How Much of the World Will the US Burn in the Transition to Multipolarity? 

China recently marked the 10th anniversary of its Belt and Road Initiative ( BRI) by gathering national leaders from 23 countries across the world, including from South America, Africa, and Asia, in Beijing.

Europe essentially boycotted the Belt and Road Forum (BRF). The 2017 forum saw 10 representatives from European countries attend, and there were 11 in 2019. This year, just two European leaders made the trip: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

The US, of course, hasn’t attended any of the forums. As this most recent BRF was underway and following the BRICS expansion and the West’s increasing isolation on the Palestine-Israel issue, I couldn’t help but think of Beijing’s repeated invitations for the US to partner with them in the BRI:

The US initially dismissed the BRI and then became threatened by it.

The US could have helped steer projects that would have also benefited the US if it had partnered with China, but it’s inconceivable that the US Blob would ever seriously entertain such a proposal, which would require a complete rethink of decades of US foreign policy that prioritizes rentierism and conflict over all else.

Instead we got the usual aggressive responses: the ill-fated TPP, sanctions, export bans, a new Cold War, a spy balloon scandal, the disastrous effort to weaken Russia before taking on China, the successful effort to sever Europe from Eurasia to disastrous effect for Europe, and the desire to see a Ukraine sequel in Taiwan.

It’s impressive what the BRI has already accomplished despite setbacks here and there. According to a Chinese white paper on the BRI, released just prior to the recent forum, Beijing has “signed more than 200 BRI cooperation agreements with more than 150 countries and 30 international organizations across five continents.” And while BRI lending has dropped in recent years, it will continue to be a major piece of China’s foreign and economic policy going forward.

Imagine what it could have done with a good faith US partner. The world’s two largest economies joining together to build a more prosperous world would have been quite the development.

Rather than all the billions the US has spent in recent years pointlessly extinguishing lives in Ukraine and elsewhere, the US could have spent that money at home, say, housing the millions of Americans living in modern day Hoovervilles. They could have asked the Chinese for help to build high speed rail lines. There could be massive infrastructure spending in Latin America rather than coups and drug wars. The possibilities are endless.

Instead, Washington will spend its time hatching plans to tear down efforts like the BRI and BRICS . The US, meanwhile, is on its umpteenth plan to rival the BRI. The India-Middle East-EU transport corridor (IMEC) is the latest iteration, but it’s already running into problems with the situation in the Middle East. Aspects of the plan appeared to have lacked thought from the outset:

The anti-democracy Trans-Pacific Partnership was another one, as was the G7 “Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment,” but none have had the impact or staying power of the BRI.

That could be because the goals behind China and the US efforts are not the same. China is attempting to spread development. Sure, it isn’t just a giveaway. The BRI helps Beijing to develop new trade ties, secure critical materials, open export markets and boost Chinese incomes. What exactly is the US-led West offering?

The Council on Foreign Relations admits that “Washington has struggled to offer participating governments a more appealing economic vision.” Or is it simply that the vision offered by Washington is increasingly dystopian, anti-democratic, and filled with austerity and plunder that only enriches the already-rich in the West.

A Classic Case of US Projection

For years US officials and their friends in the media have accused Beijing of practicing debt trap diplomacy with the BRI and other lending.

Deborah Bräutigam, the Director of the China Africa Research Initiative at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, has written that this is “ a lie, and a powerful one.” She wrote, “our research shows that Chinese banks are willing to restructure the terms of existing loans and have never actually seized an asset from any country.”

Even researchers at Chatham House admit that’s not the case, explaining that the lending has instead created a debt trap for China. That is becoming more evident as nations are unable to repay, largely due to the economic fallout from the pandemic and the US proxy war against Russia in Ukraine.

So while it is not true that China engages in debt traps, the same can not be said of the West. The US plan for the world is centered on more debt, more austerity, more conflict, and more profits for American corporations, which it accomplishes by getting countries to forfeit natural resources and crack down on labor in order to deal with foreign debt and get western loans.As Michael Hudson writes in The Destiny of Civilization:

 The aim is to persuade low-wage countries that they can rise into the middle class if they let the U.S. and European investors establish factories for local labor-intensive production. A vocabulary of deception has been crafted to block them from recognizing that U.S. and European diplomacy aims at locking them into a foreign-debt trap that turns their domestic policy making over to foreign creditors. This trap enables the IMF and related U.S.-centered diplomacy to ‘bail them out’ by imposing austerity and debt deflation – capped by U.S. demands to control their rent-yielding natural resources and infrastructure monopolies.

The problem is countries are increasingly aware of this trap as its methods have been laid bare, and the US is often times left attempting to install dictators that will “cooperate” by selling out their countries. This is of course sold as joining the “democratic” West, while China represents “autocracy.”

One of the US’ biggest problems with China’s lending is that it represents an alternative to the West – and one that has also been willing to cancel and restructure debt. That is leading for calls for the West to do the same. African political economists, for example, are hopeful that China’s public and private debt forgiveness during the pandemic will apply pressure on western financial institutions to “rethink the harshness of their debt repayment-austerity governance model.”

This is what is so alarming for Washington is that China’s increased lending to Global South countries provides another option for  countries that can allow them to avoid the Western debt trap. While Chinese loans typically provide some sort of geopolitical benefit to Beijing in some way the loan terms are never anywhere near as onerous as the typical IMF loan terms

China’s  white paper released prior to the BRF can be seen as speaking to the Global South, for instance when it states, “the economic globalization dominated by a few countries has not contributed to the common development that delivers benefits to all…Many developing countries have benefited little from economic globalization and even lost their capacity for independent development, making it hard for them to access the track of modernization. Certain countries have practiced unilateralism, protectionism and hegemonism, hampering economic globalization and threatening a global economic recession.”

In August, China announced the forgiveness of 23 interest-free loans for 17 African nations, while also pledging to deepen its collaboration with the continent. Despite that gesture and its efforts to extend maturities, the West continues to hammer home the message that Beijing is engaged in debt-trap diplomacy with Yellen claiming multiple times that Beijing has become the biggest obstacle to “progress” in Africa.

While Beijing offers imperfect infrastructure-for-minerals deals, the US, offers up worthless token items like cultural ties (as Biden said at last year’s US-Africa Leaders Summit, the US has a significant population of African Americans. “I might add that includes my former boss,” he said.) and stuff like this:

It is becoming increasingly clear that the battle for hearts and minds in the Global South is over – a decisive victory for China. But much like the US’ new Cold War with Russia, the China version will also largely be decided in Europe.

Europe’s Big (Missed) Opportunity

Zhou Bo, a retired PLA colonel and current senior fellow of the Centre for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University, reveals the view from China:

The competition between the two giants won’t be in the Global South, where the US has already lost out to China, while in the Indo-Pacific, few nations want to take sides. Rather, it will be in Europe, where the US has most of its allies and China is the largest trading partner.

It wasn’t that long ago that it looked like Europe might wake up and join in the emerging multipolar world. Italy joined the BRI back in 2019. Other nations were increasing ties with Beijing and Russia (a few like Hungary still are). But that all came to a halt with the Ukraine war as the US has tightened its grip over Europe.

The contradictions and rudderlessness of the EU’s policy are evident in Italy’s attempts now to extricate itself from the BRI. Despite its economic struggles, Italy is tasked with doing so simply because that is the dominant attitude in the West now. Meanwhile Rome simultaneously seeks to boost economic ties with Beijing. Make sense? The South China Morning Post quotes Lorenzo Codogno, chief economist at the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance from 2006 to 2015, saying the following:

“The issue for Italy right now is how to move out of the [belt and road], which is a political and not an economic tool, while maintaining or maybe strengthening the economic links with China. That is the challenge Meloni faces.”

The piece also mentions the belief that Italy has damaged its reputation in the West due to its wayward ways. As Rome plots its exit, it is unthinkable that an EU state would sign on to the BRI or attempt to strengthen ties with China in today’s climate.

Germany continues its self-immolation by erecting barriers between itself and its largest trading partner. And the EU has generally become a laughingstock on the world stage due to its self-harming subservience to Washington.

China, at least, still holds out hope, with repeated statements like the following from The Global Times:

China treasures its relationship with the EU, always considering Europe as an indispensable trade and economic partner, and more importantly, a benign force to maintain global diversity and plurality in an increasingly volatile world. China’s 1.4 billion people hope that Europe could maintain its soberness and impartiality – not to toe the political line set by the US government. The EU should judge China independently.

The US government has coerced European countries to play with bans, export controls and other restrictive measures to limit Chinese access to advanced tools and technologies, a blatant assault on China’s future development prospects.

By all metrics, acting as each other’s heavyweight trade partners, the EU and China have benefited a lot from their close economic relationship. The two giant economies should build up the favorable partnership, create a fair and nondiscriminatory business environment for each other’s enterprises, and always stick to the win-win mentality.

Beijing continues to humor EU leaders but the frustration is growing, as it is elsewhere with Brussels. Meanwhile events will continue to pass the EU by as Eurasian integration continues and Brussels clings to Washington. It may take true nationalist forces in Europe to emerge in order to break the EU and the US control over the bloc. As Michael Hudson writes:

There is still a tendency to think of nationalism as a retrograde step. But for foreign countries, breaking away from today’s unipolar global system of U.S.-centered financialization is the only way to create a viable alternative that can resist the New Cold War’s attempt to destroy any alternative system and to impose U.S.-client rentier dictatorships on the world.

Now no doubt Beijing has many of its own problems with neoliberalism, surveillance, etc, but in international affairs one thing is sure. China constantly harps on win-win arrangements.

It attempts to find ways it can benefit in tandem with other nations. And it takes diplomacy seriously, thus far not resorting to force in an attempt to advance political objectives. In essence, on the world stage China is the opposite of the US, and it will continue to play an outsized role in the emerging multipolarity.

Right now, the US is making it easier for them to build a more China-centric alternative world order, helping countries overlook their differences because they see a common threat to their national interest, which is an overly aggressive declining hegemon in the US.

Indeed, it has become self-fulfilling. The more China, Russia, India, etc. build up that multipolar world order, the more the US works to undermine it with coups, sanctions, threats. This only hardens the resolve of the other powers and Global South countries.  Meanwhile the US works harder trying to tear things down.

Maybe Biden will show some statesmanship at his upcoming meeting with Xi by rethinking the US aggressive stance towards China. It would be smart domestic politics, as well. According to recent polling by National Security Action and Foreign Policy for America, only 13 percent of Americans want an aggressive approach and 5 percent want a confrontational one with China. 78 percent of Americans want to focus more on working to avoid a military conflict with China. But relying on Biden or anyone in neocon-dominated Washington for deft foreign policy isn’t a smart bet.

The real question is just how much destruction the US will cause in the transition to a more multipolar world – one where it must practice actual diplomacy and work with other countries.

That day will likely come first in Europe where there are at least rumblings of throwing off the US shackles, throwing out US lackeys, and pursuing European interests (or the interests of individual European states). The EU project may have to die first but that one can envision. Whether its Brexit forces, or the AfD in Germany, or Orban in Hungary, Fico in Slovakia, there are increasing calls for national interests (even if their idea of nationalism seeks to serve local oligarchies or right wing fantasies). Speaking of Orban, according to the Chinese readout, of his BFR meeting with Xi, Orban stated that Hungary “will continue to be China’s trusted friend and partner in the European Union” and “opposes any decoupling and breakage of supply and industrial chains or the so-called ‘de-risking’ practices.” This goes directly against the European Commission’s economic security strategy.More governments are bound to follow Orban’s lead.

As the conflicts ramp up as part of the US effort to maintain its hegemony, we will unfortunately never know what might have been instead had the US said yes to one of Beijing’s invitations to partner in the BRI and accepted a peaceful transition to a multipolar world.

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  1. DJG, Reality Czar

    Thanks, Conor. To start with a remarkable sentence that you slip in near the end of the piece: “The EU project may have to die first but that one can envision.”

    Indeed. If Nick Corbishley’s recent summing up of the incompetence of Ursula van der Leyen is any indication, she is one more cause of death:

    Anecdotally, I am hearing from Italians words like “deluso” and “delusa” (disappointed) in describing the EU. Those are polite terms, although in Italian society, one must never disappoint. Nick and Ignacio can tell us if the Spanish are disappointed, too.

    With regard to the Belt and Road Initiative (Nuova Via della Seta) and Italy, I am not finding much info from the last month or so. I suspect that Italy was pressured to make a gesture and did so: Giorgia Meloni is abject indeed in obeying the Atlanticists outside Italy.

    Yet the Italians plan to have it two ways. And they will. Here is a link to sit run by a bunch of thoroughly academic and branded Italian economists.

    Note the last paragraph: “Nel complesso, il modo in cui l’Italia sta gestendo la sua uscita dalla Bri suggerisce, ironia della sorte, un miglioramento delle relazioni con la Cina, molto probabilmente sotto forma di un quadro bilaterale di cooperazione con un dialogo economico ad hoc come quelli che Germania e Francia hanno già sviluppato con Pechino. Il risultato, tuttavia, potrebbe non essere gradito a Washington o a Bruxelles, visto lo stato delle relazioni della Cina con gli Stati Uniti e con l’Unione europea.”

    Meaning: The way that Italians are conducting their exit from BRI suggests, ironically, an improvement in relations with China… the result of which may not be welcome in Washington or Brussels.

    The Italians are notoriously good at this kind of balancing of two seeming opposites. Most likely the Italians will get their way.

    Will the self-absorbed elites in the U S of A notice? No. Meloni made the gesture, which seems to be all that matters to Washington and Ursula. I can’t imagine that the foreign-policy swamp at White House ever even factors in Italian interests. Italians are only good when the U S of A wants a photo opportunity with the Axis of Good. Italy plus San Marino, Andorra, and Capo Verde.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      In short, are historical ties and national interests of the EU countries operating behind the scenes, where the U.S., U.K., and EU can’t stick their fingers? You bet they are.

    2. Ignacio

      Hi DJG, for now I cannot tell you in exactly which direction the wind is blowing in public opinion in Spain. I cannot talk for my inner circle in which it is difficult to rise these sophisticated questions. To be sure, most Spanish people never go that far and have little knowledge of what is cooked in Brussels. Too peripheral we seem to be and focused on our internal political battles as if nothing from the EU has to do with how things are going on. Yet I am getting interesting tidbits from Brussels, where the “EU bubble” is openly talked about in the private circles that surround and navigate the gigantic bureaucracy there. With a little bit of luck I will be soon entering an interesting project which will give me a more ample view on what is going on here in Spain. I can tell you that, nearly for certain, the People’s Party (conservatives) and VOX (the supposedly nationalist far-right) are both very much wedded with the US vision of things just by default and I don’t see spectacular changes of direction in those parties unless the Spanish banks and corporations start to suffer real consequences. Nick would be able to tell you better.

      1. Ignacio

        May I talk about an anecdotal thing I have seen recently? This is about a Netflix series on the evolution of life in Earth produced by Spielberg and with the collaboration of Alastair Fothergill from the BBC which is narrated by Morgan Freeman. The narration of the evolutionary history of life is presented as a constant battle for hegemony with warfare language in every phrase. Every phrase. If one wonders whether this obsession with hegemony is deeply rooted in the US, judging by this anecdote, it seems to be there readily!

        1. Lex

          Interesting. I’ll veer further off topic since this is in a reply thread. I’ve always been fascinated by the way Darwin has been presented. To some degree it’s evident in Darwin’s writing but much more explicit in how his writing was taken. Of course his context was Victorian capitalism and it seems that he saw the world in those terms. I don’t mean this as a failing of his, just an observation. Kropotkin wrote a book length rebuttal of the Origin of Species where as a good mutual aid anarchist he saw cooperation as the driving force rather than competition.

          AFAIK, modern evolutionary science tends more towards Kropotkin than Darwin. Not that competition has no place in evolution but that symbiotic relationships and cooperation are at least equal in terms of being drivers in the process. To bring this back to the post topic, win-win relationships don’t have to mean both parties win equally every time or that they preclude competition. Making the only driver competition suggests that there can only be a race to the bottom.

          1. juno mas

            Charles Darwin never uses the words “survival of the fittest” in his writing the “Origin”. Herbert Spencer is the originator of the phrase, after reading Darwin’s “Origin “.

            What Darwin suggests is that the natural world is ordered by a constant interaction of life forms (ecology) that gives preference to species that can adapt to their existing surrounding environment through particular physical/social advantage to win the reproduction/offspring game. As the environment/ecology changes so will the adaptive specie. There is no preferred specie (as humans will soon discover with global warming).

          2. Spikeyboy

            Another fascinating read is Robert Axelrods Evolution of Cooperation. Using the Prisoners Dilemma problem, which can be a stand in for a choice between cooperation or not cooperating, he shows that the consistently best strategy is to always choose cooperation first after which you choose whatever the player last chose.
            The game is scored such that noncooperative players against cooperative take all the points (win/lose) and two cooperative players (win/win) share points but for a total less than that gained by the winning noncooperative player. With a lot of players, there is a critical mass of cooperative players that become unbeatable such that any remaining non cooperative players will become extinct.
            A proviso is that there is no coercion and that the choice made stands. My take would be, that with real world coercion it means that the critical mass will be higher and that some player will need to be able to blunt the coercive power of the dominant non cooperative player.
            One could apply all this to the current world geopolitics and realise that all that the cooperative countries require is time which will be sufficient for any non cooperative countries to make themselves either a backwater or choose to join a cooperative world

        2. The Rev Kev

          Human never got where they are by fighting for hegemony or being the last person on an island. We got here by cooperating with each other and sharing ideas and knowledge. As proof I would offer the observation that we are pack-bonders by nature because of the tens of thousand of years of history behind us. We bond with our mates and our children. We bond with our friends and neighbours. Hell, we bond with inanimate things like a desk or car or computer or even a pen. And this is why the world is in such a mess. It is because we are ruled by people who are in ‘a constant battle for hegemony with warfare language.’ Sociopaths in other words. Believers in Social Darwinism.

          1. Mikel

            “…It is because we are ruled by people who are in ‘a constant battle for hegemony with warfare language.’ Sociopaths in other words. Believers in Social Darwinism…”

            SD…I’ve suspected that to be the subtext that led to the beginning of World War I.

            1. Jams O'Donnell

              It’s not just ‘Darwin’ or ‘Darwinism’ – the basis and justification for the capitalist system is ‘competition’ – not ‘co-operation’, and the most thoroughly exponent and proponent of this system is the USA. The US has also systematically eradicated all co-operatively based theories and practices, such as Marxism and labour unions.

              1. CanCyn

                I am a librarian who spent most of my career in college libraries… I had a boss who wanted the librarians who worked for her to compete. Her idea being that better ideas and initiatives would be the outcome of any competition. I was completely puzzled by the notion as were all of my younger colleagues. We were academics working in a unionized environment that had nothing to do with profit – what was to compete for? Our job was to support teaching and learning. Said boss was an older boomer (I am technically a boomer but feel more like a Gen X if forced to choose, born in ’61). The only librarian who did compete was another older boomer – she constantly paid attention to what we were all doing and tried to do more or better but really there was no reward for her actions. It was the competition she wanted and I think our boss enjoyed whatever conflict resulted. So twisted. We achieved far more cooperating together after one retired and the other moved on.

        3. DJG, Reality Czar

          Ignacio: I think that you may have put your finger on the metaphor of the last fifty years, competition now driven to the extremes of war.

          I wonder if it is only a metaphor. Do you recall when so many books and authors were writing about the ‘territoriality’ of birds? It seemed to be the only characteristic they could see. The source, though, seemed to be post-WWII containment of communism and that territoriality.

          Now, we are “discovering” that so many animals are intelligent. They are just like computers, only better. Another metaphor–that may have come out of computing.

          And there’s the endless use of the metaphor of binary, which is about as accurate a view of human beings as social Darwinism is.

          I probably haven’t answered your observations and questions…

          1. Keith Newman

            @DJG, 10:19 am
            Regarding Darwinism and birds, the Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki did an episode some 25 years ago on his TV show The Nature of Things contrasting how an observer could look at birds through a competitive lens for ideological reasons and find some support, but observing the same behaviour through a lens of cooperation provided a much better explanation.

    3. ISL

      Most Italians do not realize the danger of playing it both ways. They should read about “Operation Gladio.” Hard to see why history will not repeat itself (barring a massive US military failure and/or dollar crash).

  2. timbers

    Kerry told him that not taking up China’s offer to jointly do the BRI was “the single biggest missed opportunity of my life”.

    Kerry might have phrased that differently, saying he was against BRI before he was for it. But Kerry displays a lack of imagination. I can think of other, bigger opportunities he missed in his life…being…against them before he was for it.

    We live in a desert of leadership but a few non Americans stand out.

  3. John R Moffett

    It is astounding how the US always accuses other countries of doing bad things (e.g., “creating debt traps in poor countries”) when in fact that is what the US is doing. The US loves to put poor countries in debt traps so it can then take over and privatize the bigeebez out of their assets. It could only happen in a country where the media have been fully captured by the government. The hypocrisy is so thick that any honest news media would be all over it.

    1. Nordberg

      Like in Animal House. “He can’t do that to our pledges! Only we can do that to our pledges!” Otter and Boon.

    1. Pym of Nantucket

      Yes. I believe the reflex to dumb down the US stance comes from a world view starting point that things must be controlled by a very small number of oligarchs. This will always produce hub-and-spoke architecture and relentlessly try to vandalize decentralized multipolarity. So, there can appear to be philosophical underpinnings from time to time, but it always always comes back to supporting a control structure with as few managers as possible. I believe these people are agnostic about life/death, philosophy, race, religion, culture or beliefs of all kinds. Above ALL else it is about control.

      They are not operating under a unified conspiracy or secret society. Their instincts result in coherent behavior arising from greed and fear of losing control. Because this tendency arises spontaneously, I believe humans must always actively work at deconstruction of these levers of influence that self perpetuate due to confirmation bias.

  4. Lex

    The American vision of perpetual competition and all things being either victory or defeat is a metaphysical problem at this point. More so because it apparently lacks an understanding of decay and decline. So it rests on an unsubstantiated axiom that its power is not subject to entropy, decline, death, etc.

    Ironically, had the US followed a path of benevolent cooperation from its position of global power it could have revitalized itself and extended its position. We have met the enemy and he is us. Putin has been open that he never wanted to bring the US down and saw value in its global leadership, but that he demanded it take Russian sovereignty into account. I’m fairly sure Xi felt the same. I don’t see any indication that anyone wants to become the global hegemon.

    It is because the US can only see competition that it assumes everyone is out to get it, that any potential competition must be crushed and that everyone would act just as the US does and has that we lurch towards an unstable multipolar world.

    1. digi_owl

      I can’t help ponder if USA as a culture is obsessed with youth, and displays of youthful vigor and recklessness.

      Maybe an artifact of being a nation built from seemingly endless shiploads of young men heading inland seeking fortune.

      1. Escapee

        I can’t help ponder if USA as a culture is obsessed with youth, and displays of youthful vigor and recklessness.

        Case in point: Great-Gramps Joe still sowing war at every opportunity as he shuffletrots to his convertible Corvette in his aviator sunglasses.

  5. ambrit

    Good overview of our eventual future, if America’s neo-cons don’t blow us all up first.
    Out here in the hinterlands, America is much more diverse and nuanced than the Swamp Dwellers imagine. As the Empire collapses, the heretofore “flyover states” will have to, out of necessity, develop their own regional polities.
    Since all memes lead to Rome, consider how the Ancient Roman Empire fell apart. Not all at once, but in a cascade of discrete separations. This might be a “Natural Law” for all I know. All I do know, from my vantage point in the “Belly of the Beast” is that it will be a bumpy ride for the peons and PMCs alike.
    Stay safe.

    1. Keith Newman

      @ambrit, 10:09 am
      I believe Michael Hudson’s take on the break-up of the US is that while the factions that run the country today (Wall Street, Big Oil, the Military+) won’t allow an actual break-up it will happen via states increasingly refusing to follow federal laws they don’t agree with.

  6. SocalJimObjects

    Because of the US Dollar, the answer is everything. Remember the transition from Sterling to the US Dollar? Took two World Wars to get it done. Thankfully this time around we’ll just need one, because it’s probably the Final Battle. I have popcorns ready, but I should probably also stock up on anti radiation pills.

    1. Polar Socialist

      All this is way above my paygrade, but I’ve believe that the claim it took decades and two world wars to transfer from sterling to dollar was made by Robert Triffin in 1960 in his Gold and the Dollar Crisis: The future of convertibility. On since 2009 or so have economist actually looked into the data available and the “new view” since 2011 or so is that it took only 1919 to 1929 for the dollar to take over from sterling,

      Also, considering that there were gold reserves still around and that the international trade and financing was completely different from the modern world, maybe we should not make predictions of the future based on the past behavior since we may not be talking about the same system anymore.

      Or, in other words: “… a shift from a dollar-based system to a multipolar system is not impossible. While it will still take time, the shift could occur sooner than commonly believed.

  7. The Rev Kev

    Not sure what the US could have brought to the table in joining the Chinese except maybe finance. The US once had a reputation for being bold engineers like with the first transcontinental railroad, the Panama canal. the Empire Sate building and Hoover dam. Does the US still do those types of massive projects anymore? Is the technical capacity still there to do it after fifty years of Neoliberalism? Regrettably if the US wanted high-speed rail, they would have to ask the Chinese to build it for them. So engineering wise, just what could the US bring to the table.

    1. Vodkatom

      Maybe it’s good the US didn’t join, if our form of finance was the contribution. We’d probably do more harm to the BRI working from the inside. Finance seems to insidiously affect those close to it. To your point the US used to do serious engineering, it’s was MBAs that destroyed that. Think Boeing, GE, etc. China dodge a bullet there.

    2. chris

      It is very hit or miss. Typically, no. We don’t build big any more. We don’t take risks. We don’t think big or long term so building big is impossible.

      Ironically, the best examples I can give of US related government backed projects that are building big and thinking big are DOD related. For example, Blue Grass is shutting down because it completed its mission to decontaminate the population of chemical weapons it was built to destroy. It is an unequivocal good that so many weapons of mass destruction were destroyed by the US government. It took a lot of engineers to come up with the process to do it. It took a lot of people to build the site and the processing equipment. It finished the mission ahead of schedule. I wish we had that commitment for more problems.

  8. thoughtfulperson

    I liked this paragraph, a great reminder:

    “Rather than all the billions the US has spent in recent years pointlessly extinguishing lives in Ukraine and elsewhere, the US could have spent that money at home, say, housing the millions of Americans living in modern day Hoovervilles. They could have asked the Chinese for help to build high speed rail lines. There could be massive infrastructure spending in Latin America rather than coups and drug wars. The possibilities are endless.”

    I think that this sort of questioning, why can’t we have nice things?, why does the Pentagon and militarism get a blank check and we are stuck raising funds for the feeding children with bake sales and the like? These questions are starting to become a bit more widespread. I certainly hope we get an answer soon to the not eternal question
    “how many deaths will it take ’til he knows
    That too many people have died?”

    Revolutions podcast and history in general shows revolutions do eventually happen from time to time

      1. John k

        Big corps don’t make money on building houses, too competitive. Single sourced buying for wars are where the money is. Plus there’s a skilled labor shortage… if they’re building homes labor rates would go up for our monopolies.

  9. polar donkey

    For most of the past 25 years, I have told friends and family the world doesn’t have to be this way. They always looked at me like I was crazy. Recently, many of them don’t think I’m as crazy anymore, right before start of WW3. So I got that going for me.

  10. Rip Van Winkle

    How does this square with China being a key member of Johnson’s Axis Of Evil? Is the Ming Dynasty making a comeback? In the event of full-scale nuclear annihilation, what will Bezo and Waltons sell?

    1. Roger

      The “Axis of Evil” is always those nations that refuse to be subjugated by the West and have significant resources to resist that subjugation, its just like in the book 1984. The “Axis of Evil” will change over time and the histories of former cooperation are removed. That’s why the Soviet Union’s main role in defeating Nazism had to be destroyed and Stalin deemed (in the West) to be as bad as Hitler, plus all those utterly propagandist “victims of communism” monuments. Of course there are no “victims of colonialism” or “victims of Western aggression and neo-colonialism monuments”.

      Up to 2003 Putin was seen as a good buddy of Bush, then he moved against the oligarchs and suddenly he was The Devil/Hitler … Saddam Hussein was a good client of the US until the US decided he wasn’t, same with the drug smuggling head of Panama etc. Same old same …

  11. John k

    I find it hard to believe that, had Kirby said yes to China, we would have begun a genuine cooperation with China (as opposed to working inside to destroy it), much less that banks/mic/corp donors would have allowed a genuine effort to continue… tho can’t imagine any us president this century that would have allowed it
    The us will fight multi-polar as long as it can, the current ME disaster seems likely to accelerate the change as the world watches the israel/us imposing genocide in horror.
    I just read LA times article reporting heaviest bombardment to date ‘from land and sea’. I guess the us is the sea bit. Plus the us is participating and maybe running the land invasion… I would think row, and maybe some in eu, would find BRICS etc a more attractive option.

  12. ffcvo

    Why does China own Piraeus? Could it have something to do with the “Greek Debt Crisis”? Would love to hear a knowledgeable opinion on this.

  13. JonnyJames

    How much of the world will burn in the transition? Not to sound hyperbolic, but the chances of global nuclear confrontation have increased significantly, from already dangerous levels. Israel has commenced its ground invasion of Gaza, Iran has said “red lines” have been crossed…

    Also, as mentioned, the US has also pushed towards crossing China’s “red lines” re: Taiwan, military provocations, sanctions, “containment of China” policy (cordon sanitaire?) attacking China’s allies etc. ( “pivot to Asia”, (see Zbig B. The Grand Chessboard)

    A question I have had for some time, reflected in at least one other comment here: since the US imports such a huge quantity of manufactured goods from China, what will happen if a full economic war with embargoes etc. breaks out? Will the US try and re-industrialize with cheaper domestic labor?

    Michael Hudson and others have said that this will not be possible as there is too much overhead for US workers: sky-high housing costs, world’s most expensive “health care” etc.. Even with cheaper labor and reduced working conditions, the US will not be competitive. Besides, it would take many years to re-build the infrastructure necessary for such a re-industrialization.

    So, what are our “elected leaders” and “foreign policy elites” thinking? As Mr. Gallagher notes: we will never know what might have happened if the US had taken a different course.

  14. VietnamVet

    This post is the crux of why so far WWIII is playing out exactly the same as WWI. Both wars are about globalism and the old Aristocracy’s and today’s Neo-oligarchs’ right to exploit the earth’s resources and labor for their sole benefit. Soldiers on both sides in the trenches are worthless, a great place to send the imprisoned.

    The first war ended in an armistice when the blockaded Germany’s economy collapsed. If OPEC+ embargoes oil to the West, the current NATO leaders are so incapable of leading their peoples and sharing and finding a way to survive on a third of the world’s resources that an economic collapse is guaranteed. As the Gaza cleansing indicates, there is no way to deescalate these mercenary wars of profit. By mistake, or intentionally, a nuclear apocalypse is the probable outcome unless democracy and peace are given a chance.

  15. Altandmain

    The US could never say yes to something like the Chinese Belt Road project, simply because that would imply that the project had genuine legitimacy. They don’t care if not joining in the BRI would hurt the US and EU.

    Conor, one thing that I think is clear is that the US ruling class is increasingly desperate to try and hold onto hegemonic status forever. The actions of the US are not those of a confident power that is rising, but rather those resembling a collapsing state.

    Yet at the same time, the US plutocracy seems to be doubling down on their failed strategy. As the article noted, seems to be an attempt to bully other nations into obedience and to intensify the level of propaganda (a lot of it is really Western projection of what the West does to the developing world).

    The fundamental problem is that the US ruling class doesn’t know how to govern. By govern, I mean running the nation effectively in terms of both day to day operations and over the long run, increase the power of the nation. Most of the ruling class that is in power today inherited their power from the work of previous generations. Before his incarceration, Gonzalo Lira noted that the current generation of leaders were like a bunch of wealthy kids that spent away their parents inheritance.

    The problem the ruling class, being incapable of governing has is that it can’t build up any real infrastructure on the scale that China has and it seems that other nations are making rapid relative gains in terms of technology. At the same time, the ruling class has no desire to improve the standard of living for the citizens living in their nation’s, at the same time that China and Russia are seeing improvement in their standard of living for the common citizen.

    Even if the US tried, as the article said, the US would be unable to build anything like the Belt Road infrastructure that China has built. There are other examples. High speed rail is another well known example. Contrast the faltering California high speed rail project or the UK one with what China has accomplished. Another example that has recently received attention is the Chinese progress on semiconductor technology and the backfiring sanctions.

    The result for the US has been a loss of relative power, loss of political legitimacy (note the desperate need for suppressing populist candidates, which would never have gained popularity to begin with had the ruling class governed the nation well), and the burning of diplomatic bridges with the rest of the world. Legitimacy comes from competence and delivering a high standard of living to your people. That’s why China’s legitimacy is not under shaky ground.

    I think that for ordinary Americans and indeed the world, the best outcome is an eventual 1991 moment for the US and a better leadership that succeeds the current regime.

  16. RockTaster

    Very nicely worded Altandmain. Our PMC seemed to have skipped over the basics of leadership. Get your team to buy-in to an encouraging vision of the future, support them, so they can pursue the goal, be humble, admit your shortcomings, praise your team for every success, publicly and often. It’s more like being led by the owners heir, who can hardly mumble past the silver spoon

  17. Iris

    The Rockefeller Plan for the BRICS New World Order, in their own words…

    “Take note of how the passage says “combined so as to be able to deal with those problems that increasingly the separate nations will not be able to solve alone.” Here they are telling us that they’ll be purposefully creating increasingly difficult problems to compel the nations to accept the NWO. We’ve certainly been witnessing that, haven’t we?

    As for the NWO structure itself, we’re told that it will “consist of regional institutions under an international body of growing [to the point of total control] authority.” Elsewhere in the book, we’re told that the NWO will also include functional structures for matters that require management beyond the regional boundaries.”

    “So while the front page news has blaring headlines about the supposed conflict between West and East, you’ll find the truth a little deeper in the paper: that all these political types work for the same bosses and are actually buddies behind the scenes. Don’t be distracted by the public puppet theater.”

    Mcduff’s Mindfields, ep 181: “Rockefeller and the BRICS”

    Mainstream globalist propaganda reveals East/West conflict is a farce

    “For anyone who might still believe that the US/NATO versus Russia/BRICS geopolitical confrontation is real, here is a little blast from the past… It is the cover from the January 9, 1988 issue of The Economist magazine. Note the phoenix rising from the ashes of burning national currencies, including the dollar.

    “THIRTY years from now, Americans, Japanese, Europeans, and people in many other rich countries, and some relatively poor ones will probably be paying for their shopping with the same currency. Prices will be quoted not in dollars, yen or D-marks but in, let’s say, the phoenix. The phoenix will be favored by companies and shoppers because it will be more convenient than today’s national currencies, which by then will seem a quaint cause of much disruption to economic life in the last twentieth century…

    …The phoenix would probably start as a cocktail of national currencies, just as the Special Drawing Right is today. In time, though, its value against national currencies would cease to matter, because people would choose it for its convenience and the stability of its purchasing power…

    …The phoenix zone would impose tight constraints on national governments. There would be no such thing, for instance, as a national monetary policy. The world phoenix supply would be fixed by a new central bank, descended perhaps from the IMF…

    …Governments are far from ready to subordinate their domestic objectives to the goal of international stability. Several more big exchange-rate upsets, a few more stock market crashes and probably a slump or two will be needed before politicians are willing to face squarely up to that choice…

    …Pencil in the phoenix for around 2018, and welcome it when it comes.”

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