Yesterday’s marathon speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping was not only a blueprint for China’s future, but for the future of the 21st century. Not only will all roads lead to China by century’s end, but in many ways, the new and most vibrant roads in the world already do.
Meanwhile, the US appears to be hellbent on maintaining its power through disrupting China’s progress on One Belt–One Road, the system of interconnecting highways and maritime routes that will literally link up new and existing commercial hubs, while symbolising the new modus operandi which underscores the modern Chinese model of exchange. This can be summarised as “share openly, but never impose”.
The US model of geo-political/geo-economic quid pro quo, as opposed to the more pragmatic cost benefit analysis business model of China, has clearly failed. Fewer countries are interested in US quid pro quos, because more and more countries realise that in order to gain even limited access to American money and American markets, one has to surrender one’s political independence and domestic freedoms.
Currently, Iraq is failing to succumb to Kurdish agitations while remaining spiritually, politically and military aligned with Iran. Iraq is also now allied with Syria, a country which perhaps best symbolises the place where America’s regime change foreign policy met its first battle ground failure. While regime change has been a disaster from Yugoslavia, to Iraq and Libya, it was only in Syria where the US proxy steamroller hit a roadblock prior to reaching the seat of power in Damascus.
In South Asia, America’s crowning failure of Afghanistan continues to haunt both military and political leaders in Washington. The US is likewise confused about its policies with Pakistan and India. While the US under Trump ha ratcheted up its anti-Islamabad rhetoric while attempting to turn India into a giant US proxy in the heart of Asia, mixed messages and lethargy from the Modi government have disrupted the would-be even flow of such a plot. Recently, the US stated that it no longer opposes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, in a move that is as much of a surrender to reality as it is an attempt to re-patch rapidly declining relations with Pakistan.
In respect of South East Asia, while many focus primarily on Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s domestic policies, his foreign policy pivot to both China and Russia is becoming increasingly symptomatic of a region that is moving away from the US. While Philippines is the most prominent US ‘ally’ to pivot away from Washington, Indonesia is making moves in the same direction. All of this is happening while countries like Vietnam remain consistently pro-Russia, in spite of historical differences with Russia’s most important 21st century ally, China.
While Turkey remains in NATO, it is difficult to see how the US could ever resurrect the Ankara-Washington alliance. Apart from damage control, there is little the US can do to win trust from Turkey. This is especially the case so long as President Erdogan is in power and the likelihood is that he will be in power in Ankara long after Donald Trump leaves the White House.
The US has also divided its European allies over Iran and even the Arab states of the Persian Gulf are engaging more thoroughly with Russia and China than ever before.
Venezuela has also united the Russian and Chinese superpowers in a strong show of support for a country in a continent that used to be the CIA and US military’s backyard playground.
While the crux of this piece is about China’s rise to global economic and trading dominance, there has also been a great deal of discussion about Russia. This if for the obvious reason that as a vast superpower, Russia is among the most important of partners in China’s One Belt–One Road, as well as one of the most openly enthusiastic.
By contrast, the United States, failing to built new partnerships and rapidly losing old ones, including South Korea whose economic dealings with Russia continue to increase, is getting desperate. Because of this, the US has resorted to threats against important positions along One Belt–One Road, ranging from the Iraq-Iran border, to the Afghan-Pakistan border, to the Korean peninsula, to the Russo-European borderlands.
In each of these cases though, the US is trying more to destroy than to create. In some places like Iran and North Korea, the US will almost certainly not even try to directly engage in a conflict. Instead, threats and proxy agitations serve as the go-to method through which to achieve destabilisation. In respect of the Russo-European borderlands, the US may have been able to install a wildly pro-NATO regime in Kiev, but this regime looks to be on shaky ground and in any case, the US hasn’t profited from its Ukrainian coup, it has merely made it harder for the Ukrainians to profit from any partnerships themselves.
Through all of these processes, US living standards continue to decline. While the US has always had a rarely talked about poverty problem among both the mostly non-white urban poor and the mostly white rural poor, the large and generally well-off American middle class, helped US propagandists to obscure this reality. Now though, with many middle class Americans of all backgrounds, struggling with the same issues today as America’s forgotten poor have been struggling with for decades, the problems of housing, transport, a job which pays a sustainable income and even household expenses are becoming a worry for many Americans.
America’s military industrial complex is not only a money drain, as Dr. Ron Paul frequently points out, but it is also a brain drain. The popular myth of the ‘stupid American’ isn’t true per se. What is true however, is that outside of military-technology firms, America’s best and brightest are harder and harder to find. If the US used the money and brainpower it has in the military-industrial complex and applied this to civilian projects ranging from infrastructure rebuilding, to state-financed medical research, to developing affordable micro-technologies for civilian use, the US could in fact save itself both from financial poverty and from the poverty of a population increasingly divided by lack of practical opportunities to learn and use a skill in a civilian vocation.
This is where One Belt–One Road comes into things. While received wisdom is that the US has increasingly little to offer China except as a marketplace for goods, if the US were to shift from a military-industrial complex to a civilian-industrial complex, this would not be the case.
The reason that One Belt–One Road frightens both western protectionists and western globalists, is because it offers a model that is superior to both. Like globalism, One Belt–One Road offers opportunities for economic enrichment and the enhancement of living standards through global trade and economic connectivity. But like protectionism and unlike western free trade globalism, One Belt–One Road is focused on each nation playing to its strengths and allowing these domestic strengths (whether tapped or fully untapped) to then, expand globally. While globalism seeks to offshore entire economies, One Belt–One Road’s model allows strong domestic industries to create new markets for themselves while effectively and cheaply supplying these economies with much needed materials and expertise that cannot be produced domestically. It’s not a coincidence that “win-win” is one of Xi Jinping’s favourite phrases.
Because of this, all countries, including the US could benefit from integrating themselves into One Belt–One Road. In this sense, it helps to think of the declining US as an economy with the potential for growth. But the US can only grow if it admits that the old model has failed and that it is high time to embrace a new one, one which will create more domestic jobs, more domestic wealth and more global peace.
The US could avoid the protectionism that would cut off much required Asian materials and finished goods from the US economy, while also avoiding the prolonged offshoring of the US industrial base if it spoke with China about joining One Belt–One Road and expanding it westward, rather than positioning itself as an adversary.
The US, like all of China’s other partners could agree on which sectors could produce things that other countries along One Belt–One Road require, while also agreeing to import the things that the US requires from China’s One Belt–One Road partners. In the words of Xi Jingping, this would be a ‘win-win’ model.
China has been able to develop a largely self-sufficient industrial economy while also trading openly with the world on just this model. When one trades globally, yet preserves important sectors nationally, based on pragmatic geo-industrial realities, one can in fact both be open to the world and independent at home.
While many might maintain that the infamous “1%” in the United States who have enriched themselves through financial speculation and investments in the military-industrial complex, will be reticent to embrace this change, such a reticence will be at the “1%’s” own peril in the long term, in addition to the peril of working and middle class Americans (the 99%).
In this sense, it is not only greed that might ultimately force America into a position of continued hostility towards China and her partners like Russia, but moreover, it represents a a short sighted stupidity. There is plenty of money to be made in the United States, were American businesses to embrace One Belt–One Road. Even Alibaba founder Jack Ma has told American audiences that it isn’t China that has created US debt, unemployment and declining living standards, but instead, that it is America’s wars which are doing so. All of the money spent on war, could be money spent on peace and yes, peace is big business, just ask any Chinese businessman.
There is little doubt among the wider global consensus that the US is currently the biggest obstacle to world peace. The reason for this is that the US continues to cling onto an imperial model of world trade. If the US adopted the Chinese model and made it work for American businesses and American workers, they would find that not only could they make a lot of money, but that China would become far more flexible when approached through the language of opportunity rather than that of suspicion and aggression. This is true of any country. Even today, fewer and fewer countries are standing up to US neo-imperial bullying, Syria, Iran, Venezuela and the DPRK are merelythe most vocal examples.
The only other alternative is for the US to cling on to a model that has objectively failed. It is a failed model that if taken to its logical extreme, would mean more war and little else. This would be a ‘lose-lose’ situation for the entire planet.
With countries throughout the world buying more Russian and Chinese weapons and increasing their ability to resist would-be US military aggression, even when accounting for its military strength, the US will find itself increasingly disabled in respect of turning its hegemonic attitude into meaningful economic results.
Why would the US want to make itself poorer and the world less peaceful when a ready-made alternative is available which could make the world safer and all participating nations richer? When one considers the words, stupidity, insanity and irrationality, one might find an answer to such a question.