whose 21st century: global competition, finance, outsourcing, politics, trade, conflicts
Is a new global war coming? What is the next in world finance, outsourcing, labor, trade, politics, leadership? 3 global educators George Zhibin Gu, Chalmers Johnson, and Andre Gunder Frank talk about global development in the next stage.
The China Factor and the Overstretch of the US Hegemony in the 21st century: opportunities, challenges, conflicts and development
3 books that can change your mind in 2007 about the geo-politic and geo-economic dynamics going on
Interviews by Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues, editor of Gurus online. tv
George Zhibin Gu, author of a new book, "China's Global Reach"
Chalmers Johnson, author of "The Sorrows of Empire"
André Gunder Frank, author of the forthcoming "ReOrient the Nineteenth Century" (a sequel of his 1998's "ReOrient")
A view from an insider
George Zhibin Gu
CHINA IS BECOMING A GLOBAL THEATER
"A new power balance will emerge gradually and most likely indirectly"
First idea: "Today, most Chinese would prefer to be the one just following the leader. That is a safe play, and a better alternative"
The full engagement of China with the world means Daguo Xintai ( "mentality of global power") or Heping Jueqi ("peaceful rise" as Zheng Bijian introduced in 2003)? Has China a "mission" as a global power as the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British, and the US had in the past 650 years?
Strangely enough, the outside world feels more effects about this fast developing China. Most Chinese are more concerned to improve living standards and get more opportunities. They are little aware about China's future role in the global stage. More than often, the Chinese are shocked when foreign visitors tell them that 21 Century will be Chinese. Having this said, there is a common understanding that a fast developing China will reverse the history in this sense only: the Chinese will be treated as equals in the global community. For some 200 years, Chinese have been treated inferiorly. It is changing for the better, finally. China is not ready to play a more significant role in the global stage at all. Maybe it is because that China has suffered terribly in the past for thinking itself the center. Today, most Chinese would prefer to be the one just following the leader. That is a safe play, and a better alternative. Even the various European nations have learnt their lessons from the recent past. Being a world leader could also invite unwanted troubles. For that, the US has yet to learn.
The Asia Rising - more than the US twin deficits and the new terrorism - can be the main obstacle for the consolidation of the hegemonic role of the US? Do you think that, finally, the 21st century will be the truly "Asian Century"?
Asia could provide a global leadership in a different way. There are countless good merits in Asia. Asians have strong family ties, love education, and are willing to do hard work. Their best merit is this: they face tough situations with a smile and harder work. These are some of the merits for the rest of the world to learn. As Asians gain more economic progress, the rest of the world will become more willing to learn from Asians. This will reverse the recent historical trends. For this and only for this, 21 century will be Asian. To me, 21 century will belong to the world, not just Asia/China. For this century, sharing and common wealth will become more significant than ever before. As a result, more nations will benefit. This is a trend that can only grow. For the world is already tightly linked by business and economy. A car produced in Detroit has engine made in Europe and wheels made in Asia - with raw materials coming from Latin America and Australia. It takes a shared work and its benefits go beyond any single country. Also, at the next level, China and India's strength lies in the low cost structure. But the developed nations can easily tap into this market. They benefit more than anyone else. Also, for consumers in the developed nations, they can enjoy the cheapest products as well. So, 21 Century belongs to the entire world. It presents a grand platform for the convergence of global civilizations, though only in its very beginning. Even so, it shows a bright direction for the world, despite all the new worries and conflicts
Second idea: "Even if the US is not willing to be more open, it will be more aware of the others' existence. In short, a new power balance will emerge gradually, and most likely indirectly"
Can China emerge as a global challenger for the US hegemony? Or its emergence will be episodic like the Japanese short take-off as a global economic challenger in the 80's of last century?
The reemergence of both China and India today will impact on the global balance for sure. But it may come from a different context. That is, it may come gradually and indirectly. It is because that India and China take 40% of world population. If they double their income in the next ten years, the rest of world will feel it. Their enormous size means a lot already. How about the US hegemony? Well, the US will become more willing for consultations and dialogues with India, China and rest of world. Even if the US is not willing to be more open, it will be more aware of the others' existence. In short, a new power balance will emerge gradually, and most likely indirectly. More significant, it may not repeat the bloody rivalry as in the past. History shows that bloody rivalry may produce no winners. As far as the US is concerned, it is also learning as to how to act like a leader. There are no ready teachers for the leader. It makes more mistakes on its own weight. This weight may become too burdensome for it to handle. It has happened countless times in Man's History. Interestingly, the great powers in the past have all been pulled down more by their own weight than anything else. Should the future be any different?
Third idea: "China is being very careful not to let world politics mess its economic development. This will become a long-term strategy as well as a dominating mentality"
Is China able to grow, even if slowly, a sustainable coalition against the incumbent power, something that the new Russia never gets since the 80's? The strategic agreements with strategic countries all over the world (like those in 2004 - Brazil, Venezuela, South Africa, Iran, Golf Council) can change the world balance?
Economically, the world is more connected. But political rivalry is still intense. The political mentality must be changed to meet the changing realities. Otherwise, this cold war mentality will produce a mess for the world. China's growing economy will create more economic partnerships than anything else. China is being very careful not to let world politics mess its economic development. This will become a long-term strategy as well as a dominating mentality. China is also being very conscious about the international concerns. It now acts as an eager learner willingly. It shows that China has gone beyond the old mentality. That has made China's development a global thing as today.
Do you think China in this first half of the century can surpass the US in pure economic terms, as Goldman Sachs Reports are saying?
It is less meaningful to say that China will surpass US in any given time. However, China's growth is real and sustainable, despite all the imperfections. This conclusion is based more in the massive population size and their desires for a better life than in relation to their economic realities that still are very low. Many regions in China are only beginning to develop. It may be more meaningful to look at it this way - for example, if every five Chinese will use one more Kodak film role a year, China will double the size of US. In the mobile phone business, China is already more than twice the size of the US. But no, China will remain a low-income nation for a long time. A direct comparison may be less meaningful. Even so, China will enjoy a prosperous life if its income per capita reaches 20% of the US. Similar things may also be true for India and many other developing nations. Importantly, we have new lesson for the world: burdensome large population may be turned into a productive force if a fair and rational platform is created. In this context, both India and China are moving forward brilliantly.
China must enter in a G-something world big powers' club? Some think tanks proposed this year that China must enter a G4 with US, European Union, and Japan.
It is highly positive for the outside world to be more open. But let us not expect too much that memberships will get benefits. Even so, gaining access shows the increased international interest in a growing China. Walking out the old world mentality takes efforts for everyone.
Korea and Taiwan are real volatile issues for Chinese strategy, compromising the possibility for a "peaceful rising"?
For China, the Taiwan issue is most urgent. It is so complex, because it involves the US interest significantly. But it is more than a political issue. Economically, Taiwan is well connected to Mainland China. One highly feasible way is not to let the water boil too much and wait for the future generations for solutions. The only problem for now is that politicians on both sides are impatient somehow. It is made worse by the troublemakers in Washington. The Korea issue is easier. China is willing to play its part in finding a resolution. Even so, one should not expect a smooth sail for the Korea issue. It still poses a great challenge for the world.
STORY NUMBER TWO
A critical view from the center of the Global Power
CHINA REPLACED THE UNITED STATES AS THE TOP EXPORTER TO JAPAN
"The US is treading the same path followed by the former USSR"
US Global Power is at the end of its geo-political cycle? Or can the US double the hegemonic mandate as the British did for more than 200 years?
I believe that the United States today is treading the same path followed by the former USSR up to its collapse in 1991. There were three main causes of the Soviet disintegration, all of which are starting seriously to assail the United States.
Can you detail?
First, extreme rigidity in economic institutions, dictated by an overly literal reading of either Marxist-Leninist or capitalist ideologies. The U.S. today is characterized by a union between capitalist robber-barons and extreme right-wing politicians, much like the so-called "gilded age" of 1890 to 1914. Corruption in government-business relations is deep and institutionalized, as we see in cases like Enron, the weak governmental oversight of the pharmaceutical industry, and in the gutting of the environmental protection laws for the sake of big corporations. The second cause was imperial overstretch, as defined by historian Paul Kennedy. The U.S. today has over 700 military bases in 132 countries and is going deeply into debt maintaining them, on top of its military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a fatal condition. Third, inability to reform. In the case of the former USSR, Gorbachev tried to reform the system through "perestroika" and "glasnost" but failed. The U.S. is not even trying to reform itself. Instead, the public has re-elected the suicidal George W. Bush as president.
First Idea: "The World changed on November 2, 2004. Bush's war has changed into America's War".
To achieve an extended period of hegemony in the middle of great change in the geo-political arena, what is more "suitable" for US Global Power - an "indirect approach" or a "pre-emptive" strategy? Voting for George W. Bush second term, the majority of Americans apparently expressed their "feeling" that US must act openly as a lonely hegemonic power, in the traditional warfare way that dominate the geo-politics till the end of 2nd World War?
The world changed on November 2, 2004. Until then, ordinary citizens of the United States could claim that our foreign policy, including our invasion of Iraq, was George W. Bush's doing and that we had not voted for him. In 2000, Bush lost the popular vote. This time he won it by over 3.5 million votes. The result is that Bush's war has changed into America's war.
What's the consequence?
Whether the American people intended that or not, they are now seen to have endorsed torture of captives at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, at Bagram Air Base in Kabul, and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; a rigged economy based on record-setting trade and fiscal deficits; the greatest reliance on secrecy of any postwar American government; the replacement of international law with preventive war; an epidemic of nuclear proliferation; and many other aberrations that can only elicit hostile and defensive reactions in all other nations of the world. For supporters of American imperialism, an indirect approach, such as that of former president Clinton, is much to be preferred. He disguised American hegemony under such rubrics as "humanitarian intervention" (Serbia and Kosovo) and "globalization" (using the IMF to make the poor countries of Latin America even poorer) and pretending to support the U.N. Security Council. George W. Bush has dropped the mask and is proclaiming a unilateral right to bring about regime change in countries that try to resist America's imperial sway (the "axis of evil"). As a result the world today is quietly and indirectly creating structures to frustrate anything and everything the Americans try to do in the world. When the American empire collapses the world will be no more sorry to see it go than when the Soviet empire collapsed.
The third globalization wave of the 1970's and 1980's of last century is over, as you mention at your recent book?
As I argue in Chapter Nine of The Sorrows of Empire, globalization has now been revealed as a hoax sponsored by the United States. Globalization is an attempt to camouflage American economic imperialism by claiming that American behavior abroad is dictated by ineluctable forces and technological developments, not by conscious policy. It was the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, that more or less spelled the end of globalization. Whereas the Clinton Administration strongly espoused economic imperialism, the Bush government was unequivocally committed to military imperialism. However, whenever globalization might damage American economic interests, it is invariably ignored (as in George W. Bush's protection of the domestic steel industry and America's agro businesses). Increasingly even people who believed in pro-globalization solutions to international economic and environmental problems threw up their hands in despair. The only people left who believe in globalization are university professors of economics, who continue year-in and year-out to recycle their old lectures.
Second Idea: "The twenty-first century will certainly be dominated by a rich, confident, and well-educated East Asia but it will also feature the continued integration of the European Union and the development of a genuinely anti-American bloc in Latin America and the Caribbean"
The Asia Rising - more than the US twin deficits and the new terrorism - will be the main obstacle for the extension of the US hegemonic role? Do you think that, finally, the 21 century will be the truly "Asian Century"?
A contrarian view from Europe
Andre Gunder Frank
"We are witnessing the re-emergence of Asia"
The Chinese are shocked when analysts from Europe or the US tell them that the 21 Century will be "Chinese" and that China will be the challenger of the US global power. Pragmatically they say they prefer that geo-politics do not mess its strategic long goal of economic development. What is your opinion?
None for now about what the Chinese say.
One of the conclusions of your recent studies about the world system it is the contrarian idea that the Western hegemonic geo-political cycle is a short historical period, probably from the Second Opium War in 1860 till now, with a short Pax Britannica and afterwards a Pax Americana. This contradicts also the studies about the long geo political cycles that identifies the Portuguese as the first global power in the XV Century. Why you argue so clearly against this westernised view of history, referring, on the contrary, the centrality of Asia?
The common idea is clearly nonsense. Little Portugal and Netherlands could not possibly have exercised hegemony over the world. And of course they did NOT in Asia where most of the world lived/lives. Even trade, they never had even 10 percent of Indian Ocean or South China Sea trade, none of the north China Sea and none of the caravan trade. Actually British hegemony was not much and not long nor US either. Since my book World System (1993) edited with Barry K. Gills, we argue that the contemporary world system has a long history in which the rise to dominance of Europe and the West are only recent - and perhaps passing - events. My main thesis is conveyed by my little book The Centrality of Central Asia (1992). Central Asia remained an important economic crossroads until at least 1800, was the site of the "great game" for its domination by others in the 19 Century, and again for yet another "great game" of geo-political domination. Then, in my book of 1998 titled ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age (1400-1800), I examine world historical evidence which shows that Asia was predominant in the world before and still during that entire period. Even China did not really "decline" until the Second Opium War in 1860. That is why I am entitling my forthcoming book as ReOrient the 19th Century.
So, you consider that the present Chinese world emergence is a kind of re-emergence, a path to a return to the balance of power before the mid-19th century?
Yes. My recent papers argue for the opportunity and likelihood of an Asian alternative. It is noteworthy that the economically most dynamic regions of East Asia today are also still or again exactly the same ones as before 1800 and which survived into the 19th Century. Asia, and China in particular, are very likely to recover the predominant place and role in the world economy that they already had until at least 1800.
What could be the role of Europe in this transition?
Also an important participant. There was no hegemony then and probably will not be now.
The 4/5 of the US debt is financed and supported by Asia. Almost 45% of the US Treasury Bonds are hold by the Chinese Central Bank. US future is an hostage and depends on the humour of Asia?
The US trade deficit is now 550 billion a year and still growing. Every year, 100 billion is supplied by Europeans, other 100 by China and about 120 by Japanese. The rest is supplied by others, especially other East Asians - Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, and also by India now. Of the 700 billions treasury bonds, Chinese Central Bank holds 300 already, and the Bank of Japan, Europeans, and oil exporters most of the rest.
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