Geopolitics, globalisation

The world has never witnessed anything like China’s rise before. The nearest parallel was that of the United States between 1870 and 1914. But America’s growth rate during this period was much lower and its population was much smaller. With a double digit growth rate and a population of 1.3 billion, China is in a different league. From 1978 until around 2000, the impact of China’s rise was largely a domestic phenomenon, though by the 1990s it increasingly began to be felt in East Asia. With China’s economy still only one-20th the size of America’s in 1980, this is hardly surprising.

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11/05/10 - The News Tribune

Until the global financial crisis, few in the United States believed the country was in decline. A minority now recognize this might be the case. The challenge to America’s position as premier global power comes from China. The fact it is only a developing country, with an economy much smaller than America’s and far less advanced, persuades many than this is a distant prospect.

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LONDON — The spats between the United States and China appear to be getting more numerous and more serious. The Chinese objected in strong terms to the U.S.’s latest arms deal with Taiwan and threatened to take sanctions against those firms involved. President Obama recently accused the Chinese of currency manipulation. At Davos, Larry Summers, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, made an oblique attack on China by referring to mercantilist policies.

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China’s tough response on US arms sales to Taiwan reflects the shift in the global balance of power

The Chinese response to the decision of the United States to sell a $ arms package to Taiwan represents a small but significant raising of the ante. The Chinese have partially halted the military exchange programme between the two countries, only recently resumed following a suspension after the last such military package in 2008. This time the Chinese have also threatened to impose sanctions against the US firms involved in the deal. This is causing serious disquiet among firms like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Taiwan, of course, is of special significance to the Chinese; since 1949 the return of the island to China has been seen as an overriding priority. Beijing regards Taiwan as an internal Chinese issue, and the US arms sales are ­therefore regarded as interference in China’s internal affairs and a violation of its sovereignty. When the pro-independence DPP held office in Taiwan, China’s relations with the island were fraught; but with the victory of the more ­moderate KMT, they have improved immeasurably and some kind of ­reconciliation between China and ­Taiwan is now conceivable. This has made the Chinese more confident in their handling of the Taiwan issue.

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Google’s defeat foretells the day when Beijing rules the world

The blunt truth is that most Western forecasters have been wrong about China for the past 30 years. They have claimed that Chinese economic growth was exaggerated, that a big crisis was imminent, that state controls would fade away, and that exposure to global media, notably the Internet, would steadily undermine the Communist Party’s authority. The reason why China forecasting has such a poor track record is that Westerners constantly invoke the model and experience of the West to explain China, and it is a false prophet. Until we start trying to understand China on its own terms, rather than as a Western-style nation in the making, we will continue to get it wrong.

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The West has gotten it wrong on China for decades – even as it embraces a market economy, it has shunned Western-style freedoms. And its power is only growing

The dynamics of President Obama’s trip to China were markedly different from those evident on visits made by President Clinton and President George W. Bush. This time the Chinese made clear that they were unwilling even to discuss issues such as human rights or free speech. Why? The relationship between the countries has changed: America feels weak and China strong in their bilateral ties. This is not a temporary shift that will reverse itself once the U.S. has escaped from its mountain of debt. Rather, it is the expression of a deep and progressive shift in the balance of power between the two nations, one that is giving the Chinese — though studiously cautious in their approach — a rising sense of self-confidence.

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Afghanistan has proved the deathbed of every imperial project that has sought to tame it. Sooner or later, the British will leave in defeat

There is one certainty concerning the British and western military presence in Afghanistan: it will fail. Only when is in doubt. It may yet stumble on for a few more years, but sooner or later there will be a general recognition that the mission cannot succeed.

This is one of the stranger military escapades of the past few decades. Without the attacks of 11 September 2001, the invasion of Afghanistan would never have happened. The United States needed to find a military outlet for its anger and desire for revenge and Afghanistan was the chosen target; the objectives were to hunt down Osama Bin Laden and destroy al-Qaeda. This was the (always absurd and overblown) “war on terror”. The first objective has never been achieved, the second remains as elusive as ever, and meanwhile the Nato troops have become embroiled in a war without end against the Taliban.

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Washington must cut the umbilical cords that ties it to Tel Aviv. If it doesn’t, the conflict in the Middle East will hasten American decline

Could the Middle East prove to be the United States’ Dien Bien Phu? The latter, you may remember, was where the flower of France’s colonial troops was vanquished by the Viet Minh in 1954. That military defeat in Vietnam came to symbolise the end of France as an imperial power. I exaggerate, of course: apart from Iraq, American troops are not embroiled in the Middle East and there is no great battle vaguely on the horizon. Dien Bien Phu is no more than a metaphor for the problems that can befall an imperial power in decline. The region where a similar process of angst and exhaustion might most obviously face the US today is the Middle East. Washington has long regarded it to be the most important region as far as US interests are concerned.

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The UN conference on racism confronted western countries with difficult truths – but that’s no reason for anyone to walk out

I can think of only one international body that can lay claim to a semblance of democracy: the United Nations. All the other organisations that regard themselves as global – the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation – are creations of the west and their power structures reflect that fact. This is the reason why the United States has always had a troubled relationship with the UN; it is the one organisation where it is not assured of getting its own way. On the contrary, it often finds itself hugely outnumbered, resolutions on the Middle East and Israel being a classic trigger. That, rather than being strapped for cash, is why the US has always been so reluctant to pay its dues. So, it was no surprise to find the US boycotting this year’s UN World Conference against Racism in Geneva, or that it walked out of the first such meeting in Durban in 2001. America is invariably on the defensive on such occasions.

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As an emboldened China sees, the American dollar is gravely wounded. And the days of US political supremacy are numbered

We have entered one of those rare historical periods that is characterised by a shift in global hegemony from one great power to another. The last such was between 1931 and 1945, and marked the end of Britain’s financial ascendancy and its replacement by that of the United States. It might be argued that the cold war represented a similar period, but that is a fallacy: the cold war was an ideological struggle between two powers that were always hopelessly ill-matched. This new period is marked by the rise of China and the decline of the US. Arguably the process started around a decade ago, but at that stage it was barely noticed, such was the west’s preoccupation with 9/11 and its after-effects. Indeed, the Bush administration was thinking in exactly the opposite terms: that the world was entering a golden age of American global power.

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Updated and expanded new Chinese edition just released.


Turkish edition just published!

When China Rules the World is the first book to fully conceive of and explain the upheaval that China’s ascendance will cause and the realigned global power structure it will create.

New edition available now from:

Amazon UK
and all good booksellers.

US second edition is available now via: 

Amazon US