Aspen Security Conference; The Rise of China, Part 1

(CNN) CIA official: China wants to replace US as world superpower. Quoting CIA’s Michael Collins,

“By their own terms and what Xi enunciates I would argue by definition what they’re waging against us is fundamentally a cold war, a cold war not like we saw during the Cold War, but a cold war by definition. A country that exploits all avenues of power licit and illicit, public and private, economic and military, to undermine the standing of your rival relative to your own standing without resorting to conflict. The Chinese do not want conflict,” Collins said.

I agree, although the tone almost implies that it’s the fault of China. The fault is ours, a major failure of U.S. policy. Historical inevitability contributes to the outcome.

On June 11, 2014, this blog kicked off with The Nine-Dotted Line. Since then, “soft power” has appeared in at least a dozen articles. Of particular relevance are the Pivot to Asia series.

I have not found it useful or desirable to disclose my politics. But the subject of China is so politically charged, you would perhaps interpret what follows as political, rather than open source analysis. To dissuade you, this brief disclosure:

  • A social, secular liberal, favoring the use of public funds and resources to foster human development.
  • Favor environmental causes  and sustainable development.
  • Appreciate the efforts of intelligence community to keep us safe in an extremely challenging threat environment.
  • International outlook in defense of liberty, but  don’t equate the welfare of multinational corporations with the welfare of the U.S.
  • Eclectic economic ideas that do not correspond to the political spectrum. This article may persuade you also, to unhook your economics from politics.

That’s enough about me. Refer to it when I offer a bitter pill.

Since the French Revolution, epochs of world order have lasted between 10 and 80 years. This span allows for differences of opinion as well as the punctuations of major conflicts. After World War One, the intervals became shorter. Bush’s New World Order of 1991 lasted a mere ten.  In 1994, reversing a campaign pledge, Bill Clinton renewed China’s MFN status. Quoting MIT’s The Tech,

Echoing the case made by George Bush when he was president, Clinton said he was convinced the Chinese would take more steps to improve human rights if the issue were separated from the threat of trade sanctions.

“This decision offers us the best opportunity to lay the basis for long-term sustainable progress on human rights and for the advancement of our other interests with China,” he said at a news conference announcing his decision to extend China’s most-favored-nation (MFN) trade status.

On December 27, 2001, China’s most favored nation status was made permanent, effectively retiring trade as a tool of foreign policy.

Clinton’s kindly thoughts were followed by statements from the Bush Jr. administration that were remarkable in the impotence of their tone, seemingly requesting the voluntary restraint of China to not exercise their burgeoning influence. During the second Bush administration, the evisceration of the U.S. industrial base became severe. At the same time, the multinationals successfully conflated their own prosperity with the welfare of the U.S. blue collar labor force. At the time, these arguments were made by multinationals and importers:

  • The U.S. now had an “information economy”, rendering the actual manufacture of goods obsolete.
  • China was creating jobs for Best Buy sales droids.
  • The welfare of the nation was best described by economic indicators highly dependent on China growth stats — which, in reality, measured the continuing evisceration of the U.S. economy.
  • Both political parties are to be blamed. The lure of cheap China goods, with the inherent buy-now-pay-later deficit plan, was politically irresistible. At one point, it was calculated that a CFL light bulb made in the U.S. would cost a few dimes more, too much for patriotism to bear.
  • Elements of the media, and of establishment intellectuals deserve blame.  The benign nature of China trade was repeated ad nauseam by almost everyone with a word processor.

No allowance was made for the simple fact that in the Rust Belt, people were ejected wholesale  from the work force by  practically irreconcilable mismatches of their training or aptitude with the job market. They could work in service positions, with incomes reduced to poverty levels. Somehow, the cost of living came to be influenced by the cost of a cell phone or a TV set, instead of bread on the table.

The above has been politicized by extremists, so that it is almost impossible to separate from association with nationalism, racial and religious intolerance, and various extreme beliefs that we hoped were in eclipse. The problem deserves the attention of every person of  liberal persuasion, and every internationalist. Politics has nothing to offer; political attitudes and doctrines formed in prior times do not apply.

Let’s consider it strictly as an economic problem. We must still bear the torch of liberty, but to be successful. solvency is required.

This has been a failure of U.S. foreign policy.  It should humble the intellectual establishment, co-opted and snookered into the belief that it would be good in the long run. If we could be so stupid so long, what can we expect of ourselves in the future? A characteristic of this recent failure is that the policy worked about long enough to pass the expiration of it on to the next generation. Generational thinking punishes generations yet to come.

The failure is measured against the span of a world-order epoch . As epochs now tend to last a few decades, what would have been a measure of success? Might some aspects of Michael Collins’ presentation be problematic for generations yet to come?

Next: historical inevitability, circulations of the elite, and sustainability.

 

 

 

 

 

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