by US intellectual James Petras on why his country is losing power while China rises at Voltaire Net.

I have often compared the current US Empire with the Spanish Empire of Philip II: involved in dozens of wars, most of which were just impossible to win, and squeezing its vast resources not to build an improved economy or society but just in useless military efforts for an impossible total hegemony.

And, well, anyone who knows anything about Chaos and order knows that total power is simply impossible, fortunately. But it's an illusion that blinds humans it seems.

Petras goes into further detail but essentially is what I have outlined above: while China can be criticized for many reasons, it is not wasting its resources in doomed militarist adventures but in building its own economy and infrastructure. It gains contracts even in US-occupied countries like Iraq by means of diplomacy and cautious bidding, while the resources of the American Empire are wasted in a vast network of military bases and occupation forces that produce nearly no results, as well as wasting public money in bailing out blood-sucking banks that are useless for the nation and supporting such a liability as the racist state of Israel.

The New Yorker sociologist also suggests what US citizens should do:

To become a ‘normal state’ we have to start all over: Close all investment banks and military bases abroad and return to America. We have to begin the long march toward rebuilding industry to serve our domestic needs, to living within our own natural environment and forsake empire building in favor of constructing a democratic socialist republic.

Not in the next months I guess. But I totally agree with Petras otherwise: that is what the USA should do. For their own interest. And I believe that US people will eventually do that but first they will have to shake off the illusory reality of Hollywood and the Zionist-controlled media.


Ken said...

If states are just a way for a ruling class to ger richer China will continue to get more and more powerful as the US elites continue to reap profits.

However I think it will soon begin to dawn on the US leadership that China is going to become a giant Hong Kong.

China's growth depends on the US continuing to play by the rules of globalization, which they will do only as long as it is compatible with the official US policy of remaining the most powerful state in the world.

When the US see where they are going to end up relative to China they will try and pull the plug on China's growth.

Maju said...

"China's growth depends on the US continuing to play by the rules of globalization, which they will do only as long as it is compatible with the official US policy of remaining the most powerful state in the world".

That's an interesting idea because the "rules of globalization" were largely imposed by the USA itself. China has only played by them because it's what there is.

Breaking the "rules of globalization" would be exactly what Petras is asking for: going socialist.

When the US see where they are going to end up relative to China they will try and pull the plug on China's growth.

That's easier said than done. China has the USA grabbed by the guts, as it holds the vast majority of US debt and dollar reserves worldwide. A sudden collapse of the USA is certainly not in China's interest, because it's one of China's largest markets, but still can put loads of pressure on the US financial system and, also, thanks to the widespread state intervention, they can adapt more easily than the US can to fluctuating economic conditions.

China would not have bailed out the corrupt US banks: it would have nationalized them, what has been shown once and again to be much more efficient in controlling private abuse of national economies: if you don't serve the nation, you are out (not "bailed out").

The sad fact that the USA is financing banks with public money while getting nothing, absolutely nothing, in return, is a sign of its decadent subservience not to national interests but to transnational capital. That's about the worst that can happen to a nation: to become a servant of corporative capital, which knows no homeland but profit. It is not different to what happens to neo-colonies in fact.

ren said...

I'm not sure the U.S. can pull the plug at this point, on China. Growth in China in the last 2 years has been fueled by internal demand. Not that America and the rest of the West were ever the faithful patron. The initial economic burst in China in the 80s and early 90s was due to Hong Kong and Taiwan investment, which led in Western investment in the late 90s and early 00s, only to be quickly drawn back in Asia during the earlier Asian financial crisis, caused by Western speculators in the first place. China didn't devaluate and saved the day. Really. China, in terms of economic policy at least, has always been the hero. The West came back, but left again this time because of the current financial mess and basically 99% of Western economists were predicting China's pending collapse, the thought of which gave half of these economists orgasms. Well, the Chinese leadership didn't even take the threat seriously. They still projected 8% growth, and amazingly (to the West), they were achieving it, with record-breaking domestic auto sales and real estate prices.
It's not so amazing if you subscribe to the Chinese economic model, which some people in the West have just begun to realize to have reinvented economic theory.

I was here for the whole bonanza and China was freakin booming while the rest of the world was starving. All through this the Chinese infrastructure is transforming into something you see in Hollywood sci-fi movies, with bullet trains creating a web-work of efficient transportation unparalleled in the world. This summer, there will be a commuter train running every 3 minutes connecting the premier industrialized Yangtze delta from Nanjing through Shanghai to Ningbo, covering something like 7 major cities and dozens of minor ones. That's the equivalent of connecting the whole of NE United States, Philadelphia and Pittsburg to Boston and New York with a 350 km/hr bullet train running every 3 minutes. I've been here in China for a while and it still amazes me, the speed at which things get done here. The trains don't run on the ground but are on a raised platform that looks like a bridge that runs for thousands of kilometers. The scale and engineering it takes is just jaw-droping, even after witnessing the process for 2 or 3 years. It's the modern Great Wall. OK. I'm done shamelessly infomercializing China, but being Han is so much better than being Basque. (Sorry. I just can't help adding that in.)

Maju said...

Thanks for posting your insightful opinion, Ren.

Oddly enough I can agree with a good deal of it, except for this:

being Han is so much better than being Basque.

You have to be Basque to be the first to circumnavigate the World (second one doesn't count). That was not Zheng He with his oversized treasure fleet but an unruly sailor from Getaria with a rotten carrack, a pot of marmalade and all the mighty Portuguese navy after him. ;)

But well, I can admire the Chinese too for what they deserve, that is not little. Being proud of one's nation does not mean being xenophobic to the others. Respect is a pillar of Basque culture (and, if you don't believe me, ask the Chinese among us).

However I don't think that China's future is lacking in shadows anyhow. I know that authoritarian regimes can practice developism very efficiently but corruption and lack of transparency can really become major obstacles at some point, not to mention that the new generations will eventually demand greater freedom and rights, as they are not anymore worried about hunger and poverty.

Other issues are ecological. I know, for instance, that the North of the country is suffering major desertization, possibly caused (or increased) by climate change, and that Beijing itself suffers large sandstorms with increased frequency.

And of course there are major ethnic conflicts too.

Chinese foreign policy is smart, no doubt, but the People's Republic lacks the ability to face the USA or Russia in a direct nuclear war. Not sure how important is this but considering how aggressive the "Greater Virginians" are as of late it might be an issue at some point. However, and considering how harmful and costly was the Cold War for the USSR, it might be wise to keep a relatively low military profile. Just not sure because I can't foresee how the US Empire will behave as China becomes more and more powerful.

Another issue is what I mentioned to Manjunath in another thread: that with populations exceeding that of all the First World, rising living standards for all without an equivalent neocolonial empire is probably impossible. Hence China and India are bound to practice to some extent what I call "internal colonialism". In China this is very marked with the division, officialized by legal restrictions to travel, between the booming urban areas and the much poorer and marginalized rural ones.

So, while on one side I admire and applaud the achievements of China, on the other hand I can't and won't idealize it either. I sincerely think that if very radical reforms are not implemented, a revolution lays ahead anyhow.

Ken said...

The US will try and slow China even if that means the US economy is hurt, that probably won't work but a mega- state China will make the the Indians and Russians very nervous so there will be an alliance of those states with the US against China.

If the US had not been so busy with 9/11 they would have already started down the anti- China road .

The threat of China.

The rise of China will not be peaceful at all

Maju said...

India and Japan are certainly already aligned with the Atlantic Empire, that's clear, but neither wants a confrontation with China but mostly doing business. India has been reluctant to make this alignment and like the pre-WWI Italy fluctuates between both sides.

Russia at this moment has a strong symbiosis with China and is not bothered at all by China's growing influence. However Russia would like to expand the Eurasian bloc to India, while China is more posed into the rivalry with Delhi.

This bloc is called the BRIC and the letter B goes for Brazil. So please consider that the same that China's interests may clash with India, US interests are already clashing with those of Brazil. In fact, Brazil is the most natural ally of China in the global scenario. But both China and Brazil would need extended nuclear arsenals able to dissuade the USA. Brazil has none and its navy is also not too large.

Anyhow, Mearsen's language is clearly one of US hawkish, nazi-like, propaganda: he's claiming that China will cause wars, when in fact China is avoiding all direct conflict. Same for Brazil. It's not any objective dispassionate analysis but a discourse justifying US aggression everywhere.

For people like him if the USA invades two dozen countries it's totally justified, while if another country makes a peaceful pipeline deal, then it's intolerable aggression.

That guy is a clear nazi. Please don't quote him again here.

Maju said...

Also, Ken, are you familiar with game of go (Japanese name) or weiqi (Chinese name)? As David Gosset points at an article in Asia Times Online, the Chinese might well be playing go and not chess:

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to US president Jimmy Carter, wrote in The Grand Chessboard (1997): "Eurasia is the chessboard on which the struggle for global primacy continues to be played." But is Beijing playing chess? In Eurasia and beyond, Chinese strategists are more probably spontaneously designing a series of moves compatible with their own understanding of strategy. While Westerners might navigate a world mapped as a chessboard, the Chinese mind circulates on a weiqi board.

The differences are total. While chess is a typical operational wargame in which destruction of enemy pieces and absolute victory by taking (check mating) the enemy's King are the goal, in weiqi actual combat (capture) is rare and the goal is, much as in Sun Tzu's work, to win without fight. Victory in weiqi is anyhow relative, because it deals with control of the territory rather than destruction of the rival. Also, while the game is very dynamic, the individual pieces don't move at all, rather exerting influence from their initial position, which the player must choose carefully.

Direct confrontation in weiqi is rare and always a means to a more subtle but holistic goal. China is not Prussia... nor the USA.

Ken said...

Weiqi is interesting it's maybe an indication of a non-confrontational mindset that the Chinese will carry into international relations. The Japanese didn't start to play it in 1945 though!

It is difficult to believe anyone - apart from another subsidised agressor like Israel - will try and act like Prussia with nuclear weapons about. However weiqi seems quite similar to the kind of thinking that would want to build defensive alliances.

Maju said...

The Japanese were already described by Iberians as a warlike people not worth trying to conquer. Chinese mindset is more "pacifist": though it would be an error to consider Chinese culture 100% non-militarist (all states are militarized and China is a very old state), there is no tradition of love for war, unlike the Japanese case, rather of dislike of it.

Japan began its expansionism roughly with the war against Russia and took the US Monroe Doctrine as a model to follow ("Asia for the Asians", meaning "for Japan"). But the USA was not anymore in regional mode and Asia was a prize too large for them to allow Japan to take it. Hence the USA manipulated the stage to induce a casus belli and enter war against Tokyo.

China has no noticeable military expansionism. In contrast the USA has a global military network that threatens China and everybody else. China surely knows it cannot compete in an outright confrontation, so it plays a more positional, subtle, game, for which weiqi is a good model.

But the USA might be pondering direct or indirect conflict of some sort. Of course some most "natural" scenarios for such a conflict would be at China's gate: Taiwan, which the US is still arming, and Korea. But Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are surely not too interested in that kind of scenario and all three of them are trying to improve their relations with a China that appears as a rather benevolent neighbor.

Another scenario is Central Asia but there also Russia and India have some interests. Yet another potential conflict is at the Chinese-Indian border, though not too likely unless fueled by some other confrontation - anyhow China has been taking positions around India (Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal - plus the old alliance with Pakistan and Myanmar), what has pushed India to the arms of the USA. The case of Russia is probably the opposite: US pressure and Chinese friendly diplomacy is pushing it to the arms of Beijing, who values Russian intercontinental ballistic capabilities a lot, as well as Siberian resources, of course.

The opposite trend is Chinese and Russian support for dissident nations in America: the Bolivarian bloc of course but also Brazil and its own circle of "moderate" allies. And to Iran as well.

Whatever the case it does not seem like China wants any direct confrontation, though it needs to secure its access to resources, very specially in West Asia (via both Central Asia and the Indian Ocean), and also to cautiously weaken the US imperial scheme. It is complicated and I imagine that at some point a new nuclear race (cold war) could ensue. But China and the USA are too co-dependent economically to probably push things too far.

You never know anyhow.

Anonymous said...

wow, i love this blog, the comments are so liberal, polite, yet critical. Reading the comments have given me wider perspectives. This place is much better than many forums, which when it comes to politic, countries, or race, all you see are meaningless cursing and useless doomsday fantasies. After all, fights in blog/forum won't change anything big practically. Keep on!

Maju said...

Thanks. Not always so polite, I guess, though I come from the antimilitarist movement and pedagogy is important to my view of dialectics. Also when people start with petty insults, it's signal that they lack arguments, and I miss few occasions of reminding it. :)

In any case Leherensuge has been split since October 1st into two new blogs: an anthropological one and a more political/current affairs one. Hope you like them too. Cheers.