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Whither America? -- or how to be happy in the twilight of an empire Options
Luftmarque
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 10:37:44 AM

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I'm just about finished reading When China Rules The World by Martin Jacques. His prose can be a little dry and repetitive, but the main points he makes are IMNSHO perfectly valid. So I'm gearing up to learn Mandarin and, in fact, quite looking forward to living out my remaining years in a declining nation. It also seems clear to me that the majority of Americans are living in denial, viewing our current fiscal meltdown as some sort of temporary aberration to be corrected in the near future rather than the writing on the wall. We seem to think we're still the nation of wealth-creation when in fact China has all the savings and we have all the debt. People don't seem to realize that our global power arose from historical circumstance rather than some sort of god-given destiny or that our military supremacy is based on our wealth and subject to decay as our economy declines. Western civilization is not (has never been) the only game on the planet and, Bush administration fantasies notwithstanding, the future is not going to be the completion and culmination of the spread of European values over the entire planet. In fact, I see democracy in the U.S. as being in crisis--I would, if viewing the country from the vantage point of Mars, consider the U.S. to be "politically unstable" at this point, lurching from an unpopular and failed doctrinaire right-wing administration to the election of a black Democratic president to the sullen abandonment of his administration before it was a year old.

We seem capable of making very superficial grand gestures in the direction of some of our traditional values without being able to stomach any of the serious and difficult choices needed to turn around the economy, or provide health care for our citizens, or prevent ecological catastrophe. I just hope we end up somewhere close the Canada model--lots of musicians and actors to export, modest aspirations, contentment (or at least that's my idealized version of the Canada model).

So tell me where I'm wrong here. (Or you could, I suppose, just enthusiastically agree.)
man in black
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 10:57:51 AM
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From the perspective of an outsider, I believe you are much right in what you believe. All empires have an end and the States is approaching its ending at a gigantic stride. The problems is like you said that most of its citizens do not realize that fact and are either truly gullible or they simply prefer to be cheated and not face the dire signs.
Margarit Bamllari
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 11:32:15 AM
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Luftmarque wrote:
I'm just about finished reading When China Rules The World by Martin Jacques. His prose can be a little dry and repetitive, but the main points he makes are IMNSHO perfectly valid. So I'm gearing up to learn Mandarin and, in fact, quite looking forward to living out my remaining years in a declining nation. It also seems clear to me that the majority of Americans are living in denial, viewing our current fiscal meltdown as some sort of temporary aberration to be corrected in the near future rather than the writing on the wall. We seem to think we're still the nation of wealth-creation when in fact China has all the savings and we have all the debt. People don't seem to realize that our global power arose from historical circumstance rather than some sort of god-given destiny or that our military supremacy is based on our wealth and subject to decay as our economy declines. Western civilization is not (has never been) the only game on the planet and, Bush administration fantasies notwithstanding, the future is not going to be the completion and culmination of the spread of European values over the entire planet. In fact, I see democracy in the U.S. as being in crisis--I would, if viewing the country from the vantage point of Mars, consider the U.S. to be "politically unstable" at this point, lurching from an unpopular and failed doctrinaire right-wing administration to the election of a black Democratic president to the sullen abandonment of his administration before it was a year old.

We seem capable of making very superficial grand gestures in the direction of some of our traditional values without being able to stomach any of the serious and difficult choices needed to turn around the economy, or provide health care for our citizens, or prevent ecological catastrophe. I just hope we end up somewhere close the Canada model--lots of musicians and actors to export, modest aspirations, contentment (or at least that's my idealized version of the Canada model).

So tell me where I'm wrong here. (Or you could, I suppose, just enthusiastically agree.)


Yes Lufty,

I sadly agree with you. On everything what you say. US government has never been able to address big problems of the economy, never tried to integrate lower classes of American society (african – mericans, hispanics, veterans), going for unjust wars around the world, religion indoctrinating people and leaving everything on the mercy of Corporate America's hands.

And we still keep saying: We are the greatest nation on earth!?!?!?

Well done my friend.
oxymoron
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 11:34:58 AM
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As an Englisman living in the UK I too see the United States in decline. That said on hearing the majority of Mr Obhama's state of the union speech, can we have him when you are done with him please? His oration was of Churchillian magnitude in both delivery and concept, to be admired. They (americans) must be overjoyed they have a president who can construct sentences and even speak them coherently. I wonder when my little islands goverment is going to realize that we too are no longer a power too be reckoned with; we hven't been for the last century, but they still cling on to the "special relationship" (alledgedly) and USA's coat tails and delude themselves we are.
oxymoron
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 11:40:00 AM
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Were we not in Iraq, Afghanistan, they could deliver a reasonable pension one could live on, instead of eat or heat, the state of affairs which is now endemic with pensioners in the United Kingdom.
martyg
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 12:18:46 PM
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in defense of the usa, for sure we're not perfect. but after the original post, all the comments were from countries outside of the usa. well then, compared to europe and the piigs countries, we are in great shape. also, as far as the right to speak your mind, that's not up for debate. throw china and russia on that pile. again, not perfect but everything in life is relative.

also, when the most democratic state in the usa, massachusetts, disowns the kennedy and obama mystique and takes along new jersey and virginia then it's time for people not living in the usa to consider that there is another side to their opinion story.
Margarit Bamllari
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 12:30:42 PM
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martyg wrote:
in defense of the usa, for sure we're not perfect. but after the original post, all the comments were from countries outside of the usa. well then, compared to europe and the piigs countries, we are in great shape. also, as far as the right to speak your mind, that's not up for debate. throw china and russia on that pile. again, not perfect but everything in life is relative.

also, when the most democratic state in the usa, massachusetts, disowns the kennedy and obama mystique and takes along new jersey and virginia then it's time for people not living in the usa to consider that there is another side to their opinion story.


American living abroad temporarely. Besides, one does not necessarily have to be american to expres his/her opinion and those opinions should be listened when there are too many of them.

Spitting upward, it will fall in your face.
HWNN1961
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 12:49:54 PM
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I think it is too early to write the obituary for Uncle Sam. Rumors of his demise are thus far greatly exaggerated!

If you look at our history, Americans tend to go right to the brink of disaster before they face their problems. We'll eventually, with some painful decisions, solve our debt problems.

Consider:

Back in the 1980's the USA was going to be dethroned as world leader by Japan. Japan stagnated for 20 years, and the US boomed.

In the 1970s there was a fear that the Soviets were going to prevail with the US mired in stagflation and military and social decline following the Vietnam war. The Soviet system crashed and the Berlin Wall came down.

Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely worried about our current prospects, but here is why I doubt that the US will be replaced by China:

1. China's economic growth is not sustainable. They are turning the interior of their land into a vast and growing desert. If global warming continues, water supplies from Himalayan glaciers to the Western parts of their nation will dry up. The Gobi desert is growing rapidly. Agriculture will suffer. And, as always happens, the world will simply push back against a flood of Chinese exports.

2. China does not innovate, the political and social climate there does not foster an open exchange of ideas. Much like the Soviets had to borrow technical advances and breakthroughs via industrial and military espionage, the same is true of China. I will add one caveat to this. While the US is still a leader in science and technology, the decline of our space program concerns me greatly. Still, a paranoid and authoritarian state will not lead the world in the marketplace of ideas. USA maybe replaced, but it won't be by China anytime soon.

3. The world does not want to be lead by China...her neighbors distrust her: Japan is wary, Southeast Asia will never forget the periodic invasions from their giant northerly neighbor.

-While the US may often be guilty of hypocrisy when our lofty values don't match our deeds, we do strive for standards of human rights and humanitarian assistance. The Chinese are crass and single-minded in their pursuit of economic hegemeny, they make no pretense of altruism or of championing the greater good. The are in it for the money. If they ever achieve world dominance, the "Ugly Chinaman" will make the "Ugly American" look like a saint.

Keep perspective. The US economy boomed for nearly a quarter century. Now we have a lingering recession. My gut tells me that we'll bounce back.

Will the future world be dominated by one Superpower?? No, that was an anomaly growing out of the vacuum of left by the Soviet crash. It was bound to be temporary. The USA will be a strong nation, but not the only one.

The future is multi-polar.
Raparee
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 1:19:22 PM

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I'm pretty fond of HWNN1961's take on things. The US is in a bad place right now, that's for sure, and I do think it will have to get worse before it gets better. In general, I put it this way: I'm proud of what she was and could be, proud of what she stands for, but not exactly proud of what she currently is.

We're reaching a breaking point and how we respond to that will determine our place in the world. There have to be some major changes and they will be painful, but mostly, they will be painful for big business as they simply cannot keep ripping every penny from the working and poor classes.
MarySM
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 2:22:52 PM
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I am proud to be a citizen of the US but I think that our ethnocentrisms could result in the demise of this country. Simply waving a flag and proclaiming this to be “the greatest country in the world” does not make it reality. We have a long way to go to get back to where we were at one time. I am convinced that we must start by putting our money and time into educating our youth and if we don’t we are doomed.

President Obama is a refreshing change from the previous President who embarrassed the United States in front of the entire world with his ignorance. However progress is very slow and I was counting on the country being a little better off by now.
avatar
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 2:25:55 PM
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I think the USA decline started some time after WWII, with the increase in consumerisim/materialism and the national over-confidence kindeled by victory and prosperity.

The latter emboldened the USA and some of its leaders to overestimate the role it/they were to play and the influence/power it/they had to have over other nations or people. It led to such excesses as McCarthyism, Hooverism, the Vietnam war, the failure of democracy in the 2000 presidential elections, the unjustified Irak war, etc.

People of other countries have been aware of USA's decline for a long time: others can see us more objectively than we see ourselves.

But it's in the nature of history: all empires have declined at some point, be they territorial, political or economic, when they became too big to sustain themselves. So the USA will decline in power, but we'll still be around, more humble, more respectful, more reasonable, enriched by the experience (the lessons of history).

BTW, I think not enough attention is given to history in our high-school. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", and we have, to our detriment.
TL Hobs
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 3:44:30 PM
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If you only look at the worst of any phenomenon it is easy to condemn it.
Geeman
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 5:49:56 PM

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China is going to be very interesting to watch over the next 20-40 years. However, I'm not convinced that they will "rule the world" at the end of that time. While I do think they will have the world's largest economy pretty soon, you really have to consider that it isn't the size of an economy that matters... it's the amount of it that is disposable that is the important thing. That is, a large economy that is dedicated to maintaining a population the size of China's is going to be tied up in keeping the population from going all Revolutionary (again) and that's a lot of resources to dedicate to civil concerns.... Plus, China has some pretty fundamental political/social issues to deal with if the country is going to continue on its present rate of growth. Some pretty drastic changes are going to have to happen soon, or the population is going to start getting rowdy. Somehow I doubt that kind of social change is going to happen without some serious economic backsliding.

But, we'll see. I could be completely off on my reading of China's future. I wouldn't be surprised if I am....

With that said, it's important to note that some pretty powerful forces have taken over in the U.S. They are, for the most part, opposite forces from those that are holding China back. In our case, they are leaching from our economic and civil rights, or otherwise perverting out liberties. Those things are going to have to be dealt with in order for the U.S. to return to its place of prominance on the world stage.

Like HWNN1961, I feel obliged to point out that this kind of prediction has been made before. In fact, it smacks of the same dire, doom and death prognostication that leads to people getting all freaky about 2012. One of the most sure-fire ways of getting a book to sell is to predict the end of the status quo, so for the past 50 years that means predicting the fall of the U.S. Personally, I find most of the arguments to be a regurgitation of the same stuff people said about the British Empire, the French hegemony under Napolean, etc. None of these crypto-Nostrodamuses ever write a book ten years later entitled "Sorry About That: An Author Acknowledges His Stupidity".
Mr. Montag
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 7:09:26 PM
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I know I said I wouldn't post here anymore. I plan to stick with that, but the response here from Margarit Bamllari, well I couldn't just sit and ignore it.

I agree with many here on the state of America, and do not dispute why the perception is there. Although America has never been a real empire, more like an extension of a formerly grand one (The British).
In many ways, IMHO, America broke from many of the bad habits of the old world empires, including massive colonizations. Yes, the expansion west happened, but specifically I mean outside "her" boarders. Now onto the issue I have with what Margarit said, and I quote:

"everything what you say. US government has never been able to address big problems of the economy, never tried to integrate lower classes of American society (african – mericans, hispanics, veterans), going for unjust wars around the world, religion indoctrinating people and leaving everything on the mercy of Corporate America's hands."

And we still keep saying: We are the greatest nation on earth!?!?!?

Well done my friend.

First of all, you state you are from Albania, so I assume you are talking from the perspective of Americans with that "greatest nation on the earth" quote.
As an example of why America is great however, consider the computer network you are typing over. I won't spell that one out.

Now, to take issue with your specific claims, and falsehoods: America has taken great strides, both as a society (bottom up individuals and groups) and top down (Federal/State government) to integrate minorities into society. In fact, many people think that some minority groups would be doing better today if the Federal government hadn't perpetuated a virtual welfare state (public housing, food stamps, etc,) since the civil rights era of the 1960's. America has probably done more than any nation on earth to try and "integrate" the outsiders. America was built on this prinicpal, and has grown from it. To say otherwise completely and factually ignores the historical record. The current economic condition of the US infact, in large part comes from trying to do too much from too little, and not adapting to the current global economic reality of today's world. You said we haven't integrated Veterans. Again, totally false.
The post WWII- GI bill educated an entire generation of former military for economic stability that helped build the middle class. Even today in tough times, veterans are cared for greatly, again from a bottom up, and a top down perspective. I could go on and on, but before you dance too loudly on America's grave, we've been down before, and we've always gotten up. It's the IDEA of America that changed the world. Good people will find a way to make that idea work again. America may not always be the top economic power, or the top military power, but WE will always be a great nation. Nations have their limits, and nationalism needs to be tempered with goodwill towards others, but at the same time, I'll stand for America, thank you very much.
merkaba
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 8:59:05 PM
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It is my opinon America's economy is where it is at by design.Boo hoo!
Tovarish
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 9:15:20 PM
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There are a few inherent character traits in Australia.

1 Don't kick a (man) country when he is down.
2 Stick up for your mates.
3 A strong fighting spirit, especially when told your out/past it/ or can't etc
4 In tough times you know who your friend are.
5 Give everyone a fair go.

The population of the US must have realised that continually fighting the world's wars/police actions/peace keeping missions, was coming at an enormous cost. ENTER another topic on the United Nations, here please.

Come on you Yanks, show the guts you are famous for.
I heard President Obama speak at the Address to the Nation, and I would have been proud to have a man like that leading my country.

I don't think Australia is on the US's coat tails at all, just mates.
peterhewett
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 10:35:06 PM
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An interesting post I think and for some an emotive topic. Mark suggests that the USA is in decline as a world power. It is a fact of historical record, isn’t it that powers wane and wax.

There are two main planks that contribute to maintaining a position as the World Power: Economic and Military. There are of course other factors, as we know, such as human resource and its mobility, education and technical knowhow etc.

Economically, to some degree, I think most folk would agree with Mark's conclusion. However it is not as simple as it appears.

Contrasting the rising power of China’s economic wealth and potential, with the position of the USA, one has to take in to account things such as intrinsic wealth.
The USA is intrinsically wealthy. Wealthy in land, it is the most food rich country in the world. Food will play a more and more important role in the world in years to come. In contrast, although China’s agricultural output is the highest in the world… it needs to be with 1.3billion to feed… it only has at most 15% of its land viable for growing crops, some argue that it is a low as 7% but this seems to be an error

Water is vital to agriculture isn't it, and China has serious problems with water... with the distribution of water and its pollution… arsenic poisoning for one, leading to a decline in aquifers.

Energy is a problem for China. There are frequent ‘power brown outs’ and demand is rapidly rising.


Infrastructure . There are huge problems here and China’s money has not really reached the interior as yet

At present The USA’s economic turnover is in the region of 14 billion, and China’s 4 billion. China however has to feed 1.3billion people. The US is in debt and China is cash rich, but this has to set off against intrinsic wealth of the USA and the issue of water population and energy in China... etc.

Nevertheless economically, at present, China is on the rise and the US is on the decline. Logic demands that, given advancement and the size of their populations,that either China or India will be the economic world power of the future or they will be a dual economic world power. Your cake needs to be bigger to feed more since you have to share with more, don't you.

Militarily Gone are the days when a world power was judged as powerful according to the size of its army. Korea boasts an army of over a million strong, but is hardly a world power. The advent of atomic and nuclear power has changed the criteria. I wonder if there can ever be a world power again in the sense of military might. A world bloc of powers… yes. So in the sense of military might I doubt that China will be the world power. In terms of weaponry… yes… but that is cancelled out in some respects, unless one envisages a conventional war under the umbrella of nuclear weapons, with opposing forces not daring to unleash these weapons.


I think the age of one super power either economically or military is what has passed.
Geeman
Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010 11:35:23 PM

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peterhewett wrote:
There are two main planks that contribute to maintaining a position as the World Power: Economic and Military. There are of course other factors, as we know, such as human resource and its mobility, education and technical knowhow etc.

Thanks for elucidating these things, especially since you did it with demonstrably more care than I did....
Brenster
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 12:35:12 AM
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Agreed Tovarish - I'm glad to be an Australian!

I noticed this statement from an earlier reply to the topic.....
"You said we haven't integrated Veterans. Again, totally false. The post WWII- GI bill educated an entire generation of former military for economic stability that helped build the middle class. Even today in tough times, veterans are cared for greatly, again from a bottom up, and a top down perspective."
It would have been wonderful (NOT!) to have completed a 'tour of duty' in Vietnam, conscripted, only to go home to the U.S. to be treated almost as an enemy of the state. I'm sorry Mr Montag, I simply don't agree.
Tovarish
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 12:48:09 AM
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Well done peter,
Twilight of an empire, sounds awfully Roman to me, rise and fall and all that. They that don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it etc etc. That that goes up must come down. If we keep going we will probably decide Nostradamus foretold it too.

Isaac Samuel
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 12:57:52 AM
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In order to remain pre-eminent in all our undertakings, we write manifestos for Democracy and Human Rights for the world to follow—from war to peace—and aggressively market them under that pretext.Some buy them and some don't—who, we call them enemies.

We invent Pseudoscience and Myths to flummox people to stimulate economy.

We produce weapons of destruction for the entire world and market them overtly and covertly but we call it afoul when Iran and Iraq (not Israel) produce weapons of destruction for their defense.

We call the suicide bombers as radicals but fail to see that we cause radicalization.

We write play-books for Military and Civil courts and mete out justice to suit us.

We delude ourselves by personalizing liberty and freedom as though they are exclusively endowed upon us.

China doesn't vie to trounce America, nor has any desire to emulate it, because they are not to its advantage.

I don't foresee America biting the dust in the near future but I hate to see It feign success to the disdain of many countries and getting emasculated and thereby relegated.
Brenster
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 1:20:47 AM
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Thank you Isaac Samuel, a person from the States giving a balanced perspective. Kudos.
Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 2:19:35 AM

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What a thoughtful balanced set of responses to this topic! I'll attempt to keep Mr. Jacques' ideas in mind as I consider them in order of posting and reply—mostly to those who disagree with my premise (any errors in my responses are of course my responsibility, and most likely anything I get right will be attributable to the book)…

man in black, posting from Cuba, got me thinking about an attitude that misinforms our attitudes towards China—the notion that all Communist countries are alike and that they must all inevitably tend to the same fate as that of the Soviet Union. The coincidence of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Tienanmen Square in the same year lulled us into thinking that Communism was soon to be a thing of the past. Well, Cuba is still going its own way, and there was never that much similarity between Communism in the U.S.S.R. and in China, the Chinese never attempting to "take over the world" and being much more pragmatic in their diplomacy than the Soviets. The obverse side of this misinformed attitude lumps all the world's democracies into the "good guy" group and ignores the enormous differences among them. As can be seen by the horror felt by many, in this forum and the real world, for the other developed democracies' acceptance of socialized medicine, there is much room for different approaches within the framework of elected government. Japan is a good example of a government that, while nominally "democratic" has really had a one-party system in place since the end of WWII. But we (in America) count them in the list of countries that are "like us" or evolving to be more like us. In fact, in East & South Asia only India has a democracy.

oxymoron writes from the little island who lost its empire as we were starting ours, but which, as he points out, may have been able to avoid fully facing that cold fact by attaching itself to a "special relationship" with the USA, which it could, with some justification, view as a child country in a way. BTW, I love the phrase "eat or heat."

martyg: 1. I like to think that I'm not attacking America, thus no need for defending her here. I'm attempting to understand the "facts on the ground" as it were. Understanding the situation we find ourselves in can only be a good thing, right?
2. What is a "piigs country?" I've heard the acronym BRIC countries, for "Brazil, Russia, India, China" but can't come up with what PIIGS could stand for.
3. I take your point about Massachusetts electing a Republican for "Kennedy's seat" to be evidence in favor of my "the USA is politically unstable" hypothesis.

Hmmm, there's so many good responses I'll have to split up my responses, what fun!
Margarit Bamllari
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 2:27:35 AM
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avatar wrote:
I think the USA decline started some time after WWII, with the increase in consumerisim/materialism and the national over-confidence kindeled by victory and prosperity.

The latter emboldened the USA and some of its leaders to overestimate the role it/they were to play and the influence/power it/they had to have over other nations or people. It led to such excesses as McCarthyism, Hooverism, the Vietnam war, the failure of democracy in the 2000 presidential elections, the unjustified Irak war, etc.

People of other countries have been aware of USA's decline for a long time: others can see us more objectively than we see ourselves.

But it's in the nature of history: all empires have declined at some point, be they territorial, political or economic, when they became too big to sustain themselves. So the USA will decline in power, but we'll still be around, more humble, more respectful, more reasonable, enriched by the experience (the lessons of history).

BTW, I think not enough attention is given to history in our high-school. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", and we have, to our detriment.


Applause Applause Applause Applause Applause
Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 2:29:21 AM

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HWNN1961 says
I think it is too early to write the obituary for Uncle Sam. Rumors of his demise are thus far greatly exaggerated!
If you look at our history, Americans tend to go right to the brink of disaster before they face their problems. We'll eventually, with some painful decisions, solve our debt problems.

Well, our history is pretty short, especially when contrasted with the 5000 years of China, but I'll concede the point that problems have to get pretty bad before we pay attention to them.

Consider:
Back in the 1980's the USA was going to be dethroned as world leader by Japan. Japan stagnated for 20 years, and the US boomed.

I detect some conflation of the concepts of "economic leader" and "world political leader" here (correct me if I have misrepresented you). Jacques had an interesting take on what happened in Japan: that they accomplished everything they set out to after WWII, achieved economic success, and then had no idea what to do next.

In the 1970s there was a fear that the Soviets were going to prevail with the US mired in stagflation and military and social decline following the Vietnam war. The Soviet system crashed and the Berlin Wall came down.
Did anybody seriously believe that the "Soviets were going to prevail?"

Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely worried about our current prospects, but here is why I doubt that the US will be replaced by China:
1. China's economic growth is not sustainable. They are turning the interior of their land into a vast and growing desert. If global warming continues, water supplies from Himalayan glaciers to the Western parts of their nation will dry up. The Gobi desert is growing rapidly. Agriculture will suffer. And, as always happens, the world will simply push back against a flood of Chinese exports.

Jacques would agree with you that their current rate of economic expansion won't last, the question being how far do they get before it slows down. And he also makes your point that China is resource-poor. But they're doing an excellent job of partnering with countries in Asia & Africa to get their resources. As for "pushing back" against exports, the cheap prices of Chinese goods have had significant benefits for the consuming countries (isn't this how capitalism is supposed to work?) and imposing tariffs won't be cost-free.

2. China does not innovate, the political and social climate there does not foster an open exchange of ideas. Much like the Soviets had to borrow technical advances and breakthroughs via industrial and military espionage, the same is true of China. I will add one caveat to this. While the US is still a leader in science and technology, the decline of our space program concerns me greatly. Still, a paranoid and authoritarian state will not lead the world in the marketplace of ideas. USA maybe replaced, but it won't be by China anytime soon.
Well, that depends on the timescale of your frame of reference. China was innovating sooner and better than any European country (as they will be happy to point out). But I know what you mean. For me, personally, an open exchange of ideas is paramount. I wouldn't want to lose my Google, for instance. But I don't think Jacques meant to say that China would be the world leader in everything, just that its economy will be overwhelmingly the largest and that its political influence will be of corresponding size.

3. The world does not want to be led by China...her neighbors distrust her: Japan is wary, Southeast Asia will never forget the periodic invasions from their giant northerly neighbor.
Are you suggesting that the world does want to be led by the USA? That may be taking other nations' acceptance of the fact of America's power and influence as some sort of aspiration to be just like us, for which the evidence is lacking. You are, of course, quite correct about Japan not showing much love for their big neighbor. The same goes, to a lesser extent, for Taiwan. But Jacques points out that, prior to the disruption of the "tributary" system by the arrival of the European powers, China and her neighbors had a long-lived, peaceful system in place—not one of equals to be sure—in which even Japan was a participant (albeit a rather distant and somewhat recalcitrant one). He also gives lots of evidence, beyond the raw fact that China is now the leading trade partner of every country in East & South Asia (with the exception, I think, of India), of China's increasing ties to its neighbors, including, interestingly, Australia and New Zealand.

-While the US may often be guilty of hypocrisy when our lofty values don't match our deeds, we do strive for standards of human rights and humanitarian assistance. The Chinese are crass and single-minded in their pursuit of economic hegemeny, they make no pretense of altruism or of championing the greater good. The are in it for the money. If they ever achieve world dominance, the "Ugly Chinaman" will make the "Ugly American" look like a saint.
One of Jacques' themes is that the Chinese have long had a deep sense of cultural superiority, combined with some pretty strong racist assumptions. So you may be in agreement with the book here.

Keep perspective. The US economy boomed for nearly a quarter century. Now we have a lingering recession. My gut tells me that we'll bounce back.
Will the future world be dominated by one Superpower?? No, that was an anomaly growing out of the vacuum of left by the Soviet crash. It was bound to be temporary. The USA will be a strong nation, but not the only one.
The future is multi-polar.

And here you, I, and Mr. Jacques all agree. India is likely to be in the top three as well. But which position will the USA be in?
Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 2:57:31 AM

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TL Hobs wrote:
If you only look at the worst of any phenomenon it is easy to condemn it.
I'm not condemning anything.

Geeman wrote:
China is going to be very interesting to watch over the next 20-40 years. However, I'm not convinced that they will "rule the world" at the end of that time.
I'm pretty confident that, like most authors, Mr. Jacques didn't pick his own book's title. Its provocative tenor seems to me to be designed to attract attention and sell the book. In fact, he suggests that China has never had anything like "ruling the world" as a goal, they've been more inclined rather to define the "world" or at least the important part of it as China itself. He points out that Zheng Xe's (spelling? I'm not sure & I took the book back today) voyages as far as the East coast of Africa, somewhat before Columbus's and in ships about four times larger, were intended to introduce other people to the superior Chinese culture and to foster trade. They captured no slaves, created no colonies.

Mr. Montag wrote:
In many ways, IMHO, America broke from many of the bad habits of the old world empires, including massive colonizations. Yes, the expansion west happened, but specifically I mean outside "her" borders.
Mr. Jacques rightly points out that America did not need to make any "outside" colonizations precisely because she had natural resources available on the continent and was able to substantially eliminate the inhabitants. So I wouldn't say we broke the bad habit, just expressed it in a different way. I don't think anyone would deny that the USA can be seen as an extension of the developments and background of Western Europe.

peterhewett affirms that two aspects of world power are economic and military (others we might consider are culture and language). I would again point out that the first is a precondition for the second (unless, of course, we turn to organized piracy as a new way of getting by). It was America's manufacturing ability that won World War II, more than any other factor. Our undeniable military superiority ain't free. Peter would find Mr. Jacques to be in agreement about the problems China will face with basic resources (although I was just reading where they are quickly becoming the largest manufacturer of "green" power technology), and also in agreement about the disparity among regions in China, with a substantial percentage of the population still going to be rural for quite some time. He describes this as "being both a developing and developed country at the same time." In the same vein, he considers the different regions of China to be so different that a better analogy for China, as a "civilization-state" rather than a "nation-state," is the European Union.
peterhewett
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 3:25:09 AM
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There is another factor regarding China's future position which as yet has gone unsaid. It is this: The likelihood of power moving away from the centre.

On the occasion of the Tiananmen Square massacre the rulers of the Party ( CCPP), almost lost the centre of power. They ordered a brigade of soldiers to fire on their fellow Chinese and they refused. Subsequently a force from outside Beijing carried out the orders.

It seems highly unlikely that this political arrangement will survive the fast pace of change and the burgeoning power of the regions or provinces. The Authorities have a major struggle on their hands to hold onto the centre of power.

There is much unrest in China that we never hear about and it appears from the, often paranoid, reaction of the Chinese leaders that they are afraid of their populace. The most likely outcome or scenario seems to be that a system of autonomous states will appear, thereby allowing the party to hold on to the centre.

Alternatively there will be a forced breakup.

The ruling powers that be in China, it seems to me, are often forced to make change. They set their economy, a market economy whatever they like to call it, on a fast track. The economic train is speeding up and effecting inevitable change in its wake. It is like have two discordant bedfellows.

The problem is how to effect change while keeping China Chinese and holding the centre of power.

There are so many variables that it would be a wise person who forecast with certainty

Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 3:33:26 AM

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peterhewett wrote:
There is another factor regarding China's future position which as yet has gone unsaid. It is this: The likelihood of power moving away from the centre.

As a counter-argument, Jacques would say that the Chinese culture has no history of the state, be it a Confucian-based dynasty or Communist government, being forced to share power with any other group in the way the European kings and governments had to cede areas of control to religion and merchants. And he does point out to a mechanism they have used occasionally when the rulers have grown unstably apart from the ruled: the loss of the "mandate of heaven" and replacement by some other group more in tune with the times.
peterhewett
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 3:52:07 AM
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Yes Mark, but every system has its day even if that day be long... even a long Chinese day.

My take is that either China will break up, or it will devolop a system of autonomous states or provinces under the centre of power.

The Chinese will not forever put up with the cruelties, injustices and tight control that the centre holds. They are an intelligent, industrious people and are learning fast. They have put fear into their leaders.

Banging the drum of nationalism or national pride becomes hollow after a time. I am not suggesting China should follow the West ... that would be arrogance and folly since it takes no account of culture or history.

The Chinese are already ceding power. Shanghai has great powers and troubles the centre.
Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 3:53:51 AM

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OK, just two more points and then I'm off to dreamland (or perhaps off to read a chapter in a biography of Evelyn Waugh*).

1. I notice some recent Australian posters among the recent spate of new members†. Would any of you like to comment on Jacques' assertion that all of China's neighbors including you guys and New Zealand are getting closer to her these days? Now I wish I still had the book so I could take another look at his chart of China's trading partners.

2. Another thought on military power: the USA seems to be simultaneously in the position of having military power entirely out-of-scale with any plausible use and of not having the sort of military power it can successfully field against the scattered non-state enemies we do have‡. That's a (financially) ruinous position to be in.

And we haven't begun to consider the cultural and linguistic aspects of an ascendant China! OK, there are three!, three more points I have to make…

3. Unlike the Euro-centric culture that permeates the currently dominant world-order, Chinese culture presents us with an entirely different set of assumptions and values of which we will have to become increasingly cognizant—among which are the lack of any religion with anything like the influence Judeo-Christianity has. To me, that's certainly a plus. Then there's the language thing. How much does not having an alphabet affect one's cognitive world? I have to think that the effect is major. Another reason to learn Mandarin. I think that Colorado State has Summer Intensives in Chinese, must start saving for tuition now (and, of course, to save more money I'd better overcome my revulsion to Walmart, which leads us back to where we started).


* I know, sometimes I read my posts here and have to wonder: am I really all that fey? Well, I'm certainly all that random and elliptical, that's well-established. But this is still my one true outlet for having fun with prose.
† Which spate is a welcome development in my mind. And say, where in Sam Hill is fred these days? Not that I want to start up another "whatever happened to ?" thread, especially given fred's preference for privacy.
‡ In the movie The Hurt Locker (excellent film BTW which just came to Comcast On-Demand) one of the sergeants expresses disdain for the line of high-tech tanks they pass on their way out of their base in Iraq as being of no use whatsoever in the conflict, that they might be good to have just in case a surprise Russian tank brigade crossed the border. The other sergeant says that, in any case, he'd rather be on the side with the tanks.
Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 4:02:44 AM

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peterhewett wrote:
Yes Mark, but every system has its day even if that day be long... even a long chinese day.

My take is that either China will break up, or it will devolop a system of autonomous states or provinces under the centre of power.

The Chinese will not forever put up with the cruelties, injustices and tight control that the centre holds. They are an intelligent, industrious people and are learning fast. They have put fear into their leaders.

Banging the drum of nationalism or national pride becomes hollow after a time. I am not suggesting china should follow the west ... that would be arrogance and silly since it takes no account of culture and history.

The Chinese are already ceding power. Shanghai has great powers and troubles the centre.

Now I think you should read the book, as he discusses these ideas at length. He thinks they have a long history of pragmatic tolerance of different ways in different regions, that the "one nation, two systems" stuff put in place for Hong Kong was nothing new. He specifically talks about the "system of autonomous states or provinces" as being classic Chinese "tributary-system" behavior and quite likely to be a repeated pattern. One of his constant themes is that China is not really a "nation-state" at all, that it's a "civilization-state" closer to the European Union than to a traditional Western "nation." Of course, you live a lot closer to the events we're discussing so I am most interested in your take on things.
peterhewett
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 4:14:54 AM
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The book sounds interesting and I may be able to get it here. Do you have an ISBN no?

There is yet another factor that has sprung to my mind. The death, or should I say watering down, of cultures in our modern age and shrinking world. One may no longer be able to use past patterns with any certainty to paint future scenarios.

Most cultures are disappearing fast and it is as if they have all been thrown into one pot and a similar stew is emerging with traces of old ways clinging to the whole. So while there are differences in each serving the whole is very similar.

Margarit Bamllari
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 5:12:15 AM
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Mr. Montag wrote:
I know I said I wouldn't post here anymore. I plan to stick with that, but the response here from Margarit Bamllari, well I couldn't just sit and ignore it.

I agree with many here on the state of America, and do not dispute why the perception is there. Although America has never been a real empire, more like an extension of a formerly grand one (The British).
In many ways, IMHO, America broke from many of the bad habits of the old world empires, including massive colonizations. Yes, the expansion west happened, but specifically I mean outside "her" boarders. Now onto the issue I have with what Margarit said, and I quote:

"everything what you say. US government has never been able to address big problems of the economy, never tried to integrate lower classes of American society (african – mericans, hispanics, veterans), going for unjust wars around the world, religion indoctrinating people and leaving everything on the mercy of Corporate America's hands."

And we still keep saying: We are the greatest nation on earth!?!?!?

Well done my friend.

First of all, you state you are from Albania, so I assume you are talking from the perspective of Americans with that "greatest nation on the earth" quote.
As an example of why America is great however, consider the computer network you are typing over. I won't spell that one out.

Now, to take issue with your specific claims, and falsehoods: America has taken great strides, both as a society (bottom up individuals and groups) and top down (Federal/State government) to integrate minorities into society. In fact, many people think that some minority groups would be doing better today if the Federal government hadn't perpetuated a virtual welfare state (public housing, food stamps, etc,) since the civil rights era of the 1960's. America has probably done more than any nation on earth to try and "integrate" the outsiders. America was built on this prinicpal, and has grown from it. To say otherwise completely and factually ignores the historical record. The current economic condition of the US infact, in large part comes from trying to do too much from too little, and not adapting to the current global economic reality of today's world. You said we haven't integrated Veterans. Again, totally false.
The post WWII- GI bill educated an entire generation of former military for economic stability that helped build the middle class. Even today in tough times, veterans are cared for greatly, again from a bottom up, and a top down perspective. I could go on and on, but before you dance too loudly on America's grave, we've been down before, and we've always gotten up. It's the IDEA of America that changed the world. Good people will find a way to make that idea work again. America may not always be the top economic power, or the top military power, but WE will always be a great nation. Nations have their limits, and nationalism needs to be tempered with goodwill towards others, but at the same time, I'll stand for America, thank you very much.


I didn’t state nowhere I am from Albania. Where did you read it? Probably you refer to my profile.

Your attempt to draw the common one way American – non American line does not help the case in question at all. Besides, I find your arguments not quite convincing and unsubstantial.

The way I read your comment is that we both are concerned about the present situation of the US but from different viewpoints. While some are trying to reveal the real problems which got us in this mess, the others are trying to conceal them at best. I think you should read again my posting and comment the rest of it.

Margarit Bamllari
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 5:31:56 AM
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Brenster wrote:
Agreed Tovarish - I'm glad to be an Australian!

I noticed this statement from an earlier reply to the topic.....
"You said we haven't integrated Veterans. Again, totally false. The post WWII- GI bill educated an entire generation of former military for economic stability that helped build the middle class. Even today in tough times, veterans are cared for greatly, again from a bottom up, and a top down perspective."
It would have been wonderful (NOT!) to have completed a 'tour of duty' in Vietnam, conscripted, only to go home to the U.S. to be treated almost as an enemy of the state. I'm sorry Mr Montag, I simply don't agree.


Mr Montag was commenting on my posting. That's exactly what I meant. From Vietnam War and all the way up till the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today one in four veterans is homeless.
Tovarish
Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 5:38:34 AM
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Peter, you seem to have excellent insite into China. Just a couple of things I have noticed you may be able to enhance for me, please.

When there was a terrible earth quake & land slide, with buildings collapsing, one building collapsed on a kindergarten.There was reports of building officials allowing sub-standard structures?.People connected with this tragedy were interviewed, and commented very badly on the government.I was astounded that Chinese people were brave enough to say anything contrary about the Government/Party.

There must have been an enormous change in the peoples confidence since Tianamin, 1989.
There has been a thread commenting on the connection of the Australian & New Zealands Governments with China. There is enhanced trade with China, mainly in minerals. Although the Rio-Tinto arrests of their managers has worried investors.

Also of concern is the money invested into our Pacific Islands by China. Some of these countries are very poor and I am sure the investments are welcome, But what is expected in return?
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