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The Imperial Future of China and USA May 3, 2012

Posted by olvidadorio in Earth.
1 comment so far

For quite a while now, every now and then, I’ve asked myself in which way the decline of the US-American empire will play out, specifically vis-a-vis China’s rise to world power status. I now have an idea of what will happen, and it’s surprisingly peaceful actually (well,  maybe not ‘peaceful’, but not via US-Chinese war)…

However, before we get into my idea, let’s briefly review the current state of geopolitics, from the perspective of the Formosa Strait:

The most important points of consideration and contention between the two powers include the fact that — geopolitically speaking — Taiwan basically is this huge US aircraft-carrier, moored just off the coast of the PR of China. It’s a military base that, in the end, China will not abide with any more than the USA was willing (during the cold war) to accept soviet missiles perched on the banks of Cuba, aiming at the southern United States.

Furthermore, the US consumer economy, together with its wealthy allies / imperial satellites, is using up world resources at a dizzying pace. China, a rapidly growing economy with the worlds largest population, is already hitting a resource ceiling. I expect that further down the road this inequality of distribution will be felt even more strongly, as reserves of key resources decline. However, breaking up the US ‘imperial wealth pump‘ is easier said than done; It is maintained by trade agreements and the US dollar as world reserve (and oil) currency, which in turn are upheld by the considerable US military presence and technological dominance around the globe. Not something that China can just get rid of on a whim.

China itself is heavily involved in this system of wealth-extraction, however not in a wholly subordinate position. To be sure, large parts of Chinese capital wealth are tied up with the US economy, and vice versa. China has also subjected large swaths of its productive workforce (which, to recall, it has in spades), to the task of satisfying the consumer needs of the (so far) US-dominated world economy. However, Chinese leadership has carefully extricated itself from any trade ties that would have made it a mere resource-exporting ‘developing’ nation.

China, by offering something it had in excess, its workforce, bought into the dollar-dominated system of resource distribution, attracted dollar-denominated investment and purchases, while tightly controlling foreign investment so as to ward off a buy-out. Thus the Chinese domestic market and infrastructure could be built and maintained with US-imperial resources. These resource, as stated previously, are largely decreasing, while the global economy is growing. You don’t have to be Einstein to arrive at the conclusion that problems will follow.

I tended to believe that the result of this would be war, and that this war would crystalize around Taiwan and the Strait of Formosa.

Going to war with the US before American power over the rest of the globe has waned would however not solve China’s resource problem. Instead, China would find itself cut off from the world market and pitted in a very deadly battle against the worlds most technologically sophisticated miltary. (Not to mention the nuclear weapons available.) So going to war with the US before its empire substantially crumbles seems rash. Hence China will continue to bide its time, and watch the US suck the world dry, while jostling for its own piece of the pie.

Once the world has been sucked dry and consumer economies across the globe come crashing down, war will come almost naturally. In this setting, I would predict the following:

  • The imperial system of the United States of America will collapse of its own accord, leaving a power-vacuum.
  • Central Europe and Russia will form a shaky block, dominated by resource-rich and underpopulated Russia.
  •  China will align with the US (or rather, the US will align with China) in a Chinese-Russian struggle for power over the remaining resources in western and southern Asia, as well as Africa, which may end in war.
  • In this struggle Taiwan will be a minor gift, given among friends.

The ongoing mutual economic ties as well as the current power imbalance between China and US, as well as the upcoming power shifts to Central Eurasia all point in the above direction. Similarly to how the peripheral British Empire aligned itself with the rising power USA in order to battle Central European Germany, eastern China will accept the US as an ally in order to battle Central Eurasian Russia. However, in this analogy the roles are slightly mixed up, as the new empire will be the one under attack, with the old one more or less just handing over the reigns out of weariness.

Even more than the British Empire, the US has not been an empire that first and foremost subjects conquered people to its workforce, rather, it has been an empire that annexes oil-wells to its workforce of machines. This empire the US is losing due to the limits of Nature. The other parts of its empire, the global economic and military dominance, will slip slower and slighter than in overtly territorial empires. Due to its geographic position, the aging empire USA will be slightly harder to attack at home. Its outposts all over the world may be expelled here and there, but this will not threaten the territorial integrity of the core United States. Instead, the US will be a threat to itself by economic and political deterioration, while the consumer economy dries up and military expeditions limp from one boondoggle to the next.

China has already begun propping up the US economy to maintain its investment and keep the global system of resource extraction going. Already, in the outer reaches of the world economy, Chinese envoys have come to replace US lieutenants of world trade. While the US implodes — and in the end China wants this to happen — China would like this contraction to happen in a controlled manner, so it can grow into the resulting vacuum. This will not go smoothly and other contenders will arise in the transition, which the US-Chinese continuum will have to ward off, while battling an internal transition to a very different form of economy, other than industry and bountiful consumption.