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USA versus China (and the EU?)

There are two big China stories doing the rounds today. In no particular order, there is the one about IBM selling its personal computer operation to a Chinese corporation, and there is the one about how the EU is planning to end its arms embargo on China.

Concerning the ending of the EU arms embargo, the EU Referendum blog (linking to this Times Online story today) has this to say:

As we have pointed out many times on this Blog (see for instance, here),the embargo has become one of the most sensitive geo-political issues, with the United States worried that its European allies will be arming a country that it sees as a potential military rival.

And, as we have also reported, China is spending billions of dollars upgrading its military capability and is rapidly becoming an economic superpower. Now The Times notes that Washington is concerned that East Asia remains militarily unstable, with China threatening Taiwan and North Korea threatening South Korea.

The US is worried that Europe will sell China advanced technology, such as over-the-horizon-targeting systems (guided by Galileo GPS signals) that would enable the Chinese military to strike American ships hundreds of miles out in the Pacific.

The Times also notes that Congress already is planning legislation that would ban the Pentagon from trading with any country that makes military sales to China and, as we have observed (here) is already making technology transfers difficult.

At the moment, the War on Terror is going well in this sense, that no mega-horror stories of the sort feared immediately after 9/11 have actually materialised. (Whether that is because the War on Terror has been conducted from our side with dazzling brilliance, or because it was superfluous, I leave the reader to decide. A bit of both would be my guess.) There have been some horrible killings, but no mega-death bomb explosions or plagues of the kind that we all have feared. Which means, unless the Islamofascists prove to have more life (by which I mean death) in them than now seems likely, that the world, and the people of the USA in particular, now have some attention to spare for what is surely going to be the big confrontation of the next few years, namely the rivalry for the global number one spot between the USA and China. China now has semi-sane economic policies, and a billion odd people semi-thriving under them. And America is … America. Quite a confrontation, I am sure we would all agree.

No doubt the EUrocrats will argue, if they have not started arguing already, that this IBM deal proves what hypocrites those silly Americans are for fussing about them doing business with the Chinese too. But cheap computers that China already perfectly well knows how to make are one thing; such things as hi-tech guidance systems for Chinese rockets are quite another.

Maybe this will be the moment when Americans finally decide in large numbers what an anti-American operation the EU is – as opposed to just a bunch of loser countries that count for nothing, whether they get together or whether they stay separate. Time was when the USA saw the EU as a bastion against the USSR. But imagine what Americans will make of people whom they regard as helping their enemies. What a change it would make (is making?) if everyday Americans were to take against (are taking against) the EU, and decide that they would like it, shall we say, crumbled.

Unless, of course, the EU is just dangling the ending of the arms embargo in front of everybody, prior to doing a deal with the USA that will leave everyone smiling and shaking hands, and the EU (having agreed to perpetuate the arms embargo indefinitely) suddenly being the USA’s good buddy again.

As a libertarian, I expect to be told (again) by other libertarians that I am not a libertarian, this time for not condeming all embargoes absolutely, regardless of who against and of what. Which I can live with. I might even be persuaded that the world would be improved if the Chinese government could now buy all the weapons it wanted from anyone it wanted. I doubt it, but give it a try if you want to. But one thing I do know. I absolutely do not want to find myself a citizen of a nation state (EUrope) which the USA decides is its enemy. Whatever ends up happening with this embargo, today I felt that possibility move a little closer.

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91 comments to USA versus China (and the EU?)

  • Jake

    Doesn’t bother me. We have our anti-missile defense system up and running on the west coast of the US.

    How is the EU coming with their anti-missile defense system? With policies like this, they will need one.

  • Al Maviva

    I wouldn’t worry about the EU becoming an enemy over that. France is our enemy, and look how we treat them – half of our citizens are ready to emigrate just because they are the enemy. Heck, if the EU becomes the enemy, our liberals might save the continent from being overrun by rampant breeding islamacists.

    And anyhow, EU rhymes with “Um, who?” for most Amurricans. Y’all would have to sell a hell of a lot of arms to the Chinese before we got pissed. Besides, I think you’d have to worry about angering the Russkis and the Japanese, and maybe India, long before we Yanks got angry about it. I’m told that those two countries have a bit of a history with China…

  • “I absolutely do not want to find myself a citizen of a nation state (EUrope) which the USA decides is its enemy.”

    Not “decides”, “realizes”.

    Al thinks Murricans are too stupid to notice this.

    We’ll see. I wouldn’t bet on it.

  • Verity

    Lexington Green – True post. The ‘EU’ , which is due to implode in around five years, is America’s enemy and was designed to be so.

    The good news is, with enemies like them, who needs friends?

    This enemy has no military – always a disadvantage when declaring war on the United States.

    They have positions on childcare, maternity leave, paternity leave, rights of transexuals, rights to free fertility treatment, non-smoking, asylum seeking, rights of AIDS sufferers to enter their countries and be treated for life free of charge (to the immigrant; the taxpayer will pay approximately $1m for each of them), the right to debt cancellation for third worlders, the right not to be sacked under any circumstances, the right not to be threatened with the death penalty for murder, the right to do ‘community service’ for just about any crime on the books rather than be sent down, the right to a university education despite being unable to read or rite … but … uh … no military.

  • The ‘EU’ , which is due to implode in around five years…

    What? Damn, I didnt get the memo again … But I am sure looking forward to that!

  • Rob

    Heh. These kinds of posts always interest me, mostly because they give huge insights into the unspoken ideals of the posters.

    The arms embargo on China was imposed after Tiannenman Square, on the basis of Chinese human rights violations. I’m not privy to the investigations into Chinese human rights which have occurred since then, but if the general trend of economic liberalisation is indicative of progress towards a rights-based society, it would imply that Chinese recognition of human rights (even if it’s just limited property rights so far) is improving. Whether it has improved enough to justify lifting the embargo is a question I don’t feel qualified to answer (I’m just some random dude on the internet and I haven’t yet succumbed to the conceit that this qualifies me as an expert on everything).

    It’s entirely possible to discuss the embargo without any reference to the US at all, so why frame the discussion in those terms?

    Surely the issue is the merits of the case, not what the US thinks about it? If China no longer deserves an embargo, it should be lifted. If the reasons for the embargo remain valid, it should not. Whether the US comes to the same conclusions or not is a matter for their political leaders.

    Fear of American military might (which is the only justification I can see for taking the American view into consideration on this issue) is not, in my opinion, a valid reason to change opinions. If, in fact, the US is prepared to use its military power as a threat to influence trade between two seperate nations, that would provide the very justification for the anti-Americanism that many people (including myself) regard as dangerous.

    Above all, I’d like to see a bit more openness about this. Instead of shady diplomatic channels being used, why can’t the US come right out with the reasons why it believes China shouldn’t have weapons? Many of the EU figures involved in the negotiations are quoted in the press, but I can’t find any direct quotes from US sources, much less senior administration officials. Such reticence is a further contributing factor to European suspicion about American motives. Personally, I’m of the view that most people in Europe share the same basic values as the US, and are far more likely to identify themselves with the US than with China. The failure of the US to find a suitable advocate for their views in Europe is, in my view, one of the main causes of the misunderstandings many have about US policy. The fact that the US doesn’t even have an ambassador to the UK right now is symbolic of how little effort the US is making to persuade Europeans of its views. Saying “do as we say because we’re the only superpower” might be the way business is done in Texas, but it’s not likely to find much sympathy in Europe. It’s doubly frustrating because I’m quite sure that a positive, passionate and principled advocate of US views would find a receptive audience in Europe, if only such a person existed.

  • Adhib

    ‘Agree with B that no Brit in their right mind should stoke American enmity for the EU, which already goes to some pretty weird extremes on the fringes of US comment (Someone somewhere is exaggerating our differences – European countries are *not* the USSR, thanks).

    But equally, the US may just be temporarily reluctant to recognize China as its key strategic partner, just as the old countries were with America. US corporations are bundling resource to China at eye-popping rates at the moment, and nothing short of massive state controls can reverse that. I say follow the money – in five years time, I doubt Washington will offer any overt enmity to China. When US politicos do finally flip-flop and embrace China, any previous European chilliness would prove itself economic suicide. Keeping US guns on side is one thing, but let’s not forget we also need butter.

  • Euan Gray

    Surely Chinese human rights violations are simply a fig-leaf to cover the real reason – China is growing fast, both in economic terms and as an outward looking major power. Realpolitik, not human rights, methinks.

    The Franco-German axis naturally wants to be friends with the Chinese, partly for arms sales, partly because China isn’t terribly keen on America, and partly because it’s a good idea to be nice to the up and coming global power. At the same time, America is fast approaching if not already on the downward slope of its power curve – the industrial production gap with China is fast narrowing, American politics are edging towards socialistic welfarism, there is an increasing political desire to spend money at home rather than overseas, etc. Nothwithstanding the hubristic bombast of Fukuyama and the end-of-history brigade, all powers without exception fade, and America will in time do exactly the same thing.

    Whilst it isn’t certain that China will be the next major power – many things can go wrong such as demographic problems and a collapse of the fundamentally unsound and corrupt banking system – it is highly likely. America would naturally prefer to avoid or at a minimum delay this, Europe would like to toady up to the new boy.

    Personally, I think the more interesting thing over the next couple of decades is not USA vs EU/China, but the three-way power play between the EU, Russia and China. Each has the potential to become a major global power, but so far only China is showing signs of doing so and the EU looks the worst bet of all three. Russia and China aren’t known for their mutual admiration, so a rising China is likely to result in an increasingly powerful Russia – as one can already see in their plans for rearmament, economic growth, getting back into Central Asia, pushing around buffer states like Ukraine, etc. This will annoy the EU, who will try to play China and Russia off against each other. Knowing the skill of French diplomacy, it seems the only loser here will be the EU.

    EG

  • Brian,

    Reality check.

    China is not a threat to the US, Europe or even Japan.

    It is a threat to free Taiwan and the people of occupied Tibet. Besides that the PRC has not one single soldier stationed overseas, whereas the US and UK have forces in over 100 nations.

    Now the US and UK may be benign, but the fact remains that they have men under arms in 100 nations.

    Who actually has a militarily backed empire of strategic and economic interests?

    China hardly requires a containment strategy, it has no interest in beyond maintaining its legitimate interests. Of course we need to keep up the pressure on the dictatorship on human rights and real representative democracy.

    The state controlled military industrial complex is looking for a new enemy to bolster its case for taxpayer’s dollars and arms manufacturer’s shareholders. Since there is no longer a credible rival to U.S. military dominance, they intend to make China perceived as that threat in order to justify themselves. Lobbyists will be funding think tank research into the “China threat”.

    The only threat China poses is to high cost Western manufacturing as it becomes the workshop of the world. Bring it on.

    But hang on to your wallets, here comes the tax man to finance the defence from the “China threat”.

  • Joel Català

    “The ‘EU’ , which is due to implode in around five years…”

    Well, I think it’s indeed very possible that a few (big) issues will catalyze the implosion of the EU, namely:

    (a) the economic fiasco of EUrope coupled with the genesis of Eurabia (hopefully aborted by the European free peoples), and

    (b) the Catalan issue –i.e., the national sovereignty deficits of the EU.

    But I don’t think it will be within five years.

  • Joel Català

    Jake, could you elaborate more on the American AMD system capabilities? (a few good links could do the job)

    Thanks

  • Pete_London

    paul d s

    Thanks for the link to your site. Without that I would have been unaware that today is UN Anti Corruption Day.

    BTW I’m blaming you for the hernia I developed whilst laughing my nads off at the news.

  • A_t

    France is the “enemy” of the US in the same way that Barr’s (the people who make Irn Bru, the most popular soft drink in Scotland) are the “enemy” of coca cola; they’re a minor power who consider themselves in competition with the major one in a small number of territories, but they don’t want to kill ’em. Get a grip ya crazies!

  • Hank Scorpio

    “Personally, I think the more interesting thing over the next couple of decades is not USA vs EU/China, but the three-way power play between the EU, Russia and China.”

    Interesting point. At that moment the US would most likely play the role that England did in the 19th century; we’d be the quasi-isolationist power that only intervened when one side appeared to be far stronger than the other, and with a three way balance of power in Eurasia that’d be unavoidable .

  • J

    The US and EU are rivals. It was only the brief period of the cold war that provided a common threat so strong that mercantile and diplomatic rivalries were put aside.

    What we see now is a return to business as usual – a more or less friendly competition for wealth and global influence. Remember that in the early 1900’s the US used to whinge about the unfairness of Britain’s naval power in much the same way European leftists now whinge about the US’s military might.

    Much as the first world war did Europe a load of harm and the US a load of good, a serious war – even a cold one – between the US and China would benefit the EU.

    It would be a shame if we sold weapons to China and then had them used against us, but it would not be militarily significant. But generally speaking, you don’t attack countries who supply all your military tech, anyway. That’s why arms trading is (IMO) quite a good thing for a country to do.

    I can’t think of a single example of a country buying weapons from a nation and then attacking that nation with their own weapons. It makes no military sense at all. It happens all the time with resources (I mean, we used saddam’s petrol to get him out of power…), sometimes with secondary goods (Napoleon’s troops had uniforms made from English cloth), but rarely with anything more advanced.

  • Euan Gray

    China hardly requires a containment strategy, it has no interest in beyond maintaining its legitimate interests

    So far. Where is the guarantee this will always be the case? China, whilst not exactly conquering the neighbourhood, is certainly feeling its way around the western Pacific and flexing its muscles now and then – the occupation of the Spratly Islands, submarines “accidentally” entering Japanese waters (this is almost certainly in an attempt to probe Japanese defences, and who knows how many submarines have NOT been detected?), making sure Taiwan gets the message, etc. Not to mention the more or less regular bust-ups with Russia in the north and occasionaly with India to the west.

    China is doing pretty much what any growing power does – find out how strong or weak the neighbours are, asserting “legitimate interests” in the area, and so on. As China becomes richer and more powerful, and as at the same time the US becomes relatively weaker and less inclined to play the global policeman, it will be interesting to see how peaceful the Chinese rise remains. It’s quite possible it will be wholly peaceful, but this sort of thing doesn’t happen very often.

    EG

  • Rob

    If genuine combat broke out between three powers, all of which have substantial nuclear arsenals, I doubt there’d be much intervening to do.

    Like it or not, the future of pretty much the whole human race depends on the avoidance of such a conflict. The simple mechanics of Cold War nuclear deterrence has now given way to a much less predictable multipolar situation.

    Here in the early 21st century, it’s hard to imagine what the world will look like at the end of it. If I were to be optimistic, I would imagine the major powers realising that conflict would be self-destructive, and committing themselves to a global free trade system which preserved each nation/bloc’s right to peaceful progress. That might require quite a bit more magnanimity and multilateralism than most of the world’s leaders are usually able to muster though.

    Potential dangers would be US refusal to accept the multipolar reality (they didn’t “save the free world” to share the fruits of their success with the Chinese and the Russians, after all), Chinese aggression once they come into greater economic competition with the US, and of course the possibility of further religious war. The first two can possibly be negotiated away by the efforts of reasonable people on both sides, but the third problem will probably be as intractable as it has been for the last few thousand years, as it is not subject to rationality or pragmatism.

  • As far as I know, I have no enemies in the EU or China.

    I would like to see the US practice Swiss style neutrality, kick out the UN, and stop fretting about who sells arms to whom.

    But I ain’t holding my breath waiting ( although it does look like the UN may get kicked out … one ray of sunshine, I suppose ).

  • eoin

    Strikes that a lot of so-called Libertarianism is mere Americanism. The writer swallows the pro-American line, hook line and sinker. Why should not independent entities like the EU make deals with a foreign power, and why does the Us assume that China is a future threat ( expct to justify World suspicions that the US seems to think it has interest worlwide, which would amuse any founding father, were we to bring them back to life).

    I am sure that Paleo-conservatives in the US would agree with me.

  • Hylas

    Verity,

    Good points, but you don’t need an army if you can find someone crazy enough to do your fighting for you. Would-be great (and small) powers are more likely to use proxies (like Iran or NK or somplace else that I won’t bother to name) to confront the US (and each other). The point of building up proxies would not be to destroy or defeat the US, but to make US military action as difficult and expensive as possible. The goal is to slowly erode US power by attrition. There is also the side effect of boosting the domestic arms industry. 21st century international relations may end up looking like several overlapping (and unacknowledged) miniature cold wars going on simultaneously.

    Euan Gray,

    I think you’re mostly right. Especially about realpolitik. I won’t bother to nitpick. Here’s what I think is going to happen: Think of the world as 18th or 19th century Europe. China, Russia, India, and the EU are the big nation states on the mainland. The US (being the island off the coast) drops its Wilsonian idealism and starts playing the historic role of Britain (ie: balancer).

    Joel Catala,

    Here are a few missile defense links:

    Missile Defense Agency

    Raytheon

  • veryretired

    I’ve been on vacation, and I was going to pass on this conversation because it’s already drifting into never-never land, but I can’t resist a couple of comments.

    This recurring claim that the US is fading and will soon be on its last legs comes around every once in a while. I heard it in the 60’s and 70’s as the “useful idiots” rooted for the USSR to fulfill its destiny and overtake the rotten, and rotting, capitalists. Some of us, at least, remember how that one turned out.

    Then there was the great global takeover by the Japanese in the late 70’s and 80’s. The US was washed up again, until the Japanese bubble imploded and they went into a decade+ long recession.

    The EU was going to make a big move , too, but it seems to keep getting delayed. Might be any decade, though, so we better watch out.

    Look—the modern economy is built on information, technology, and freedom of action. No matter how you try to spin it, the Chinese just don’t cut it in any of these areas, and won’t for quite some time. They are afraid of too much information, try desparately to clamp down on the people getting too much technology, and are as nimble as a drunken hippo.

    The supposed “emerging threats” are all caught in variations of the same web. Whether it was 70 years or 50 years of marxist folly, the negative effects on a society are monumental, and will require decades of honest, truthful effort in order to remedy the damage. Neither Russia nor China has shown the political courage to make such an effort.

    The EU has so hamstrung itself and its constituent parts with byzantine strings of regulatory madness as to have removed itself from the field.

    China, the EU, and, to a lesser extent, Japan, are facing demographic problems of immense complexity. The EU also has a minority problem in the Islamic subculture that makes the US’ race problems seem fairly minor. Personally, I’m going to blow raspberries in their general direction when it starts to blow, just because.

    Are there serious challenges ahead? Of course. But being overtaken economically by the Chinese, who are just now trying to develop a 20th century economy, is not THE major issue it was made out to be in this thread.

    Better luck catching a glimpse of the real world next time.

  • Euan Gray

    This recurring claim that the US is fading and will soon be on its last legs comes around every once in a while

    It happens to every power. Why would America suddenly buck the trend of 6,000 years of recorded history?

    America is extremely wealthy and powerful, but with the exception of the now-defunct USSR it is not as far ahead of the pack as it used to be. It WILL decline and fall, like ALL powers. I wouldn’t say it’s going to happen next Tuesday, but you will see over the next 20-30 years a marked decline in the *relative* strength of the US, even though its absolute wealth and strength will almost certainly increase.

    the modern economy is built on information, technology, and freedom of action

    But you need money to exploit these things, and ultimately money comes from making and selling tangible goods. Britain 100 years ago was very wealthy, but a dangerously high proportion of its wealth came from banking and global finance. It had been losing ground in manufactures (principlally to Germany and the US) for about 60 years by then, and was too dependent on imported technology to ultimately act the role of global power. America is losing its lead in this field too, in this case to China – the next “workshop of the world” if you like.

    There’s nothing new in any of this. The same thing happens to every power. Better to look ahead and think rather than assume the past is still with us and will never change. History teaches us only that history teaches us nothing…

    EG

  • J1

    Everyone who usually spouts the “all powers must fall, eventually, history tells us so,” always seem to say it with relish about the U.S. It just seems that they just can’t wait until racist, evil, gasp, CAPITALIST, Amerikkka goes under.

    It won’t happen anytime soon. Maybe not at all. Yes, the U.S. will lose some RELATIVE power and influence, but that is probably it.

    J1

  • Euan Gray

    Everyone who usually spouts the “all powers must fall, eventually, history tells us so,” always seem to say it with relish about the U.S.

    Do they? I say it as an opinion based on 6,000 years of history showing exactly the same process happening over and over again for exactly the same reasons. In time, the same will happen to China, for the same reasons. It does not matter who the power is, what they believe, where they are – the same thing always happens; powers rise, peak and fall.

    And I’m more or less on America’s side, not one of the Bush-Hitler Amerikkka crowd. Even if I do think they’re a tad odd now and then, and somewhat grubbily materialistic – just as they no doubt consider Britons to be a little eccentric and not materialistic enough. So what, the world’s big enough for all of us.

    It won’t happen anytime soon

    Not saying it will, for certain values of “soon.”

    Maybe not at all.

    Why not? Why would America be different? Why would it not decay and decline like everyone else? And bear in mind that just over 100 years ago people used to say the same thing about Britain.

    EG

  • Rob

    veryone who usually spouts the “all powers must fall, eventually, history tells us so,” always seem to say it with relish about the U.S. It just seems that they just can’t wait until racist, evil, gasp, CAPITALIST, Amerikkka goes under.

    Eh? The posts in this discussion have all seemed entirely reasonable; the only person to mention the US as evil or racist has been you.

    And nobody is saying the US has to ‘fall’, merely that its relative power will decline as other powers catch up – particularly as China and India emerge from their relatively underdeveloped state. That doesn’t even imply a failing on the part of the US; it merely recognises how far behind everyone else was.

    Besides, if an ad hominem attack is the best counter-argument you have, it rather points to the weakness of your side of the debate.

    You then go on to say “No, Maybe, Yes, Probably” about the whole question; I get the impression that you don’t really have a clear view on the topic yourself, other than a desire to defend the US against perceived criticism.

    I may be wrong, and if so I apologise. I’d just like to see things remain constructive rather than turn into a “I think xyz because I think so and everyone else sucks” kind of debate.

  • Why does no one see the US as I see it, as the pioneer of freedom in the world? The US is different, not because of its racial makeup or the blessings of Providence, but because, despite its problems, it puts freedom first, especially economic freedom, unlike China and the EU and Russia. The US cannot be compared to historical empires or to contemporary socialist or religious fascist states. It is something new and represents the only real possibility for the advance of Man to the next level of freedom. This future is not guaranteed or cost-free, but at least it’s a possibility. Why do you think most Americans are optimists?

  • Sandy P

    Loral

    Thank you Bubba.

    ‘Nuff said.

  • Sandy P

    –China hardly requires a containment strategy, it has no interest in beyond maintaining its legitimate interests.–

    And what are those? And where?

  • Pete_London

    Robert

    Spot on. As long as that’s the case the US will be way out in front. There may be a billion+ people in China, but a billion peasants is still a billion peasants. China is still way short on political freedom, human rights and property rights. As for the EU … sheesh.

    Hylas said:

    you don’t need an army if you can find someone crazy enough to do your fighting for you. Would-be great (and small) powers are more likely to use proxies (like Iran or NK or somplace else that I won’t bother to name) to confront the US (and each other).

    That’s exactly what France has been up to; a proxy in the Middle East by using the Palestinians against the US ‘puppet’ Israel. They have also been involved in a diplomatic war via the UN and a trade war. France would see the US in ashes if it had the means but it knows it can only fight via other nations and causes.

  • Hylas

    Pete_London,

    French foreign policy has been remarkably consistent over the last 400 years. Only Switzerland has been more consistent. The spirit of Richelieu lives on.

    😉

  • Gary Gunnels

    Well, the “collapse” of American power means something like “parity” with other world powers more than anything.

    France would see the US in ashes if it had the means but it knows it can only fight via other nations and causes.

    Hyperbolic non-sense.

    What “trade war?” What, you pissed about their appellations of origin? Or GMOs? If its GMOs, let’s note that the EU ban on them came out of Italy and Germany’s efforts (same is true of beef with hormones).

    As to the Palestinians France’s course has been pretty clear since the 1967 war; France (as de Gaulle stated even then) feared that continued support for Israel would foster “terrorism” (de Gaulle’s own word). In light of the 10,000 French civilians (and the 300,000-1 million Algerians the French killed) who had just died in the Algerian conflict it was an understandable concern.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Hylas,

    Actually, French foreign policy (and the objects of that foreign policy) has changed considerably over the past four hundred years.

    Four hundred years ago French foreign policy consisted of keeping “Ligue” allies at bay (meaning Spain and the post-Tridentine Papacy) and allying with Protestant powers to defeat Spain (which Louis XIII was eventually able to do). At the same time in the 17th century France had to deal with the future Charles I and George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham efforts to aid the Huguenots at La Rochelle; these efforts too were defeated, with Buckingham sent packing with his tale between his legs.

    Today French foreign policy is based on further integration of Europe, maintaining close relations with Arab nations, supporting its overseas base system, reducing its more direct involvement in Africa, etc.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Hylas,

    Indeed, France (despite its natural wealth and abudance) in the 17th century was coming out a period which had weakened it considerably (the era of “wars of religion” – with its numerous Catholic and Protestant massacres). Spain had in the late 16th century attempted to place a pro-Spanish puppet on the throne of France, and thereby create a semi-colony out of the country, all with the aid of the Papacy. Thus the enmity towards Spain and the Papacy was understandable (indeed, as understandable as England’s enmity towards Spain at the time). Thus Louis XIII’s (through his servant Richelieu) efforts were fixed on securing and expanding the borders of France and denying Spain control of the Swiss alpine passes that would have given it control over middle Europe. People reading “evil” designs into these efforts simply do not understand who the real superpower in Europe was at the time (the late 16th and early 17th centuries), and why the Dutch, French and English all found themselves to be at war with Spain during this period.

  • J1

    ?Eh? The posts in this discussion have all seemed entirely reasonable; the only person to mention the US as evil or racist has been you.”

    I apologize if I implied that about this particular discussion. I probably should have thought out my post a bit more. It was a dashed off response. And I was a bit too sensitive about it, and “pre-emptively” counterpunched.

    “And nobody is saying the US has to ‘fall’, merely that its relative power will decline as other powers catch up – particularly as China and India emerge from their relatively underdeveloped state. That doesn’t even imply a failing on the part of the US; it merely recognises how far behind everyone else was.”

    That is my point. You just stated it more eloquently than I did.

    J1

  • veryretired

    EG–

    I know this is a mistake, but I’m going to try anyway. You are awash in all the conventional wisdom about how things work. Unfortunaely, it is about as deep as last week’s Time magazine, and as often wrong.

    One of the things that often dissuades me from posting is that I will get responses like yours, which pick out a sentence or two and then mangle the point I was making in order to re-assert your own position.

    I do not view the world through your lens, whatever that may be. Please do me the favor of ignoring anything I post in the future. You and I do not speak the same language.

    For the most basic example, I can only point out that your citation of 6000 years of history is valid towards authoritarian, and generally theocratic, regimes, not constitutionally structured representative governments which may adjust as they encounter obstacles instead of fragmenting from their innate brittleness.

    I am sorry if these ideas are too radical for you, but I have always been a radical, not a proper, libertarian. I hope you can respect the fact that I will not be responding every time you pick out a sentence to disagree with. I really do have other things to do.

  • Gary Gunnels

    For the most basic example, I can only point out that your citation of 6000 years of history is valid towards authoritarian, and generally theocratic, regimes, not constitutionally structured representative governments which may adjust as they encounter obstacles instead of fragmenting from their innate brittleness.

    Well, Britain saw a similar reduction in its power (though calling Britain’s situation today a “collapse” would be a bit odd) over the twentieth century.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Really, whether China becomes a major threat to the U.S. militarily (clearly its already a major economic rival – which is a good thing from my perspective) depends on a whole set of unstated assumptions and contingencies that folks are not discussing here. That and we have a bunch of silly jingoist anti-Europeanism going on here.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Here is what the EU has to say about EU-China relations:

    http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/china/intro/

  • Euan Gray

    I can only point out that your citation of 6000 years of history is valid towards authoritarian, and generally theocratic, regimes, not constitutionally structured representative governments

    I’m afraid it is valid for all powers that have ever existed. ALL of them. Without exception, irrespective of government system. Other than the US, which is hardly in its post-decline phase yet, name one power that has NOT risen to a peak of relative strength and subsequently declined. Just one.

    Britain at the height of its power was a nearly libertarian, laissez-faire nation with a relatively advanced democratic system. It operated under a flexible (if unwritten) constitution, founded largely upon Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights – just like America, but without the elected upper house. In 1914, Britain was one of only about a dozen democratic states in the world.

    And yet it declined. Like every other power before it. As will America.

    I hope you can respect the fact that I will not be responding every time you pick out a sentence to disagree with. I really do have other things to do.

    If you don’t want to respond, then don’t. No-one is forcing you to. Nor does anyone expect you to if you don’t want to, so it is not necessary to comment to the effect that you won’t comment.

    I was responding not to a single sentence but to the general thrust of your argument, which is that you seem to think America is immune from the same historical socio-economic processes that have affected every single state which has hitherto existed, presumably because it is a constitutional state. There is that I can see absolutely no justification for this belief whatsoever, and I would say it is naive and hubristic.

    As with every other state, the circumstances which allowed America to prosper so much more than others in an earlier period are not necessarily so unique or special now. These circumstances are not so much some nebulous and special characteristic of the American people or constitutional arrangements as rather the spread of a unified business-friendly government on a continental scale, in an environment which largely precluded the threat of hostile invasion and which was blessed with vast resources of pretty much every kind.

    This is no longer unique. In amy case, the advantage is only meaningful when seen in relation to the possibly different advantages enjoyed by other states – marginal or relative, rather than absolute advantage, in other words. Furthermore, the relatively high price of contemporary American labour coupled with the increasingly domestic preoccupations of the electorate and a heavy burden of overseas strategic obligations (quite possibly into overstretch) mean that some of America’s undoubted advantages are being outweighed. This is the same thing that happened with Britain. And people said about Britain in the 1890s EXACTLY the same thing you (and others) are saying today about America.

    It is in principle not inevitable that states should decline, but thus far no state has ever failed so to do. There is no evidence that the US will avoid it either. Just being a properly constituted democratic republic isn’t enough, just as being a relatively enlightened and pacific imperial power and free-trading nation wasn’t enough to stop Britain declining. Indeed, it has been speculated that British decline was hastened by the very laissez-faire policy championed hereabouts.

    America is rich and powerful, and barring catastrophe will remain so – but its RELATIVE wealth and power will decline even as its absolute wealth and power increase. America is richer and more powerful than China – but by how much? And by how much was it richer and more powerful 25 years ago? 50 years ago?

    If it’s any consolation, in time China too will succumb. Every state does, like it or not.

    EG

  • Verity

    Gary Gunnels and others: why make the assumption that China’s growing purchasing power will automatically turn it in an enemy of the current top nation?

    When the United States became more economically powerful than Britain, the two countries didn’t become enemies. Except for Guardian readers and BBC employees, we are still close. Admittedly, we are both in the Anglosphere, and that helps, but I don’t think that if China develops a hugely successful economy, that means it will want to be the enemy of the United States. Rather, I think for trading purposes, it will want to be a friend. You may have noticed in life – powerful people and rich people tend to hobnob.

    And let’s not forget that the other nation destined to become an economic giant, India, is in the Anglosphere, which will assure that the Anglosphere will continue to have the most powerful presence on earth.

    I happen to believe that the US, because it is a beacon of liberty and light and has an extremely stable form of government, will be top nation for a very long time to come.

  • Hylas

    Gary Gunnels,

    My comment about France was a joke. But maybe it was too obscure so I’ll spell it out.

    During the wars of religion, Richelieu allied with Protestants to save Catholic France from being absorbed by the Hapsburg Empire.

    Now, during our modern wars of religion, Chirac allies with China to save the world from absorption by the Amerikkkan Hegemonster Hyperpower and its vile Anglo-Saxon capitalist mono-culture blah blah blah….

    Was it that obscure? I’ll bet a Frenchman would have got the joke.

    And what the hell is this world coming to when an American has to explain irony to a Brit?

    (again – joking!)

    😉

  • Tim Sturm

    I also find EG’s “dispassionate” analysis intensely irritating. It’s not just that’s he’s wrong, its that as an avowed moral relativist he wouldn’t give two stuffs if the US – the freest and greatest country the world has ever seen – were to actually fail.

  • Tedd McHenry

    I’m afraid it is valid for all powers that have ever existed.

    This is perilously close to a tautology. You seem to be saying, “All powers that once existed and have ceased to exist once existed and have ceased to exist.” True enough, but surely beside the point. The issue here is not whether the U.S. will decline in power, but when. I’m sure we can all agree that at some point down the road, whether it be five years or five million years, the U.S. will no longer even exist.

    As Veryretired pointed out, these dire predictions of U.S. decline have been around a long time. I’m middle-aged, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t regularly hear them. Over that period U.S. power and influence have remained high — even increased in many ways. So I’m not inclined to jump on the declining-American-emprire bandwagon.

    Many of these declined powers were at the top of their form for centuries, and some for millennia, so it seems a little early to be predicting U.S. decline based on historical precedent.

  • Rob

    Oops, meant to put this link in the above post.

  • Stehpinkeln

    “Why not? Why would America be different? Why would it not decay and decline like everyone else? And bear in mind that just over 100 years ago people used to say the same thing about Britain.”

    EG

    Because America isn’t so much a place or a thing as an idea. And ideas never die, they just get replaced by better ideas. The American Idea, that all men are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that government exists to protect those rights, has already been spread far enough so that even if some calamity befalls the land itself, the idea will live on.
    On the practical side, the Human race stands poised on the verge of the greatest explosion of scientific knowledge in the history of the human race. It will make the advances at the end of the 19th century look trivial. Read “The Knowledge Web”, which is the science history of that time period. America will produce most of the advances, which is what the American system is designed to do.
    From just the military POV, it is impossible for anyone to catch America. We are working on the replcements for what Europe can’t even build yet. The Euro Fighter is competition for the F-15, which is a 30 year old design. The F-22 will be obsolete before the production run is finished. It is not possible to build an aircraft to compete with the XF-47 and the other UACV’s without learning to build F-22 types first. It would do absolutly no good to stop the supermarine factory in the middle of tooling up for Spitfires and hand them the plans for the Harrier.
    Modern military actions are based on Air Control. NO Army operating under what Col. Warden calls Case II conditions has ever lost.
    And Last but far from least, you are the perfect example of Why America is the only superpower. You think because something has never happend, it never will happen. American know better. If something hasn’t happened, Americans roll up their sleeves and get to work. We Make it happen.
    HYunstville is working had on a viable reactionless space drive. There are several good ideas out there and in a few more years they will be tested in space. An piezo-electric drive that doesn’t use fuel for a push will open up the Solar system. It is not impossible that America has outposts in the Astroid belt before China puts a man on the moon. That is what is behind the 5 billion for a manned mission to mars.
    When Americans learn to live in the astroid belt, it won’t be taht big a change from living in the Ort Cloud. And getting to the Ort Cloud around the next star over isn’t that big a deal. Once the human race develops the technology to live and grow in Space, there will be no collapse of civilization. Another 150 years or less.
    The have bumped the life span of rats bt 3. We won’t live to see the first human walk under a different sun, but Our children might.
    Please excuse the typos. They are all Mr. Adams fault.

  • Rob

    The American Idea, that all men are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that government exists to protect those rights, has already been spread far enough so that even if some calamity befalls the land itself, the idea will live on

    I think this is the source of the confusion in this discussion – the confusion between the idea and the country.

    You are correct that the basic classical liberal principles of individual rights and limited government are excellent principles, but they are not exclusively ‘American’. The USA is certainly the best example of their implementation at the present time, just as Britain was 100 years ago. But it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that, 100 years into the future, some other nation will have picked up those ideas and made them their own, and that America may have faltered in its own commitment to these values.

    Furthermore, so long as the ideas live on, I personally don’t really care what happens to America more or less than I care about anywhere else. Its place in history is special only insofar as it continues to uphold those principles. For as long as it does, America will have a special place in the respect and affection of freedom-loving people around the world, but as repsonsible people we must also consider the possibility that America might not always be there to support that cause.

  • Euan Gray

    as an avowed moral relativist

    I’m not.

    if you have a superior argument as to why the US will not undergo any kind of decline, absolute or relative, I’m sure it will receive a sympathetic hearing

    I for one would like to hear it. Simply denying it will happen, however, is not an argument.

    Because America isn’t so much a place or a thing as an idea

    Well, that’s a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? Surely it’s not the idea of America, per se, that is important, but the idea of liberal capitalist democracy? If America were to suddenly cease to exist (and I am not arguing it will), the idea of liberal capitalist democracy will not die with it. I agree with Rob that whilst the US is the best exemplar of this general idea right now, 100 years ago Britain was. Quite probably 100 years from now some other country will be.

    You think because something has never happend, it never will happen

    Not quite. I did say there is no reason in principle why decline is inevitable. However, although history does not predict the future, it does give pretty good guidance as to what is *likely* to happen in similar circumstances. The fact that no power has ever avoided decline does not in itself mean that America will necessarily decline – but it’s a pretty good (and over 6,000 years pretty reliable) indication that it probably will.

    All the arguments made against American decline now could have been (and were) made against British decline 100-120 years ago. Nevertheless, Britain declined. There is, that I can see, no compelling reason why America will not decline.

    EG

  • J

    This is the most interesting and reasonably argued thread I’ve seen for ages.

    EG makes excellent points. Those who talk of America’s unique form of government miss the point slightly. Most major powers have been, relatively, more free, fair, and (possibly) democratic than the powers they replaced.

    The Roman empire had a rather basic notion of human rights, but it was a good deal more than the various barbaric tribes that they conquered.

    The feudal system in Europe was not exactly a pleasant regime to live under, but at least they had a notion of justice more advanced than trial by ordeal, which it replaced.

    One day, someone will come up with something better than US style western constitutional democracy, and the nation/empire/religion/ethnic group that adopts it will likely rise to power. Maybe that nation will be the USA. Maybe it won’t.

    Someone else mentioned demographic issues, and that’s an important point. The US is in a better position than many place in this regard, but I can still see a spanish/english speaking divide in the US in the next 100 years that could significantly weaken the country. It could also be that large parts of the US are getting dangerously low on fresh water.

    I will be interested to see what happens to china in the next 25 years…

  • Pete_London,

    Sorry about the humour induced hernia.

    But the irony of the UN holding an anti-Corruption day whilst Kofi’s son is embroiled in the biggest UN fraud scandal in histroy is beyond satire.

    Here and here for more.

    It would be funny if it weren’t $21bn stolen to grease the pockets of French & Russian politicians, UN apparatchiks et al. It stinks. All foreign ‘aid’ invites corruption, but this was larceny on a grand scale.

  • mike

    J: well I think there have been *some* interesting points made in this thread, but much of it has been crappy raspberry blowing. Euan’s point (and the responses to it) that America will decline at some point is so boring as to make me fall asleep on the toilet.

    For me the interesting questions are all with the Chinese, not the future of America.

    Verity questioned the assumption that China’s rise will make it a threat to us rather than a trading partner – but I think it’s a reasonable assumption given what Brian says in his article about China looking to boost its’ military capabilities.

    But veryretired’s first post was the most interesting. That there are questions about the future of China, its’ economy and system of government quite irrespective of relations with the US or anyone else, is something we haven’t discussed. Is China a totalitarian society, even taking account of a certain degree of realpolitik tolerance? How long can it last for? What major ‘internal’ threats are there to its’ survival or at least prosperity? Will it seek to become expansionist (aggressive or otherwise)? Why not? Etc etc etc…..

    Wondering about geopolitical relations between China and the US twenty to thirty years from hence requires the assumption of China making it as a successful superpower in one form or another. But what that form will take, or whether China (being a fucking communist state after all) will not collapse in the meantime are to my mind more open to interesting factual discussion.

  • D Anghelone

    Because America isn’t so much a place or a thing as an idea

    “There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.”

  • Sandy P

    Let’s have some more fun, shall we:

    justoneminute.typepad.com

    compared The Economist’s 2004 article w/an article it wrote in 2002:

    J1M wrote, “Europe is going to replace the US as the dominant economy, and the Euro will supplant the dollar as a reserve currency? Does anyone who has looked at European demographics and the financial state of their public health and retirement plans actually believe that? Please.”

    Then he goes on to quote the article.

    Let’s have even more fun. There’s going to be more Chicom males than females. There’s your sabre-rattlers, folks. What does a country do w/all those unmarried young males????

    And the 1-child policy will stay for awhile, even tho the gov’t is beginning to encourage more than 1.

    Rantburg had that article earlier this week, IIRC.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Verity,

    Gary Gunnels and others: why make the assumption that China’s growing purchasing power will automatically turn it in an enemy of the current top nation?

    I’m not.

    Hylas,

    I don’t take hopelessly erroneous comments as ironic ones.

    ___________________________

    The U.S. isn’t simply an “idea.” Its a culture (which is changing – becoming more latinized by the decade) and a geographic entity. And anyone with the remotest sense of American history could tell you that the U.S. at 2004 is in many respects radically different from the U.S. at 1904 or 1804.

    The American Idea, that all men are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights…

    That’s a European idea actually (carved out of the ideas of men like Harrington, Locke, Montesquieu, etc.), and it certainly was not fully implemented when my nation was founded (indeed, its been an intense struggle to get such fully implemented). Indeed, if there is a difference with the pasts its between the “liberty of the ancients” (classical Greece and Rome) which did not recognize individual liberty, and the “liberty of the moderns” (starting with Enlightenment thinkers) who do recognize individual liberty.

  • Gary Gunnels

    D Anghelone,

    Can we not quote from really crappy movies? 🙂

    Sandy P.,

    Put them on assembly lines.

    Europe is going to replace the US as the dominant economy…

    Probably not; of course it really doesn’t have to. Europe will continue to be a very rich area of the planet without supplanting the U.S.

    …and the Euro will supplant the dollar as a reserve currency?

    Now, that could happen.

    Does anyone who has looked at European demographics…

    Depends on the country; Britain and France have relatively healthy demographic pictures due to immigration (both are supposed to increase by 10% by 2050 as I recall – not a bad clip for the developed world). Germany and Italy don’t (despite immigration). And of course there is the wildcard Turkey; its masses of youthful workers should be able to halt demographic decline.

    …the financial state of their public health and retirement plans actually believe that?

    Neither the EU, China nor the U.S. are particularly healthy in these areas (though China can probably grow its way to some extent out of this problem).

  • Sandy P

    Rob wrote–You are correct that the basic classical liberal principles of individual rights and limited government are excellent principles, but they are not exclusively ‘American’. The USA is certainly the best example of their implementation at the present time, just as Britain was 100 years ago. But it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that, 100 years into the future, some other nation will have picked up those ideas and made them their own, and that America may have faltered in its own commitment to these values.–

    One might argue that we were even more free-wheeling in those days. We’ve certainly become more statist, which is to our detriment.

    Britain’s more established.

    As to the idea – no other country can. They can take some of our ideas, but an American-style vision won’t be implemented. The world doesn’t get US and we’re a threat to the establishment.

    As to China, communism doesn’t work, and when they go… We were very lucky w/the USSR that it went out w/a whimper, not a bang.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Let’s also note that if it were not for immigration, the U.S. would be also be in demographic (and perhaps economic) decline.

  • Wild Pegasus

    The unfortunate problem with many of the arguments touting America’s long-term success potential is that they rest on the notion that America values individual liberty and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case. The past election was centred around administering imperial outposts and effective management of enormous state programmes, programmes that will only grow strong and bigger in the coming years. IOW, we are heading to where Europe already is, and we’re heading there quickly.

    – Josh

  • xavras

    I haven’t seen many arguments based on the China’s political system. It’s a communist state, which means:

    – the state needs an enemy to keep the people under control. It was the evil capitalists for a while, now it seems to me it is the evil Americans, Taiwanese, Japanese, Australians… who either do not recognize China’s power and are blocking it’s ambitions, or, in Taiwan’s case are a threat to China’s territorial integrity.

    – any communist state is geared towards war and territorial expansion. The semi-capitalistic economy China is now implementing may weaken the need for expansion (I’m not so sure tho) but 50 years of indoctrination and a military prepared exclusively to wage a defensive war “soviet style” must be taken into account (as all of you surely know, the Warsaw Pact was only preparing itsels for a defensive war in Europe, the units based in northern Poland, where I live, were training mainly for a “defensive” campaign on Danish coast, we had even special landing ships constructed suitable only for use on Danish beaches…).

    – to this day, all attempts to merge a communist state with a free market economy have resulted in a collapse of the communist state. The Chinese are walking are incredibly fine line there…

  • D Anghelone

    Let’s also note that if it were not for immigration, the U.S. would be also be in demographic (and perhaps economic) decline.

    And in libertartian circles it’s usually assumed that economic decline must follow population decline. That may be as is but I don’t know why a mostly capitalist society wouldn’t adjust to demographic variations.

    I won’t give that “crappy movie” crack the reply it deserves. Am I not merciful?

  • Amelia

    Sandy mentioned the female problem already. Couple of points that I don’t think have been mentioned. China’s rise may seem inevitable but I wonder,
    1)corruption widespread both historically and currently
    2) related to that China does not have a version of the British common law which I think is a big contribution to America’s and maybe soon India’s success this effects all sort of things from rights to the sanctity of business contracts
    3)history of China is one of competing warlords- are they really unfied despite all the commie efforts? I wonder especially in light of the USSR’s eventual crumble into many nations.

  • Gary Gunnels

    D Anghelone,

    He he he. 🙂

    Well, presumably a sufficiently rich and free society will never have to worry – long term – about population decline. That’s one of the reasons why I think predictions about decline in Germany and Italy are overblown; indeed, the recent boom in Chinese immigration to Western Europe (France and Germany in particular) is probably indicative of why such concerns are somewhat hyperbolic. China (and other countries) has plenty of people to share with the world.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Amelia,

    (a) Corruption is generally endemic in any developing economy (be it 18th century Britain or France or modern day China). I don’t think this is some special knock against China.

    (b) I don’t think the possession of something like “common law” is the sine qua non of capitalist development.

    (c) history of China is one of competing warlords- are they really unfied despite all the commie efforts Ahh, no. The history of China is encapsulated in phases between long periods of centralization and short periods of de-centralizatized powers trying to get back to that centralized state (part of this can be seen in the doctrine known as the “mandate of heaven”). One thing China has is a pretty strong national and cultural identity these days, despite whatever differences the Chinese may have between themselves as residents of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, etc.

  • mike

    D Anghelone: thou art indeed merciful, as the pride of the eagle appears as mercy to many a scurrilous groundling…

  • Gary Gunnels

    mike,

    Are you going to start a duo with John Ashcroft? 🙂

  • mike

    Gary: should I be approached on such a count, verily would I beat down Mr Ashcroft with the rushing winds of my mercy.

  • T. J. Madison

    >>What does a country do w/all those unmarried young males????

    Well, China could begin promoting homosexuality or polyandry on a large scale. They could train more engineers, who won’t ever expect to get laid anyway. The nation could also develop a reputation for extreme chivalrousness, thereby attracting women from adjacent countries.

    (None of these alternatives seem particularly likely, but any of them would be a whole lot smarter and less messy then just sending the “superfluous males” off to die.)

  • Stehpinkeln

    This will get a horse laugh, but remember the Olympic Curse? And since by some’s logic what has always happened will always happen, it is inevitable the the DPRC falls into revolt after the ’08 Olympics. And even if they don’t, they still face the same problem the Soviet Union did. The Workers pretend to work and the State pretends to pay them.
    An economy based on what is now called ‘heavy maufacturing’ is soooo 19th century. The 21st century economy will be based on technology and information. Please note 2 more facts about China. The Manufacturing that some here are so proud of is moslty Heavy (Ships, tanks, major weapons such as ICBM’s etc. ) and light (stuffed toys, clothing, electronics, etc). The heavy industry isn’t very agile and the light doesn’t have much of a profit margin, since anybody can do it. The Chines don’t do much in the middle (automobiles, washing machines, air conditioners, freezers ect.) The middle is where the profit is. Ask the Japs about that.
    AIDS. All those suplus chinamen WILL find someplace to put their little peckers. 10 million a year start keeling over from HIV related problems and we’ll soon see a redress of the population inbalance.

  • Verity

    D Anghelone and G Gunnels – First, agreeing with your point, I am baffled about why nations “need” a growing population. Britain, Holland, Japan et al are already very overpopulated, to the discomfort of all.

    Our economies can continue to grow without admitting the flotsam and jetsom of the world’s most backward civilisations. We don’t need them for anything. The politicians need them as voting fodder, and why should we cooperate in that? In fact, the presence of too many of these people is damaging to the integrity of national identity (someone will jump on me for this statement).

    Re the decline (and I do not agree that this will happen any time soon, barring unforeseen circumstances) of the United States, let us not forget that China (and the Chinese diaspora) has been the dominant nation in Asia for around 6,000 years. It had a brief T-O during its hard communist phase, but it’s coming out of that again and will is regaining its stature as the undisputed giant of Asia. I do not see China going away any time soon, and nor the United States.

    The Chinese are nothing if not pragmatic. What reason would they have for trying to conquer the West? These are not stupid people, you know. They’re brilliant, and they have brilliant commercial instincts. They will hobnob with the Anglosphere (led by the United States) and India. Rich and powerful people, as I said, tend to cluster in exclusive clubs.

    (This is another reason the UN could never work. Rich people don’t want to mix with hoi polloi and assorted low lifes and gutter dwellers.)

  • Amelia

    I don’t have time for an in depth argument, but I do believe that corruption (bribery, nepotism etc.) hold a county and ultimately a civilization back. I certainly wasn’t claiming that China is the only corrupt nation, but I do think that it is widespread there. Recently I read some article about a local government toady who earned very small amount a year found with several tons of gold. There is a specific chinese word for the shoddy communist construction projects. I am certainly not an expert nor am claiming to be, but I wonder if the whole thing is not like a very big house of cards.

  • mike

    Verity: then perhaps rich people might also decline to mix among themselves sometimes. That one has money should not be taken to imply that one has moral character. You are fond of your big tar brushes aren’t you?

    China is a communist republic – however ‘pragmatic’ its’ political leadership may be. Their system of government is absolutely anathema to us, despite their economic growth.

    My first point here is that China’s economic growth is in direct contradiction to the ‘pragmatist’ argument that communism doesn’t work (ethical considerations of individual liberty and so forth aside). Is it not? And if someone would say no, they had better say why…

    My second point is that, China being so different from the West, the potential for their interests in east-asia to conflict with ours evokes a certain ‘odour’ that does not sit well with me. That they are building their military capacity does not make me think of them as a potential direct threat to us, but an indirect threat via regional dominance? Perhaps.

    And whatever else one might say of the EU, their decision to lift the arms embargo on China cannot but help the Chinese. And whatever respects we may extend to Chinese culture, I would not include our trust.

  • Euan Gray

    Amelia – extensive corruption didn’t prevent Britain’s rise in the 18th and early 19th centuries. At the time, Britain was infamous for the corruption of all levels of its society. Today, Britain is less powerful but one of the least corrupt countries in the world. America is far more powerful and wealthy, yet is noticeably more corrupt, than Britain. Corruption isn’t a good thing, but in itself it won’t necessarily prevent a country’s rise to wealth and power.

    mike – China isn’t really practicing communist or even socialist economics. Most of its growth comes from entirely capitalistic mechanisms, albeit funded in large part by a rotten banking system the potential collapse of which could bring the whole thing down. They don’t even bother with Marxism-Leninism these days, they prefer to talk of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” which might be translated as one party capitalism.

    I don’t imagine China is going to pose a direct military threat to the west, but I’d agree that its interests are likely to conflict with ours sooner or later. Who wins will depend on when this happens and the relative strength of the competing interests. If it happens in the short term, the west will likely prevail. Any other time, China will simply because it will be larger, more powerful at least at a local level and quite possibly richer. You might compare the conflict of strategic and economic interests in the middle east between the UK and US from the 1930s to the 1950s – the big guy generally gets his way.

    Incidentally, and somewhat technically, a ‘communist state’ is an oxymoron, in the same way that an ‘anarcho-capitalist state’ is.

    As for arms sales – well, big deal. If China can’t openly buy western arms, it can either buy them clandestinely, buy non-western equivalents, steal the designs, or come up with their own answers. One way or another, they will almost certainly get what they feel they need. I think preventing them buying our weapons is no more than a tiny bump in their road.

    EG

  • Verity

    Mike, “That one has money should not be taken to imply that one has moral character.”

    Really? Hang on a minute while I jot this down in my handy Book of Obvious Truths for 10-Year Olds.

    Communism is not “working” in China. Copying capitalism is what is working. Mao is gone. Deng is gone. China is moving forward. So far as I know, it has kept its word not to interfere with Hong Kong, and neighbouring Guandong rivals Hong Kong in sheer enterprise and wealth. They’re all driving Rolls Royces and Mercedes. They have everything you’ve got; perhaps more.

    A billion people can’t do a u-turn. China is moving away from communism litle by little and we should welcome that. And to whoever said above that China isn’t doing things like applicances, well, they are, of course. My refrigerator was made in China and it is a perfectly good refrigerator with some nice features.

    Amelia says: “… but I do believe that corruption (bribery, nepotism etc.) hold a county and ultimately a civilization back.” Like France, you mean?

  • Niffur

    Isn’t an embargo an “act of war”?

  • Greg

    Yes, an embargo is an act of war. However, when an embargo is imposed on a weaker nation, then there is not much they can do about it, so who cares. Although ethically wrong, in reality “might makes right”.

    Besides, embargoes hurt the “state” imposing the embargo just as much as the “target state” due to loss of trade. Embargo has been proven to be ineffective (Cuba/Casto), but “diplomats” are too lazy to come up with a better way. Although “force” should always be a last resort, it’s often the first choice because it’s fast and easy. It makes you think you are doing something about the problem. Really, embargoes don’t work, because some other nation (probably France – hey they were doing deals with Iraq!) will secretly sell arms to China anyway.

    But you know what an embargo does do? It creates animosity between the two countries involved. And when the “smaller” country (China) grows up (gets a better military and some nukes), then the “larger” country (EUrope) will have its’ hands full of trouble. Everybody thinks that China and the US are going to “go at it” one day. I think it will be China vs. EU (if socialism doesn’t implode the EU first).

  • Euan Gray

    Greg – China already has a significant nuclear capability – indeed, this is where a lot of the Pakistani nuclear technology came from. They also have a nuclear ballistic missile submarine and land based ballistic missiles, all capable of delivering nuclear payloads.

    I think it will be China vs. EU (if socialism doesn’t implode the EU first).

    Maybe one day we will hear the People’s Republic of China urging the EU to abandon socialism…

    EG

  • mike

    Ah replies!

    Verity: Yes you do that love, I’m sure your collection of Obvious Truths will increase in value for you as the years go by – maybe someome will even give you a publishing deal one day, who can say….??

    Euan: and do these ‘capatalistic mechanisms’ you speak of rely on private property rights? What involvement does the state/party have in the control of property?

  • Verity

    Verity: Yes you do that love, I’m sure your collection of Obvious Truths will increase in value for you as the years go by – maybe someome will even give you a publishing deal one day, who can say….??

    Who indeed, as long as there are people like you churning out the material?

    Euan – Maybe one day we will hear the People’s Republic of China urging the EU to abandon socialism…

    Go to Melaniephillips.com/diary today and read Wow!. Your suggestion maybe prescient…

  • Euan Gray

    do these ‘capatalistic mechanisms’ you speak of rely on private property rights

    I imagine only to a fairly limited extent. However, being pragmatic about it one has to accept that what the Chinese have right now works for them, regardless of purity – and frankly that’s all they’re interested in. As their society and economy develops, they will need to change this and may eventually need to enforce stronger property rights if they want to get the maximum advantage out of capitalism as we understand it. IF they want to do that, of course – they may not.

    China does not exist to validate western capitalist theory, nor is it essential or inevitable that it will develop capitalism in the same way that it has turned out over here. It may well do, but it doesn’t have to. Just because we do something a certain way does not mean that is the ONLY, or even necessarily the best way to do something. China’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics” certainly seems to show they are capable of figuring out their own way ahead.

    It is possible to have a dynamic and growing economy without rigorous property rights or representative government – as China has shown. It is also possible to have excellent economic performance whilst enforcing relatively strict social constraints on the people – as Singapore has shown. It is even possible to have quite respectable economic growth with a considerable burden of petty regulation and fairly high taxation – as Britain has shown. All of these methods present difficulties that might not be present in a more theoretically pure laissez-faire capitalism, but I think it’s also reasonable to say that laissez-faire has its own problems which these methods try with varying degrees of success to avoid.

    In the end, there are more ways than one to skin a cat. Or cook a noodle, come to that.

    EG

  • Euan Gray

    Verity – Thanks for the tip, I just read the article now. Much of what our anonymous mandarin says (at least the parts on Melanie’s page, haven’t read the whole file yet) strikes me as common sense and/or fairly obvious given a reasonable grasp of history. I wouldn’t agree with his view that the EU sees its destiny in the (re-)domination of Africa, but presumably he has access to information which leads to this conclusion.

    EG

  • Verity

    EG – I think what is significant about this is, he is very senior. And as Melanie points out, his position must be dangerously isolated, given that he has chosen to remain anonymous.

    So the lock-step into the EU death chamber is ordained by Blair, hoping for preferment at any cost, and he is backed by essentially the entire civil service. Which leads us to wonder, if they are so intuitively dismissive of their own country – as are those the Arab streeters, and as are those Mandarins, and now those Ewers – employed by the taxpayer to look after his interests, what are they doing drawing salaries and pensions in this country? And who is their rightful master?

    I ask because the interests are so diverse: Islam, China, the EU – all of whom have large teams of committed cheerleaders in the British civil service. The common thread seems to be, whatever the debate, they are on the other side.

    Why?

  • D Anghelone

    Roger L. Simon links to Melanie Phillips who comments on this New Frontiers Foundation essay. It mentions Hayek early on so it must be good, eh?

  • D Anghelone

    Ach! Already linked.

  • Adhib

    Verity and Scorpio could combine a point on the strategic question running through this topic:

    If the US now plays the 19th century UK role of offshore paterfamilias, I think it’s more plausible to suggest that China fits in as the modern of equivalent of 19th century USA – a new, wild card, unsure of its international role but inescapably becoming a political heavyweight.

    But Verity has, I think, one thing wrong. It’s true that the USA and the UK did not *formally* come to blows as the centre of gravity slipped out of Britain’s hands across the Atlantic. But the Old Girl did conduct some crafty delaying manouvers (think of how she built Japan as a Pacific counterweight around 1900), and both world wars gave the USA opportunities to take what she could not defend.

    States have to behave that way – they are not corporations, and do not rise and fall by free market, peaceful processes. Whether communist or capitalist, states will always seek to extend and defend their powers.

  • Verity

    Adhib, you make an interesting point, but I don’t think it addresses my post. I said when the US began to gain ascendany as the dominant military and economic power in the world – a position Britain had formerly occupied – the two countries did not become enemies and had no inclination to go to war and conquer each other. No matter what shady tricks Britain got up to in a snit, there was never the faintest interest in going to war in Britain or the US. So what I am saying is, it makes economic sense for China and the United States to be friends. By and large, the United States has been remarkably soundly governed and the Chinese are a pragmatic bunch. I believe both sides will conclude that there is much to be gained and nothing to lose for what will, in 20 years or so, be two great powers to be friends and trading partners.

    Only the basket cases of Africa – which it is my strong belief we should leave alone to sort themselves out (and that would involve withdrawing all aid, except, perhaps, help for children’s health) – and ideologically driven places like the EU will be left behind the new world order I see building up. I think it is going to be very exciting, and I think we are going to see an unprecedented burst of prosperity mantling most of the globe when China and India join the party as major players.

  • arvor

    the eu china strategic partnership is well on it’s way into being the major strategic partnership of the new century and the european already is the most important economy in the world and 2nd most powerfull military capacity aswell
    the eu in military terms is the only region that can match the usa it spends collectively around 3 times more than russia and 4 to 5 times more than china the eu also has the technological , industrial and economic capacity and the worlds most powerfull economy dwarfing the us gdp by more than a few trillion $ in space the eu has galileo coming up and europe has 3 optical spy satelites and 2 radar based satelites going up rivaling the 3 optical us satelites and 3 radar satelitesso there is parity in space in any case the eu has nothing to fear from the us militarily beacause the us military is too small to attempt anything silly finally the us is in dramatic decline driving it into desperate measures using the last means of pwoer it has left now that it has lost the economic and politcal power wich leaves the military but the iraq war has also exposed that weaknes the us essentially is in the same position as the briitsh empire was around the 1930’s where it is barely considered the number one nation and challenged from all corners by ascending powers as for the eu collapsing in 5 years that comment is proof of massive ignorance by 2007 3 new nations will join and by the end of the decade most of the ten new member states will be part of the eurozone aswell the eu will remain the main politcal actor in europe and eurasia for the next few hundred years and america is simply going to have to get used to the new world order wich unlike the neocons dream of won’t and never will be an american century

  • arvor

    the fact is the eu world vieuw coupled with the eurasian powers multipolar world vieuw is the one that is winning the african union has been created based on the eu the brasilians are also creating their own bloc based on the eu and asean aswell is wanting to form an eu style based system the comparison of the us to britian in the last century is quite good as every major power today is essentially battling the us the decision on how far americas influence outside north america remains is not up to the us but to the eurasian powers america is essentially broke and one reason why it tried to invade iraq is beacause of it’s swtich to the euro as we all know oil is sold in dollars if opec and oil are sold in euros instead it would collapse americas power completely the us today needs at least 2 billion $ to keep sergiving the debt in november the us government nearly had to default and had to raise the debt ceiling or else the entire system wouldv grind to a halt the eu and china are the foremost ascending powers and the eu is more pwoerfull than china noit in 50 years but today already i suggest you read china’s white paper on it’s relationship with the eu and vice versa to better understand the situation i suggets reading these two links wich are pretty accurate and good

    http://www.brookings.org/dybdocroot/views/articles/shambaugh/20040901.pdf

    http://www.chinaembassy.ee/eng/dtxw/t111873.htm

  • Damien

    The future is really never predictable but what i feel is that China, a communist state, can never be a true friend of the Western world. It will only be entertaining the EU for economic purposes. By 2050, the whole world will realise that China(if still communist) is a big threat to western ideologies. China also has warm relationships with Islamic countries(Iran, Pakistan to name a few) and this warmth can grow in the future to become a sort of Islamic world-China military axis. That will be a big problem and I feel it is also quite possible.

    Containing China would bring in unexpected countries to the world forum. I feel south American countries, especially Brazil and Argentina, will also become regional economic power houses which will back the US led front as they have little advantage to ally with China. The EU will have little choice but to agree to contain China(france will probably break away and create its own imaginary world where it is still the leader). Another potential ally with a great econmic and military clout will be India. I feel India will be the real solution to the problem of containing China as it is geographically a neighbour and is also a booming econmoy destined to be a great power. India is also a part of the Angloshpere.

    But China is already a huge economic power and has a sizable military( not a threat but quite substantial). It’s allaince with North Korea and the Islamic world( with the terrorists) is a matter of grave concern for the US.
    A communist nation like China, where individual liberty and social freedom are unheard of, cannot ever be a political ally of the West and can only be a threat.

    Things however can change dramatically. If economy in the US does pick up in the next decade or so, then China will probably never have to wear the robe of a superpower. China’s communist regime could also collapse in the meantime and it could either disintegrate or become a democratic nation with western ideologies. Future, as ever, is full of surprises.

  • David Sampford

    This subject just goes to show that human nature is intent on destroying itself, however this is more pushed towards the American Government on this ocassion.

    In my eyes the main problem in this world at this precise time is American imperialism. America is intent on telling everyone including trying, and trying is the word to tell China and the EU how to manage itself, when America has more social and economic issues including savage poverty than any other developed country in the world at present. Not so good after all are you.

    Americans do not see outside there own country, and this is another problem. If you brain wash which the American government I beleive do to its own people inevitably the people in America are going to be Xenophobic to other nations, including England, who I must add only the governemnt backs America, not the general public, again you are unaware of this, because of brain washing.

    I think the USA really do need to keep there nose out of China’s personnal issues or you will cause WW3. China is certainly a match for the USA, and it is not advisable for the USA to try and protect Taiwan as it has nothing to do with America, and you would be fighting in China’s back yard and you will lose and lose heavily to China’s might, regardless of what guns and weaponry you have in your arsenal, unless you are foolish enough to cause a nuclear war, which you probably are with your current President.

    China I beleive is not a threat as you Americans keep preaching. It is American paranoir that causes great instability in this world. People like Bin Laden are a menace for sure, but why do you think terrorists wish to get the west, more specifically the USA?. Is it maybe because only a hand-ful of countries have it all, and the rest of the world has suffered because of American and EU greed?. The answer to your war on terrorism is sort out world poverty which can be done, sort out the environment again with America’s help can be done. But America in itself will not listen to international pressure, inevitably war will continue along with the terrorism, poverty etc, etc.

    Until you vote in a President that has his morals correct and is less Xenophobic towards other countries outside the USA more specifically the UAE for consumption of there oil, not yours, then it will and can only get far worse.

    If you are the richest country on Earth, prove it?. Military only proves your a menace, but prove by spending money in the environment and to wipe out poverty. Because at the moment you are not proving yourselves to be a worthy world governemnt at all. Spend in the correct areas, and no one will care if you are No1 will they, I certainly wouldnt care if we had a world government backed heavily by the Americans providing they listen to the rest of the worlds problems. Your doing it all wrong, bigtime.

    So in a way, the American government is the problem, basically. I feel for the average person in the USA, I really do, because really its not your fault, even if you did vote in Bush. If only you people could see the truth, I think you would detroy your current government in exchange for a more liberal President that can communicate on all levels, not just with Tony Blaire, and who has real aspirations to move on from killing ourselves.

    Only the American public can really apply the pressure, not anyone else.

    This message is not meant to offend any of you. I respect the general American public, but not your Government. I take a risk in saying what I have said, but someone has to, dont they?.

  • David Sampford

    This subject just goes to show that human nature is intent on destroying itself, however this is more pushed towards the American Government on this ocassion.

    In my eyes the main problem in this world at this precise time is American imperialism. America is intent on telling everyone including trying, and trying is the word to tell China and the EU how to manage itself, when America has more social and economic issues including savage poverty than any other developed country in the world at present. Not so good after all are you.

    Americans do not see outside there own country, and this is another problem. If you brain wash which the American government I beleive do to its own people inevitably the people in America are going to be Xenophobic to other nations, including England, who I must add only the governemnt backs America, not the general public, again you are unaware of this, because of brain washing.

    I think the USA really do need to keep there nose out of China’s personnal issues or you will cause WW3. China is certainly a match for the USA, and it is not advisable for the USA to try and protect Taiwan as it has nothing to do with America, and you would be fighting in China’s back yard and you will lose and lose heavily to China’s might, regardless of what guns and weaponry you have in your arsenal, unless you are foolish enough to cause a nuclear war, which you probably are with your current President.

    China I beleive is not a threat as you Americans keep preaching. It is American paranoir that causes great instability in this world. People like Bin Laden are a menace for sure, but why do you think terrorists wish to get the west, more specifically the USA?. Is it maybe because only a hand-ful of countries have it all, and the rest of the world has suffered because of American and EU greed?. The answer to your war on terrorism is sort out world poverty which can be done, sort out the environment again with America’s help can be done. But America in itself will not listen to international pressure, inevitably war will continue along with the terrorism, poverty etc, etc.

    Until you vote in a President that has his morals correct and is less Xenophobic towards other countries outside the USA more specifically the UAE for consumption of there oil, not yours, then it will and can only get far worse.

    If you are the richest country on Earth, prove it?. Military only proves your a menace, but prove by spending money in the environment and to wipe out poverty. Because at the moment you are not proving yourselves to be a worthy world governemnt at all. Spend in the correct areas, and no one will care if you are No1 will they, I certainly wouldnt care if we had a world government backed heavily by the Americans providing they listen to the rest of the worlds problems. Your doing it all wrong, bigtime.

    So in a way, the American government is the problem, basically. I feel for the average person in the USA, I really do, because really its not your fault, even if you did vote in Bush. If only you people could see the truth, I think you would detroy your current government in exchange for a more liberal President that can communicate on all levels, not just with Tony Blaire, and who has real aspirations to move on from killing ourselves.

    Only the American public can really apply the pressure, not anyone else.

    This message is not meant to offend any of you. I respect the general American public, but not your Government. I take a risk in saying what I have said, but someone has to, dont they?.

  • paul manser

    Deleted by Admin: Sorry, you have to leave comments in coherent English