So so very (sad but) true. History will judge us poorly as a once great all around (ie not just militarily) superpower that was brought down not by a greater superpower but by our own doing. The radical idea of “America First” is about 40 years too late I’m afraid as irreversible damage has already been done.
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History will judge the generation, not the nation. We are in a natural ebb and flow cycle that occur in all civilized societies, no more, no less. Every great nation has lows and highs. Russia, China, Germany, UK, and even, wait for it, Norway have all had bust and boom, good and bad, rebellions and stability, etc… I wouldn’t read anymore into it than that.
Yes every nation have had busts and booms in the past, even Norway, but the difference is that America has been the world hegemon for the past 7 decades and steered the world into an interdependent state.
If America withdraw from it’s leadership role, or turn against it’s own goal of free and fair trade in a globalized world, who will take over that role and responsibility??
China is not interested in spending it’s monetary or political capital on such an unthankful task. The European Union is not united enough yet to play the role. Neither Russia or Germany has the capacity to do so and UK is no longer in any position to do anything outside it’s own little island and dreams of passed glory.
With a little luck the world can come together in establishing a world order around the UN and it’s various multilateral organizations, like WTO, IMO, ILO, World Bank and IMF, with a revamped Security Council reflecting today’s world reality as a kind of World Government.
But all this depends on how gracefully the US withdraws from it’s present position. If it try to defend it’s hegemony by “containing” China, or stopping her from taking it’s rightful place as a major economic power it could result in an arms race, or even armed conflict that nobody can win.
I’m an optimist and hope that sensible leaders on all sides will come together to avoid conflicts, but I’m also a realist that see the contours of world where the battle lines will be drawn again.
No, not a repeat of WWII, or any other previous battles between nation states, but a clash of cultures, religions and even races. The contours of that can already be seen, both in USA and in some parts of the world.
I don’t think our illustrious leaders have any delusions about “containing” China but its unchecked expansion of territorial waters by militarizing reefs is illegal and problematic. Xi’s abolishing of term limits should also be cause for concern.
If our European “allies” were actually reliable, it would be very easy to stop China from illegally building islands on reefs hundreds of miles from their coast and illegally claiming vast distant areas of ocean as their home territorial waters.
The US and Europe fund everything that China does. All we and our “allies” would have to do is stop buying Chinese crap and stop allowing Chinese flag or Chinese owned (including Honk Kong) ships to call at US and European ports until China backs off. If that were done, China would abandon those islands and give up their illegal claims to distant waters within a month, without a single shot fired by anyone.
Who cares? American Hegemony is over despite the conflicts we engaged to sustain and maintain it. The immense cost that the sovereign would expend in the name of “global leadership” is best invested in its citizens needs, not wasted on curring favor with fickle allies. The fact that China is not “openly” competing for global hegemony is telling in itself of what a fruitless endeavor it is.
At the end of the day each nation state is individual with its own identity, wants and needs, wether they are a vassal (which Norway is) or not. Sometimes they align with other nation states, sometimes they don’t. We are now in a multi-polar geopolitical environment, and that’s a good thing as it means compromise or war, which in today’s nuclear climate we assume the former is going to be popular.
Hopefully on our end it means less treasure is wasted on overseas conflict or supporting “allies” and more spent on infrastructure and quality of life. I won’t hold my breath though.
Edit: Why would you want our leadership anyways? You obviously find it’s citizens, culture, and governance (among many things) inferior, I would think you would be rejoicing that you had new options for “leadership”.
Nobody has more “bases hundreds of miles from their shore” and claiming their, if not sovereignty then “superiority” in vast areas of ocean around the globe.
The rest of your post must be meant as a joke. It is not how the world works these days. (Outside the minds of some Americans maybe??)
Exactly. Bring the boys home. Downsize the military. Spend American tax dollars at home on American needs.
Let our ungrateful pseudo-allies in Korea, Japan, and Europe fend for themselves, if they can. If they cannot, let them enjoy Russian and Chinese “leadership” for the next hundred years.
And the US economy would collapse in a day. Our politicians have allowed our industrial capacity to be scrapped along with the means of rebuilding it. China has us by the balls and there is nothing we can do about it. I think we passed the tipping point years ago.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not too worried about Russia attacking anybody in the foreseeable future. Putin may be a plutocrat and a strong believer in protecting Russia and Russians from any aggression by western powers, especially USA, but he is not suicidal, or short of territory, or resources. Unless provoked, Russia is not a threat to anyone outside the Russian buffer zone.
China and the Chinese are traders and only interested in protecting their supply lines, both for raw materials and finished goods. To do so they need a strong defence and secure sealanes, but they don’t need an attack capability, or to be able to occupy other countries.
They are very interested in creating a strong technological base, especially in AI and are spending a lot of money on education and R&D to be the leader in that field.
I don’t know about you, but I would be more comfortable having a “leader of the world” of Xi’s capacity and temperament, than one that have no knowledge of the world, or the ability to stitch an intelligent sentence together.
If the US withdrew from the very expensive undertaking of being the World’s policeman and assuring the security of Europe, Putin would retake Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania the next day. None of the other European countries would lift a finger to stop him. A couple of weeks later, after that successful annexation, Putin would get serious about retaking all of Ukraine.
You make a very serious point about the US pissing away it’s industrial capacity and becoming overly dependent on China. Nonetheless I’m confident that we could survive it much better than China could survive the loss of its markets. China would collapse economically and probably have a revolution.
25 February 2018
By Gwynne Dyer
On Monday the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee approved a proposal that the country’s president no longer be limited to two five-year terms of office. On Thursday the National People’s Congress will rubber-stamp the change. And that will be the end of three decades of consensus-seeking collective leadership in the CCP. The god-king model is back.
President Xi Jinping has spent his first five-year term eliminating all his powerful rivals (generally on corruption charges), and now his victory is being enshrined by a change in the constitution.
The change does not mean “that the Chinese president will have a lifelong tenure,” said an editorial in the state-owned Global Times. But the paper also quoted Su Wei, a prominent Communist Party intellectual, who said that China needed a “stable, strong and consistent leadership” from 2020-2035. No need to wonder who that might be, although Xi Jinping would be 82 by 2035.
Shades of Mugabe, I hear you thinking, although Xi commands a country around a thousand times richer than Zimbabwe. He is now effectively president-for-life, or at least until things get so bad that the people around him decide they have to overthrow him, as Mugabe’s cronies eventually did. And although Xi obviously thinks being president-for-life is a good idea, it is not.
Being president-for-life certainly wasn’t a good idea for former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who was also effectively in power for life. In his case that was eighteen years. It became known as the ‘era of stagnation’, and only seven years after Brezhnev died in 1982 the whole Communist empire in eastern Europe collapsed.
Alerted to the danger of leaving somebody in power too long by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Chinese Communist Party has kept its leaders on a short leash since the early 1990s. They got two five-year terms, no more, and they had to keep the support of other members of the Central Committee or it might even be just one term.
It has worked pretty well, as dictatorships go. There have been no more maniacs in power like Mao Zedong with his crazy Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, which killed millions and cost the country two decades of economic growth. During the past quarter-century of cautious, consensus-based politics, China’s economy has grown about tenfold.
That pace of growth cannot continue no matter who is in power, but it is very important for the Party’s survival that the economy does continue to grow. There is certainly no evidence that one-man rule will provide that growth better than the existing system, so why (presuming that he is a loyal Communist) has Xi decided to overthrow it?
Mere personal ambition is one obvious possibility, but there is probably more to it than that. Xi’s father was Communist royalty – one of the founders of the Party, and at one time its General Secretary – and he himself was a ‘princeling’ who spent his early years in very comfortable circumstances. Then in 1966, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution.
Xi’s father was expelled from the Party and publicly humiliated. He himself was sent to the countryside at the age of 15 to “learn from the peasants”, and ended up in a work camp digging ditches. For some years he actually lived in a cave (although it had a door). But he survived, and he was eventually to allowed to join the Party, move back to the city, and go to university.
It all left a lasting impression on the young Xi. He knew that working hard, keeping your nose clean, and even rising to high rank cannot protect you in an essentially lawless one-party state if Party politics takes the wrong turn. So he really only had two choices: work to change the Party into a law-abiding entity (which is probably impossible), or take control of the Party and keep it forever.
He has chosen the latter course, and in terms of protecting himself it is probably the right choice. “I think he will become emperor for life and the Mao Zedong of the 21st century,” said Willy Lam, former Hong Kong democratic politician and now politics professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. And that is precisely the problem.
Xi no doubt justifies his actions to himself by believing that he is the indispensable man for China’s modernisation, but the cemeteries are full of indispensable men. The longer you are in power, the more poor or at least sub-optimal decisions you make – and when the passage of time makes the mistakes obvious, you are obliged to defend them although a successor could just drop them and move on.
Xi is not likely to “do a Mao” and unleash chaos in China. He is intelligent and he works hard. But the mistakes will accumulate nevertheless, and stagnation awaits.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
Very doubtful as Russia doesn’t want to occupy the Baltic States or Ukraine and doesn’t have the means to do so both militarily or economically. NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe is destabilizing a strategic balance that had been maintained for decades, so of course the Russians are going to react. What would we do if 20,000 Russian and Chinese troops were stationed in Mexico?
The fact is, as I stated before, we are now in a multi-polar geopolitical climate. Russia/China have always been important world players (that’s why they have permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council) and they have arrived at the point in their trajectories where they are able to challenge US Hegemony without fear of open conflict (due to nuclear parity) or economic destruction. These were two mediocre teams in the league that have drafted well, made some key signings, and changed their coaching staff. They are competing with a new system so we need a new playbook if we want to effectively deal with them.
Good article and several valid points. I still maintain that I would rather see someone like Xi as “leader of the world” than Trump.
Replace Xi with Trump and China with USA in the above. Only that it didn’t take him long to make poor or sub-optimal decisions.
The notion that the dictator for life Xi and Communist China would be a good world leader is utterly absurd.
He is a world leader, but not “leader of the world”, nor is he interested in become so.
But that he could be a good option for that position is not as absurd as the one that is the self-styled “leader of the free world” now.
And you know this how? Why do away with the term limits and return to the cult of personality that preceeded them?
How do you know he is aiming to have the unthankful position of “leader of the world”??
Do you realize how much it cost to hold the world hegemony? It ain’t cheap!!!
Oh I suspect you do, since you are paying for it.
Has Xi Yin Ping shown any signs that he wants to have a personality cult built around him?
He is a pragmatic leader and have seen what happen when somebody do that. He is unlikely to repeat that mistake.
There are other “leaders” that is more prone to an inflated view of themselves and more likely to try to build a personality cult and would like to be “President for life”.