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Re: Has China Become an Ally?
by John Gulick
27 October 2002 23:29 UTC
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Regarding the Liberthal article posted by Boris Stremlin, what do WSN list 
members think of the following set of (very crudely formulated and very 
hastily scripted) propositions ?

1) More and more, the U.S. foreign policy establishment recognizes that the 
EU (most notably the continental EU countries) poses the greatest threat to 
the sustenance of its global pre-eminence. The Euro currency bloc presents 
the biggest challenge to U.S. seignorage privileges. France and Germany are 
the leading opponents of Bush and company's muscular interpretation of the 
full spectrum dominance doctrine (epitomized by its stance on regime change 
in Iraq). The EU states are playing hardball on various trade and investment 
(US steel tarrifs, agricultural subsidies, tax breaks for overseas TNC
affiliates, etc.). The EU states still embrace models of mature capitalism 
and corporate governance somewhat at odds with the U.S. neo-liberal and 
shareholder value models. The left wing of the political class in the EU 
states (unlike the Democrats in the U.S.) is sympathetic to the 
anti-Washington Consensus claims advanced by non-core NGO's, social 
movements, and electoral parties (in fora such as Porto Alegre).

2) The softening position of the U.S. toward the PRC is driven by the 
growing awareness of 1). To oversimplify, the hegemonic power has decided to 
extend its cooperative ties w/one of its putative rivals (the PRC) in order 
to outflank the EU states which are no longer behaving like pliant junior 
partners. All in all, this makes a lot of
sense, for both the CCP elites and the U.S. The fate of the CCP elites
depends in large part upon social stability in China, which in turn depends 
in large part on continued high rates of economic growth, which in turn 
depends (at least for now) in large part on 1) guaranteed access to U.S. 
markets, 2) continued high rates of FDI (much of it U.S. FDI), 3) 
predictable and cheap flows of Persian Gulf oil, for which only the U.S. 
Navy can supply "security." The U.S. knows just how dependent the CCP elites 
are on U.S markets, U.S. FDI, and the global reach of the U.S. military, and 
hence feel comfortable engaging China as a hedge against souring relations 
with the EU states. Also, the U.S. realizes that because of the historic 
antagonism b/w China and Japan, it need not fear a self-contained currency, 
trade, and investment bloc intertwining China and Japan. It can continue to 
deal with each of them bilaterally, rather than having to deal with an 
undiplomatic united front (contra the case of the EU minus the UK). At the 
same time, just to assure the complicity of the CCP elites, the US has to 
apply a certain amount of pressure: it must maintain its ambiguous stance on 
Taiwan, hew to its position on national missile defense, present itself as 
the "solution" to the "problem" of North Korean nuclear capability, and so 

3) As these reshuffled geopolitical and geoeconomic contours in the world 
system take shape, Russia is the wild card. The eastward expansion
of NATO was about driving a wedge between the EU and Russia, reinforcing 
both the EU's reliance on U.S. military protection, and
the post-Soviet ruling class' reliance on the Wall Street/Treasury complex 
for concessionary loans, a place to stash ill-begotten money from the 
privatization plunder, and so on. But just as the US tried to use NATO 
expansion as a means for interrupting a horizontal alliance between the EU 
and Russia, Putin today is attempting to take advantage of the widening 
U.S.-EU rift as a lever to secure favors from both. I suspect that the 
likely invasion of Iraq will push Russia more decisively into the EU camp (a 
preview of this, of course, is French-Russian collaboration over the wording 
of the UN resolution).

4) Here is a novel contribution I have to make: the deepening of relations 
b/w the U.S. and the PRC will be one of the factors further pushing Russia 
into the EU camp. The novelty of my argument is this: the deepening of 
U.S.-PRC ties is predicated on the commitment of CCP elites to the deepening 
of neo-liberal economic restructuring. While the latter may continue to 
yield the GDP growth necessary for the CCP's
political legitimacy, it will also exacerbate the uprooting of the
peasantry, and the joblessness of the state-owned enterprise labor force. 
These effects may not be severe enough to undermine social stability in the 
country as a whole, but they will be experienced most acutely in Northeast 
China, because of the predominance of "inefficient" (by capitalist market 
standards) grain growers and heavy industry in this region. Far East Russia 
borders Northeast China and will absorb heavy migration streams of displaced 
peasants and SOE workers, piquing local resentment about the "Chinese 
threat," resentment that will be transmitted westward to Moscow. To 
speculate wildly, I suspect that Bush naming North Korea as a member of the 
"axis of evil" and the recent leak about developments in the North Korean 
nuclear program has something to do with justifying enhanced U.S. military 
presence in the region, such that coming cross-border tensions between China 
and Russia can be steered in the direction of U.S.-Chinese and hence U.S. 

5) The prospect of a nation-wide insurgence by Chinese peasants and workers 
exceeds the prospect of an EU-Russian alliance as a threat to
U.S. hegemony (just as a successful Taiping Rebellion might have
hastened the end of British hegemony 150 years ago). It is impossible to
know if this will or will not happen, but what is relatively certain is that 
the current model of Chinese development (to which the CCP elites and 
increasingly U.S. ruling groups are wedded) is riven with fundamental 
environmental contradictions that will eventually stem increases in the mean 
standard of living (measured both quantitatively and qualitatively), which 
may or may not translate into mass social and political upheaval.

John Gulick

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