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Is Brexit A Signal Of Decline?

Written By: - Date published: 7:15 am, January 18th, 2019 - 103 comments
Categories: China, Europe, International, uk politics, us politics - Tags: ,

According to an old Jewish tradition, when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, Adam turned to Eve and said, “You know my dear; we are living in an Age of Transition.”

And here we are.

The United States is experiencing the presidency of Donald Trump, an administration unique in almost 250 years of United States history. And yet the democratic and institutional limits formed to corral such a presidency are now working, making his rule far harder as they are designed to.

China has ended a thirty-year period during which the United States was the world’s only superpower. And yet its declining economic growth is slower and uneven compared to the economic transformation of South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, and other neighbouring countries over similar periods of time. Arguably they have formed superior wealth creation and citizenry engagement channels that foster and regulate superior quality growth.

In Russia under Vladimir Putin, we see the end of the global impotence it has experienced since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But its 2010-2018 gains are mere toeholds of diplomatic and military influence compared to its previous Soviet empire that President Putin so longs for. Sure, Russia cannot be ignored, and it seeks to undermine legitimate franchise. But it has a shrinking, stagnant economy and society. It’s a ghost in a shell.

And to Brexit, the United Kingdom is determined to leave the European Union, no matter the political, social economic chaos that is causes. But there will be no change of government until 2022 and the positions of the Conservative and Labor leadership are getting closer by the week as both of them run out of moves to actually having to stop fucking around and actually talk about the future of the country as if they are not politicians but leaders.

Maybe we should worry that these movements signal the end to liberal democracy – that is, societies based on universal human rights, rule of law, strong regulatory institutions, and fully participatory democracy.  

And sure, the world is not going to go back to the way it was before Trump, Xi, Putin, or May. It means that it has moved two steps forward and is now moving one step back. Institutionally similar countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada may well be disappointed by the febrile foolery of Trump, Xi, Putin, and May, but the best chance for another step forward is to let the virtues of our own institutions shine. Arguably, Ardern is our best exponent at that in a long time. Trudeau is at least as good as his dad at exemplifying liberal democratic values too.

The video commentaries we have seen from people on the British street show how proud they are of their franchise. 

They are clear that their ability to be heard, now that their representatives in Parliament have failed to represent them clearly, is central to their citizenship.

I find this deeply impressive. They don’t just want a vote, they want a refreshed mandate about their exchange of individual autonomy into the state, if and only if they see what they are getting out of it.

You cannot persuade the British public (no more than you can persuade the Swiss) that sharing sovereignty on domestic issues is anything other than a loss of self-government and accountability unless there are major benefits that would fully compensate for it.

There are dozens of democratising activist reforms in British history that repeat that message. They include the Magna Carta in 1215, appointment of the first Speaker of the House in 1376, subjugation of the King to the law and to parliament in 1688, the Reform Act of 1832, Emily Davison’s Derby death in 1913, the Representation of the People Act of 1918, and further reforms in 1969 and up to the year 2000.

The UK’s international influence will indeed diminish a little. It will not sit on the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU after this year. It will no longer be able to block the EU from deciding on a foreign policy or security initiative that France and Germany have agreed upon.

Yet Britain, France and Germany have a shared view on the Iran Nuclear agreement, on the need to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia, on opposition to the American transfer of their embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, on climate change, and in support of a rules-based order. They also agree on Russia sanctions, policy towards Saudi Arabia, how to deal with China, and much more.

To cut to it, Brexit need not diminish the united international impact of the EU and Britain in international diplomacy and influence, if the will is there. There is the precedent of the P5+1 when Germany was invited to join the permanent members of the Security Council in order to put maximum pressure on Iran. It worked.

It also remains up to the EU to demonstrate a very similar equation of loss of individual state autonomy in exchange for supranational benefits in the upcoming European elections. If the EU hasn’t figured out how to demonstrate its virtues after Brexit, well, here come the other nationalists to remind them of why they owe their existence to the re-energised citizen. It is in the existential interests of the leadership of the EU to show humility and treat Brexit as a democratising lesson before the nationalists gut them like fish at the upcoming polls.

We certainly have fundamental threats to democracy as a system of government, and threats to human rights, occurring in many countries right across the world occurring right now.

Brexit is not one of them.

No fresh institutions have needed to be formed. Barely a drop of blood has been spilled. Britain is doing its domestic arguments far better than France, with far less volatility than Spain, with nowhere near the extremism of Italy or Germany, and it is likely to get to cross-party parliamentary discussions in short order. Brexit is the global model of civil argument.

Brexit is a self-eradication of Britain in to a smaller country in every sense. It is “right-sizing” to a scale appropriate to its economy and to its cultural impact in the world, a further rebalancing of its ego to its superego. That’s a good thing.

So Brexit need not upset how it shines as a modern democratic state exemplifying good institutions strongly corralling their government and holding its government accountable again and again until the actions of government reflect the will of the people. This will of the people is reflected in well-tooled institutions interacting to refine and perfect that will. That system is certainly flexing, but that flex is designed.

Brexit is not a threat to democracy as a system of government or a threat to liberal values. I would argue that the entire Brexit process from referendum to election to leadership contest to protracted negotiation to parliamentary vote, to whatever institutional process occurs next, is one of British democracy’s best modern exemplars to the world of institutionalised democracy and the rule of all under the law since universal franchise was first granted there.

I don’t agree with Brexit, but it’s a very good thing.

103 comments on “Is Brexit A Signal Of Decline?”

  1. Yorick 1

    Today’s leader article from the UK edition of the New Statesman


    casts her as a not very bright imitator of Margaret Thatcher.

    Whether conscious or sub-conscious I think there is a lot of truth in it – which leaves open the question .. where does the UK go from here ?

    Judging by the current lot it may need a new generation of politicians driven by dire necessity – but there is no going back. You cannot unscramble an omelette .

    Brittania was trading with Europe long before William the Conqueror , Julius Caesar, or Peter Jackson.

  2. Sanctuary 2

    Britain has been in relative and then absolute decline since the 1870s, and they’ve had the misfortune of being presided over by the same ruling class during that whole time.

    Just think about the abandonment of making things as a respectable middle class profession from the 1860s onwards, or Churchill’s catastrophic decision to return to the gold standard, or the even greater squandering of their oil wealth, or the deliberate sacrifice of British industry on the altar of finance, or the appalling mis-management of the economy that has occurred for over 100 years… All orchestrated by the same people, or their children, or their grand children.

  3. Morrissey 3

    Britain’s not only in decline, it’s been an international joke since this humiliating encounter….

  4. francesca 4

    Russia…… a shrinking, stagnant economy?
    Despite sanctions and every effort to destroy its recovery, the west has failed

    World Bank reports modest growth forecasts

    “Russia’s goal of halving poverty to 6.6% by 2024 can be achieved, even under a modest annual growth scenario.
    Growth prospects for 2018-2020 remain modest, forecast at 1.5% to 1.8%. Higher-than-expected oil prices could favorably affect the growth forecast.
    A sound macroeconomic framework, with relatively high levels of international reserves ($461 billion), low external debt levels (about 29% of GDP), and comfortable import cover (15.9 months), positions Russia well to absorb external shocks.”
    Full report here
    and another here
    Growth, however modest, is not stagnation, and given the most savage sanctions designed to cripple the Russian economy, is pretty remarkable

    Another Putin mind reader. Its an industry
    On Putin’s “longings” to restore the Soviet Empire
    “Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.” Vladimir Putin
    Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/vladimir_putin_452527

    • Ad 4.1

      Awesome for the World Bank to tell us about headline growth, and you parsing 1.3-5% GDP as not “stagnant”.

      Now let’s look under the bonnet.

      – Last time they counted, 111 people own about 20% of the household wealth of Russia. They managed to get to that level of inequality faster than Iraq.
      – 90% of entrepeneurs in Russia say they have experienced corruption
      – 4 out of 5 Russians do not have $10,000 to their name. The median is about $2360.
      – The energy sector – the sole major private sector prop to the economy – drives inequality as all quarry-enclave economies do
      – The middle class has grown a bit, but staying there is extremely tenuous
      – Russians have on average a lower lifespan than Belarus
      – Russia’s global competitiveness is about the same as that of Rwanda
      – Russia’s minimum wage is about the same as that of Chile

      You can go through their regulatory institutions and the news is about the same.

      • francesca 4.1.1

        Yes indeed Ad, massive inequities… aided and abetted by guess who?
        the much vaunted capitalist democracies of the west, our own Chandler bros included.
        Russia was royally fucked over, and how we loved them then .Yeltsin was our man.
        Expect that to be righted in 30 years?
        We’re still struggling with our own devastations ..ongoing from the 80s
        I’m sorry , but stagnant means no growth. And I would say the goal to halve poverty by 2024 eclipses our own
        Hate Russia all you like , but they’re trending up and all the schadenfreude in the world cant change that
        And there’s about 5 years difference between the average life span of a Russian and an American
        Also trending up,whereas the Americans are trending down, despite what the west throws at the Russians
        The arrogance and chauvinism of knee jerk Russophobes is unbelievable, so unwilling to see anything hopeful

    • Infused 4.2

      Russia has the combined GDP of new york

  5. Dennis Frank 5

    The current test of democracy in the UK is likely to have regenerative consequences, so I agree with Ad in respect of an optimistic outlook is best, and realistic. However the Tory shambles, poor performance in govt, and ongoing shambles in Labour, suggest the party dimension of democracy is in deep shit. That will probably continue to worsen till the public accepts that only proportional representation will suffice.

    “Prime minister writes to Labour leader after he dismisses her offer of talks as a ‘stunt’: May tells Corbyn it is ‘impossible’ to rule out no deal.” https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jan/17/may-will-stick-to-brexit-principles-in-cross-party-talks-says-no-10

    “Theresa May has told Jeremy Corbyn his demand that she rule out a no-deal scenario as a prerequisite for Brexit talks is “an impossible condition” and called on him to join cross-party discussions immediately.”

    Labour’s fear of bipartisan consensus derives from westminster-style democracy: their duty is to oppose. Intelligent governance is too radical to be acceptable. The systemic strait-jacket imposed centuries ago still binds them.

  6. Brutus Iscariot 6

    Great article. The Left has a temptation to oppose Brexit reflexively simply because it originated under a Tory government. In the end though, the EU is a neoliberal project & any nation within it loses a great deal of autonomy in managing its domestic affairs.

    Outside the EU, the UK is free to choose its own path, whether that be the status quo or social democracy.

    • joe90 6.1

      Yeah, a bold, democratic project to counter the extreme nationalism at the root of the nearly forty years of bloodshed that cost tens of millions of lives and left almost the entire population of Western Europe in dire poverty was a neoliberal project.



  7. Observer Tokoroa 7

    Oh – Rule Britannia
    Oh – how sweet and happy you make it look Advantage

    The English are sickeningly patriotic. Clinging to a very cherished non democtaic Monarchy Elizabeth 1 and 2; A House of Lords that has mostly included portly poster perfect Anglicanism; An extremely wealthy and long lived Aristocracy; and a National taste for Arms and War and Slavery that defies Nobility. War made possible indeed by its Colonies.

    Britain’s Empire is touted as “civilising” when in fact it was and is Devastating.

    Take one look at New Zealand. A look at India. A look at 90 different enslaved and demeaned Nations that “Noble” Britannia has plundered and raped and enslaved.

    The Workers of New Zealand (the wealthy of NZ are not asked to pay a proportionate amount) are forced to pay for every Maori need and benefit because of Victoria’s non democratic Treaty. Britannia of course, supplies not a penny.

    So Britain with its three Celtic wings will be dragged out of the EU and given to the Aristocrats of England. And England will have a Population of something over 60 million persons.

    The EU has 508 Million persons currently. At least 8 times the Person Power of England.

    That will not trouble the English. For they will starve their workers and their poor – as they always have done. They are God’s Chosen. Their mothers will flog their kids off to various ports and towns around the world. It is the way of the English.

  8. RedLogix 8

    You cannot persuade the British public (no more than you can persuade the Swiss) that sharing sovereignty on domestic issues is anything other than a loss of self-government and accountability unless there are major benefits that would fully compensate for it.

    Yet every person does this; we sacrifice some of our personal sovereignty to broader institutions, our families, our employers, our communities and especially the nation state. We do this because there are major benefits in doing so. The problem arises when these institutions exert their power and authority in ways that are not accountable and behave in ways that ignore our interests; but for the most part we partake willingly in these now familiar structures.

    There is no rule that says the nation state is the largest governance institution that can ever exist. Given the self-evident globalisation of our world, in economic, social and technical terms … the lack of an effective governance at the global level is a dangerous deficiency. All the major problems we face as the human race; gross inequality, the dysfunctional relationship between the sexes, and our careless trampling of a planetary ecosystem, are all global in nature. These can only be solved if everyone is working to the same rule book. There is your ‘major benefit’.

    Yet for some reason we balk at expanding our moral and political horizons to embrace the whole human race under one democratically accountable global institution. It’s not hard to design such a thing; it’s much harder to convince people to let go their fears.

    Because in 1000 years time we will look back on this era with astonishment, that for so long in the face of so many reasons to act, we delayed and obfuscated. We are a single species on a small planet, in a tiny corner of a vast universe full of life. Unless and until we can overcome the trifling differences between us all, we will never be capable of transcending this tiny slice of reality we are confined to.

    Global governance is inevitable. It won’t be easy, it won’t be perfect, we will make many mistakes as we always do, but we do need to get on with the task.

    • Mark 8.1

      For once, a comment from you that makes good sense.

      • RedLogix 8.1.1

        As I’ve repeatedly said; I deeply oppose all empires. Over the past 10,000 years there have been many hundreds of them, differing in the detail of their exploitation, but all with the same common features. No-one has any moral high ground to posture from; every empire was both great and terrible at the same time.

        While we can be informed by history, we are not guilty of it. On that basis we can reject the patterns of the past and forge new ones.

        • Mark

          No-one has any moral high ground to posture from; every empire was both great and terrible at the same time.

          Its not something I ever do. Agree entirely that no particular ethnic group or civilization has any moral high ground. I only mention past Western misdeeds in the context of defending against racist commentary on this blogsite and pointing out hypocrisy (mostly in the context of China).

          Identity politics that demonises any particular race or culture or gender (white, black, yellow, male whatever) is utterly anti-Marxian – its actually patronizing towards non-Western peoples, and has been disastrous for whatever progressive movement has ever existed in Western countries. Corporations, no matter how evil, simply need to play the ‘diversity’ card, or add a few more gender categories on their job application forms, and progressives will slobber all over them.

          • RedLogix

            I’m never going to be a fan of Marx; as Edward Wilson memorably said “right theory, wrong species”. His ideas on what constituted ‘labour’ are also rooted in pre-industrial thinking.

            But otherwise it’s wise to work with what we can agree on, and keep that in mind.

      • RedLogix 8.1.2

        I’ll expand a little on my comment above.

        There is of course a good reason why empires were such a common pattern. Put simply in energy terms they were a highly successful adaptation. In the pre-industrial era all human societies were constrained to energy and resources that were derived from plant photosynthesis. We might exploit this energy as food, wood, animal and human labour, but it was always constrained by the total sunshine and fertile land available.

        By it’s very nature economies based on plant energy alone have a relatively low ROEI, in other words the surplus wealth generated over what is needed to keep the system going is fairly small and often precarious. And the only reliable way to increase this surplus was to have more territory available to harvest plant energy from.

        But of course if you merely expanded the territory and had to share the increased surplus with more people, nothing much has been gained. In order to really drive innovation you need a significant and reliable surplus available to an elite of competent, powerful people. Hence the logic of empire. It mimicked natural patterns of dominance, expansion and exploitation to achieve goals that would otherwise be out of reach.

        But it was a very slow and uncertain pathway. Slavery was an essential feature of all empires to some degree, and certainly the idea of individual rights and human dignity was a very low priority. But what we can say, is it worked. We bootstrapped ourselves from being subjects of nature, to the being the first post-biological species.

        Nothing happens in a vacuum, the European Renaissance was in many ways the product of many antecedent accidents of history; but it was the catalyst. From that triggering point we escaped the constraints of photosynthesis. As a first stage we exploited the remarkable stored energy of fossil plants as oil and coal, now we are on the cusp of a stage that cuts photosynthesis and carbon out of the loop entirely; we can now build economies that are no longer dependent on territory to gain scale and a generate reliable surplus.

        Hence we no longer need empires. The new sources of wealth are entirely different; they are based on the synergies of human talent, intelligence, competency and skills. This is a world that does not value people for how hard they labour, or their ability to breed, but for the creative, capable spark that lies between their ears. It is why ironically enough, in this heaving world of 7 billion, each individual has become even more valuable than ever before.

    • Ad 8.2

      The formation of the League of Nations and then United Nations took comprehensive world wars to enable that highly limited form of global cooperation to come to pass. The history of the formation of the EU itself would be worth getting in to, since it was borne after WW2 and strengthened within the Cold War.

      I wouldn’t wish that kind of crisis upon us, and I don’t see it happening.
      So no, global governance is not inevitable.

      Personally I think the EU fucked itself putting in too many economic austerity policies in the years after the GFC. It’s up to the institutions to justify their existence to us, not ours to them.

      • RedLogix 8.2.1

        It’s inevitable in the long-term. I’ve no idea which one of the Four Horsemen will catch up to us first; but one of them will. And at that point, for sheer fear of the awful consequences, we will be forced to act.

        Look I’m not blind to the reasons why people resist this idea. In rough terms their reasoning goes, “the nation state governments we have are bad enough, a big global one must be worse”.

        Yet this is exactly parallel to say the thinking of all those dozens of little fiefdoms that constituted modern Germany in the 1500’s. Each little duchy or dukedom convinced of it’s own rightness, and fearful of it’s ‘outsider’ neighbours. And each constrained by it’s own tiny territory, limited population and the perpetual costs of warfare. And if you’d told any of these people that a “united Germany is inevitable”, they too would have scoffed and disbelieved.

        The parallel with the modern nation state with respect to global governance is very close indeed.

        • Dennis Frank

          First step to it is to eliminate the Security Council. Okay, never gonna happen. Instead, democratise it. China veto: not going to happen unless communists morph into democrats. Happened somewhat in Russia, eh?

          Now if the triangulation Putin & Trump are applying to China is smart instead of dumb, we could see that outcome in a few years’ time. Given that Trump will likely be replaced by then, it would have to be on the basis of a bipartisan foreign policy consensus in the USA.

          • RedLogix

            Agreed, the persistence of flawed states like the USA, and totalitarian regimes like Russia and China, which all demonstrably fall short in terms of democratic accountability remains a substantial hurdle.

            We need to remind ourselves, that of the 200 odd nations in the world, barely 20 -30 are functioning democracies. And it’s no accident that these are the nations refugees and migrants everywhere want to go to. The rest are run by thuggish regimes of varying degrees of corruption and brutality.

            Yet perhaps in one sense the cure for this problem is not to delay global governance until we have 200 perfect little democracies … but quite the opposite … we should get on with the job and have some faith that the major benefits of such a project will slowly, unevenly, but inexorably pull all the peoples of the world upward toward better governance at all levels of society.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Agreed, the persistence of flawed states like the USA, and totalitarian regimes like Russia and China, which all demonstrably fall short in terms of democratic accountability remains a substantial hurdle.

              This keeps bugging me.

              Is the Russian parliament (or whatever its called) really less accountable than NZ’s or the US’s which has been proven to be an oligarchy?

              Where was the accountability when our assets were sold against our will?

              • RedLogix

                You really need to live in a country where people won’t go to the police because it’s too dangerous. Or politicians exist primarily to ‘do favours’.

                There is no place on earth that is, or probably ever will be, perfect. But when making a complaint against something, it’s always useful to ask “compared to what?”

                Keep in mind that hundreds of millions of people would dearly love to live in a countries like the USA, Australia and NZ because imperfect as we are, we’re still better than where they are.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  You really need to live in a country where people won’t go to the police because it’s too dangerous.

                  I do.

                  My life has been… checkerd… but I’ve definitely met people who refused to go to the police because it was too dangerous for them. And it wasn’t even that they were doing anything immoral.

                  Or politicians exist primarily to ‘do favours’.

                  What makes you think that our politicians don’t? Because, from what I’ve seen, they do.

                  But when making a complaint against something, it’s always useful to ask “compared to what?”

                  No it’s not. Just because somewhere is worse doesn’t mean that where we are is without corruption.

                  The only possible comparison is to that to which it should be.

                  Keep in mind that hundreds of millions of people would dearly love to live in a countries like the USA, Australia and NZ because imperfect as we are, we’re still better than where they are.

                  And so we should just put up with the same BS as always?

                  I happen to think that we should be working to make things better than they are.

                  But then, unlike you, I’m not a rentier capitalist.

                  • RedLogix

                    I happen to think that we should be working to make things better than they are.

                    And if you think I don’t then you really haven’t understood a word I’ve ever said.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      I’ve understood it.

                      Everything that you’ve said, especially in the last two years, is about about keeping things exactly as they are.

                      Ten years ago, when you first started commenting here, you were open to change.

                      Now you just defend the failed status quo.

                    • RedLogix

                      Everything that you’ve said, especially in the last two years, is about about keeping things exactly as they are.

                      So exactly what was my primary theme in this thread?

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    Brexit is not a threat to democracy as a system of government or a threat to liberal values.

    No. It’s a confirmation of them.

    It’s democratic in that it’s the people’s will.
    It is liberal in that it’s a nation’s choice.

    Then, of course, is the fact that neo-liberalism is a threat to democracy and liberal values.

    The EU may have started before neo-liberalism took over the world but it has been shaped by it for 40 years now. That’s two generations.

    If we were true to our liberal values and democracy we’d be dropping out of all the FTAs, the WTO, the WB, and the IMF. These organisations may have had a place after the war but they no longer do. They restrict, and even prevent, democracy and liberal values.

    China didn’t become the engine of the world through democracy and liberal values. They became so through being an oppressive dictatorship and using those oppressive organisations that the capitalists had set up that force trade upon nations which may not want to trade.

    Willing buyer, willing seller.

    Those institutions and trade agreements actually undermine that most basic of liberal values. That foundation of free-trade.

    A large part of the reason for that was that economists and politicians only ever applied it to individuals but never countries. But the countries, too, must be able to make a democratic decision on these things.

    It’s not a question of giving up sovereignty to get a benefit. A nation should never give up sovereignty. That removes that other basic liberal value – the right of a nation to govern itself.

    A nation should set its domestic policy and then say to the rest of the world: We will trade with you if meet or exceed these policies.

    Free-trade without the loss of sovereignty or democracy that so many tell us is necessary.

    • Dennis Frank 9.1

      Yeah, I remember Jeanette Fitzsimons framing it as fair trade. Capitalists would argue that free trade is fair inasmuch as the transaction has willing buyer & seller plus mutual benefits therefrom. They don’t factor in the coercive effects of the system. Such as willingness being that of current leaders, likely as not corrupt, and their capture of most of the benefits.

    • Mark 9.2

      “China didn’t become the engine of the world through democracy and liberal values.”

      And the West (NZ included) achieved their development through ‘democracy and liberal values’?

      • Draco T Bastard 9.2.1

        To some degree, yes. Te Tiriti wouldn’t have existed without at least some acceptance of those values. In fact, it was only because of the UK parliament insisting and passing laws that other countries be treated equally and binding treaties written in their own language that prevented NZ becoming another conquered state.

        It wasn’t perfect and the UK obviously abused the terms and conditions of that treaty but it was a hell of a lot better than what came before.

  10. McFlock 10

    Brexit isn’t a threat to British democracy, it is merely a threat to the British economy and to the stability of the British union.

    I’m actually more concerned with Xi’s removal of term limits – on the downside it removes China’s already modest efforts at avoiding a stagnant oligarchy, but on the upside such a system of governance will eventually inhibit China’s expansionist plans.

    Russia is merely a regional power with its super-regional pretensions propped up by the decaying infrastructure of the Soviet Union.

    And if the govt shutdown goes on much longer, the US will be in deep shit and fast retreat across the globe. They can force essential employees to work, but contractors can’t work for free for very long.

    • RedLogix 10.1

      I’m not inclined to write Russia off as glibly as that. In the almost 20 years since I worked there for a while, there has been a lot of progress. The catastrophic disruptions of the 90’s are pretty much behind them and while the infrastructure is patchy over the whole nation (it’s a massively territory with tremendous climate challenges) it’s not fair to say it depends entirely on a ‘decaying Soviet era assets’ either. (You could say much the same about the USA for that matter.)

      What Russia does have going for it are; a strong mineral and resource base, a well educated and disciplined population, a social coherence notably absent in the West these days, and a strong national identity coupled with a military tradition willing to do anything to defend themselves.

      Underestimating the Russians is not an original mistake either … as a certain German leader discovered last century.

      • McFlock 10.1.1

        Specifically military – the one carrier they have needs maintenance, and the only drydock they have to take it, sunk. Both soviet era.
        They have been developing some new military tech, but the bulk of their large equipment is 30+ years old. They could barely maintain a carrier deployment in the Med for a few weeks, and lost two aircraft to cable failures on the deployment. Zero strategic reach outside of nukes (and those are aging, too).

        The yanks have wasted money and gone down cul de sacs (the Zumwalt gun and F35 come to mind), but they are building new designs en masse and having better luck maintaining force effectiveness.

        China and India are growing – India mostly as a bulwark against China. But Russia only really worries its neighbours, not nations on the other side of the planet.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.2

      Russia is merely a regional power with its super-regional pretensions propped up by the decaying infrastructure of the Soviet Union.

      Dude, you really need to get onboard with what’s happening in the world.

      One of the things that Putin has been doing is building up the infrastructure. He, at least, understands that an economy only works if the infrastructure is there.

      The US doesn’t get that which is why so many of their bridges are falling down. And NZ is following in the US’s footsteps as people vote for those that promise to lower taxes rather than those that promise to build our nation.

      And if the govt shutdown goes on much longer, the US will be in deep shit and fast retreat across the globe.

      They already are because of their insistence on cutting taxes for the rich. Same thing happened to Ancient Rome.

      • McFlock 10.2.1

        Yeah I should have been more specific about restricting it to infrastructure directly related to strategic influence, particularly the ability to put an efficient amount of high explosive onto the most appropriate piece of the planet at the most opportune time.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Russia choosing projects for $40bn infrastructure upgrade mega-plan

          Russia has pledged to invest three trillion rubles (around $40 billion) in infrastructure. Now, the authorities are choosing projects on which to spend the money.

          The projects span all across Russia, Kommersant daily reports. They include reconstruction of the 1,879km-long M5 motorway, which starts in Moscow and ends in Chelyabinsk in the Ural region. The 1,351km-long M7 motorway that connects the Russian capital with several cities on the Volga river has also been included.

          I suspect that Putin has been doing this, on the quiet, for the last two decades and it’s the reason why Russians keep voting him in. The benefits that even a small amount of good infrastructure can bring are huge.

          The reverse also applies. Cutting expenditure on infrastructure has huge effects even if it does take decades for the lack to become obvious.

          • McFlock

            So it becomes a regional power with slightly improved roads.

            How many roads is it building in Africa? Because that’s what China is doing.
            How many aircraft carriers has it laid down since 1992? Because that’s what China is doing.
            What new space tech has Russia developed since 1992? Because China is on the moon.
            How many overseas bases has Russia developed in the past 20 years? Because that’s what China is doing.

            Yes, the US is in decline. Russia isn’t going to fill that vacuum. China will. Maybe India, too. EU will expand a bit in its global influence, too. Russia will need more than improved roads to catch up.

            • Draco T Bastard



              I can assure you that Russia has not been sitting on it laurels since Sputnik.

              Did you notice Crimea’s return to the Russian fold?

              How many overseas bases has Russia developed in the past 20 years?

              My position is that no nation should have foreign bases except in time of war.

              This is where international law should be stepping in.

              We’re at peace (mostly).

              Yes, the US is in decline. Russia isn’t going to fill that vacuum. China will.

              Possibly but do remember that the two are working together.

              EU will expand a bit

              It won’t. It’s in terminal decline. Capitalism does that.

              To put it another way, a few more countries may join but they’ll just add to the speed of its collapse. Just as the PIIGS did (I really hate that acronym).

              Russia will need more than improved roads to catch up.

              Russia has been doing more than roads for decades. The fact that you didn’t know that was the point.

              • McFlock

                Oh, russia is an aggressive regional power, but still regional.

                And whether you think countries should have foreign bases or not, China is developing them, Russia can barely utilise the one it has left.

                And being part of a pact doesn’t mean being of equal influence in that pact. ASEAN, for example.

                But keep pretending domestic road repairs will turn Russia into a global hegemonic power in the league of China or the US.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  And being part of a pact doesn’t mean being of equal influence in that pact. ASEAN, for example.

                  I’m quite aware. It’s one of the major reasons why I’m against the IMF, the WTO and the WB and many of the other institutions that AD mentioned.

                  But that doesn’t abrogate the fact that Russia and China are working together.

                  • McFlock

                    Yeah, it does. Russia was interested in it because it no longer had the influence of the Soviet Union, so you bringing it up to demonstrate that Russia is anything other than a regional power is actually pretty funny.

                    What’s even more funny is that India and Pakistan are both full members. I’ll take “two countries more likely than most others to nuke each other in the next thirty years” for $100 please, Alex. Oh, but they’re working together and only some of them are capitalist, so everything will be alright.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      …and only some of them are capitalist, so everything will be alright.


                      They’re all capitalist.

                      Iran and China have been capitalist far longer than the West.

                      Russia was interested in it because it no longer had the influence of the Soviet Union, so you bringing it up to demonstrate that Russia is anything other than a regional power is actually pretty funny.

                      Except, of course, that Russia does still have the influence of the old USSR. And China is building influence and so is Iran.

                      They may not be building influence in the West but that’s immaterial as the West is in decline.

                      What’s even more funny is that India and Pakistan are both full members. I’ll take “two countries more likely than most others to nuke each other in the next thirty years” for $100 please, Alex.

                      Or their antagonism towards each other is a front put on for the benefit of the West.

                    • McFlock

                      Except, of course, that Russia does still have the influence of the old USSR.

                      fuck no. Where? Africa? Latin America? Hungary?

                      What’s even more funny is that India and Pakistan are both full members. I’ll take “two countries more likely than most others to nuke each other in the next thirty years” for $100 please, Alex.

                      Or their antagonism towards each other is a front put on for the benefit of the West.

                      Gotcha. Artillery exchanges (oh, and the hotel terrorists) are just method acting.

                    • JohnSelway

                      Remember McFlock, Draco read a book once about the first 5000 years of economics so he knows more than you and your no book

  11. Observer Tokoroa 11

    The Future of Nations well Being

    The aim of human life is said by Thomas Hobbes to be Happiness. Not suffering. Not slavery. Not abuse. Not Poverty.

    We already know that several major Nations do not regard Happiness and therefore well being, as important. Not England, The United States, nor Russia.

    These nations will do as they have always done. For they see themselves as superior. They also have been given Veto rights in global discussions such as the United Nations.

    My personal view is that a Nation which does not care for its workers and its needy, should not be given status by Diplomacy, Trade or any other Machination.

    For example – a Nation such as America which has a modest population of 328 million persons, should not be given diplomatic access, nor trade access, nor any global standing if it fails to give adequate Medical Care, Education and Opportunity to its needy and struggling population.

    Yes, I know this sounds unusual. But the poor have the gift of Life and should be fully looked after. If America fails to look after its poor, then it should be deemed as Persona non grata in any other nation. (Not welcome).

    Likewise in Wealthy England, there is a disgraceful rate of Poverty. One in five persons is in Poverty in Queen Elizabeth’s Nation. England however, has the fifth largest economy in the world and could easily cope with Poverty.

    England should be declared Persona non grata until it clears up its Poverty. Until they do that they should be excluded from civilised nations.

    Unlike Britain, Russia through Vladimir Putin is endeavouring to lessen rising Poverty in Russia. The rate of Poverty is rather similar to England, but the Russians are at least trying to get better necessities for the poverty stricken.

    For that reason I will not propose that Russia should be declared Psersona non grata.

    Whether the wealthy like it or not, nobody is impressed with their Wealth. To the contrary they are very unimpressed.

    • Gosman 11.1

      I love that you think you could exclude the US from the international community of nations because they don’t have universal health care funded by the State. If you used that criteria to exclude nations there will be quite a lot missing.

      • Draco T Bastard 11.1.1

        Why does the US think that they can exclude anyone that they don;t like from the international community?

        Make no mistake, they do it all the time.

        Here’s the thing:
        The US has been a rogue state for at least 70 years and needs to be cut off at the knees because of their immoral actions against others.
        The UN Should do this.
        It isn’t.
        Why won’t the UN act against the US to maintain peace which is it’s primary directive?

  12. Brutus Iscariot 12

    Why would anyone think that a global government would be benign and conduct itself in the interests of the people in general?

    • RedLogix 12.1

      Given that barely 10 – 20% of the existing nation state govts could be described as “benign and conduct itself in the interests of the people in general” then it doesn’t follows that a global government would be either.

      That’s not the point.

      A global government could well be a terribly tyranny. But that doesn’t say anything about the inevitable necessity for one. Which is why I argue that we need to think about it and have a plan for what we would want.

      • Brutus Iscariot 12.1.1

        It would by definition be tyrannical, as to govern such a disparate geography from the centre, you’d need intrusive oversight of every far flung corner.

        The techno-fascist state that China is currently building is probably the prototype.

        • RedLogix

          That is a legitimate fear; yet you could say the same thing about any existing nation state. Still the one thing you can say about government is that no matter how bad it is, the only thing worse is no government at all. The same logic is becoming increasingly evident at a global scale.

          The techno-fascist state that China is currently building is probably the prototype.

          So why do you think I’ve been so vocal on this? For exactly this reason. Yet the West is oblivious, obsessed with it’s ‘first world problems’, and sleep walking into a dark future it has no will to address.

          I should point out that the emergence of higher levels of social organisation do not mean that the all the prior institutions vanish. The nation state would have a substantial role to play; global governance does not imply the elimination of all human diversity.

          • Draco T Bastard

            So why do you think I’ve been so vocal on this? For exactly this reason. Yet the West is oblivious, obsessed with it’s ‘first world problems’, and sleep walking into a dark future it has no will to address.

            Could you imagine the uproar if cellphones cost $4000 each?

            That’s what the governments of the West fear – the idea that cellphones (which were developed in the West) would suddenly cost $4000 each if the West actually held to its professed values because there’d be no way that we’d still be trading with China and many other nations that don’t meet our standards.

            They actually cannot see that developing our own nations economies would drop cellphones down to the ‘normal’ price no matter what. We in the West have forgotten to innovate at a national level.

            So China, despite being far more inefficient than pretty much anywhere else in the world, is the manufacturing engine of the world because China manipulates it’s currency to ensure that it’s ‘cheaper’ than anywhere else.

        • Dennis Frank

          The Bilderberger organisation simulates one. It’s benign in intention, even if practice negates intent. It merely pulls the strings of the twin systems (democracy/capitalism), on the assumption that power is all that matters and nations of minor or no influence will go along with greater powers.

          And everyone has been proving their assumption valid. Any consequent tyranny within that overall coordination is either attributable to local tyrants of non-democratic nations, or so well hidden that only conspiracy theorists are willing to attempt identification. And of course they routinely fail due to lack of evidence.

          So, using their formula of loose coordination by an elite, based on consensus of operating for the common good, a plan for a workable global government scheme is worth considering. It may be the only way to control climate change.

          • RedLogix

            Yes … many of the working parts are already in existence. Whether it’s a major reform of the UN, an entirely fresh new institution, or some looser aggregation, I’m not clear on. We can assume it will be an evolutionary process that might take centuries to emerge in a mature form.

            Nor do I underestimate the fears and resistance to this; it’s an act of supreme optimism to imagine this transition would come about in a willing, positive spirit. More likely it will take the sobering, chastening experience of another global catastrophe like WW2 or worse to bring it about.

            Yet either way it will happen. The nuclear weapon stasis cannot be stable forever and this factor alone will drive events sooner or later.

            It’s a big scary idea, yet since WW2 there has been no direct major power war, and much of the credit for this can be attributed to the UN, flawed as it is. This not insignificant achievement can give us reason to be hopeful.

            • ropata

              The looser aggregation is already in existence:

              The work… revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships [that] represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, [and] collectively own through shares the majority of the world’s large blue chip and manufacturing firms – the “real” economy – representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues.

              When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a “super-entity” of 147 even more tightly knit companies – all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity – that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. “In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network,” says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.


              • RedLogix

                Yes … that confirms a point that I’ve made before; because we have politically abdicated from the global domain, we left it wide open for financial corporates to fill the vacuum.

                This is why we have tax havens and byzantine mazes of trans-national ownership structures all exploiting a lack of coherent, consistent governance at this level.

              • Dennis Frank

                Eight years since I last saw that. But yes, to anyone watching at the time it indicated that the Bilderbergers weren’t the only elite network operating at the global level above the UN.

                When the Fed was set up the top players travelled by private train to the conference, but despite the organisational secrecy it eventually became part of history. Nowadays the key meetings of top capitalists are never reported. Bilderbergers are comfortable with some publicity, in contrast.

                “Bilderberg organisers have said 131 participants from 23 countries have confirmed they will be attending the meeting.”

                “topics members will be discussing include fake news, post-truth world, the state of play before the 2018 midterm elections and US world leadership more generally.”

                “2018 attendees include former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) David Petraeus, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, CEO of Ryanair Michael O’Leory and CEO of Airbus Thomas Enders.”

                “Other powerful people to attend are anti-Russia Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, her husband Radoslaw Sikorski, Vidar Helgesen, ambassador for the Ocean, co-founder of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman and editor-in-chief of Bloomberg John Micklethwait. ”

                “George Osbourne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and current editor of the Evening Standard will also be in Turin, other members of the press include Peggy Noonan, author and columnist of The Wall Street Journal.”

                “A full list of participants attending the meeting can be found on the Bilderberg Meetings website.” [https://www.bilderbergmeetings.org/participants.html] Here’s a selection:

                Chairman Supervisory Board, Deutsche Bank
                Professor of Economics, Harvard University
                Director-General, UNESCO
                Chairman, Goldman Sachs
                CEO, Royal Dutch Shell
                President, World Economic Forum
                CEO, Vodafone
                Governor of Colorado
                Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
                Chairman, Munich Security Conference
                Managing Director, Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research
                Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value, University College London
                Prime Minister
                Editor-in-Chief, The Economist
                President, New Democracy Party
                Director of Engineering, Google
                Commissioner for Budget & Human Resources, European Commission
                Cardinal and Secretary of State
                Chairman, KKR Global Institute
                Managing Director, Center for the Future of Work
                Co-Chairman Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations
                Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
                President, Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue
                Director for China, National Security Council
                Dean, Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University

      • Draco T Bastard 12.1.2

        A global government could well be a terribly tyranny.

        It already is as the UN kowtows to the US.

  13. Siobhan 13

    Brexit/shmexit…the death of Democracy is ensured by our Corporate overlords.
    As long as we keep ignoring that one fact we are basically swapping chairs on the Titanic.
    Our actual leaders good/bad/moronic are nearly all in the sway of corporate interests, its just some have smarter rhetoric, better cover and a folksier way of talking. Like Obama did for some of you, I guess.



  14. Treetop 14

    Brexit is one of those times when the United Kingdom needs to be united.

    I would have voted to leave.

    I wonder if some MPs did not support May even though they voted to leave.

  15. Observer Tokoroa 15

    The Three Nations I drew attention to were Britain, America and Russia.
    They each have Veto power over the United Nations.

    Besisde that, they each have extreme access to Nuclear Atomic Destruction.

    On top of that, they each make money by selling Arms to quarrelsome minor Nations. Who in turn draw down enormous numbers of killings and huge amounts of residential and family destruction.

    China as far as I can see has not been megalomaniac. Ever. It has been harsh at times on its civilians. No where near as vicious and sadistic as the English. Or as insane as the Americans, who still hold military Positions in some 46 Nations around the World.

    I think the world should off load Britain, and America. Perhaps also Russia. Collectively they appear to have no known morals, or sensitivity or wisdom. Madness is their.

    Because if you can’t look after your own people al la Thatcher, there is no chance that you would ever look after any others.

    • Mark 15.1

      Good comment.

      Of all developing nations, China, over the past 70 years, has done more to lift more people out of poverty, saved more lives through wise public health and agricultural policies, and grown the economy, more rapidly than any other country in the history of the world. And in the final analysis, at far less cost in human misery than any other major power in history. When you cut through the morass of Western propaganda and look to the primary evidence and the facts, this is simply indisputable (the violence and killings of the early years, on a proportionate basis was far less widespread than that of the French and American revolutions).

      Of course this is something people here will find hard to accept – but part of it is the fear of a great non-Western power precisely because it is non-Western. Not because of anything it actually does. Chinese have not evicted Pacific Islanders to test atom bombs over their homes, they have not bombed protest ships in New Zealand harbours, they have not ‘blackbirded’ Pacific island labour to work on plantations. Yet they are deemed a greater threat to the region than those powers who have done exactly those sorts of things.

      The fact is if New Zealanders hate China so much, they can simply terminate all economic and other links. China will not invade etc, they’ll just walk away. China did not twist the arms of New Zealanders to sign that FTA – the labour government actively courted China.

      Imagine if China sent its navy down here and forced New Zealand to legalize meth so that Chinese manufacturers could make huge profits. That’s what Anglo Saxon countries did to China, and became hugely rich off it.

      • RedLogix 15.1.1

        Comparing empires at totally different phases of their lifecycle is misleading at best; a mature empire at the height of it’s power will have had time and resource to have had a great impact on it’s colonies. By contrast a relatively new one starting out can paint itself as benign and harmless, because it’s lacked the opportunity to be anything otherwise.

        Still if you want to dig into history there are plenty of horrible episodes to gloat over:


        And from a quick skim through the first 20 or so, China seems to have had it’s fair share of atrocities over time.

        Or this:


        It looks like Chinese don’t have a monopoly on virtue after all.

        And just last week:

        Prepare for War


        Probably an exercise in signalling over Taiwan, but scarcely a peaceable one. Still prepared to assure us that there are no Chinese warships? And none might ever come to NZ?

        • Mark

          I’m not talking about atrocities or a monopoly on virture (and some of those you refer to are simply internecine conflicts, and others are carried out by invading Japanese etc).

          I’m talking of the intent and capacity for empire. And this is related to cultural and ideological inclinations. Culturally less inclined because the Chinese have not historically the urge to conquest, and the lack of a martial culture and esteem for martial virtues (unlike the Japanese, the Mongols etc). This can readily be experienced personally – walk down Queen St or the main drag of any Anglosphere city – -there is a lot more ‘aggro’ than the main streets of Hong Kong, Guangzhou, or Taipei. The concept of violence to confirm manhood is completely alien to most Chinese — its more important to be an A+ student or make heaps of money in business (this is a generalisation of course – in the past a ‘gentleman’ would not concern himself with commerce, and of the four main occupations 士农工商, the merchant was perhaps even despised, but nevertheless it was the scholar at the top of the pile and not the soldier – it is noted that these social categories were extremely fluid in terms of mobility). This of course can be seen in the very low violent crime rates, and crimes of almost any nature, when Chinese are in the West, and placed under the same sort of socio-economic-political environment of other groups and thus allow for a valid comparison. Chinese criminality is of course motivated almost soley by profit – and rarely from macho swagger or feudal concepts of honour. That is the famed pragmatism of the Chinese- –both a good and a bad thing.

          So I’m not saying such a culture is any more ethical than others. . But, I do believe it is less inclined to empire building. Also we need to mention of course the lack of a missionizing impulse – Chinese ‘religion’ is as much a morass of superstition as it is a true religion, at least as daily practiced, the lack of a monotheistic tradition is a salient point. Monotheism naturally tends towards universalisation, its absolutely inevitable (some will say what about Judaism then, but Judaism itself while not a proselytizing faith, is the antecedent of two major faiths that are). I’m not saying that is good or bad. Just pointing out the differences. Christianity after all was spread through a good deal of violence, and I;m talking about when Europeans were christianized themselves, refer Charlegmagne dealt to the Saxons as just one example, but its spread around the world, has in fact been a good thing, in itself – the importance of the individual soul means there is no culture now that openlyh carries out child sacrifice anymore, nor thinks it is a good thing to burn widows, or footbind, n or carry out collective punishments etc. And Islam, while in places still practiced with medieval savagery, still was an improvement over the tribal barbarisms it eliminated – at least for its time.

          So I am convinced the Chinese, culturally speaking, are less inclined to empire than other groups. However, the focus on business and wealth, perhaps more pronounced than that of other groups, could by default lead to them being a dominant ethic group on an international scale, not so much in a deliberate sense, but more in the sense that Indians in Fiji dominate commerce, Chinese in Malaysia likewise etc – a cultural proclivity leads to dominance, rather than a will to conquest.

          So that is why I don’t think Chinese warships will be appearing on the horizon of any Western capital soon. The example of Taiwan, Tibet, South China Sea, are not indicators in any sense – these places China have long standing historic claims that precede the communist government, and indeed, the Taiwanese themselves, officially at least, claim those same places, and even more, on behalf of their “Republic of China”. Indeed the “Republic of China” (as opposed to the PRC) not only claims Tibet as part of China, but also all of Mongolia (I may be a bit out of date with the latter). That is why you have Taiwan (ROC) agreeing on the claim of the Chinese nation to the South China Sea – it was after all Chiang Kai Shek who made the claim in 1947, based on what I believe are strong historical grounds.


          Revanchism, if you want to call it that, is not the same as expansionism. And you can’t even really argue revanchism in the case of Taiwan –both already agree they are part of the Chinese nation, hence their formal names, the PRC and ROC. A better analogy is West and East Germany both being part of the German nation, even while being part of different states. So when Xi rails against Taiwanese ‘independence’, he is not really arguing against the status quo – he is talking of ‘independence’ in the sense of not being separately ruled, but the Taiwanese declaring they are no longer Chinese (at the moment the Taiwanese formal position is they are Chinese).

          I’ll write of the ideological component at some later time.

          • RedLogix

            Certainly East and West Germany regarded themselves as parts of the same nation; but re-unification happened when the people of both nations more or less wanted it to. No conquest was involved.

            By contrast it’s not at all clear that the people of Taiwan or Mongolia want that to happen. Nor for that matter did the people of Tibet, but that didn’t seem to slow you down. The claim to the South China Sea may have some history to it, but again neither Vietnam nor Philippines that would normally have an obvious economic zone in the area, seem to have been afforded much say in the matter.

            And if China is not a militant culture, then exactly why the is your “President for Life” demanding his military to “prepare for war”?

            China may not until very recently have been in a position to exercise military force, but it certainly has taken every opportunity to exert it’s economic muscle. The expansionist impulse through SE Asia, Africa and the Pacific is quite self-evident. It seems to me an entirely pious hope that China will not use it’s now substantial military capacity to project it’s interests.

            • Mark

              but re-unification happened when the people of both nations more or less wanted it to. No conquest was involved.

              That will be the case too, absent Western meddling and enabling of independence forces in Taiwan. And by independence, I don’t meant who wish to continue under a separate polity. China is happy with that – i.e. the status quo. I mean those who do not wish to be part of the Chinese nation anymore i.e they don’t want to be the so-called Republic of China, but rather simply Taiwanese. When that happens China will use force – that’s a position that China has held all along – Xi is just restating that position. China must have the capability and be prepared to take back Taiwan, if Taiwan ever chose to eject itself from the Chinese nation forever. That’s not being a militant culture. That is simply preventing the disintegration of the nation – along the lines of Abe Lincoln. And it would be supported by my uncle who escaped the communists, was an ardent KMT supporter all his life, and regularly attended veteran’s re-unions in Taipei (as a KMT official he escaped to Hong Kong just after the revolution and lived there the rest of his life). Its simply maintaining what is yours. That’s not expansionism.

              Interestingly there have been Chinese nationalists who hold that the communists are not nationalistic and even traditionalist enough (the latter should be obvious) – the Taiwanese map of China has always been bigger than the PRC version (the PRC has long relinquished the claim to Mongolia, under I think under Soviet pressure). The Tuva republic Taiwan still claims as part of China.


              I think Xi is trying to revive some aspects of a Chinese national identity in a way that was lost under Mao, there is a strained analogy I think with Stalin, who revived aspects of Russia nationalism, religious and cultural feeling, lost under the radical social reforming early revolutionaries. Most ‘communist’ countries ended up being rather socially conservative, in a sense, although that term probably is a strained fit as well, for want of a better one.

              The expansionist impulse through SE Asia, Africa and the Pacific is quite self-evident.

              The other interpretation is it is part of an internationalist mission to help bring progress to the developing world, even while China benefits at the same time. Growing up, China really did feel for a certain time it was the leader of the Third World, but that lapsed after the death of Mao. Africa has seen unprecedented growth over the past 10 to 15 years, much of it due to Chinese engagement with that continent, and most Africans, according to a slew of Western polls, appear to be happy with that.

              In spite of grumblings about any big power (after all no-one grumbles about ice-landers or luxembourgers), China’s relations with these countries and their respective populaces are good, and there is empirical evidence of this.

              • Draco T Bastard

                China must have the capability and be prepared to take back Taiwan, if Taiwan ever chose to eject itself from the Chinese nation forever. That’s not being a militant culture.

                Yes it is and it’s denying a people’s right to self-determination that China agree to when it joined the UN.

                In other words they’ll be breaking their word and losing face.

                Not that they have any face left due to their ongoing corruption.

                And it would be supported by my uncle who escaped the communists,

                And that just proves that your uncle is a dyed in the wool fuckwit who doesn’t understand the international law that China agreed to.

                Its simply maintaining what is yours.

                If the people of Taiwan do not want to be a part of China that is actually their decision and not China’s. This means that Taiwan is not China’s either.

                All of which means that you’ve been talking out your arse.

                • Mark

                  If the people of Taiwan do not want to be a part of China that is actually their decision and not China’s. If so then Taiwan is not China’s either.

                  So what happened to Tame Iti and the Tuhoe, when they played around with a few popguns in 2007, and under a labour government?

                  What about this:
                  …, in line with the Tribunal’s report last year that found Ngāpuhi hapū had not ceded their sovereignty when they signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

                  But the Prime Minister said, “While the Waitangi Tribunal is entitled to its view, in the end the Crown is sovereign.


                  Similarly if some aborigines simply wanted separate the Northern Territories from Australia, I’m sure the Australian government would not countenance that.

                  So get off your high horse mate.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Yep, the Crown was wrong.

                    But it gets a little complicated because the majority of people there aren’t Tuhoe.

                    A simple vote would have them stay as part of NZ.

                    So, we have to address the injustices of the past while also respecting the wishes of those who live there now.

                    Kicking that small section out of NZ won’t help.

                    • Mark

                      So if enough Han get to live in Tibet, say, and outnumber the Tibetans then that is all good?

                      You’ve just provided a version of the right of conquest to justify land theft. If the Chinese did same you would be jumping up and down like the hypocrite you are.

                    • RedLogix

                      So if enough Han get to live in Tibet, say, and outnumber the Tibetans then that is all good?

                      Which is precisely what is happening. You object vociferously to all the evils of human history, yet remain blind to your own complicity in the present day.

                      As I said above, we can be informed by history, but we are not guilty of it. It’s the future we are responsible for shaping.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      So if enough Han get to live in Tibet, say, and outnumber the Tibetans then that is all good?

                      Nope because the Chinese are forcing the Han into Tibet against the wishes of the Tibetans.

                      In other words, it’s an injustice being perpetrated now by the Chinese.

                  • mikesh

                    Then of course there were the states that made up the Confederacy in the US in 1860.

            • Draco T Bastard

              The claim to the South China Sea may have some history to it

              It didn’t.
              It seems as nothing more than the China lazily biting off more than it can chew.

              At the time, informal international law said that the most a nation could claim was 12 miles. This was formalised in 1982 which China agreed to as part of the the UN.

              China does not have a leg to stand on as far as the nine dash line is concerned.

              The expansionist impulse through SE Asia, Africa and the Pacific is quite self-evident. It seems to me an entirely pious hope that China will not use it’s now substantial military capacity to project it’s interests.

              China will use its military muscle – just as the US did. They’ll just wait until they’re sure that the US won’t retaliate.

              In other words, the only way to stop China is to nuke their artificial islands.

              • Mark

                China will use its military muscle – just as the US did. They’ll just wait until they’re sure that the US won’t retaliate.

                What will happen is a code of conduct will be agreed among Asian countries, and Asians will decide Asian affairs, in the same way that Europeans decide European affairs. The US won’t need to retaliate because this has nothing to do with the US, and is no threat to the US. Duterte himself has said things are starting to settle down, but for the provocative actions of the Western powers….can’t find the link right now, but he certainly did say something like that.

                And have you ever thought what has caused the Chinese to strengthen their claims to the SCS and militarise parts of it? Could it have something to do with Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’? The timing of it could well suggest though. Look at a map and see who has more right to feel threatened by who. And then read some history of China’s dealings with the West since 1839.

                China has few forward defense options with a water mellon thick rind of 22.2 km around its coastline —and she has been attacked from the sea by Western powers multiple times over the past century and a half

                john Pilgers, the coming war with China is on Youtube —its a good history, geography,lesson and also in geopolitics.

                • Exkiwiforces

                  So why didn’t China make a move on SCS islands/ reefs in the 70’, 80’s or in the 90’s. But waited after the Yanks got the boot from the Phillipines and later got side track/ bogged down in the sandpit?

                  • Mark

                    I’ve mentioned the pivot to Asia. Also of course their military capability, or lack thereof at the time. And they did have a few shoot ups with the Vietnamese after Ho Chiminh (a very pro-Chinese leader) died, over some shoals and islands in the 1970s. And the Spratleys have long been claimed, with troops stationed as early as the 1990s and earlier if I am not mistaken. Definitely the 1990s.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  What will happen is a code of conduct will be agreed among Asian countries

                  A code of conduct suggested by China and enforced by them. Same as what the US did during the cold war.

                  … in the same way that Europeans decide European affairs.

                  China can’t afford to allow that. It’s the basic make-up of an empire. The centre cannot allow the periphery to go its own way.

                  The US won’t need to retaliate because this has nothing to do with the US, and is no threat to the US.

                  The rise of an new empire has every thing to do with the US Empire. neither can allow the other to exist.

                  Duterte himself has said things are starting to settle down, but for the provocative actions of the Western powers….can’t find the link right now, but he certainly did say something like that.

                  And I’m going to take the word of an outright bloody murderer because…?

                  And have you ever thought what has caused the Chinese to strengthen their claims to the SCS and militarise parts of it?

                  Yes I have and the only possible explanation is their rise to empire in their perception of the fall of the US empire.

                  Look at a map and see who has more right to feel threatened by who.

                  If everyone stuck within their borders no one would be threatened by anyone else.

                  China is expanding beyond its borders.

                  The US did as well but is now in decline as empire is impossible to maintain.

                  China has few forward defense options with a water mellon thick rind of 22.2 km around its coastline

                  The artificial islands, that international law says cannot be declared territory, are over 1000km outside of China. Normal territory claims for water is 12 nautical miles from the coast as measured from low water. EEZ is 200 nautical miles.

                  1000km plus is far beyond that.

                  What we’re seeing in the South China Sea is a massive territory grab by China because the last rich resource deposits are at the bottom of the sea.

    • McFlock 15.2

      China as far as I can see has not been megalomaniac. Ever. It has been harsh at times on its civilians. No where near as vicious and sadistic as the English.

      I don’t think that Chinese history is anything worse than any other power over the, years, but Vietnamese, Cambodians, Tibetans, and Tajiks might take issue with your first claim, and over the years one or two rather interesting methods of torture and execution have come from China so your second claim is also quite debatable…

  16. Observer Tokoroa 16

    Thank You MARK

    I usually find my thoughts go close to those of RedLogix, but I am disturbed that he should regard China as a bumbling evil cruel western Nation is not accurate.

    Let me ask you RedLogix; Did China ever Destroy 90 Nations in recent times ? Plunder those nations, Rape those Nations. Above all did they ever enslave the numerous people of those times. Did they Transport the slaves from their home Nation across the seas?

    Britain did. They are the most violent race ever on Earth. They have never apologised to any one. Britain carried out its Atrocities until very recent time.

    The reason you don’t know this is because the Schools and Universities of the Western World prefer lies and silence to Justice and Truth.

    • RedLogix 16.1

      Let me ask you RedLogix; Did China ever Destroy 90 Nations in recent times ?

      No. But what makes you think this could never happen? Do the Chinese not have military forces? Do they not have nuclear weapons? Do they not have a President for Life who just last week ordered his forces to “Prepare for War”?

      Empire is a very common feature of our history. Everyone missed my most important remarks on this here: https://thestandard.org.nz/is-brexit-a-signal-of-decline/#comment-1572821. There have been probably several hundred different empires in the past 10,000 years.

      The British Empire was merely the last of them in the classical territory acquiring form. The USA we call a hegemony because it never really went for conquering territory, as much as projecting military power. To this point the nascent Chinese hegemony has been constrained to projecting soft economic and propaganda power, but has expanded it’s military dramatically in the past decade in preparation to go to the next stage.

      As I’ve clearly stated above, all empires are both terrible and great at the same time. You do seem rather obsessed with the misdeeds of the British Empire, yet in comparison to many that came before it was a lot milder than you make out. Certainly the Portuguese, Spanish and French have terrible episodes in their colonial past, but in all likelihood most New Zealanders are unfamiliar with them.

      Nor was Empire a peculiarly European phenomenon. The Mayans had a deeply disturbing record of human sacrifice on a scale we can barely comprehend. The Mongols an especial reputation for brutality. The Islamic empire’s sacking and destruction of Constantinople was so traumatic we’ve collectively wiped it from our memories. And then I could go back to the Romans, the Persians, the Assyrians … and no doubt if we examine the many dynasties of Chinese history over 2,000 years we can find atrocities and horrors to match.

      And virtually all pre-industrial societies practiced slavery on some scale. Yet you overlook that it was the British Empire that passed laws to ultimately end chattel slavery. As I said, both terrible and great at the same time.

      Unless you are making the case that the Chinese are somehow a morally superior people (and anyone living in China would derisively scoff at such a suggestion) … and are incapable of repeating these same patterns of dominance, expansion and exploitation that ALL prior empires have played out …. then I fail to see why you imagine a new Chinese empire would be any less terrible than the old British one you nurture such a deep hatred for.

      • Dennis Frank 16.1.1

        The mongols did skull pyramids. In 1221: “Worried that some of the inhabitants were wounded but still alive, Khan’s daughter allegedly asked that each Nishapuran be beheaded, their skulls piled in pyramids. Ten days later, the pyramids were complete.”

        “There is no evidence that Genghis Khan was at the city when the massacre took place, however. It’s unclear why the legends say these events transpired in just one hour. And when the 1.75 million deaths became attributed directly to Khan is equally murky.” https://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/genghis-khan-murder1.htm

        Two generations later: “After Chinggis’s death, the area enjoyed a brief respite that ended with the arrival of Hulagu Khan (1217-65), Chinggis’s grandson. In 1258 he seized Baghdad and killed the last Abbasid caliph. While in Baghdad, Hulagu made a pyramid of the skulls of Baghdad’s scholars, religious leaders, and poets”. http://countrystudies.us/iraq/17.htm

        “If there were uprisings, they were cruelly suppressed. Hence the pyramids of skulls at the gates of conquered cities and the enormous towers built of human bones.” From the story of their 14th century conqueror, Tamurlane. https://www.haaretz.com/1.4837700

  17. Observer Tokoroa 17

    Hi McFlock

    China regards a number of Asian Peoples as People of China. Notably Tibet

    We all know that. The claims go back into many centuries. Do they not.

    I am amused that “Hung Drawn and Quartered” and the “Tower of London” are mere amusements for you Sadists of the United kingdom.

    But perhaps you are at your most splendid when shipping so called “Convicts” to the bottom of the Planet – and releasing your vile wretchedness on the women, children, and men.

    You don’t care a fig McFlock

    By the By – I see Richard Dawkins your renowned Oxford “animal behaviourist” is demanding that Downs Syndrome Children should be slaughtered. Prevented from living.

    • greywarshark 17.1

      Pbserver Tokora
      I think you are one of those *Ed people – passing judgments that are Deep and Responsible and inviolable.

      Kindly don’t take your DR hatchet to people like McFlock who attempt to reason through what society does, why, and how it could be. There are a minority of such people and they need to be able to continue with their good work not traduced by people like yourself. Discuss, don’t make final judgments from the slit-windows of an isolated castle tower, and condemn those who have different views. No one can be right all the time. Some people may only be right about 10% of the time, and that only when it is a blue moon.

      past tense: traduced; past participle: traduced
      speak badly of or tell lies about (someone) so as to damage their reputation.
      “it was regarded as respectable political tactics to traduce him”

      * Ed the talking horse.

    • RedLogix 17.2

      The full story of Dawkins comments are here:


      Now I have a very personal interest in this topic. I have one child with a similar condition to Downs, but much, much rarer.

      Having gone through this particular little hell I concluded this; that we never for a moment re-considered or regretted this child. When you have new life in your hands, you take responsibility for it and make the very best of it.

      But given the choice I would never, ever consider imposing such a burden on any other human.

      I’ll relate a personal story. One year we were at a Christmas Party organised by one of the local disability organisations. Quite the comic scene of parents and genetically damaged children of all kinds. It was a sort of bent bedlam, delightful, funny and sad all at the same time.

      And for one moment, a few metres away I met eyes briefly with a mother whose child had a condition called ‘Cats Cry Syndrome’. Google it if you will. And in that room full of the weird, wonderful and wacky … her child was the most damaged of all. I’ve no doubt of her courage and love, but for one instant I could read a haunting sadness in her eyes, an unspoken realization of just how awful her burden was.

      No-one should impose that on someone, if it can be avoided.

    • joe90 17.3

      By the By – I see Richard Dawkins your renowned Oxford “animal behaviourist” is demanding that Downs Syndrome Children should be slaughtered. Prevented from living.

      Dawkins never demanded anything. He made an ill advised comment, and apologised.

      Meanwhile, in China late term downs syndrome fetuses are routinely aborted.


  18. Bill Drees 18

    The pro Brexit vote was a cry by a large section of English society that feels it had no voice in the institutions of state.
    First past the post: no proportional representation. 5m people vote UKIP and didn’t get a single seat.
    An unelected upper chamber and 10% of seats are for hereditary members.
    A toothless committee system that can’t compel attendance or sanction miscreants.
    A police force that will not investigate election manipulation.
    A Union with Scotland that is about to finish.
    Northern Ireland constitutionally shared with an adjoining country.
    3,500 people killed since 1969 because of the artificial make up of the UK.

    And Brexit: burning the mattress to kill a flea.

    Yet this writer says we are experiencing what “is one of British democracy’s best modern exemplars to the world of institutionalised democracy and the rule of all under the law since universal franchise was first granted there.”

    This writer’s piece should have been accompanied by a sound track from the “Last night of the Poms”

    • Ad 18.1


      It was definitely a cry, but the question put to them was clear enough.
      On balance, Brexit is what the people wanted.

      Parliamentary democracy is running headlong against direct democracy’s result.
      And yet we haven’t see a march anywhere near as big as Aldermaston about nuclear weapons, or against Iraq, or for the wedding of the 12th-in-line Royal.

      I would think you had a point about lack of democracy if the last electoral result hadn’t been even more finely balanced than the Brexit result. A Conservative-led government is what the people wanted.

      • greywarshark 18.1.1

        But did the people want the break with damn Europe, then, with all the promises and encouragement which now seem less wholesome. Lies, slanted statistics, promises being a pocketful of mumbles. Now, in hindsight, they probably want another chance. Doesn’t anyone condemned to having some limbs cut off, call for a second chance.

        ‘Now let’s think about this’ they would say. It’s very final to cut off my legs/arms and that makes me helpless. Can I work out some compensation and be rehabilitated.

        And the effects of this change are myriad and computers couldn’t work them out to a clear result that would print off into volumes. Understanding nuclear weapons, death and destruction and continuing radiation, is comprehendable and most of it immediate. Iraq, similar. Royalty emotional and connected to societal ideas of choice or not, ultimately not important to the individual, as far as he/she knows.

        Brexit is an attempt to be simple-minded and imbued with a religious zeal for ideas of ‘God, my country, the noble people’ and shining visions of Right that gets in the way of a decent discussion of the facts on the ground and making the best of what you have. It’s a Lord Dowding approach by the high-falutin’ leaders. The War Cabinet didn’t like his attention to detail, his obduracy in being careful with his scarce resources and trained personnel. They wanted a wild rush at the enemy, a brave and fearsome onslaught that would show them how the British Do It! He was like a timid accountant in the minds of the warlords. Now Britain rises again to seek greatness alone, with a touch of nostalgia which will end in neuralgia. Grow up! It’s the Battle FOR Britain, as some thoughtful commenters decided to call it, being reprised.

        Here is Colonel Bogey, being played and marched by The Band of Her Majesty Royal Netherlands Military Police excellently. The Europeans can play British music, can’t the British mix and mingle to advantage as well?

      • CHCOff 18.1.2

        “Parliamentary democracy is running headlong against direct democracy’s result.”


        It lacks the flexibility to calibrate itself to be representative of the different dynamic elements of the support blocks to that result in it’s implementation.

        This should not be a surprise, it is the first time it has happened & is finding a large gulf between normal operational procedures or party politics and what the parameters of this new policy task amount to.

  19. Observer Tokoroa 19

    The Face and Sourness of Britain

    The English People, ungracious as ever, have shown their contempt for Europe.

    This contempt is solely on the grounds that Europe required monitored free passage of persons from EU countries – including those of England. The English hate immigrants – including any of its colonial people. It is a truly Pompous Deep Boris and Farage Hatred.

    Unfortunately, England has the smallest minds of any group on the Planet. The 27 Countries comprising 508 Millions of Persons, worked along in reasonable harmony. But the Britains, although gaining prosperity and valuable expertise, didn’t.

    The Young of England have been ditched by their small minded brainless elders. Such as Farage, Johnson and Teresa May.

    Not just the English kids will suffer. For the English will take over all the Thousands of years of Celtic residence and Property. The wonderful Celts will be driven from the lands that belong to them. The Brits will do it without raising an eyebrow.

  20. Observer Tokoroa 20

    Hi Joe

    Are you trying to tell me that the “animal behaviourist” who sometimes ranks himself as a Zoologist, did not fully demand the Slaughter of a Downs Syndrome Child.

    Do you deny that he said it would be positively immoral for a Downs child not to be slaughtered -presumably by its Doctore and parent. ?

    Do really think that Richard Dawson ever makes a mistake on matters such as killing children?

    Do you think his so called Apology is a anything other than a childish defence of his cruel remarks on Twitter.?

    Do you think his remarks should apply to other Syndromes that are moderately inconvenient to Professor Richard Dawkins.

    Or do you think he should be allowed to continue his Killings Advice ?

    Or are you a fellow traveler with a man who thinks he is Natures great gift to the world. Kill anything that has a problem.

  21. Rae 21

    Is Brexit a sign of decline? Yes, but it is only “a” sign, it is not “the” sign, there are a number of others, probably the most glaringly obvious is Donald Trump.
    I have grown a grudging respect for Theresa May, she is trying to make a silk purse out of sow’s ear, knows she can’t but also knows she’s just got to keep boxing on.
    The stupid Tory govt of David Cameron should have a thought a bit about things like borders with Ireland etc and they definitely should have set a higher threshold for a change, before they even printed the forms for the referendum, they are doing all this on what would be the margin of error in a poll.

  22. SPC 22

    Under May the UK is sleepwalking to a no deal Brexit.

    In this she serves the purpose of her party. Tory Party members and the English over 50 are the two groups who favour a no deal Brexit.

    The risk to them is that most Tory Party voters do not support such a Brexit and so they must be managed to realise re-election, and this is why the caucus allows May to sleepwalk on to March.

    It is not so much democracy in practice but a deception to foist an unpopular outcome on the people.

    The consequence (if Tories are re-elected afterwards) will be little England – the loss of Northern Ireland and, if the EU allows, also Scotland (which would result in an Labour election victory to prevent a hard border with Scotland). Unless of course the Tories refuse to hold any referendums, as Spain does with Catalonia.

    • RedLogix 22.1

      The EU needed reform, that was obvious. Much less obvious was the idea that smashing it with a sledgehammer was going to make anything better.

      Referendums of this nature, where the choice is between a known, albeit imperfect status quo, and an unknown unproven alternative should have required at least a 60% mandate for change.

      Imagine you had a car, a banger that you weren’t happy with at all. So you determine to fix it by totally disassembling the beast and re-modelling it to the way you think you want it. You’re not sure of the details, but hell it can’t be too hard so you get cracking.

      Next day …ooops … how do I get to work again?

      This doesn’t mean you have to put up with the old car forever, but it does mean that if you want to improve complex systems on which you are also dependent, the process has to be incremental, one step at a time, and tested to ensure there are no unintended consequences.

      That’s the engineering reality I’m in right now, managing complex machines that are also in production. As much as I’d love to leap in and radically fix some obvious issues … it would be a total disaster. As they say on these big projects, I’d get the choice of “window or aisle seat”.

      • SPC 22.1.1

        In this case, an on the go option would be to leave the EU in March but remain in the single market while negotiations on any (other) change to continue without any time pressure.

        Adjusting to loss of EU funding (agriculture and regional development) and from EU budget inputs to leaving payments and changes to how EU citizens in the UK for work (free movement of labour in the single market) were treated (in terms of losing government support apart from health and education) – reducing harmonisation before any move to a customs union (a domestic change to labour laws occuring first to prepare for any departure from the single market) was considered.

        And developing political consultation arrangements to replace in house EU dialogue. Which could include saying if you made reforms a and b we might not leave the single market later but rejoin the EU.

        • RedLogix

          Yes. To be candid I’m not fan of Brexit and I’m not up to speed on all the details, but that sounds like a reasonable plan. If you’re going to do this, at least do it competently.

          Unfortunately when people come all over ideological, reasonable seems to fall well down their list of priorities.

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