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imperialism & war | political theory

Not so fast: The contradictions in China’s capitalist rise

Let's not hold our breaths just yet — China is not nearly capable today of becoming the new capitalist center. Its military and economy are much too small.
Hand-wringing over China increasingly seems to be a preoccupation of mainstream journalism, popular culture and the world of politics. Speculation abounds on when China will be crowned the world's largest economy.

Among other forms, the decline of the United States can take comical or satirical forms in novels, Rick Moody's "Four Fingers of Death" and Gary Shteyngart's "Super Sad True Love Story" being two recent, outstanding examples. The plot of both unfold against a backdrop of a rapidly decaying United States at the brink of bankruptcy as the Chinese contemplate cutting off all credit, the former novel contemplating the human costs of economic free-fall layered over an absurd military gambit to salvage imperial prerogatives and the latter deftly using satiric exaggeration to lampoon the consumer fetishism that passes for U.S. popular culture. Laughing at the precipice is, arguably, better than crying.

Contemplation of the end of U.S. dominance can of course take much deadlier forms, such as the Bush II administration's invasion of Iraq — a desperate ploy to re-assert U.S. military supremacy, impose a neoliberal paradise for its corporations, provide an economic and military base for the U.S. to assert itself over the Middle East and secure energy resources. Administrations from Nixon to Clinton had, in some form, carried out policies designed to slow down the incremental but steady relative decline of U.S. power in relation to the rest of the world, but such policies were tossed aside last decade in a mad gamble to restore undisputed supremacy.

That the Bush II gamble backfired spectacularly cannot be in reasonable dispute; plunging the country into debt, wasting resources on military adventure, inflicting an appalling scale of casualties and engendering increased international willingness to oppose U.S. initiatives has instead accelerated imperial decline.

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