Posts Tagged ‘China’

China abandons one-child policy

November 11, 2015


One of the most momentous events in modern history was China’s adoption of the “one-child” policy in 1980.

figure1Now the Chinese government has done something almost equally momentous.  It has adopted a “two-child” policy.  Henceforth all Chinese couples will be allowed to have two children.

The one-child policy limited China’s population growth and, arguably, eliminated the threat of famine and made possible China’s current relative prosperity.

But the Chinese paid a price for this, and not just in brutal violations of human dignity, including forced abortions.

chinapopulationpyramid70China has a population imbalance, because Chinese couples traditionally prefer boys to girls.  This means there are millions of eligible Chinese men who will never find a spouse.

China faces an age imbalance, with an increasing elderly population and a shrinking working-age population.

And China faces a geo-political imbalance.  The population of India, China’s chief rival in Asia, will exceed China’s if present trends continue.  This affects the balance of power.  Bertrand Russell wrote somewhere that if there ever is to be peace among nations, they will have to agree on limitations of population as well as limits on arms.

demographic_transition_detailedMy hope for the Chinese, and for other peoples, is that they go through a demographic transition without government dictating to couples how many children they mahy have.

A demographic transition requires (1) a material standard of living sufficient that couples don’t think they have to have as many children as possible to be assured of survival in old age, and (2) women assured the freedom and knowledge they need to decide how many children they are to have.


Weekend reading: Links & comments 10/30/2015

October 30, 2015

The Midwife to Chaos and Her Perjury by Andrew Napolitano for The Unz Review.

Republican attacks on President Obama and the Clintons generally amount to straining at gnats while swallowing camels.  The House Benghazi Committee’s questioning of Hillary Clinton fits this pattern.

She was questioned for 10 hours, nearly continuously, for her alleged neglect of security leading to the murder of an American diplomat in Benghazi, Libya.  But nobody asked her about why she instigated a war against a country that did not threaten the United States, throwing innocent people leading normal lives into bloody anarchy.

And incidentally providing a new recruiting ground for terrorists..

The 6 Reasons China and Russia Are Catching Up to the U.S. Military on Washington’s Blog.

China Sea Blues: A Thing Not to Do by Fred Reed for Fred on Everything.

Just because the United States has the world’s largest and most expensive military doesn’t mean we have the world’s best military.  We Americans are complacent because of our wealth, and because we have not faced a serious threat to our existence in 70 years.

Our leaders think we can afford to waste money on high-tech weapons that don’t work, and military interventions that aren’t vital to American security.  Other nations, which have less margin of safety and would be fighting near their own borders, may be a match for us.

FBI Accused of Torturing U.S. Citizen Abroad Can’t Be Sued by Christian Farias for The Huffington Post.

Nowadays the Constitution stops where national security and foreign policy begin.


Drifting toward war with China

October 30, 2015

China_pivot_US_troop_deployment_in_Asia_Pacific(306x400)The U.S. government treats China’s claim to the Spratley Islands in the South China Sea as a threat worth the risk of war.

It reminds me of 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon debated whether it was worthwhile going to war over Quemoy and Matsu, two tiny islands off the coast of China claimed by Beijing but controlled by Chiang Kai-shek’s rump government on Taiwan.

Yet Washington stands by while U.S. manufacturing industry is hollowed out by China, which is a much more real threat to the well-being of Americans.

If China really is a danger to the United States, our priority should be to free ourselves of financial dependence on China, and dependence on Chinese factories for vital electronics components.

But military power takes precedence over American civilian needs, and corporate profits take precedence over all.


Beijing summons U.S. ambassador over warship in the South China Sea by Tom Phillips for The Guardian.

The U.S. Ought to Un-Swivel Its China Pivot by Buddy Bell for Counterpunch.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

Is the South China Sea Worth War? by Patrick J. Buchanan for The American Conservative.

The New China Syndrome: American business meets its new master by Barry C. Lynn for Harper’s.

The passing scene: Links & comments 10/24/2015

October 24, 2015

Anxious Hours in Pivotland: Where’s My Sailthrough? by Peter Lee for China Matters.

Neither South Korea nor Australia support the U.S.-Japanese opposition to Chinese efforts to claim islands in the South China Sea.  The Chinese Navy meanwhile made a point about freedom of the seas by sailing through Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

Trey Gowdy Just Elected Hillary Clinton President by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Or at least greatly strengthened her bid for the Democratic nomination.  The Benghazi hearings made Republicans look like fools and showed Clinton as someone who is a match for them.

Are Canadian progressives showing Americans the way? by Miles Corak for Economics for public policy (via Economist’s View)

America’s Civilian Killings Are No Accident by Peter Van Buren for We Meant Well.

The bombing of the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, had many precedents.

What Is life? by Matthew Francis for Mosaic.  (via Barry Ritholtz)

If humans encountered extraterrestrial life, would we know it when we saw it?


Why U.S. business kowtows to China

October 21, 2015

In the USA, government serves the needs of business.  In China, business serves the strategic aims of government.

No foreign corporation is allowed to operate in China without conceding something of long-term benefit to China.  That can be manufacturing operations in China, transfer of technological knowledge or a Chinese stake in the company’s ownership.  It goes without saying that the CEOs do not criticize Chinese foreign policy.

Cartoon by Xu Jun for EEO

Cartoon by Xu Jun for Economic Observer

Barry C. Lynn, writing in the November issue of Harper’s, said that some American corporate executives have even submitted to Communist-style self-criticism sessions, in which they volunteer confessions of misdeeds without being accused.

As China becomes more powerful, and the United States becomes more dependent on the Chinese for finance and for critical manufactured items, the leverage of Beijing over the United States becomes greater.  Lynn explained the reasons:

First is the fact that so many U.S. companies now depend on China for the products they sell.  For Walmart, it’s barbecue grills and shoes.  For Apple, it’s assembly work.  For Pfizer, it’s chemicals.

And while foreign companies have talked a lot about reducing their reliance on China, they nevertheless keep upping the ante, year after year.  Just last April, General Motors announced plans to pour another $16 billion into China.   In September, Dell pledged a whopping $125 billion over the next five years, with an ominous promise to “closely integrate Dell China strategies with [Chinese] national policies.”

A second reason corporations are so willing to accede to Chinese diktats is the allure of Chinese markets.  For General Motors, China already accounts for roughly a third of the cars it sells.  For Qualcomm, China accounts for roughly half its business.  For Rio Tinto, China accounts for considerably more than half its output of iron ore.

Chinese sales of Apple’s iPhones topped U.S. sales in 2015 — and when global markets were tanking in late August, Tim Cook helped arrest a rout in the company’s stock by publicly assuring investors that the Cupertino giant had “continued to experience strong growth for our business in China through July and August.”

Source: Harper’s Magazine.

Chinese investors own the AMC Theater chain of movie theaters in the United States, and also are major investors in American-made movies.  China also is the world’s largest market for Hollywood movies.

The result: Chinese are never the foreign villains in American movies—Russians, Arabs, Colombians, North Koreans, anybody but Chinese.


China tests using credit scores for social control

October 12, 2015

Chinacredit1433817334738_646Source: China Daily.

Chinese authorities are experimenting with a new method of social control.

It is a credit score generated by Big Data methods that evaluates not only a person’s financial record, but everything that could throw light on their moral character, including associations and lifestyle choices.

A good credit score would give a person not only certain privileges, but prestige.  Conformity would be induced not through threats and punishments, but through positive reinforcement.

Last year the Chinese government announced it is working on something called a “social credit system” to enhance “sincerity discipline” in government, commerce and society in general, which is scheduled to be launched in 2020.

More recently a Chinese credit card company started testing a credit rating system that will use social media to gather information not only on people’s finances, but their hobbies, shopping habits, overall lifestyle and interactions with friends.

Based on that, the person will be given a rating of between 350 to 950 that not only determine their access to credit, but other privileges as well.

Some analysts think the two systems will come together to produce a system of total Orwellian surveillance, a kind of incentive-based totalitarianism.

Every aspect of a Chinese person’s life, including political opinions and friendships, would be fed into the system, which would produce a numerical score based on an algorithm.   That score in turn would be the basis for rewards and punishments that would shape the person’s whole life.

Now this is speculative.   I don’t know that the Chinese government actually has this in mind.


China overtakes US as world’s biggest economy

October 9, 2015

panda eagleThe World Bank has noted that China has quietly overtaken the United States as the world’s largest economy.

Washington is responding to this in exactly the wrong way—by trying to checkmate China’s power rather than rebuilding the sources of American power.

China already led the United States in a number of important respects.  According to the CIA World Factbook, it exceeds the United States in industrial output, in agricultural output and in electricity production.

While China had a $260 billion trade surplus in 2013, the USA has a $698 billion trade deficit.

It is true that while the Chinese nation is rich, the Chinese people are still poor compared to Americans—not just in the amount of stuff they own, but in terms of infant mortality, life expectancy, literacy and access to public water and sewerage systems.

Inequality and concentration of wealth are just as great in China as they are in the United States.  China is the world’s largest polluter overall, although the USA is the largest on a per-capita basis.  Interestingly China has a lower birth rate and population growth rate than the USA.

But life has been getting better on average for the average Chinese person, while the earning power of the average American has been slipping behind.

The United States has the world’s largest and most expensive military, but the Chinese may be a match for the USA in their own backyard—the South China Sea.

Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist for the World Bank and former chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, argued in a recent article that the USA still has great residual strength, but American leaders are letting it slip away by concentrating on military dominance and corporate profits at the expense of everything else.

In a full-fledged Cold War between the USA and China, China is in an economic position to do the USA great damage.  China could stop buying U.S. Treasury bonds, for example.

It’s not in the interest of China to wage economic war against the United States.  Both sides would suffer.  American leaders should not push China into a corner and put its leaders in a position in which they think they have no choice.   Instead American leaders should concentrate in reducing US economic vulnerability.

China does have big problems—inequality, pollution, corruption, unrest among workers and among minorities in Xinjiang, Tibet and elsewhere.

Maybe these problems will be fatal, although I doubt it.  But these are not issues the United States can affect one way or the other, or should try to affect.

And if China should start to collapse, history has many examples of declining empires that try to restore internal unity by going to war.  This is not something we Americans should hope for.  Our problems originate at home, not in China.


China Has Overtaken the United States as the World’s Largest Economy by Joseph Stiglitz for Vanity Fair.

China vs. United States from the CIA World Factbook.

G-Zero: US-China Relations in the Age of Xi by Peter Lee for China Matters.


Glimpses of Asia – October 1, 2015

October 1, 2015

Hat tip for these links to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.

Go Delhi Go | Hyperlapse (2 min)

Colonial Photography in British India

Where Do Languages Go to Die? – The tale of Aramaic, a language that once ruled the Middle East and now faces extinction

Mount Everest to be declared off-limits to inexperienced climbers, says Nepal

Map: Where the East and the West meet

Zen and the Art of Bonsai Maintenance


More glimpses of Asia – September 23, 2015

September 23, 2015

Links from my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty

Japan’s Yakuza: Inside the syndicate

Malaysia arrests eight in connection with Bangkok shrine bombing

Sumatran rhinos likely to become extinct, conservationists warn

Secret Missionaries and Smuggled Bibles: China’s Religious Boom

25 Of The Most Dangerous And Unusual Journeys To School In The World  [24 in Asia -M]

We’re All Mispronouncing Mount Everest’s Name  [Interesting trivia! Of course those of us who have lived/visited Nepal or Tibet, call it Sagarmatha or Chomolungma -M]


Glimpses of Asia – September 19, 2015

September 19, 2015

I received the following links from my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.


The Kabul college turning street children into musicians, a photo story in The Guardian.



This Vietnamese University Is Turning Its Campus Into a Forest by Shaunacy Ferro for Mental Floss.



This Simple Toilet Can Improve Health and Safety by Kirstin Fawcett for Mental Floss.



How the hijab has made sexual harassment worse in Iran by a Tehran Bureau correspondent for The Guardian.


Barack Obama, a master of geopolitics?

September 16, 2015

Many of my Democratic friends think of Barack Obama as a well-meaning but naive and weak reformer.  I think of President Obama as a shrewd and strong defender of the status quo.

Alfred McCoy wrote a good article for TomDispatch arguing that this is just as true of his foreign policy as his domestic policy.

The greatest threat to American world power is the rise of China.  While the USA is dissipating its power through failed military interventions. China is extending its power by economic policies that add to its economic strength.

Obama hopes to counter China by leveraging American economic power through the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which will create a global trade bloc from which China and also Russia will be locked out.

The question is how long this will be feasible.  China’s economic power is growing.  American economic power is a legacy from the past.

President Obama has been using America’s status as the planet’s number one consumer nation to create a new version of dollar diplomacy.

His strategy is aimed at drawing China’s Eurasian trading partners back into Washington’s orbit.


While Beijing has been moving to bring parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe into a unified “world island” with China at its epicenter, Obama has countered with a bold geopolitics that would trisect that vast land mass by redirecting its trade towards the United States.

During the post-9/11 decade when Washington was spilling its blood and treasure onto desert sands, Beijing was investing its trillions of dollars of surplus from trade with the U.S. in plans for the economic integration of the vast Eurasian land mass.

In the process, it has already built or is building an elaborate infrastructure of high-speed, high-volume railroads and oil and natural gas pipelines across the vast breadth of what Sir Halford Mackinder once dubbed the “world island.”  [snip]


Anchor babies, birth tourism and China

August 27, 2015

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the States wherein they reside.
              ==14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Yes, it’s true, as Donald Trump said, that there is such a thing as “anchor babies” or, to use a more polite term, “birth tourism,” and it also is true, as Jeb Bush said, that most come from China and other Asian countries, not Mexico.

anchorbabies-300x201Here’s how it works.  Chinese travel agencies arrange, for a fee, for Chinese couples to legally visit the United States and for the mother to give birth in a U.S. hospital.  Under the 14th Amendment, those children are U.S. citizens.  Under current U.S. law, those children, when they reach the age of 21, may apply for green cards for their parents to immigrate to the United States and eventually become U.S. citizens.

An unauthorized immigrant couple could do the same thing, but I don’t have any information on whether any or how many actually do.  The possibility exists even if they didn’t originally intend to have the “anchor baby”.

These practices may not be a serious practical problem, at least not as yet, but they don’t sit well with me.  They are a distortion of the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment and of U.S. immigration law.

The Fourteenth Amendment was enacted in 1868 so as to guarantee citizenship rights for newly-freed slaves and to reverse the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which held that African-Americans had no rights under the Constitution.  The question of children of authorized immigrants did not arise, because the United States had no restrictions on immigration until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Wong Kim Ark, who was born around 1871 to Chinese parents legally in the United States, was a U.S. citizen and could not be barred from re-entering the United States after a trip abroad.

One solution would be to repeal or amend the Fourteenth Amendment.  This would be a difficult thing to do and also potentially dangerous unless the new amendment is worded very carefully.  I wouldn’t want to give the federal government the power to deprive me and those I care about of our citizenship.

It might be possible to pass a law or file a lawsuit to clarify the meaning of “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”  The original Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to Indian tribes or to the children of foreign diplomats because they were not subject to U.S. law.  You could make an argument that unauthorized immigrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. law, either.

This of course would not apply to Chinese and other “birth tourism” for legally authorized visitors to the United States.

Another possible approach would be to change U.S. immigration law as it applies to family reunification.  My understanding is that it was intended to apply to relatives of U.S. citizens who were stranded in refugee camps, not everyday citizens of foreign countries who think they can do better in the USA.   It would be a shame to stop this, but it is a practical way of eliminating “anchor babies” and “birth tourism”.


The passing scene – August 22, 2015

August 22, 2015

So Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Is Actually Getting Kinda Serious by Alex Davies for Wired.

Hyperloop, which is being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla Motors, would be a series of above-ground pneumatic tubes filled with people that would zip them along at near-supersonic speeds.

It’s being developed by men and women with day jobs at places such as NASA, Boeing and SpaceX who are paid in stock options rather than cash.  Two established companies, Aercom, an engineering design firm, and Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum, are helping with the project in return for stock options.

A prototype demonstration of the system is scheduled for 2016.

Germany fact of the day, will support for immigration collapse? by Tyler Cowen for Marginal Revolution.

A big backlash is developing across Europe against refugees and unauthorized immigrants.  Cowen favors open borders in principle, but doesn’t think it is politically feasible.

Dejá Vu: Germany Tightens Its Economic Power Over Europe by Richard D. Wolff for Truthout.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The European Union was supposed to be an association that benefited all its members.  Now it has devolved into a mechanism by which Germany, Europe’s richest nation, inflicts economic punishment on Greece, one of its poorest.


The passing scene – August 20, 2015

August 20, 2015

Struggle and Progress: Eric Foner on the abolitionists, Reconstruction and winning “freedom” from the Right, a conversation with Jacobin magazine writers.

Eric Foner

Eric Foner

Historian Eric Foner pointed out that the abolition of slavery was truly a second American Revolution.  It involved the confiscation without compensation of the most valuable form of property at the time—enslaved African people.

The Civil War is sometimes interpreted as a triumph of industrial capitalism over a backward agrarian economy.  Foner said that, although this is true in a way, the pre-Civil War capitalists got along very well with the slaveowners.

The abolitionists included moderates, radicals, wealthy philanthropists, lawbreakers, politicians, former black slaves and racists who opposed slavery because it was harmful to white people.  Although sometimes working at cross-purposes, Foner said their diverse approaches created a synergy that made the movement stronger.   This has lessons for our own time.

The Last Refuge of the Incompetent by John Michael Greer for The Archdruid Report.

John Michael Greer wrote that a successful revolutionary movement will (1) discredit the existing order through relentless propaganda, (2) seek alliances with all those with grievances against the existing order, (3) create alternative institutions of its own and (4) offer a vision of hope, not despair.

In the USA, this program is being carried out not by what Greer called the “green Left,” but the “populist Right”.


Freight train service connects China to Europe

August 17, 2015


Some weeks ago a train carrying 80 containers, about as much as a medium-sized container ship, arrived in the Netherlands from China, via Russia, Belarus and Poland.

It reportedly took 22 days.  A container ship would have taken a month for a one-way trip.   The Chinese hope to make the freight service one month for a round trip.

What this signifies is the increasing economic integration of China, Russia and central Asia, the region of the world that is least vulnerable to American air and sea power.

This development is a good thing for the Russian and Chinese people.  It promises greater prosperity with a lesser energy footprint.

It may or may not be a good thing for Russia’s and China’s mainly Muslim subject peoples—the Tatars, Chechens and other minorities in Russia, the Uighurs in China and the subjects of the Russian-backed dictatorships in central Asia.   Ethnic minorities will always be second-class citizens, or worse, within the framework of Chinese and Russian chauvinism.


Train Through Russia Will Connect Europe and Asia by the Fritzmorgen blog translated for the Southfront blog.

The passing scene – August 6, 2015

August 6, 2015

I may add links during the day.  Feel free to use the comment thread for general and off-topic comments.

The Suicide of the American Left by John Michael Greer for The Archdruid Report.

John Michael Greer recalled a time when there were Democrats who fought for the interests of famers and factory workers against financial speculators, and Republicans who fought against foreign military intervention and excessive government power.   Now both parties are pro-corporations and pro-government power.

Hillary Clinton is an example of what’s wrong with liberals and progressives, Greer wrote.  She thinks that all she has to do to be elected President is talk about how bad the Republicans are.

Dear NYT: When the GOP Is Your Assignment Editor, You Miss Real Stories by Mike the Mad Biologist.

Seriously, what has happened to the NYT? by Joseph Cannon for Cannonfire.

HIllary Clinton

HIllary Clinton

While there is much in Hillary Clinton’s record to criticize, the Washington press corps does not focus on these things.  Instead it subjects her to a constant stream of attacks based on falsehoods, trivialities or, at best, controversies that involve grey areas.

My explanation is that all the legitimate grounds for attacking Hillary Clinton apply at least as much and probably more to her Republican opponents.  The only reasons for singling her out are bogus ones.  That applies to Barack Obama as well.

Donald Trump Is a Serious Candidate by Jeet Heer of The New Republic.

Koch Brothers Declare War on Donald Trump by Shannon Argueta for Addicting Info.

Donald Trump talked politics with Bill Clinton weeks before launching 2016 bid by Robert Costa and Anne Gearan for The Washington Post.  [Hat tip to Unqualified Offerings]

It’s hard for the other Republican candidates to oppose Donald Trump because he is just like them or at least just like they pretend to be, only more so.  I can see why Hillary Clinton would rather run against him than against Jeb Bush.


The passing scene – July 29, 2015

July 29, 2015

Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East? by Eliza Griswold for The New York Times.

26mag-26christians-t_CA2-blog427Christian communities in the Middle East, which have existed since the time of St. Paul and which survived under the rule of Iraq’s Saddam and Syria’s Assad, are threatened by ISIS and other extremist Islamist movements.

I think this is the fruit of U.S. interventions, which created the anarchy in which groups such as ISIS can flourish, and U.S. support of extremist groups to overthrow the governments of Libya and Iraq.

The Balance of Power in the Middle East Just Changed by Peter Van Buren for TomDispatch.

The real reason Israel, Saudi Arabia and neo-cons hate the Iran deal: They fear that Tehran will join the community of nations by Fred Kaplan for Salon.

The sanctions against Iran were never about fear that Iran would develop nuclear weapons.  They were about the fear that the balance of power in the Middle East would change in favor of Iran and against Saudi Arabia and Israel.  But Iran is a more reliable partner against ISIS and Al Qaeda than either of those two countries.

Jewish Americans support the Iran nuclear deal by Fred Kaplan for The Washington Post.

Interestingly, polls show that Jewish people in the United States are more supportive of the Iran deal than the general public.


The longest bridge in the world

July 18, 2015

1.Worlds-Longest-BridgeSource: The Top Tenz

The Danyang-Kushan Grand Bridge, completed in China in 2010 and opened to traffic in 2011, is 102.4 miles long.  It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest bridge in the world.

It crosses rice paddies, canals, rivers and lakes in southeastern coastal China, and provides a link in the Shanghai-Beijing High-Speed Railway.

1280px-Danyang–Kunshan_Grand_BridgeSource: Wikipedia.

The world’s second longest bridge, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is the Tianjin Grand Bridge, also a link in the Shanghai-Beijing High-Speed Railway.  It is 70.6 miles long.


Turkey backs Uighur rebels in China

July 12, 2015

The Uighurs are a Muslim people who live in China’s western Xinjiang province—what used to be called Chinese Turkestan, just as what we now call Central Asia used to be called Russian Turkestan.

The Turks in Turkey once inhabited the same region, before they migrated into western Asia and conquered the Byzantine Empire, the Balkans and most of the Arab world.

china_urumqiPeter Lee reported on his China Matters web log how the Turkish government is trying to assume the leadership of the Turkish world and, as part of that, has issued Turkish passports for Uighur rebels.   I think this comes under the heading of starting fights you are not prepared to finish.

I sympathize with the Uighur people who, like the Tibetans, are being engulfed by Chinese settlers, and with the people of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia who live under oppressive dictatorships.

In the same way, I sympathized with the brave Hungarian freedom fighters in 1956.  But the United States was not willing to go to war with the Soviet Union on behalf of the Hungarians, and risk the devastation of North America, Russia and Europe, including Hungary.  So it was irresponsible of Radio Free Europe to incite them to rise up, and I think Turkish policy (which I hope the US government is not encouraging) is irresponsible now.


Uighurs Edge Closer to Center of Turkish Diplomacy, Politics and Geopolitical Strategy by Peter Lee for China Matters.

Turkey’s “Passports for Uighurs” Scheme Continues Its Messy Unraveling by Peter Lee for China Matters.

The USA can’t expect to always get its way

June 26, 2015

Everybody has met self-centered people who behave as if they are the only people in the world who matter, and everybody else exists only to carry out their wishes.

If they are sufficiently rich and powerful, they can get away with this for a certain amount of time.  But in the end, they wind up isolated and friendless.

Unfortunately the United States conducts its foreign policy as if we Americans are the only people in the world who matter, and everybody else exists only to carry out Washington’s wishes.

This is bound to end badly.

Peter Van Buren, who was kicked out of the State Department for writing about the fouled-up U.S. occupation of Iraq, pointed out in an article for TomDispatch how this is playing out in current U.S. policy toward Iraq and the Islamic State (ISIS)

The fundamental problem underlying nearly every facet of U.S. policy toward Iraq is that “success,” as defined in Washington, requires all the players to act against their own wills, motivations, and goals in order to achieve U.S. aims.

is_control_over_time_624_1805The Sunnis need a protector as they struggle for a political place, if not basic survival, in some new type of Iraq.

The Shiite government in Baghdad seeks to conquer and control the Sunni regions.

Iran wants to secure Iraq as a client state and use it for easier access to Syria.

The Kurds want an independent homeland.

When Secretary of Defense Ash Carter remarked, “What apparently happened [in Ramadi] was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight,” what he really meant was that the many flavors of forces in Iraq showed no will to fight for America’s goals.


The real U.S. strategic rivalry with China

June 18, 2015

Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.
==Sachel Paige

 The big issue that we Americans have with China is not who controls the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

It is the shifting of U.S. manufacturing jobs to China and the U.S. trade deficit with China.

The United States probably does have legitimate economic grievances against China.  Some American economists, for example, think the Chinese government keeps the exchange rate for its currency artificially low in order to make its exports cheaper in world markets.

But the main problems we Americans have with China are due to things we have done to ourselves.

The Chinese never forced U.S.-based companies to give up domestic manufacturing capability. It never forced us Americans to neglect our physical infrastructure—our Internet service, our roads and bridges, our dams and levees. It never forced us to neglect our human resources—our higher education, our industrial research. It never forced our financial elite to invest in debt rather than invest in production.

Trying to substitute a military rivalry for an economic rivalry may or may not hurt China. It will not do us Americans any benefit because our problems do not originate in China.  They originate at home.

China has its own problems—labor unrest, ethnic conflict, corruption, air pollution, suppression of dissent.  Whether any of these problems are potentially fatal, I do not know.   What I do know is that it would be foolish for us Americans to count on China self-destructing.


The fruits of American foreign policy

June 18, 2015

John Michael Greer, writing on his Archdruid Report blog, described how American foreign policy has led to Russia and China joining to create a Fortress Eurasia that is beyond the reach of U.S. military power.

Just as the great rivalry of the first half of the twentieth century was fought out between Britain and Germany, the great rivalry of the century’s second half was between the United States and Russia.

If nuclear weapons hadn’t been invented, it’s probably a safe bet that at some point the rivalry would have ended in another global war.

As it was, the threat of mutual assured destruction meant that the struggle for global power had to be fought out less directly, in a flurry of proxy wars, sponsored insurgencies, economic warfare, subversion, sabotage, and bare-knuckle diplomacy.

In that war, the United States came out on top, and Soviet Russia went the way of Imperial Germany, plunging into the same sort of political and economic chaos that beset the Weimar Republic in its day.

The supreme strategic imperative of the United States in that war was finding ways to drive as deep a wedge as possible between Russia and China, in order to keep them from taking concerted action against the US.

That wasn’t all that difficult a task, since the two nations have very little in common and many conflicting interests.

gadd600spanNixon’s 1972 trip to China was arguably the defining moment in the Cold War, the point at which China’s separation from the Soviet bloc became total and Chinese integration with the American economic order began.

From that point on, for Russia, it was basically all downhill.

In the aftermath of Russia’s defeat, the same strategic imperative remained, but the conditions of the post-Cold War world made it almost absurdly easy to carry out.

All that would have been needed were American policies that gave Russia and China meaningful, concrete reasons to think that their national interests and aspirations would be easier to achieve in cooperation with a US-led global order than in opposition to it.

Granting Russia and China the same position of regional influence that the US accords to Germany and Japan as a matter of course probably would have been enough.

A little forbearance, a little foreign aid, a little adroit diplomacy, and the United States would have been in the catbird’s seat, with Russia and China glaring suspiciously at each other across their long and problematic mutual border, and bidding against each other for US support in their various disagreements.

But that’s not what happened, of course.


Chinese vs. American trade agreements

June 18, 2015


U.S. rivalry with China should be mainly economic, not military.   The threat to us Americans is that we shall continue to allow the hollowing out of our manufacturing industry while China grows ever more powerful.

China offers the world the chance to invest in its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which may or may not amount to anything, but potentially could help all its partners achieve their economic goals.

The US government is trying to pressure the world into joining the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement, which would require them to give up national sovereignty so that multinational corporations could operate with greater freedom.

President Obama has said that it is important that “we” rather than China get to write the rules for the international economy.  I don’t feel included in that “we”.   I think the “we” who will write the rules are the big international banks and other corporations, not us Americans.

There’s an old saying that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  Right now the Chinese government is offering honey while the U.S. government is trying to force its allies to swallow vinegar.


Is the U.S. instigating an arms race with China?

June 17, 2015
Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

There’s a school of thought that says the Reagan administration brought down the Soviet Union by conducting an arms race that the USSR couldn’t sustain.

A smart writer named Mike Whitney thinks Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter plans to use the same strategy against China.

China is on track to become the world’s largest economy in less than 10 years.  But the thinking is that this could change if China is forced to devote significant resources to defending its position in the South China Sea.

This is a perverse idea—that a peaceful China is a greater threat to American global supremacy than a militaristic China would be.   It shows the wrongheadedness of world military supremacy as a goal.

And there’s a question as to whether it would even work.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that the USA’s military budget for 2014 was $581 billion, while China’s was $129 billion.

American military spending was estimated at 3.3 percent of the total US economy (gross domestic product) while China’s was 1.2 percent.  Russia’s military spending was an estimated 3.7 percent of GDP.

The Chinese might well be capable of quadrupling their military spending while sustaining economic growth.

They have other options.  They could embargo vital electronic components that we Americans no longer produce.  They could stop buying U.S. Treasury bonds, which would add to cost of financing the U.S. budget deficit.

And while the burden of the Cold War may have brought the Soviet Union to the brink of collapse, it was an endurance contest that also sapped the strength of the United States.

We Americans would do well to follow the example of the Chinese and build up our own nation rather than dissipating our strength in undermining others.


Seven Days in May? Carter Takes Over by Mike Whitney on the Unz Review.

World empires of the Internet

June 16, 2015
Double click to enlarge

Double click to enlarge

Source: Information Geographies

Internet companies are an extension of their nations’ soft power.  This map, based on data compiled in 2013, shows the number of Internet users and the most-visited web site in each country.

What stands out for me is the global reach of U.S.-based Internet companies whose dominance, however, ends at the borders of China and Russia.

Google has been squeezed out of China.  It still has a reported 30 percent market share in Russia, based partly on the popularity of its Android hand-held device, but faces anti-trust charges in that country.

I don’t think Russia, any more than China, is willing to tolerate a strong foreign Internet presence.

Another thing that stands out is the huge Internet penetration in the Southeast Asian nations of Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, compared not only to Burma, Laos and Cambodia, which barely register as dot on the map, but also compared to Australia and New Zealand.



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