The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewTom Engelhardt Archive
Michael Klare: Is a War with China on the Horizon?
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

There’s no other imperial tradition like it. For two millennia, dynasty after dynasty rose and fell, spread and shrank, reaching into Southeast Asia and far out into the steppes of Eurasia, its commercial fleets — 3,500 ships in the fourteenth century — voyaging as far as Africa. It’s true that ours is a remarkably westernized and, more recently, Americanized version of history that has left little place for the tale of imperial China, but what a history it had. It wasn’t known as the “Middle” or “Central Kingdom” for nothing. And now, of course, it’s back, a new “dynasty,” even if it goes under the more modern rubric of a “communist” state. The latest version of imperial China has a growing military and plans to create a trillion dollar “One Belt, One Road” infrastructural grid of pipelines, rail lines, highways, and other links of every sort across significant parts of Southeast and South Asia, as well as the former Central Asian “stans” of the Soviet Union and Iran, a future grid that’s meant to reach all the way to Europe. At least in the expansive dreams of China’s new rulers, such a network of infrastructure would bind a vast world of trade and wealth to Beijing.

It’s a vision that should take your breath away and, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare writes today, it has indeed done so in at least one key precinct of this world of ours: the Pentagon. There, China’s One Belt, One Road vision is being greeted not with enthusiasm but with anxiety and consternation. The military of the reigning superpower, the last one, the only one, is increasingly unnerved by the latest version of a Chinese dynasty and responding in ways that should make all of us anxious. Klare describes the obvious dangers that could flow from an American urge to militarily contain the latest version of the Middle Kingdom, as a new great power rivalry rises on a planet that’s been bereft of them for more than a quarter of a century.

Unfortunately, when you’re looking at the long record of China and the shorter but distinctive one of that last superpower, history can’t offer us any clues about one thing: What does it mean to have a new and rising power on a planet that shows every sign of itself going down? What does it mean for two powers to face off, both of whom stand a significant chance of seeing some of their major coastal cities flooded and destroyed in the century or less to come? What exactly is the point of it all?

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, China 
Hide 28 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. jim jones says:

    I`m sure the Japs would love another go at China but I think we should let the Germans and the Russians have first crack at Beijing.

    • Replies: @BLI
    , @Albert Mesrine
  2. c matt says:

    Problem is the Germans’ and Russians’ approaches are more carrot, and Uncle Sam’s is more stick. That stick better be big enough to whack Moscow, Berlin and Beijing at the same time.

  3. myself says:

    I am honestly not sure what the article is getting at.

    I don’t think the author is suggesting actual violent conflict be instigated by the United States to slow down China’s economic rise.

    China, for its part, is already fully aware, and have been for decades, that the U.S. would like nothing better than to have China shoot first and use that as an excuse to use military force. Not gonna happen, China’s leadership is too smart, and too long-term in its thinking. If America wants war, we’ll have to start it ourselves.

    What precisely does warfare and warmaking have to do with responding to a rival’s trade and economic initiatives? And more importantly, how exactly does such aggression work, down on the ground, as it were?

    What exactly is a military response to the Belt and Road Initiative? I know . . . launch carrier-based air strikes against the railroad depots, bridges, freeway interchanges, civilian ports and airfields being built by China across Eurasia and Africa! We’d incur the enmity of not only China but the relevant populations and states who would benefit from the investments – but hey, so what?

    Maybe a series of special ops assassination raids or regime change projects to take out governments across Eurasia (Russia, the Middle East, Central Asia), South East Asia, Africa, and even swathes of Latin America! Yeah, uh huh.

    I mention all this because the article cited the Pentagon. The Pentagon. The military can at most play a VERY minor role in the possible U.S. response to China’s BRI. No way the Pentagon can be the lead agency.

    If the author had cited the State Department, the Commerce Department and so forth, I could well see the logic of a U.S. response involving these organizations.

    Diplomacy, trade and economics – these are the tools that are effective in this context.

    • Agree: Godfree Roberts
  4. The Belt And Road initiative is just an obviously silly uneconomic boondoggle, as with most of the stuff the CCP plows funny money into. China is most a huge pile of bad debt that’s going to blow up, not a rising super power.

  5. Yee says:

    Can’t see the point of America’s “containment” of China. It’s just a waste of efforts.

    China is roughly the size of Europe, twice the population, in one country. If the whole of Europe were an unified country, any point to “contain” it using islands on the periphery of Europe? Well, more likely they would have been cut off ties by the giant Europe Empire. Containment won’t work, direct war might have a chance.

    Once you understand this, it’s pretty easy to predict China’s response to the US’s maneuvers – make sure we have the means to win a war against the US in Asia but won’t react to provocation violently, and deal with US’s Asian allies separately, make sure they suffer some economic lose everytime they do US bidding. Sort of dog training but in a negative reward way. Over time, most of the US allies will probably be reduced to in name only.

    PS. 90% of the shipment passing through South China Sea is Chinese, China can hardly let US have control of this water too, while the US already have Malacca Strait which can cut off transport to Indian Ocean. At the very least, transport to Southeast Asia should under Chinese control.

    As Singapore is getting more and more Indian, Malacca Strait will probably remain hostile for a very long time, so ports in Burma and Pakistan, which share land border with China, are necessary alternatives bypassing Malacca Strait.

  6. There is no realistic scenario where China’s rise can be “contained.”

    • Replies: @bobbybobbob
  7. @Daniel Chieh

    Correct, because China is going to collapse into domestic strife far before any other world power. Their economy remains an inflating bubble on a knife edge. All this talk about China’s rise is going to just seem stupid in about five years.

    Of course the USA is due for it’s own problems. Probably Russia is best positioned to weather things. But China is fucked in the intermediate term and the alarmism about them is just super silly.

    • Replies: @BLI
    , @Daniel Chieh
    , @myself
  8. China’s Belt and Road initiative wants to finish building out the world’s infrastructure, something the Marshall Plan could have aimed for, post WW2.

    Q: Could China really build out the world’s infrastructure?
    A: Have a look at what they have already built in the last 3 decades, then decide for yourself.

    Chinese are long term thinkers. E.G. they know the next generation of Chinese won’t want to work in factories, the way they do now. Therefore, they there are getting ready to employ a billion future Africans in productive work. Africa needs to build it’s infrastructure for that to happen. What Africans would’t want this for their children?

  9. BLI says:
    @jim jones

    Keep jerking off yourself, dumbass. I bet Jap would love another go at pearl harbor or maybe SFO this time?

  10. BLI says:

    All this talk about China’s collapse has been going on for 20 years. So what? Whatever helps you sleep at night.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  11. Anon[178] • Disclaimer says:

    “There is no realistic scenario where China’s rise can be “contained.”

    I could do it. I’ve already thought up a strategy. Too bad I’m not in charge.

    “Correct, because China is going to collapse into domestic strife far before any other world power.”

    Wishful thinking that is almost certainly wrong. It’s more likely the US collapses within the next 20 years. I’m still surprised there hasn’t been some kind of separatist movement yet.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
    , @myself
  12. @bobbybobbob

    You’re not understanding China’s debt structure correctly, but as BLI said: whatever helps you sleep at night.

  13. @BLI

    There’s this going r/e Gordan Chang’s predictions that China will collapse in 2013.

    “China has already collapsed in 2013, and further collapsed in 2016. At this rate, China will continue to collapse until it is the #1 superpower.”

    My timeline is 2030.

  14. @Anon

    I could do it. I’ve already thought up a strategy. Too bad I’m not in charge.

    The issue is to collapse China, you need the entire world to cooperate(or at very significant part of it). However, each of the participants has a reason to defect and especially nowadays, has no real reason to cooperate(Russia being a highlight example).

    Therefore, the rise cannot be contained since it has fairly strong fundamentals and its external needs can be met either by US, Germany or Russia(any one). All three will never cooperate at the same time, since it is not in their interests to do so.

    This is not to suggest that it is perfect, but a common error in analysis, I’ve found, is to assume that a country or organization needs to be perfect or advancing in order to “win,” for example, that China needs to be advancing past the US somehow. Rather, a country can be declining and still be relatively better off simply by declining slower than its rivals.

    • Replies: @a hwite man
  15. myself says:

    Many Chinese acquaintances have the following sentiment on this matter:

    “China is nothing! We are weak, we are poor, we are stupid. Please Mr./Ms. Foreigner, keep on sleeping, don’t notice us – and never, ever wake up from your lovely dream”.

  16. myself says:

    It’s more likely the US collapses within the next 20 years. I’m still surprised there hasn’t been some kind of separatist movement yet.

    It seems the 2008 financial crisis/slow-motion depression was a watershed moment.

    It exposed the very deep, even intractable fissures in American society – racial, cultural, economic, and political. These fissures have been widening, slowly but inexorably, for decades – in my view, at least since the early ’80s. The first faint alarm bells were already ringing then (if what I have been told is correct), and grew louder in the ’90s. The alarms were ignored.

    So, here we are. Right now, only very faint rumblings of rebellion and civil strife are evident. A soft hum, but you can hear it, if you’re listening.

    Within ten more years, if this state of affairs continues, the widespread discontent will, very likely, morph into something FAR, FAR MORE SERIOUS. It will happen in no sooner than 5 to 6 years, but no later than 15.

    Honest estimate is 10 years.

  17. K3 says:

    Klare, stop trying to be relevant. You made lot’s of money from your nonsense on Peak Oil, enjoy it.

  18. @Daniel Chieh

    You’re not thinking diabolically enough Chieh-ng. Play by the rules, and you will never see the next move coming from outside the box.

    What would be the simplest, most efficient way to destroy a population as concentrated as China’s? Japan had had some inkling of it by the end of WWII.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  19. Anon[234] • Disclaimer says:

    “The issue is to collapse China, you need the entire world to cooperate(or at very significant part of it).”

    Nope. My plan doesn’t involve any of that. Let’s just say that my plan is much more calculated – insidious even; very patient, no other nation need cooperate or even know what I’m doing. Wouldn’t require a single shot fired, not a single death or injury, and nary a bad feeling or ill word…they wouldn’t see it coming for years, not until after it was too late. Everything roses until then.

  20. Anon[336] • Disclaimer says:

    “Honest estimate is 10 years.”

    That would be the greatest tragedy since the collapse of the Roman Empire. The US collapsing would leave an authoritarian superpower China to rule over what’s left of our Western civilization (even Japan is surrounded and destroyed in that scenario). I cannot believe the Ruling Class did this – all for their own greed. They are traitors. They are unworthy to rule.

    It would take a divine miracle to save us now. Basically, we need a new Julius Caesar to come to power – a wise and benevolent dictator who rules with wisdom and erudition, who sets the country back on a path to demographic restoration and democracy in the long term. We need superman.

    Although, I do have to say I disagree with you. Whites are cowardly weaklings – self-absorbed and disorganized social climbers all. The best precedent for America’s future is South Africa: the country loses its democracy and becomes a one party racial redistribution state marred by governmental, military, and economic incompetence and, eventually, ruled by a racist non-white maniac; whites will just take it. That’s the best case scenario, too. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Empire, then ruled by non-white racists, might not pick a fight with Russia; Hillary almost got us there just a couple of years ago.

    • Replies: @myself
    , @lysias
  21. Anon[336] • Disclaimer says:

    “What would be the simplest, most efficient way to destroy a population as concentrated as China’s? Japan had had some inkling of it by the end of WWII.”

    This kind of two dimensional thinking makes me afraid for the future of the human race. My plan does not involve any of that – no violence at all.

    Imagine for a moment that I’m telling you the truth; imagine that I have some kind of special insight that no other human seems to have. Now, scary thought, imagine what a super intelligent AI is able to do. When the singularity happens, there’s just no way we can fight back against that kind of planning ability. You guys apparently aren’t even able to match my human-level planning ability.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  22. @a hwite man

    No one is going to use nuclear weapons.

    • Replies: @a hwite man
  23. @Anon

    When the singularity happens, there’s just no way we can fight back against that kind of planning ability

    Of course. Which would be hilarious if we all die because it has optimized the destruction of all organic life in order to optimize paperclip production.

    At any rate, if you were that brilliant, you should use it to acquire power in order to be able to be “in charge” sufficiently, no?

  24. @Daniel Chieh

    You disappoint me. Like I said, you have to think outside of the box. Here’s a hint, what happened 100 years ago was nothing compared to what will happen now if the Chinese don’t obey their masters.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  25. @a hwite man

    Yes, yes.

    I’m sure the Romans also had a lot of comforting tales before the end.

  26. myself says:

    Either way –

    - whether A) there are violent insurgencies, and outright race/class -based inter-tribal fighting, or B) a more passive decline into a North American version of the Brazilian “favelas” (teeming squatter slums), and a slide into South Africa-dom –

    - the America we have known will disappear, probably FOREVER.

    The timeline of 6 to 15 years is not referring to the end of the process, but rather to its undeniable, visible beginning.

    It’s analogous to when the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence from Britain, or when the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter – the point in time when even the most apathetic, and/or the most in denial, will find it impossible not to admit that “NOW the situation’s gotten truly serious!”.

  27. lysias says:

    We had our chance to be the world’s leader, and we blew it. We acted so irresponsibly that we don’t deserve another chance. Let China have its chance. Maybe they will do a better job.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Tom Engelhardt Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
Eight Exceptional(ly Dumb) American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century
How the Security State’s Mania for Secrecy Will Create You
Delusional Thinking in the Age of the Single Superpower