China-Russia Partnership Threatens US Global Hegemony

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This Real News Network interview describes how China is threatening America’s superpower status and how that rivalry is also exposing fractures in the US elites

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

Big power rivalry is heading into very dangerous waters. The rise of China as an economic and military superpower is threatening the global hegemony of the United States. Russia has been pushed into an increasingly tighter relationship with China to balance the attempts by the West to isolate it. President Trump, representing the most aggressive sections of American capital, is responding with a trade war, and an unparalleled massive peacetime military budget that was justified by his Secretary of Defense Shanahan with three words: China, China, and China. Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, said in a briefing note that taxing all trade between the world’s two largest economies would cause some $455 billion in gross domestic product to evaporate. The report said this would be a loss larger than South Africa’s entire economy.

In a recent meeting between Russia’s President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, apparently the 29th such meeting in the last few years, it was announced with the two leaders looking on that the Chinese tech company Huawei has struck a deal to build Russia’s first 5G wireless network. This is the same company that Trump has banned from developing the 5G network in the United States, and is pushing Europe to do the same.

This is clearly just the early stages of what is already the defining big power contention of the 21st century. When the two countries should be focused on the climate crisis, it’s looking more like the years before World War I. Of course, there were no nuclear weapons in 1914.

Now joining us to discuss the Chinese, Russian, and American rivalry is Rob Johnson. Rob is the president of the Institute on New Economic Thinking. He was formerly a banking associate of George Soros, and he’s now leading the Commission on Global Economic Transformation, a project of INET, co-chaired by Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Mike Spence. Thanks for joining us, Rob.

ROB JOHNSON: Pleasure.

PAUL JAY: So just how dangerous is this trade war? When you listen to the, sort of the business media, it goes anywhere from, well, they’re all going to sort it out at a meeting in June, to this is just the beginning of something that’s going to get extremely messy.

ROB JOHNSON: I would say we can’t know whether things will be what you might call mended back together, or whether we’re opening a very, very big and contentious hole in the design of the world system. I was recently at a conference run by a man named John Mallery at MIT, which was an outstanding collection of people from intellectual property rights, trade representatives, artificial intelligence, machine learning experts, and from the intelligence community.

And in that context we talked about how in the natural sciences one tends to have a sense of wonder, but in the political science of arms control and disarmament, or in this case, the relationship between cybersecurity and commerce, one tends to worry. So it’s between worry and wonder. And I think the consensus of that meeting, where I was one of two economists in attendance, is that it’s time to worry.

There’s also a very, very severe what you might call scenario, where the architecture of our global financial system and credit allocation is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattack. And something that did that vigorously and powerfully could start an unraveling of credit allocation, as everybody hunkered down out of fear that the integrity of the system itself would be questioned. Or, if you will, wealth and so forth could be expropriated or diverted in directions that cause tremendous harm to the banks, the banking system, and the confidence of the what I’ll call global commercial public.

So it’s very daunting. But I think the relationship between military concerns and commerce is almost unsolvable at present. And it’s scaring lots of people, because you don’t know who’s hacking you, you don’t know where they’re coming from. And it’s hard to create what you might call rules of fair play between U.S. and China and then have somebody hack into the system, and not know whether it’s your counterpart that’s cheating, or a third party pretending, say, to be from Wisconsin, or to be from Shanghai, intruding on system, when they might be in Albania or Latin America. So it’s a very, very treacherous environment. Almost every expert that I’ve encountered as I’ve tried to become familiar with this says it get used to it.

PAUL JAY: It seems to me the underlying issue here is is the U.S. oligarchy–and that’s not monolithic by any means. There’s very different interests within the most powerful circles, economic circles in the United States. But are they willing to accept this is going to be a multi-superpower world, certainly at the very least China and the United States? I would say within a few decades it’s not out of the question a country like India might even enter those kinds of circles, when you start having populations of a billion and you start having this technological evolution that’s taking place in China. But there certainly seems to be circles within United States that do not accept the idea that this will be anything but a single-superpower world, and they’re trying to do something about it.

ROB JOHNSON: Well, I think there is a big–you spoke of the awful geopolitics in the introduction. And we’re in a very treacherous and difficult place, which is you have two cultures, the United States and China, that represent, essentially, Western Cartesian enlightenment and the Confucian or Daoist traditions. The theories of how to deal with change, how you deal with unknowns, theories of governance in these two cultures are at odds with one another.

When we had the changing of guard from the British to the American leadership of the world, as Charles Kindleberger, my former teacher, wrote about in The World of Depression. You still had stumbling. You had things fall between the cracks. You didn’t have what Kindleberger called the hegemon that provided global public goods. I don’t know that there’s a transition from the United States to China, or whether there’s just the growth of China and things are multipolar now. But these two traditions don’t see through the same lens, through the same ideas. And that makes it more difficult. The United States officials that you referred to thought China would fall into the global trading system and evolve into a–what you might call a Western-like commercial entity. They thought that the financial systems would become integrated and open to the West. They thought they would eventually privatize and stop using state credit allocation to subsidize state-owned enterprises that compete with private enterprise. Places like the World Trade Organization, so-called WTO, would bridge the differences and bring things to a healing point. And that doesn’t appear to be where we’re going.

I also would say empires that are used to being in charge start to, what you might call, experience a great deal of dread when somebody else challenges. And the Chinese themselves were very wounded from the opium war, from the Japanese invasion. There’s a very strong sense of national identity that I think their leader Xi Jinping draws upon, but also the people yearn for. I would say the same would be the case in Putin’s Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. There’s some woundedness that’s in repair that gives them what I’ll call nationalistic resolve.

And so this is a hard game. And the Chinese, circa 2001, were supposed to fall into line. They were supposed to become part of our trading system. And that’s not–that’s not the case. And with the advent of digital commerce, with the announcement of China 2025, they are replacing, what I’ll call, as they move up the value chain, the more complex activities. They’re not falling into line in a U.S.-led system where they make Nike tennis shoes or assemble iPhones with low-cost labor or low environmental protections. They’re not moving into what I’ll call changing their comparative advantage, because it’s not based on what’s buried in the ground. It’s based on human capital and evolution and training and R&D.

The other final thing where I think the United States has some real concern is we have been talking about how the government doesn’t play a role. We’ve been cutting government support to things like basic science very drastically over the last 20 years as a percentage of GDP. The Chinese ultimately will have a population four to five times the size of America’s. They continue to develop their science budgets. And what you might call the locus of innovation may shift from the United States in places like Silicon Valley to a place like Shenzhen in China.

So I think the Americans are, you might call it, ostrich-like. They don’t think this challenge is going to be for real.

PAUL JAY: The global trading system, as you said, led by the United States, and also in practice, is the various countries, part of it, play to some extent a subordinate role within that system. And China is clearly positioning itself to be a direct competitor in many markets. In Latin America and other places China has actually supplanted the United States as the major trading partner. It’s a fact of life. This is–I don’t see how this is going to change. But the way Trump’s approaching this, the trade war and such, it’s all being done in the name of being good for American workers. It’s being–it’s all about American jobs. Is it?

ROB JOHNSON: Well, this is my biggest concern. You hit the nail on the head, as far as I see. The problems were originally that American-based multinational corporations, and for that matter multinational corporations in Western Europe, moved in with foreign direct investment in China, and then sold things back to the United States, whether through Toys R Us, or Wal-Mart, or other things; consumer products or telephones. And that system imposed a real adjustment on a very large portion of the American workforce. So firms didn’t go out of business, they responded by automating. But the pressure on labor intensive activity, the downward pressure on wages, is very real. But what a Chinese leader would tell you, and I go over there two, three times a year to meet with them, yes, those adjustments took place. But the responsibility to alleviate that suffering belongs with the American government. The transfers that–what I’ll say, leaving orthodox economists probably said free trade is great, because you can compensate people and nobody’s worse off and some people are better off. The problem is we don’t have a political economy in America that’s set up to make those transfers. So the losers lose bad and the winners lobby to get their own taxes cut and keep their money offshore.

And so the, you might call it divisiveness, or the unsustainability of the narrowing of prosperity is a problem in the United States which Donald Trump, what you might call his genius, was to call that out when both Democrats and Republicans were hiding from it. And people felt like they’d heard the truth for the first time in a long time. But Trump’s diagnosis is now being used, what you might call, as a prescription to beat on the Chinese or the Mexicans or whatever, is a rallying cry for the people who support him to get re-elected. And I think we’re entering into very destructive and treacherous waters if we stick to this path. And he’s not redressing the problems of those people who were in such pain that voted for him. The people who suffer from what are so-called the diseases of despair.

PAUL JAY: And one of the sort of not real secrets, but sort of a dirty secret, because people don’t talk about it very much, is one of the things that in fact has been subsidizing American workers as their jobs flee, both through going to China and such, and also through automation, has been such incredibly cheap products coming from China. I mean, you go to Wal-Mart and you can buy, you know, a dozen socks for, like, $3. That’s a kind of subsidy from cheap Asian labor for American workers which, one, the tariffs are going to eliminate, and two, in the long term, American workers are going to be replaced by automation and they’re going to lose the cheap products from China.

ROB JOHNSON: Yes. Well, what I would say is cheap products from China are fine as long as you have a trust fund. If you don’t have a trust fund they can be as cheap as whatever; making zero income you still can’t buy them. And I think in the United States what I’ve talked about transfers was income support and retraining support for people to evolve as, you might all it, the shock of the development of China reoriented the pattern of trade.

This is also true–this isn’t an American problem only. There’s a wonderful book called Everything Is Broken Up and Dances by Edoardo Nesi in Italy about how the textile industry, of which his family was an owner, got devastated by the entrance of Chinese textiles. And in Germany and the Eurozone, problems have been Germany makes capital goods and high what you might call inputs to production. They sell a lot of new exports to China, helping them develop, while Southern Europe is largely labor intensive. And after the Lehman crisis everybody wants austerity, so you can’t use the fiscal button to transform, so you just sit in stagnation for the better part of a decade. Very many parts of Europe, particularly southern Europe are doing worse now since 2008 than they did in the 1930s, the depression. And so these are very substantial, powerful forces. America is not handling them well, the eurozone is not handling them well. And the stagnation–this is kind of the irony–the stagnation of demand in places like Europe and to some degree America has been a source of why the Chinese have changed to go inward and move to higher value-added products.

PAUL JAY: All right. Thanks for joining us, Rob. Let’s pick this up again. I know you’re about to leave on a trip, but when you come back let’s talk about what alternatives look like.

ROB JOHNSON: Very good. Thank you.

PAUL JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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26 comments

  1. Sound of the Suburbs

    The US made a simple error.

    When you thought everyone should pay their own way.
    Employees get their money from wages and so the employer pays through wages.

    Maximising profit requires minimising labour costs, i.e. wages.

    Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)

    Note second term in brackets with taxes.

    The cost of living = housing costs + healthcare costs + student loan costs + food + other costs of living

    China and Mexico looks good for maximising profit, the US is pretty bad.

    Offshore from the US and fast for higher profits.

    China became a superpower and the US went into decline.

    Reply
  2. ObjectiveFunction

    Good thoughtful points raised in the discussion here, but they largely center around the decline of the US-centered unipolar system. On the other hand, the conversation pretty much completely begs the question re the headline topic: “China-Russia-partnership-threatens-US-global-hegemony”. That pretty much drops off the agenda after the first few paragraphs.

    So Huawei is building a 5G network in Russia. So what? Does that arrest Russia’s resource curse? aging population? underemployment and brain drain? public health and ecological crises? Or merely bind China closer to the resource-rich Siberian lands it missed the chance to claim and settle due to Western interference, starting in the 18th century? (part of that ‘deep wounding’ that’s supposed to excuse all Chinese behaviour today, I suppose)

    Also:

    I would say we can’t know whether things will be what you might call mended back together, or whether we’re opening a very, very big and contentious hole in the design of the world system.

    I find myself asking: should such a ‘hole’ be ‘mended’ at all? Should there still be a ‘hegemon that provides global public goods’?

    (huge Kindleberger fanboi since uni, btw)

    Reply
  3. Anonymous2

    You can extend the point about the failure to redistribute income/wealth from the winners to the losers to the UK. Brexit is in significant degree a result of this. The regions of the UK which voted Leave were the ones worst affected by the rise of China.

    Reply
  4. Godfree Roberts

    ‘ We’ve been cutting government support to things like basic science very drastically over the last 20 years as a percentage of GDP. ‘

    He speaks the truth. China outspends us 3:1 on R&D, adjusted for PPP.

    Reply
    1. Ashburn

      The US burdens its top students with unrepayable debt while China supports its students. Today’s Asia Times reports on how the US is begining a cold war McCarthyite drive againt Chinese scientists in the US. It includes this quote:

      “China has been the source of around one-third of all the international students entering the US, and more Chinese students major in science, technology, engineering or math, so-called STEM, than any other nationality. If they stop coming, many research labs will dry up for lack of graduate students to do the work. Lower-tiered schools will also face budget constraints as they are deprived of the full tuition fees that foreign students pay.

      China, with four times the population of the US, generates more than 10 times the number of university graduates in STEM than the US. Rather than discouraging Chinese students from coming, the US should be devising ways to skim off the best and brightest and entice them to come.”

      https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/06/opinion/us-will-regret-persecuting-chinese-scientists/

      Bye bye American tech dominance.

      Reply
  5. Divadab

    The richest family in America, the WalMart Waltons, made most of their fortune as agents of communist China. They are allies of thé Chinese in destroying US productive capacity and impoverishing her workers.

    With a traitorous ruling class such as this it is no wonder the US is in decline. And note Hillary Clinton was on the WalMart board for many years, aiding and abetting the sellout of American workers in favor of foreigners. The party of American workers has been utterly corrupted by these lying scum.

    Reply
  6. Seamus Padraig

    Richard Nixon must be rolling in his grave! Isn’t this precisely why he ‘went to China’ and then worked out a détente with Russia? In order to prevent the US from having to fight both parties at once? Whose bright idea was this dual-containment strategy?

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Obama’s. The pivot to Asia (which was code for China) combined with pressing Russia in Ukraine and Syria, along with the various sanctions was on his watch. In the end, Obama was a President who put the Libya intervention to a vote of his advisers instead of taking responsibility to make an informed position, right or wrong.

      Reply
      1. pretzelattack

        he was always willing to evade responsibility. on a personal level, worked out well for him. not so much the society he led.

        Reply
  7. The Rev Kev

    You know, it was not all that long ago that there was talk among some elites about the US going into partnership with China in running the world. No, seriously. This was back during the Bush era and was referred to as the G-2 or Chimerica. Washington would provide the all the strategic planning and China would provide the financial resources and maybe their military manpower as well where needed. Between the two of them nobody would be able to resist their power. Not Russia, not the EU – nobody. Zbigniew Brzezinski was all for it but that was just because he was evil. The historian Niall Ferguson was also all for it which shows just how good a historian he is. And now look where we are-

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_of_Two

    Reply
  8. Mael Colium

    China and Russia have been enemies for centuries. When it suits their joint purpose they cozy up, but eventually things turn to shit because neither trust the other. These guys have serious history which neither has forgotten. Does anyone think for a moment that the Russian oligarchs are going to allow Putin to disadvantage Mother Russia in the long run? I recall troops facing off along the Sino/Soviet border not so long ago with neither side backing down, but pretending there was no ongoing threat.

    The West still holds the keys to China completing their dream of self sufficiency to which end they desperately need to export goods to the West. Russia is a crumbling edifice of what was once a promising transition post Wall removal, but the future was lost to criminals and oligarchs, with Putin a key offender. The Russian people are pissy and will hold off for a while, but Putin knows he has limits to his rule and critically needs to maintain popularity with ordinary Russians who are scared by NATO buildup on their borders. The Ukraine is only one of the bordering States giving Russia nightmares. Conversely, the President for life is constrained by the need to fulfil his promise to expand China for the benefit of CCP elites and the PRA. He has assumed that the Belt and Road will connect China to EU markets currently out of reach, but if the shooting starts, that will evaporate quickly under the US/NATO alliance and all the ancillary treaties various countries have with the US and the EU along the Road.

    It’s called posturing preceding the sabre rattling. The Chinese Middle East fleet sailing unexpectedly into Sydney harbor, only to piss off less than two days later – why? Russia challenging the US fleet in the China sea recently which is all part of the deal. I doubt that China will assist Russia if the US gets twitchy with the Russian Fleet and what the hell are they doing their anyway?

    China has rigged their foreign exchange, stolen copyright and technology, are guilty of export dumping, blackmail sovereigns with unpayable loans, buy up key industries in countries and embargo the products for their own consumption and no longer fit the criteria of WTO rules for emerging economies. Now they seek to economically and militarily bully their way to adjust the balance of power across the globe. The US are correct to tighten the screws despite whining from their allies like Australia who want to have a bet both ways. The Chinese CCP is a threat to the world including the people of China and Russia. The people will figure it out soon enough despite being throttled by the ruling class in both countries. Both are the product of relatively recent revolutions and many of those folks are still on the planet, so their children would be fully informed about the broken promises. Autocracy only lasts while everyone shares in the spoils, so crumbling Russia and export dependent China are not in as strong a position as they believe. They need to consider what happened to Japan when they tried to go down a similar path.

    When the West tugged China’s tail, did they ever think long term it would be different to this?

    Reply
    1. Summer

      “The West still holds the keys to China completing their dream of self sufficiency to which end they desperately need to export goods to the West.”

      All the global trade agreements seem to have an underlying premise: countries exporting their way to prosperity or “self-sufficienciency.” Think about that phrase: Exporting to self-sufficiency. Kind of double-speakish.

      Governments all over the world are in a great game alright: who is willing to beggar their populations the most for the glory of multinational corporations. For all the alleged differences between Confucian and Enlightenment philosophies or whatever, all of that is the same.
      The game to all of these states is squeezing their populations as much as possible for the benefit of corporations while maintaining power and avoiding regime change.

      So what is the beef about?
      They say it in every article: a non-Western country is not “doing as they are told.”
      It upends everything taught in schools about the superiority of the West.

      Reply
    2. Thuto

      Pining after a pliant, spineless Russia run by diktat from the West by a perpetually inebriated Boris Yeltsin are we? A Russia that knew its place and did as it was told? I’d suggest disabusing yourself of the notion of that ship returning to port, it’s sailed and it ain’t coming back. And your reference to “the people” of China and Russia sounds suspiciously like how messianic missions to “free the Libyan/Iraqi/Afghan/Syrian people” were framed as moral obligations to spread democracy and the rule of law to the long suffering peoples of those countries. But the cat’s out the bag for those not beffudled by the weaponized, to say nothing of falsified, narrative pushed by the NYT, Wapo et al (from where your post could have been lifted verbatim): it’s the impudence to obstruct the long arm of Washington that gets a country attacked and maligned, not the authoritarianism of its leaders.

      “Now they seek to economically and militarily bully their way to adjust the balance of power across the globe”

      And the penny drops, how dare they seek to adjust the balance of power right? It’s the morally superior US that has been ordained to sit at the head of the table and maintain a stranglehold on power, except it hasn’t proven to be a benevolent overlord. Fact is unchecked power is an aphrodisiac that seduces elites in all countries, not just China and Russia as your hopelessly partisan post seeks to imply. Take umbrage at the temerity of China and Russia to challenge US hegemony if you like but build your argument on more solid ground instead of just taking an orthodox line on issues (and don’t take your eyes off the corruption of the oligarchs in your own backyard).

      Reply
    3. ewmayer

      “Russia is a crumbling edifice of what was once a promising transition post Wall removal” — you mean the Western-abetted looting orgy under dipsomaniacal western patsy Yeltsin? Putin was the reaction to that, fyi, and the reason he remains hugely popular at home is that he doesn’t put Western interests ahead of his own country’s.

      Reply
    4. The Rev Kev

      I can see that the subjects of Russia and China upset you more than a bit so I won’t go into challenging your assertions but I will ask you to consider this. China and Russia are both natural competitors and in most times they would be directly competing with each other and red-lining their positions. But it took a long and dedicated effort on the part of the elites in the US to force these two competitor nations to put aside their differences and join together strategically to fight a common enemy. Think of all the work and the tens of billions of dollars that was spent achieving this effect. The takeover of the Ukraine, the buildup of forces on the Russian and Chinese borders, the China pivot with the “Everybody but China” TPP agreement, the constant threats and sanctions, the constant threats to other countries that have anything to do with these two countries, the arrests and show trials of their citizens, etc, etc, etc. This plan was pure genius but thanks to the dedication of official Washington their dreams of a Russia-China pact has come true so let them take a bow for such outstanding work. They said that it couldn’t be done but Washington proved them wrong. They have well and truly sown the wind.

      Reply
  9. Peter

    China has rigged their foreign exchange, stolen copyright and technology, are guilty of export dumping, blackmail sovereigns with unpayable loans, buy up key industries in countries and embargo the products for their own consumption and no longer fit the criteria of WTO rules for emerging economies.

    Sounds a lot like USA history…imagine all the patents as war booty “patriated’
    to the good old USA” after WW2, and of course the Nazis helping both the US and the USSR in achieving space flight etc…and the patents the USA patriated from England and wherever else they could steal from.
    Every country has done the same if they could, the same with playing the game of sanctions and exchange rates. To do so as if China was the only culprit in the game is as dishonest and misinformed as the rest of your post.
    A true USA MAGA I take it? Not knowing much about the history of your own indispensable country and how it continuously broke deals, i.e. those with its closest neighbour Canada who have the misfortune of living beside a big bully.

    Reply
  10. The Heretic

    “The West still holds the keys to China completing their dream of self sufficiency to which end they desperately need to export goods to the West.”

    A self sufficient country needs science and technology development ability, production capability, natural resources, and ethical/industrious (and not too corrupt men) (and women) to work, manage, and lead the industries.

    The Belt and road initiative , greater alliance with Russia will take care of China’s resource issues.

    China has the ability to design and build its own aircraft and spacecraft. They certainly have science and tech developmeny ability

    The Germans and japanese continue to export capitol machinerey, and their is much industrial manufacturing in china, eventually it will learn to build its own.. not too long ago, many USA semiconductor machinerey manufacturing companies (such as applied materials) moved some development and manufacturing operations to China

    China has alot of corrupt and not ethical people in power, unfortunatley, so does the USA.

    China is well on its way to being able to decouple itself from the USA. It has real vulnerabilty to climate change due to its high population relative to its available arable land mass and freshwater resources, and its huge pollution output might have a significant effect on its population health and governability in the future…

    Athough i am chinese, i take no pride in the present situation. China is an authoritarian culture, it is wise to be wary of it. However, it is the greed, cruelty, indifference to the suffering of the common people, and immorality of the business leaders and politicians of the USA that has resulted in the decline of the united states, and the global order.

    Reply
    1. Peter

      Please consider that very few “true democracies” exist. Maybe in Switzerland, Norway, Sweden…Democracy in the USA is just an illusion, the true power is in the hands of a few oligarchs, who as opposed in the Russian Federation (were they were told by Putin they can keep their possessions if they do not -a at least not openly – interfere in politics) run more ore less directly the country to further their interests.
      I am know a little about chinese history and its model of governance, having read in translation some of the classics novels and history books and China always has been an autocratically governed country, and it seems to me the current set up with the CPC in charge is a continuation of the old structures in a new guise, the emperor however not continued through a family line – or violent overturn – but elected by the party membership.

      Reply
  11. Peter

    Please consider that very few “true democracies” exist. Maybe in Switzerland, Norway, Sweden…Democracy in the USA is just an illusion, the true power is in the hands of a few oligarchs, who as opposed in the Russian Federation (were they were told by Putin they can keep their possessions if they do not -a at least not openly – interfere in politics) run more ore less directly the country to further their interests.
    I am know a little about chinese history and its model of governance, having read in translation some of the classics novels and history books and China always has been an autocratically governed country, and it seems to me the current set up with the CPC in charge is a continuation of the old structures in a new guise, the emperor however not continued through a family line – or violent overturn – but elected by the party membership.

    Reply
  12. Anarcissie

    I found this statement rather enigmatic:

    ‘And we’re in a very treacherous and difficult place, which is you have two cultures, the United States and China, that represent, essentially, Western Cartesian enlightenment and the Confucian or Daoist traditions. The theories of how to deal with change, how you deal with unknowns, theories of governance in these two cultures are at odds with one another.’

    In what sense, I wondered, is the governance of the Emperor Xi Daoist? It hadly seems so to me; but maybe Daoism has a different meaning in the land of its origin. I would like something more specific than an ‘East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet’ refrain. It is true that the Chinese as yet hardly exemplify the mad-dog-amok sort of thing indulged by Western leaders in recent centuries — ‘Cartesian enlightenment’ one might say. But power, wealth, repute, status — seems like the same primate stuff to me even if approached slowly and carefully.

    Reply
  13. orange cats

    What is this garbage article, some kind of Clash of Civilizations Orientalist agitprop?

    Everything to do with China in the western media is so much ignorant doom-mongering pap. China makes trade deals with everyone because it saw what happened to the Soviet Union when it was isolated. China endures relentless U.S. provocations in the South China Sea because the western cartesian enlightened U.S. wants its military bases back in the Philippines. Plus the enlightened west wants a military influence in Taiwan again and is working toward both goals at full tilt.

    China isn’t “threatening” anybody, unless you are a country run by nasty, paranoid security spooks and without even a progressive movement to call bullshit on this “real news” drivel.

    Reply
  14. Mattski

    This is orientalism of a kind that western progressives, alas, are often willing to swallow. “They don’t play by our rules but are governed by some inscrutable ethos that is going to swallow us!”

    Plays well with people who look on their own country’s elites and yearn to say I told you so.

    The rules get established ex post facto. We certainly never played by them. But with the IMF and WTO we certainly sought to create some we could limit everyone else with.

    OTOH encircling and demonizing Russia, especially after promising that we wouldn’t, was a very bad idea, with inevitable repercussions always likely to include closer cooperation among Asian neighbors. Short-term gain for our arms industry, friend of Dem and Republican alike, only thriving industry–outside tech–that we have left.

    Russiagate is, arguably, an outgrowth, both of our creation of the cowboy economy and U.S. sanctions.

    Reply
  15. RBHoughton

    I think there is an assumption amongst western scholars that the way first Britain then America ruled the world is the only way. Prior to Britain’s rise to power, on defeating democracy in Europe, there had been an order developing with lawyers like Grotius assembling the wishes of humanity in a body of international law. Those are the laws that the UN was ultimately founded on.

    Britain and America hobbled the UN by imposing a Security Council upon it thus elevating violence to the highest expression of power of our species. After WWII we held war crimes trials and asserted an elevated sense of propriety which formed the basis of humanitarian law but that has become inconvenient to us and is now being dismantled by the west in preference for the restoration of violence as the arbiter of right and wrong.

    It does not have to be like that, if we are willing to live under the rule of law. I believe law should reflect the wishes of the heart in our social organisation. As opportunity presents itself we should repudiate the rule of force and embrace the rule of propriety.

    Reply

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