Like many others, Stephen Glain, author of State vs. Defense, believes the U.S. and China are, indeed, on a collision course. "Absent a good faith attempt to negotiate this thicket of disputes between China and Taiwan and the Philippines and Brunei and others, I think it's inevitable," he says. "The Chinese are not going to back down."
Just as America adopted the Monroe Doctrine to project power in the Western Hemisphere, the Chinese believe they have a right to their own sphere of influence in the Asia-Pacific region. "China is after all a 3000-year old country; Asia has been throughout most of that history Sino-centric," he says.
But to those who believe the U.S. and its allies must "bottle up" China, Glain says "there's nothing in those 3000 years of Chinese history" to suggest China's intentions are to militarily dominate the region. "On the contrary, they've always remained close to their own territory," he notes. "They have always been the Middle Kingdom between heaven and earth."
However, Glain fears the U.S. and its allies might provoke China into a war that might otherwise be avoidable. "Arms races tend to develop their own immutable momentum," he says, noting the Pentagon is embarking on an "enormous military buildup" in the region.
In his new book, Glain laments the rise of the "military industrial complex" President Eisenhower warned about 50 years ago, suggesting defense contractors and their patrons in Congress and the Pentagon have an undue influence on U.S. foreign policy. American hubris is also playing a role in the march to war, he says.
"Without an admission by the U.S. of its limitations, both fiscal and militarily…I think some kind of conflict between the U.S. and China is inevitable, probably in our lifetime," he says.
In this regard, he joins rock-star financial historian Niall Ferguson, who also has gone on record as anticipating a future conflict between China and the United States.
I happen to think they are both right, but for a very different set of reasons. One of the scenarios I outlined at the conclusion of What Are People Good For was the War Scenario. As I’ve said in a series of recent posts – there is no way in our current economic paradigm of globalized corporate capitalism to fix the festering problems we are now dealing with – political corruption by financial elites, mass unemployment and inherent resource limits (along with an increasingly unstable environment). The imperatives in the system of capital accumulation and eternal growth will force the system to continue careening uncontrollably down its current path to either self-destruction or transformation. There are no other viable options. Already, citizens of the United States are becoming poorer and poorer by the day; by many measures we have given back all gains since the Great Depression. Unemployment is rising, cities are crumbling, counties are bankrupt, homes are sitting empty while tent cities are springing up everywhere. China continues to advance, but the way the system works, some people will benefit while that majority will not. Will the millions of economic losers in both countries simply tolerate this without complaint? And even China’s tentative middle-class growth is contingent on being part of a functioning wider global economy. What will happen as that seizes up? China is limited even further than the West by resource limits due to its enormous population and its degraded ecosystem.
As most are no doubt aware, the only thing that ended a ten-year run of Depression in the West was the plunging of the world into war. By pointing this inconvenient fact out, economist Paul Krugman was pilloried by some critics as advocating a war (he was not, of course, but he was advocating massive government spending on non-war measures). But he unwittingly speaks an inconvenient truth: a war does solve capitalism’s overproduction and overpopulation crises, as I pointed out in previous posts. Glain’s thesis was also covered over at Decline of the Empire, where I made the following comment:
The drumbeat has already started – we are already being primed for war. The conflict between the U.S. and Japan was predicted DECADES in advance of it actually happening, as far back as the Russo-Japanese War. After Russia’s defeat, Japan’s increasing militarism and territorial expansion in the East Asia sphere was seen by geopolitical experts as inevitably bringing Japan into conflict with the other rising power in the Pacific – The United States. In retrospect, when the precipitating event took place in December, 1941, it was not really a surprise to many – including possibly the Roosevelt administration who some still accuse of having had foreknowledge of the attack.
Read this recent opinion piece in the New York Times: For Jobs, It’s War. The subtext is clear: the global economy is a zero-sum game, and there can only be one winner. The alarmist book described in the piece asserts that the next decades will be “an all-out war” for jobs:
“The war for global jobs is like World War II: a war for all the marbles. The global war for jobs determines the leader of the free world. If the United States allows China or any country or region to out-enterprise, out-job-create, out-grow its G.D.P., everything changes. This is America’s next war for everything.”
This is America’s next war for everything. Get it now? And see this article – Does the American Government Consider Economic Rivalry to Be A Justification For War? The reason for this is twofold - the National Security State is a huge moneymaker for the plutocracy, without having to worry about the vagaries of the “free” market or declining consumer incomes – they can just extract all the money they need via taxes, and route it directly into the companies they control. No messy competition or declining sales figures to worry about. It needs perpetual war and conflict to justify itself and keep the money flowing to the corporatists and their political handmaidens.
The second reason is even more important - Capitalism requires war in order to continue. By destroying productive capacity and killing off millions of idle workers, once the conflict is over the wealthy owners of the means of production once again can continue their path of growth and profitability. If current trends continue, China will require essentially all the world’s oil, grain, and raw materials to keep growing. Although they profess otherwise, the elites know that this is impossible:
If China's economy continues to grow by 8.0 percent annually, per capita income will equal that of current levels in the United States by the year 2030, when the nation will boast a population of 1.45 billion people, Brown said.
China grew 9.9 percent last year and 10.3 percent in the first quarter of 2006 and looks set to expand at similar rates going forward.
On the same model, Brown said China's annual grain consumption would equal two-thirds of current world grain output and annual paper consumption would be double current world production by 2030.
"There go the world's forests," he said.
On oil, Brown pointed to a similar scenario of simply not having enough to meet China's demands.
"If oil consumption per person reaches the US level by 2031, China will use 99 million barrels a day.
"The world is currently producing 84 million barrels a day and may never produce much more."
If three out of every four people in China own cars, as in the United States, there will be 1.1 billion vehicles on Chinese roads, compared to the current world fleet of 800 million, Brown said.
At a time of globalization and intense competition to produce more at ever lower prices, the contemporary economic model is doomed, Brown said.
Note that World War 2 happened after capitalism had run into a cul-de-sac created by an overproduction glut resulting in persistent unemployment of the masses. In both cases, the wealthy corporations and banks bankrolled the arms buildup and supplied weapons technology to both sides of the conflict. Isn’t it convenient that unemployment is highest among the cohort of young people who are just the right age to go to war? And what about those massive millions of rural Chinese migrants heading to the gleaming cities to look for factory work? Might putting a rifle in their hand solve that inconvenient demographic problem, and prevent a revolt of the jobless? Voila – unemployment and overproduction solved in one fell swoop, and people will be effectively distracted from their declining standard of living. Once it’s all over, the same elites on both sides of the Pacific can pick up the pieces. War solves all the problems of the elites, which is what makes it inevitable. And if you think there will be some sort of resistance, may I remind you how easily we were led to war less than a decade ago against an insignificant country that did not even attack us? Remember the climate of frothing-at-the-mouth nationalism and “you’re either with us or against us?”
As anyone who reads this blog knows full well, We The People have no control whatsoever over this process, we can only sit back and watch it happen. And now you know the burden of knowing.So for the many reasons outlined above, its seems to me like a war with China is inevitable. As horrible as it is to contemplate, I see it as the only way out for the elites to keep us from transitioning to more democratic economic systems. This will not be a nuclear war, despite both sides being armed with nuclear weapons, because the radiation would cause too much contamination for too long a time prohibiting vast areas from ever being used again. Remember, the idea is to rebuild after the war to return GDP to growth and provide employment for the survivors. Remember, GDP only counts economic activity and discounts destruction, as this article so saliently points out. The aftereffects of destruction are counted as a net plus, because all the existing things that were swept away (including human lives) are not figured into its calculus. Since “growth” is the one and only imperative of the system, not the quality or even the preservation of human life, war is the logical solution to the crisis from the view of our sociopathic elites. If growth cannot continue, we would have to begin to ask questions about distribution, and they will do anything, and I mean anything, to stop that from happening.
In a pure sense of selfishness, if it’s going to happen, it might as well happen soon. I’m past the prime age for serving in a war, and it beats having nothing to look for but a long downward spiral. When you take away all the death and dying, nothing is more exciting than wartime. Still, I wish it could be avoided.