The Geopolitics of American Global Decline: Washington Versus China in the Twenty-First Century

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Yves here. One has to worry about decline-ism being the new black, but there’s nevertheless a long list of reasons why the concerns raised about the US’s standing have a real foundation. Domestically, we have lousy infrastructure, declining educational attainment levels, and a deceleration of technology advances (the fact that money is being poured into ventures like Uber and Lyft, whose source of return is using network effects to extract rents from laborers, is a far cry from “innovations” like personal computers and the Internet). Internationally, we are making a hash of being a hegemon, between military overextension, serial creation of failed states, and choosing to become economically interdependent with China and now seeking, late in the game, to contain the rising superpower we helped create.

By Alfred W. McCoy, who holds the Harrington Chair in History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the editor of Endless Empire: Spain’s Retreat, Europe’s Eclipse, America’s Decline and the author of Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State, among other works. Originally published at TomDispatch

For even the greatest of empires, geography is often destiny. You wouldn’t know it in Washington, though. America’s political, national security, and foreign policy elites continue to ignore the basics of geopolitics that have shaped the fate of world empires for the past 500 years. Consequently, they have missed the significance of the rapid global changes in Eurasia that are in the process of undermining the grand strategy for world dominion that Washington has pursued these past seven decades.

A glance at what passes for insider “wisdom” in Washington these days reveals a worldview of stunning insularity. Take Harvard political scientist Joseph Nye, Jr., known for his concept of “soft power,” as an example. Offering a simple list of ways in which he believes U.S. military, economic, and cultural power remains singular and superior, he recently argued that there was no force, internal or global, capable of eclipsing America’s future as the world’s premier power.

For those pointing to Beijing’s surging economy and proclaiming this “the Chinese century,” Nye offered up a roster of negatives: China’s per capita income “will take decades to catch up (if ever)” with America’s; it has myopically “focused its policies primarily on its region”; and it has “not developed any significant capabilities for global force projection.” Above all, Nye claimed, China suffers “geopolitical disadvantages in the internal Asian balance of power, compared to America.”

Or put it this way (and in this Nye is typical of a whole world of Washington thinking): with more allies, ships, fighters, missiles, money, patents, and blockbuster movies than any other power, Washington wins hands down.

If Professor Nye paints power by the numbers, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s latest tome, modestly titled World Order and hailed in reviews as nothing less than a revelation, adopts a Nietzschean perspective. The ageless Kissinger portrays global politics as plastic and so highly susceptible to shaping by great leaders with a will to power. By this measure, in the tradition of master European diplomats Charles de Talleyrand and Prince Metternich, President Theodore Roosevelt was a bold visionary who launched “an American role in managing the Asia-Pacific equilibrium.” On the other hand, Woodrow Wilson’s idealistic dream of national self-determination rendered him geopolitically inept and Franklin Roosevelt was blind to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s steely “global strategy.” Harry Truman, in contrast, overcame national ambivalence to commit “America to the shaping of a new international order,” a policy wisely followed by the next 12 presidents.

Among the most “courageous” of them, Kissinger insists, was that leader of “courage, dignity, and conviction,” George W. Bush, whose resolute bid for the “transformation of Iraq from among the Middle East’s most repressive states to a multiparty democracy” would have succeeded, had it not been for the “ruthless” subversion of his work by Syria and Iran. In such a view, geopolitics has no place; only the bold vision of “statesmen” and kings really matters.

And perhaps that’s a comforting perspective in Washington at a moment when America’s hegemony is visibly crumbling amid a tectonic shift in global power.

With Washington’s anointed seers strikingly obtuse on the subject of geopolitical power, perhaps it’s time to get back to basics. That means returning to the foundational text of modern geopolitics, which remains an indispensible guide even though it was published in an obscure British geography journal well over a century ago.

Sir Halford Invents Geopolitics

On a cold London evening in January 1904, Sir Halford Mackinder, the director of the London School of Economics, “entranced” an audience at the Royal Geographical Society on Savile Row with a paper boldly titled “The Geographical Pivot of History.” This presentation evinced, said the society’s president, “a brilliancy of description… we have seldom had equaled in this room.”

Mackinder argued that the future of global power lay not, as most British then imagined, in controlling the global sea lanes, but in controlling a vast land mass he called “Euro-Asia.”  By turning the globe away from America to place central Asia at the planet’s epicenter, and then tilting the Earth’s axis northward just a bit beyond Mercator’s equatorial projection, Mackinder redrew and thus reconceptualized the world map.

His new map showed Africa, Asia, and Europe not as three separate continents, but as a unitary land mass, a veritable “world island.”  Its broad, deep “heartland” — 4,000 miles from the Persian Gulf to the Siberian Sea — was so enormous that it could only be controlled from its “rimlands” in Eastern Europe or what he called its maritime “marginal” in the surrounding seas.

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Mackinder’s Concept of the World Island, From The Geographical Journal (1904)

The “discovery of the Cape road to the Indies” in the sixteenth century, Mackinder wrote, “endowed Christendom with the widest possible mobility of power… wrapping her influence round the Euro-Asiatic land-power which had hitherto threatened her very existence.” This greater mobility, he later explained, gave Europe’s seamen “superiority for some four centuries over the landsmen of Africa and Asia.”

Yet the “heartland” of this vast landmass, a “pivot area” stretching from the Persian Gulf to China’s Yangtze River, remained nothing less than the Archimedean fulcrum for future world power. “Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island,” went Mackinder’s later summary of the situation. “Who rules the World-Island commands the world.” Beyond the vast mass of that world island, which made up nearly 60% of the Earth’s land area, lay a less consequential hemisphere covered with broad oceans and a few outlying “smaller islands.”  He meant, of course, Australia and the Americas.

For an earlier generation, the opening of the Suez Canal and the advent of steam shipping had “increased the mobility of sea-power [relative] to land power.” But future railways could “work the greater wonder in the steppe,” Mackinder claimed, undercutting the cost of sea transport and shifting the locus of geopolitical power inland. In the fullness of time, the “pivot state” of Russia might, in alliance with another power like Germany, expand “over the marginal lands of Euro-Asia,” allowing “the use of vast continental resources for fleet-building, and the empire of the world would be in sight.”

For the next two hours, as he read through a text thick with the convoluted syntax and classical references expected of a former Oxford don, his audience knew that they were privy to something extraordinary. Several stayed after to offer extended commentaries. For instance, the renowned military analyst Spenser Wilkinson, the first to hold a chair in military history at Oxford, pronounced himself unconvinced about “the modern expansion of Russia,” insisting that British and Japanese naval power would continue the historic function of holding “the balance between the divided forces… on the continental area.”

Pressed by his learned listeners to consider other facts or factors, including “air as a means of locomotion,” Mackinder responded: “My aim is not to predict a great future for this or that country, but to make a geographical formula into which you could fit any political balance.” Instead of specific events, Mackinder was reaching for a general theory about the causal connection between geography and global power.  “The future of the world,” he insisted, “depends on the maintenance of [a] balance of power” between sea powers such as Britain or Japan operating from the maritime marginal and “the expansive internal forces” within the Euro-Asian heartland they were intent on containing.

Not only did Mackinder give voice to a worldview that would influence Britain’s foreign policy for several decades, but he had, in that moment, created the modern science of “geopolitics” — the study of how geography can, under certain circumstances, shape the destiny of whole peoples, nations, and empires.

That night in London was, of course, more than a long time ago.  It was another age. England was still mourning the death of Queen Victoria.  Teddy Roosevelt was president.  Henry Ford had just opened a small auto plant in Detroit to make his Model-A, an automobile with a top speed of 28 miles per hour.  Only a month earlier, the Wright brothers’ “Flyer” had taken to the air for the first time — 120 feet of air, to be exact.

Yet, for the next 110 years, Sir Halford Mackinder’s words would offer a prism of exceptional precision when it came to understanding the often obscure geopolitics driving the world’s major conflicts — two world wars, a Cold War, America’s Asian wars (Korea and Vietnam), two Persian Gulf wars, and even the endless pacification of Afghanistan.  The question today is: How can Sir Halford help us understand not only centuries past, but the half-century still to come?

Britannia Rules the Waves

In the age of sea power that lasted just over 400 years — from 1602 to the Washington Disarmament Conference of 1922 — the great powers competed to control the Eurasian world island via the surrounding sea lanes that stretched for 15,000 miles from London to Tokyo.  The instrument of power was, of course, the ship — first men-o’-war, then battleships, submarines, and aircraft carriers. While land armies slogged through the mud of Manchuria or France in battles with mind-numbing casualties, imperial navies skimmed over the seas, maneuvering for the control of whole coasts and continents.

At the peak of its imperial power circa 1900, Great Britain ruled the waves with a fleet of 300 capital ships and 30 naval bastions, bases that ringed the world island from the North Atlantic at Scapa Flow through the Mediterranean at Malta and Suez to Bombay, Singapore, and Hong Kong.  Just as the Roman Empire enclosed the Mediterranean, making it Mare Nostrum (“Our Sea”), British power would make the Indian Ocean its own “closed sea,” securing its flanks with army forces on India’s Northwest Frontier and barring both Persians and Ottomans from building naval bases on the Persian Gulf.

mccoyBy that maneuver, Britain also secured control over Arabia and Mesopotamia, strategic terrain that Mackinder had termed “the passage-land from Europe to the Indies” and the gateway to the world island’s “heartland.” From this geopolitical perspective, the nineteenth century was, at heart, a strategic rivalry, often called “the Great Game,” between Russia “in command of nearly the whole of the Heartland… knocking at the landward gates of the Indies,” and Britain “advancing inland from the sea gates of India to meet the menace from the northwest.” In other words, Mackinder concluded, “the final Geographical Realities” of the modern age were sea power versus land power or “the World-Island and the Heartland.”

Intense rivalries, first between England and France, then England and Germany, helped drive a relentless European naval arms race that raised the price of sea power to unsustainable levels. In 1805, Admiral Nelson’s flagship, the HMS Victory, with its oaken hull weighing just 3,500 tons, sailed into the battle of Trafalgar against Napoleon’s navy at nine knots, its 100 smooth-bore cannon firing 42-pound balls at a range of no more than 400 yards.

In 1906, just a century later, Britain launched the world’s first modern battleship, the HMS Dreadnought, its foot-thick steel hull weighing 20,000 tons, its steam turbines allowing speeds of 21 knots, and its mechanized 12-inch guns rapid-firing 850-pound shells up to 12 miles. The cost for this leviathan was £1.8 million, equivalent to nearly $300 million today. Within a decade, half-a-dozen powers had emptied their treasuries to build whole fleets of these lethal, lavishly expensive battleships.

Thanks to a combination of technological superiority, global reach, and naval alliances with the U.S. and Japan, a Pax Britannica would last a full century, 1815 to 1914. In the end, however, this global system was marked by an accelerating naval arms race, volatile great-power diplomacy, and a bitter competition for overseas empire that imploded into the mindless slaughter of World War I, leaving 16 million dead by 1918.

Mackinder’s Century

As the eminent imperial historian Paul Kennedy once observed, “the rest of the twentieth century bore witness to Mackinder’s thesis,” with two world wars fought over his “rimlands” running from Eastern Europe through the Middle East to East Asia.  Indeed, World War I was, as Mackinder himself later observed, “a straight duel between land-power and sea-power.” At war’s end in 1918, the sea powers — Britain, America, and Japan — sent naval expeditions to Archangel, the Black Sea, and Siberia to contain Russia’s revolution inside its “heartland.”

Reflecting Mackinder’s influence on geopolitical thinking in Germany, Adolf Hitler would risk his Reich in a misbegotten effort to capture the Russian heartland as Lebensraum, or living space, for his “master race.” Sir Halford’s work helped shape the ideas of German geographer Karl Haushofer, founder of the journal Zeitschrift für Geopolitik, proponent of the concept of Lebensraum, and adviser to Adolf Hitler and his deputy führer, Rudolf Hess. In 1942, the Führer dispatched a million men, 10,000 artillery pieces, and 500 tanks to breach the Volga River at Stalingrad.  In the end, his forces suffered 850,000 wounded, killed, and captured in a vain attempt to break through the East European rimland into the world island’s pivotal region.

A century after Mackinder’s seminal treatise, another British scholar, imperial historian John Darwin, argued in his magisterial survey After Tamerlane that the United States had achieved its “colossal Imperium… on an unprecedented scale” in the wake of World War II by becoming the first power in history to control the strategic axial points “at both ends of Eurasia” (his rendering of Mackinder’s “Euro-Asia”). With fears of Chinese and Russian expansion serving as the “catalyst for collaboration,” the U.S. won imperial bastions in both Western Europe and Japan. With these axial points as anchors, Washington then built an arc of military bases that followed Britain’s maritime template and were visibly meant to encircle the world island.

America’s Axial Geopolitics

Having seized the axial ends of the world island from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in 1945, for the next 70 years the United States relied on ever-thickening layers of military power to contain China and Russia inside that Eurasian heartland. Stripped of its ideological foliage, Washington’s grand strategy of Cold War-era anticommunist “containment” was little more than a process of imperial succession.  A hollowed-out Britain was replaced astride the maritime “marginal,” but the strategic realities remained essentially the same.

Indeed, in 1943, two years before World War II ended, an aging Mackinder published his last article, “The Round World and the Winning of the Peace,” in the influential U.S. journal Foreign Affairs.  In it, he reminded Americans aspiring to a “grand strategy” for an unprecedented version of planetary hegemony that even their “dream of a global air power” would not change geopolitical basics. “If the Soviet Union emerges from this war as conqueror of Germany,” he warned, “she must rank as the greatest land power on the globe,” controlling the “greatest natural fortress on earth.”

When it came to the establishment of a new post-war Pax Americana, first and foundational for the containment of Soviet land power would be the U.S. Navy. Its fleets would come to surround the Eurasian continent, supplementing and then supplanting the British navy: the Sixth Fleet was based at Naples in 1946 for control of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea; the Seventh Fleet at Subic Bay, Philippines, in 1947, for the Western Pacific; and the Fifth Fleet at Bahrain in the Persian Gulf since 1995.

Next, American diplomats added layers of encircling military alliances — the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (1949), the Middle East Treaty Organization (1955), the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (1954), and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty (1951).

By 1955, the U.S. also had a global network of 450 military bases in 36 countries aimed, in large part, at containing the Sino-Soviet bloc behind an Iron Curtain that coincided to a surprising degree with Mackinder’s “rimlands” around the Eurasian landmass. By the Cold War’s end in 1990, the encirclement of communist China and Russia required 700 overseas bases, an air force of 1,763 jet fighters, a vast nuclear arsenal, more than 1,000 ballistic missiles, and a navy of 600 ships, including 15 nuclear carrier battle groups — all linked by the world’s only global system of communications satellites.

As the fulcrum for Washington’s strategic perimeter around the world island, the Persian Gulf region has for nearly 40 years been the site of constant American intervention, overt and covert. The 1979 revolution in Iran meant the loss of a keystone country in the arch of U.S. power around the Gulf and left Washington struggling to rebuild its presence in the region. To that end, it would simultaneously back Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its war against revolutionary Iran and arm the most extreme of the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

It was in this context that Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, unleashed his strategy for the defeat of the Soviet Union with a sheer geopolitical agility still little understood even today. In 1979, Brzezinski, a déclassé Polish aristocrat uniquely attuned to his native continent’s geopolitical realities, persuaded Carter to launch Operation Cyclone with massive funding that reached $500 million annually by the late 1980s. Its goal: to mobilize Muslim militants to attack the Soviet Union’s soft Central Asian underbelly and drive a wedge of radical Islam deep into the Soviet heartland. It was to simultaneously inflict a demoralizing defeat on the Red Army in Afghanistan and cut Eastern Europe’s “rimland” free from Moscow’s orbit. “We didn’t push the Russians to intervene [in Afghanistan],” Brzezinski said in 1998, explaining his geopolitical masterstroke in this Cold War edition of the Great Game, “but we knowingly increased the probability that they would… That secret operation was an excellent idea. Its effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap.”

Asked about this operation’s legacy when it came to creating a militant Islam hostile to the U.S., Brzezinski, who studied and frequently cited Mackinder, was coolly unapologetic. “What is most important to the history of the world?” he asked. “The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

Yet even America’s stunning victory in the Cold War with the implosion of the Soviet Union would not transform the geopolitical fundamentals of the world island. As a result, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Washington’s first foreign foray in the new era would involve an attempt to reestablish its dominant position in the Persian Gulf, using Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait as a pretext.

In 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, imperial historian Paul Kennedy returned to Mackinder’s century-old treatise to explain this seemingly inexplicable misadventure. “Right now, with hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops in the Eurasian rimlands,” Kennedy wrote in the Guardian, “it looks as if Washington is taking seriously Mackinder’s injunction to ensure control of ‘the geographical pivot of history.’” If we interpret these remarks expansively, the sudden proliferation of U.S. bases across Afghanistan and Iraq should be seen as yet another imperial bid for a pivotal position at the edge of the Eurasian heartland, akin to those old British colonial forts along India’s Northwest Frontier.

In the ensuing years, Washington attempted to replace some of its ineffective boots on the ground with drones in the air. By 2011, the Air Force and the CIA had ringed the Eurasian landmass with 60 bases for its armada of drones. By then, its workhorse Reaper, armed with Hellfire missiles and GBU-30 bombs, had a range of 1,150 miles, which meant that from those bases it could strike targets almost anywhere in Africa and Asia.

Significantly, drone bases now dot the maritime margins around the world island — from Sigonella, Sicily, to Icerlik, Turkey; Djibouti on the Red Sea; Qatar and Abu Dhabi on the Persian Gulf; the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean; Jalalabad, Khost, Kandahar, and Shindand in Afghanistan; and in the Pacific, Zamboanga in the Philippines and Andersen Air Base on the island of Guam, among other places. To patrol this sweeping periphery, the Pentagon is spending $10 billion to build an armada of 99 Global Hawk drones equipped with high-resolution cameras capable of surveilling all terrain within a hundred-mile radius, electronic sensors that can sweep up communications, and efficient engines capable of 35 hours of continuous flight and a range of 8,700 miles.

China’s Strategy

Washington’s moves, in other words, represent something old, even if on a previously unimaginable scale.  But the rise of China as the world’s largest economy, inconceivable a century ago, represents something new and so threatens to overturn the maritime geopolitics that have shaped world power for the past 400 years. Instead of focusing purely on building a blue-water navy like the British or a global aerospace armada akin to America’s, China is reaching deep within the world island in an attempt to thoroughly reshape the geopolitical fundamentals of global power. It is using a subtle strategy that has so far eluded Washington’s power elites.

After decades of quiet preparation, Beijing has recently begun revealing its grand strategy for global power, move by careful move. Its two-step plan is designed to build a transcontinental infrastructure for the economic integration of the world island from within, while mobilizing military forces to surgically slice through Washington’s encircling containment.

The initial step has involved a breathtaking project to put in place an infrastructure for the continent’s economic integration.  By laying down an elaborate and enormously expensive network of high-speed, high-volume railroads as well as oil and natural gas pipelines across the vast breadth of Eurasia, China may realize Mackinder’s vision in a new way.  For the first time in history, the rapid transcontinental movement of critical cargo — oil, minerals, and manufactured goods — will be possible on a massive scale, thereby potentially unifying that vast landmass into a single economic zone stretching 6,500 miles from Shanghai to Madrid. In this way, the leadership in Beijing hopes to shift the locus of geopolitical power away from the maritime periphery and deep into the continent’s heartland.

“Trans-continental railways are now transmuting the conditions of land power,” wrote Mackinder back in 1904 as the “precarious” single track of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the world’s longest, reached across the continent for 5,700 miles from Moscow toward Vladivostok. “But the century will not be old before all Asia is covered with railways,” he added. “The spaces within the Russian Empire and Mongolia are so vast, and their potentialities in… fuel and metals so incalculably great that a vast economic world, more or less apart, will there develop inaccessible to oceanic commerce.”

Mackinder was a bit premature in his prediction. The Russian revolution of 1917, the Chinese revolution of 1949, and the subsequent 40 years of the Cold War slowed any real development for decades.  In this way, the Euro-Asian “heartland” was denied economic growth and integration, thanks in part to artificial ideological barriers — the Iron Curtain and then the Sino-Soviet split — that stalled any infrastructure construction across the vast Eurasian land mass. No longer.

Only a few years after the Cold War ended, former National Security Adviser Brzezinski, by then a contrarian sharply critical of the global views of both Republican and Democratic policy elites, began raising warning flags about Washington’s inept style of geopolitics.  “Ever since the continents started interacting politically, some five hundred years ago,” he wrote in 1998, essentially paraphrasing Mackinder, “Eurasia has been the center of world power. A power that dominates ‘Eurasia’ would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions… rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent.”

While such a geopolitical logic has eluded Washington, it’s been well understood in Beijing.  Indeed, in the last decade China has launched the world’s largest burst of infrastructure investment, already a trillion dollars and counting, since Washington started the U.S. Interstate Highway System back in the 1950s. The numbers for the rails and pipelines it’s been building are mind numbing. Between 2007 and 2014, China criss-crossed its countryside with 9,000 miles of new high-speed rail, more than the rest of the world combined. The system now carries 2.5 million passengers daily at top speeds of 240 miles per hour. By the time the system is complete in 2030, it will have added up to 16,000 miles of high-speed track at a cost of $300 billion, linking all of China’s major cities.

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China-Central Asia Infrastructure Integrates the World Island (Source: Stratfor)

Simultaneously, China’s leadership began collaborating with surrounding states on a massive project to integrate the country’s national rail network into a transcontinental grid. Starting in 2008, the Germans and Russians joined with the Chinese in launching the “Eurasian Land Bridge.” Two east-west routes, the old Trans-Siberian in the north and a new southern route along the ancient Silk Road through Kazakhstan are meant to bind all of Eurasia together. On the quicker southern route, containers of high-value manufactured goods, computers, and auto parts started travelling 6,700 miles from Leipzig, Germany, to Chongqing, China, in just 20 days, about half the 35 days such goods now take via ship.

In 2013, Deutsche Bahn AG (German Rail) began preparing a third route between Hamburg and Zhengzhou that has now cut travel time to just 15 days, while Kazakh Rail opened a Chongqing-Duisburg link with similar times. In October 2014, China announced plans for the construction of the world’s longest high-speed rail line at a cost of $230 billion.  According to plans, trains will traverse the 4,300 miles between Beijing and Moscow in just two days.

In addition, China is building two spur lines running southwest and due south toward the world island’s maritime “marginal.” In April, President Xi Jinping signed an agreement with Pakistan to spend $46 billion on a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.  Highway, rail links, and pipelines will stretch nearly 2,000 miles from Kashgar in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province, to a joint port facility at Gwadar, Pakistan, opened back in 2007.  China has invested more than $200 billion in the building of this strategic port at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, just 370 miles from the Persian Gulf. Starting in 2011, China also began extending its rail lines through Laos into Southeast Asia at an initial cost of $6.2 billion. In the end, a high-speed line is expected to take passengers and goods on a trip of just 10 hours from Kunming to Singapore.

In this same dynamic decade, China has constructed a comprehensive network of trans-continental gas and oil pipelines to import fuels from the whole of Eurasia for its population centers — in the north, center, and southeast. In 2009, after a decade of construction, the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) opened the final stage of the Kazakhstan-China Oil Pipeline. It stretches 1,400 miles from the Caspian Sea to Xinjiang.

Simultaneously, CNPC collaborated with Turkmenistan to inaugurate the Central Asia-China gas pipeline. Running for 1,200 miles largely parallel to the Kazakhstan-China Oil Pipeline, it is the first to bring the region’s natural gas to China. To bypass the Straits of Malacca controlled by the U.S Navy, CNPC opened a Sino-Myanmar pipeline in 2013 to carry both Middle Eastern oil and Burmese natural gas 1,500 miles from the Bay of Bengal to China’s remote southwestern region. In May 2014, the company signed a $400 billion, 30-year deal with the privatized Russian energy giant Gazprom to deliver 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually by 2018 via a still-to-be-completed northern network of pipelines across Siberia and into Manchuria.

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Sino-Myanmar Oil Pipeline Evades the U.S. Navy in the Straits of Malacca (Source: Stratfor)

Though massive, these projects are just part of an ongoing construction boom that, over the past five years, has woven a cat’s cradle of oil and gas lines across Central Asia and south into Iran and Pakistan. The result will soon be an integrated inland energy infrastructure, including Russia’s own vast network of pipelines, extending across the whole of Eurasia, from the Atlantic to the South China Sea.

To capitalize such staggering regional growth plans, in October 2014 Beijing announced the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. China’s leadership sees this institution as a future regional and, in the end, Eurasian alternative to the U.S.-dominated World Bank. So far, despite pressure from Washington not to join, 14 key countries, including close U.S. allies like Germany, Great Britain, Australia, and South Korea, have signed on. Simultaneously, China has begun building long-term trade relations with resource-rich areas of Africa, as well as with Australia and Southeast Asia, as part of its plan to economically integrate the world island.

Finally, Beijing has only recently revealed a deftly designed strategy for neutralizing the military forces Washington has arrayed around the continent’s perimeter. In April, President Xi Jinping announced construction of that massive road-rail-pipeline corridor direct from western China to its new port at Gwadar, Pakistan, creating the logistics for future naval deployments in the energy-rich Arabian Sea.

In May, Beijing escalated its claim to exclusive control over the South China Sea, expanding Longpo Naval Base on Hainan Island for the region’s first nuclear submarine facility, accelerating its dredging to create three new atolls that could become military airfields in the disputed Spratley Islands, and formally warning off U.S. Navy overflights. By building the infrastructure for military bases in the South China and Arabian seas, Beijing is forging the future capacity to surgically and strategically impair U.S. military containment.

At the same time, Beijing is developing plans to challenge Washington’s dominion over space and cyberspace.  It expects, for instance, to complete its own global satellite system by 2020, offering the first challenge to Washington’s dominion over space since the U.S. launched its system of 26 defense communication satellites back in 1967. Simultaneously, Beijing is building a formidable capacity for cyber warfare.

In a decade or two, should the need arise, China will be ready to surgically slice through Washington’s continental encirclement at a few strategic points without having to confront the full global might of the U.S. military, potentially rendering the vast American armada of carriers, cruisers, drones, fighters, and submarines redundant.

Lacking the geopolitical vision of Mackinder and his generation of British imperialists, America’s current leadership has failed to grasp the significance of a radical global change underway inside the Eurasian land mass. If China succeeds in linking its rising industries to the vast natural resources of the Eurasian heartland, then quite possibly, as Sir Halford Mackinder predicted on that cold London night in 1904, “the empire of the world would be in sight.”

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  1. tejanojim

    Among the most “courageous” of them, Kissinger insists, was that leader of “courage, dignity, and conviction,” George W. Bush, whose resolute bid for the “transformation of Iraq from among the Middle East’s most repressive states to a multiparty democracy” would have succeeded, had it not been for the “ruthless” subversion of his work by Syria and Iran. In such a view, geopolitics has no place; only the bold vision of “statesmen” and kings really matters.

    i.e. “And we would have got away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” Old Man Kissinger, at it again.

    1. Vatch

      “Courage, dignity, and conviction”? Bush certainly ought to be convicted of something — treason is my choice. He and his minions lied to Congress about imaginary weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, leading to a war that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, and which disrupted millions of lives. It also wasted a few trillion dollars.

      Sure, Saddam Hussein was a cruel psychopath, but the price for getting rid of him was much too high.

    2. Ishmael

      I guess Syria and Iran did not get the memo that indicated they should allow the US to do whatever they want. GWB and all of his minions should be put in chains and thrown into the darkest prison to never be seen again. Now the idiot’s brother wants to run for president. He will go down in flames and I am a conservative. For a Republican to win the election he also must carry the Independent vote and no Independent is going to vote for a Bush. What a narcissistic dumb a$$.

    3. Jim

      Kissinger is usually thought of as a realist. I’m surprised that he believes in all this nonsence about democracy in the Middle East. There never was any such nation as “Iraq” or any such people as “Iraqis” any more than there ever was any such nation as “Yugoslavia” or any such people as “Yugoslavs”.

      1. Otter

        Kissinger is hardly the only realist with two sides to his mouth : one side for the power, one side for the masses.

      2. Tsigantes

        There never was any such nation as “Iraq” or any such people as “Iraqis” any more than there ever was any such nation as “Yugoslavia” or any such people as “Yugoslavs”.

        Be careful what you claim here because one day malign strategists could make the same arguments for the USA, Canada, Australia etc. and with more justice: at least the peoples of modern Iraq and Tito’s Yugoslavia are indigenous.

        Iraq is the world’s oldest civilisation and Tito, by stitching together Yugoslavia out of multiple small statelets, achieved peace in the Balkans for 50+ years. Breaking up this peaceful non-aligned state was a deliberate US / post-1989 reinvented-NATO decision complete with colour revolutions, ‘false flag’ lies about ethnic cleansing and massive aerial bombardment of civilian populations. The result in both cases, Iraq and Yugoslavia, has not been beneficial.

    4. Mel

      Scooby-doo! Damn! That was going to be MY line. Old Kissinger there, and in fact this whole article are obsessed with their maps. Fact is, IMHO, that people do things, and do them where they live. The U.S. chooses, and chose to operate in China, or VietNam, as far as the ships or aircraft can/could get them. But the Chinese or VietNamese didn’t make a strategic choice to operate in their countries; they were born there. It’s where they live. It’s where they work. And rational deductions and game theory and what not have nothing to do with that fact. And strategy that ignores that fact will have a big hole in it.

      1. different clue

        In difficult situations, I have sometimes wondered to myself . . . ” What would Scooby do?”

    5. sufferin'succotash

      And who could have predicted that Syria and Iran would ever try to take advantage of the destruction of the Ba’athist state in Iraq? One look at the map might provide a subtle hint of an answer.
      The Spanish had a phrase to explain their imperial decline in the mid-17th century: falta de cabezas.

  2. Jim Haygood

    ‘Adolf Hitler would risk his Reich in a misbegotten effort to capture the Russian heartland as Lebensraum, or living space, for his “master race.” ‘

    How our dreams have shrunk! America has spent about a quarter of a trillion (in 2015 dollars) on Israel’s dream of Lebensraum in the occupied territories. But it’s not working.

    To paraphrase Zbig, “What is most important to the history of the world? Some stirred-up Moslems, or the liberation of Judea and Samaria?”

    No wonder we’re headed for history’s scrapheap.

    1. Carolinian

      These people remind me of Charlie Chaplin’s famous little dance as Hitler in The Great Dictator–bouncing an air filled globe off his ass. The stuff about America replacing Britain as world empire–just as the empire concept had finally been discredited by WW2–is dead on. The Americans, late to the game and not wanting to be left out of the party, have been out of step with history ever since. Lately through projection they think Russia is prey to this same empire mania even while Putin is making soothing, conciliatory statements about “our partners.”

      Anyway, thanks to NC for the above article.

      1. digi_owl

        Russia has, at least since ww1, if not earlier, been about making sure there is a “buffer” of sorts between them and the rest of the world.

        With EU and NATO pushing right up to its borders, the old bear is feeling cornered. And the last thing you want to deal with is someone feeling cornered…

    2. susan the other

      We don’t have a plan. We really don’t know what we are containing or why. We’re just a bunch of fatuous idiots farting around the edges of a time gone by. China has already cleaned our clock. This essay is staggering. Love it that the Chinese so successfully took the wind out of our sails.

  3. P. Fitzsimon

    I don’t buy this Eurasian heartland argument. I think someone could put together a similar story for the island of the Americas. In any case coasts dominate because ships and sea lanes are still the cheapest and safest if not the fastest.

    1. ambrit

      I think you’re missing the point of the Eurasian Heartland argument. When the Eurasian Heartland is fully integrated, the oceanic system will be unimportant, because, the oceanic system will be powerless to influence the Eurasian Heartland. There will only be one sphere of overlap, and a frightening one, Intercontinental Ballistic Nuclear Missiles. Then the peripheral powers will be faced with a stark choice, accommodation or total destruction. Seeing how today’s neo-liberal elites are acting, I wouldn’t bet too heavily on rationality. Lots of societies have self destructed through plain stupidity.

      1. David

        “When the Eurasian Heartland is fully integrated…”

        Yes, right after Europe is fully integrated.

        How many different cultures, religions, beliefs, warlords, etc. are there in Eurasia vs. Europe?

        I think I’ll have my flying car before this happens.

        1. craazyboy

          Yep. Isn’t Myanmar full of crazy Muslims? And if they take the high road, Mongolia is like a Mad Max movie? This may not be a slam dunk after all.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            In Bagan or Pagan, Burma (or Myanmar), the whole city is like a Buddhist sutra, something like 729 marble slabs were engraved with passages from the Tipitaka.

            And they can claim kinship, as the Dai people across the border also celebrate the Water Splashing festival, just like the Burmese.

            1. craazyboy

              You make it sound so peaceful, splashing around in the water and reading wise sayings, then crossing the border into the Happy Place and splashing around in the water some more..

              Do they really do that all day?

        2. Ben Johannson

          Bingo. There’s no allowance for political difficulties in the World Island scenario.

          1. ambrit

            Haven’t you noticed the rather severe methods resorted to by Moscow and Beijing to deal with ‘internal’ problems? Do you really expect the Tibetans or the Uighur to go about blowing up pipelines and bridges in support of ‘democracy?’

            1. FluffytheObeseCat

              “severe methods resorted to by Moscow and Beijing to deal with […] the Tibetans or the Uighur”

              Yes. The tribal issues are real, and oddly, radical Islamism may be to our benefit in central Asia. Still, I doubt the Russians or Han Chinese will be wholly undone by it. after all, what is a little genocide among friends?

              1. different clue

                Gary Brecher the War Nerd once referred to it as “ethnic cleansing powder” in an article about ongoing Islamist violence in Chechnya. He wrote that if it gets really totally bad enough, that Russia would simply use some “ethnic cleansing powder” on the problem.

              2. Tsigantes

                It looks like the radical Islam issue will fade as the 2006 New Middle East Plan (Rice, Olmert) fully establishes itself, according to the Maj. Ralph Peters map.

                ISIS get its own state : Islamic Sunni State, carved out of western Iraq. Al Qaeda get their own state: Baluchistan, formerly southwest Pakistan. And the US/Israel/NATO get their own land base in the new (US/Israel/NATO created and controlled) Kurdistan, aimed at the underbelly of Russia.

                Meanwhile KSA is broken up into parts and its power reduced.

                Nothing to do with religion….

        3. different clue

          I think they just mean “infrastructurally and economically” integrated. It won’t matter how the Europeans ” feeeeeel” about their place in the Sino-Russian Great Eurasia Co-Prosperity Sphere . . . so long as they obey their orders and keep their newly assigned place. Which will be as a cultural petting zoo and Sino-Russian tourist destination once every last factory in Europe has been relocated to maquiladoras back along the New Silk Road.

    2. Jim

      MacKinder’s theories are complete, total and utter nonsense. According to his geographical determinism the Congo should be far more important than Japan. Japan is a geographically peripheral small nation, mostly mountains with few natural resources.

      Much of his “Pivot Area” consists of tunfra and sem-tundra wastelands. The Chukchi are not going to conquer the world.

      1. Carolinian

        But perhaps what matters is not whether the theory makes any sense but that the world’s elites all seem to buy into it. That includes Putin to the extent that he has to take defensive stances against their Great Game playing.

      2. ambrit

        I dunno. In Congo, they dig uranium out of the earth. In Japan they melt it back into the earth.

        1. BradK

          Yes, using American reactors.

          G.E. — we bring good things to life. Just not all life .

    3. Oregoncharles

      That was my reaction. I think geopolitics are doubtless important,but those lines on a map are pretty arbitrary.

      As the article described all those rail and pipelines, i was thinking how easy it is for locals to break those. Ever read TE Lawrence on the Arab rebellion? Sea lanes are harder to interdict because there are multiple pathways. EG, even if someone controls the Strait of Malacca, there are alternate routes, just a little longer. Indonesia is pretty strategic for that reason, though.

      1. ambrit

        Empires always come up with viable short term solutions, often utilizing mass relocations or genocides. Lawrence is also very good on the Treaty of Versailles and how it buggered the Arabs. A smart hegemon will include the locals in the spoils distribution. That or make the locals “go away.”

  4. JM Hatch

    This going to end badly for everyone, probably sooner that than later, and it going to go off the rails thanks to fresh water.

  5. Ivy

    The TPP and related secret forays represent the latest chapter in a type of China panic playing out in Washington. The opening of China was followed by our best and brightest by a subsequent essentially costless transfer of American patrimony via manufacturing know-how, software, security and numerous other knowledge capital items.

    Obama is merely the latest among the callow political class to have been swept up in the short-term thinking machine, and now will face another blot on his ‘legacy’.
    There is a US systemic defect that discourages longer-term approaches, and that is only exacerbated by Citizens United and similar self-enrichment devices for those that are selling out their country for a mess of pottage.

    1. Steven

      Class warfare trumps geopolitics. The US foreign policy apparatus has for a long time been run from and by Wall Street and its banks. For them it is financial engineering that counts, not “American patrimony via manufacturing know-how, software, security and numerous other knowledge capital items”. They and not the country’s “useless eaters” are the source of the country’s wealth and power. Like their British mentors, they have gambled (away?) the country’s future on their continuing ability to ride the one-trick pony of private money creation via originally fractional-reserve banking and now financial toxic waste, er, ‘wealth’ creation without limits, using more advanced forms of financial engineering.

      For them, if Main Street has been stupid all these many years in not seeing through their money tricks, it is being even stupider now in not backing them to the hilt in allowing the country (or at least 0.001% of it) to “go shopping” and enjoy the benefits of obtaining the world’s wealth through nothing but the magic of ex nihilo money creation. All that ‘deep marketing’ of the products for mass conspicuous consumption that would allow them to continue their private money as debt creation was becoming too much work fraught with too much risk.

      Besides that it was becoming increasingly, obviously, unsustainable. If the “laboring cattle” couldn’t be reigned in here where at least the trappings of democracy and free markets had to be maintained, the “laboring cattle” in China and other developing nations were more concerned with the struggle for subsistence and not as likely to be making demands at least a little slice of the increasing productivity from harnessing them to machines and computers could produce.

      Globalization! What a wonderful way to expunge the stain of the Progressive Era, the New Deal and all those Roosevelts on American history! We should have a marketing slogan competition for globalization and the various “partnership” treaties. Here is my entry:

      “We supply the money; you supply the goods.”

  6. washunate

    Thought provoking read. I feel like this is one of those pieces to refer to from time to time.

    Nye actually is more right than perhaps McCoy gives credit, I’d say. There is no one power that is going to supplant the US; in that sense, what Nye said is on to something.

    Rather, we are going to leave the oddity of having a global superpower and return to a multi-polar world, multiple peoples living different cultures domestically but largely without direct conflict against each other externally*. What we will keep of the past half-millennium’s worth of globalization is the ability to communicate with each other more, not the hegemony of a particular nation driving global affairs.

    *Of course, the Anglo-Americans are dissatisfied with being simply the most powerful force in the world. They desire complete domination, and thus the impasse today of the increasing chasm between reality and fantasy.

    But the rise of China as the world’s largest economy, inconceivable a century ago…

    In the details, I would quibble a bit with this mindset. The areas of China and India have long been home to grand human civilizations. That this is confusing to Western elites a century ago is a testament to the arrogance, narrow-mindedness, racism, and xenophobia of the West, not a comment on the likelihood that the temporary arrangement of western dominance would wind down.

    Even today, a lot of Anglo-Americans don’t seem willing to accept that the majority of the human race lives in southern and eastern Asia (loosely speaking in a triangle between Tehran, Jakarta, and Beijing). Even if Tokyo and Manila are strongly in our geopolitical back pocket, and the near East can be kept in chaos, and we can continue to dominate Central and South America, and Africa remains completely marginalized as a global player (all question marks), the western elites are still vastly outnumbered in terms of trying to project power. That’s how enormous China, the Indian subcontinent, and southeast Asia are. It’s like a few fans of a visiting team thinking they can out-yell the home crowd at a sporting event.

    That western powers on the Eurasian land mass in Moscow, Berlin, Paris, and elsewhere increasingly view breaking from the Anglo-Americans is simply a recognition that, quite simply, we’ve gone absolutely nuts. There’s nothing magical about the World Island. It’s policy failure, not geography, that is the catalyst of our times.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      How a British private corporation, the East Indian Company, could rule a great civilization in India must still fascinate our elites.

      Furthermore, it should warm their hearts to know one does not have to be a Han Chinese to rule China. Lots of foreigners had done it – The Xianbei, the Xiongnu, the Jurchens, the Khitans , the Mongols and the Manchus. Realizing that, Tototomi Hideyoshi said to himself, ‘I too can conquer Ming China.’ Unfortunately, he had to go through Korea first and that proved to be a little too tough.

      People complain about all the Spanish language signs here in Los Angeles. Walk down any street in Shanghai, you will likely see signs in English. Most Americans there hang out among themselves, eating food familiar to themselves. They should be helpful in breaking this either-China-or-the-West deadlock. It’s possible to have an Anglo-American-Russian-Chinese-Indian empire. Any wannabe Khan can see that.

      1. ambrit

        I had a first generation Texican Chinese roommate at University for two years. Do not underestimate the cultural chauvinism of the Han Chinese. Your Anglo-American-Russian-Chinese-Indian Empire will have to be run by China. No other outcome will be even considered by the Politburo in Beijing.
        You have been warned Round Eye Prime Beef.

        1. jerry denim

          Agreed, they are arrogant, proud and feel completely entitled and comfortable playing the colonizing conquerers just as many Anglos in foreign lands have before them. Your average Lee Greenwood, Freedom Fries, Faux News, Kris-Kyle wanna be Texican doesn’t have anything on a Han Chinese male with the proper pedigree.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Ironically, like many Brits are discovering their Celtic DNA, many Han Chinese men have Korean, Central Asian, Mongolian, Sogdian, Arabic, Vietnamese (or more precisely Yue), and other minority blood in them.

            1. Jim

              Celtic is a linguistic not genetic classification. Although linguistic and genetic classifications can overlap “Celtic DNA” is a basically meaningles term.

            2. ambrit

              You nailed the problem when you called the ‘other’ ‘bloodlines’ minority. This automatically sets up a hierarchy of values. If these sub groupings are the ‘minority,’ who is the ‘majority?’ How are the rules for describing the relationships made? By whom?
              Technically, we are all of the genus ‘Homo.’ That should be all we need to know.

          2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            We should ask “Why?”, what is the narrative myth that makes the elites, whether they are from Versailles-on-the-Potomac or Beijing, do what they do?
            The cover for Beijing is “oh oh we just want to trade” and there’s probably some truth to that. In Versailles-sur-Potomac it tends to be “we just want all the wogs to think like we do, and the beatings will continue until morale improves”. The American myth is one of dominant military power in support of business, whether it’s Exxon or Monsanto, but it comes with a strong dose of Calvinist rectitude, i.e. it’s not enough that our jackboots are on your neck, you have to like it too. The Chinese version seems to be “our jackboot is on your neck, and we know you won’t like it, so here are a few trinkets to buy you off”.
            The Soviets used to have a doctrine called “Expansion and Co-Existence”, in good times they expanded, in bad times they hunkered down. I keep thinking about what would happen if America went into “hunker” mode. Brings the troops home, have them build airports and highways and high-speed rail and hospitals here for a change, not in the Hindu Kush. Aim all that Star Wars military technology at “mostly peaceful means” like JFK tried with the Space Race, stick a solar panel on everyone’s roof. Shore up our finances and our education and our training, teach everyone robotics and programming and math and sustainable agriculture. Let the capitalists compete for themselves out in the world instead of Hilary threatening Sweden if they didn’t roll over for Monsanto. Something tells me: America would be a much stronger, happier, more sustainable place in the end.
            Draft Ron Paul in 2016, he’s the only one who thinks this way.

      2. washunate

        Fun story, heard a US businessman (so caution: take with grain of salt) talking about a trip to China maybe 15 years ago now. He was talking through a translator with some government officials (under then President Jiang Zemin). US businessman offers gregariously that China is now growing so fast his grandchildren will need to learn Mandarin.

        Senior Chinese official deadpans in response, “My grandchildren are already learning English”.

    2. susan the other

      The thing that gave me chills as I read McCoy was the total lack of reactionary behavior by China. They did not rise to the occasion of an arms race! Except by a few press releases. Instead they just went on about their business. Who in the West can comment on this successful strategy which is so against our mindset. They simply ignored most of our saber rattling. I think it’s very Zen.

      1. craazyboy

        They don’t want it to be a “race”. But – shush – they are sneaking in that direction!

      2. SirrStreng

        坐山观虎斗 — Sit on the mountain and watch the tigers fight…then reap the rewards when both sides are exhausted

        韬光养晦 — Hide one’s capacities and bide one’s time

        The Warring States period of Chinese history is chock full of insights into how to chip away at hegemony.

        1. craazyboy

          I’m pretty sure chips are still China’s Achilles heel. Unless they steal Taiwan from us.

          Where we do have a problem is with rare earth magnets. For instance the Amraam missile – pride of the Air Force Air Superiority Fighters, has large brushless DC fin actuators using large rare earth magnet motors. Then all of our electromechanical pointing, tracking and fire control systems use rare earth servo motors.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Next great infrastructure project – a bridge or undersea tunnel from Amoy to Tainan.

      3. washunate

        Agreed, that gives me hope, too. If China specifically were trying to replace USUK-J rather than free themselves from our meddling, they would likely demonstrate much more focus on belligerence and power projection at this point. It was half a century from the Mexican-American war to the Spanish-American war (remember when the US declared wars?) and the annexation of Hawaii, and another half century to the Suez crisis.

        In other words, China today is less bellicose than the US was 100 years before displacing the UK and France as top tier global powers.

  7. Watt4Bob

    I’ve always wondered why, the fact that one can walk from Beijing to Paris, but not from New York to Paris wouldn’t prove the ultimate determining factor in the outcome of the Great Game as it now exists?

    1. susan the other

      It’s like a peaceful boots-on-the-ground. A synergy that transportation and communication networking can only enhance. We’re gonna hafta find a better use for drones than murder and mayhem. I wonder what plan B is.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It used to be that one can feel safe on the other side of the Pacific.

      But with the 1918 Influenza and todays’ MERS in Korea, no distance is safe.

    3. washunate

      Yeah, very interesting. I’d say one potential explanation is that culture creates bonds that are both intergenerational and self-reinforcing, an identity that is remarkably insular and stable over human time spans.

      Or to say it differently, broadly speaking people in Paris think of themselves as French, not European. They’re a long way from thinking of themselves as Eurasian. L’Acadamie francaise still has a l’immortalite as their motto [with apologies to the French, not sure how to do the accents on this keyboard].

      Perhaps immortality is too long for culture to stay unique, but I’d say it can last a long time. Although we Americans sure seem to be trying everything in our power to alienate Eurasians of all persuasions.

  8. optimader

    Kissinger insists, was that leader of “courage, dignity, and conviction,” George W. Bush, whose resolute bid for the “transformation of Iraq from among the Middle East’s most repressive states

    Let me consult my map and see if Saudi Arabia and Israel moved.

    1. craazyboy

      We found out Saddam had some useful skills too – like keeping terrorists out of Iraq. Wonder how he pulled that off? We’ll come up with something eventually, I’m sure.

      1. optimader

        nooo kidding.. Saddam was the Iraqi Don Corleone.

        He was able to keep all the various types of apples in the cart being pulled down the cobblestone street, George swooped in, killed the horse, pushed the cart over in the intersection thinking he’d set the apples free.

  9. susan the other

    Kissinger’s new book, World Orders, sounds like drivel. It is pretty stunning, even for a cynic like me, to read such disgusting praise of GWB. The only reason has to be to try to get Jeb elected. The best antidote for K’s World Order is Chomsky’s World Orders, Old and New.

    1. craazyboy

      I guess the explanation is that Kissinger was a Neo-Con, long before anyone knew what a Neo-Con was.

  10. vegeholic

    9000 miles of high speed rail in 7 years. We cannot even manage a new tunnel under the Hudson river. Where is the vision? We should be building high speed rail from Canada to Argentina with links to all major population centers. If one cannot innovate then at least copy things that work. Why is Central Asia the axis of the universe? The Americas have much to offer. I think the local oligarchs like things just the way they are.

  11. susan the other

    The only thing that gives me pause from my shadenfreude about us Westerners taking a prat fall is China’s and India’s humongous pollution problem. If China can focus its considerable attention on this problem, and global warming, and dedicate much of its human energy toward solutions as soon as possible it will be a very good thing. I’m thinkin they can do it because their “corporations” are not successful oligarchs yet.

    1. optimader

      China’s and India’s humongous pollution problem
      China is the poster child for unsustainability.

      1. different clue

        All this and global warming too . . .

        It certainly is a testable theory. In a decade or so, we shall see this happen or not.

        But I can think of a way for the ChiCom regime to avoid all those costs of caring for the sick. Let them all die untreated. Or with symbolic palliative care only, anyway. China would still have the biggest single national population on earth, even after such a Communist health-care-deprivation die-off.

  12. Jim

    China will certainly continue to be a major force in world history. It isn’t going to conquer the world although it might take over some part of East Africa to settle some of it’s excess population in.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      East Africa is slowly sinking.

      Who knows when the Rift Valley will go under. And China wants that?

  13. Sanctuary

    Two points. One, how is China really supposed to take advantage of all these billions spent and all this track laid when it has Japan-ified its economy so severely that its growth rates have fallen sharply, much more sharply than is acknowledged by their numbers or our “experts”? A lot of the China panic today reminds me of the Japan panic of the ’80s. That turned out to be a lot of nothing. Two, if what is written here is accurate, then it seems China will invest trillions into its air force, space force, and ballistic missiles to protect all of these land assets. Much as the British decided to focus on sea power, China would have to focus primarily on air and space power.

    1. Mark P.

      ‘China would have to focus primarily on air and space power.’

      They already are focused there. If WWIII between China and the U.S. ever begins, it’ll begin in orbit as we and they start knocking down each other’s satellites, upon which all of our and their military and civil networks largely depend.

      And it’s much easier to knock things down than put them up into orbit. In 2007 the Chinese sent that message to us by knocking down one of their old satellites with a kinetic kill missile and achieved (per Wiipedia) … “the largest recorded creation of space debris in history with at least 2,317 pieces of trackable size (golf ball size and larger) and an estimated 150,000 debris particles.[23][24] 2,087 pieces of debris were officially cataloged in the immediate aftermath.”

      In doing so, they probably put LEO space on the road to the Kessler syndrome a la the movie, GRAVITY.

      Not to excuse the Chinese playing the 21st century’s equivalent of nuclear chicken, but you can see why they’d be spooked as the U.S. has an alarming preponderance of technological superiority in orbit, including those three robot shuttles that the Air Force has up there for years on end with nobody else having any idea what they’re doing.

  14. John Merryman

    What is most interesting here will be the eventual blowback in the Americas.

    The US has hollowed out both its economy and financial system(witness China and Russia buying enormous amounts of gold with their oil money and stockpiles of dollars).

    In the not too distant future, probably becoming apparent over the next two presidential cycles, this US effort at global hegemony is going to start to implode and that will open up a significant opportunity for social and economic change, that will be more about investing value back into society and the environment, then siphoning it out, by means of the financial system, to use on that supremely futile effort to control the Eurasian continent.

    Instead of using finance to extract rents from the rest of the economy, for hubris, the feedback loops of value could be refined and defined much closer to the sources generating this value and build a strong bottom up economy, not an increasingly precarious top heavy financial bubble. One that feels the need to monetize the entire world.

    Eventually the Old Worlders might actually look back at us as an example of how humanity can function sustainably.

    1. ambrit

      Just look at all the trade deals China has going on in Africa and Latin America. That’s where the action is. We used to have something called the Agency for International Development. It worked well in multiple roles. The Chinese learned from our experience. We underestimate them at our “Yellow” Peril.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The Chinese Way vs. the Western Way, circa 1492.

        China sent out Treasure Boats to trade and exchange tributes (and also to find the emperor’s nephew from whom Yongle usurped the throne).

        Columbus sailed to bring Salvation for the natives and gold for himself and his sponsors.

        Compare then to now.

        1. Nick

          Christianity is growing leaps and bounds in mainland China…don’t underestimate the power of god.

    2. TomDority

      The one stumbling block – and I think China understands this well – is the neo-classical/neoliberal economic system that China has allowed to metastasize within it’s own borders – the building of empty cities and people with money buying property in the hopes of getting off their hands before it becomes to hot. China has the ability to quash this development in a strategic fashion when it wants. We shall see – because what China is doing with investments in the name of infrustructure is designed to tie all of it together. They will of course need to weed out corruption, shadow banking and speculation- probably in drastic fashion – before it becomes too intertwined with it’s government as it has done in the US, whereby it chokes the economy in rent seeking activity that raises the cost of living and working and taxes advancement of civilization beyond where the majority of people can afford. If China fails it will be due to the Chicago economic system winning, because the economic system will have won, the rest of the worlds population – a vast majority will lose.

      1. Sanctuary

        “China has the ability to quash this development in a strategic fashion when it wants. We shall see – because what China is doing with investments in the name of infrustructure is designed to tie all of it together.”

        How do you come to this assumption? All of this over development is continuing despite repeated government attempts to end it and the credit bubble causing it. They produced a $22 trillion credit bubble that is feeding on itself. Far bigger than ours.

        “They will of course need to weed out corruption, shadow banking and speculation- probably in drastic fashion – before it becomes too intertwined with it’s government as it has done in the US, whereby it chokes the economy in rent seeking activity…”

        Good luck with that. If you think we’re bad, you would be deeply shocked with how intertwined and pervasive the corruption is in China. If WE haven’t been able to weed out corruption, shadow banking, and speculation with our supposed rule of law and representative democracy, why would you expect a one-party authoritarian state to do better?

          1. Sanctuary

            That makes no sense. A one-party state by definition has no accountability. Considering that almost every public official at the national level in China is a millionaire or billionaire due to their shady deals with the businesses they are supposed to regulate, who is supposed to disrupt these relationships? Where is the incentive? China has had several pubic anti-corruption drives over the past 20 years and none of them succeeded. Why do you suppose that it will suddenly work now or in the future?

            1. hunkerdown

              By whose definition, and to whose political benefit? The Party’s officials and apparatchiks are accountable to the Party and to some extent to the law. Either could be manipulated in such a way as to take a few trophies for quid-pro-quo corruption (i.e. the crime of being insufficiently socialist about it) and get back down to subtler forms of patronage.

  15. Gio Bruno

    While it’s interesting to to read counter narratives to the future of American hegemony, I’m not completely sold on the author’s propinquity to that 1904 London discussion, because Henry Ford’s Model A wasn’t introduced until 1929. Ford’s first mass produced automobile was the Model T (Tin Lizzy) in 1908. Small detail; but that’s what the author is discussing: details.

    1. John Merryman

      To a very real extent, you are right. These are a fair number of very old and very distinct cultures that have remained in low level conflict for millennia. What is driving a good deal of this cooperation is a reaction to that very American hegemony. Which isn’t going to last forever, if very much longer, but the resulting cooperation will likely go on for the foreseeable future, decades likely.
      The Anglo American financial vacuum cleaner is creating its own blowback, in trying to monetize these countries and when it fails, this giant ponzi scheme with implode. That will create a large opportunity for some different economic model, that can still have a functioning financial circulatory system, i.e. capital, without making it into a cancer.

    2. Jason Ipswitch

      There were two different Model A’s – the first was indeed made in 1904, but in a convention (for the time) factory, not the assembly line that Ford would later pioneer. You’re thinking of Ford’s second Model A, the successor to the model T.

  16. jerry denim

    Great read, I love the grand sweep of this sort of imperial planning and analysis. The whole article really takes me back about twenty years to the mid-late nineties when I was interested/worried about the rise of China and the geopolitical/economic decline of the United States. I very vividly remember a unclassified Chinese white-paper which made the rounds around 97′ or 98′ in a few pro-US empire, right wing anti-Clinton type media outlets. This Chinese Military white paper had the think-tank, Pentagon brass crowd up in arms at the time. In the paper the Chinese Military laid out a very clear and concise plan on how they would over a thirty-year time frame proceed to become the dominant power of the Pacific, supplanting the US Navy. The strategy involved a very slow build up, a long and fatiguing series of near-constant minor provocations which the US would deem not worth fighting over, lots of island building and militarization of said islands, developing asymmetrical warfare capabilities capable of defeating US aircraft carriers. (electronic warfare and top-notch anti-ship missile technology) Once Chinese dominance of the South Pacific seas became apparent to all China would commit a larger scale aggression against a disputed neighbor, like say Taiwan, that would be carefully calculated to still not be worth full-on war with a powerful rival who had achieved force parity with the United States. From the article:

    “In May, Beijing escalated its claim to exclusive control over the South China Sea, expanding Longpo Naval Base on Hainan Island for the region’s first nuclear submarine facility, accelerating its dredging to create three new atolls that could become military airfields in the disputed Spratley Islands, and formally warning off U.S. Navy overflights. By building the infrastructure for military bases in the South China and Arabian seas, Beijing is forging the future capacity to surgically and strategically impair U.S. military containment….

    ….In a decade or two, should the need arise, China will be ready to surgically slice through Washington’s continental encirclement at a few strategic points without having to confront the full global might of the U.S. military, potentially rendering the vast American armada of carriers, cruisers, drones, fighters, and submarines redundant.”

    Hhmmm… Sound familiar? None of this is a revelation for those who have been paying attention. The Chinese have been busy empire building, improving infrastructure and increasing their projection of force in the exactly the way they announced they would at least twenty years ago. Meanwhile our leaders have been busy strip-mining our infrastructure and bleeding the populace as a profit center for their billionaire corporate benefactors. China’s leaders are building the world’s next empire and our so-called leaders are squabbling over who gets to fellate which billionaire for campaign cash and favors. This article has also made me want to go back and read Brzezinski’s 1998 “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives” which is entirely about McKinder’s axiom of dominating the Eurasian landmass. It would be interesting to see how many of the pitfalls Brzezinski outlined in the book the US has managed to fall into and how many of his predictions have come true in the intervening years.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Probably easier for our billionaire shoguns to relocate their New York ‘Bakufus (幕府) ‘ to Beijing.

      Sort of like Anthony and Cleopatra.

      “Why can’t we global elites just get along?”

      “Unite and we shall lord over those recalcitrant peasants.”

      1. Jerry Denim

        “Bakufus (幕府)” – Right over my head Prime B, although I get the gist of your comment I believe. Jim Rodgers the billionaire investor springs to mind.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Bakufu (plural may be just Bakufu, like the plural of samurai is still samurai) was the administration office of the shogun. I wasn’t sure if I should just write Bakufu.

          Shoguns or shogun(?) were shadow masters, running feudal Japan, from the Bakufu (Kamakura, near present day Tokyo, for example) in the name of the emperor (who lived, then, in Kyoto), like our financiers from New York running the various departments in Washington DC.

    2. washunate

      Remember this? I love the pre-2K internet stuff. Amazon has one review, and it’s from 1999. From a high school student.

      And this was a good article, devastating now in hindsight.

      And I remember another book from the mid-1990s I can’t recall talking about a decade long peak during which the decline of American hegemony would become widely reognized, which lined up remarkably well with the bizarro world that Gulf War 2.0 turned out to be. It’s like we forgot that the whole point of creating Islamic radicalism was to destabilize a major world power…

      The Chinese have been busy empire building

      Personally, I’d disagree here. I don’t think the Chinese are building an empire. They have their empire (we call it China). Rather, I think they’re building partnerships. It’s such a quaint American thing – to work with people rather than conquer them – we have perhaps forgotten what it looks like.

  17. NotSoSure

    The next power(s) to win the next world war gets to rule the world just like usual. Anything else like income/gdp, global projecting, etc is just bollocks. I mean, was America “global projecting” prior to the Second World War? Heck, it was in the middle of a long depression if I remember my history correctly.

  18. jerry denim

    Not a very big oversight, as it was alluded to in the article, but the Chinese are currently laying rail line all through Southeast Asia as well. They are currently working on rail links from Kunming that will stretch through Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar to vibrant and economically important cities of the south like Singapore and Bangkok. The Chinese are rail-linking all of the formerly remote and isolated parts of Southeast Asia potentially unleashing explosive economic growth and commerce in the region.

  19. John Merryman

    While the US is sitting on a financial bubble that looks likely to implode and which would set us back for a generation or two, China still has to function through a one party system that will have to reset in some fashion, sooner or later and so if it did come out on top in the near future, it would likely go through the same cycle of hubris and overshoot that the US has, since the end of the Cold War.
    Meanwhile we can rebuild a more stable and regulated financial system designed to serve society, not one which assumes society exists to serve it.
    Monarchs made just that mistake a couple centuries ago and look where it got them.

  20. Jus'Thinkin

    While China and Russia cooperate on setting up the Silk Road with huge deals and investments in infrastructure America wastes trillions on wars we don’t bother to win. If you just look at the infrastructure investment the writing on the wall is not hard to see. This article says China already has high speed trains operating long distances. See any high speed rail in the US? Nope – just SlamTrack. We sure could use a leader with vision but I don’t see any.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      You are correct to write we waste trillions on war.

      Some people might have written ‘America wastes trillions of taxpayers money on war.’

      When government spending is not funded by taxes, we can no longer say the following:

      The government is wasting taxpayers money on drones.
      The government is wasting taxpayers money on surveillance.
      The government is wasting taxpayers money on bombs.
      The government is wasting taxpayers money on color revolutions.

      We can still criticize it but we can no longer say it is ‘wasting’ our money.

      “We are your public servants. But you don’t pay for our work. You taxes have nothing to do with us.”

      The government works for the people and the people don’t have to pay it from their own pockets. That’s an interesting arrangement – the people hire the government and the government issue/create/print its own wage, the amount to be determined by the government itself.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Logically, if the government works for the people for free, that should be considered income to the people.

        The IRS can conceivably go after everyone for that un-reported income (depending on how they value it, so that on a per capita basis, it triggers the reporting requirement).

        “Last year, you received $100,000 worth of world conquering from your Uncle on your behalf. You need to report that income.”

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Then, there is that $250,000 worth of free universal surveillance to make you feel safer.

          You own taxes on that.

  21. Jerry Denim

    “China still has to function through a one party system that will have to reset in some fashion, sooner or later…”

    Reset ‘sooner or later’ could be said about anything, nothing is permanent. You also said that China “still” has to function through a one-party system, as if that is some sort of natural disadvantage for an aspiring empire. What exactly do you think constitutes the real difference between China’s capitalist one-party authoritarian government and the United State’s current one-party system which is sometimes referred to as a ‘managed democracy’ or less sensibly as ‘inverted totalitarianism’? If anything this post seems to demonstrate the continuity provided by China’s one party rule (along with a Confucian and SunTzu-ian world view) is a real advantage in terms of the requisite planning and execution involved in empire building. Conversely the supposedly superior democratic US, as Yves said in her introduction, “… is making a hash of being a hegemon…”

    Additionally the US has other severe problems besides the global hegemon front, let’s see; a stagnate hollowed-out, financialized economy, increasing socio-economic striation, an increasingly violent and militarized police state of our own, mushrooming corruption. Etc. the list goes on. China’s got a lot of warts but they certainly seem to have a rosier future than the United States at the moment.

    1. Sanctuary

      If the US is making a “hash of being a hegemon,” so is China. It’s South China Sea strategy has done more to antagonize other countries in the region than anything the US could have hoped for. You have the Philippines vying to get the US Navy back. It’s even driving Vietnam back into the US’ orbit. It is likewise bringing India ever closer to the US.

      Also, please be aware that the Chinese economy is undergoing a furious, punctuated financialization as we speak. Why else do you think the Shanghai composite is up 146% over the last year while all the economic fundamentals are screaming insane overcapacity and even deflationary Depression. China is repeating what every Western country has done wrong for the last 50 years only 10 times faster. The future for China is far less rosy than people here seem to realize

      1. Nick

        The US already has contracts to reopen 3 bases in Philippines. Japan is quickly rearming, with close cooperation with her US allies, as is S. Korea, Taiwan is a bit of a question mark….but Vietnam is signing arms deals with US and EU suppliers (not to mention trading intel).

        Then there is India, the 5000 gorilla….whose economy is now performing better than China, not to mention South East Asian countries (primarily democracies) have healthier demographics, therefore healthier and more sustainable growing middle classes than China. China still has 400 million desperately poor people.

        As for South America. Columbia is a faithful US ally, and quick growing new democracy….Cuba has rejoined the party….expect a democratic revolution in Venezuela in a few years.

      2. nick

        Exactly. Without the capacity for democratic reform, all political systems inevitably fail.

      3. Jerry Denim

        All very good and valid points, except I disagree concerning India. The Indians seem to be doing a great job of playing all sides at the moment. I was just in China a few weeks ago and all of the papers had photos of Modi and Xi Jinping visiting the Great Wall and other famous Chinese tourist sights. I don’t remember Obama and Modi getting all chummy and making a whirlwind tour of the nation’s sights together.

        I also take issue with the seriousness and assumed ramifications of Vietnam’s recent interest in what the US Navy can do for them. Just because Vietnam and the Philippines, etc. are scared shitless of the Chinese it doesn’t make them an ally of the United States, it doesn’t make the US a dependable ally of any Southeast Asian country and it doesn’t mean China isn’t going to emerge as the new superpower of all Asia in a decade or so. Ultimately if threatened Asian countries don’t believe the US is ready, willing and able to defend their sovereign borders and land holdings they will make the best deal they can cut with the Chinese. Remember who is driving these changes. The player that can impose his will on the tempo and direction of the game wins in chess. You never want to be strictly reactive to your opponent’s moves in chess. The idea is to seize the initiative and keep your opponent reacting to you, playing your game- not his, and failing to develop his own winning strategy. The Chinese may be goofing up matters at home as you say but their geopolitic game is far ahead of Washington’s.

        1. Sanctuary

          The Indians are only playing themselves. They think for the moment they can play a sort of middle man/non-aligned role, but that is delusion. They are growing faster than China, but China has about 15-20 years of development on them and that development is much more manufacturing intensive than is India’s, hence why India has trade deficits with China and many other countries in the world. This lack of manufacturing places them at a severe disadvantage vis a vis China in any conflict and will take years to address. Meanwhile China has been making aggressive moves in Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin. To address these moves and its overall strategic weakness, the Indians are starting to realize they will need a close relationship with a power like the US to gain the technology and military assets necessary to successfully confront Chinese aggression. China’s actions in the South China Sea have only underscored to the Indians the necessity of catching up.

          As for your comments about Vietnam and the Philippines, I’d say you’re way off base. The Philippines never stopped being an ally of the US and now is clamoring to get back to being a strategic hub for US naval power. Neither Vietnam nor the Philippines is scared shitless of China, but incredibly wary. Remember, Vietnam fought a small war with China after we left in the ’70s and they whipped the Chinese just like they did us. They are not easily scared and they take territorial infringements very seriously. Also, Vietnamese experience with Chinese businessman has been very negative, hence the riots they had last year to drive out Chinese industry. With that background, and now Chinese land grabs in the South China Sea, Vietnam is very seriously considering the once unthinkable notion of hosting a US military presence and forming close military to military relationships. Even Burma has moved further away from China towards the US (and Japan for that matter) for very similar reasons.

    2. John Merryman

      Not to go into all the physics of it, but any entity effectively goes through a life cycle. Beginning to end.

      Presumably what makes democracy and capitalism more resilient is that they are supposed to function as ecosystems, in which particular organisms come and go. Our problem is TBTF, i.e. the financial system is functioning like a giant parasite on the economy for which it is supposed to provide the circulatory environment, the playing field. But has coalesced into its own beast and the political process is bought and paid for by it.
      As it is, they are now the house and everyone else are just gamblers.
      So like a scab on a wound, they will eventually be peeled off and banking will have to become more of a public utility, like the post office. Probably set up on community/local, regional/state and federal levels.
      Money is a tool, not a God. It needs to be treated as the bookkeeping voucher system that it is and not some commodity the banks can manufacture to infinity. Then people can build healthy communities and environments as stores of wealth and not think we can drain it out of both, to give to our friendly banker or financial advisor. It is like refined sugar and we need to go back to more organic, societal trust and reciprocity.
      Globalization has its uses, but it is going to implode and we will have to start at the bottom and build it back up a little more solidly next time.

  22. SteveLaudig

    The Eurasians build, the Americans bomb. The Fourth Reich is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

  23. Rhondda

    I find it striking that all these Great Plans and Prognostications utterly ignore climate change.

    1. Nick

      China’s population is clustered in coastal cities which is incredibly vulnerable to climate change (sea level rise, extreme weather ect..), there is also desertification further inland, depletion/poisoning of ground water supplies.

      N. America has an advantage here, vast and healthy agriculture, over 20% of the world’s fresh water supplies (great lakes), and push toward alternative energy (combating pollution.

  24. Winston

    How can US continue to be a hegemon when retirees will be destitute and it wil have mostly poor young people? Those failed states are by design to follow the Yinon Plan

    The Jewish Plan For The Middle East and Beyond

    Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq
    ” The images of long columns of ISIS Toyota Land Cruisers, black pennants waving in the wind, making their way from Syria all the way — along empty desert main roads — to Ramadi with not an American aircraft in evidence, certainly needs some explaining. There cannot be an easier target imagined than an identified column of vehicles, driving an arterial road, in the middle of a desert. ”
    If Syria and Iraq Become Fractured, So Too Will Tripoli and North Lebanon
    U.S. Intel: Obama Coalition Supported Islamic State in Syria
    U.S. aided arms flow from Benghazi to Syria
    How a US prison camp helped create ISIS

  25. John Merryman

    The issue isn’t just China, but that various Eurasian countries are finding common ground and the some of the central ones are doing it due to US meddling, while others are finding it a useful club to join. That process is on the upswing and seems likely to continue for at least a few decades, or until the internal tensions grow greater than the benefits. The primary conflict seems to be an internal Islamic one and that might only serve to strengthen some of the economic and security bonds between the other countries.
    So what will the Americas and the US being doing in the meantime? Will it still be elites draining off wealth because they can, or will some internal dynamic overcome that?

  26. VietnamVet

    Geography is the great game because that is where the people playing it live. Yes, the Chinese are chauvinistic. They just took the American Hegemon to the cleaners. The Empire is collapsing. It cannot even gather enough empathy to maintain its alliances by writing off Greece’s unpayable debts. What it is worse, it is talking up Russian aggression but it only has 22 Abrams tanks in Germany. If Russia really does invade Ukraine, NATO will have to the use its nuclear weapons or loose Germany. What is extraordinary is the incompetence of the USA that has forced China and Russia to form a Eurasian Alliance, the very thing the elites have been fussing about for the last century.

    1. Sanctuary

      It’s not an alliance so much as a vassalage, Russia being China’s vassal. Unfortunately, the Russians are too myopic to realize it. Russia will increasingly be a source of agricultural products and energy resources for China, but not much more. And they won’t have the ability to bite the hand that feeds them.

      1. John Merryman

        Russia would seem to have a number of levers here, such as being in the middle and having the resources. What advantage does China have over them? Lots of people? Invade Siberia?

        Given global warming, that might happen.

        1. Sanctuary

          Russia’s resources are only worth what people are willing to offer to buy them. If Russia is excluded from Western markets, the only big market they can sell to is the Chinese but only the Chinese. That gives the Chinese far more power to dictate terms since they will still be able to sell to everyone. Being “in the middle” does not really represent an advantage. It makes you and your territory contested terrain and invites perpetual conflict. Ask Ukraine how being in the middle has worked out for them.

          1. ambrit

            That depends on how much of the world the “West” can keep under its’ thumb. Several ‘allies’ have already bought into the new development bank. Large parts of the old ‘Third world’ are eager clients of the Eastbloc now. Even if you are restricted to selling to China, a sixth of the worlds’ population? That’s big enough for me.

            1. Sanctuary

              You’re missing the larger point. You can sell to 1/6th of the planet all you want, but if that’s your only large market, that market can negotiate far less advantageous terms of trade for you. Allies joining the bank has no bearing on allowing Russian goods access to their markets.

              1. John Merryman

                What advantage would it be for China to squeeze Russia?
                Chinese understand feedback. They have a three thousand year old philosophy built around it.
                The more they pay the Russians, the more the Russians buy their stuff and the more Chinese are working, which is what really matters to them. They are trying to build a middle class, not destroy one.
                As ambrit points out, there is an disgruntled Europe to entice as well. What better revenge on the US, than a big happy family across Eurasia?

                1. Sanctuary

                  China wants to be the regional hegemon. Period. They have no interest in having some kind of equal Russia with the belief that it has the prerogative of interfering in China’s interests. This is what you and the Russians are not understanding. When you burn all your bridges with the West and did nothing to really develop your own economy’s indigenous industrial, manufacturing, and agricultural production, you can only serve as a resource extraction point for someone else. That someone else is China. Because of that, the Chinese will dictate the prices paid and therefore your overall economic well being. In that captive relationship, you cannot afford to upset your Beijing masters or you go hungry. That is a far different situation than what exists in a non-sanction/open-trade environment. In an open trade environment, you have the luxury of arbitrage to maximize your nation’s profits.

                  As for Europe, you are assuming they are seeking some sort of “revenge” on the US. They may be disgruntled, and may want more trade avenues with China and even prefer ending the Russian sanctions, but they have no interest in alienating the US. Beyond the fact that Eastern Europe is far more pro-US than is western Europe, in such a Eurasian situation, Europe would still be in an open trade environment and able to exercise arbitrage effectively across different regions while Russia would still be captive.

                  1. John Merryman

                    My point about checking the US isn’t from the European perspective, as there will always be close cultural and economic ties between the Americas and Europe, but from the Chinese point of view, where building a larger Eurasian economy would be a much more effective long term strategy, than simply taking advantage of the trading partners.
                    Chinese aggression is more focused on the Pacific, so alienating the Russians as well wouldn’t seem to be good strategy.

  27. ProNewerDeal

    I have confused for years as the American power elite’s myopic Chinese policy. Enable massive jobs offshoring & a permanent large trade deficit with China, on the demand of US MNCs seeking short-term profits, although this action increases China’s power while decreasing US power. Then simultaneously cater to the MIC freaking out about China’s increased power.

    Why does this happen this way? Sheer incompetence? Satisfying both powerful interests without considering they work against each other?

  28. John Merryman

    “We didn’t push the Russians to intervene [in Afghanistan],” Brzezinski said in 1998, explaining his geopolitical masterstroke in this Cold War edition of the Great Game, “but we knowingly increased the probability that they would… That secret operation was an excellent idea. Its effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap.”

    Which was Bin Laden’s plan for the US.

  29. Sanctuary

    What looks like a strategy to the author is really just a desperate contingency plan by Beijing to rescue a dangerously sagging domestic economy plagued with severe malinvestment and titanic overcapacity. All of these plans require that there not be another financial crisis in the interim to disrupt them. You’ll see a lot of these projects cancelled shortly after the next crisis ripples through the world economy. There won’t be a need for all these rail lines and shipping ports once demand craters even further.

  30. Phil

    I see the logic, but I don’t buy it. China and Russia have been controlled from the center for millenia. Given that they are both very powerful nations, and that China is currently cleaning our infrastructure clock, there is something to be said for *nimbleness* that arises when an open society is challenged.

    Of course, China may be evolving to a more open society, but it will be a long time coming. I think our biggest threat is apathy borne of a kind of “what’s the use” attitude that results from Plutocrats owning the vote. If we can find a way to recover some of the vim and vigor of open American innovation in the social sphere, and apply that innovation in a sensible way, I think out culture will be alright.

    It would be cool to be able to live side-by-side with another great (or a few great) superpowers. Who cares if we’re #1? Certainly not most Americans; we just want “enough” – we want lives that are free from invented scarcity and war. We want real futures for our kids. I think Chinese and Russian citizens feel the same.

    1. different clue

      We could become American Okayness Ordinarians.

      “USA Okay!”
      “We’re Number Whatever!”

  31. Maju

    I for one do not think that Mackinder’s analysis is wrong in the essentials. What I think is wrong is the idea of Empire, which has haunted the Western World since the collapse of Rome and to which the USA wants to imagine itsel as heir (all those neoclassical buildings, etc. are not there by chance).

    I also think, have said more than once, that the US imperial dream (or nightmare if you wish) has its closest similitude with that of Charles V and therefore with the so-called Spanish Empire that was briefly hegemonic at the beginning of the Western global hegemony period or Modern Era. Like it, it relies heavily on boots on the ground financed by (neo-)colonial exploitation and growingly massive debt. It will probably close the Western era as it began: with the most massive bankruptcy ever.

    Like the Spanish Empire it has some “lack of heads”, as someone pointed above, not becuse it’s not producing or importing some of the most brillian scientists ever, but because it is “full of itself”, not allowing the necessary renovation.

    The relative greatness of China’s rise is because they do seem to understand the chaotic nature of reality better. Escobar wrote that while the USA plays on a global chessboard, the game of China is rather wéiqí, best known in the West by its Japanese name of go. It’s not that the Chinese do not know chess but that wéiqí is far superior in its strategical subtlety, much as Sun Tzu is far superior to von Clausewitz. That way China avoids as much as possible direct confrontation rather playing a playing a patient positional game. What the USA briefly gains with boots on the ground, China buys later with bribes and investment, as well as discreet diplomacy, which is paradoxically a lot cheaper and much more effective. Of course when the USA or its allies, like France, imposes its military presence, China has to back… for the time being, but that’s just following Mao’s guerrilla maxim: “when the enemy marches, we pull back, when they rest, we hostigate them” or basically any common sense strategy from probably Sun Tzu again (would have to check to get the exact quote): don’t fight the enemy where it is strong bu where it is weaker. Naturally you can’t be strong everywhere or even in most places, so… China wins.

    That’s the error: trying to be strong in the wrong sense of the concept. China’s success in the diplomatic arena is because it is willlingly “weak” (up to a point), non-intrusive, friendly and does not openly want to build a global empire but rather seems to be fine leading the multipolar world with more or less “equal” partners.

    Of course China has its own imperial tradition and I wouldn’t be able to judge how will it play in the future but they have definitely learned a lesson about arrogance and isolationatism in the last centuries that I doubt they will forget. The USA (or even the British motherland) have yet to learn that lesson because they have never been defeated and nearly conquered. Therefore they tend to imagine themselves as “all powerful”, “protected by God” and what not. But reality is hard.

  32. RBHoughton

    Control of the planet has not changed. Napoleon recognised the same geopolitical reality as Britain and America indeed that was the deal he proposed to Prime Minister Addington – you have the sea, I’ll have the land.

    Land powers trump sea powers. When the sea power lands its troops and enters the heartland, the defenders fall back. On and on the invaders go, further and further back fall the defenders until the tipping point.

    As Mao Tse Tung wrote in his little red book “the enemy advances, I retreat; the enemy camps, I harry, the enemy retreats, I attack.”

    I am an optimist and I hope America will recognise the value of infrastructural improvement in Eurasia to our whole species. Its not just road and rail, not just electricity, oil and gas, not just water it raising a vast area of habitation to new heights of comfortable existence whilst reducing cost.

    1. Mark P.

      Napoleon lost.

      The land power theory of geopolitics was even more strongly espoused by Hitler. Hitler lost.

      The land power theory in particular misled both men into invading Russia, probably each man’s biggest mistake.

      1. different clue

        Napoleon comprehensively lost when he invaded a huger land power.
        The USSR ( huger land power) did much of the heaviest fighting on the Eastern Front which was key to defeating Nazi Germany.

        So the defeat of the two lesser land powers by the same greater land power might be a validation of the notion of land power. Russia ( and then USSR) had the more land, and therefor the more land power.

  33. JCC

    I had two thoughts as I read this very interesting view of geopolitics, one anecdotal, the other… I’m not so sure right now.

    1) There were four of us back in the late 60’s and very early 70’s that played the board game Risk constantly, the games would start on a late Fri or Sat night (with the attendant brain-altering substances of the day at hand – usually meaning plenty of beer) and run to the very early hours. Invariable those that collaborated – our own primary rule being “no conniving” and dutifully ignored of course – at first on taking over N. Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe dominated with one, eventually, taking the “risk” and turning on the collaborator(s) to take the game. It was a very rare occurrence that someone won with a launch from N. A,, S. A., or Western Europe.. So, I’m curious, were the rules of the game written by someone who knew Mackinder and had a bias? Or was it a better designed game than I ever gave it credit for?

    2) From the “Great Game” perspective, the TPP, TTIP, and TISA seem to make a little more sense… if you believe that economics is a viable long-haul weapon with little to no severe blowback. I’m guessing that some do believe this, that it’s an extremely risky move, and that over the long haul, if it does work, the blowback will be severe, making it a very miserable and a relatively temporary victory.

    1. Maju

      Risk is not really good to help grasping (poor cartography, no role for naval power, everything matters the same: be it a chunk of ice or a highly developed industrial region)… Actually the sea control strategy, which is Mackinderian in origin, is correct BUT requires NOT trying to to control the interior, which is doomed to fail. Instead the logical thing to do is to pit land powers against each other intervening only when it’s strictly required, a balance of power cum splendid isolation strategy that the USA has abandoned long ago in favor of a Roman Empire style one.

      Instead what the US aggressive strategy is doing is to push everybody into the open arms of China, be it Russia or India, Iran or even Taiwan (whose willing anchsluss to China will sign the end of the “American century” for good). The USA still keeps advantage where China is mostly absent (Europe and the Mediterranean for instance) or where Beijing is the elephant in the china shop (South China Sea region).

      Many of the problems the USA has are not defined by geopolitics as such but by the influence of massive lobbies into the interpretation of the geopolitical puzzle. For example the oil and zionist lobbies will push the USA to intervene in West and Central Asia instead of towards the much saner development of alternative energy sources, the military-industrial complex will push it towards militarized intervention rather than towards diplomatic options, often cheaper and much more effective, etc.

      Also the current technological stage favors China because it does control something maybe much more valuable than oil or gas: rare earths. Similarly the current Capitalist stage of development favors it because China has been able to insert itself successfully as a key provider: it may help to hold the fiction of US’ higher GDP per capita but we all (should) know that GDP is just a figure with an approximative and very questionable value.

  34. Paul Tioxon

    This is a good example of history as the platform for the social sciences. However, geographic determinism does not explain history or predict the future as the British Geo-political inventor would have us believe. It is based again on theoretically derived laws, again, as in physics, but applied to nations, society, the economy and so on. There is a competing Eurasian Global power theory, the Paris/Berlin/Moscow Axis. This too would be an integrated transcontinental empire, cutting out the Chinese altogether. Here is a short link to this concept of geo-politics.,_World_Affairs.pdf

    What can be seen from this discussion is that pipelines for oil and gas to fuel industrial manufacturing and cut out US Naval superiority by shifting to land based as opposed to sea based trading will be less and less meaningful as oil and gas are abandoned as a financial drain and displaced with solar power. This does not mean that China will not continue to be a rising power by all measure. It just means that the play book of controlling oil and its transportation will be meaningless in the not too distant future. It is entirely possible with not only the relative decline in geo-political power of the USA but also, the decline and transformation of capitalism as the structure of the social order of the world as a whole, that China’s investment in oil and gas pipelines may prove to become a waste of money as stranded assets that no one wants to pay for in hard currency. And it may prove as well, that Russia and China emerging as emulators of the USA/Atlantic/Tokyo Axis, will find that their new social order based on a market based economy will prove a dead end. Witness the central bankers dilemma in handling the most lucrative of commodities, money, with a broken system of ZIRP which effectively renders money without a market because at ZERO interest it has no price and no ability to be transmitted by banks for economic expansion. The stagnation of the economy is running parallel to the stagnation of financial instruments that yield a rate of return on money, such as bonds and government treasury issues. If money can not priced, it is at zero percent, it can not be treated as a commodity, it can not have a market and the centrality of capital allocation becomes broken at the point of origin where money is amassed via surplus profits and savings and retransmitted as loans. But at zero percent, where to put the money. How much to increase the borrowing or slow it down. Without pricing, there is no market based control and capitalism loses one its structural features. Volatility in the markets, volatility in politics here and around the world. China with a bigger economy by default becomes the leader of the transnational capitalist world order. There is no vote, it is in the capital flows and investments. Will it be Paris and Berlin working with Moscow to integrate the Eurasian continent or will Moscow and Beijing share duties the way Moscow once shared with the USA? Volatility, the displacement of fossil fuels will play a huge role in political volatility, as the abandonment of first coal, then crude oil and finally natural gas make a new set of winners and losers. Every nation without enough profit earning sectors with which to buy oil and natgas on the world market will invest in Solar. And just as fracking was pursued to break the Middle East Oil power, Solar Energy will be pursued as a Geo-political back breaker, and leave some nations out in the cold. Siberian cold.

    1. John Merryman


      I see one of the bigger distortions of society is that we do treat money as a commodity, rather than the contract, essentially massive voucher and bookkeeping system, that it functions as.
      As a commodity, there is the view of it as a form of property that can be manufactured and hoarded, with little regard for the fact that excess notes are what destroy the system, while treating it as an inherent value, rather than a bookkeeping entry, serves to undercut all the more organic forms of reciprocity and trust that hold any social organism together.
      One of the most powerful tools of colonialism is to introduce the occupiers currency into the native societies. It is a bit like Walmart coming and and hollowing out the local retailers. Or refined sugar, or drugs overriding the body’s senses.
      Which is not to say that scale isn’t useful, but if there was a broader understanding of how it functions, then there would be a more informed local and bottom up pushback. Where people understand real value can be built into strong social relations and healthy environments and not simply use them as resources to mine, to exchange for these notes, that often serve as rent extraction devices by those managing them.
      In fact, it might encourage local currencies and banking mechanisms to rise as community feedback and essentially crowd source value for local public needs. All those services, such as child and elder care, local projects and infrastructure, etc, could become organic functions of the community again.
      It might make a slower economy, but a more durable one as well, as less resources would be wasted and there would be more time and room for them to heal and recycle.
      Given we are on the verge of another massive debt implosion, that will wipe out a lot of this notational value, it might provide the perfect opportunity to re-evalute the role of money in society. That it is a tool and needs to be used wisely, not a god to simply be worshiped.
      Nature progresses in cycles. While we live and die as individuals, we build up these enormous economic waves, until we run out of resources to sustain them and they crash. If we could build more ingrained feedback loops within the process of expansion, it might create a more stable process and the concept of money is the glue that makes these large scale endeavors possible. Until we get to this late stage, where the creation of capital itself becomes the goal and all else is sacrificed to this religion.

  35. Tony Wikrent

    Mackinder’s theory is bullshit. His theory completely ignores the crucial roles of human knowledge in the forms of technology, and of systems of belief.

    But Yves is on the right track when she observes we have “a deceleration of technology advances (the fact that money is being poured into ventures like Uber and Lyft, whose source of return is using network effects to extract rents from laborers…” The aggregate power of any society is ultimately determined by its collective capacity to extract and process raw materials and transport and distribute the products thereof. In other words, the productive powers of labor. This is something surprisingly few world leaders have grasped. Fortunately for USA, its economy was designed by Alexander Hamilton, who thoroughly understood the need to promote and expand the productive powers of labor (through the use of machinery, i.e. technology). Note that the second section of Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures is devoted to a discussion of “An extension of the use of Machinery.”

    Were Mackinder correct, the Soviet Union would have conquered the west and the Soviet bloc would never have collapsed. The USSR had control of about half of Germany (though it was, admittedly, not the half that contained the mighty industrial potentials of the Ruhr Valley; NATO commanders always expected and planned for the main thrust of a Soviet military advance to be through the Fulda Gap and into the Ruhr). And after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the West was in grave danger of losing the pivot south to the Indian Ocean. I suspect that Brzezinski’s Operation Cyclone was in response to “losing” Iran. Finally, Africa has never been completely locked down by the West. The Soviets and the Chinese gave the West serious competition. Nasser in Egypt drove the Dulles brothers, and the Bundy brothers, into fits of apoplexy.

    Again, Yves is pointing to the actual dynamics that run the world. The conventional wisdom is the USA emerged as a superpower after World War 2 because the industrial bases in Europe and Japan had been destroyed. This is an extremely superficial reading of history. The most important post-war result of the war-time destruction was the building of a new industrial base in Europe and Japan, more modernized and more productive than the USA, where investment in new plant and equipment was already beginning to be dragged down in the 1960s by the emerging boom in mergers and acquisitions fueled in no small part by dirty money from organized crime. Anyone familiar with Taiichi Ohno and the Toyota Production System, knows that the amazing productivity gains of the Japanese economy were based precisely on the need to get as much productivity and squeeze out as much waste as possible from the surviving capital plant after the USA bombing campaigns and the Surrender.

    USA power and superiority after World War Two is mostly based on the electronic and computer technologies which, it should be noted, came out of the war research laboratories. The idea for Silicon Valley itself – originally Stanford Industrial Park – came from Stanford University’s engineering dean Frederick Terman’s war experiences just a few years earlier directing a staff of over 800 scientists and engineers at Harvard University’s Radio Research Laboratory, creating the technology and designing and building electronic jammers to block enemy radar, tunable receivers to detect radar signals, and other countermeasures to anti-aircraft fire.

    The new electronic and computer technologies spawned entire new industries, and, most importantly, a new pool of wealth, countervailing the old pool of wealth of Wall Street and its inclination toward speculation, usury, and extracting rent. Electronics and computers, and all their economic were thus the key to USA’s post-war leadership. Note the size of the spill-over effects: for example, the rapid populating and build-up of California, which doubled in population from 10.6 million in 1950, to 20.0 million in 1970, while the USA population increased by only a third in the same period, from 151.3 million to 203.2 million. For other examples, think of the way electronic and computer technologies have impacted transformed many other industries: numerically controlled machine tools; process instrumentation; communications; medical devices, aircraft and aerospace.

    And let us be clear here: the development of electronic and computer technologies was NOT driven entirely by market forces. There was no small amount of direction and support provided by the national government.

    The U.S. has been coasting on the tidal wave of wealth from the computer and electronics revolution. That the economy is shifting, for the worse, is indicated by the fact that in 2011, Apple and Google spent more on legal fees</a (largely for patent fights) than on research and development. This bad trend portends even worse, because we are near the
    end of Moore’s Law. Intel is now producing chips built on its new 14-nanometer manufacturing process, supplanting its older 22-nanometer technology. Intel CFO Stacy Smith says the company has “an early look” at seven nanometers, but is not willing to discuss the next milestone, five nanometers, about twice the size of a strand of DNA. After that, humanity will have reached the physical limit of micro-circuitry. Robert Colwell, director of the microsystems group at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and a former Intel manager of Pentium-class processor design, says there are 30 possible alternatives to the CMOS technology that has been ruled by Moore’s Law. “My personal take is there are two or three promising ones and they are not very promising”.

    So the wealth-producing dynamo that was computer and electronics is spinning down. Is there anything that can replace it? China has already set out to integrate Mackinder’s central land mass with its New Silk Road projects. But in USA and the West, elites fiddle while the planet literally burns. The obvious answer is the $100 trillion in new investment needed to stop climate change by building an new world economy that does not require fossil fuels.

    Ironically, Hamilton’s understanding of the need to drive forward the productive powers of labor were forgotten by all USA leaders after the war (except for small groups mostly centered in the military services and in the labor unions) while it was put into practice by the leaders of Japan, Korea, and the Asian Tigers. On this point, see James Fallow’s important December 1993 article, “How the World Works.” It’s much more than just a diatribe against free trade.

    The sheer imbecility of American leaders is brought into glaring light by Kissinger’s praise for George Dubya Bush’s attempt at “transformation of Iraq from among the Middle East’s most repressive states to a multiparty democracy.” I can pinpoint the exact day and event that the Iraq war was lost, thanks to George Packer’s 2005 book The Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq, On pages 110 to 112, Packer discusses the November 15, 2002 meeting of Condoleezza Rice and Steve Hadley of Bush’s National Security Council, with representatives from various conservative stink tanks to review plans for rebuilding Iraq after the USA invasion. The meeting ended when Chris DeMuth, then president of the American Enterprise Institute, cut off discussion. QUOTE “Wait a minute. What’s all this planning and thinking about postwar Iraq?” He turned to Rice. “This is nation building, and you said you were against that. In the campaign you said it, the president has said it. Does he know you’re doing this? Does Karl Rove know?” END QUOTE

    OK, one fucking simple question here: if you are NOT building a nation, then what the fuck ARE you doing? Because of Demuth personally, and the conservative fetish against government planning generally, the USA war effort in Iraq was foredoomed from that meeting onward. We are still living with the consequences of DeMuth’s arrogant ignorance today. It is this type of arrogant ignorance which is squandering the US position of world leadership.

    If you don’t have a positive vision of forward action to build a nation, then you simply do not belong in government. Period. End of discussion. And reliance on the free market is not a positive vision: Conservative Christians be warned. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

    1. optimader

      Nicely sewn together Tony Wikrent! some sidebar reading for you..

      Taiichi Ohno and the Toyota Production System,,,, ironically used the services of Deming who was progressively shunned in the US….. and built on the work done at Western Electric in Cicero, IL . Work in time and motion study baby..

      Out of the Present Crisis: Rediscovering Improvement in the New Economy
      By Terence T. Burton

      USA power and superiority after World War Two is mostly based on the electronic and computer technologies …

      The SU was a hopelessly behind in computing and semiconductor form factor reduction and the gap was widening when the SU imploded.

      ….came from Stanford University’s engineering dean Frederick Terman’s war experiences just a few years earlier directing a staff of over 800 scientists and engineers at Harvard University’s Radio Research Laboratory, creating the technology and designing and building electronic jammers to block enemy radar, tunable receivers ….

      The original basis for ALL spread spectrum technology…

      Frequency-hopping spread-spectrum invention[edit]
      Main article: Frequency-hopping spread spectrum
      Lamarr’s reputation as an inventor is based on her co-creation of a frequency-hopping system with George Antheil, an avant garde composer and neighbor of Lamarr in California. During World War II, Lamarr was inspired to contribute to the war effort, and focused her efforts on countering torpedoes. In her home, explains author Richard Rhodes during an interview on CBS, she devoted a room to drafting her designs for frequency-hopping.[17]
      Lamarr and Antheil discussed the fact that radio-controlled torpedoes, while important in the naval war, could easily be jammed by broadcasting interference at the frequency of the control signal, causing the torpedo to go off course.[18] ,,,
      The specific code for the sequence of frequencies would be held identically by the controlling ship and in the torpedo. It would be practically impossible for the enemy to scan and jam all 88 frequencies, as computation this complex would require too much power. The frequency-hopping sequence was controlled by a player-piano mechanism, which Antheil had earlier used to score his Ballet Mécanique.[citation needed]
      On 11 August 1942, U.S. Patent 2,292,387 was granted to Hedy Kiesler Markey, Lamarr’s married name at the time, ,,, Lamarr’s work was honored in 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave her a belated award for her contributions.[4] In 1998, an Ottawa wireless technology developer, Wi-LAN Inc., acquired a 49% claim to the patent from Lamarr for an undisclosed amount of stock.[20]
      Lamarr’s and Antheil’s frequency-hopping idea served as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as Bluetooth, COFDM (used in Wi-Fi network connections), and CDMA (used in some cordless and wireless telephones).[21] Blackwell, Martin, and Vernam’s 1920 patent[22] seems to lay the communications groundwork for Lamarr and Antheil’s patent, which employed the techniques in the autonomous control of torpedoes.
      Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council, but was reportedly told by NIC member Charles F. Kettering and others that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell War Bonds.[23][24] ,,,,,,,Lamarr and Antheil were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.[26]

      My recollection is in the last half of the 1970’s McDonnell Douglas was the heavy lifter for the application of CNC to large scalemachine tools. I recollect their huge cold war challenge that pushed the technology along was as the contractor that built the center section of the F-14 –which may still be the largest single piece titanium machined fabrication ever built
      Evans & Sutherland… Who here has even heard of them?? This was the premier computer simulation company. Now reduced to $0.68/share and building digital Planetariums systems
      Evans & Sutherland was formed in 1968 by Dr. David Evans and Dr. Ivan Sutherland, computer science professors at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Their collective vision made them the first to draw pictures with computers, giving birth to the computer graphics industry. Building upon this pioneering work, the professors began developing computer systems that could be used as simulators. This emphasis on simulation using computer graphics took E&S into the training market, where the company continued to develop and enhance visual systems for simulation.
      The 70s
      E&S established a partnership with Rediffusion, a British simulation company, which gave E&S exclusive rights to provide visual systems for Rediffusion’s commercial flight training simulators. By the year 2000, approximately 80% of the world’s commercial airline pilots had been trained using E&S visual systems.
      In 1978, the company went public with a listing on the NASDAQ exchange.
      The 80s
      E&S continued to lead the simulation industry by providing the highest quality, most realistic visual systems in the world. The company also looked for new markets for its technology, such as digital projectors for planetariums and entertainment applications. Digistar, the first digital planetarium system was introduced.

      ….Condoleezza Rice and Steve Hadley of Bush’s National Security Council…

      Rice …arrrgggghh Linda Minor does a detailed disassembly of CR’s history..
      …..These professional “plums”—as those of us who have struggled hard to find gainful employment well know—do not always grow on trees; that is, not unless those trees are located within a well-cultivated orchard. Picture young Condi walking through just such an orchard, while being handed ripe plums as she strolls from one tree to another.

      Who owns this orchard? Let’s try to find out. All we have to do is follow the money.
      The plums described here can be identified from reading Condi’s curriculum vitae, ignoring all the contrived spin. Notwithstanding her high marks at university and other impressive awards, her credentials are weak. She has never been in a role that required her to make decisions. At her appearance before the 911 Commission, she reiterated time and again:

      “But no one told us we needed to DO anything.”
      She was accustomed to taking orders, not to giving them.

    2. optimader

      MacDoug machine tool backstory stuff.. technology give away equivalent of a rug auction
      In 1993, China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) agreed to purchase a number of excess machine tools and other equipment from McDonnell Douglas, including 19 machine tools that required individual validated licenses to be exported. CATIC told McDonnell Douglas it was purchasing the machine tools to produce parts for the Trunkliner Program, a 1992 agreement between McDonnell Douglas and CATIC to build 40 MD-82 and MD-90 series commercial aircraft in the PRC.

      During the interagency licensing process for the machine tools, the Defense Technology Security Administration sought assessments from the Central Intelligence Agency and from the Defense Intelligence Agency, because of concerns that the PRC could use the McDonnell Douglas five-axis machine tools for unauthorized purposes, particularly to develop quieter submarines.
      Prescott Bush Resources, his consulting company, has put together more than 30 joint ventures in China since 1978, according to the website of Global Access, a US consulting company active in China, which retains Prescott as chairman of its advisory board. “Mr [Prescott] Bush has also facilitated meetings and approvals at the highest levels of the Chinese government,” the site adds in its biography.

      “I don’t get a lot of business because my nephew is president or my brother was president,” Prescott insisted in an interview with USA Today in 2002, though he admitted, “You can meet a lot of people because of it.”

      ….By contrast, as president, Bush Sr granted a “national interest” waiver to allow a deal to proceed for shipping $300 million of Hughes Aircraft satellite equipment to China in December 1989, overriding sanctions imposed by Congress a month before in response to the Tiananmen Square incident – regarded as a massacre of peaceful demonstrators by most observers. Prescott had visited China just before his brother that February and returned weeks after the Tiananmen violence for talks with officials on several deals, including one for a US company pitching a satellite communications network that would utilize the Hughes equipment.

      “We aren’t a bunch of carrion birds coming to pick the carcass,” Prescott told the Wall Street Journal at the time. “But there are big opportunities in China, and America can’t afford to be shut out.”

      Then in April 2001, Prescott flew to Beijing hours after news broke of a collision between a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet off Hainan Island. He was an an invited passenger on United Airlines’ first Chicago-Beijing flight, and stayed on in the country well after the other passengers had returned home.

      He told USA Today a year later that he didn’t get involved in the settlement that resolved the high-tension spy plan crisis during his stay. Certainly he had business to do.

      1. Tony Wikrent

        Thanks, optimader! This is excellent material and great links. I did not know about the beautiful Hedy Lamarr, though now I recall seeing similar material somewhere else before. Now it’s stored in the cranial file cabinet for good!

        An excellent, fast, entertaining read on computers and electronics, is Walter Isaacson’s newest book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. Especially noteworthy is the role of John von Neumann, which was on the government’s dime, as he was employed by the Manhattan Project. That was another huge impetus for developing computers – to perform the calculations for designing nuclear weapons.

        1. optimader

          Here is the Rhodes book on Hedey. Very very arcane stuff.

          If she hadn’t been punked by the Dept of the Navy during WWII, this would have been one of the most valuable technology patents in history, let alone attributable to a couple private individuals.

          also available as an audible book (read by R Rhodes the author)

          I saw walter isaacson interviewd about his book, Ill give it a read this summer..

          Take the time to read the Linda Minor link on Condi Rice, it puts a few puzzle pieces together.

          Evans & Sutherland CT5 Flight Simulator (1981)
          Look at what Evans & Sutherland was doing in 1980.. unprecedented graphics.

  36. H. Alexander Ivey

    What to say? The sheer volume of comments is makes it hard to know where to start, since most of them refuse to question the assumptions and agendas of the geo-politicals.

    I argument against Sir Halford Mackinder is that his argument is linear. It assumes all the beliefs and limits of a simple, linear, system. However, the world is not any such thing. It is non-linear, dynamic, inter-active, and feedback filled system.

    Sir Mackinder talks of “power”, but the power he talks of is only economic power. He and other geopoliticals do not care about the culture or social power found in a society – “developed” or not. The political side of his “power” is strictly the politics of an occupier, not the politics of the local (Tip O’Neil’s definition), so the only power is the economic power of rent extraction. But geopoliticians refuse to clearly say this is the power they are talking about as they are simply hypocrites.

    So why do people believe and act on the principles and views of Sir Mackinder? Because of the sheer simplicity of the argument. The sheer linear-ness of it. No need to consider feedback, blowback, resistance. Just grab this lever, apply this pressure, and things flow your way. End of story.

    This works great for the 1%, aka White People, in particular White Guys, but the rest of the world, who live in a non-linear system, this is not so good. So, to the rest of us, let us not aspire for such a simple system, one that grinds all non-one percenters to dust and rent extraction. We need to call down such simplistic geopolitical nonsense and insist on treating each other with fairness and a understanding of the other’s POV.

  37. different clue

    What is so White about the Billionaires of a growing China? What is so 1% about the permanently de-jobbed White Guys of ex-working-class America?

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