The new world order

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, February 18th, 2017 - 60 comments
Categories: capitalism, China, Economy, Europe, Globalisation, International, Japan, us politics - Tags: ,

We live in interesting times.

In the United States an outsider has succeeded in becoming POTUS.  He scared the bejeebers out of many of us by promising all sorts of crazy things like building a wall to stop Mexicans from immigrating, making them pay for it, basically destroying the Environmental Protection Authority, killing the Affordable Care Act which provides millions of Americans with health care they will no longer have, supporting torture, undermining family planning throughout most of the world, reopening projects that will accelerate global warming … etcetera etcetera etcetera …

The land of the free and the home of the brave is not looking so free or brave any more.  But the situation that it was already in was one that allowed Trump’s rallying cry of “make America great again” strike a chord and allowed him to be elected, failed electoral system, gerrymandered seats, voter suppression and all.  What is going on?

Nick Bryant from the BBC summarised America’s decline in these terms in pre Trump days:

Standing on the Washington Mall at the turn of the new millennium, it was impossible not to be struck by America’s power and global pre-eminence.

Victory in the Cold War made it the hegemon in a unipolar world.

Few argued when the 20th Century was dubbed the “American Century”, a term first coined in the early 1940s when the country was still overcoming its isolationist instincts.

Even the New Year’s fireworks, which illuminated the obelisk of the Washington Monument in a way that made it resemble a giant number one, projected the country’s supremacy as the world’s sole superpower.

Over the past 15 years, America’s fortunes have changed with dizzying speed.

First came the tremors: the dot-com bust and a disputed presidential election in 2000. Then came the massive convulsions: the destruction of the Twin Towers in 2001 and the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have exacted an enormous blood price – the lives of 6,852 American military personnel – not to mention immense financial expense, estimated to be as high as $6 trillion (£3.9tn).

The detention centre at Guantanamo Bay has undermined American ideals, just as the NSA and Wikileaks spying scandals have undercut American diplomacy.

George W Bush, a president with a Manichean worldview, was widely seen as over-eager to project America’s military might, without adequately considering the long-term consequences.

Barack Obama, who campaigned in 2008 on a platform of extricating America from its unpopular and exhausting wars, has drawn criticism for disengaging too much.

Under both presidents – the first an impulsive unilateralist, the second an instinctive multilateralist content sometimes to lead from behind – America’s global standing has been diminished.

And at the same time as America’s fortunes have been declining the focus of economic activity has changed from the west to the east.  Professor Michael Cox from the London School of Economics and Political Science describes the changes in this way:

Few but the most pessimistic envisaged that any other power would likely rise to balance its vast power in the future. On the contrary, after having seen off the USSR, and then having experienced an eight year economic boom of its own, America and Americans could reasonably look forward to another very American century. In fact, so buoyant was the mood by the end of the 1990s, that several writers began to talk of the United States as the new Rome on the Potomac, even a modern “empire” possessing global reach, an infinite surplus of soft power, and a vast military machine to match. For some indeed the US had become the greatest power in history with one very obvious distinguishing feature: unlike its great power predecessors from the Romans to the British, this one would never decline.

It is often said that before every great fall there is a period of grace. So it was perhaps with the last hubristic decade of the twentieth century. But the fall when it came was profound indeed; to such an extent that one American magazine was later forced to concede that the years between 2000 and 2010 had been nothing less than “the decade from hell”.

It began of course with 9/11 and the strategically inept response to this by the Bush administration. It continued with the gradual erosion of economic certainty which finally culminated with the great geopolitical setback of the western financial crisis. And it went from bad to worse in some eyes when it became increasingly clear that the West itself was facing a massive challenge from other non-western players in the world capitalist economy.

When Goldman Sachs launched the idea of the “BRICs” in 2001, only economists (and not many of them) took the idea very seriously. But as the years passed, and the economic data began to flow in, it began to look as if the author of the original notion, Jim O‟Neill, had been brilliantly prescient. Indeed, his core idea based on careful economic study – namely that the future economic order would be less dominated by the West than it would be by giant economies like Brazil, Russia, India and China – seemed to provide irrefutable proof that the world was in the midst of a global revolution.

The causes of this were multiple. But one thing was obvious. The axis of the international system which had for several centuries revolved around the Atlantic was moving elsewhere – either towards Asia as a region, or more generally towards something vaguely referred to by the influential columnist, Fareed Zakaria, as the “rest”.

Nor was this Zakaria or O’Neill’s view alone. In 2004 the then editor of Foreign Affairs had warned the West that there was a potentially disturbing “power shift in the making”.  A few years on and one of the more influential liberal writers on world politics made much the same point. It was no longer a question of whether wealth and power were moving away from the West and the North, according to John Ikenberry. That much was self-evident. The big question now he continued was “what kind of global political order” would emerge as a consequence.

Both of the above passages were written pre POTUS Trump.

The current POTUS seems to have a real thing for Russia which is interesting because ever since the second World War the US and the USSR have been sworn enemies.  Sure after the disintegration of the USSR it was no longer a threat although after intensive privatisation of state owned assets an oligarchy class developed which had ultra right wing views of how things should occur and the place has looked rather unstable.  And it seems that Trump’s and Putin’s world views are starting to converge.  They both lead states that were formerly pre eminent but more recently have clearly been on the decline.  I guess they now have a lot in common not only in the situation they find themselves in but also in their approach to finding a solution.

And on the other hand we have China.

Since the second world war China has developed from a basket case terrorised by Japan to a Communist state to now having the largest economy in the world, a position that it has held for 18 of the last 20 centuries.  So in one respect this is not China emerging, it is a resumption of business as usual.

Suddenly China is offering real world leadership on the most important issues that we are facing.  For instance in climate change the world’s best chance may be for China to continue with the accelerated roll out of green technology that it has recently engaged in.

And this has geopolitical implications.  From Salon:

Beijing is poised to cash in on the goodwill it could earn by taking on leadership in dealing with what for many other governments is one of the most urgent issues on their agenda.

“Proactively taking action against climate change will improve China’s international image and allow it to occupy the moral high ground,” Zou Ji, deputy director of the National Centre for Climate Change Strategy and a senior Chinese climate talks negotiator, told Reuters.

Zou said that if Trump abandons efforts to implement the Paris agreement, “China’s influence and voice are likely to increase in global climate governance, which will then spill over into other areas of global governance and increase China’s global standing, power and leadership.”

What are the implications for world peace of this changing of the current order?  The last couple of times the dominant world order has changed the process did not go so well.

Ian Morris from Stanford University has summarised the situation in these terms:

When power and wealth shifted across the Atlantic from Europe to America in the mid-20th Century, the process was horrifyingly violent. As we move into the mid-21st century, power and wealth will shift across the Pacific from America to China.

The great challenge for the next generation is not how to stop geography from working; it is how to manage its effects without a Third World War.

That last sentence really struck a chord with me.  With Trump having access to the nuclear code and his White House being that slack that the holder of the Nuclear briefcase had his photo published on social media in a selfie with a rich Republican donor I am afraid that anything is possible.

We live in interesting times …

60 comments on “The new world order”

  1. Henry Filth 1

    “The last couple of times the dominant world order has changed the process did not go so well.”

    And these were?

    • mickysavage 1.1

      1800s with wars all over the place and the US ascension during the second world war.

      • Michael 1.1.1

        You’ve got your analogies wrong. The first world order of any real sort emerged after the defeat of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna in 1815. It lasted for almost a century, until the First World War broke out in 1914. During that time, the world was not at peace, any more than it is today, but at least there was an absence of war that involved the entire populations of adjoining nations (notably in Europe). During that century, it is a fact that western societies enjoyed peace. The second iteration of world order began c1946, with the establishment of institutions of globaly order (notably the United Nations, but also the IMF, World Bank, WTO etc). It lasted until c1990 when the Soviet empire collapsed and the American empire believed itself to be unrestrained. There were still many vicious wars between 1946-1990, with millions of victims, but at least we didn’t fry ourselves in nuclear war. The third iteration has yet to emerge and may never do so.

  2. Andre 2

    Seems to me the Ian Morris piece makes the mistake of thinking the dominant factors of the past will remain the dominant factors of the future. But it looks to me like demographics of various nations will have a much larger influence on the future world order than it has in the past.

    For instance, in the late 80s early 90s, Japan was poised to become a big player in the new world order, but it didn’t happen. An ageing Japanese population is often cited as a major reason why it didn’t happen. I find it interesting to compare the population pyramids for 1995 Japan and 2015 China.

    https://populationpyramid.net/japan/1995/

    https://populationpyramid.net/china/2015/

    Certainly China is moving resources into playing a much larger role in global affairs, with their leadership in green tech, their interest in opening new universities and research centres (while the US is going backwards in those areas).But their rapid rise in influence is soon going to taper off due to an ageing population, much like Japan’s did.

    I strongly suspect Trump will become a seagull president. At some point, enough Repugs will decide he’s too much of a liability to their personal political futures, and Trump will be gone. The question will be how much the world order changes before then. There will be a small silver lining in that it will cause many countries to have a serious think about their place in the world.

    • mickysavage 2.1

      I agree demographics will play a larger and larger part in change and your example of Japan is a good one.

      Environmental disaster is the big difference this time around and I am sure will add a really difficult edge to change that does happen.

      • Andre 2.1.1

        I’m still picking demographics being a bigger near-term influence than climate change.

        Because many nations that are currently a big influence in the world order are less likely to be severely affected by climate change effects expected soon, but have demographic changes with big societal effects coming soon. A big baby boomer cohort retiring soon. (Interestingly, for all the noise made in the US about the retirement time bomb coming, it looks to me like the US problem is much smaller than many other countries. Possibly due to immigration).

        Conversely, the countries where climate change is really going to hit painfully hard and soon (southern asia, middle east, sub-saharan africa) really aren’t big players in the current world order.

        • mickysavage 2.1.1.1

          I was in Japan last year. It is a fascinating place, very monocultural yet the people are very friendly and civil to tourists. Even at this stage Japan’s future is problematic with the population already receding and dramatic population reductions being predicted in the forseeable future. And the level of immigration is very low and there appears to be no sign of this changing.

          The place will provide an interesting experiment in how a world that is hooked on consumption and growth will handle things.

          I suspect though that the effects of climate change will ripple through the world even though as you say the nations most susceptible to change arn’t big players on the world scene. Syria is arguably an example of things to come. Its destabilisation arguably started with climate change destroying its agricultural sector and an administration totally unfit for the job created a crisis when dealing with civic dissent. Millions of refugees later …

          • Andre 2.1.1.1.1

            I’m worried India is where the climate shit is really going to hit the fan. Already a high population density, a young average age so the population is going to continue growing fast (even though the birth rate has dropped a lot), very vulnerable to climate change, nuclear armed…thankfully their history of military aggressiveness is fairly low.

            • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1.1.1

              I’m worried India is where the climate shit is really going to hit the fan.

              I’m thinking right across the Euro/Asia/Africa equator area.

              As the world warms up the equator is going to become uninhabitable and the hundreds of millions of people living there are going to want to move and the places – north and south – aren’t the most friendly and are going to be having their own problems.

  3. joe90 3

    We live in interesting times …

    Dynastic, even….

    Not a single representative from the State Department was reportedly present for White House meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week. Instead, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who has no diplomatic experience or regional expertise, was given a central role in the meeting, according to a CBS News report late Thursday. Acting Deputy Secretary of State Tom Shannon was officially scheduled to take Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s place in one of the meetings with Netanyahu, but then reportedly was shut completely out of the White House gathering.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2017/02/17/no-state-dept-officials-inlucded-in-israel-netanyahu-bibi-talks.html?via=desktop&source=copyurl

  4. Ad 4

    The Trump administration is such a complex moment.

    Trump will settle and get to a point where Senate, Congress, Supreme Court, and Presidency are the opposite of constitutional checks and balances: they become accelerants in the bonfire of the public sector. (The latest case where the new Head of the EPA was actually caught cutting and pasting oil company letters into his own state Attorney-General decision letters is simply the most overt).

    The net effect is that the remaining role of democracy for the United States federal level is to accelerate its own entropy.

    The new democratic orders will come from Facebook, Baidu, Google, and the credit-profile aggregators. These platforms have more effect on whether we are accepted in the community or become outcasts – and do a much better job of it for many crimes than the U.S. or N.Z. justice sector.

    U.S. versions of democracy then get shorn away from citizen-membership in a physical state. Which is great for corporations, who have existed for a century with a strong U.S. state regulating them. The 99% only exist as consumers. I can’t see war occurring if U.S. corporations now get everything they want: who benefits?

    Whereas in China the state remains as resolute as it is totalitarian. Remaining strong states keep the interests of the economy and the state tied closely together rather than peeling away from each other.

    Neither China nor the U.S. are now interventionist enough for direct confrontation, is my view. China because it’s a long policy position. U.S. because it’s in full Lindberg mode.

    • mickysavage 4.1

      You could argue that Trump is a symptom of America’s disintegration rather than its cause …

      I never thought that I would basically be saying that New Zealand should look to China for its future, not America.

      • Anne 4.1.1

        I never thought that I would basically be saying that New Zealand should look to China for its future, not America.

        I said it here about 6 weeks ago.

      • Ad 4.1.2

        New Zealand should look to itself for its future. Not anyone else.
        Helen Clark positioned New Zealand between China, and the US/Australia pole pretty perfectly.

        If we had international diplomacy on the scale of Helen Clark, we would have stood up and told Australia to follow our example as actively as possible. Instead the most impressive thing our current Prime Minister can show Mr Turnbull this week is that he can shear a sheep.

        It’s much easier to think of an internal economic shift within the U.S. from the eastern seaboard to California.

        If Trump continues Obama’s interventionist withdrawal, the big global shift will be not spatially to either China or the US, but instead to a capitalism unfettered by regulation, and less interrupted or accelerated by military action.

    • Skeptic 4.2

      “Trump will settle and get to a point where Senate, Congress, Supreme Court, and Presidency are the opposite of constitutional checks and balances: they become accelerants in the bonfire of the public sector. ”

      Not in this lifetime mate – what planet are you living on?

  5. Morrissey 5

    The current POTUS seems to have a real thing for Russia…

    If by “having a real thing for Russia”, you mean that he has not actually threatened to go to war against Russia, then you’re correct.

    … after the disintegration of the USSR it was no longer a threat although after intensive privatisation of state owned assets an oligarchy class developed which had ultra right wing views of how things should occur and the place has looked rather unstable.

    Remind us again, will you: which “superpower” boasted of its interference in the Russian elections throughout the 1990s, interference which guaranteed the triumph of these right wing oligarchs?

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-meddling-in-1996-russian-elections-in-support-of-boris-yeltsin/5568288

    And it seems that Trump’s and Putin’s world views are starting to converge.

    What on Earth do you mean by that?

  6. Carolyn_nth 6

    When Dubya was elected president, I predicted that he would initiate, or oversee the beginning of the decline of the US. So far I haven’t changed my mind on the US in decline.

    But, there is a possibility of a shift to the anglophile, European imperialist domination of the past.

    OTOH, the rise of the south and east Asian states is another possibility.

    Plus climate change and population issues, are the wild cards.

    BTW, there has been some criticism of the Putin-Trump photo-shopped images as being homophobic. I have been pondering on this. Certainly, doing this with 2 macho misogynist men suggests an attempt to emasculate them.

    How would such an amalgamation, say of Thatcher & Reagan images have worked? Or Trump & May? How would that change the gendered meanings?

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    Change is the only constant in life.

    The only question that remains is: Do we engage our intelligence and control ourselves during the change or do we go all reactionary and try to keep things as they are?

    The capitalists are, of course, trying to keep things as they are and are thus making the changes that will happen have even greater consequences.

  8. Wayne 8

    The Chinese economy is 70% the size of the US economy, though due to the disparity in population Chinese per capita GDP is around 30% of that of the US. But that is substantial, similar to US GDP per capita in the 1940’s and early 1950’s.

    Sometime in the 2020’s (probably late) the Chinese economy will overtake the US. But not in sophistication. It will be many decades before China can build a large passenger jet as efficient as the Boeing 787.

    China also has a population structure problem. In fact the US now has a faster population growth and a younger population.

    What does all mean?

    Essentially the US will no longer be the single superpower. China will be there as well for most of the 21st century. India may also get there in the latter part of the 21st century.

    We looked at all of this during the 2010 and 2016 Defence Review. In fact this was the most challenging aspect of these reviews. We concluded the US remains the dominant power through to 2050, essentially for four reasons.

    First. As a democracy, the US has generally more cultural and economic appeal than China. This plays into the second factor.

    Second. It will be impossible for China to replicate the US network of alliances and deep partnerships. In fact China has no close allies (apart from North Korea), though it has many economic partners. The US alliance network will not disappear for many decades. Witness the anxiety at even a hint of the weakening of NATO.

    Third. US military power will remain the most powerful for some decades ahead. The technical edge is currently at least two decades ahead of China. As an example the US has had advanced stealth aircraft in service for 20 years (the F22 and the B2) whereas the Chinese stealth aircraft are clearly less advanced than the F22 and are still a decade away from being in service.

    For NZ, that means the US will be the dominant military power in the Pacific, even if not East Asia. It would be expected that China will have dominancy in the East and South China Sea, although that will not be uncontested. Japan, Vietnam and the US will remain important players in the area, so China will not be able to do as it pleases.

    Fourth. The US still looks to be the most innovative economy in the world, aided by many other centres of innovation. Israel for instance.

    Our conclusion was that the US would remain NZ’s and Australia’s principal security partner for at least the next three decades. And that is even before taking into account the fundamental issue of common values. We could not envisage that China would be able to substitute for the US in that regard. The fact that China is an authoritarian single party state being a central reason.

    • mickysavage 8.1

      Thanks Wayne. Your comment is very logical but as I say we live in strange times …

      Firstly we are talking about different things. I am referring to the overall importance of the relationship whereas your comments are clearly aimed at military considerations.

      In response to the rationale presented for your conclusion I would suggest that things are moving fast and a reappraisal is in order.

      Specifically:

      1. The US is now a flawed democracy. The appeal is lessening.
      2. True but under Trump a wholesale retreat by the US from being an international player and the international peacekeeper is on the cards.
      3. Im not sure about the technical edge. China has shown itself very adept and developing and assimilating technological change from overseas. And there is much more to international relations than who has the stealthiest airplane.
      4. Im also not sure about the US being the most innovative economy. The GFC suggests that its claimed superiority in this area is built on sand.

      And what would happen if the US teamed up formally or informally with Russia and at the same time left NATO?

      • Poission 8.1.1

        Its not that we live in strange times,it is that a number of actors suggest we live in a non linear reality ,with hyper reality warfare being the new normal.

        For example the Gerasimov doctrine discussed here.

        http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20160228_art009.pdf

      • Skeptic 8.1.2

        Sorry Micky, but I’m pretty sure Wayne is correct in his assessment, if a tad too optimistic about China and India and a bit understated about US military and economic performance. You mistake the current shambolic state of affairs in US politics with the underlying US establishment and institutions, and vastly over state China’s potential.
        1. US democracy has survived worse than Trump and emerged stronger for it – read your US history. Democracy is so deeply rooted in American psych it will take much, much more than Trump to upset it. You did live through Vietman and its aftermath – did you?
        2. Do not ever mistake Trump and his executive as USA. At the moment Trump is being shut out of just about every meaningful decision – just like when Nixon had his “breakdown” – the US establishment can handle the next 100 days till Pence gets the job after impeachment.
        3. Chins is hamstrung because it isn’t innovative – it’s a great copier, but there hasn’t been a significant invention out of Chins since the Ming dynasty – read your world history chum.
        4. Again re-read your world economic history – for the last 150 years the USA has been the number one innovative powerhouse in world economics. Yes the EU has matched it in some respects, but militarily, US leads.

        As far as US leaving NATO – not in your lifetime or mine. As for teaming up with Russia – not while Putin is in charge – he’s KGB!!!

      • Wayne 8.1.3

        mickysavage

        Yes, I did rather focus on military issues, but that was because I was trying to give some insight into the thinking of the two Defence Reviews.

        There is a theory that the US and China will/should team up as mutual guarantors of Asia Pacific security with each having specific strengths.

        Given that Trump spent a fair chunk of his “press conference” laying out why it was important for the US to have good relations with Russia, it would not surprise me if he concludes that there are merits in working things out with China on similar lines.

        In my view the press and the “establishment” continue to underestimate Trump. He is a disrupter (and is disruptive). And his Russia comments prove that. Expect Trump to not just talk, but also to act. But that won’t include leaving NATO, it will just be less important than now.

        Since the President sets the foreign policy agenda (not Congress) he might be able to drive through some of these grand international bargains he keeps talking about. Perhaps Nixon (in his China strategy) is his model. Without Watergate Nixon would be regarded as one of the great Presidents on the twentieth century.

        If Trump does do a co-gurantor deal with China, a lot of the current tension will melt out of the Asia Pacific. Overall New Zealand would think that was a good thing.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1.3.1

          I watched Trump’s Nuremburg rally fail press conference. I saw him crumble when challenged on the electoral college numbers. “I’ve seen that information somewhere”.

          That you can watch the same sad display and talk about this man “concluding” something speaks volumes, I’m sure, just not about him.

          So the only real power he has is on the foreign policy front, on which he and his little gang are utterly clueless and hopelessly compromised. Peace in our time, says Wayne.

          Impeachment by lunchtime more like. Pfft.

    • Ad 8.2

      I struggle with a couple of those points. I don’t claim to be a security analyst.

      We haven’t had a threat to our borders in 80 years.

      Our security threats, as far as the eye can see, are economic, not military. I’m not saying we don’t need a military. Hell I would have preferred we went in boots and all in some Pacific cases.

      Our economic security threats are from nations who put up the highest tariffs against us. Since that’s my lens:

      1. Chinese New Zealanders, and broadly Asian migrants, are a far more important feature of our democracy than US migrants ever will be. That means turn to Asia, not the US.

      2. The need for the deep post-WW2 alliances really has faded, and the Five Eyes community has been so hopelessly politicized, as to have real questions over the global need for our place in it. If Five Eyes disappeared tomorrow, would it really pass the necessity test? Nothing like asking the question.

      3. The military technological advances point is fair. But not relevant to New Zealand. Far more relevant I think is if the US did the world a favour and packed up Guam and decamped to Hawaii. Again, it’s been stable here for 80 plus years. There is no need for a militarized Pacific. It would do the Pentagon’s ego some good if our military procurement was at least widened out.

      4. Innovation really matters only to really technologically-reliant countries, and our economy is one of the least technologically reliant around (for the value of stuff it produces). China needs our stuff and our version of innovation far more than the US, and countries such as India have more price upside for our goods. Our export diversification by country is huge now, and we don’t have to keep rubber-stamping old colonial memes.

      May not work yet, but the debate will come: is our economic security future, and hence our overall security, more with east Asia than with the US?

      We successfully prepared for one shift when Britain became a member of the Common Market, under Muldoon. Under a competent and bold government, we can prepare for another great shift.

      • Wayne 8.2.1

        Ad,

        The principal reason why the Pacific is stable and has been for 70 years is the predominance of US military power (naval and air). Also in East Asia, no state has seriously contested the borders of any other. Again US power was a reason, though in this case not the only reason.

        Take that predominance away (or have another power large enough to contest it) and you enter a zone of risk.

        This is the reason why the Chinese reclaimed bases in the South China Sea have created such alarm. Are they are precursor to a much more contested situation, akin to the Cold War? Obviously everyone hopes not, but it is easy to see why they have raised such concerns.

        Until recently China could not have done that since they lacked the capability, but now they can. And they have the confidence of newly acquired power.

        Where will it lead? One of the rest debates of our time.

        However, China will not be able to seriously contest the Pacific (as opposed to the East and South China Seas).

        Incidentally Guam is sovereign United States territory along with the Northern Marianas, Wake, Midway, American Samoa, and many other islands doted across the Pacific. The US will not be giving them up.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 8.2.1.1

          The serial rapist fool and right wing hero in the White House = power vacuum. Let’s hope it’s confined to Washington.

        • Macro 8.2.1.2

          The principal reason why the Pacific is stable and has been for 70 years is the predominance of US military power (naval and air). Also in East Asia, no state has seriously contested the borders of any other. Again US power was a reason, though in this case not the only reason.

          Korean war?
          Vietnam?
          Malaysian Confrontation?

          Not saying that US military presence hasn’t been important but even the US has its limitations.

          • Wayne 8.2.1.2.1

            Korean war, yes that is an exception.

            Vietnam, well yes that was big, very big. It is the major confrontation since WW2, even though it was essentially civil war. In 1979 when Vietnam defeated China, that was when China realised it had to open to the rest of the world. It is also the last major war in East Asia.

            Confrontation, it was really quite small.

            It is certainly true there has been no significant war in Asia since 1980, though there are some insurgencies (Burma, Philippines).

            So I would have to concede Vietnam and Korea.

  9. Red 9

    Mickey you are talking fantasy opioniated drivel, stoked by your blatant anti American world view than anything else. All democracy are flawed in some sense, The US is a democracy at least, china is not a democracy, there is no separation of judiciary and state, it is unlikely the conflict between china capitalist economic model and communist political model will survive long term as the two naturally opposed systems clash. China has huge disparity in wealth with the poor, really poor ( thus a powder keg of tension) , geographic tensions re prosperous east coast vs it’s western interior provinces, not to mention suppressed tension with up to 50 ethnic minorities and an aging population with massive environmental issues. The strength of America and its institutions beyond all the bumps in the road is its ability to reinvent itself, it survived the 1930s depression, two world wars, Cold War, Dotcom bust, GFC, The former it came out of
    much quicker and stonger than Europe testament to it reinvention capacity over more socialist economies, It will survive Trump, the US strength is basicaly it’s ability to adapt to change, thus the more change actually benifits the US over all others , This is not the case for China and it top down, political elite ruling authoritarianism. Likewise I think you will find the quality of US patent submissions far outstrips china from an innovation point of view, albeit china has volume with much of it of dubious merit

    • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1

      The Economist magazine’s Intelligence Unit recently downgraded the USA from “full democracy” to “flawed democracy”.

      Please try and keep up with world events before running your mouth.

      As for patents, quantity is no indicator of quality.

      • Red 9.1.1

        what did it rate china

        Your second point is my point, quantity is not quality

        Now back to your Meds and straight jacket key board warrior

        [Chill out red. Commenting is a privilege. Make your case without the ad hominem attack – MS]

        • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1.1.1

          No, the point I’m making is that your nasty hostile attack on MS simply revealed your ignorance to everyone. Unless I suppose you think the Economist sponsors “fantasy opioniated [sic] drivel, stoked by… [their] …blatant anti American world view”.

          Ergo. the rest of your “opion” can be dismissed out-of-hand. You may be right about the relative positions of China and the USA, but someone credible and well-informed needs to say so.

          Enjoy your little tanty.

          • Red 9.1.1.1.1

            I suspect you are struggling that you agree with me OAB but that’s ok 😀😀😀 no tanty here petal just getting ad holmium in early as you have form, but I hear you mickey, ( apoligies for opening comment above) I don’t want resident standard bother boy enforcer on my case, so I will desist

            • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1.1.1.1.1

              I suspect you need to look up the definition of “may”.

              I’m skeptical about any binary world view. China = bad, USA = good just indicates limited understanding of either.

              Is “holmium” the name of those meds you were on about?

    • Ad 9.2

      Perfect illustration of the value of your response: you could interchange the words “U.S.” and “China” in your little upchuck quite easily. Go find a fact and use it.

      • Red 9.2.1

        If you are comparing US institutions, politcal and legal system, economy etc as the same as China, you are really more than deluded, by the way what fact do you disagree with

        • One Anonymous Bloke 9.2.1.1

          China lacks the rule of law. POTUS attacks the rule of law. We’re going to find out exactly how strong those alleged checks and balances are.

          Ad points out that you have cited precisely zero facts, by the way.

          Being able to see that the USA is sliding downhill (cf: flawed democracy) does not indicate support for China, just to save you wasting more of everyone’s time.

          • Red 9.2.1.1.1

            Agree but you overplay trump as a bogey man, time will tell irrespective US will see him off eventually as they do every POTUS I mean the tea party where just as manic as the left on trump ,( well that’s probably a bit unfair) that Obama was the end of the world and the American dream Don’t get so wrapped up so much on the moment and sound bites of the popular press As the Chinese say, it’s far to early to tell ,

            I think china having an aging pop, ethnic tension, economic disparity between east west, a clash between capitalist economic and political systems, severe air quality and pollution issue are facts ( just for a start)

            I am not sure what I am to read into the economist saying the US is a flawed democracy, so what, what democracy isn’t, and if it is matarial then china democracy is really flawed so it must have even bigger issues

            • One Anonymous Bloke 9.2.1.1.1.1

              It’s measured by a range of indicators. They were at pains to point out that the recent electoral trainwreck isn’t a factor.

              As for the comparison, the USA’s trajectory is down. Is China’s up? They certainly face all the problems you’ve listed. Improvement happens slowly. Empires collapse quickly. There’s a reason people are talking about Stefan Zweig and “exit strategies”. Hope they’re wrong.

              PS: I saw your “truce” comment. “Don’t forget to be kind to one another” 😆

  10. Skeptic 10

    Although the news quotes are numerous, I think this piece does little justice to history and current affairs – economic and military. Fact – since 1917, Russia & USSR have been trying to get a highly placed source in the White House – well, it took 100 years, but finally they’ve got their man as POTUS. Trump is either a blackmailed agent under SVR control or an “unwitting” agent who does what the Kremlin wants because of his own ego and world view. Already we’ve had several not so subtle hints that real intelligence is being withheld from Trump, because he’s not to be trusted. Given the FBI, CIA, NSA and UKs SIS knowledge of Trump’s past, I really can’t see Trump lasting the 100 days. Once the Senate and Congress get back in session, look for an early impeachment process on two grounds – a) failure to separate himself from his business affairs (unconstitutional) and b) lying – the one thing that took Nixon down – no amount of bluster about “alternative facts” and “fake news” is going to get past his misleading attempts. That said, when Pence replaces Trump as President, USA will probably be “business as usual” albeit with a strongly evangelical Christian flavour. As for China’s supposed ascendancy – yeah, nah – not in this century – the US is about four generations ahead of China militarily especially in weapons technology and stealth capability. China won’t push the US into any type of confrontation – even with Trump at the helm – they’d get done like a dog’s breakfast in fairly short order. Economically, China is vulnerable as they are dependent on sales from a workforce that is one step above slave labour (real slave labour headed by PLA generals) and that workforce is increasingly dissatisfied to the point of unprecedented industrial action and shoddy workmanship. India is hamstrung by its caste system that denies full utilization of its potential workforce and so while making impressive strides, India will remain for the next century or until they modify their Hindu basis of society, a far distant competitor trying to play catch up. That leaves Russia, which is far too corrupt to compete with USA, EU and the West, and is also hamstrung with a weakened and outdated military, and under-performing industrial and commercial sectors. Sorry, but I’m afraid the “New World Order” of the 21st century will be the one we’re stuck with now, lead by the West with the EU as top economic performer, NAFTA as 2nd, Asia as 3rd and Oceania as 4th – militarily the USA is twice as strong as the next four combined – just think about that for a minute – twice as strong as the next four combined!! So don’t expect that to change in our lifetime; nor will the World Order.

  11. adam 11

    The 14th is a broke amendment, which I think is a good sound bite for beginning to understand what is wrong with the USA.

    Patton Oswalt In The Coup’s “The Magic Clap”

    The Coup are members of the ANTI- collective. http://www.anti.com/

    Well worth looking into artist there, very political many of them.

  12. rhinocrates 12

    Argh, technical problem. A long post got swallowed up somehow.

    Typical Thorndon Bubble nonsense. Shallow research by someone fascinated by shiny gadgets with no real knowledge of design and the philosophies behind design.

    Anyway, first NEVER assume that a rival has the same intentions or philosophy as oneself. Looking for an equivalent of the Boeing 787 airliner is simply silly and irrelevant.

    On military technology.

    The US is rapidly losing its edge in key technical areas. Just this week, Aviation week was reporting on the US lagging in the critical area of hypersonics:

    http://aviationweek.com/defense/classified-report-hypersonics-says-us-lacking-urgency

    http://aviationweek.com/defense/podcast-hypersonics-wake-call

    Now, Chinese (and Russian) design philosophy and strategy. To compare, say, the Chengdu J-20 and the Sukhoi T-50 to the F-2 is idiotic. The F-22 is a medium-range Cold War air superiority fighter, lacking many essential components of a modern multi-role and/or strike aircraft (IRST etc). The J-20 is a specialised long-range (ie., Pacific) high speed interceptor and strike aircraft optimised for first strike against ground and air targets such as AWACS aircraft, with a large fuel and weapons load. It does not have all-aspect stealth like the F-22, but stealth incurs many compromises on an aircraft and they have prioritised according to mission.

    Both China and Russia are working hard on counter-stealth capabilities, much of which is already available. This includes very long wave radar, networks and layered defence, which are easier to deploy over their large land areas than is the case with the US.

    The J-21 and T-50 are not intended as mirror images of the F-22 and all three probably make terrible coffee – but nobody considers them to be inferior espresso machines.

    The smaller J-31 is ironically based on information hacked from Lockheed Martin’s F-35, without that own aircraft’s very expensive and performance-sapping compromises (ie., a STOVL variant, single engine).

    As Andrei Tupelov once said the Clarence ‘Kelly’ Johnson (and if you have no idea who they are, there’s no hope for you), “You Americans make planes like fine ladies’ watches: drop watch, watch break. We make them like alarm clocks – you can knock them off the table but they’ll still wake them up.”

    The hypersonic strike tech mentioned above is where China and Russia lead in practical systems development. They have been using conventional existing rockets (alarm clocks, not Cartier watches) to boost prototypes up to cruise speed while the US has nothing and its development of less robust air-launched systems has been fitful, if not pitiful. Rumours of top-secret advanced, heavy systems dating back to the 80s have never amounted to anything.

    There is an H-X stealth bomber programme, likely similar to the USAF’s B-21 medium bomber, which is years away from even first flight (and one hopes Northrop Grumman’s cybersecurity is better than Lockheed Martin’s). Only 20 of the earlier B-2 were made and they are ageing.

    Meanwhile, advanced long-endurance drones (Soaring Dragon and Divine Eagle) equivalent of the Northrop Global Hawk are undergoing testing.

    Meanwhile, at sea, very large new classes of destroyer are being deployed (Type 52) and developed (Type 55) along with Type 81 amphibious assault vessels. Under the water, the Type 94 nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine is in service, although submariners consider it noisy and easy to track as a consequence.

    The biggie is China’s carrier ambitions. They have gained significant experience from the former Russian Varyag, now the Liaoning and are planning a full carrier fleet.

    Even Chinese Coast Guard cutters are as big as other navies’ frigates.

    All of this points to Pacific-wide power-projection, not regional defense.

    The Pentagon knows this and is writing its response into requirements for new weapons. The Navy wants a stealthy UAV tanker to extend the range of its F-35s and F-18s (the MQ-25), the Air Force wants a stealthy taker too (the KC-Z) to serve its penetrating stealth fighters and its next generation fighter, called Penetrating Counter-Air is to have long range, heavy weapons load, extensive electronic warfare suit and possibly lasers written into its requirements. It’s engines permitting for long-range high-speed cruise are already well under development.

    In the political-economic sphere, China is a master of ‘soft power.’ This is through economics, trade, treaties and civil engineering. Their influence spreads to Africa in the West, replacing in many cases the Soviet Union, and through the Pacific, selling products and investing in infrastructure in many nations such as Fiji. Philippines President Duterte’s recent tiff with Obama in which he favoured China is a prime consequence of this.

    In culture and education, China is rapidly growing influence. The numbers of Chinese taking degrees overseas and returning to China and the number of Chinese scholarly papers requiring translation or editing for publication in English (the international language of science and business still) are all on a sharp rise (I don’t do translations, but I’ve been in this business for nearly two decades now and I can attest to its growth). At a pop-cultural level, note how Hollywood is now trying to make its movies attractive to the Chinese market – sometimes in a consciously political way, such as casting Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange to play a character who was originally Tibetan.

    2050 then? It’s a good thing that I wasn’t drinking anything, because it would have ended up all over my keyboard and monitor. That report is hopelessly out of date. Whoever wrote that 2010-2016 defence review must have written it with a crayon.

    [lprent: Not sure why this is being auto-spammed. ]

  13. Sabine 13

    Smokes and mirrors, ladies and gentlemen. Smokes and mirrors.

    While everyone is talking russia, and is shitting themselves thinking about nuclear holocausts and such, the republican party is slowly but surely dismantling everything the US has going for itself. And that is frankly in my own opinion not much.

    But hey, lets gut the State Department and fill it with Trumpistas. Let’s run the Environmental Protection Agency by someone who is happy to dismantle it by the end or at least gut it to an extend that it won’t work anymore.

    Republicans are hellbent on dismantling hte ACA Law, while not awesome it is the tool for many to have some sort of health insurance for them or their children.

    Republicans are very happy, especially Ryan and Mcconnell to gut social security.

    Republicans are very happy to gut the equal pay provisions. Heck they even pen nice letters stating that if women were to earn the same they may ‘have’ to work instead of staying home having children and raising them….cause now i guess they either work or stay home with the children but they are not doing both at the same time.

    Republicans are very happy to eliminate any and all reproductive choices for women, in fact Texas has the highest maternal mortality rates, but its ok as that is a disease that only afflicts women and hey, one can upgrade to a newer model when the old one croaks.

    The US under the Repulicans is being dismantled. And everyone here is going on about Russia and China. Both countries don’t care much about the US, both are large enough and armed enough to finally do away with this planet and guess what the US can do the same.
    So far we had an understanding that mutual assured destruction was something that would not be beneficial for anyone, but hey, since Trump it is being openly discussed again. And he is gonna save us fucking all. Yeah, right Tui. this is the same guy who supposedly asked why he could not use the Nukes cause of course why not just glass a bit of the world if they are not submissive and obedient enough.

    So for what its worth i leave you with the word of one of his advisors, the guy called Stephen Miller.

    Quote” MILLER: George, the president’s comments on this are clear. The message we’re sending to the world right now is a message of strength and solidarity. We stand with Japan and we stand with our allies in the region to address the North Korean menace.

    And the important point is that we’re inheriting a situation around the world that is as challenging as any we have ever seen in our lives. The situation in North Korea. The situation in Syria. The situation in Yemen.

    These are complex and difficult challenges. And that’s why President Trump is displaying the strength of America to the whole world and it’s why we’re going to begin a process of rebuilding our depleted defense capabilities on a scale we have not seen in generations.” Quote end.

    So frankly i doubt that the dictator in the making will be anything else but a war monger that will use without a shred of a doubt the US Army to do what it always did, namely pound any country into dust and rubble if it is convenient and above all if they have stuff that they want.

    And i hope that all will see the strength of the US and that we will see the rebuilding of their depleted defenses and that we will roll over when the great Hunt for the last resources will start in earnest.

    As that is what it is , the Trump era is the start of the resource war.

    • rhinocrates 13.1

      Robert Reich on how the Republican Party thinks of Trump as a useful idiot while they gut social security:

      I spoke this morning with my friend, a former Republican member of Congress, who’s as worried as I am about Trump’s mental state and the growing possibility that he or people around him committed treason by collaborating with Russian operatives to throw the election.

      Me: Do other current and former Republican members of Congress feel like you do?

      He: Lots of them. They think Trump’s loony tunes, and he’s in Putin’s pocket.

      Me: Well why the hell don’t they say something? As long as this looks like a partisan brawl we’re never going to get anywhere.

      He: No one wants to be the first. They worry Trump will start tweeting on them, or his crazy‐ass supporters at home will go after them.

      Me: Then why not issue a joint statement? A bunch of Republicans could call for a Select Committee to look into all of this, a special prosecutor. There’s safety in numbers.

      He: A few of them are talking about it right now, but McConnell and Ryan don’t want to rock the boat. They want to focus on repealing Obamacare, getting a giant tax cut, wiping out environmental regulations, you know the drill.

      Me: But don’t they know the Trump issues are just going to get worse? Republicans need to get ahead of this or they’ll get bulldozed by it.

      He: McConnell and Ryan don’t see it that way. They figure Trump will continue his circus act, stirring up the press, driving everyone crazy. So they can quietly work with Pence and get their agenda through when no one is paying much attention.

      Me: You mean Trump is a decoy?

      He (chuckling): Yeah. At least for now.

      “At least for now.” In typical courtier fashion, they will swear their eternal and undivided loyalty right up until the moment they start taking every opportunity to remind us that they were always against him.

  14. Incognito 14

    With respect to mickysavage I struggle with this post and some of the comments; it all seems rather vague and so ‘common sense’.

    We often pride ourselves of being independent and progressive and not afraid to stand up against super-powers on the world-stage when certain actions are incongruent with our core values; we view ourselves as principled and so-called honesty-brokers.

    In this light, I don’t see why we have to look to any other country for ‘leadership’, e.g. in the context of climate change. New Zealand does not need to take its cues from anybody else; we’re a sovereign nation and we can think independently and we certainly don’t have to kow-tow to anybody.

    I also fail to understand why New Zealand should look to China for its future (@ 4.1) and for what exactly? Again, it lacks specifics and at first I was guessing the future of our economy as a trading minnow was the unspoken subject.

    However, later on it became clear that it was the “overall importance of the relationship” (@8.1).

    This got me thinking about the “relationship” between countries/nations: what does this actually mean? What does it mean when New Zealand has “a warm relationship” with another country?

    Usually, it is projected as a ‘good chemistry’ between the leaders. We hear about “pyjama diplomacy” or “kayak diplomacy” or rounds of golf, etc. You know, the warm fuzzy feelings you get (and are supposed to get!) when you read about our PM’s overseas visit to such & so.

    So, first and foremost, the relationship seems to be defined or at least symbolised or portrayed by the (public) show of ‘chemistry’ between the leaders, and next by a handful of politicians, the corps diplomatique, and possibly a select group of senior civil servants. The majority of the population does not have a real meaningful relationship with that other country. For example, I guesstimate that less than 0.1% of the Chinese living in the PRC have a reasonable and realistic view or knowledge of what New Zealand is like and what it is like to live here. And vice versa a large majority of Kiwis have no clue whatsoever about China and its populace.

    Not so fast! We do trade with China, don’t we? Indeed we do but again this is largely guided & regulated (controlled) through our respective governments and there are only few mutual visits taking place and only by a very few people.

    A similar argument can be used for the tourism stampede, which is apparently very good for our economy, but there is very little ‘immersion’ taking place.

    The other stampede is immigration – that hot potato. In the long run this will lead to real ‘immersion’ of some scale but I think it is by no means a given that this necessarily leads to a better ‘relationship’ between the nations of origin and destiny. Arguably it might even lead to a more strained relationship.

    It just strikes me that there seems to be a huge disconnect between the political realm and the general public when we talk, write, and think about these geo-political issues and events. We seem to accept the framing & narrative without question, without even blinking. This strikes me as odd (surreal) and because it leads to misconceptions and all sorts of biases & prejudices, for example, it is dangerous and unsustainable.

  15. Michael 15

    People protesting against the US and wanting it to “go home” may finally get what they wished for: it is unlikely that the US can sustain its massive military forces, including overseas bases, while systemically gutting its tax base and erecting trade barriers (to say nothing of that bullshit ‘wall” with Mexico). Sooner, rather than later, China is going to want to be repaid all the money it loaned the US so its consumers could buy bling from it and imagine they were rich. I think the US will downsize, swiftly, irrespective of Trump’s posturing (there is a real danger that world events could blow up, literally, in this face, but here’s hoping the adults in his entourage will stop that from happening). When the US does withdraw from the Pacific (or at least substantially reduce its presence), who really thinks China is going to stop at its “First Island Chain”, or even its Second? Do people know what the “Third Island Chain” comprises?

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