Selected China Readings; Trump’s Asia Tour

This blog contains so many Asia articles, it would be superfluous to write   on the occasion of Trump’s Asia trip. Nothing new has transpired.

It’s a lot of reading. Even in capsule form, there may be enough words to hide the obvious conclusion, of which there are many examples. Imagine for a moment the U.S. as an imperial power.  It is widely accepted among historians that no imperial power has managed to shed the military obligations of empire before economic collapse. The classical description:

  • In formation, economic advantage flows from the periphery to the core of the imperial empire.
  • A military, required to defend the periphery, is funded by the economic advantage.
  • For various reasons, which tend to differ in each case, the economic benefit to the core declines, while the cost of defense increases.
  • As defense becomes impractical, the periphery melts away, leaving an insolvent core.

To share this fate is ironic, considering that the U.S. has historically been opposed to imperialism as an economic ideology. In some cases, involving the Seven Sisters, and multinationals in Latin America, the U.S. did behave as a loosely jointed imperial power, but always with the attitude of denial. We never thought ourselves as such.

Perhaps it would be better if we had. We would be better equipped to see the pattern. Uniquely, after World War II, and until the opening of China, the U.S. enjoyed the primary advantage of an imperial power, low cost supplies of raw materials. The defense of our politically nonexistent empire had another label, Containment of the Soviet Union.

The accusation of “U.S. Imperialism” was the traditional hue and cry against — “us.” It is not recapitulated here to be accusatory. I’m on our side. But it is  crucial to understand our predicament. Can we, just once, avoid the “inevitability of history” ?

There are so many think tanks, and so many thinkers, and so many politicians, yet in aggregate, they seem (and I say this without impugning anybody’s individual intelligence) — dumb. There is no military substitute for soft power. In argument, I wrote:

So what do you think? Are you going to let history deal us a crash landing, or will you craft a soft landing?

To my Chinese readers, I intend no harm. But since China has with finality chosen a form of government with Confucian roots, instead of democracy, the growing together that was anticipated 20 years ago cannot occur. We, too, have traditions to protect.

 

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