Welcome to Saturday's Potluck - 1-8-2022
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Today's collection of articles take a look at various viewpoints of a Chinese (Oriental) challenge to the hegemony of Anglo-Saxon culture and legal dominance of the world.
The United States and the Anglo-Saxon Future July 1896 (no that is not one of my too frequent typos) by George Burton Adams for The Atlantic
It is one of the commonplaces of our time that the world has become small and closely united, but the practical consequences of this fact, as bearing on our own future, we of the United States have not yet appreciated. We are entering with the rest of the world upon a new era of history, in which the conditions that have prevailed in the past will no longer be the determining conditions, and in which our own best and highest interests can no longer be measured by the standard of Washington’s Farewell Address. The drama of international politics has already passed into a new act, whose stage is the world, and whose actors are no longer nations in the sense of a hundred years ago, but great races or nations with a world-position; an act in which the petty questions of European boundary lines or the balance of power—the chief objects of the entangling alliances against which we were warned—will sink, as they are even now sinking, into the most trivial byplay.
The United States has far more to gain by occasionally sacrificing some of its rights for the benefit of others, and by convincing weaker nations that they may be sure of justice and of honest treatment, that they may expect even more than really belongs to them rather than less, than it has to gain by any policy of aggression.
But, still further, if we are ever to be called to such a position of leadership as this, we must first be able to meet one indispensable condition. We must learn to realize, as we do not yet, the true identity of interest between ourselves and the rest of the Anglo-Saxon world. England stands for everything for which we stand or of which we boast. We all know that every English colony is a democratic republic. The political institutions in which we most firmly believe, and which we hope in some vague way—by the force of our example, perhaps—to make the possession of all men, she is actually planting and maintaining throughout large regions of every continent. Our easiest way to make these institutions prevail in the world is by alliance with her. Our surest way to hinder their spread is to join the alliance of her enemies.
But this is not all. This identity of interest may well be argued on a lower ground. The warnings which we have heard now and then in the past few years, from very competent observers, of a coming struggle for commercial and industrial supremacy with races whose rivalry we have never yet felt may prove well founded. The Oriental, whose keenness of mind and talent for business, whose faculty of patience and frugal standard of living, make him a most formidable competitor, and who has already begun to exploit the world in his own interest, may soon gain all that the West has to teach him; and in learning the lessons of our civilization he may learn the greatness of his own advantage. For in a struggle of this kind, if it should come, the odds would not be so clearly on our side as we should like to believe. In numbers and in economy the odds would be against us, and the most that we could claim in mental gifts would be an even balance.1 Such a struggle would not be one for supremacy only, but for existence itself. If there should prove to be a situation like this before us, isolation would mean defeat. The close alliance of the Anglo-Saxon world—a world, indeed, furnishing every diversity of commercial condition—would alone provide the requisites of safety in a common policy of defense.
Current thoughts on China replacing Anglo-Saxon world order.
Why does the West think China wants global hegemony? Jan 3, 2022 by David P. Goldman (Spengler)
Former Trump Defense Department planner Elbridge Colby claimed China wanted to subjugate the countries of the First Island Chain (Taiwan or the Philippines, as convenient) to drive America from the “Second Island Cloud” and thence to the blue oceans.
Americans think that China aspires to world hegemony, while Professor Wen contends that the aspiration to hegemony as such is the fatal flaw of empires past and present. Americans will dismiss Wen’s analysis as Chinese dissembling, but they would be mistaken to do so.
America’s Cold War triumph, Wen believes, was simply “the most recent decisive victory” in a long series of contests with other putative hegemons, including “the Spanish Empire, the Dutch Empire, the French Empire and the German Empire.”
China, adds Professor Wen, was a bystander to the Great Power competition for hegemony during the 1960s and 1970s. This in turn was a contest within a “small world,” between Western civilization and Eastern Orthodox civilization, in which the non-Christian civilizations – Chinese, Indian and Islamic – had limited stakes.
When I wrote of “China’s plan to Sino-form the world” in my 2020 book, I referred to the export of China’s digital infrastructure to the Global South, in the ultimate exercise of soft power.
Its 5G broadband, fast trains, e-commerce, e-finance, telemedicine and other Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies well may transform backward economies into little Chinas, starting in Southeast Asia.
China surely aspires to return to first position in world manufacturing technology, which it held from the beginning of recorded history until the 18th century, and it will try to extend its influence and power by dominating the new technologies enabled by fast broadband.
But China is indifferent to how we barbarians govern ourselves. Elsewhere Professor Wen has compared the character of the Chinese, a settled people for thousands of years, to that of Westerners, who (as he put it) only recently walked out of the jungle.
I think that he is quite unfair to us. But the point is that the Chinese have no intention of imposing their political system on the United States; they do not believe we are capable of such enlightened governance.
The Soviet Union, I should add, fell not only because it overreached, but because the United States responded to its hegemonic ambitions by starting a revolution in military technology. From this we derived every important invention of the digital age, from mass-produced computer chips to optical networks.
China wants to dominate its coasts and has invested massively in surface-to-ship missiles, submarines, missile boats, aircraft and other weapons to prevent the United States from projecting power in the Western Pacific. A December report from Harvard’s Belfer Center under the direction of Graham Allison argued that it had already succeeded.
Military superiority near Chinese territory – including Taiwan, which China considers a rebel province – is one motivation for China’s naval buildup. Another is China’s long-range vulnerability to a blockade.
They have read Edward Luttwak’s book The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Grand Strategy, which argued that an American-led coalition can strangle China just as the Allies encircled Germany during World War I.
China’s hegemonic intent increasingly hard to deny January 5, 2022 Denny Roy
Goldman not only asserts that China has no hegemonic intent, he goes so far as to allege that, for “many” Americans, “it doesn’t matter whether China is [in fact] hegemonic; its offense is being China.”
This is an important topic, and Goldman and Wen make several specious arguments that demand refutation.
Goldman argues that the defining feature of a hegemon is that it sends its military to seize overseas territory for colonies, which become part of an “imperial economy” from which the hegemon extracts resources. By these criteria, Goldman argues, China is not a hegemon, because the “Chinese never sent their armies or large numbers of colonists around the world.”
This, however, is a selective and idiosyncratic definition of hegemony. Major powers can be domineering without following the Rome, fascist Japan or USSR models. The current superpower, for instance, neither militarily occupies foreign countries against their will nor operates an “imperial economy.”
Modern China obviously does not have foreign colonies acquired through military force.
Equally obviously, however, Beijing pressures, corrupts and coerces foreign governments to act in support of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) agenda in various ways, including military intimidation, cutting off trade, bribing foreign officials, grey zone activities, harassment in contravention of professional norms, hostage diplomacy, cyberwarfare and collusion with other outlaw governments.
The frequent result is Beijing forcing other governments to abandon their preferred course of action – to “suffer what they must.”
Hard-edged realpolitik foreign policy, including resorting to merciless warfare, was a common feature of the pre-modern Chinese government, one that has carried over into the CCP era – an example being the 1979 campaign to “teach Vietnam a lesson.”
Even the 15th-century voyages of the famous Chinese admiral Zheng He, which the CCP has often touted as proof of China’s historical benevolence, are interpreted in a darker light by non-Chinese historians.
China’s famous tribute system was based on a preponderance of Chinese power relative to other states and a willingness to use that power punitively to keep regional governments in line. In other words, pre-modern China was a hegemon.
Goldman says any suspicion that China is gearing up for “a campaign for global military supremacy” is undercut by the fact that China has only one confirmed overseas military base (in Djibouti), while the US has hundreds.
This is a straw-man argument. The absence of “a campaign for global military supremacy” is not preventing China from bullying multiple states both within and outside the Asia-Pacific region.
Goldman’s argument also lacks historical context. The United States has been a superpower for a century, which explains the extensive global power-projection infrastructure. China is a nascent great power, new to the game.
This angle of Empire is not one I had considered. Citizens in other countries concerned about their lack of input in United States electoral politics. I seldom agree with this author, but he does bring to light a faction of European intellectuals historical world view.
America’s crisis is China’s risk Jan 7, 2022 by Francesco Sisci
Still, perhaps the greatest gerrymandering and voter suppression is not in the United States but outside of it. What to make of the world that spins around America but is not made of American citizens? For instance, we Italians are non-Americans but undoubtedly part of the American empire, and have no voting rights.
President Trump was divisive in America and between America and its empire. Suppose America loses its empire, hidden or not. In that case, it loses itself, and that would be not only an American suicide; it would mean ending the world in all its present states, and only madmen could hope to survive in the ensuing chaos.
The Roman empire faced similar quandaries. Citizenship, and thus rights to vote and be voted for, was first restricted to actual Romans, then extended to people from the Italian peninsula, and then with Caracalla to the whole empire.
There are many conundrums here: People of the American empire can speak and often speak about American policies and get an audience and hearing, but only indirectly.
Is it feasible to carry on like this for long? With freedom of speech but no rights of political participation, can this two-tier system last much longer without creating fragile systemic unbalances?
Now, who has voting rights for our “imperial” president: the senate of “Roman” Washington or the people of the empire?
What is on your mind today? (Responses to Covid questions and dialog to be conducted at The Dose diary)