The G20 summits are nominally about how the world’s biggest national economies can cooperate to boost global growth. This year’s gathering – more than ever – shows, however, that rivalry between the US and China is center stage.
Zeroing in further still, the rivalry is an expression of a washed-up American empire desperately trying to reclaim its former power. There is much sound, fury and pretense from the outgoing hegemon – the US – but the ineluctable reality is an empire whose halcyon days are a bygone era.
Ahead of the summit taking place this weekend in Argentina, the Trump administration has been issuing furious ultimatums to China to “change its behavior”. Washington is threatening an escalating trade war if Beijing does not conform to American demands over economic policies.
President Trump has taken long-simmering US complaints about China to boiling point, castigating Beijing for unfair trade, currency manipulation, and theft of intellectual property rights. China rejects this pejorative American characterization of its economic practices.
Nevertheless, if Beijing does not comply with US diktats then the Trump administration says it will slap increasing tariffs on Chinese exports.
The gravity of the situation was highlighted by the comments this week of China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, who warned that the “lessons of history” show trade wars can lead to catastrophic shooting wars. He urged the Trump administration to be reasonable and to seek a negotiated settlement of disputes.
The problem is that Washington is demanding the impossible. It’s like as if the US wants China to turn the clock back to some imagined former era of robust American capitalism. But it is not in China’s power to do that. The global economy has shifted structurally away from US dominance. The wheels of production and growth are in China’s domain of Eurasia.
For decades, China functioned as a giant market for cheap production of basic consumer goods. Now under President Xi Jinping, the nation is moving to a new phase of development involving sophisticated technologies, high-quality manufacture, and investment.
It’s an economic evolution that the world has seen before, in Europe, the US and now Eurasia. In the decades after the Second World War, up to the 197os, it was US capitalism that was the undisputed world leader. Combined with its military power, the postwar global order was defined and shaped by Washington. Sometimes misleading called Pax Americana, there was nothing peaceful about the US-led global order. It was more often an order of relative stability purchased by massive acts of violence and repressive regimes under Washington’s tutelage.
In American mythology, it does not have an empire. The US was supposed to be different from the old European colonial powers, leading the rest of the world through its “exceptional” virtues of freedom, democracy and rule of law. In truth, US global dominance relied on the application of ruthless imperial power.
The curious thing about capitalism is it always outgrows its national base. Markets eventually become too small and the search for profits is insatiable. American capital soon found more lucrative opportunities in the emerging market of China. From the 1980s on, US corporations bailed out of America and set up shop in China, exploiting cheap labor and exporting their goods back to increasingly underemployed America consumers. The arrangement was propped up partly because of seemingly endless consumer debt. ...
Read the whole article @ the Strategic Culture Foundation