China's New Silk Road, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is a clear manifestation of Beijing’s economic rise. As the Brookings Institute recently noted,
"For the first time in the history of the Westphalian system, Asian and other non-European heritage countries are not only ascending to central places in the global order, but are refashioning its structure."
The initiative will revive the notion of the ancient silk roads trade routes - sort of "Marco Polo in reverse." It is, at its heart, a massive world-wide infrastructure project, reaching back into the heart of Europe. China has initiated $US1 trillion in projects, including roads, railways, ports and maritime routes to facilitate the new and revived trade corridors. When complete, the plan will incorporate countries that combined account for 60 percent of the world's population and one-third of its GDP.
The Silk Road project signals tectonic shifts in the global order toward not only a more multipolar world, but a more multicultural international system.
The Brookings' analysis identifies three primary three factors at play - economic, strategic, and image/culture. From an economic standpoint, BRI "enables China to export its surplus productive capacity. Furthermore, many of the 68 countries involved in the project export the raw materials and energy that China requires." The initiative also projects China's important strategic interests. As Brookings suggests,
It serves Beijing’s other overarching foreign policy goal: to reach strategic parity with the United States in Asia and reshape its security environment to ensure its rise is unrestrained. A central concern is China’s trade routes being cut off in the event of confrontation with the United States, given that it is surrounded by a string of American friends and allies. To this end, BRI increases Beijing’s influence in states all along these trade routes, from East Asia, through the Indian Ocean and Central Asia, then the Middle East and on to Africa and Europe. Many of the projects can serve dual economic and strategic purposes, such as the ports in Gwador (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), and Djibouti. These have often spurred Washington to reach out to these countries as well.
Image and cultural values also drive BRI:
Prestige has long been a dominant value in hierarchical Chinese society, and continues to influence policymakers. This is infused with the concept of mianzi or face, which prioritizes recognition by others. Similarly, Confucian ideas surrounding benevolent leadership are clear in China’s “peaceful rise” rhetoric and President Xi Jinping’s pronouncements of new, cooperative methods of international relations, all of which sets the tone for BRI. Beijing seems to wish to demonstrate how its civilizational experience of centralized power contrasts with Europe’s pre-modern history of small, warring statelets.
The Chinese public and policymakers see theirs as a great civilization that suffered colonial-era humiliation and now deserves global recognition. Many see BRI as a major step in a historical course correction. In 1600, just prior to the colonial era, China was the world’s largest economy, accounting for 29 percent of world GDP. Along with India, it accounted for more than half the world’s economy. Two centuries earlier, Chinese admiral and explorer, Zheng He, traversed the maritime route of the current BRI, establishing trade and diplomatic relationships. Beijing’s labeling of this 21st century initiative “Silk Road” and the project’s geography hark back to a grand past, a past when European-heritage powers were not dominant and the New World was yet to be colonized.
Perhaps the most telling comment in the Brookings' analysis is this: "The imagery of the silk route conceives of an interlinked Eurasian landmass that does not include the United States." [emphasis ours] America's increasing isolationism, inherent in Orange Thing's MAGA and "America first" sloganeering, facilitates perfectly China's rise, something OT and official Washington seem not to comprehend.
In a thoughtful and well-reasoned commentary on BRI in Monthly Review, its authors recognize as a vital component of the initiative the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as they declare that the initiative is part of "China's strategy for a new global financial order."
China has taken a leading role in the establishment of a new set of international economic institutions, including the New Development Bank, the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement, the AIIB, and the Silk Road Fund, as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Together they represent a regional counterweight to Western-led entities like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank - and more recently, the European Central Bank - that have dominated the global financial order since the introduction of the Bretton Woods system after the Second World War.
While the hegemony of the dollar is unlikely to be challenged in the near-term, it seems clear that the renminbi will continue to gain power as an international currency. China's financial ties to BRI nations will thus become more far-reaching, increasing the strategic leverage of China's capital exports. This is not lost on the U.S.
One goal of the Obama administration’s “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific was to prevent the emergence of a mutually beneficial Asian currency alliance among China, Japan, and South Korea, which would have threatened the primacy of U.S. currency in the region. Toward that end, the United States encouraged the right-wing restoration in Japan under Shinzo Abe, helping form a defensive Pacific ring to contain China. In addition, the United States has sponsored the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in part to ensure that the Asia-Pacific region will remain a dollar stronghold. The AIIB represents China’s response. Though the United States put strong pressure on its European and Asian allies not to join the bank, since its founding in 2015 the AIIB has already attracted a prominent international membership, including not only major developing economies such as Brazil, India, and Russia, but also France and the United Kingdom.
Awkwardly for the United States - which launched the TPP with the original intent of blocking China - the AIIB marks the first time since before Bretton Woods that the United States has been excluded from an important international financial structure. When trusted European allies like the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, and others announced their participation, Obama called an emergency national security meeting. The reason is clear: the AIIB challenges, albeit still within an institutional framework, the U.S. financial hegemony that has prevailed since the Second World War.
Of course, these allies are not jumping ship from the U.S. dollar-dominated system just yet, but only hedging their bets, as that hegemony has shown clear signs of exhaustion. In setting up the AIIB, China has stressed shared interests and cooperation among member nations, the better to attract interested allies.
The institutional coherence of this alliance has been slipping for some time. A primary purpose of the Bretton Woods system was to facilitate exports of excess industrial capacity and capital from the United States. The interests of postwar growth in the United States and recovery in Europe were in line. In 1971, when the Nixon administration unpegged the dollar from gold and the United States began to export liquidity on a large scale, these moves likewise seemed to serve the interests of European financial institutions. However, over the last two decades the fundamental needs of the two have come into conflict. Reforms within the IMF have stalled, because the United States does not want to give up its veto power, while other international financial organizations long dominated by the United States have proven unable to accommodate the rapid rise of East Asian economies. The AIIB, led by China, is a clear outcome of these trends.
The commentary in Monthly Review also draws important distinctions between the U.S. and Chinese systems in their approach to development. As the article notes, in the three decades after World War II the United States "successfully exported an ideology of industrial development that suited its economic and military interests alike." But as many emerging countries were left mired in debt by this "World Bank-directed developmentalism," American diplomatic discourse shifted in the 1980s toward institution-building, democracy, and liberty. [Andrew Bacevich speaks of this in some detail elsewhere on our site] This approach was clear following the first Gulf War, where the cause of “liberty and democracy” became the main theme of U.S. geopolitical ideology. As the article notes:
However, in the last decade, imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have sparked a concatenation of regional conflicts, not only causing death and displacement on a massive scale, but fostering the rise of organizations like the Islamic State. Official talk of liberty and democracy, always disingenuous, has been decisively discredited. “Security” and “stability” are now the watchwords of U.S. strategy; the old causes of global peace and prosperity have fallen victim to the United States’ own catastrophic interventions.
In contrast, the official ideology behind BRI is peaceful development - to sponsor infrastructure investments and facilitate economic development, promoting cooperation and minimizing conflict. In China's view, there is a clear contrast between peaceful development that is more sensible and sustainable on the one hand, and the U.S.-style militarized security, where "poverty and injustice are hotbeds for extremism." As the authors suggest:
Given that BRI is a contest for institutional influence in East Asia, the deciding factor for success or failure may be the competitiveness of its guiding discourses. China must promote a message of social justice and equitable development to counter the soft power of institutional transition that the United States has pushed since the 1980s.
On This Page From the discussion above, it should be clear that the New Silk Road terrifies Washington. Appropriate, then, that we continue this page with a commentary from Pepe Escobar under that same title. Escobar is a leading figure in understanding and translating for the West the nuances of BRI - also previously known as "One Belt One Road", or OBOR - from his seat at Asia Times Online. As he says in his piece,
A few solid IQs at least may understand that China’s “threat” to the U.S. is all about economic might. Take Washington’s deep hostility towards the China-driven AIIB (Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank). Yet no amount of hardcore U.S. lobbying prevented allies such as Germany, Britain, Australia and South Korea from joining in.
The American "pivot" to Asia [described more completely on an appended subpage] describes the U.S. intent to prevent China "from strategically dominating the Pacific."
With the pivot to Asia configured as a tool to “deter Chinese aggression”, exceptionalists have graphically demonstrated how they are incapable of admitting the whole game is about post-ideological supply chain geopolitics. The U.S. does not need to contain China; what it needs, badly, is key industrial, financial, commercial connection to crucial nodes across Asia to (re)build its economy.
Two additional Escobar posts follow, bringing greater detail (and considerable colour) to the subject of OBOR, ultimately arriving at the notion of competing philosophies raised earlier in the Monthly Review piece,
At present, the choice between the two available models on the planet seems stark indeed: Eurasian integration or a spreading empire of chaos. China and Russia know what they want, and so, it seems, does Washington. The question is: What will the other moving parts of Eurasia choose to do?
A little research into Escobar's written work, beyond the few examples provided in this space, will reward your own investigations. And his video presentations (such as here, here, and here) are fascinating, on subject matter in which you need to be much better informed.
For the American perspective on these events, we conclude the page with commentaries by Mike Whitney and John Walsh, both originally published in Counterpunch, one of America's premier online magazines. As Whitney writes, Washington is worried because:
China has transformed itself into an economic powerhouse that doesn’t conform to the neoliberal model of punitive austerity, pernicious privatization, and madcap asset inflation. China has slipped out of the empire’s orbit and charted its own course, which is why Washington wants to provoke Beijing over its negligible land reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Washington thinks it can succeed militarily where it has failed economically and politically.
In Whitney's calculation, U.S. antagonism will extend only so far because "the two countries need each other and are bound together in a complex web of economic and financial ties, including China’s massive holding of U.S. debt which amounts to an eyewatering $1.3 trillion." On that basis he draws a clear distinction between the level of belligerence America will direct toward China versus Russia:
This interdependence means that the U.S. cannot abuse China in the same way it has Russia without putting itself at risk. So, while the U.S. still maintains the dominant position economically and militarily, it can’t simply throw caution to the wind by imposing sanctions or escalating hostilities beyond a certain point without jeopardizing its own security. China knows this, which is why it will continue to pursue its own agenda aggressively while deflecting U.S. belligerence and hostility as best as it can.
In his post, Walsh gets to the heart of the matter when he says: "Growth in China’s economic power therefore closes the door on U.S. global hegemony." If we recall the words of Donald Rumsfeld, America remains steadfast in its determination not to change the way it lives, and it is just as clear that others must enable the U.S. lifestyle as they observe compliantly from the sidelines. Walsh thus comments, "The only way for the U.S. to maintain the hope of such hegemony is for China to change course and accept a lesser standard of living. But China will not accept such a second class status voluntarily." Walsh notes correctly that development and prosperity is not a zero sum game, and draws similar contrasts between the U.S. and Chinese approaches to leadership made by Escobar and the authors of the Monthly Review post. It leads him to conclude:
If the United States insists on its status as the dominant and unchallengeable military power, then we are on the road to conflict, certainly a new Cold War the beginning of which the “pivot” represents, and quite possibly we are on the road to WWIII. We in the United States are the ones who can control this and perhaps save the world from the very worst suffering and deadly conflict. The answer is to abandon Empire, dismantle our overseas bases, end our occupation of foreign nations, including South Korea, Japan and Germany, adopt a defensive strategy to protect our land and come home. Trade and talk, yes. Military intervention, no. We have a potential partner for peace in China. Let us give it a try. Establish trust and verify it. In short, Come Home America. A paradise awaits us here. Let us leave others in peace to construct their own.
In the New Silk Road we can see the end of American exceptionalism, the end of the Pax Americana. But only if Americans find courage in the words of John Walsh, Andrew Bacevich, Pepe Escobar, Peter Kuznick, and others quoted on this site. A terrified Washington may yet employ other means to maintain the American way of life.
The New Silk Road Terrifies Washington
by Pepe Escobar...
Almost six years ago, President Putin proposed to Germany 'the creation of a harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.' This idea represented an immense trade emporium uniting Russia and the EU, or, in Putin’s words, “a unified continental market with a capacity worth trillions of dollars.” In a nutshell: Eurasia integration. Washington panicked. The record shows how Putin’s vision – although extremely seductive to German industrialists - was eventually derailed by Washington’s controlled demolition of Ukraine.
Three years ago, in Kazakhstan and then Indonesia, President Xi Jinping expanded on Putin’s vision, proposing One Belt, One Road (OBOR), a.k.a. the New Silk Roads, enhancing the geoeconomic integration of Asia-Pacific via a vast network of highways, high-speed rail, pipelines, ports and fiber-optic cables.
In a nutshell: an even more ambitious version of Eurasia integration, benefiting two-thirds of the world population, economy and trade. The difference is that it now comes with immense financial muscle backing it up, via a Silk Road Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB), and an all-out commercial offensive all across Eurasia, and the official entry of the yuan in the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights; that is, the christening of the yuan as a key currency worth holding by every single emerging market central bank.
At the recent G20 in Huangzhou, President Xi clearly demonstrated how OBOR is absolutely central to the Chinese vision of how globalization should proceed. Beijing is betting that the overwhelming majority of nations across Eurasia would rather invest in, and profit from, a “win-win” economic development project than be bogged down in a lose-lose strategic game between the U.S. and China. And that, for the Empire of Chaos, is absolute anathema. How to possibly accept that China is winning the 21st century / New Great Game in Eurasia by building the New Silk Roads?
Don't Forget the Silk Road in Syria Few in the West have noticed, as reported by RT, that the G20 was preceded by an Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. Essentially, that was yet another de facto celebration of Eurasia integration, featuring Russia, China, Japan and South Korea. And that integration plank will soon merge with the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union – which in itself is a sort of Russian New Silk Road.
All these roads lead to total connectivity. Take for instance cargo trains that are now regularly linking Guangzhou, the key hub in southeast China, to the logistics center in Vorsino industrial park near Kaluga. The trip now takes just two weeks – saving no less than a full month if compared with shipping, and around 80 percent of the cost if compared with air cargo. That’s yet another New Silk Road-style connection between China and Europe via Russia. Still another, vastly more ambitious, will be the high-speed rail expansion of the Transiberian; the Siberian Silk Road.
Then take the closer integration of China and Kazakhstan – which is also a member of the EEU. The duty-free Trans-Eurasia railway is already in effect, from Chongqing in Sichuan across Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland all the way to Duisburg in Germany. Beijing and Astana are developing a joint free trade zone at Horgos. And in parallel, a $135 million China-Mongolia Cross-Border Economic Cooperation Zone started to be built last month.
Kazakhstan is even flirting with the ambitious idea of a Eurasian Canal from the Caspian to the Black Sea and then further on to the Mediterranean. Sooner or later Chinese construction companies will come up with a feasibility study.
A virtually invisible Washington agenda in Syria – inbuilt in the Pentagon obsession to not allow any ceasefire to work, or to prevent the fall of its “moderate rebels” in Aleppo – is to break up yet another New Silk Road hub. China has been commercially connected to Syria since the original Silk Road, which snaked through Palmyra and Damascus. Before the Syrian “Arab Spring”, Syrian businessmen were a vital presence in Yiwu, south of Shanghai, the largest wholesale center for small-sized consumer goods in the world, where they would go to buy all sorts of products in bulk to resell in the Levant.
The "American Lake" Neocon/neoliberalcon Washington is totally paralyzed in terms of formulating a response – or at least a counter-proposal - to Eurasia integration. A few solid IQs at least may understand that China’s “threat” to the U.S. is all about economic might. Take Washington’s deep hostility towards the China-driven AIIB (Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank). Yet no amount of hardcore U.S. lobbying prevented allies such as Germany, Britain, Australia and South Korea from joining in.
Then we had the mad dash to approve TPP – the China-excluding, NATO-on-trade arm of the pivot to Asia that was meant to be the cherry of the mostly flat Obama global economic policy cake. Yet the TPP as it stands is practically dead.
What the current geopolitical juncture spells out is the U.S. Navy willing to go no holds barred to stop China from strategically dominating the Pacific, while TPP is deployed as a weapon to stop China dominating Asia-Pacific economically. With the pivot to Asia configured as a tool to “deter Chinese aggression”, exceptionalists have graphically demonstrated how they are incapable of admitting the whole game is about post-ideological supply chain geopolitics. The U.S. does not need to contain China; what it needs, badly, is key industrial, financial, commercial connection to crucial nodes across Asia to (re)build its economy.
Those were the days, in March 1949, when MacArthur could gloat, “the Pacific is now an Anglo-Saxon lake”. Even after the end of the Cold War the Pacific was a de facto American lake; the U.S. violated Chinese naval and aerial space at will. Now, instead, we have the U.S. Army War College and the whole Think-Tankland losing sleep over sophisticated Chinese missiles capable of denying U.S. Navy access to the South China Sea. An American lake? No more.
The heart of the matter is that China has made an outstanding bet on infrastructure building – which translates into first-class connectivity to everyone – as the real global 21st century commons, way more important than “security”. After all a large part of global infrastructure still needs to be built. While China turbo-charges its role as the top global infrastructure exporter – from high-speed rail to low-cost telecom - the “indispensable” nation is stuck with a “pivoting”, perplexed, bloated military obsessed with containment.
Divide and Rule Those "Hostile" Rivals Well, things haven’t changed much since Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski dreaming in the late 1990s of a Chinese fragmentation from within, all the way to Obama’s 2015 National Security Strategy, which is no more than futile rhetorical nostalgia about containing Russia, China and Iran.
Thus the basket of attached myths such as “freedom of navigation” - Washington’s euphemism for perennially controlling the sea lanes that constitute China’s supply chain – as well as an apotheosis of “China aggression” incessantly merging with “Russia aggression”;after all, the Eurasia integration-driven Beijing-Moscow strategic partnership must be severed at all costs. Why? Because US global hegemony must always be perceived as an irremovable force of nature, like death and taxes (Apple in Ireland excluded).
Twenty-four years after the Pentagon’s Defense Planning Guide, the same mindset prevails:
"Our first objective is to prevent the reemergence of a new rival…to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union and southwest Asia”.
Oops. Now even Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski is terrified. How to contain these bloody silky roads with Pentagon “existential threats” China and Russia right at the heart of the action? Divide and Rule – what else? For a confused Brzezinski, the US should:
“fashion a policy in which at least one of the two potentially threatening states becomes a partner in the quest for regional and then wider global stability, and thus in containing the least predictable but potentially the most likely rival to overreach. Currently, the more likely to overreach is Russia, but in the longer run it could be China.”
Have a pleasant nightmare.
Written by Pepe Escobar, first published in RT on October 7, 2016
The Rise of the Chinese Dream
by Pepe Escobar...
Beijing is advancing a Chinese-led globalization that will challenge U.S. hegemony both regionally and globally.Earlier last week, the first Chinese commercial train, with 32 containers, arrived in Tehran after a less than 14-day journey from the massive warehouse of Yiwu in Zhejiang, eastern China, crossing Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. This is a 10,400 km-long trip. Crucially, it’s also no less than 30 days shorter compared to the sea route from Shanghai to Bandar Abbas. And we’re not even talking about high-speed rail yet – which in a few years will be installed all along from eastern China to Iran and onward to Turkey and, crucially, Western Europe, enabling 500-plus container trains to crisscross Eurasia in a flash.
When Mohsen Pour Seyed Aghaei, president of Iran Railways, remarked that, “countries along the Silk Road are striving to revive the ancient network of trade routes,” he was barely touching the surface in what is an earth-shattering process. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran only last month - the first global leader to do so after nuclear sanctions were lifted. Then the heirs to the former Silk Road powers – imperial Persia and imperial China – duly signed agreements to boost bilateral trade to $600 billion over the next decade.
And that is just the beginning.
Trade Wars and Air/Sea Battles To frame the earth-shattering process in a strategic perspective, from the Chinese point of view, it’s enlightening to revert to a very important speech delivered last summer by General Qiao Liang at the University of Defense, China’s top military school. It’s as if Liang’s formulations would be coming from the mouth of the dragon - Xi - himself.
Beijing’s leadership assesses that the U.S. won’t get into a war against China within the next 10 years. Pay attention to the time frame: 2025 is when Xi expects China to have turned into a “moderately prosperous” society as part of the renewed Chinese Dream. And Xi for his part would have fulfilled his mandate – arguably basking in glory once enjoyed only by the Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping. The secret for the next 10 years, as General Liang framed it, is for China to overhaul its economy (a work in progress) and internationalize the yuan. That also implies striking an Asian-wide free trade pact – which is obviously not the Chinese-deprived American TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), but the Chinese-driven RCEP.
General Liang directly connects the internationalization of the yuan to something way beyond the New Silk Roads, or One Belt, One Road, according to the official Chinese denomination. He talks in terms of a Northeast Asia free trade agreement, but in fact what’s in play, and what China aims at, is the trans-Asia free trade agreement. As a consequence, a “ripple effect” will divide the world:
“If only a third of the global money is in the hands of the dollar, how can the U.S. currency maintain its leadership? Could a hollowed out United States, left without monetary leadership, still be a global leader?”
So the decline of the U.S. dollar is the key issue, according to the Beijing leadership, of China’s “recent troubles” under which loom “the shadow of the United States.”
Enter the U.S. “pivot to Asia.” Beijing clearly interprets its goal as “to balance out the momentum of China’s rising power today.” And that leads to the discussion of the former AirSea Battle concept (it has now “evolved” into another mongrel), which General Liang qualifies as an “intractable dilemma” for the U.S.:
“The strategy primarily reflects the fact that the U.S. military today is weakening,” said Liang. “U.S. troops used to think that it could use airstrikes and the Navy against China. Now the U.S. finds neither the Air Force nor the Navy by themselves can gain advantages against China.”
Only this previous paragraph would be enough to put in perspective the whole, tumultuous cat and mouse game of Chinese advances and American bullying across the South China Sea. Beijing is very much aware that Washington cannot “offset some advantages the Chinese military has established, such as the ability to destroy space systems or attack aircraft carriers. The United States must then come up with 10 years of development and a more advanced combat system to offset China's advantages. This means that Americans may schedule a war for 10 years later.”
Have War, Will Plan So, no major war up to 2025, which leaves Xi and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership free to advance like a juggernaut. Observers who follow the moves in Beijing in real time qualify it as “breathtaking “ or “a sight to behold.” The Beltway remains mostly clueless.
At the onset of the Chinese Year of the Monkey, the CCP under Xi’s orders released a sensational cartoon hip hop video that went mega-viral. Talk about Chinese soft power; that’s how Xi’s platform for his 10-year term, up to 2023, was announced to the masses. Enter the Four Comprehensives: 1) to develop a “moderately prosperous society” (translated into a GDP per capita of US$10,000); 2) Keep deepening reforms (especially of the economic model); 3) Govern by the rule of law (that’s tricky; but essentially means the law as interpreted by the CCP); 4) Eliminate corruption from the CCP (a long work in progress).
None of this, of course, implies following a Western model; on the contrary, it shows off Beijing counteracting Western soft power on every domain. And then, inevitably, all roads, sooner or later, lead to One Belt, One Road. And yet General Liang sees it as way beyond a globalization process, “the truly American globalization,” which he qualifies as “the globalization of dollars.” He – and the Beijing leadership – do not see the China-driven One Belt, One Road as “an integration into the global economic system. To say that the dollar will continue its globalization and integration is a misunderstanding. As a rising great power, One Belt, One Road is the initial stage of China globalization.”
Radically ambitious does not even begin to describe it. So as much as One Belt, One Road is the external vector of the Chinese Dream, bent on integrating the whole of Eurasia on a trade and commerce “win-win” basis, it is also “by far the best strategy China can put forward. It is a hedge strategy against the eastward move of the U.S.” There we have it – mirroring what I have been writing since One Belt, One Road was launched. This is China's “hedge strategy of turning its back to the U.S. eastward shift: You push in one direction; I go in the opposite direction. Didn’t you pressure me to it? I go west, neither to avoid you nor because I am afraid, but to very cleverly defuse the pressure you gave me on the east.” Welcome to China pivoting West.
Feel Free to Encircle Yourself General Liang, predictably, prefers to concentrate on the military, not commercial aspects. And he could not spell it out more clearly:
“Given that China's sea power is still weak, the first choice of One Belt, One Road should be to compete on land,” he said. Liang frames the top terrain of competition as the “belt” – overland New Silk Road routes; and that leads to worrying, still unanswered questions about the Chinese army “expeditionary capabilities.”
General Liang does not expand on this competition – arguably with the U.S. - along the New Silk Road belt. What he believes to be certain though, is “that in choosing China as its rival, America chose the wrong opponent and the wrong direction. Because in the future, the real challenge to the United States is not China; it is the United States itself, and the United States will bury itself.”
And how will that happen? Because of financial capitalism; it’s as if Gen. Liang has been reading Michael Hudson and Paul Craig Roberts (as he certainly does). He notes how “through the virtual economy, the United States has already eaten up all the profits of capitalism.”
And what about that “burial”? Well, it will be orchestrated by “the Internet, big data, and the cloud” as they are “pushed to the extreme” and will “gain a life of their own and oppose the government of the U.S.” Who would have thought it? It’s as if the Chinese don’t even have to play go anymore. They just need to let the adversary encircle itself.
Written by Pepe Escobar, first published in Telesur, February 24, 2016
Changing the Face of the World
by Pepe Escobar...
November 18, 2014: it’s a day that should live forever in history. On that day, in the city of Yiwu in China’s Zhejiang province, 300 kilometers south of Shanghai, the first train carrying 82 containers of export goods weighing more than 1,000 tons left a massive warehouse complex heading for Madrid. It arrived on December 9th.
Welcome to the new trans-Eurasia choo-choo train. At over 13,000 kilometers, it will regularly traverse the longest freight train route in the world, 40% farther than the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. Its cargo will cross China from East to West, then Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, France, and finally Spain. You may not have the faintest idea where Yiwu is, but businessmen plying their trades across Eurasia, especially from the Arab world, are already hooked on the city “where amazing happens!” We’re talking about the largest wholesale center for small-sized consumer goods – from clothes to toys – possibly anywhere on Earth.
The Yiwu-Madrid route across Eurasia represents the beginning of a set of game-changing developments. It will be an efficient logistics channel of incredible length. It will represent geopolitics with a human touch, knitting together small traders and huge markets across a vast landmass. It’s already a graphic example of Eurasian integration on the go. And most of all, it’s the first building block on China’s “New Silk Road,” conceivably the project of the new century and undoubtedly the greatest trade story in the world for the next decade.
Go west, young Han. One day, if everything happens according to plan (and according to the dreams of China’s leaders), all this will be yours – via high-speed rail, no less. The trip from China to Europe will be a two-day affair, not the 21 days of the present moment. In fact, as that freight train left Yiwu, the D8602 bullet train was leaving Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, heading for Hami in China’s far west. That’s the first high-speed railway built in Xinjiang, and more like it will be coming soon across China at what is likely to prove dizzying speed.
Today, 90% of the global container trade still travels by ocean, and that’s what Beijing plans to change. Its embryonic, still relatively slow New Silk Road represents its first breakthrough in what is bound to be an overland trans-continental container trade revolution. And with it will go a basket of future “win-win” deals, including lower transportation costs, the expansion of Chinese construction companies ever further into the Central Asian “stans,” as well as into Europe, an easier and faster way to move uranium and rare metals from Central Asia elsewhere, and the opening of myriad new markets harboring hundreds of millions of people. So if Washington is intent on “pivoting to Asia,” China has its own plan in mind. Think of it as a pirouette to Europe across Eurasia.
Defecting to the East? The speed with which all of this is happening is staggering. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the New Silk Road Economic Belt in Astana, Kazakhstan, in September 2013. One month later, while in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, he announced a twenty-first-century Maritime Silk Road. Beijing defines the overall concept behind its planning as “one road and one belt,” when what it’s actually thinking about is a boggling maze of prospective roads, rail lines, sea lanes, and belts.
We’re talking about a national strategy that aims to draw on the historical aura of the ancient Silk Road, which bridged and connected civilizations, east and west, while creating the basis for a vast set of interlocked pan-Eurasian economic cooperation zones. Already the Chinese leadership has green-lighted a $40 billion infrastructure fund, overseen by the China Development Bank, to build roads, high-speed rail lines, and energy pipelines in assorted Chinese provinces. The fund will sooner or later expand to cover projects in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. But Central Asia is the key immediate target.
We’re talking about a strategy that aims to draw on the historical aura of the ancient Silk Road, which bridged and connected civilizations, east and west, while creating the basis for a vast set of interlocked pan-Eurasian economic cooperation zones.
Chinese companies will be investing in, and bidding for contracts in, dozens of countries along those planned silk roads. After three decades of development while sucking up foreign investment at breakneck speed, China’s strategy is now to let its own capital flow to its neighbors. It’s already clinched $30 billion in contracts with Kazakhstan and $15 billion with Uzbekistan. It has provided Turkmenistan with $8 billion in loans and a billion more has gone to Tajikistan.
In 2013, relations with Kyrgyzstan were upgraded to what the Chinese term “strategic level.” China is already the largest trading partner for all of them except Uzbekistan and, though the former Central Asian socialist republics of the Soviet Union are still tied to Russia’s network of energy pipelines, China is at work there, too, creating its own version of Pipelineistan, including a new gas pipeline to Turkmenistan, with more to come.
The competition among Chinese provinces for much of this business and the infrastructure that goes with it will be fierce. Xinjiang is already being reconfigured by Beijing as a key hub in its new Eurasian network. In early November 2014, Guangdong – the “factory of the world” – hosted the first international expo for the country’s Maritime Silk Road and representatives of no less than 42 countries attended the party.
President Xi himself is now enthusiastically selling his home province, Shaanxi, which once harbored the start of the historic Silk Road in Xian, as a twenty-first-century transportation hub. He’s made his New Silk Road pitch for it to, among others, Tajikistan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, and Afghanistan.
Think of it as Marco Polo in reverse.
Just like the historic Silk Road, the new one has to be thought of in the plural. Imagine it as a future branching maze of roads, rail lines, and pipelines. A key stretch is going to run through Central Asia, Iran, and Turkey, with Istanbul as a crossroads site. Iran and Central Asia are alreadyactively promoting their own connections to it. Another key stretch will follow the Trans-Siberian Railway with Moscow as a key node. Once that trans-Siberian high-speed rail remix is completed, travel time between Beijing and Moscow will plunge from the current six and a half days to only 33 hours. In the end, Rotterdam, Duisburg, and Berlin could all be nodes on this future “highway” and German business execs are enthusiastic about the prospect.
The Maritime Silk Road will start in Guangdong province en route to the Malacca Strait, the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, ending essentially in Venice, which would be poetic justice indeed. Think of it as Marco Polo in reverse.
Rotterdam, Duisburg, and Berlin could all be nodes on this future “highway” and German business execs are enthusiastic about the prospect
All of this is slated to be completed by 2025, providing China with the kind of future “soft power” that it now sorely lacks. When President Xi hails the push to “break the connectivity bottleneck” across Asia, he’s also promising Chinese credit to a wide range of countries. Now, mix the Silk Road strategy with heightened cooperation among the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), with accelerated cooperation among the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with a more influential Chinese role over the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – no wonder there’s the perception across the Global South that, while the U.S. remains embroiled in its endless wars, the world is defecting to the East.
New Banks and New DreamsThe recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing was certainly a Chinese success story, but the bigger APEC story went virtually unreported in the United States. Twenty-two Asian countries approved the creation of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) only one year after Xi initially proposed it. This is to be yet another bank, like the BRICS Development Bank, that will help finance projects in energy, telecommunications, and transportation. Its initial capital will be $50 billion and China and India will be its main shareholders.
Consider its establishment a Sino-Indian response to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), founded in 1966 under the aegis of the World Bank and considered by most of the world as a stalking horse for the Washington consensus. When China and India insist that the new bank’s loans will be made on the basis of “justice, equity, and transparency,” they mean that to be in stark contrast to the ADB (which remains a U.S.-Japan affair with those two countries contributing 31% of its capital and holding 25% of its voting power) – and a sign of a coming new order in Asia. In addition, at a purely practical level, the ADB won’t finance the real needs of the Asian infrastructure push that the Chinese leadership is dreaming about, which is why the AIIB is going to come in so handy.
Keep in mind that China is already the top trading partner for India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It’s in second place when it comes to Sri Lanka and Nepal. It’s number one again when it comes to virtually all the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), despite China’s recent well-publicized conflicts over who controls waters rich in energy deposits in the region. We’re talking here about the compelling dream of a convergence of 600 million people in Southeast Asia, 1.3 billion in China, and 1.5 billion on the Indian subcontinent.
Only three APEC members – apart from the U.S. – did not vote to approve the new bank: Japan, South Korea, and Australia, all under immense pressure from the Obama administration. (Indonesia signed on a few days late.) And Australia is finding it increasingly difficult to resist the lure of what, these days, is being called “yuan diplomacy.”
In fact, whatever the overwhelming majority of Asian nations may think about China’s self-described “peaceful rise,” most are already shying away from or turning their backs on a Washington-and-NATO-dominated trade and commercial world and the set of pacts – from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) for Europe to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for Asia – that would go with it.
When Dragon Embraces BearRussian President Vladimir Putin had a fabulous APEC. After his country and China clinched a massive $400 billion natural gas deal in May – around the Power of Siberia pipeline, whose construction began this year – they added a second agreement worth $325 billion around the Altai pipeline originating in western Siberia.
These two mega-energy deals don’t mean that Beijing will become Moscow-dependent when it comes to energy, though it’s estimated that they will provide 17% of China’s natural gas needs by 2020. (Gas, however, makes up only 10% per cent of China’s energy mix at present.) But these deals signal where the wind is blowing in the heart of Eurasia. Though Chinese banks can’t replace those affected by Washington and EU sanctions against Russia, they are offering a Moscow battered by recent plummeting oil prices some relief in the form of access to Chinese credit.
Gazprom’s cancellation of South Stream will, in the end, only guarantee an even greater energy integration of both Turkey and Russia into the new Eurasia.
On the military front, Russia and China are now committed to large-scale joint military exercises, while Russia’s advanced S-400 air defense missile system will soon enough be heading for Beijing. In addition, for the first time in the post-Cold War era, Putin recently raised the old Soviet-era doctrine of “collective security” in Asia as a possible pillar for a new Sino-Russian strategic partnership.
Chinese President Xi has taken to calling all this the “evergreen tree of Chinese-Russian friendship” – or you could think of it as Putin’s strategic “pivot” to China. In either case, Washington is not exactly thrilled to see Russia and China beginning to mesh their strengths: Russian excellence in aerospace, defense technology, and heavy equipment manufacturing matching Chinese excellence in agriculture, light industry, and information technology.
It’s also been clear for years that, across Eurasia, Russian, not Western, pipelines are likely to prevail. The latest spectacular Pipelineistan opera – Gazprom’s cancellation of the prospective South Stream pipeline that was to bring yet more Russian natural gas to Europe – will, in the end, only guarantee an even greater energy integration of both Turkey and Russia into the new Eurasia.
So Long to the Unipolar MomentAll these interlocked developments suggest a geopolitical tectonic shift in Eurasia that the American media simply hasn’t begun to grasp. Which doesn’t mean that no one notices anything. You can smell the incipient panic in the air in the Washington establishment. The Council on Foreign Relations is already publishing laments about the possibility that the former sole superpower’s exceptionalist moment is “unraveling.” The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission can only blame the Chinese leadership for being “disloyal,” adverse to “reform,” and an enemy of the “liberalization” of their own economy.
The usual suspects carp that upstart China is upsetting the “international order,” will doom “peace and prosperity” in Asia for all eternity, and may becreating a “new kind of Cold War” in the region. From Washington’s perspective, a rising China, of course, remains the major “threat” in Asia, if not the world, even as the Pentagon spends gigantic sums to keep its sprawling global empire of bases intact. Those Washington-based stories about the new China threat in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, however, never mention that China remains encircled by U.S. bases, while lacking a base of its own outside its territory.
Of course, China does face titanic problems, including the pressures being applied by the globe’s “sole superpower.” Among other things, Beijing fears threats to the security of its sea-borne energy supply from abroad, which helps explain its massive investment in helping create a welcoming Eurasian Pipelineistan from Central Asia to Siberia. Fears for its energy future also explain its urge to “escape from Malacca” by reaching for energy supplies in Africa and South America, and its much-discussed offensive to claim energy-rich areas of the East and South China seas, which Beijing is betting could become a “second Persian Gulf,” ultimately yielding 130 billion barrels of oil.
On the internal front, President Xi has outlined in detail his vision of a “results-oriented” path for his country over the next decade. As road maps go, China’s “must-do” list of reforms is nothing short of impressive. And worrying about keeping China’s economy, already the world’s number oneby size, rolling along at a feverish pitch, Xi is also turbo-charging the fight against corruption, graft, and waste, especially within the Communist Party itself.
Economic efficiency is another crucial problem. Chinese state-owned enterprises are now investing a staggering $2.3 trillion a year – 43% of the country’s total investment – in infrastructure. Yet studies at Tsinghua University’s School of Management have shown that an array of investments in facilities ranging from steel mills to cement factories have only added to overcapacity and so actually undercut China’s productivity.
China’s leaders are also thinking about how, in the near future, relations with Europe, too, could be reshaped in ways that would be historic.
Xiaolu Wang and Yixiao Zhou, authors of the academic paper “Deepening Reform for China’s Long-term Growth and Development,” contend that it will be difficult for China to jump from middle-income to high-income status – a key requirement for a truly global power. For this, an avalanche of extra government funds would have to go into areas like social security/unemployment benefits and healthcare, which take up at present 9.8% and 15.1% of the 2014 budget – high for some Western countries but not high enough for China’s needs.
Still, anyone who has closely followed what China has accomplished over these past three decades knows that, whatever its problems, whatever the threats, it won’t fall apart. As a measure of the country’s ambitions for economically reconfiguring the commercial and power maps of the world, China’s leaders are also thinking about how, in the near future, relations with Europe, too, could be reshaped in ways that would be historic. What About That “Harmonious Community”?At the same moment that China is proposing a new Eurasian integration, Washington has opted for an “empire of chaos,” a dysfunctional global system now breeding mayhem and blowback across the Greater Middle East into Africa and even to the peripheries of Europe. In this context, a “new Cold War” paranoia is on the rise in the U.S., Europe, and Russia. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who knows a thing or two about Cold Wars (having ended one), couldn’t be more alarmed. Washington’s agenda of “isolating” and arguably crippling Russia is ultimately dangerous, even if in the long run it may also be doomed to failure.
At the moment, whatever its weaknesses, Moscow remains the only power capable of negotiating a global strategic balance with Washington and putting some limits on its empire of chaos. NATO nations still follow meekly in Washington’s wake and China as yet lacks the strategic clout.
Russia, like China, is betting on Eurasian integration. No one, of course, knows how all this will end. Only four years ago, Vladimir Putin was proposing “a harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” involving a trans-Eurasian free trade agreement. Yet today, with the U.S., NATO, and Russia locked in a Cold War-like battle in the shadows over Ukraine, and with the European Union incapable of disentangling itself from NATO, the most immediate new paradigm seems to be less total integration than war hysteria and fear of future chaos spreading to other parts of Eurasia.
At present, the choice between the two available models on the planet seem stark indeed: Eurasian integration or a spreading empire of chaos.
Don’t rule out a change in the dynamics of the situation, however. In the long run, it seems to be in the cards. One day, Germany may lead parts of Europe away from NATO’s “logic,” since German business leaders and industrialists have an eye on their potentially lucrative commercial future in a new Eurasia. Strange as it might seem amid today’s war of words over Ukraine, the endgame could still prove to involve a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing alliance.
At present, the choice between the two available models on the planet seems stark indeed: Eurasian integration or a spreading empire of chaos. China and Russia know what they want, and so, it seems, does Washington. The question is: What will the other moving parts of Eurasia choose to do?
Written by Pepe Escobar, first published in Eurasia News Online, August 8, 2016
“China is reaching deep within the world island in an attempt to thoroughly reshape the geopolitical fundamentals of global power…… Its two-step plan is designed to build a transcontinental infrastructure for the economic integration of the world island from within, while mobilizing military forces to surgically slice through Washington’s encircling containment…….If China succeeds in linking its rising industries to the vast natural resources of the Eurasian heartland, then quite possibly…. “the empire of the world would be in sight.” — Alfred McCoy, The Geopolitics of American Global Decline, The Unz Review
“The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action.” — Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, “America’s Pacific Century”, Foreign Policy magazine.
by Mike Whitney...
China’s meteoric rise has Washington worried, not because China is a threat to its neighbors or to U.S. national security, but because China’s influence is expanding across the region. It’s creating the institutions it needs to finance its own development (AIIB and New BRICS Bank), it’s building the infrastructure needed to connect the continents with state-of-the-art high-speed rail (New Silk Road), and its attracting allies and trading partners who want to participate in its plan for growth and prosperity. This is why Washington is worried; it’s because China has transformed itself into an economic powerhouse that doesn’t conform to the neoliberal model of punitive austerity, pernicious privatization, and madcap asset inflation. China has slipped out of the empire’s orbit and charted its own course, which is why Washington wants to provoke Beijing over its negligible land reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Washington thinks it can succeed militarily where it has failed economically and politically. Case in point; check this out from Bloomberg News:
“The U.S. and Japan are conducting separate military drills with the Philippines near the disputed South China Sea,…The annual CARAT Philippines joint exercise started Monday off the east coast of Palawan island and will run until June 26, according to U.S. Navy spokesman Arlo Abrahamson. The Philippine and Japanese navies are holding drills around the same island through June 27, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force said last week.
The U.S. has backed Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines as tensions escalate with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea, while Japan is providing patrol vessels to the Philippine coast guard….The drill includes a sea phase with the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth, diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard and a P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft and at least one Philippine frigate, according to the U.S. Navy….
Japan’s exercises with the Philippines will take place adjacent to the Spratly Islands, where China has created more than 2,000 acres of land in waters also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia. Japan will send a P-3C anti-submarine, maritime surveillance aircraft and 20 personnel.” (“U.S., Japan Join Philippines in Navy Drills Near South China Sea”, Bloomberg)
The “show of force” drills are designed to harass and intimidate China. They have no other purpose. The U.S. wants to force China to succumb to its diktats, to abandon its commitment to new institutions, to open its markets to U.S. corporations and Wall Street, and to allow the U.S. a free-hand in writing trade rules. That’s what Washington really wants and that’s why the moderate Chuck Hagel was dumped for the combative Ashton Carter as Secretary of Defense. U.S. powerbrokers wanted a scrappy taskmaster who’d bloody China’s nose and show them who’s boss. Carter fit the bill to a “T”, an icy bureaucratic leg-breaker who fancies himself the “smartest guy in the room”. Peter Lee provides an interesting insight on Carter in a recent blog-post at China Matters. He says:
“…assertive Ash Carter is not playing bad cop to Obama/Kerry’s good cop; he’s the whole show, which will delight fans of military control of foreign policy everywhere.”
We’re glad that others are beginning to see that the Pentagon has taken over U.S. foreign policy. Carter is clearly calling the shots in Asia and Europe.
Lee seems to believe that Carter will outlast Obama’s time in office if Madame Clinton is elected president. Which is not surprising, since it was Clinton who first introduced “pivot” to the strategic lexicon in a speech she gave in 2010 titled “America’s Pacific Century”. Clinton’s presentation laid out the basic themes that would later become America’s “top priority”, the rebalancing of U.S. power to the Asia Pacific. Here’s an excerpt from the speech that appeared in Foreign Policy magazine:
“As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region…
Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology…..American firms (need) to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia…
The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia…and our investment opportunities in Asia’s dynamic markets.” (“America’s Pacific Century”, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton”, Foreign Policy Magazine, 2011)
Repeat: “Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests…. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology…..American firms (need) to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia.”
There it is in a nutshell. Having reduced the great American middle class to a lifeless, rotting corpse incapable of sustaining even meager demand or growth, U.S. elites are packing the boats and heading for China, the shining corporate Valhalla on the hill. Clinton seems to think it should be pretty easy to penetrate these bustling Asian markets provided we back up our crackbrain aspirations with a strong dose of gunboat diplomacy–which is where Boss-man Carter comes in.
It’s worth noting that Clinton did not conjure up the pivot on her own, but was briefed on the theory by pivot mastermind Kurt M. Campbell. Campbell is Co-Founder and former CEO of the Center for a New American Security. According to the Center for a New American Security website: “From 2009 to 2013, he served as the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, where he is widely credited as being a key architect of the “pivot to Asia.” In this capacity, Dr. Campbell advanced a comprehensive U.S. strategy that took him to every corner of the Asia-Pacific region where he was a tireless advocate for American interests, particularly the promotion of trade and investment.”
In a recent video interview with neocon Robert Kagan, Campbell regurgitates the same rhetoric that appears in Clinton’s speech. He opines: “Most of the history of the 21 century is going to be in the Asia Pacific region… It is in our best national interest to show that we are going to play a central role in that drama just as we have in the 20th century... (There is bipartisan)… recognition that our military presence is our ticket to the big game in the Asia Pacific.” (See the entire interview here.)
There seems to be a growing consensus that the U.S. military is the right tool for persuading China to cave in, but is it?
The last thing the Obama administration wants is a shooting war with China, mainly because China has the ability to strike back, and not just militarily either. Let me explain: According to political scientist Pang Zhongying:
“The current relationship between China and the U.S. is one that has never existed in the history of international relations... The level of interdependence between China and the U.S. is unprecedented in history. Before the 1970s, no one could possibly imagine or predict that these two countries would be interdependent to the extent of today. At that time, interdependence existed only between the U.S. and Europe, or among the G7 at the most. The level of interdependence today did not exist between the U.S. and China.”
In other words, the two countries need each other and are bound together in a complex web of economic and financial ties, including China’s massive holding of U.S. debt which amounts to an eyewatering $1.3 trillion. This interdependence means that the U.S. cannot abuse China in the same way it has Russia without putting itself at risk. So, while the U.S. still maintains the dominant position economically and militarily, it can’t simply throw caution to the wind by imposing sanctions or escalating hostilities beyond a certain point without jeopardizing its own security. China knows this, which is why it will continue to pursue its own agenda aggressively while deflecting U.S. belligerence and hostility as best as it can.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is still committed to “peaceful development”. U.S. antagonism is just one of the many hurtles that China will have to overcome to actualize its plan for integrating the Eurasian landmass into the world’s largest and most prosperous trading bloc. Check out this excerpt from Alfred McCoy’s seminal piece “The Geopolitics of American Global Decline”:
“China’s leadership began collaborating with surrounding states on a massive project to integrate the country’s national rail network into a transcontinental grid. Starting in 2008, the Germans and Russians joined with the Chinese in launching the “Eurasian Land Bridge.” Two east-west routes, the old Trans-Siberian in the north and a new southern route along the ancient Silk Road through Kazakhstan are meant to bind all of Eurasia together….
In April, President Xi Jinping announced construction of that massive road-rail-pipeline corridor direct from western China to its new port at Gwadar, Pakistan, creating the logistics for future naval deployments in the energy-rich Arabian Sea….. By building the infrastructure for military bases in the South China and Arabian seas, Beijing is forging the future capacity to surgically and strategically impair U.S. military containment. …
In a decade or two….China will be ready to surgically slice through Washington’s continental encirclement at a few strategic points without having to confront the full global might of the U.S. military, potentially rendering the vast American armada of carriers, cruisers, drones, fighters, and submarines redundant….. If China succeeds in linking its rising industries to the vast natural resources of the Eurasian heartland, then quite possibly…. “the empire of the world would be in sight.” (“The Geopolitics of American Global Decline”, Alfred McCoy, The Unz Review)
There it is, eh? The end of one empire and the beginning of another.
China’s leaders aren’t going to blow their big chance by getting sucked into a costly and pointless war with the United States. That’s ridiculous. They’re going to keep plugging away until the Silk Road becomes a reality.
Written by Mike Whitney, first published in Counterpunch, June 23, 2015
A Prosperous China vs an Imperial U.S.
by John V. Walsh...
China has stated its goals quite unambiguously. “A moderately prosperous society by 2020” is the first goal and “a strong socialist nation by 2049” as the second. But this may be simplified: China’s leadership wants its people to have a standard of living equal to that of the developed nations of the West. And that, along with restoring and preserving sovereignty, has been the main part of the Chinese program since 1949 – at least. China’s great historical achievement is to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty, accounting for most of the eradication of poverty in the recent past. This achievement is rarely mentioned in the West.
Consider the simple consequences of that fact. China has a population of 1.36 billion and the United States has a population of 320 million. So if China is to have a per capita GDP equal to that of the United States, its total GDP must be more than four times the size of the US economy. Four times.
As we have known at least since Thucydides military power flows from economic power. That is also true of “soft” power, scientific discovery and technological achievement and capacity. (This week USA Today carries a story on the rapid growth of new and original patents in China, alarming the Pentagon.) Growth in China’s economic power therefore closes the door on U.S. global hegemony. The only way for the U.S. to maintain the hope of such hegemony is for China to change course and accept a lesser standard of living. But China will not accept such second class status voluntarily.
First such a future is not just, nor will the Chinese perceive or accept it as just. Second, such a course demands that an accomplished, talented and determined people with a great culture accept a daily life less prosperous than the developed world enjoys.
Hence, if the U.S. Empire to remain the first of global military powers in a way that is beyond challenge, it has no choice but to keep China down. There is an unavoidable contradiction between U.S. military dominance and Chinese economic development. Moreover even China’s economic power by itself is at odds with the hegemonic maneuvers of the U.S. Sanctions on sovereign nations, U.U. embargoes and blockades will not work if China is willing to trade with the threatened nations. This forecloses U.S. economic control of other, weaker nations.
However, there is no necessary conflict between the two nations, China and the U.S., or the two peoples. The prosperity of China does not preclude a high level of prosperity in the U.S. Economic development and prosperity is not a zero sum game. As the Chinese repeat at every turn, there can be a win-win situation for all nations of the world with China’s development. That has already proven true in the present Great Recession where the Chinese economy has been the main driver of the global economy, perhaps preventing the Great Recession from tumbling into the Great Depression. That is also true for the development of other nations, India for example.
So the question is whether the United States wishes to remain the dominant military power in the world and to bring China down. Unfortunately, such anti-China strategies have already been put in place by the U.S. and they will be intensified.. The “New Silk Road Strategy” in Central Asia has been put forward by Hillary Clinton to “contain” China. Since the first term of George W. Bush, at least, the U.S. has sought to enlist India to “counterbalance” China – with limited success. So far the Indians do not seem to be taking the bait. The “Pivot to Asia” espoused by Clinton, Obama and others in the higher spheres of U.S. foreign policy has attempted to enlist Australia, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam against China.
Some of this follows classic patterns in diplomacy. For example, as John Mearsheimer outlines in his book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, the goal of a regional hegemon is to prevent the rise of a regional hegemon in other parts of the globe. Mearsheimer points out that right now there is but one regional hegemon in the world, the U.S., which reigns supreme in the Western Hemisphere. The first tactic and the preferred one to accomplish the put down of another emerging hegemon is “buck passing.” In simple terms, that means getting another regional power to do the dirty work, sparing oneself the pain and cost. In that light consider the ravings from Japan’s Prime Minister Abe, backed up and encouraged, even incited by the American “think” tank, CSIS (The Center for Strategic and International Studies). And today, news arrives that Abe’s party, the ruling LDP (Liberal Democratic Party), has eliminated from its platform the pledge that Japan “will never wage war again,” a pledge in place since the end of WWII, causing considerable consternation in South Korea, China, Taiwan and elsewhere in the neighborhood!
Furthermore, the United States is in no danger from a powerful China. We are separated by a vast ocean from China, and the power of nuclear weapons makes a challenge to U.S. sovereignty impossible except on a suicidal basis. Additionally, the U.S. remains a largely self sufficient economy with resources aplenty. Only severe paranoia could lead us to fear an economically prosperous China. And more than that, as Henry Kissinger, like many others, points out in his book On China, the Chinese have no history of overseas expansion.
That was true even in the early 15th Century when China was the greatest naval power in the world, sailing giant ships to Africa and elsewhere long before Columbus set foot on a ship. There was trading, but no conquest and no enslavement. Conquest and enslavement turned out to be the work of European civilization. And even now with China the second largest economy in the world it has not a singly overseas military base even though it provides more UN peacekeeper personnel than any other nation. As Kissinger points out, American exceptionalism is missionary; it insists that all the world be like us. One can see one of the most fanatic incarnations of that in Hillary Clinton and other “humanitarian” imperialists, many regarding themselves as “progressives.” China’s exceptionalism, on the other hand, is a high self-regard for its culture but no desire to spread it. If the rest of us do not want to follow the Chinese way, then we have missed out and it is no business of the Chinese to change that in their view.
The bloody history of the U.S. over the last Century is quite a different matter. If the United States insists on its status as the dominant and unchallengeable military power, then we are on the road to conflict, certainly a new Cold War the beginning of which the “pivot” represents, and quite possibly we are on the road to WWIII. We in the United States are the ones who can control this and perhaps save the world from the very worst suffering and deadly conflict. The answer is to abandon Empire, dismantle our overseas bases, end our occupation of foreign nations, including South Korea, Japan and Germany, adopt a defensive strategy to protect our land and come home. Trade and talk, yes. Military intervention, no. We have a potential partner for peace in China. Let us give it a try. Establish trust and verify it. In short, Come Home America. A paradise awaits us here. Let us leave others in peace to construct their own.
Written by John V. Walsh, first published in Counterpunch, January 27, 2014