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Pepe Escobar, The Tao of Containing China

6:39 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Chinese President Xi Jinping

China is poised to embrace global capitalism under Xi Jinping.

Yes, the predictions are in.  By 2016 (or 2030?), China will have economically outpaced the U.S.  So say the economic soothsayers.  And behind them lie all those, in the Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington, who secretly fear that, if nothing is done to contain it, China will within decades be dominant in the Pacific, the overlord of Asia, and perhaps later in the century the — to steal a phrase — “sole superpower” of planet Earth.

The first signs of things to come, it’s believed, are already there, including the way China has been building up its military and has started nudging its neighbors about a set of largely uninhabited islands in energy-rich areas of the Pacific, not to speak of recent more informal claims to a large, heavily inhabited, very militarized island in the region — Okinawa.  Like the previous global superpower, China, it is believed, has designs on turning the Pacific into its own “lake” and possibly even setting up military and other bases (“a string of pearls”) through the Indian Ocean all the way to Africa.

It’s a great story, but hold your horses!  As that peripatetic reporter for Asia Times and TomDispatch regular Pepe Escobar indicates in today’s vivid plunge into China’s roiled waters, that country faces potentially staggering problems.  After all, contradictions — to use a classic Marxist word — abound: a Communist Party leading a capitalist revolution with its own stability as a ruling elite dependent, above all, upon ever greater economic growth.  And yet this isn’t the nineteenth century.  China is on an imperiled planet.  Every economic move it makes has potentially long-term negative consequences.  For all we know, there may be no twenty-second-century superpower on planet Earth and if there is, don’t necessarily count on China.

As Escobar explains, to spur the staggering levels of growth that keep the country and the Party afloat, the Chinese leadership is embarking on a kind of forced urbanization program that may have no historical precedent.  It is guaranteed to destabilize the countryside, while yet more peasants flood into the cities.  It’s seldom acknowledged here (though the Chinese leadership is well aware of it) but China has a unique, almost two-thousand-year-long record of massive peasant uprisings (often religiously tinged) sweeping out of the countryside and upsetting established rule.  The last of them was Mao Zedong’s peasant revolution that established the present People’s Republic.

Mass protest in China has been on the rise.  Environmental conditions are disastrous.  Let the Chinese economy falter and who knows what you’ll see.  This is not a formula for an expansive imperial power, no less the next master of planet Earth, whatever Washington’s fears and militarized fantasies may be. Tom

The Chimerica Dream
Two Nations, Two Dreams, One Pacific
By Pepe Escobar

Sun Tzu, the ancient author of The Art of War, must be throwing a rice wine party in his heavenly tomb in the wake of the shirtsleeves California love-in between President Obama and President Xi Jinping. “Know your enemy” was, it seems, the theme of the meeting. Beijing was very much aware of — and had furiously protested — Washington’s deep plunge into China’s computer networks over the past 15 years via a secretive NSA unit, the Office of Tailored Access Operations (with the apt acronym TAO). Yet Xi merrily allowed Obama to pontificate on hacking and cyber-theft as if China were alone on such a stage.

Enter — with perfect timing — Edward Snowden, the spy who came in from Hawaii and who has been holed up in Hong Kong since May 20th. And cut to the wickedly straight-faced, no-commentary-needed take on Obama’s hacker army by Xinhua, the Chinese Communist Party’s official press service. With America’s dark-side-of-the-moon surveillance programs like Prism suddenly in the global spotlight, the Chinese, long blistered by Washington’s charges about hacking American corporate and military websites, were polite enough. They didn’t even bother to mention that Prism was just another node in the Pentagon’s Joint Vision 2020 dream of “full spectrum dominance.”

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Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Next War?

7:44 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

"Senkaku" Island

Could disputes over largely uninhabited islands like this one lead to war?

Once upon a time, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping suggested that Asia’s Pacific powers and wannabes should “put aside differences and jointly develop resources.”  That was, of course, when China itself was still something of a wannabe and no one was talking about it becoming the world’s largest economy.  Now, it’s the rising power on planet Earth, achieving a more-than-century-old dream of returning to national greatness — as well as an eye-blistering, health-endangering level of industrial and car pollution that has its own name, “airpocalypse.” Problem is the idea of regional cooperation turns out to have been the real dream and now, it seems, everyone in the Pacific basin has woken up.

“Jointly develop?” What an ephemeral thought at a time when the urge to power up ever more cars and factories (sending yet more pollution, not to speak of greenhouse gases, into Asian and planetary skies) has merged with advances in drilling technology for “extreme energy.”  Together, they have made a series of previously unremarkable islets in the Pacific — which just happen to have prospective oil and natural gas reserves under them — look too valuable to resist claiming. So China, Japan, and various other Asian countries are insisting those bits of land are theirs and theirs alone.  Toss in that hideous imponderable national pride and, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare points out today, you have the potential for one of the dumber, more destructive face-offs in recent history.  With its usual fabulous timing, the U.S., already heavily garrisoning parts of Asia, has jumped in with both feet, only exacerbating tensions in the region, while promising to bring more of its own weaponry to bear, and sell more of that weaponry to its allies.

As Klare, author of the invaluable The Race for What’s Left (just out in paperback), indicates, this couldn’t be more ludicrous.  After all, China, Japan, and the U.S. are so economically intertwined that one can’t twitch without the others suffering.  In other words, any kind of conflict among them is bound to make mincemeat of their collective economic wellbeing.  In fact, last October, after a confrontation over some of those islands, angry anti-Japanese protests and calls for boycotts of Japanese goods swept China.  The uproar briefly closed Japanese plants in that country, took a bite out of Japanese car sales, and knocked down Japanese stock prices.  Japan’s economy took a serious hit as well, which should surprise no one since China has recently pulled ahead of the U.S. as that country’s major export market.  All of this, until tamped down, threatened the wellbeing of the global economy, and yet it was a mere hiccup in terms of what might be coming.

What better argument could there be for self-interested cooperation in the Pacific, if only anyone in the involved countries, including ours, were actually walking the walk, instead of just intermittently talking the talk? Tom

Powder Keg in the Pacific
Will China-Japan-U.S. Tensions in the Pacific Ignite a Conflict and Sink the Global Economy?
By Michael T. Klare

Don’t look now, but conditions are deteriorating in the western Pacific.  Things are turning ugly, with consequences that could prove deadly and spell catastrophe for the global economy.

In Washington, it is widely assumed that a showdown with Iran over its nuclear ambitions will be the first major crisis to engulf the next secretary of defense — whether it be former Senator Chuck Hagel, as President Obama desires, or someone else if he fails to win Senate confirmation.  With few signs of an imminent breakthrough in talks aimed at peacefully resolving the Iranian nuclear issue, many analysts believe that military action — if not by Israel, than by the United States — could be on this year’s agenda.

Lurking just behind the Iranian imbroglio, however, is a potential crisis of far greater magnitude, and potentially far more imminent than most of us imagine.  China’s determination to assert control over disputed islands in the potentially energy-rich waters of the East and South China Seas, in the face of stiffening resistance from Japan and the Philippines along with greater regional assertiveness by the United States, spells trouble not just regionally, but potentially globally.

Islands, Islands, Everywhere

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