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Entries in globalization (95)

11:20AM

CoreGap 11.08 released - Obama’s “Chinese menu” of Past Presidential Doctrines

Wikistrat has released edition 11.08 of the CoreGap Bulletin.

This CoreGap edition features, among others:

  • Obama’s “Chinese menu” of Past Presidential Doctrines
  • Disaster in Japan and instability in Gulf likely alter global energy landscape
  • China steps on growth brake, hunkers down on potential domestic unrest
  • Mexico, at wit’s end over blood-soaked drug war, pushes US for relief
  • Egypt’s political change agenda proceeds, but tougher economic reform awaits

The entire bulletin is available for subscribers. Over the upcoming week we will release analysis from the bulletin to our Geopolitical Analysis section of the Wikistrat website, first being "Terra Incognita: Obama’s “Chinese menu” of Past Presidential Doctrines"

To say that President Barack Obama’s foreign policy plate is full right now is a vast understatement, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for a leader who needs to revive his own economy before trying to resuscitate others (e.g., Tunisia, Egypt, South Sudan, Ivory Coast – eventually Libya?).  Faced with the reality that America’s huge debt overhang condemns it to sub-par growth for many years, Washington enters a lengthy period of “intervention fatigue” that – like everything else, according to the Democrats – can still be blamed on George W. Bush.

It is estimated that 30 percent of the current US federal deficit was set in motion by the Bush administration and another 30 percent by Obama trying to correct those mistakes.  But the biggest problem remains the 40 percent triggered by entitlements growth – the simple aging of America.  With China now applying the brakes, Japan suddenly and sensationally damaged by mega-disaster, Europe still processing sovereign bankruptcies, and Arab unrest pushing up the price of oil, there appears no obvious “cavalry” riding to the global economy’s rescue.  It would seem that America’s “circle the wagons” mentality has gone global, as every beleaguered leadership now looks out for itself.

Read the full piece here

More about Wikistrat's Subscription can be found here

To say that President Barack Obama’s foreign policy plate is full right now is a vast understatement, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for a leader who needs to revive his own economy before trying to resuscitate others (e.g., Tunisia, Egypt, South Sudan, Ivory Coast – eventually Libya?). Faced with the reality that America’s huge debt overhang condemns it to sub-par growth for many years, Washington enters a lengthy period of “intervention fatigue” that – like everything else, according to the Democrats – can still be blamed on George W. Bush.
10:43AM

WPR's The New Rules: Leadership Fatigue Puts U.S., and Globalization, at Crossroads

Events in Libya are a further reminder for Americans that we stand at a crossroads in our continuing evolution as the world's sole full-service superpower. Unfortunately, we are increasingly seeking change without cost, and shirking from risk because we are tired of the responsibility. We don't know who we are anymore, and our president is a big part of that problem. Instead of leading us, he explains to us. Barack Obama would have us believe that he is practicing strategic patience. But many experts and ordinary citizens alike have concluded that he is actually beset by strategic incoherence -- in effect, a man overmatched by the job. 

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

10:29AM

Chart of the day: Cinema B.O. reflects globalization of mass media

Per my many past posts on the subject, a great chart showing how flat domestic US box office is (hovering around $10B mark), while DVD sales have come and gone and Blu-Rays aren't filling the gap as Internet- and cable-delivered (virtually indistinguishable when it comes to the home) take over with their much-thinner margins (none of that being shown on this Economist chart).

Thus, why it's so crucial to Hollywood that foreign B.O. has more than doubled in last decade, and shows all signs of taking off even more.

Why?  As with most things, it's the emergence of the global middle class.  Think to when movies took off in America (1920s) and then realize how sustaining they were even during the Great Depression (escapism), thus all bottom-of-the-pyramid logic plays here too.

8:36AM

WPR's The New Rules: America Need Not Fear Connectivity Revolutions

A lot of international relations theories are being stress-tested by events in the Arab world right now, with some emerging better than others. Two in particular that are worth mentioning are Ian Bremmer's 2006 book, "The J Curve," which predicts a dangerous dip into instability when closed, authoritarian states attempt to open up to the world; and Evgeny Morozov's new book, "The Net Delusion," which critiques the notion that Internet connectivity is inherently democratizing. (In the interests of transparency, I work as a consultant for Bremmer's political risk consultancy, Eurasia Group, and penned a pre-publication blurb for Morozov's book.)

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

10:14AM

Esquire's Politics Blog: Seven Reasons Why Qaddafi Would Be the Best Domino Yet

Please, spare me any dread over this goofy dictator's hopefully looming and well-earned demise. Muammar Qaddafi has had over four decades to do right by his country and he ranks right up there with old-man Castro as one of the worst leaders ever to keep a people down. Team Obama should have zero qualms on this one, no matter what any of our alleged allies in the region may say, because if they're worried about the Qaddafi family's influence powering on, they know damn well what needs to be done (or not done). Here's why you, Mr. and Mrs. American, should cheer on this revolution along with your careful president.

Read the entire post at Esquires' The Politics Blog.

 

10:30AM

India's Achilles heel: the Gandhian/Jeffersonian ideal

versus

Gandhi reified the village as the center of Indian life.  There you find the ones left behind in the rapture that is globalization's narrow advance into "shining India."  Gandhi is the modern Jefferson, and he shows you just how wrong that guy was.

Western investors may take eager note of India’s economic growth rate of nearly 9 percent a year. But that statistic rings hollow in India’s vast rural areas. Agriculture employs more than half the population, but it accounts for only 15 percent of the economy — and it has grown an average of only about 3 percent in recent years.

Critics say Indian policy makers have failed to follow up on the country’s investments in agricultural technology of the 1960s and ’70s, as they focused on more glamorous, urban industries like information technology, financial services and construction.

There is no agribusiness of the type known in the United States, with highly mechanized farms growing thousands of acres of food crops, because Indian laws and customs bar corporations from farming land directly for food crops. The laws also make it difficult to assemble large land holdings.

Yet even as India’s farming still depends on manual labor and the age-old vicissitudes of nature, demand for food has continued to rise — because of a growing population and rising incomes, especially in the middle and upper classes. As a result, India is importing ever greater amounts of some staples like beans and lentils (up 157 percent from 2004 to 2009) and cooking oil (up 68 percent in the same period).

Food prices are rising faster in India than in almost any other major economy — and faster than they did during the 2007-8 surge.

The whole India-v-China model is a fascinating experiment in Jefferson versus Hamilton, or Gandhi versus Deng.  It's not a state capitalism versus market thing, because the ratios there aren't all that different.  It's really a question of whether you like cities and industry versus villages and agriculture.  

12:39PM

China's Aviation Industry Corp plans another team-up with US firm

Get used to this line-up

WSJ story on how AVIC (Aviation Industry Corporation), which has already announced a joint effort with GE on commercial airliners, is now teaming with a small CA-based avionics firm (US Aerospace) to offer its signature big helicopter in US markets, to include defense markets and possibly even a bid on the Marine One contract to supply the White House.

Yes, there will be push back, but eventually these things will happen.

For years now, I've fantasized about China Southern buying Southwest Airlines, for no particular reason other than they have similar names and, when I flew China Southern and was warned in advance by so many people how much it sucked, I found that its service was just fine and actually on par with my favorite SWA.

But think about it:  We used to have this huge shipping fleet, and now most of it flies under other nation's flags.  Why?  Got so routine and so thin margin, that US companies got out of it, abandoning to cheaper providers.  I've heard plenty of pilots in the US airline industry say the same thing will eventually happen there, and the logical flagship companies will hail from nations with the biggest flier markets.

And you know who that will be eventually.

So yeah, if you want to compete globally, you have to compete in China, and if you want to compete in China, you'll need to be - partially - Chinese.  That is how it works in economics and trade and it won't change over China's rise.

5:48PM

Podcast archive for Vantage Point radio appearance 31 Jan 11

Find the one-hour segment here.

First segment audio a bit bad.  Did it over Skype and needed to listen on my headphones so no feedback, so later chunks better.

9:33AM

Mubarak's call: for cooler heads - and better downstream outcomes, the best possible path for Egypt (updated)

[EXTENSION OF ARGUMENT AT BOTTOM; VARIOUS UPDATES BOLDED THROUGHOUT]

Mubarak's just-announced decision not to stand for re-election in the slated September poll is obviously a good one, but so is his vow to remain in office until a successor is installed.

Why?

I just like how the paired decision allows the relevant authorities (i.e., the military) to slow things down, while demonstrating it's largely in charge without having to really step out there and harm any numbers (thus decredentializing itself).  The breather also gives all the relevant outside parties time to influence events to their - sometimes yes and sometimes no - reasonable liking.  It also gives the military time to interact with outside powers in a manner that should be reassuring.

We're talking a leaderless revolt that's driven by an underlying socio-economic revolution long in the making but weak in the developing of suitable political leadership.  Carpetbagging Mohamed ElBaradei [who must now dump on the US every chance he gets to prove he's really Egyptian and not just a lifelong UN bureaucrat, otherwise known as electioneering] actually needs time in-situ to develop a real following, for example.  And the Muslim Brotherhood's intentions and capabilities are more easily gauged/managed by the Powers That Remain in the run-up to the election than if something was slapped together, unity government-wise, in the immediate aftermath of Mubarak high-tailing it to Saudi Arabia.

As much as the romance of that image attracts ("See!  We scared the old bastard out of office!"), the subsequent dynamics are rarely so good.  This is a political system that's purposefully been retarded in its development for decades now, so giving it 8 months to find its feet will be a good thing.

Yes, much depends on how Mubarak behaves in the next few days and months (and seeing the social network sites back up is a VERY good sign), because the right moves will placate and soothe and the wrong ones will only inflame.  People on the street need to be satisfied that they've triggered something huge and permanent and that a new political era has already dawned.  Once that shock is over, then the real bottom-up networking and organizing can proceed apace, the key thing being that the police and Interior Ministry stay out of the picture.

That's not to say that I wouldn't expect the military to sanction some serious repression of the Brotherhood if they proceeded to scare people, but in general, it would be best if everybody had their chance to prove themselves under the new conditions without anybody being declared off-limits.  A truly free election where the Brotherhood does okay but somebody far more stabilizing wins the presidency would be a huge victory for democrats everywhere and a severe blow to Iran, al-Qaeda, radical Islam in general, and even the vaunted China model and its alleged transferability to places like Egypt.

Plus, given America' leadership-from-behind to date, the interregnum gives the Obama administration some time to make amends. [Now, Obama, in catch-up mode, demands Mubarak leave right now, and if the military can live with the interim choice, so can I.   But I'm against the general vibe of accelerating the pace out of fear of the mob, as I imagine the Army is - for good reason.  I think that if you fear the Iran 1979 scenario, you want this to be as calm and orderly as possible, so you exploit Mubarak's decision the best you can, in consultation with the military, and you don't just pile on now for the sake of cleaning up your johnny-come-lately mistakes.].  The lag likewise makes possible the international mediation process, if that's welcomed and usefully applied in this instance (and I think it could be).

Done well, this becomes another Big Bang-like notch in our belts, proving that regime-change doesn't have to come at the barrel of the foreign gun but can be opportunistically achieved in concert with globalization's natural advance.  Also done right, the flow of money to remake the Egyptian economy isn't in the form of official developmental aid but foreign direct investment - from all sides in a true collaboration-of-civilizations mode.  

The best outcome of the election is a new president able and willing to make the right investment climate happen (so think legal and security  and social tolerance in addition to economic and political stability) so globalization can flood in far faster and provide the jobs and opportunities and brighter future these protesters truly desire.

In short, I think this whole thing has gone amazing well.  It should be embraced by a down-in-the-mouth West and United States in particular, because this is very much our side winning. This is globalization's connectivity fomenting revolution and leading to even more connectivity and self-empowerment.  Overall, a huge positive that should be celebrated and nurtured for the profound demonstration effect.

Imagine:  just 8 short years after we go into Iraq we face the prospect of that country and Egypt presenting the world with democratically-elected governments.  I know everybody wants everything by Tuesday, but to me, looking at it strategically from a longer-term perspective, I can't believe how well things are turning out in this globalization-versus-radical-Islamic-fundamentalism struggle - or how quickly.

[per the comment on the Big Bang reference--see below, understanding that I'm taking on the notion here, not the commenter per se]

You don't argue that Iraq directly caused Tunisia and Egypt. That's silly, but so is Wilkerson's hatred of all things Bush. The guy went round the bend years ago. Saying there's a direct causality is like saying we descended from modern apes. I'm citing a larger phenomenon that begets both, one that presents us with different challenges, if we so choose to recognize them.

You argue that they're all part of the same process of opening up the Middle East to globalization. Sometimes it makes sense to force the issue, and sometimes it's better to act opportunistically.

["Really? I thought one size supposedly fit all!"]

Iraq was kinetic because Saddam was a big-time disconnector who required an enemy-world image to justify his amazingly cruel rule.  No such effort is required with either Tunisia or Egypt because there, you're not talking a totalitarian ambition (Saddam failed), nor a required world-enemy justification for militarism and constantly threatening behavior to others.  Simply put, not enough boxes were checked, and in Mubarak's defense, he did plenty to help out US interests in keeping the region stable, so even some boxes that could have been checked were left unmarked (and yes, we call that "realism," boo hoo!). 

Where we do draw parallel lines between the two is this:  by taking down Saddam, we triggered a larger tumult in the region.  We triggered all manner of accelerated connectivity, in part because we told the world we'd be responsible for regional stability by taking down its worst, most destabilizing actor and standing up to #2 in Iran (which we've done consistently, and thankfully haven't invaded given our tie-down elsewhere and the related arguments I've long made that Iran is a soft-kill option staring us in the face).  We saw the rippling tumult in 2005, when the Saudis held local elections for the first time in 70 years, Lebanon broke somewhat free of Syria in the Cedar Revolution, Mubarak felt the need to conduct a somewhat freer election, etc. Governments across the board felt some need to either firewall or prove their reform credentials, and Iraq helped fuel that by saying, Change is coming one way or the other.

[And then we got unduly obsessed with Iran's nuclear pursuit, which I have also criticized ad nauseum.  And Obama has persisted in this painfully myopic view of the world and globalization.]

Of course, and I've made these arguments ad nauseum, we could have done Iraq better, but the realist in me concerning the Pentagon and the US military says that the small-wars mindset wasn't going to emerge until we failed using the old "lesser includeds" techniques (big war force pretends to have small-wars skills).  Bush held off on that shift for way too long (until the people spoke in 2006) and now big Blue (Air Force, Navy) are dying to revive it all vis-a-vis China, which I think is nuts.  But evolutions such as these are non-stop fights, and so those of us who believe in them continue that struggle.  But that's a side issue to this argument.

And that larger argument remains:  globalization is impinging on a part of the world that is not ready for it and will experience tremendous social, economic, political and security tumult as it absorbs its impact.  That penetration process is not some elite conspiracy in the West; it's a demand-pull primarily by youth and middle class and students - and oppressed women - locally. When it's impeded enough by evil elites, and those elites constitute security threats in addition, the US calculus will always broach the question of kinetically removing them to facilitate the process ("global capitalist domination" to the neo-Marxist bullshit artists, liberation of an emerging global middle class to me).  Sometimes the threshold is met, but most times it is not.  Why?  We're too busy with other things.  We're feeling down on ourselves.  We're experiencing crisis.  Or it's just not enough of a me-versus-him feeling to justify whipping ourselves into action, which is just how democracies are (and God love them for that). 

But does that mean we don't intervene?  Of course we intervene.  Just get your head out of your butt and realize that interventions aren't all the same.  Some are kinetic and some are very subtle. We're intervening right now plenty in Egypt via our contacts with the military, a very broadband connection spanning decades and thousands of officers (and a process I know well, having been involved with it on many levels for two decades--see PNM for my description vis-a-vis India/Pakistan).  That is an unknown but huge power of the Leviathan force:  we train people all over the world.  And so, when stuff goes down, we have influence.  

Will this influence somehow get us everything we want?  When we want it?  With praise ringing in our ears?  Again, let's stay out of fairyland.  Lumps will be coming, as will brick bats.  Only question for us is, 8-10 years later, do we like the outcome?  Did our side win?

In Iraq, come 2013, we're looking at a very good situation.  A democracy with a handful of free elections by then.  Iranian influence, but not much more than Turkey's (and it's the economics where both matter, not the politics).  A rising oil power that shifts the balance in OPEC away from Iran to a country that has cooperative investment deals with basically every continent in the world--connectivity!  In the end, we still could have done it vastly better, like simply giving the Chinese the entire rebuild contract on day 1 instead of our supremely bad fumbling effort (Check out China preparing to dump $10B into Zimbabwe).  We could have gone COIN from day one instead of 3-4 years in, wasting the vast bulk of our lives and the vast bulk of the Iraqi lives.  And yes, we hold Bush-Cheney accountable for such decisions, but the mistakes were throughout the system, products of decades of assumptions and thinking that many of us still battle to this day.  But, in the end, the Iraq that stands there in 2013 is something entirely different from what the pessimists have long predicted.  It is a force that makes globalization move more broadly and deeply in the region, and that means we win.

My hopes for Egypt are that, by 2020-2022, we're looking at a Turkey-like player with a broad and relatively happy middle class.  It's got a military that's respected and still a very solid friend of the US and the US's friends in the region.  It is Islamist in flavor, because that's the people's heritage and it must be respected, just like a Christian-Judeo one is in the US.  But it's not unduly dominant or nasty to other faiths, because that's bad for globalization and business.  It becomes a conduit for the Horn and North Africa and the PG - connecting in all directions.  

And sooner than you think, it becomes the justification for similarly successful unrest elsewhere.

But yeah, we're now in the business of nation-building in Egypt, and fortunately for us, this time the US won't be in charge.  I hope we learn how much better that can be, and how many more players we can and should help tap right from the start, encouraging the Egyptians to self-empowering connectivity in all directions, so long as they create and sustain the rule sets necessary to make that work.

So to sum up:  my argument here is not to wash away Bush-Cheney's many mistakes.  I'm on record and in books and articles and columns and speeches and posts galore listing all the things they did that I disagreed with.  My point here is to remind us of the larger connections with history - a history we purposefully sought to create and continue to try and shape.  

And to remind you that our side is globalization, and globalization is winning - big time.

So wake up, Austin Powers*, and realize the world has shifted - yet again - in our favor, just when we needed a lift.

And then keep your chin up through all the name-calling to follow. Stick to the long-term perspective, because the dumbasses will be freaking out, bemoaning yet again how "America lost and THEY won!"  It's just our self-critical and Type A nature, which is good much of the time and just plain silly at various stretches of perceived and real crisis.

Simma down, nah!

Basil Exposition: Austin, the Cold War is over!


Austin Powers: Finally those capitalist pigs will pay for their crimes, eh? Eh comrades? Eh?


Exposition: Austin... we won.


Powers:
 Oh, smashing, groovy, yay capitalism! 

8:59AM

Listen to the podcasts of Tom Barnett on Colorado talk radio (Sun, 30 Jan 2011)

Go here for the one-hour (two segments = 5 & 6).  Good show!

8:59AM

WPR's The New Rules: A Wish List for the New Year

To kick off 2011, I thought I'd put together my top-10 international affairs wish list for the year, going from left to right on my wall map. But like Spinal Tap, only better, my list goes to 12:

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

9:58AM

Same problem, same prescription

LAT op-ed by Congressman Mike Honda, Dem from CA, by way of Chris Ridlon.

Great logic:

Given the comparatively weak Afghanistan team, and the fact that the Iraq inspector general's office is due to close in 2012 despite 50,000 troops and 80,000 defense contractors still operating in Iraq, we need a better form of oversight. Iraq and Afghanistan — and every other U.S. "contingency operation" involving billions of taxpayer dollars — should be under the watchful eye of a permanent, independent Office for Contingency Operations, with its own special inspector general. Rather than a piecemeal and reactive approach to the oversight of billions of dollars in these situations, we need a dedicated shop run by a proven investigator who can report to the National Security Council, and the Defense and State departments, without being cowed by political pressure.

We cannot afford to continue overseas relief and reconstruction efforts in an ad-hoc fashion, spending billions of taxpayer dollars under "emergency" pretexts with too few conditions and too little coordination, transparency, oversight and evaluation. It weakens our economic and national security.

You need a Department of Everything Else because the current approach simply wastes too much money and too much opportunity - and too many lives.

You can say we won't do any more of these, but you're kidding yourself. This is basically all that's left. We either do it or withdraw from the field, because fantasies of terrorists wielding loose nukes or rampaging pirates taking over globalization are silly.  There as two rogue regimes that want protection from U.S. invasion and believe nukes will buy them that (duh), and then there's the now rather symmetricized counter-terror effort spread across 75 states (SOF and drones and other nasty bits), and then there are the issues of failed states.  We can likewise fantasize about months-long bombing campaigns the width and breadth of China - that don't trigger nuclear war - but then we're into the serious nonsense.

Use your mentality.  Walk up to reality.

12:01AM

What Europe did, then what America accomplished

From Mike Nelson by way of Talking Points Memo.

What I got from it:  

Life was bad in the usual way, and then the Industrial Revolution made it much better in the West.  Then rising Europe turned to colonialism and that created a godawful have/have-not world system that was doomed once the greedy Europeans turned on each other in "world wars." Then the US-style of globalization kicked in, eventually creating the better world we know today by creating the opportunities for the "rest" to advance. 

Our polite European host skips all the ugly colonial realities, and instead just notes the tremendous inequality that defined the middle period.  It's a painfully selective way to capture the past two centuries.

8:08PM

WPR's The New Rules: Qatar World Cup a Return on Investment

 

The decision by FIFA, soccer's world governing body, to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was momentous on many levels, but historic on one key score: Never before has a global sporting event of such stature been awarded to a country so clearly stuck in a "bad neighborhood" like the Persian Gulf, where the potential for large-scale regional war between now and 2022 is far from theoretical. FIFA's decision was bold alright, but it also signals the international community's growing faith in what Gulf Cooperation Council countries like Qatar have achieved in promoting economic and network connectivity with the outside world. You could say that the 2022 World Cup is globalization's way of returning the favor.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

12:01AM

Op-ed in China Daily: "China, US as strategic collaborators"

China, US as strategic collaborators

by Thomas P.M. Barnett

 

The word "war" has been appearing increasingly in American debates about China, with the range of potential venues expanding with each new "intractable" issue that arises. Pile enough of these wooden scenarios atop one another, and eventually someone will strike the match. There will always be self-interested parties eager for confrontation, even though the two countries' peoples seek nothing but peaceful coexistence.

Today we share a world more prosperous and more at peace than at any time in human history, so why are we on this undesirable path? Besides the Cold War and the legacy issues retained to this day (Taiwan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea), there is no historical enmity between our peoples. Since neither situation logically triggers direct military conflict, all of our potential conflicts must be recognized as wars of choice.

An objective examination of globalization's current state and future evolution reveals far more complimentary interests than conflicting ones. As the global financial crisis revealed, China and the United States face shared dangers that must be eliminated - whether we welcome this joint responsibility or not. Neither side's political system presents an ideological threat to the other. Each country's internal structural challenges are its own business or choice, and each will force evolution at a pace its society can handle or demands. Despite these current rumblings, let me tell you why strategic collaboration between China and the US is essential.

In the business world, companies seek partnerships when the proposed relationship is:

  • Critical to a core goal of the enterprise;
  • To exploit a core competency;
  • To effectively counter a competitive threat;
  • To provide flexibility regarding future choices; and
  • To reduce a significant risk.

The US' grand strategy for the past seven decades has been to create the globalization we know today. Our firm belief being that the world is a better and more prosperous place when everybody has an "open door" on trade and investment. This is how the United States of America truly united.

Starting with Deng Xiaoping's historic reform, China integrated its economy with that of the rest of the world, marking the tipping point between an international liberal trade order built on the West and finding completion with the "rest".

But China's participation comes at the cost of a dangerous resource dependency far greater than the US has known. Over time, China's economy will depend ever more on energy and minerals. For now, the US essentially covers that security risk through its global policing role, but that effort is unsustainable. For China to succeed in its core goal of creating a well-off society, globalization must be simultaneously advanced and stabilized.

Sino-US strategic collaboration plays to each nation's current core competencies. China does not have a military with global reach, but the US has one now and it is deeply experienced. Yet the US forces struggle with nation building, while Chinese multinationals clearly excel at creating infrastructure, markets and opportunities for income growth in developing economies. China is also a major contributor of peacekeeping troops to the United Nations.

Today, as the primary face of globalization, the US is targeted by virtually every threat mounted by the enemies of global integration and economic modernization. China has already surpassed the US as globalization's primary integrating force - and inevitably its face too. Irrespective of China's intent, it will become the main target of violent extremists bent on keeping globalization at bay. Today the "long war" belongs to the US; tomorrow it will burden China.

For years I have written of Washington's need to "lock in China at today's prices", meaning the cost of China's cooperation would rise with time. Back then I believed that, without such cooperation, the US' strategic choices would narrow considerably.

That day has arrived, meaning the choice is now China's: lock in US cooperation in safeguarding China's vital global export and supply lines or watch your own strategic choices narrow. Imagine a Middle East regional war years from now that the US chooses not to manage because it's primarily China's energy that's at risk. That burden will be devastating for China.

Thus, Sino-US collaboration on stabilizing less-developed regions mitigates significant strategic risk to both nations. Globalization, buttressed by Sino-US strategic cooperation, cannot possibly fail. But globalization, when divided in spheres of influence, dissolves into zero-sum contests where humanity is the ultimate loser.

About such danger, our collective past speaks clearly to our shared future.

The author is the chief analyst of Wikistrat, an Israeli startup company that offers strategy consulting, and has several books, including Great Powers: America and the World After Bush, to his credit. 

Find the original 12/9 post at China Daily.

COMMENT:  I love the cartoon and will probably have it framed.  I am also getting used to having the word "Israeli" follow my name, which . . . is different.  Actually, I like it in that "I'm Spartacus!" kind of way.  I mean, who doesn't want to be part of an Israeli start-up?

WHERE IT HAS ALREADY BEEN PICKED UP (these being ones my contacts at China Daily found significant):

 

12:01AM

Indian Express on the Sino-American grand-strategy term sheet

Piece by K. Subrahmanyan, a name you might recognize from his frequent publications.

From his Wikipedia entry:

K. Subrahmanyam (Tamil:கிருஷ்ணசுவாமி சுப்பிரமணியம், born 1929) is a prominent international strategic affairs analyst, journalist and former Indian civil servant. Considered a proponent of Realpolitik, Subrahmanyam has long been an influential voice in Indian security affairs. He is most often referred to as the doyen of India's strategic affairs community, and, more contentiously, as the premier ideological champion of India's nuclear deterrent.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Subrahmanyam takes the "G2" approach, assuming the zero-sum outcome for India and the rest of the world.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but one must expect this sort of response.

The Sino-American relationship is central to globalization's success or failure--hard to deny that.  That relationship is not in good shape right now, for a lot of reasons.  Trying to address that cluster of macro-imbalances is a worthy goal, but such effort does not--on the face of it--automatically insinuate the creation of G2, and when that charge is so reflexively slung, you have to say that it tells us more about the provider of the feedback (as in, this is how this proposal makes me feel!) than the effort itself.

It is certainly in some people's best interests to keep the U.S. and China at odds, but I honestly don't believe that to be the case for India, when the facts and trends are viewed objectively.

From his piece ("The return of G-2"), I limit the exerpts more to his commentary than his recitation of the proposal, which--of course--is a work in progress and is already significantly altered as we receive significant feedback here in Beijing.  Suffice it to say, nobody here in Beijing is interested in "G2," even as they are highly interested in a more productive relationship with the U.S. 

Even as President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked of a 21st century world order based on their shared values as leaders of the world’s two largest democracies, a newspaper run by the Chinese Communist Party published a plan for an alternative world order, based on a mutuality of interests between China and the US. It asserted, though, that the article, in the November 22 edition of People’s Daily Online, represented only the views of the authors — who include John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, authors of China and America’s Leadership in Peaceful Coexistence, and Thomas P.M. Barnett, the author of The Pentagon’s New Map, and leading Chinese policy experts.

The article describes the benefits of the grand strategy they propose: “[it] will promote US economic recovery, increase US exports to China, create 12 million US jobs, balance China-US trade as well as reduce US government deficits and debt. Furthermore, it will stabilise the US dollar, global currency and bond markets. It will also enable reform of international institutions, cooperative climate change remediation, international trade, global security breakthroughs . . . 

There is no doubt that while this is not a formal proposal from Chinese official circles; this is kite-flying, to test public reaction in the US. It is possible that the idea is to suggest that the US and China can accommodate each other to mutual benefit — and China shares the US view that a war between two such powers in the 21st century would not make sense. It also holds out certain assurances that China will accommodate the US’s concerns on Southeast Asia as well as on North Korean and Iranian proliferation, provided the US reciprocates on Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, and human rights. The US must also forget down its desire for regime change in North Korea and Iran. And, in return for the US lifting its high-technology trade ban, China will invest $1 trillion in the US, presumably in new technologies, as well as help in balancing trade and enabling the US to manage debt reduction.

But the glaring gap in the proposals is that there is no mention of Pakistani proliferation and Pakistani sponsorship of terrorism. While all the other issues listed by China are important to the US, casualties are being incurred by the US on the Pakistan front, and the US homeland is under threat from Pakistani terrorist organisations that are fielded by the Pakistan army behind the nuclear-missile deterrence shield that China provides to Islamabad. This may have one of two implications: either Pakistan, unlike North Korea and Iran, is not under Chinese influence; or Pakistan, in Chinese strategic interests, is a non-negotiable factor.

There is also no mention of US interests in India — even after the development of the Indo-US strategic partnership. Does this mean that China hopes to wean the US away from its strategic partnership with India, as part of the price for the deal? Or do they hope to frighten India into a non-aligned submission to China’s hegemony over the mainland of Asia (less Asean)?

China’s, and the authors’, value systems are evident from their advocacy that such a Sino-US deal should be outside the purview of the US Congress purview: they say it should be “agreed upon by the presidents of both nations through an ‘executive agreement’ not subject to US Senate ratification.” Surely, now that these ideas have been publicised, the present US president — with two years to go before seeking re-election — will find it difficult to move in this direction, as there will be accusations of his selling out to China.

It is also clear that there are sections in China who are of the view that, just as the US helped China’s rise to second position in the world so that its resources and cheap labour could benefit US multinationals and US consumers — both by way of cheap consumer goods and credit expansion in the US — now the US will help China by releasing high technology, and thereby help themselves, benefiting through job creation and debt reduction. And once China has access to US high-tech, its demographic advantage over the US will ensure it will become the superior knowledge power this century.

A significant number of people in this country imagine that there is an adversarial equation and a conflict of interest between China and the US, and thus, it will benefit India to be non-aligned. This article — published, significantly, on the eve of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to India and Pakistan — holds out the possibility that China thinks it is possible to use the US to attain hegemonic power. Let us wake up to reality!

What to say?

First, the non-inclusion of the Pakistan-India dyad hardly amounts to signaling any desire to leverage this relationship to their collective or singular advantage or disadvantage.  It simply reflects the reality that when people on both sides of the Sino-American dialogue speak to its ups and downs, those issues aren't considered central. Important? Sure.  But not central.  No one is saying that Pakistan and/or India constitute the core of what's wrong or going wrong with the Sino-American relationship right now.  Reflective of it, perhaps, but not among its primary causes.

Noting the suggestion that the proposal be done as an executive agreement (longstanding practice of U.S. presidents for such matters) hardly suggests something extra-constitutional or politically devious.  Just the opposite!  It says we see no purpose in suggesting something on the level of a treaty requiring Senate ratification.  None of this is intended as "law of the land"-caliber stuff:  we simply come to certain understandings that allow an economic rebalancing to proceed.  That is classic, within-the-president's-foreign-policy-purview stuff.  Suggesting otherwise is sheer ignorance of how our political system works and has worked for decades. The economic rebalancing itself would need some political direction from above, but it would be overwhelmingly a private-sector-driven affair.  If you're a U.S. business and don't want any investment from Chinese companies, then don't ask for any and none could ever be forced upon you. From the Chinese side, they simply will not enter into alliances or treaties implying any such commitment, so no sense in supposing such grandiose mechanisms are useful here.  

It's as simple as that.  

Yes, you will get some of this, "the Chinese will own America" fear-factor, but if majority ownership is out of the question (and we don't suggest that--just the opposite), then the question becomes, Should Chinese money flowing into America be used to facilitate even more public debt and welfare payments or should it be put to use putting Americans to work?

I honestly believe that it's much easier to argue that China does a great job of destroying America's competitiveness by enabling our addiction to federal debt right now than it does by being stubborn on the renminbi's value. History (especially past history with Japan) tells us that revaluing the RMB will not solve our trade deficit with China.  We also screw ourselves by restricting high-tech exports to China due to military concerns, because they simply turn around and buy the same from the EU (like most such sanction efforts, we only hurt ourselves in this globalized economy, achieving nothing on the security side).  But somehow we've let ourselves be convinced that China's potential military threat outweighs all such considerations--as if Mutual Assured Destruction somehow gets invalidated in the process!  To me, that's just nuts, or--put more prosaically--bad leadership in Washington.

Again, the proposal is driven by a simple logic:  There is a profound imbalance of easily-accessible investment capital in the world system right now.  China's got a ton and America (and Europe) are somewhat starved by comparison and wracking up unsustainable public-sector debt that is already causing default crises in the EU, soon to be followed by some variant at lower levels of US government (cities, states).  You can judge that dynamic from a lot of angles, but just to say, "Ahah!  Now China has the West in its grips!" is rather silly. China presses its temporary advantage too much in the short term and all those trillions can end up being worth nothing.  Business is about parties and counterparties--as in, you need two to tango.  

Judged objectively, China has let in a lot of foreign direct investment over the past two decades, to the point where majority portions of its exports in certain sectors are actually controlled by foreign firms!  Imagine the U.S. putting up with that?

On the other hand, it's clear that the U.S. has shouldered the bulk of the global policing role over the past two decades.

So in both instances, we need something more balanced, more reasonable, and more sustainable.

This proposal simply begs the question:  if such rebalancing is necessary, what would the nature of such transactions look like if they weren't simply conducted according to America's preferred outcomes but actually reflected a compromise between the U.S. way and world vision and the Chinese way and world vision?

I know, I know. This is kowtowing to those communist Chinese! But more seriously, didn't we just try a long stretch of my-way-or-the-highway BS with Bush-Cheney?  And how well did that work?

How anybody can feel threatened by such dialogue is beyond me, given the seriousness of the current imbalances in the world system and how their solution is in everybody's best interest. Again, let's get our inner FDR on and have some faith in who we are and stop being such wimps on dealmaking.  Our inability to motivate ourselves beyond sopho-moronic internal arguments is our greatest weakness right now.  Oooh wee! The GOP just nailed Obama on tax cuts!  So now we get to extend unemployment benefits while refusing to pay for it.  What a fab signal to send the world!

Honestly, the immaturity factor in Washington right now is almost unbearable to witness.  It's just so embarrassing to endure when you travel abroad--especially in China.  How can we be taken seriously when we act this way?  We are just kidding ourselves if we think no one takes note.

India cannot want a U.S. and P.R.C. turning on each other and destroying globalization in coming years, because India cannot possibly prosper in that environment.  You can say, such a bad thing would never happen, but to me, this is a head-in-the-sand sort of optimism.

The Global Financial Crisis does not disappear simply because of the somewhat successful (less in West, more in East) public-sector stimulus push in the initial phase.  Much of the crisis's underlying causes are simply transmuted into the current/looming sovereign debt crises that worry so many leaders and--quite frankly--a decent chunk of the American middle class as captured in the Tea Party anger (which you can ridicule at your own risk, because history says that, when the U.S. middle class ain't happy, ain't nobody gets to be happy in our political system).

You can also say, China is right to lecture America now on its bad economic behavior.  But such lecturing gets both sides--and the world--nowhere.  For China to expect all the adjustment to happen now solely on America's side is unreasonable, just as unreasonable as the U.S. expecting somehow that all the adjustments should be on China's side.

But the dialogue, as it current stands, consists of both sides talking past each other and hoping that--somehow--this all balances out on its own over time.  I think such a mindset it truly naive.  Both sides have plenty of incentives and reasons not to budge, leaving both with increasingly unpleasant tools/weapons for seeking redress.  I think that pathway is a bad one, and so I got together with the Center for America-China Partnership to change the conversation.

Such an attempt can be criticized from numerous angles, and the Indian Express piece offers one such angle. But we've got to get over the fear of exploring real solutions with real compromises and real adjustments on both sides--simply because it will make others around the world nervous.  That would be the opposite of global leadership, which both countries owe the world right now.

Personally, I will always be warned not to get involved in this sort of manner, because it will cost me my credibility as a strategic thinker.  My response to that logic is, What is the use of being a credible strategic thinker if all you do is sit on the sidelines at such moments?  I hope to leave behind six kids who'll need a strong America and stable world to live and work and prosper within.  I see no reason to amass a reputation (such as it is!) that can suffer no risks.  Geez, anybody who knows me knows how much I like being an unreasonable troublemaker!

I have no fear of altering my positions and vision to fit reality as it unfolds.  I marry myself to as few core interest propositions as possible, because the more you accumulate, the more dead your thinking becomes.  I want America at all times to succeed to the best of its ability in prospering and continuing to shape this world for the better.  I think we do that better than anybody, but I also think our approaches have to change when success/failure stare us in the face (usually at the same time, as we now face the great success of our globalization process AND the addiction to cheap money created by the dollar's standing as reserve currency).  I cannot, for example, logically argue for regime-change in NorKo right now like I did in 2004-05.  The system wouldn't handle it well right now, the Sino-American relationship couldn't handle it right now, and there's just bigger fish to fry.  

You see such vaunted and highly-respected figures like Krugman, Tom Friedman, Niall Ferguson and Zakaria expressing extreme alarm on all these same issues, so this is exactly the sort of nexus where strategic thinking that posits win-win scenarios has to be employed.  Just this week on Zakaria's GPS, Ferguson raised the issue of the EU possibly needing a huge flow of Chinese capital down the road.  So this proposal is in the right zip code even as we hammer out its weaknesses with a steady stream of sit-downs with Chinese experts this week in Beijing.

As for personal risks, you've got to get over that stuff (and yourself, quite frankly).  I don't get 50 lives to test out various pathways for useful application of my ideas.  I get this one, and this one has this big issue staring it right in the face right now, and so I participate with likeminded people in China--none of them perfect and all with their biases, but likewise all with their hearts in the right place. I'm still unduly Catholic:  I prefer to sin first and seek forgiveness later.  

I believe in having your own foreign policy and have said so many times on this blog.  This is the point of being in the field in the first place. If I were good at following the command chain, I wouldn't have gotten fired from the Naval War College and I'd probably being living some quiet existence as a CIA analyst (the organization correctly turned me down in 1990 for having the "wrong personality type"!).  

Frankly, this sort of bold scenario work is exactly why I linked up with Wikistrat.  I want nothing better than to undermine conventional thinking at this point in history, because I believe it to be America's worst enemy in these tumultuous, system-shaping times (the second biggest danger being the lack of competent strategic-thinking counterparties around the world because we've so long been the only country blessed with the strategic means to encourage such strategic thought--a situation changing rapidly before our eyes).  

Personally, I think this is the best time to be in this business--the best time since WWII.

10:00AM

WPR's The New Rules: Globalization, Air Hubs and the City of Tomorrow

H.G. Wells’ futuristic 1933 classic, “The Shape of Things of Come,” predicted a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity’s recovery would depend on the airplane as the primary mechanism for both travel and political rule -- the benevolent “dictatorship of the air.”  The book reflected Wells’ prescient fears of catastrophic world war and his faith in technology’s capacity to tame mankind’s worst instincts.  

A book due out in March entitled, “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next,” is the closest thing to a real-world vision to rival that of Wells. The book, written by journalist Greg Lindsay, is based on the visionary ideas of business professor John Kasarda, a latter-day Wells who dreams of building future cities around airports instead of the other way around.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

9:49AM

WPR's The New Rules: Globalization's Massive Demographic Bet

By calling the Chinese out explicitly on their currency manipulation in his concluding address to the G-20 summit last week, President Barack Obama may have torpedoed his relationship with Beijing for the remainder of what China's bosses most certainly now hope is his first and only term. Burdened by a Republican-controlled, Tea Party-infused House, and bathed in hypocrisy thanks to the Fed's own, just-announced currency manipulation (aka, QE2), Obama seems not to recognize either the gravity of his nation's long-term economic situation or the degree to which his own political fate now hinges on his administration's increasingly stormy ties with China. 

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

9:00AM

WPR's The New Rules: Using China to Scare Ourselves Straight

Judging from the accounts of virtually every pundit, the Chinese emerged as the foreign threat of choice in the just-concluded U.S. elections, with the breakthrough “Chinese Professor” ad being compared by the always-calm James Fallows to such incendiary hall-of-famers as “Daisy Girl” (1964) and “Willie Horton” (1988).  I’m with Fallows:  The exceedingly clever ad represents a crystallizing moment in our increasingly contentious relationship with China, elevating the Chinese far beyond Iran’s mullahs and Osama Bin Laden as the pre-eminent fear-driven threat dynamic motivating calls to get our house in order.

Read the rest of the column at World Politics Review.

9:14AM

WPR's The New Rules: A Zero-Sum Future Doesn't Add Up

Writing recently in the Financial Times, long-time economic journalist Gideon Rachman lamented the passing of a post-Cold War "golden age," in which "countries shared a belief in globalization and Western democratic values." In Rachman's calculation, that consensus has been battered by the global financial crisis, which ushered in a "new, less-predictable era."

Rachman, whose book entitled "Zero-Sum Future" comes out next February, is clearly prepping the literary battlefield by positioning himself as an "anti-Robert Wright." The latter's book, "Non-Zero: The Logic of Human Destiny," argued that human progress has been characterized by -- and thus depends on -- our increasing appreciation for and adoption of cooperative behaviors. So when Rachman predicts more unpredictability, he's really predicting less cooperation and more conflict -- today's currency wars translated into tomorrow's shooting wars.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.