Flemming Ytzen’s comment to the previous article is important, however it is built on hope that China will behave differently from all other great imperial powers when under pressure of circumstances. The country will start as a mainly economic imperial state – as was England in many parts of the world until mid 19th Century.
Reading China as fundamentally different is not new. In the 1970’s its military behaviour on the borders was diagnosed as fundamentally defensive in character, the use of military force triggered by others and always limited, something that was based on the contemporary analysis of the Korean War 1950-53 and the Indo-Chinese Border War 1962. To put it mildly, the 1979 Chinese invasion of Vietnam undermined this interpretation of the country’s strategic behaviour. So did the new history writing about all aspects of Chinese politics during the Mao years, underlining not only the extreme arrogance and brutality show by the Chinese leadership towards not only the ethnic minorities, but against the Han Chinese. The costs i human lives dwarfed even the efforts of Stalin and Hitler.
I must read very positive evaluations of future Chinese policies as generally naive and ahistorical, most likely founded on a combination of necessary hopeful optimism and the liberal’s bad conscience about Western imperialism and colonialism.
With the ever-growing pressure on the limited ressources of the world from water over energy to minerals and the track record of Chinese actions to employ all necessary means to gain and keep control, I find it hard to see any difference between the actions of the former expanding Western empires and China. Only look at the country’s management of the water from the great Himalayan rivers, in the power play keep exclusive control of off-shore ressources and the policies in Africa and new mineral exploitation possibilities in places like the naively governed Greenland.
The only current limitation is the relative military inferiority that will last only a few years as the collapse of Western power as a result of the lack of economic ability to sustain or replace the forces is fast approaching. In Europe the next few years will bring full disarmament of over-seas expeditionary capabilities.
What will happen all over the West is now well illustrated by the developments in southern Europe. Collapse of production and the earning of foreign currency with an increasing part of the population that depend on government money as pensioners or as white collar public positions. The only parts of the economy that benefit from globalisation are the multinational companies including banks that no longer invest in the West and the agriculture that has been deeply rationalised and mechanised. These sectors can only employ a very small of the national population. Neither are able to form a stable foundation for state revenues. Unwillingness to work in hard or boring jobs themselves, the Western populations have imported workers from low income areas as sailors, farm and domestic jobs and for restaurants and hotels that add to the draining of currency and add little to state income.
Rising energy and mineral prizes as well as import of nearly all finished industrial products means a quickly worsening trade balance. The ever diminishing state income means that they try to cover the expenses with foreign loans, bridging to a post-crisis period that never comes. After some time the lenders get worried and the state bond interest rates rise to an unsustainable level. The states are then forced to cut state expenses, an effort that with further diminish the state revenues. Non-essential expenses such as the maintenance of military forces will be cut early, soon to be followed the all types of public services and subsidies. The ability to maintain infrastructure, import energy and goods will wither away and the populations rather spoiled trough decades will react with social unrest.
In some places the reaction will be to reduce taxes and thereby accelerate the undermining of state functions – without any hope of regaining competitiveness. Others will try heavier taxation to finance the repayment of loans and the maintenance of state activities – only to fail due to the disappearance of money to tax.
That bleak future is a result of Western naivity and ignorance of its own history, including recent history. In delirious hubris at the ‘End of History‘ we adopted raw capitalism as God and Molok, uncritically subordinating any political control and management to the assumed blessings of the ‘Market‘.
We are left without other options than to hope that Flemming Ytzen’s assumed authoritarian but civilized Chinese imperial power will allow us room for rebuilding our societies after the collapse and troubles of the coming decades.
It is now an open question to what extend the results of the progress of Western political civilization – in the Renaissance, during the Enlightenment, in the two decades prior to the First World War and after the Second World War – will survive to the benefit of all humanity: the rights of the invidual, the power balance and social contract between government and citizens of the democracy, the norms and limitations of international war. Both Flemming Ytzen and I know that even if Chinese political culture and norms commits the official to clean and just administration, the current practice is rather arrogant and corrupt, and the rulers only react by sacrificing some of those caught to symbolic execution.