Larry Wilkerson: The Danger of War With China is Real and Insane

Yves here. An important talk with Larry Wilkerson about conflict with China as a clear and present danger. However, it is distressing to see Paul Jay exhibiting BlackRock derangement syndrome in his podcasts. BlackRock has an unseemly tight relationship with the Fed (as did Pimco back in the day; Pimco’s excess returns back in the day were not explainable save by getting too much intel on Fed thinking early)  and its role in running bailout vehicles for the Fed is grotesque. However, to depict BlackRock as having any special influence outside the US or with military/security policy is simply incorrect. McKinsey is a much more credible uber villain than BlackRock. That does not mean that the particular report that Jay cites might not be insightful, but so could a good report on China by any major Wall Street analyst.

By Paul Jay. Originally published at

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay and welcome to podcast.

Recently, a past Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said that war between the US and China is possible before the November elections. The current Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, says that’s overstated, but said that a conflict is no longer inconceivable. In a recent document from BlackRock, the massive financial services firm that is massively influential in making government policy almost everywhere, said in a research document, quote, “The pandemic added fuel to the geopolitical dynamics already underway. The post coronavirus world is likely to be characterized by four key themes. First, the world is increasingly becoming bifurcated with the U.S. and China at opposite poles, intense rivalry looks set to affect nearly every dimension of the US-China relationship. Regardless of the US election outcome, other countries will increasingly be pushed to choose sides. Decoupling is focused on, but not limited to the technology sector. This means investors need exposure to both markets, as the center of gravity of global growth is moving to Asia. Second, the pandemic is poised to accelerate de-globalization as it magnifies nationalist and protectionist trends. The crisis adds to existing pressures such as global trade tensions and populism. This threatens to disrupt the web of global supply chains at the expense of efficiency. It may lead to on-shoring the production of strategic goods,” that’s from BlackRock. That’s advice to their investors. One thing is certain, as the US-China relationship deteriorates if the U.S. and China don’t cooperate in fighting the pandemic and the climate crisis, we’re pretty much doomed, even if by some miracle we avoid nuclear war as inherent to the geopolitical and economic realities, the rivalry is we must find a way to overcome it.

Now joining us is Lawrence Wilkerson. He’s a retired United States Army colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Larry is a distinguished adjunct professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary. Thanks for joining us, Larry.

Larry Wilkerson

Good to be with you, Paul.

Paul Jay

So, first of all, what do you make of what the two Australian, former and current prime ministers are saying about Australia? One saying it’s really dangerous, and the other one says, yeah, maybe not that dangerous, but dangerous. And I’m talking about actual conflict, armed conflict, between the United States and China.

Larry Wilkerson

Kevin Rudd is a Mandarin speaker and in many respects an expert on China. I don’t happen to agree, full-throatily, with what he said, but I do think that, like my conversation not too long ago with John Mearsheimer, where John said it’s inevitable that we go to war with China, China goes to war with us, that it’s getting closer to that possibility and it’s extremely dangerous, as you intimated, that that possibility is closer. It’s extremely dangerous that it’s anywhere out there in our future if it is.

As for the sitting prime minister, I’m not aware of his intellectual bona fides or his predisposition toward China one way or the other, so I can’t really comment. I am aware of a lot of my Australian friends who don’t think he’s a very good prime minister. All in all, this is, as you intimated, again, a very, very dangerous time. Not simply because we have an incompetent baboon sitting in the Oval Office with all manner of sycophant baboons arrayed all around him. But we also have a situation in the world that ought to be turning primus inter pares, that is to say, several states that more or less look at each other as equals and work diplomatically, economically, financially and otherwise to try to cooperate, to meet some really awesome challenges, two of which you hinted at climate crisis and nuclear weapons rather than be as we are, sitting around contemplating, not just contemplating, but working up new reasons for warfare. You can say that it’s a product of the national security state that the United States has most assuredly become since World War Two, you can say it’s a product of Xi Jinping and the enlarged power and capability within their national security decision making the process of their military. That’s what you do when you feed it with lots of money and grow it up and stoke it with some nationalism and so forth.

You turn around one day if you’re a civilian on the Politburo and you say, “My God, what have I created?” Well, that’s where they almost are now in China, much the way we’ve been for some time now, at least since 9/11, possibly even before that, dominated by the military instrument, dominated by war, dominated by national security. China’s very much in that boat too. The belligerence they’ve shown recently towards India in the South China Sea and elsewhere is an indication of that. So it’s not a good time. I’m sitting at lunch with one of the premier, if not the premier realist thinkers in America, John Mearsheimer, as I said, and he tells me it’s inevitable that we’re going to war with China.

Paul Jay

Well, within what time frame is he talking about?

Larry Wilkerson

We didn’t have a chance to discuss that. I suspect John would say, ” Well, it will take a confluence of events that will take in itself a precipitating event”. I think the assassination of the archduke in Sarajevo in 1914, I could think of several precipitating events. The most likely in my mind is something to do with Taiwan, although increasingly I see Taiwan as almost a fait accompli, should China decide to move. It will not move in an overt military fashion, it will simply let Taipei know that if it doesn’t cooperate much, the way it let Hong Kong’s leaders know, if it doesn’t cooperate more fully with the mainland and it will spell out what that “more” fully means, time is running out for Taipei, and I think that pressure will probably be acknowledged, perhaps protested for a short time, probably not publicly, but in private over Beijing, Taipei channels. And then Taipei will more or less, as Hong Kong has done, subside. That is to say, it will become a part of the imperial mandate of heaven.

And I don’t think the United States will do a darn thing. We’ll probably issue démarches. Congress will stand up on its hind legs and pontificate and pass all kinds of Taiwan protection acts and everything else. I don’t think we’re going to go to war with China over Taiwan. I may be wrong. Congress may just plunge us right into it, and we’ll find out very quickly that the way to resolve that conflict after we’ve taken brutal blows on both sides is nuclear weapons and then we’re at a really bad place.

Paul Jay

Well, what you’ve said in interviews with me, previously, that every war game that you were part of, the kind of work through what would happen with an armed conflict with China, winds up in a nuclear war. And everybody, in theory, everybody that is at all informed knows that’s the end of China, the United States and most human life on Earth. So presumably they’re in no hurry to get to that, even in spite of saber-rattling.

Larry Wilkerson

I don’t know that the central party school, the strategic thinkers for Beijing and the Politburo itself, and Xi Jinping himself, I don’t know that they think that way. I hope they do. I certainly hope they do, but I don’t know that.

Paul Jay

I mean, China, for the last while, has been objecting. It gets almost no coverage in the American press and Western press objecting to the Trump getting out of these nuclear treaties and calling nuclear arms treaties and calling for new ones.

Larry Wilkerson

And China is probably right now, I won’t say probably they are, all my contacts tell me they are embarked on a review, thorough review, of their own nuclear policy, the result of which will probably be a much more robust Chinese nuclear stockpile, one that can, as much as we used to say in the old days, ride out a first strike and respond massively. That means lots more nuclear weapons for China.

Most people don’t understand that China doesn’t have very many nuclear weapons at all. Mao Zedong thought they were stupid weapons, they didn’t make any sense. But if others had them, he ought to have a few just so he could threaten those others in case. They’re getting ready to change that, I think, and become a full up, “I can strike you and get away with it power”, which of course is nonsense, nonsense for Russia, nonsense for the United States, nonsense for anyone to think that they can strike first and get away with it, as you intimated, we will have started a cycle of environmental change that added to the climate crisis will put us out of action as human beings probably 50 years earlier.

Paul Jay

Well, if the scientists are correct about nuclear winter, you only need a first strike, a successful first strike to end most human life on Earth because within a year the atmosphere is filled with so much smoke and soot from the cities burning that there’s no agriculture left.

Larry Wilkerson

It’s worse than that. So, Paul, if you read Will Perry’s and Tom Collina’s new book, The Button, you understand that book ought to be read by every citizen of the world, certainly by every American, that things on such a hair-trigger are now. Hair triggers, incidentally, what we tried to disassemble in 1991/1992/1993 when Chairman Powell was head of the military. We tried to disassemble a lot of these things, but they’re back in place again now. So your intimation that a first strike would do it? Look, it’s not going to be just the first strike because within seconds the response will come, within seconds.

Paul Jay

Define “hair-trigger”. What exactly is the mechanism, the steps within a hair-trigger? Because I’ve heard anything from like ten seconds to make a decision to 20 minutes.

Larry Wilkerson

It just depends on the scenario. But you could get down, as Will points out in his book, and I trust Will Perry, the only engineer ever to be Secretary of defense, Will Perry knows what he’s talking about. Not only was he there when several crises occurred, but he knows the engineering concepts behind these weapons and behind the structure that’s been set up to use these weapons. So if you’re looking at a situation where the president of the United States is going to act on information, in other words, he’s going to act as soon as someone tells him that missiles are inbound. You’re talking about seconds, minutes at most, perhaps 8 to 10 minutes to make up your mind as to what you’re going to do. And no one, here it is, no one in the national security establishment, indeed in the country needs to be consulted. The president can turn to that major, that lieutenant colonel carrying the box the package and say, “Give it to me”, enter the codes and we’re away with our strike back.

Paul Jay

And he’s not the only one that can do that. Apparently, there’s several hundred, if they think for some reason there’s been an attack and the president maybe is incapacitated. But apparently, according to Ellsberg and some others, a couple of hundred people, if not more, that can actually do the same thing.

Larry Wilkerson

That’s a little bit of a stretch. But it’s technically true because there are things within the continuity of government cog highly classified things that make that sort of a scenario possible, but there are also checks and balances within that system. It’s scary, I don’t want to downplay that, it’s scary but scarier to me is the fact that the president, without consulting anyone, can pop that button.

Paul Jay

In the BlackRock document, it says, “The intense rivalry looks set to affect nearly every dimension of U.S. China relationship, regardless of the U.S. election outcome, meaning whether Biden’s in or not. The rivalry gets intensified,”. Do you think the danger of conflict is less if Biden is president?

Larry Wilkerson

I think we’ve got a lot of speculating going on right now, and I don’t see a lot of it is very informed. And I don’t necessarily include the BlackRock assessment in that because I haven’t read the whole thing, but a lot of what I’m hearing is not very well informed. The first thing that’s going to confront Biden is, if not cause massive problems with the election, and Trump standing up MAGA TV on Inauguration Day and beginning to delegitimize the Biden administration from the very start to include if we don’t change the Senate, not confirming any of his appointments, cabinet or otherwise.

I mean, aside from that, Joe Biden is going to face an economic crisis probably more intense and deeper than the one Franklin Roosevelt confronted in 1932/33′. So Joe Biden is going to be utterly consumed by the fact that the American economy is collapsing all around him, that 30-40% of Americans are out of work, that we’ve already printed trillions and trillions of extra dollars with absolutely nothing behind them to pay people to keep this from happening, to sort of hold back the wave, as it were. That’s what’s going to confront Joe Biden. That’s what’s going to confront his administration, a catastrophic economic situation. So it’s going to be extremely difficult to focus on getting a foreign policy in order, getting things corrected, like Iran, like Russia, like China and so forth. Trump is leaving him a disaster in foreign policy, a disaster, and a security policy. Just look, we have Elliot Abrams taking over from Brian Hook with regard to Iran. Brian just announced he’s leaving two disasters, but Elliot makes Brian look like a success.

Paul Jay

Oh, I didn’t see that. Elliot Abrams is going to be in charge?

Larry Wilkerson

Yeah, he’s going to handle Venezuela and Iran.

Paul Jay

Are they getting serious about the conflict with Iran?

Larry Wilkerson

I think we probably are in for an October surprise that would involve Iran more than it would involve China. So that’s where I differ with Kevin Rudd between now and November if there is an October surprise, so to speak, it’s probably going to involve Iran, not China. It might involve China because China makes it involve China, but I think the US is going to seek to make it with Iran.

Paul Jay

I can’t see China getting militarily involved. But on the other hand, there’s a growing Iran/China economic relationship.

Larry Wilkerson

400 billion dollars. I mean, look at what we’ve done to ourselves. Here, we have Gazprom, (a partially state-owned multinational energy corporation headquartered in the Lakhta Center in Saint Petersburg, Russia), completing the last leg of some 12 billion dollar Nord Stream pipeline, which is going to bring the rest of Europe’s needs in terms of energy to it from Gazprom. thank you very much, Mr. Putin, all at the same time that, my electric company, for example, the second largest on the East Coast behind only Duke Power, has put some 12 billion over the last four years, ten-year program, to build the only LNG plant on the east coast of the United States and ship it all to where? Europe.

Well, Europe doesn’t need it now. I’m waiting for the stock and dominion to plunk.

Paul Jay

In BlackRock’s advice to investors, their way to deal with this growing rivalry is to invest in both polar’s, put your money in China and the United States.

Larry Wilkerson

Put it in China, the United States, Iran, pick someone who might come out at the other end. Unfortunately, we’re all in this together.

Paul Jay

One of the people being talked about as vice president for Biden is Susan Rice.

Larry Wilkerson

I can just see Trump now, “Benghazi Rice! Benghazi rice!”

Paul Jay

If Biden actually goes there, it tells us something about what he thinks of where his foreign policy’s going, and she’s quite the hawk.

Larry Wilkerson

Yes, and I hope he doesn’t go there. I hope he doesn’t go there. I hope we have someone, one, who at least looks competent and isn’t a member of the national security state in good standing. Two, someone who is capable of becoming president not just after Biden, but perhaps even during Biden. And three, someone whom the American people can look at and say, finally, finally, someone who tells the truth, someone who is humanly decent, someone whom we probably can trust and someone who has the best interests of the United States foremost in their mind, because for almost four years now, we’ve had the exact opposite of that.

Paul Jay

Do you see that person?

Larry Wilkerson

Not immediately, and that’s a problem. I had a conversation with someone the other day. I started out being opposed to what the person was proposing. The more he talked, the more I thought it was a positive idea. And the person he was advancing was Michelle Obama.

Paul Jay

I’ve been predicting that for about a year and a half.

Larry Wilkerson

I understand that from other sources that she has been approached, whatever that means, and that there’s no chance.

Paul Jay

I can’t see why she’d want to do it.

Larry Wilkerson

I wouldn’t blame her a bit.

Paul Jay

Let’s go back to the Biden situation. So whoever the vice president is, he’s dealing with an economic collapse, as you said, worse than the 1930s. And of course, it won’t be just the United States, the United States is in such deep shit economically. It’s going to be a global crisis. There’s no way it’s going to be confined to the United States. It’s going to involve China, too, because China is still very dependent on the American market. This decoupling hasn’t happened.

Larry Wilkerson

I’m on a call yesterday with a group of people, one of whom was an investment banker from Germany, and she began to talk about Stuttgart. I know Stuttgart well, that’s where the headquarters for European Command is, that’s where I used to take my Marine Corps seminars. I love Stuttgart. She said it’s going to be a basket case in a very short time, that the automobile industry and all the ancillaries around it are just collapsing and that soon Stuttgart will be the poor man of Europe. I couldn’t believe it, but she knows more about the situation than I.

Paul Jay

So does this make conflict more or less likely with China? I mean, China and the U.S. and most of the world is in deep, deep crisis. Is conflict more or less likely?

Larry Wilkerson

History sort of screams that these are the sorts of situations that produce conflict and produce intense and difficult and sometimes, you know, world-spanning conflict, although we only have the last century or so to judge that from, but I would say yes.

Paul Jay

Well, is that ever a call for a people’s movement in the United States that demands a different kind of foreign policy?

Larry Wilkerson

Very much so, and a different culture. You know, this consumption culture is driving us into hell. We have to figure out a way to get off this predatory, capitalist fuelled consumption culture. We must. It’s debilitating for our minds, our souls, our psyche. It destroys us when all we do is think about the next 24 hours of consumption. It’s incredible. It’s ruined even the productivity of this country to the extent that we now make products and products to last two or three years when we used to make them to last 20 because we want to sell eight or nine of them in that 20-year span rather than just one. We have built a system that is poisonous, perverse, and it’s killing our very soul, and not to mention our pocketbook.

Paul Jay

You get to talk to a lot more people in the elites than I do the people’s movement that I say we have to have, and that insight at the moment, and that’s something of the scale that can really put pressure–Forget Trump, let’s assume there’s a Biden government because it’s going to have tremendous pressure on it to do what we’re talking about because the pressure coming from the financial sector and the military-industrial complex and so on is going to be enormous, and his history says he’ll bend to it. But, within the elites themselves, whether it’s military or diplomatic or finance, whatever, do you see any sense from people that they get there needs to be a transformative movement here?

Larry Wilkerson

No, I don’t. In fact, as you were just talking, I was thinking about what I just read a moment or two ago about Mark Thornberry and Jim Inhofe and others involved in apportioning massive amounts of coronavirus intended dollars, taxpayer dollars, to the Pentagon and trying to justify based on the Pentagon and its hospital ship to New York and so forth and so on. That’s a pittance. And so tell me, Mr. Thornberry, tell me, Mr. Inhofe, what more F-15s lightning strike fighters have to do with the Pentagon’s coronavirus contributions? Give me a break. These people are brain dead, Paul. They’re brain dead. And they’re so captured by the money that Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors dole out to them on a routine basis. They’re so dependent on that largesse, they couldn’t get out of this mindset if they tried. So if we’re going to get out of it, it’s going to take some kind of really apoplectic event or it’s going to take a massive awakening of at least a sizable minority, if not the majority of the American people. And a complete slate cleaning of the current leadership in Washington and possibly some of the leadership across the states, too, and a replacement of them by people who understand at least somewhat what you’re talking about.

Paul Jay

All right. Thanks for joining us, Larry.

Larry Wilkerson

Thanks for having me, Paul.

Paul Jay

And thank you for joining us on podcast.

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  1. Sound of the Suburbs

    US strategic planning department.
    Someone recently got out a pencil and a piece of graph paper and plotted US and Chinese GDP and then extrapolated the lines.
    China overtakes the US pretty damn soon.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Hopefully, they realise that GDP in this context is pretty meaningless. As Michael Pettis has pointed out, GDP means something very different in a Chinese context.

      Typically, analysts assume that changes in reported GDP reflect movements in living standards and productive capacity. In China, however, this is not the case. Local governments are expected to boost spending by whatever amount is needed to meet the country’s targets, whether or not it is productive. [In China] GDP growth is not the same as economic growth.

      I’m not sure anyone really knows the real Chinese GDP, at least when measured by the criteria of the US and other countries.

      Plus of course China is losing its demographic dividend, which will slow down overall economic growth, even if growth per person is maintained – unless they somehow manage to hugely increase productivity, which seems unlikely.

      I think its a mistake to feed the notion that China is an economic mega power in waiting. It is huge, but in ‘real’ economic size and power, its still just one of another second level (but generally growing) set of countries, including Russia, Japan and South Korea (and the EU, assuming it can ever get its geopolitical act together). If they had any sense, US planners would be worrying more about the decline of the US and its puppet states, not the growth of other countries.

      1. Anon

        This point about Chinese GDP being meaningless is dead on.

        Extrapolation is also completely and utterly non-sensical. Had you extrapolated Japan, Korea, or the USSR (or, for that matter, Singapore) at the “correct” points, you you also be able to have shown that they would overtake the United States.

        All of these countries depend on the US for their growth and, more importantly, for geostability (and yes, this includes China). They cannot “surpass” the hot without assuming more of the US functions, which would destroy them.

        More to the point, China can’t even feed itself. The US doesn’t have to go to direct war with China–it can simply refuse to import or export from the country, pressure others to do the same, and Xi will either abase himself humiliatingly to restore some level of normalcy or else literally get overthrown in a matter of weeks. There is no reason for the US to do this, but to sit there and blithely assume that the US’ only option is war, and that it would lose a war against China (this in particular is laughable), is just ludricous–comic books have more credible plot lines than this! China would be extraordinailly lucky even to be able to “win” active conflict against Japan.

        1. Code Name D

          Agreed, GDP numbers ARE meaningless. Far more useful is its real economic productivity, which is implied by GDP – and that IS substantial. For example, they recently made a thousand bed hospital; from cutting the sod of an empty lot, to admitting patents, in a mater of weeks. WEEKS. Hell, it takes years just to work out the financing of a new hospital in the US. The best we could do here was pitch a few tents.

          China has huge industrial capacity. Hell, we built most of their factories. China could place an embargo on the US by closing down their own ports. Hostility with China is insane – its also inevitable.

        2. TomDority

          There is no reason for the US to do this, but to sit there and blithely assume that the US’ only option is war, and that it would lose a war against China (this in particular is laughable), is just ludricous–comic books have more credible plot lines than this! China would be extraordinailly lucky even to be able to “win” active conflict against Japan.
          A few substitutes as follows
          There is little reason for the US to do this, but to sit there and blithely assume that the China’ only option is war, and that it would lose a war against USA (this in particular is laughable), is just ludricous–comic books have more credible plot lines than this! USA would be extraordinailly lucky even to be able to “win” active conflict against China.

          Given our “Mission accomplished” mayhem

          1. Anonthe2nd First of its Name

            OK, so you have now convinced me that neither China nor the US have any reason to go to war against each other, which was one of my original points.

            Was that your intention?

            1. TomDority

              My intention was to show the absolute absurdity of war and this posturing going on all over by politicians – driven by the interests of big money – not interests in real qualitative initiatives toward peace.
              The politicians (not all) and plutocrats act like they are kings and queens and are sent from heaven deserving of their thrones – but it appears to me that they come from a strain of European (sorry Europeans) predators and heraldry that are rapacious psychopaths who will say and do anything to attain power without conscience – combined with corporations that do not have conscience – its a volatile mix that can cause a war that no-side can win
              As Larry said
              “this consumption culture is driving us into hell. We have to figure out a way to get off this predatory, capitalist fuelled consumption culture. We must. It’s debilitating for our minds, our souls, our psyche. It destroys us when all we do is think about the next 24 hours of consumption. It’s incredible. It’s ruined even the productivity of this country to the extent that we now make products and products to last two or three years when we used to make them to last 20 because we want to sell eight or nine of them in that 20-year span rather than just one. We have built a system that is poisonous, perverse, and it’s killing our very soul, and not to mention our pocketbook.”

      2. LawnDart

        If they had any sense, US planners would be worrying more about the decline of the US and its puppet states, not the growth of other countries.

        But, the US planners, they’re looters, not investors; appropriators, not creators.

        As a whole, those that I have met who fall into in the tiny circle of the upper, upper class, are in reality are quite soulless and cowardly, and often are gnawed upon by a sense of anxiety that stems from an inner awareness that they lack any true accomplishments or worth in their lives. They live by bluster and BS, and inherited wealth: you’d be hard-pressed to find a true sense of stewardship or social responsibility amongst them.

        I think most of us deplorables realize that our real enemies are here, hiding out in Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons, Nantucket, Jackson Hole, Aspen, and in exclusive suburbs and gated communities throughout these American states.

        China’s done nothing to us, and most of us know it: it’s manufactured, “watch the birdie” BS to distract us as the US planners hands deftly reach into our pockets ever more deeply.

        Most great wealth is derived from predation: the 1% and their enablers are parasites, and are of similar benefit to society as that of the mosquito.

        1. Olga

          Yes (unfortunately), and just to add that by PPP comparison (purch. power parity), China has overtaken the US quite a while ago.

          “United States and China are the two largest economies of the world in both Nominal and PPP method. US is at top in nominal whereas China is at top in PPP since 2014 after overtaking US. Both country together share 40.75% and 34.27% of total world’s GDP in nominal and PPP terms, respectively in 2019. GDP of both country is higher than 3rd ranked country Japan (nominal) and India (PPP) by a huge margin. Therefore, only these two are in competition to become first.
          As per projections by IMF for 2019, United States is leading by $7,128 bn or 1.50 times on exchange rate basis. Economy of China is Int. $5,987 billion or 1.28x of US on purchasing power parity basis. Acc to estimates by World Bank, China gdp was approx 11% of US in 1960 but in 2017 it is 63%.”

          Facts matter more than opinions.

        2. Synoia

          If they had any sense, US planners…

          There are planners, and plans outside of bomb, sanction, bomb? Where?

    2. H

      Soft Power
      Lassie, Barbie, Rambo
      Never heard a Chinese pop hit.
      Never saw a Chinese blockbuster.

      Whatever soft power is, they don’t have it.
      I don’t see millions walking thru deserts to get INTO China.

      1. Fritzi

        I have certainly seen plenty of Chinese movies much better than Rambo, haha.

        And of course they produce all your worthless plastic toys for you.

        The times when people were eager to get into the US are quickly nearing their end as well.

        1. H

          Where do I find these Chinese blockbusters?
          Lassie, Barbie, & Rambo are for 100 IQ. Can’t sell movies for 150 IQs. LOL
          (Although I have to admit Lassie orchestra soundtracks are priceless.)

          Chinese Sam Colt?
          Chinese Henry Ford?
          Chinese John Deere?
          Chinese Michael Jackson? Chinese Madonna? Loretta Lynn?
          Singer (sewing machines), Bell, RCA, IBM, Microsoft, etc, etc, etc. It has a lot to do with
          the legal system, patents, contract law as soft power as well.

          If I go to Home Depot I see all tools made in China but no Chinese BRANDS. Some Japan (Ryobi, Makita), some S. Korea, some USA (Dewalt) but all made in China.

          Where is their music, their literature, their movies, their BRANDS?

          Communism destroyed their culture, Russia as well.
          Bootleg western music & TV reruns have always pervaded communist regimes.
          In the realm of soft power we’re #1.
          “Happy Days” reruns.
          The American Dream. We promoted it. It’s gone viral.

  2. Sound of the Suburbs

    The Berlin Wall had fallen and a uni-polar world was born.
    The US reigned supreme.

    China was insignificant and Russia was moving towards the West with Gorbachev.
    Everything was going so well, how could anything possibly go wrong?

    Have you thought about an open, globalised world that will tilt the playing field in China’s favour?

    It was all about profit and Western leaders didn’t think about how China would be the main beneficiary from this arrangement.
    Maximising profit is all about reducing costs.
    China had coal fired power stations to provide cheap energy.
    China had lax regulations reducing environmental and health and safety costs.
    China had a low cost of living so employers could pay low wages.
    China had low taxes and a minimal welfare state.
    China had all the advantages in an open globalised world.
    It did have, but now China has become more expensive and developed Eastern economies are off-shoring to places like Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

    Western companies off-shored to China where they could make higher profits.
    China took full advantage of the situation and got Western companies to sign technology transfer agreements handing over decades of Western design and development knowledge to the Chinese.

    China was a new, fast growing economy compared to the mature, slow growing economies of the West.
    Investors would be able to achieve better returns in the new, fast growing Chinese economy and this is where the money headed.
    US investors found they could get the best returns on their capital in new, fast growing Chinese economy.
    US investors love China and know it’s the best place to make real money.
    George Soros, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos …..

    George Soros’s old partner in the Quantum Fund, Jim Rogers, is making sure his children learn Mandarin as he sees China as the future.
    He’s scarpered already, and now lives in Singapore.
    It’s closer to where the action is.

    1. Olga

      Yes, and this puts a new meaning to that quip about someone selling rope to a certain someone else (or, they will choke on their own greed – to be less tactful about it).

  3. apleb

    Blackrock has quite the influence in Germany. It’s a big stakeholder in many of the biggest german companies. In 8 DAX corporations they are the biggest shareholders, Allianz, Bayer, E.on among them.
    Friedrich Merz is/was in the supervisory board of Blackrock and a lobbyist for them. This is important since he is on the very short list, and probably the main contender after Kramp-Karrenbauer imploded, for replacement of Angela Merkel as CDU chairman. The party which most certainly will reign after 2021 when Merkel is retired.
    So the former (?) Blackrock representative could easily be chancellor.

    To the article: there will be a war, no doubt. The only question is if it’s a cold one or hot one. Cold wars are survivable.

    So there is quite a bit of influence of Blackrock in Europe.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The argument that BlackRock has one important guy in Germany, a former lobbyist for a company, who represented other clients, and might possibly someday be chancellor = current influence is quite a stretch. Contrast this with “Government Sachs” in the US, as well as former Goldman partners Mark Carney and Mario Draghi becoming top central bankers. BlackRock is not even in also ran by that standard.

      It also reflects a lack of appreciation of how lobbyists work. Yes they do advocate for their clients. But the most successful and influential lobbyists are all about maximizing their power, and since the most powerful lobbyists represent multiple clients, the client is not in charge but is getting the assistance of someone who is running many agendas at once. The lobbyist will nevertheless be very skilled at making his client feel their interests are perfectly aligned when they aren’t, and will position any failures to get what the client wanted as due to a constellation of forces that could not be overcome (which might be true, but might also be the lobbyist judging that his chips were better spent on other fights).

      On top of that, in Europe the career bureaucrats also exercise far more sway than in the US. And Europeans, Germans in particular are suspicious of financial capital and value industrialists far more. Look at how German pension funds do not invest in private equity.

      In addition, you do not understand BlackRock’s business model. It is is an extremely low margin, high volume business. Virtually all of its funds are index funds, meaning it lacks the one sort of threat a liquid shareholder has over a company, to sell its shares and move on. It has to own the constituents of the index, period.

      Ownership of public shares does not mean influence. Why do raiders pay a “control premium” of 20% to >60% when they take over a company? Because a transient owner can’t make management do anything. At best, they have to have a credible track record as a takeover artist, buy a big block, and start making demands, with the threat being if management does not capitulate, they will mount a hostile takeover and do it themselves.

      Look at how the management of Bayer recently suffered the unheard of step in Germany of having a majority of its institutional shareholders engage in what amounted to a vote of no confidence as a result of the disastrous Monsanto acquisition. What happened to management? Absolutely nothing.

      The regulation of stock trading in Europe over time has come more and more to resemble that of the US. This classic article explains why transient shareholders do not have influence over companies:

      Private equity firms have tons of power and collect enormous fees, KKR is one of the five biggest employers in the US when you count the number of workers in its investee companies. It can hire and fire them. Private equity is the biggest single source of fees to Wall Street. It is far and away the biggest source of fees to the big white shoe law firms in the US and London. It has since the early 2000s accounted for half the consulting fees of the biggest consulting firms, McKinsey, Bain, BCG.

      No investor in public stocks has remotely this level of power. You and Jay are engaging in the drunk under the streetlight fallacy, of looking for influence in places where you see activity, not where power really lies.

      1. Scott1

        My goal is to prevent apocalyptic riot. If it is going around, and it appears to be going around that war with China is inevitable when John Mearsheimer says so, then somethings have to be done or the street fighting rules will apply.
        Hit the guy first real hard in their face, first.
        I can accept it as true that there are nothing but blockheads ruling my world. Stephanie Kelton has told us that Nancy Pelosi is a true believer in PayGo and it is that puts her in what Noam Chomsky has called the “Business Class” laid atop both parties determining what will be negotiated Domestically or Internationally for the benefit of the Oligarchy.
        The record of testing above ground of nuclear weapons and the painless to the west of Chernobyl and Fukushima is perceived as a collection implying we can get away with nuclear war and as Putin likes warming in Siberia throwing the US off its stool would be something they might contribute to. Mearsheimer says you always want your allies to do all the real bleeding.
        And What about Mearsheimer? Not once did he mention the UN in “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics”. During the Cold War the UN worked.
        During the Cold War it was only fronts that did business between the US and the USSR.
        Grotius tells us that you are more likely to go to war with those you do business with than those you don’t. The USSR gave textbooks away to schools all over the East. I’ve never seen one. I suspect there to be two histories of the world.
        Yves, I want to thank you for putting this in the site. I was suffering from embarrassment for pitching something like this from myself to David Cay and DCReport.
        The technology of nuclear bombs has not laid dormant and I’ve read that supposedly US Thermonuclear Weapons can be made into what was offered by President Carter when he could not get rid of nuclear weapons “from the face of this Earth.” The Neutron Bomb.
        Since the Neutron bomb only kills tank crews or living things, it is an attractive first strike weapon.
        Like the soldier in “Thin Red Line” said on the troop ship “It’s all over real estate.”
        P.S. I got 42 from my throw of the Chinese competitor with the Bible the I Ching, “Time of Increase”‘. There is little time for anti war negotiations but the time is right for them. Thank you again for your editorial decision and again for your insight. If we make our goal to prevent apocalyptic riot we cannot go wrong.

    2. Uwe Ohse

      So the former (?) Blackrock representative could easily be chancellor.

      this seems to be far more unlikely than it was two years ago. From what i hear from inside the CDU parts of the party are seriously tired of him (he chickened out once too often), and the party also knows that his history (Blackrock, rape in marriage, discretionary earnings transparency, …) will cost her lots of votes.

      And then there is the question with which party the CDU/CSU might form a coalition under Merz? The FDP might fail to reach the 5% bar, the SPD is tumbling further into the void, the AfD is deep trouble and undesirable for large parts of the CDU (and Merz), and the green party dislikes Merz strongly.

  4. Ignacio

    I pretty much dislike the use of ‘unavoidable’ which is nothing but the stupidest excuse to do the usual stupid things we do.

    It is idiotic to buy the term unavoidable. Particularly applied to wars.

  5. Uwe Ohse

    She said it’s going to be a basket case in a very short time, that the automobile industry and all the ancillaries around it are just collapsing and that soon Stuttgart will be the poor man of Europe. I couldn’t believe it, but she knows more about the situation than I.

    the ancillaries might be collapsing, yes. But that large car-maker around Stuttgart will not. The reason for that is that it has financial reserves and influence in Berlin and elsewhere, but the ancillaries often haven’t got these (and have been hard pressed for long years now).

    Regarding Stuttgart: no capital of a german state is a basket case (which the exception of bremen, which really is a city with the status of a state, not more), and i don’t expect stuttgart to be one.

    The city itself has low debt, and it’s capital status means it has a nice cushion due to the state bureaucracy. I expect that some new bureaucracy will be made home there (knowing germany i’m quite sure this will happen).

    It’s not the state capitals one must worry about, it’s the industrial centers of the states. They usually have far less cushions (if at all), and are not treated first-class by the states bureaucracies.

  6. VietnamVet

    In many ways, the fall of the USSR was the last triumph of the Western Empire. The crazy thing is that the Harvard Boys threw it away to make more money. The easiest way to make grab more riches was to outsource manufacture to Asia. The roaring 90s & 00s crashed in 2008. Globalization was kept alive by loading the bad debt on sovereign nations and generating trillions of digital dollars. Democracy died. A feudal, highly unequal, global caste system was imposed. The Afghan and Iraqi wars never ended. A series of regime changes were undertaken in Libya, Syria and Ukraine. A turn towards Asia was attempted. Joe Biden spearheaded the restart of the Cold War with Russia. After 2016 Globalists with their production facilities in Asia got into a conflict with the American nationalist President. In 2020 Donald Trump and the Coronavirus Pandemic destroyed the Western Empire (also known as the Free World).

    The world is in a similar position to the 1930s. Except now China has reopened, resupplying the lockdown, keeping the virus at bay, and is coming out on top. The USA has failed and is in a deep depression; pathetic. To remain President, Donald Trump must have an enemy to blame for the calamities that have hit the USA. China is his only option. If the New Cold War with Russia, China and Iran goes hot, it is a human extinction event.

    1. Watt4Bob

      To remain President, Donald Trump must have an enemy to blame for the calamities that have hit the USA. China is his only option.

      It seems to me he’s working on convincing his base that there’s another enemy, their fellow Americans.

      All the recent whispering about the possibility of civil war is unnerving.

      1. Olga

        He’s been listening too much to Bannon. That brainless wonder has a site dedicated to stoking a war with China. Either we strangle them economically – or we attack, seems to be the new motto.

        1. Watt4Bob

          Either we strangle them economically – or we attack, seems to be the new motto.

          Both those supposed options are evidence of monumental hubris.

          And either way, we loose bigly, and of course predictably.

  7. PlutoniumKun

    The most likely in my mind is something to do with Taiwan, although increasingly I see Taiwan as almost a fait accompli, should China decide to move. It will not move in an overt military fashion, it will simply let Taipei know that if it doesn’t cooperate much, the way it let Hong Kong’s leaders know, if it doesn’t cooperate more fully with the mainland and it will spell out what that “more” fully means, time is running out for Taipei, and I think that pressure will probably be acknowledged, perhaps protested for a short time, probably not publicly, but in private over Beijing, Taipei channels. And then Taipei will more or less, as Hong Kong has done, subside. That is to say, it will become a part of the imperial mandate of heaven.

    I disagree with this assessment. Taiwan is not Hong Kong. If China could do this to Taiwan, they would have done it years ago. Taiwan has a very powerful military in defensive terms (its set up specifically with the sole aim of making life hell for any amphibious landings) and it has very significant international leverage – and leverage over China – with its dominance in some areas of manufacturing – particularly in microprocessors. There has also been a long term growth in popular support for absolute independence. The political support for even a semi-unification with China – long the dream of the KMT – has withered away to nothing. For the past 10 years ore more the Taiwanese have consistently supported pro-independence political parties. There is a very strong anti-unification movement in Taiwan, there would be huge riots in the streets if a government submitted to Beijing and its very unlikely Taiwanese security services would do what they did in HK – pick Beijing over their own people.

    Taiwan, it should also be noted, can develop nuclear weapons very rapidly, only the intervention of the US stopped them doing it in the 1970’s.

    1. Diego M

      Taiwan vs. China is a no-brainer. China wins.

      (Taiwan + the US) vs. China is a no-brainer. The US won’t fight.

      In that sense, Taiwan is a fait accompli.

      1. Anonthe2nd first of its name


        First, you must understand what it means to “win”. We aren’t playing Risk here, and there are many, ,many levers that the US (and the West) has…

        As for the US not fighting (directly or indirectly), you very seriously misunderstand the geographic and geopolitical realities in that part of the world. The US will do plenty to ensure that China does not have clear access to the Pacific (look up “First island chain”), as that provides ready access to the Pacific.

        Secondly, think through what India, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Phillippines and even the Middle East countries, Russia, and Australia would do if the US did not intervene. They would suddenly decide that the US guarantee means SFAll and then either rearm enormously and enormously quickly (and that means more nukes, attack submarines, and satellites, among many other things), which would work against US interests and actually make the US ar more vulnerable. Or they would simply align with China in some form, which would do the same thing.

        Incidentally, China is very aware of this–why do you think they limit their displeasure re: western arm sales to Taiwan to incoherently muttering to themselves about nonsensical internal positions?

        It is really strange to read this site’s comments–the general consensus is one hand that the US is a trigger-happy country that will go to war at the drop of hat, and yet at the same time the US will back down and avoid a fight against a 3rd world country that can’t even survive without the US continuing to guarantee the current world order. Somewhat schizophrenic, really…

      2. Olga

        Though I think China will take a long-term approach. Waiting for just the right moment …and it won’t be a military attack.

    2. Bill Smith

      I agree with your assessment of the Taiwanese opinion trends. I think Xi Jinping agrees too.

      My opinion on an end game with Taiwan over the next 5 years depends on how may Taiwanese China is willing to kill and still declare victory.

      I’ve seen a number of simulations on the subject. One simulation I have seen, was run with goal to see what could be done by China in regard to attacking Taiwan before the US was capable of interfering with the exception of using strategic weapons.

      This simulation started with the estimate that with a few weeks quiet preparation the PLA could lob over a thousand missiles into Taiwan in a day or so. The setup broke out what what was considered hard evidence of what the Chinese could do and what analysts believed the Chinese capable of on top of that.

      The initial targets would be military. After targeting Taiwan’s limited anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems with several missiles each and major communications centers and HQ’s they could literally target one missile per aircraft in the Taiwanese air force (400 +/-) and one for every major ship (100+/-) in the Taiwanese Navy. Others would target shore defenses, port facilities, other airbases. Yes, some missiles would not work, some would hit and the targeting information would have be bad, some would just miss.

      There are many pages of documentation on the estimated effects of doing this. How many destroyed, damaged, impact on repair ability over the next 1 day, 2 days,… remaining communication capabilities.

      Alas, there are many, many important things that can’t be quantified / estimated.

      For example, one thing that can’t be quantified in these simulations is what the Tawainse would do then. Would the Taiwanese fight Chinese forces that landed? If they decided to fight how effective would a Taiwanese resistance the initial Chinese attempt to land?

      If the Chinese truly take the long view, a decade for Taiwan to rebuild or so under Chinese rule isn’t much. Any economic embargoes by the West would likely wind down after a few years.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Presumably, the missile threat is precisely why Taiwan is accelerating production of its domestic ABM missile. I’ve cycled and hiked around the mountains of Taiwan and its full of odd little buildings and installations – I imagine the country is studded with decoys and back up installations, precisely to protect against a surprise attack. The topography is also a defenders paradise. Of course, there is no way its airforce would survive more than a couple of hours, I’d certainly not want to be one of their pilots when told of an impending attack. But they do have a very impressive domestic military industry so they are well capable I think of delivering some surprises in the event of an attack. It’s also worth pointing out that the Japanese in particular seem very keen on helping them out – there are lots of ‘retired’ Japanese engineers apparently engaged in developing Taiwans new submarines.

        It’s impossible to tell of course, but given the virulent anti-Chinese memes I see on my normally very mild mannered and polite Taiwan friends social media, there is no chance of them surrendering quietly. The KMT would have course have sold out its population in a heartbeat if it benefited them, but they seem an increasingly spent force. I also suspect that what has happened in HK has radicalised Taiwans young people. The generation of Han Taiwanese who may have seen themselves as expat Chinese are now long passed.

        The big question of course is the military. Would they fight a last stand, or make a token stand and decide its not worth the destruction if they believe the US will not join in? I’ve not seen any evidence to suggest that they are not a very dedicated and professional organisation.

        Either way, unless Beijing is very stupid, they will have to count on having to make a full amphibious landing. They are undoubtedly prepared to do it, but they have zero experience of it. If they know their history, they will remember the PLA couldn’t even do it for Kinmen County, which is little more than a mile away from the mainland.

        But as you say, Beijing thinks long term – very long term. And they will also be very decisive if they think the time is right. But there is no guarantee that they will not seriously misjudge either their military capacities, or the response of Trump (or Biden). They have their own set of blind spots.

        1. ObjectiveFunction

          Once PLA forces came ashore in division strength, I’d expect conventional resistance to crumble swiftly and there would be little any foreign power could do in time.


          1. There has never in history been a prep bombardment that succeeded in annihilating and suppressing all or nearly all defenses prior to an opposed naval landing. Successful landings rely either on hitting weakly defending spots, or on sheer weight of numbers plus do or die willpower. Are PLA marines up for a Dieppe, OMAHA or Iwo Jima ordeal in the name of unification? Also, the beachhead(s) must be reinforced with fresh troops and supplies.

          2. Getting PLA forces in brigade plus strength across the Taiwan Strait is in no way straightforward. Various methods of sinking and crippling ships have been continuously refined and practiced in these waters since 1949, with US advice: thousands of high tech mines, torpedoes, missiles and guns. Airspace doesn’t need to be contested for these defenses to be lethal, and it would be contested.

          So what happens if some 30,000 Chinese kids on both sides perish on D-Day, but there is no beachhead and no capitulation? Does Xi nuke Taiwan? Do the US and Japan ‘quarantine’ (blockade) Chinese commerce and declare ‘Free China’? Does Japan roll out the Trident/GLCM program they’ve had in their back pocket for about 4 decades?

          Any of these outcomes would result in the fall of Xi, and quite possibly the fall of the CPC.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Yup. Obviously, only insiders really know what the ‘serious’ war-games predict, but the only way China can take Taiwan is if the Taiwan population decide its not worth fighting, which is entirely possible. If, for example, a high proportion of adults just refused the call up (most army age males are part of the reserves), the defence would probably quickly collapse.

            But if the people decided to fight, there is no guarantee whatever China could win, even if it landed successfully. Taiwan is an attackers nightmare – if you think the Normandy hedges were bad, wait until you try to cross any distance in Taiwan if the roads are blown out. It is a maze of very difficult mountains and forests, dense urban areas and frequently flooded farmland. There are any number of scenarios where it could be an absolute catastrophe for an invading Chinese army. And thats just assuming a successful landing, which would be extremely difficult given how few potential landing beaches are available.

            The problem of course for any country is that sometimes it buys its own propaganda. The more restrictive a country is with information, the more likely this is to happen. This may be a situation China is getting into.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      China and Taiwan have many important economic ties. China has long dreamed of absorbing Taiwan. From your comment, it sounds like China failed in wooing Taiwan — perhaps as a result of its treatment of Hong Kong and similar clumsy actions. I also doubt many Taiwanese have forgotten the Kuomintang takeover of their island in the late 1940s. But I very much doubt the Chinese would attack Taiwan. Why attack and possibly destroy the very capability you desire to control? Whether Taiwan is part of China or reserves some autonomy it is too near China in too many ways not to fall into the Chinese sphere of influence. The Taiwanese can see the deterioration of the US. Abe’s moves to rearm Japan, which resulted from a deal with Obama to give lukewarm lip service to Obama’s TPP treaty, could hardly be comforting to Taiwan. The Koreas have already made it clear how they feel about Japan as a counterweight to China.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The Chinese are entirely serious when they say Taiwan is part of China – their military is massively geared towards seizing the island and China has expended an enormous amount of diplomatic goodwill (and hard cash) in its long term goal of isolating the island. It is an absolute of internal CCP politics that China must be unified – its not empty rhetoric. The entire reason for tolerating HK as a semi-democratic outpost was based on reassuring the Taiwanese that they had nothing to fear from a Chinese takeover – but thats pretty much gone now, there has been a dramatic change of tone in the last 2 years.

        Taiwan has in fact very close relations with Japan, both military and diplomatically, and this goes back many decades (ironically, to the Japanese occupation of the island, which was unusually light-handed by Japanese standards). The Taiwanese consider the Japanese a much closer friend and ally than the US, although for all sorts of reasons this is not expressed openly (not least because the US has discouraged too much co-operation for its own purposes). Taiwan also has increasingly close relations with Vietnam. While it’s highly unlikely that either would militarily aid Taiwan in the event of an attack, both are well capable of making life very difficult for China in other ways.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Thank you for correcting my assumptions and old notions of China. Your corrections increase my estimates of the potential for a US – China conflict and possible nuclear war. This is none too comforting in the context of the all other problems that seem to be festering — but I come to NakedCapitalism for knowledge and a better understanding of what is happening outside my door.

          I remain most fearful of the US as far the greatest threat to peace and to all life on this beautiful blue water planet.

        2. steelyman

          They don’t need to invade.

          At some stage, and when the timing is right, China can impose a full blockade (air and sea) on Taiwan. China is in the process of completing a major decade long naval rebuilding and serious re-armaments programme*, one that includes an extensive and robust A2/AD system in the SCS, and I’m pretty sure their A2/AD planning will cover all the maritime approaches to Taiwan. China’s massive investment in anti-air and anti-ship missile weaponry, much of it state of the art, will make life extremely difficult for the USN if it attempts to break that blockade.

          * Possibly to be extended further and very soon, I expect, with a major upgrade and increase in their nuclear weapons arsenal, this in response to the non-stop sabre rattling by the US and its flunkies in the West.

          1. Bill Smith

            Blockade is one of scenarios I’ve seen gamed out. Often the purposes of gaming out the things is to see what is needed to raise the cost of such a scenario. The Taiwanese have been investing in their own anti ship missiles with some fairly long ranges but likely need better targeting capability. They recently qualified the Harpoon on their F-16’s.

            They likely need a small but modern submarine fleet raise the cost further.

            Maybe the Taiwanese will announce their own blockade in those circumstances. Which would bring things back to more regular armed conflict.

            1. steelyman

              It seems to me that without a massive USN deployment Taiwan’s options would be very limited. They cannot blockade mainland China. They don’t have the military assets to conduct such a far reaching operation.

              My feeling is that if Taiwan decides to go “hot” with China it’s game over for them.

              Btw not saying China would beat US and USN in a conventional war scenario. The PLA and PLAN are definitely true peer competitors for US but their navy is untested in combat and their submarine force isn’t a match for the USN (yet!).

              1. Jeremy Grimm

                I believe the Falklands war and the Millennium Challenge 2002 should have been a clear enough message for the US Navy. Big ships are big targets for missiles. As for US submarines, the appearance of the undetected Chinese submarine in the middle of a US exercise and near the aircraft carrier at its center should should also be a little disturbing.

              2. PlutoniumKun

                Taiwan doesn’t really have to blockade China – a Chinese aggressive blockade of Taiwan essentially means shutting down the South China Sea to non-military craft. Most Chinese trade goes through that sea. So if Taiwan declared its right to attack any vessels within range then all Chinese sea trade essentially ends right there.

  8. Charles 2

    I share Kevin Rudd assessment, but I am not sure it will end up in nuclear confrontation, at least on a short term basis. Both China and the US elites want the same thing : Renege on prosperity promises to their own population, that our planet cannot fulfil anyway, while staying in power through the gigantic economic contraction that it implies and until the population is old enough to not even think about revolting.
    In a conflictual affair, China saves face by getting Taiwan and the South China Sea (and maybe Korea and Indochina), but gets cut out from the rest of the world (in a conflict with China, Russia can get a very sweet deal with the US and especially Europe). The US/India led coalition gets the three oceans and the commodity supplies which sails on it. Europe and Russia get old in their corner and are too busy dealing with Central/Western Asia and Africa…
    Any nation that kills civilians from a first strike ends up loosing in the end as it will loose all its allies because they will struggle to differentiate themselves to avoid retaliation. If it is China, it alienates every single Asian country, and it is guaranteed to see nuclear Japan and South Korea emerge. If it is the US, it will not only alienate every Asian country, but many other places in the world, including Europe and Oceania.
    Restraint after a first nuclear strike gives enormous geopolitical power to the nation who exercises it.

    1. Diego M

      “The US/India led coalition gets the three oceans and the commodity supplies which sails on it.”

      It doesn’t seem too difficult to deny sea access to the US once you have long-range missiles and unmanned underwater vehicle swarms.

      If the US gets involved in war, sealanes will be compromised.

      China, Russia and Europe don’t need any sealanes to operate.

      I think Europe and Russia couldn’t care less whether Taiwan belongs to China.

      1. Anonthe2nd First of its Name

        No, you are incorrect–it is actually **extremely** difficult to deny access to the US. And because of the geography, you could only deny access to the US by also denying it access to Canada and Mexico (or by also denying Canada and Mexico access to the sea).

        And you have things backwards–if the US decides it is not worth going to war, then sea lanes will be compromised. And what happens at that point? Does every country build their own armada to ensure they have access? And if so, why would they be able to do this if, back to your original point, the US could not? And if China, Russia, and Europe don’t need sealanes, how exactly are they going to survive (or, perhaps better phrased, what standard of living are they going to be reduced to in order to survive)?

        1. Diego M

          Global shipping would be as safe as Atlantic shipping in 1942.

          Some regions can withstand this. The US is not one of them.

      2. Synoia

        No point in dominating the sea. Belt and Road is a sea bypass.

        The tricky part of Belt and Road is Muslim Pacification.

        I do wonder what the US could be doing to stir up Muslim discontent along the belt and road area, for example Chechnya and Uighurs,

      3. Charles 2

        China, Korea,Japan and Europe need oil from the ME. Land transportation is only good for high value fret (finished products). Neither China Nor Europe can import their oil and various ores by train only.

    2. Susan the other

      …”Both China and the US elites want the same thing: Renege on prosperity promises to their own populations, that our planet cannot fulfill anyway, while staying in power through gigantic economic contraction…” I agree with this. I think the world is also in the process of digitizing money so that it can survive on the velocity of money alone, so maybe not a lot of inflation? And no need to make a profit and reinvest it for more ill-gotten profit, etc. – that is, we will actually need lots of money to adjust to having no money and that’s how we’re gonna do it. The biggest irony of capitalism, no? It’s a little mind boggling. So it’s pretty complex and if we “simply” eliminate unwise use of resources and make societies secure with securing the basics it will create a viable economy going into the future. And accomplish the very expensive job of saving the planet. That’s my 2 cents.

  9. rob

    this type of anti-china hysteria, boogeyman peddling to the masses is exactly what the military industrial establishment does. And has for a century….. exactly.
    They stir the pot of division. The stories of potential enemies and the danger of allowing the weak to get stronger, is pushed in all forms of media. in the whole of the political spectrum.from the right to the left…. we are all urged to “worry”…. and “prepare”….
    Every sort of angle , as to why we should prepare to defend ourselves from this imminent danger(native uprising, communist threat,terrorist threat, and now chinese invasions….and russian meddling in elections)
    Their aim is to sew sew mistrust… to bring the brink of war to life… with made up stories, exaggerations of threats, pundits warning of dire choices,and even more dire consequences.
    This is what increases war budgets and gives more war powers. It gives the military greater importance.
    They don’t need to start a war… just pretend like one is unavoidable. This means…. cha-ching… more military spending and less scrutiny as to that spending…. ad infinitum.
    But really china is no match for the US. NOT EVEN CLOSE.
    but like mutual assured destruction, the idea of “going there” is ridiculous. And anyone saying it would ever be a good idea is just a useful idiot.
    So the anti-chinese hysteria in Australia, to the US is a false construct.
    Considering the business ties to the american oligarchs, the chinese are not just “an other”. The fascist state that is china, and the fascist state (in the making ) that is the US… are just “doing the dance” of keeping their populations enamored with ,”why they need us”, while they both sell out the people every day, in every way.
    Even the US military is being fed this BS… I know a commander in the us naval intelligence, who is in the process of learning mandarin, and may be heading to an embassy stint in china….. who is clueless. Believes all this horse-hockey he has been fed for a decade or two…. But he believes in economics and political science… which shows his gullibility. They are being warned of chinese cyber threats, naval threats,economic posturing…. blah,blah,blah…. and just to show his level of understanding will be voting for trump or biden.. because he is lost in the maze of misinformation. He drank the kool-aid…
    That is our greatest threat, we have people running around clueless as to what is actually going on, but think they actually know better than everyone else. Happy pawns will always be with us.

    What the US ought to do is to focus in making our govt work, and then appeal to the other billion chinese peasants who are still living on 2$ a day… and not sharing in the chinese economic expansion… and entice them to go for a democratic form of govt. The chinese gov’t has an achillies heel, they are a totalitarian dictatorship.
    Too bad the american gov’t wants to be more like the fascist chinese state, and is not in a position to be exemplar in any good way.
    We need more lao tzu, and less confucius

    1. Oh

      Good comment, Rob. China has no interest in invading Taiwan and taking it over. It has access to the latest technology in silicon wafer foundries and chip making technology, etc through Taiwan. Why would it kill the golden goose? Whether it’s Trump or Biden, the noise level pointing to China as a threat will be just as loud. The MIC loves this and will be the main beneficiary. It’s also easier for the politicians to pick the pockets of the people if they could point to China as a problem, while at the same time the huge corporations benefit by using China to manufacture their products that they can mark up several fold to sell to the people over here. This way, US govt and the mega corps will speed up the move for the country to become a faschist state.
      As an aside, I fail to see why progressives point to Biden and Rice as the architect of the Libya invasion. Before this it was Hillary. They fail to point to Obama, who was the one they served and who called all the shots. His political party should also shoulder the blame.

    2. Olga

      Your comments about “the fascist state that is china” and peasants on $2/day contradict the rest of your post. Speaking out against the potential war, while swallowing up all the anti-china propaganda makes very little sense.

      1. rob

        I call china a “fascist state”…. because it is one. They may call themselves communist or socialist, but really they are a business run state.a billionaire creating police state.
        The big business sectors are run by people who become very wealthy.The people around them become very wealthy. That is the tell tale sign of fascism. The production of personal wealth under the mandate of the state. The system also can control lesser entities thru direct action. the gov’t connected can do anything they want, and at any time they can lose favor, and be crushed.
        My definition of fascism is my own, and it includes the history of british corporations controling colonial territories,to american federalism,centralizing power, to the early socialists(mussolini and hitler) who came to be called fascists…. up through the ruling establisment of the US, who exercise a hidden fascist state of existence, however they can… sometimes less so, sometimes more so.
        “the way is hidden to the eyes”
        So my definition, is my own…
        And as far as the 2$/day….
        OOPs?. Is my example getting old? I was a 20 miles from the chinese border about 30 years ago… but didn’t want to walk up there and see, because my papers were out of date at the time…. I may be completely off these days when it comes to how many chinese have been lifted from existences where money is not something the people use all the time.
        Is the story now, poor people have more money, but the world around them expects even more money from them?
        I happen to be sympathetic to classical chinese culture. I just don’t like the communist party , and the totalitarian state , and their actions in tibet… or the states actions today.
        But I think the state has a problem, how long are the people going to be ok with the arbitrary control? I would guess as long as the ride is good… but after that?I
        but really the answer to your question may be because i know more about the propaganda machine of the west, than the reality of present day china.
        But the key point is the propaganda of the western military industrial complex…. this is just another opium war for the west.

    3. John Wright

      Ypu write “What the US ought to do is to focus in making our govt work, and then appeal to the other billion chinese peasants who are still living on 2$ a day… and not sharing in the chinese economic expansion… and entice them to go for a democratic form of govt. The chinese gov’t has an achillies heel, they are a totalitarian dictatorship.”

      It is not clear to me that the continual promotion of “democracy” is anything more than a way to avoid doing difficult policy changes by assuming, somehow, some form of “democracy” will help a population do better.

      I don’t know how others may view it, but my family was not a “democracy”, nor were the corporations I worked for, nor was the Catholic Church I was raised in.

      The US military would be difficult to cast as a “democratic” organization even though it is sent to
      restore/install “democratic” governments at different times (Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan)

      I believe having a democratic form of government is very low on the human wants scale.

      Having a job, good medical care, a safe place to live and good schools are probably universal wants and the level of a population’s satisfaction with these, helps determine the stability of their current form of government.

      If a totalitarian dictatorship does a reasonable job of providing for its people, then it may be viewed as “just fine” by many in the population and they might view changing the form of government as a great risk.

      But Woodrow Wilson took the USA to war to make the world “safe for democracy” and other USA political leaders have continued to use the same theme for more than 100 years.

      1. rob

        Well, I am a fan “of the democratic objective”…. kind of like rooting for a home team that never wins…
        And boy do I agree, all those “in the name of democracy” fallacies are the actual history of this republic.
        But still, the “democratic” meaning dispersal of power to the people… in any endeavor… is the aim. Even if seeming impractical… remember… its the team I root for. Actual deviations are a matter of reality when anything is brought into the realm of reality…
        Even though the history of this republic has been very undemocratic by design, doesn’t mean becoming less democratic is an answer likely to work
        After all, the catholic church… is a crime that has been going on for 1700 years… and the lie it disseminates, is one for control. After all they were the original western devils in china.
        And families come in all stripes…
        and corporations,well the big multinationals, are not examples people’s governments should want to emulate
        The fact that a totalitarian regime can provide all the comforts of home to some people, some times, doesn’t mean it does for everyone.. And I agree that if a lot of people are comfortable, and others who aren’t are not heard from… then that is a success in the status quo…. but not something I am a fan of. And I could imagine that if there were a benevolent despot in control, life could be good…. till his spoiled son becomes the leader and makes everyone’s life, hell… then peoples attitudes may change… and the idea is to form a more perfect union for “time”. a long time…

  10. Temporarily Sane

    The United States, as it currently exists, can’t accept being “just” a strong (but not hegemonic) power in a multipolar world because it has far too much invested in the American Exceptionalism myth. It can’t conceive of itself as a normal country.

    At the same time it is also an empire, and a nation, in decline and deeply in denial about how dysfunctional and polarized it has become. It thinks it can regain its hegemonic position as the world’s only “hyperpower” and there is no Plan B in place should this prove impossible.

    Countries like China, Russia and Iran are not going to roll over and accept hegemonic American rule no matter how belligerent the US becomes. The post-World War II era of American (and Western European) global domination is over and geopolitical power is slowly restructuring itself.

    If American leadership doesn’t learn to accept this new reality, and adjust itself accordingly, the future does not look good. Listening to the rhetoric of people like Mike Pompeo, Hillary Clinton, Tom Cotton, Samantha Power and the neoconservatives/liberal interventionists who dominate the beltway foreign policy establishment is not at all reassuring.

    The only things the mainstream left and right in D.C. agree on is a sky’s-the-limit military budget and that any talk of peace and bringing the troops home is heretical and beyond the pale. Milquetoast Bernie couldn’t even bring himself to call out the Russiagate nonsense and Tulsi Gabbard, the only politician who didn’t shy away from criticizing Empire, was shunned and made into a pariah by her colleagues and the media.

    There is no ‘other side’ with any clout…it’s rabid pro-Empire exceptionalists all the way down.

    So as economic and social chaos continue to grind down the ‘homeland’, provocative rhetoric and actions directed against various foreign “enemies” will only become more aggressive and unhinged. Given the current state of things and America’s monomaniacal Empire obsession…sooner or later a major military conflict is all but inevitable.

    1. Olga

      I don’t think it’s just about the exceptionalist myth. If there were multi-polarity in the world, with several large and equal economies, then there’d be no “enemies to fight.” What would the MIIC do in that case? They’d all have to find real jobs, G. forbid!

  11. ptb

    Re: October surprise(s) …. the logic of this is too strong to ignore.

    Of the possibilities, Taiwan seems the furthest from any phase change. Lots of posturing as usual, but global tech on all sides relies on the centers of chip manufacturing they house. So by a sort of MAD logic, they won’t be disturbed until that changes. Years or a decade+ away. Moreover, as repeatedly pointed out, China has no need to trigger a showdown with the US since it is far lower risk to proceed at a medium pace in catching up to the US and overtaking it. Pompeo et al might want to escalate, but what are they going to do in this case? There’s nothing to blow up. The next level provocative move for the US would be (1) trying to shut down commerce with the mainland, and (2) deploying US forces on the island (which would amount to the same thing). Taipei isn’t anywhere near willing to take that step.

    Iran? Are there more things that can be destroyed as provocation? yes.

    Other middle-east region — Turkey! Recalcritant leader? yes, with the bonus that much of the world is quite frustrated with him; Prime location? One of the most strategic you could think of; Form of leverage? Classic currency crisis. Problem also tractable with simple methods (in this case as a backup)? It’s been done before.

    Then you probably want to have a safety-school fallback option, in case the more ambitious ones don’t pan out. There’s always Venezuela.

  12. divadab

    Like Joe Flipping Biden will make any difference at all – completely sclerotic and unable to manage change, he’s only capable, like his party, in preserving the status quo.

    These rulers are making the only change possible catastrophic, unplannned, unmanaged change – and this will inevitably result in a totalitarian government at war with whomever.

    Full Caligula. What a waste. The result of 40 years of a hostile, looter, elite that only knows how to break – they’ve never made anything in their lives, the filthy traitorous scum.

  13. The Rev Kev

    I don’t think that relations are going to improve at all. Official Washington subscribes to the ratchet effect theory which means that target countries will have additional sanctions and measures taken again them but that once in place, hardly ever go back. A long time ago I linked to a US State Department document that stated that this was their official policy with Russia. To continuously ratchet up ‘punishments’ but never to draw them back once in place. I would expect the same with China and we have seen sanction after sanction taken against China on a monthly, if not weekly, basis.

    Actually it gets worse. The Pentagon is putting in missiles systems in Europe and trying to push them into Asia. They assure countries like Russia And China that they are regular missiles but those countries know that they warheads can be quickly swapped for nukes. That is why Russia has just announced that any ballistic missile launched at it will be treated as a nuke and will thus rate a corresponding nuclear counter-strike. I expect China to follow before too long.

    But the long and the short of it is that the US is no longer the sole hegemon like it was in the recent past. That period was an aberration and the world is going back to its regular pattern as a multi-polar world. But Washington is trying to stop this from happening in a denial of reality. A profitable reality for some corporations to be sure but the truth is that countries don’t actually get to create their own reality for other people to study. It just does not work that way.

    Finally I will say that I was very surprised to see Larry Wilkerson denounce our present ‘predatory, capitalist fuelled consumption culture’. I have heard him speak before and he has never mentioned such ideas. Some things that he has said I disagree with but he now has a much better reputation for reality-recognition than his former boss Colin Powell.

  14. Bill Smith

    “That is why Russia has just announced that any ballistic missile launched at it will be treated as a nuke”

    When did the Russians ever say differently?

    “They assure countries like Russia And China that they are regular missiles but those countries know that they warheads can be quickly swapped for nukes.”

    How is this different except for the quantity than in the past? For example, the US Navy and Air Force has been carrying various kinds of missiles, some of them allegedly stealthy for decades around the edges of Russia and China for decades.

    It is not that I consider the changes good, but more of an incremental than a startling new thing. Hmm, maybe that’s the frog’s view in the boiling water?

  15. Wukchumni

    What if the lions share of the consumer goods in our country came from Germany or Japan before WW2?

    Book Tip: A Year Without “Made in China”: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy, by Sara Bongiomi

  16. Susan the other

    Proxy wars seem to be everybody’s choice these days. Skirmishes, not big nukes. The worry might be mini nukes. But that would be a bad trend to start. If we eliminate the need for capitalist consumption we will go a long way toward eliminating skirmishes. The South China Sea/oil controversy could certainly be eased. Overfishing might be a harder one to control. Those countries (Japan) most interested in overfishing might commit themselves to a higher obligation for cleaning up the oceans and maintaining the health of the oceans. Our world has no adequate concept of giving back. It’s all take. If we resorted to new rules and regulations and means of enforcement based on both rights and obligations it would be a good step forward. No rights without the necessary obligations, etc.

  17. Jeremy Grimm

    I think Wilkerson may come to regret this statement in his interview:
    “… this consumption culture is driving us into hell. We have to figure out a way to get off this predatory, capitalist fueled consumption culture. We must. It’s debilitating for our minds, our souls, our psyche. It destroys us when all we do is think about the next 24 hours of consumption. It’s incredible. It’s ruined even the productivity of this country to the extent that we now make products and products to last two or three years when we used to make them to last 20 because we want to sell eight or nine of them in that 20-year span rather than just one. We have built a system that is poisonous, perverse, and it’s killing our very soul, and not to mention our pocketbook.”

    The rest of this interview seems like solid evidence for Adam Tooze’s statement in yesterday’s link “A Historian of Economic Crisis on the World After COVID-19”:
    “With regard to China right now, there is a remarkable discrepancy between the corporate planning of the companies that dominate the S&P 500 and the American security Establishment.”

    I do not believe a nuclear war with China is likely or inevitable. But I worry far more about the US Navy and its exploits in the China sea than I worry about the actions of China. Between Wilkerson and Ellsberg I would choose Ellsberg’s opinions on how many people can push the ‘red’ button: “…according to Ellsberg and some others, a couple of hundred people, if not more, that can actually do the same thing.” [But I would probably trust Ellsberg’s opinions on stocks and the market over those of Wilkerson. Ellsberg may have far less expertise than Wilkerson in stocks and the market but he more than makes up for that on integrity and lack of vested interest.] The US Navy has made a series of extremely poor choices in how they used their turn at the DoD front teat outdoing even the Air Force, and if the quality of line Naval Commanders is exemplified by the many recent ship collisions or the Navy way of dealing with the Corona pandemic — the US Navy becomes a great source of worry. Add in the “Pivot to Asia” geniuses in Biden’s retinue or Trump and clearly the US … not China … is the mad-dog threatening nuclear war. The US is far the greatest threat to peace and all life on this beautiful blue water planet.

  18. rd

    I think the West looks at this too much as post-WW II story. In reality, much of the origins go back 200 years to the Opium Wars and Admiral Perry in Tokyo harbor.

    Much of what China is looking to do is what Japan was truying to do pre-WW II. The European and American colonies are no longer colonies, but there is still the assumption of an American/European sphere of influence over the South China Sea region.

    Another big difference now is that the wealth of the sea floor is now accessible, whereas Japan had to occupy land areas in their pre-WW II expansion. So much of the tension is over the actual South China Sea, not the islands surrounding it.

    Formosa/Taiwan was taken by the Japanese long before WW II. Mainland China briefly reclaimed it but then lost it to the Nationalists.

  19. Anonthe2nd First of its Name

    If you want to compare the PPP of, say, France and England over time, that would be reasonable, but you *cannot* derive meaningful conclusions when using PPP to compare two different countries at two different stages of growth (such as China and the US). Even measuring GDP under those circumstances leads to misleading conclusions.

    Incidentally, any first world country can generate whatever level of GDP growth they want (more or less) in the short term by simply assuming increasing levels of debt to create that growth. And before you go down the whole “US debt levels are increasing” trope, look up the drivers of US debt and the drivers of Chinese debt.

  20. Synoia

    The Danger of War With China is Real and Insane ….

    I suspect our stock of just in time Nuts and Bolts and Washers or similar might become somewhat of a bottleneck in any war with China.

    Not to mention China’s hypersonic weapons, and the US’ Large floating targets.

  21. RBHoughton

    Its not only an incompetent sitting in the Oval Office, there is another one in Downing Street, a third in Canberra and a fourth in Canada. Its quite rare to have almost the entire Anglosphere under the leadership of gross incompetence – just what you need for war. So we know about our own incapability

    I think the Colonel is right about Taiwan. That island’s name is writ in water. It took a generation for the KMT to reduce the population to slaves, it may require another one to restore their ability as functioning humans. Nothing to see here.

    Larry Wilkerson has the honesty to say he does not know what the Chinese response to Western provocation will be. That’s the beginning of wisdom. Indeed I suspect there are hardly any western people who can predict Chinese responses – its all guesswork. This entire article evades the matter as though war is decided by the US/UK alone. Even the State Department adopts Western values in its assessments of Chinese reasoning and hopes their guesses are vaguely close to the mark. Suffice to say the outcome of constant provocations will be a surprise.

    1. polecat

      Well, you have to include whatever parliament, cabinet, or legislature are in cahoots with wherever the titular figureheads reside in high office .. no?
      Because, supposedly, THEY are the bodies who are supposed to ultimately decide what policies are to benefit the ‘people’ .. when infact, they do • No • Such • Thing, grifting for their OWN gain only .. !!

      Who are you foolin? .. Seriously!

  22. Harold Crooks

    The massive awakening and slate-cleaning called for by the estimable Colonel Wilkerson would in his view have to address the pathologies spawned by our consumerist culture. His critique of Wall Street-abetted consumerism echoes our 2011 documentary film Surviving Progress, which is anchored by energy historian and polymath author, the Czech-Canadian Vaclav Smil and heterodox economic historian and former David Rockefeller analyst Michael Hudson.

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