Skypecast: Foreign Policy into 2009 (Audio Content)

Scott and I discuss economics, the global political frame, and the future into 2009.  We begin by discussing a recent fairly grim post of mine (Happy New Year!!!) and then discuss potential creative ways out of the morass.

[Click the links below, pts1 & 2 for the audio.]

foreign-policy
foreign-policy2

Links:

Thomas Barnett post
My apocalyptic post
James Poulos’ Uncrackables
John Robbforeign-policy1

Scott’s post/embedding of the audio (if you have trouble on mine)

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Tom Barnett’s New Book

Barnett’s Trilogy is now complete.  The link here provides the chapter headings for his new book (due out in Feb ’09) entitled Great Powers: America and the World After Bush. This is going to be his most ambitious work to date from the looks of it.  If one is going to have a grand strategy, this is the one it seems to me.  As I said yesterday, I’m increasingly questioning the place or I guess the viability of any grand strategy.  So it’s not that I think Barnett is wrong within the parameters of a grand strategy based on the frame of globalization, global integration, and nation-states, in fact just the opposite.  From within those parameters (social, strategic assumptions) I think he is unsurpassed.  It’s that I question those parameters themselves.

I wonder if there was a time for this strategy,  that being the Bush years.  I guess part of me (not all) questions if in the wake of the wreckage to come though whether the playing field, even the game itself will have so changed that any recommendations based on the logic of a previous game/structural rule patterning, however brilliant (and trust his is nothing if not brilliant) will be simply no longer viable.  Not wrong but simply not on the radar any longer.  Outmoded–or maybe out-timed?.

I’m not saying I’ve gone whole hog in the other direction and given up on something the vision outlined in this book.  i.e. I plan on reading the thing and if I’m wrong about the shape of things to come, then his strategy returns to de facto primary status in my book.  If not, and things do radically shift, maybe it could be re-formulated, re-formatted, elements of it metabolized and re-directed to a different overall theory/paradigm.  Who knows.

Update IThis post from Barnettt today is worth the read.  He makes the strongest case possible that the current crisis demands the kind of strategy he lays out. The crux of which relies on moving China from selling stuff to the Old Core (in his terms, i.e. US, Canada, Europe).  China can not become an overnight neo-US world consumer (nor would I want them to be even if they could which they can’t).  So there is clear agreement across the board that the way forward is not to try to revive the fake US consumer economy of the last 30 years.  Rather it’s a strategic partnership predicated on (in Barnett’s terms) a race to the bottom.  That’s alot riding on China.  Also alot riding on The so-called Beijing Consensus, mangaerial capitalism, neo-Keynesianism, Bad Samaritanism, whatever you want to call it.

Barnett links to this article in the Asian Times for background on this idea which states:

The goals of the partnership should be to:

  • Support China’s internal development by re-orienting export flows towards China and other emerging economies from the United States and other industrial countries.
  • Transfer technologies and other expertise to the emerging economies.
  • Make the emerging economies partners in the recovery of American asset prices.
  • Hang on to your hats, it’s gonna be a wild ride. There is no predicting (seems to me) what comes out on the other side.

    Some Apocalyptic Thoughts for Monday Afternoon

    Warning:  This is some very disturbing analysis.  I hope I’m 100% wrong on this one.  I’ve also thought the scenario I outline below was possible for 2009 but through the end of October/early November, I thought it still somewhat remote.  I’m less confident and increasingly pesimisstic about the potential for this scenario to be very real, very much in play (more and more likely by the day it seems as of now with no wise leadership or counter-movements to help block the momentum).  So be warned.  I’m not in the business of fear-peddling or fear-hyping, but these are dark thoughts.  There are not the only ones within my brain, but I have been appalled (even fairly cynical me) by the responses across the board to this crisis and the sense that there is no Wizard behind the curtain.

    I’m increasingly growing very disturbed by the way global events are proceeding.  A chain of potential explosions across the grid of the globe looks frighteningly more plausible by the day.  Meanwhile the US media is caught in wonderful tales of some pathetic Illinois Governor and a dude launching his foot wear. Here in Canada it’s about the potential of a coalition government.

    All of which still assume a top-down model of power, a kind of view of the stability of large scale social organization that may all be swept away.  Reading the newspapers and frankly much of the blogosphere is becoming an increasingly useless exercise for me.  Particularly when it comes to political discussion:  left, right, libertarian, progressive, blah blah.  All of those discussions are assuming the continued existence in some form or other or our social-technological cultural foundations.

    To me its increasingly as if reading the news in the ancient ziggurat/city-state culture a few months before Alexander the Great came conquering across Eurasian and installed the Hellenistic world and swept away the decaying, crumbling previous world era.  Like I said some apocalyptic thoughts.

    The economic story would go like this:  the American consumer is dead and has been flogged to the breaking point of exhaustion.  Who then is going to buy all those Asian products?  Who can they sell their wares to?  The Asian economies contract leading them to stop buying the commodities across the Global South (esp. Latin America and Africa) that have led to that bubble (see the mass decrease in the price of oil recently).  Huge deflationary movements across the global simultaneously.  Much more rapidly and the fragility (i.e. non-redundancy) of the global platform system bleeds out.

    As Niall Ferguson in his epic The War of the World, the great catacylsm and spasm of violence across the globe emanating from Europe during the 20th century (First War, Second War, Cold War) consisted of the inter-locking reality of the three “E”s:  empire, economics, and ethnicity.  Empire being the death of imperial systems.  See the decline of the US.  Also with all the talk of the coming Asian Century (rise of India/China), this could all be swept away by the economic meltdown.  The Asian Century that wasn’t in other words.  Still-born Asian Century.  The vacuum created by the implosion of economic and imperial systems, is filled by ethnic hatreds that flare up to the consternation and shock of many who assume a cosmopolitan order of peace and security (all fine when the economy and governance is roughly holding up).

    The most likely early hot spots of ethnic hatred is the band of the Middle East (Lebanon, Iraq, Kurdistan, Iran, Syria???, through obviously Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India).  Other increased zones of violence would be Gap-status countires in the Western Hempishere (on smaller scale but still bloody).  Revived narco-fueled wars across Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador, southern Mexico.  Other ranges of violence: The Horn of Africa (another Somalia implosion on the horizon) as well as violence across the middle band (Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, and potential flare ups again in Congo).

    The massive de-leveraging must continue and the question is only whether the end of the fall (which has at least 9 months, probably 12 to 24 to maybe even 36-40 to go. who the hell knows at this point) will end us worse than the build up.  Exposed, exhausted, and de-legitimized.  The space of de-legitimization to be filled by ethno-nationalistic movements across the board.

    With the breakdown of nation-state systems (orange and blue in Spiral colors), comes a mass re-reddifying both in memetic coloring and potentially in real blood, merged with increased technological capacity (global platform) plus increased cognitive flexibility and complexity however merged to earlier moral/social systems. Roving bands of pirates (e.g. Somalia), terrorists (e.g. Mumbai), criminal networks (coming here already to Vancouver in preparation for the 2010 Olympics, particularly the global sex slavery/human chattel trade) counteracted by potentially increased technocratic elites holding onto whatever power they can, as civil libertiese erode due to the inability to come up with a worldwide republican security theory, class lines harden in the post-industrial societies, the social contract of the 20th century continues to break down (ask Ford, GM, Chrysler) as the Nation-State gives way to the (increainsgly predatory?) Market State.

    Ferguson forget a fourth E:  Environment.  As in environmental degradation/destruction as a potential accelerant to the fire of the other three.  Something along the lines of Diamond’s Collapse scenario.

    The idea that an infrastructure stimulus will jump start the US economy out of this bog seems increasingly detached from reality for me.  At the pace things are moving, if the wave swells become large enough, it isn’t going to matter, as it could all be swept away by the mega-forces aligning at the moment.

    Like I said, God how I hope I’m  completely wrong on this one.

    Skypecast: Integral Politics (Audio Content)


    integral-politics-pt1

    Click the link above for a discussion of integral politics between Scott and I–the first in what we are hoping will be a series.  We had a technical glitch or two (per our usual) but is I believe worth the listen [I’m of course biased on this subject :)]

    A whole mess ‘o links for those interested:


    Ken Wilber:  (Basic Summary of his Model).  Video Introduction to Politics through his Philosophical Lens.
    Ha Joon Chang (The Economic Developmental Piece):  Here and here.
    Thomas Barnett (The Brief):  Here, here, here, and here.  Barnett’s map here:

    Spiral Dynamics:  Here and Pt. 1 of an 8 part series of shorts that show each level of development (all 8 are on youtube).

    China Going Keynesian

    This is big news:

    SHANGHAI — China on Sunday announced a huge economic stimulus package aimed at bolstering its weakening economy and perhaps helping fight the effects of a global economic slowdown…The package, announced by the State Council Sunday evening, is the largest economic stimulus effort ever undertaken by the Chinese government and would amount to about 7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product during each of the next two years.

    Robert Reich is calling for the same thing in the US.

    China’s growth rate is going to take a big hit this year.  The 10-11% growth rates are going to be culled to about 5-7% and they clearly understand what is going on–worldwide recession. What Reich calls calls a mini-depression.  And hoarding will take place without big outlays (while Bush, Hoover-like dithers about) on the scale the Chinese have going for them.

    As Yglesias points out:

    It’s worth noting that ability to do this is one of the things that responsible budgeting gets you. During boom times, China amassed budget surpluses and built up reserves. Now, during a downturn, they’re able to respond with a huge spending initiative at a time when (a) such spending is needed to keep the economy going, and (b) the downturn makes it cheaper than it would otherwise be to complete such projects.

    Unfortunately, in the United States the rules governing state and local budget practices essentially ensure that the reverse will be done. During boom times, tax revenues rise and governors respond by combining tax cuts with spending hikes and watch their popularity soar. During a downturn, revenues fall and balance budget requirements force them to reduce services, scale back planned projects, and raise taxes, all of which has the impact of making recessions worse than they otherwise might be and ensuring that infrastructure projects are undertaken at the time when it’s most expensive to build them.

    Alternatively we could start an unnecessary war and cut taxes for the rich.

    China’s Inferiority Complex

    Excellent short article in Newsweek by Orville Schell.  Key quote:

    This proud prickliness has deep historical roots that involve China, the West and even Japan. As I argue in the current New York Review of Books, the most critical element in the formation of China’s modern identity has been the legacy of the country’s “humiliation” at the hands of foreigners, beginning with its defeat in the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century and the shameful treatment of Chinese immigrants in America. The process was exacerbated by Japan’s successful industrialization. Tokyo’s invasion and occupation of the mainland during World War II was in many ways psychologically more devastating than Western interventions because Japan was an Asian power that had succeeded in modernizing, where China had failed.

    This inferiority complex has been institutionalized in the Chinese mind. In the early 20th century China took up its victimization as a theme and made it a fundamental element in its evolving collective identity. A new literature arose around the idea of bainian guochi—”100 years of national humiliation.” After the 1919 Treaty of Versailles cravenly gave Germany’s concessions in China to Japan, the expression wuwang guochi—”Never forget our national humiliation”—became a common slogan. To ignore China’s national failure came to be seen as unpatriotic. Since then, China’s historians and ideological overseers have never hesitated to mine the country’s past sufferings “to serve the political, ideological, rhetorical, and/or emotional needs of the present,” as the historian Paul Cohen has written.

    Read the whole thing.  Due to this historically aggrieved sense and the Olympics as THE moment in the Chinese minds of restoring national greatness/showcase to the world, he thinks this is not the time for a protest which would only confirm their (quasi-paranoid?) suspicions and lead to a massive retrenchment of autocratic power.  I tend to think he is right.

    On a related note, the PM of Canada Stephen Harper has been the only Western leader (I”m aware of) to stay home.  Maybe the Chinese President and/or Premier won’t come when we host the next ones (Vancouver, Winter Olympics 2010).

    Published in: on July 28, 2008 at 8:29 am  Comments (1)  
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    Chinese Intellectuals

    Video discussion on ForeignExchange with Mark Leonard, author of the new book What Does China Think?

    Leonard has opened up the Western press to the previously unknown world of Chinese intellectual debate–political, economic, and social. Absolutely mind blowing.

    You can read a summary of his book in this article for Prospect.

    Some highlights:

    –Arguments between a Chinese “New Right” (think Grover Norquist and economic libertarians) calling for the weakening of the already de-centralized Chinese government and a Chinese new left (social contract/progressive wing not like an old statist Left).

    –China as the World’s Globalizer (and pusher of vision for globalization contra the US?):

    As it creates these zones, Beijing is embarking on a building spree, criss-crossing the African continent with new roads and railways—investing far more than the old colonial powers ever did. Moreover, China’s presence is changing the rules of economic development. The IMF and the World Bank used to drive the fear of God into government officials and elected leaders, but today they struggle to be listened to even by the poorest countries of Africa. The IMF spent years negotiating a transparency agreement with the Angolan government only to be told hours before the deal was due to be signed, in March 2004, that the authorities in Luanda were no longer interested in the money: they had secured a $2bn soft loan from China. This tale has been repeated across the continent—from Chad to Nigeria, Sudan to Algeria, Ethiopia and Uganda to Zimbabwe.

    –In foreign policy, battles between liberal internationalists (the Chinese versions of Fareed Zakaria in a sense) and their own neo-conservatism (what Leonard calls neo-commies)