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For even the greatest of empires, geography is often destiny. You wouldn’t know it in Washington, though. America’s political, national security, and foreign policy elites continue to ignore the basics of geopolitics that have shaped the fate of world empires for the past 500 years. Consequently, they have missed the significance of the rapid global changes in Eurasia that are in the process of undermining the grand strategy for world dominion that Washington has pursued these past seven decades.

A glance at what passes for insider “wisdom” in Washington these days reveals a worldview of stunning insularity. Take Harvard political scientist Joseph Nye, Jr., known for his concept of “soft power,” as an example. Offering a simple list of ways in which he believes U.S. military, economic, and cultural power remains singular and superior, he recently argued that there was no force, internal or global, capable of eclipsing America’s future as the world’s premier power.

For those pointing to Beijing’s surging economy and proclaiming this “the Chinese century,” Nye offered up a roster of negatives: China’s per capita income “will take decades to catch up (if ever)” with America’s; it has myopically “focused its policies primarily on its region”; and it has “not developed any significant capabilities for global force projection.” Above all, Nye claimed, China suffers “geopolitical disadvantages in the internal Asian balance of power, compared to America.”

Or put it this way (and in this Nye is typical of a whole world of Washington thinking): with more allies, ships, fighters, missiles, money, patents, and blockbuster movies than any other power, Washington wins hands down.

If Professor Nye paints power by the numbers, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s latest tome, modestly titled World Order and hailed in reviews as nothing less than a revelation, adopts a Nietzschean perspective. The ageless Kissinger portrays global politics as plastic and so highly susceptible to shaping by great leaders with a will to power. By this measure, in the tradition of master European diplomats Charles de Talleyrand and Prince Metternich, President Theodore Roosevelt was a bold visionary who launched “an American role in managing the Asia-Pacific equilibrium.” On the other hand, Woodrow Wilson’s idealistic dream of national self-determination rendered him geopolitically inept and Franklin Roosevelt was blind to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s steely “global strategy.” Harry Truman, in contrast, overcame national ambivalence to commit “America to the shaping of a new international order,” a policy wisely followed by the next 12 presidents.

Among the most “courageous” of them, Kissinger insists, was that leader of “courage, dignity, and conviction,” George W. Bush, whose resolute bid for the “transformation of Iraq from among the Middle East’s most repressive states to a multiparty democracy” would have succeeded, had it not been for the “ruthless” subversion of his work by Syria and Iran. In such a view, geopolitics has no place; only the bold vision of “statesmen” and kings really matters.

And perhaps that’s a comforting perspective in Washington at a moment when America’s hegemony is visibly crumbling amid a tectonic shift in global power.

With Washington’s anointed seers strikingly obtuse on the subject of geopolitical power, perhaps it’s time to get back to basics. That means returning to the foundational text of modern geopolitics, which remains an indispensible guide even though it was published in an obscure British geography journal well over a century ago.

Sir Halford Invents Geopolitics

On a cold London evening in January 1904, Sir Halford Mackinder, the director of the London School of Economics, “entranced” an audience at the Royal Geographical Society on Savile Row with a paper boldly titled “The Geographical Pivot of History.” This presentation evinced, said the society’s president, “a brilliancy of description… we have seldom had equaled in this room.”

Mackinder argued that the future of global power lay not, as most British then imagined, in controlling the global sea lanes, but in controlling a vast land mass he called “Euro-Asia.” By turning the globe away from America to place central Asia at the planet’s epicenter, and then tilting the Earth’s axis northward just a bit beyond Mercator’s equatorial projection, Mackinder redrew and thus reconceptualized the world map.

His new map showed Africa, Asia, and Europe not as three separate continents, but as a unitary land mass, a veritable “world island.” Its broad, deep “heartland” — 4,000 miles from the Persian Gulf to the Siberian Sea — was so enormous that it could only be controlled from its “rimlands” in Eastern Europe or what he called its maritime “marginal” in the surrounding seas.

Click here to see a larger version

Mackinder’s Concept of the World Island, From The Geographical Journal (1904)

The “discovery of the Cape road to the Indies” in the sixteenth century, Mackinder wrote, “endowed Christendom with the widest possible mobility of power… wrapping her influence round the Euro-Asiatic land-power which had hitherto threatened her very existence.” This greater mobility, he later explained, gave Europe’s seamen “superiority for some four centuries over the landsmen of Africa and Asia.”

Yet the “heartland” of this vast landmass, a “pivot area” stretching from the Persian Gulf to China’s Yangtze River, remained nothing less than the Archimedean fulcrum for future world power. “Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island,” went Mackinder’s later summary of the situation. “Who rules the World-Island commands the world.” Beyond the vast mass of that world island, which made up nearly 60% of the Earth’s land area, lay a less consequential hemisphere covered with broad oceans and a few outlying “smaller islands.” He meant, of course, Australia and the Americas.

For an earlier generation, the opening of the Suez Canal and the advent of steam shipping had “increased the mobility of sea-power [relative] to land power.” But future railways could “work the greater wonder in the steppe,” Mackinder claimed, undercutting the cost of sea transport and shifting the locus of geopolitical power inland. In the fullness of time, the “pivot state” of Russia might, in alliance with another power like Germany, expand “over the marginal lands of Euro-Asia,” allowing “the use of vast continental resources for fleet-building, and the empire of the world would be in sight.”

For the next two hours, as he read through a text thick with the convoluted syntax and classical references expected of a former Oxford don, his audience knew that they were privy to something extraordinary. Several stayed after to offer extended commentaries. For instance, the renowned military analyst Spenser Wilkinson, the first to hold a chair in military history at Oxford, pronounced himself unconvinced about “the modern expansion of Russia,” insisting that British and Japanese naval power would continue the historic function of holding “the balance between the divided forces… on the continental area.”

Pressed by his learned listeners to consider other facts or factors, including “air as a means of locomotion,” Mackinder responded: “My aim is not to predict a great future for this or that country, but to make a geographical formula into which you could fit any political balance.” Instead of specific events, Mackinder was reaching for a general theory about the causal connection between geography and global power. “The future of the world,” he insisted, “depends on the maintenance of [a] balance of power” between sea powers such as Britain or Japan operating from the maritime marginal and “the expansive internal forces” within the Euro-Asian heartland they were intent on containing.

Not only did Mackinder give voice to a worldview that would influence Britain’s foreign policy for several decades, but he had, in that moment,created the modern science of “geopolitics” — the study of how geography can, under certain circumstances, shape the destiny of whole peoples, nations, and empires.

That night in London was, of course, more than a long time ago. It was another age. England was still mourning the death of Queen Victoria. Teddy Roosevelt was president. Henry Ford had just opened a small auto plant in Detroit to make his Model-A, an automobile with a top speed of 28 miles per hour. Only a month earlier, the Wright brothers’ “Flyer” had taken to the air for the first time — 120 feet of air, to be exact.

Yet, for the next 110 years, Sir Halford Mackinder’s words would offer a prism of exceptional precision when it came to understanding the often obscure geopolitics driving the world’s major conflicts — two world wars, a Cold War, America’s Asian wars (Korea and Vietnam), two Persian Gulf wars, and even the endless pacification of Afghanistan. The question today is: How can Sir Halford help us understand not only centuries past, but the half-century still to come?

Britannia Rules the Waves

In the age of sea power that lasted just over 400 years — from 1602 to the Washington Disarmament Conference of 1922 — the great powers competed to control the Eurasian world island via the surrounding sea lanes that stretched for 15,000 miles from London to Tokyo. The instrument of power was, of course, the ship — first men-o’-war, then battleships, submarines, and aircraft carriers. While land armies slogged through the mud of Manchuria or France in battles with mind-numbing casualties, imperial navies skimmed over the seas, maneuvering for the control of whole coasts and continents.

At the peak of its imperial power circa 1900, Great Britain ruled the waves with a fleet of 300 capital ships and 30 naval bastions, bases that ringed the world island from the North Atlantic at Scapa Flow through the Mediterranean at Malta and Suez to Bombay, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Just as the Roman Empire enclosed the Mediterranean, making it Mare Nostrum (“Our Sea”), British power would make the Indian Ocean its own “closed sea,” securing its flanks with army forces on India’s Northwest Frontier and barring both Persians and Ottomans from building naval bases on the Persian Gulf.

By that maneuver, Britain also secured control over Arabia and Mesopotamia, strategic terrain that Mackinder had termed “the passage-land from Europe to the Indies” and the gateway to the world island’s “heartland.” From this geopolitical perspective, the nineteenth century was, at heart, a strategic rivalry, often called “the Great Game,” between Russia “in command of nearly the whole of the Heartland… knocking at the landward gates of the Indies,” and Britain “advancing inland from the sea gates of India to meet the menace from the northwest.” In other words, Mackinder concluded, “the final Geographical Realities” of the modern age were sea power versus land power or “the World-Island and the Heartland.”

Intense rivalries, first between England and France, then England and Germany, helped drive a relentless European naval arms race that raised the price of sea power to unsustainable levels. In 1805, Admiral Nelson’s flagship, the HMS Victory, with its oaken hull weighing just 3,500 tons, sailed into the battle of Trafalgar against Napoleon’s navy at nine knots, its 100 smooth-bore cannon firing 42-pound balls at a range of no more than 400 yards.

In 1906, just a century later, Britain launched the world’s first modern battleship, the HMS Dreadnought, its foot-thick steel hull weighing 20,000 tons, its steam turbines allowing speeds of 21 knots, and its mechanized 12-inch guns rapid-firing 850-pound shells up to 12 miles. The cost for this leviathan was £1.8 million, equivalent to nearly $300 million today. Within a decade, half-a-dozen powers had emptied their treasuries to build whole fleets of these lethal, lavishly expensive battleships.

Thanks to a combination of technological superiority, global reach, and naval alliances with the U.S. and Japan, a Pax Britannica would last a full century, 1815 to 1914. In the end, however, this global system was marked by an accelerating naval arms race, volatile great-power diplomacy, and a bitter competition for overseas empire that imploded into the mindless slaughter of World War I, leaving 16 million dead by 1918.

Mackinder’s Century

As the eminent imperial historian Paul Kennedy once observed, “the rest of the twentieth century bore witness to Mackinder’s thesis,” with two world wars fought over his “rimlands” running from Eastern Europe through the Middle East to East Asia. Indeed, World War I was, as Mackinder himself later observed, “a straight duel between land-power and sea-power.” At war’s end in 1918, the sea powers — Britain, America, and Japan — sent naval expeditions to Archangel, the Black Sea, and Siberia to contain Russia’s revolution inside its “heartland.”

Reflecting Mackinder’s influence on geopolitical thinking in Germany, Adolf Hitler would risk his Reich in a misbegotten effort to capture the Russian heartland as Lebensraum, or living space, for his “master race.” Sir Halford’s work helped shape the ideas of German geographer Karl Haushofer, founder of the journal Zeitschrift für Geopolitik, proponent of the concept of Lebensraum, and adviser to Adolf Hitler and his deputy führer, Rudolf Hess .In 1942, the Führer dispatched a million men, 10,000 artillery pieces, and 500 tanks to breach the Volga River at Stalingrad. In the end, his forces suffered 850,000 wounded, killed, and captured in a vain attempt to break through the East European rimland into the world island’s pivotal region.

A century after Mackinder’s seminal treatise, another British scholar, imperial historian John Darwin, argued in his magisterial survey After Tamerlane that the United States had achieved its “colossal Imperium… on an unprecedented scale” in the wake of World War II by becoming the first power in history to control the strategic axial points “at both ends of Eurasia” (his rendering of Mackinder’s “Euro-Asia”). With fears of Chinese and Russian expansion serving as the “catalyst for collaboration,” the U.S. won imperial bastions in both Western Europe and Japan. With these axial points as anchors, Washington then built an arc of military bases that followed Britain’s maritime template and were visibly meant to encircle the world island.

America’s Axial Geopolitics

Having seized the axial ends of the world island from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in 1945, for the next 70 years the United States relied on ever-thickening layers of military power to contain China and Russia inside that Eurasian heartland. Stripped of its ideological foliage, Washington’s grand strategy of Cold War-era anticommunist “containment” was little more than a process of imperial succession. A hollowed-out Britain was replaced astride the maritime “marginal,” but the strategic realities remained essentially the same.

Indeed, in 1943, two years before World War II ended, an aging Mackinder published his last article, “The Round World and the Winning of the Peace,” in the influential U.S. journal Foreign Affairs. In it, he reminded Americans aspiring to a “grand strategy” for an unprecedented version of planetary hegemony that even their “dream of a global air power” would not change geopolitical basics. “If the Soviet Union emerges from this war as conqueror of Germany,” he warned, “she must rank as the greatest land power on the globe,” controlling the “greatest natural fortress on earth.”

When it came to the establishment of a new post-war Pax Americana, first and foundational for the containment of Soviet land power would be the U.S. Navy. Its fleets would come to surround the Eurasian continent, supplementing and then supplanting the British navy: the Sixth Fleet was based at Naples in 1946 for control of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea; the Seventh Fleet at Subic Bay, Philippines, in 1947, for the Western Pacific; and the Fifth Fleet at Bahrain in the Persian Gulf since 1995.

Next, American diplomats added layers of encircling military alliances — the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (1949), the Middle East Treaty Organization (1955), the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (1954), and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty (1951).

By 1955, the U.S. also had a global network of 450 military bases in 36 countries aimed, in large part, at containing the Sino-Soviet bloc behind an Iron Curtain that coincided to a surprising degree with Mackinder’s “rimlands” around the Eurasian landmass. By the Cold War’s end in 1990, the encirclement of communist China and Russia required 700 overseas bases, an air force of 1,763 jet fighters, a vast nuclear arsenal, more than 1,000 ballistic missiles, and a navy of 600 ships, including 15 nuclear carrier battle groups — all linked by the world’s only global system of communications satellites.

As the fulcrum for Washington’s strategic perimeter around the world island, the Persian Gulf region has for nearly 40 years been the site of constant American intervention, overt and covert. The 1979 revolution in Iran meant the loss of a keystone country in the arch of U.S. power around the Gulf and left Washington struggling to rebuild its presence in the region. To that end, it would simultaneously back Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its war against revolutionary Iran and arm the most extreme of the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

It was in this context that Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, unleashed his strategy for the defeat of the Soviet Union with a sheer geopolitical agility still little understood even today. In 1979, Brzezinski, a déclassé Polish aristocrat uniquely attuned to his native continent’s geopolitical realities, persuaded Carter to launch Operation Cyclone with massive funding that reached $500 million annually by the late 1980s. Its goal: to mobilize Muslim militants to attack the Soviet Union’s soft Central Asian underbelly and drive a wedge of radical Islam deep into the Soviet heartland. It was to simultaneously inflict a demoralizing defeat on the Red Army in Afghanistan and cut Eastern Europe’s “rimland” free from Moscow’s orbit. “We didn’t push the Russians to intervene [in Afghanistan],” Brzezinski said in 1998, explaining his geopolitical masterstroke in this Cold War edition of the Great Game, “but we knowingly increased the probability that they would… That secret operation was an excellent idea. Its effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap.”

Asked about this operation’s legacy when it came to creating a militant Islam hostile to the U.S., Brzezinski, who studied and frequently cited Mackinder, was coolly unapologetic. “What is most important to the history of the world?” he asked. “The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

Yet even America’s stunning victory in the Cold War with the implosion of the Soviet Union would not transform the geopolitical fundamentals of the world island. As a result, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Washington’s first foreign foray in the new era would involve an attempt to reestablish its dominant position in the Persian Gulf, using Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait as a pretext.

In 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, imperial historian Paul Kennedy returned to Mackinder’s century-old treatise to explain this seemingly inexplicable misadventure. “Right now, with hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops in the Eurasian rimlands,” Kennedy wrote in the Guardian, “it looks as if Washington is taking seriously Mackinder’s injunction to ensure control of ‘the geographical pivot of history.’” If we interpret these remarks expansively, the sudden proliferation of U.S. bases across Afghanistan and Iraq should be seen as yet another imperial bid for a pivotal position at the edge of the Eurasian heartland, akin to those old British colonial forts along India’s Northwest Frontier.

In the ensuing years, Washington attempted to replace some of its ineffective boots on the ground with drones in the air. By 2011, the Air Force and the CIA had ringed the Eurasian landmass with 60 bases for its armada of drones. By then, its workhorse Reaper, armed with Hellfire missiles and GBU-30 bombs, had a range of 1,150 miles, which meant that from those bases it could strike targets almost anywhere in Africa and Asia.

Significantly, drone bases now dot the maritime margins around the world island — from Sigonella, Sicily, to Icerlik, Turkey; Djibouti on the Red Sea; Qatar and Abu Dhabi on the Persian Gulf; the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean; Jalalabad, Khost, Kandahar, and Shindand in Afghanistan; and in the Pacific, Zamboanga in the Philippines and Andersen Air Base on the island of Guam, among other places. To patrol this sweeping periphery, the Pentagon is spending $10 billion to build an armada of 99 Global Hawk drones equipped with high-resolution cameras capable of surveilling all terrain within a hundred-mile radius, electronic sensors that can sweep up communications, and efficient engines capable of 35 hours of continuous flight and a range of 8,700 miles.

China’s Strategy

Washington’s moves, in other words, represent something old, even if on a previously unimaginable scale. But the rise of China as the world’s largest economy, inconceivable a century ago, represents something new and so threatens to overturn the maritime geopolitics that have shaped world power for the past 400 years. Instead of focusing purely on building a blue-water navy like the British or a global aerospace armada akin to America’s, China is reaching deep within the world island in an attempt to thoroughly reshape the geopolitical fundamentals of global power. It is using a subtle strategy that has so far eluded Washington’s power elites.

After decades of quiet preparation, Beijing has recently begun revealing its grand strategy for global power, move by careful move. Its two-step plan is designed to build a transcontinental infrastructure for the economic integration of the world island from within, while mobilizing military forces to surgically slice through Washington’s encircling containment.

The initial step has involved a breathtaking project to put in place an infrastructure for the continent’s economic integration. By laying down an elaborate and enormously expensive network of high-speed, high-volume railroads as well as oil and natural gas pipelines across the vast breadth of Eurasia, China may realize Mackinder’s vision in a new way. For the first time in history, the rapid transcontinental movement of critical cargo — oil, minerals, and manufactured goods — will be possible on a massive scale, thereby potentially unifying that vast landmass into a single economic zone stretching 6,500 miles from Shanghai to Madrid. In this way, the leadership in Beijing hopes to shift the locus of geopolitical power away from the maritime periphery and deep into the continent’s heartland.

“Trans-continental railways are now transmuting the conditions of land power,” wrote Mackinder back in 1904 as the “precarious” single track of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the world’s longest, reached across the continent for 5,700 miles from Moscow toward Vladivostok. “But the century will not be old before all Asia is covered with railways,” he added. “The spaces within the Russian Empire and Mongolia are so vast, and their potentialities in… fuel and metals so incalculably great that a vast economic world, more or less apart, will there develop inaccessible to oceanic commerce.”

Mackinder was a bit premature in his prediction. The Russian revolution of 1917, the Chinese revolution of 1949, and the subsequent 40 years of the Cold War slowed any real development for decades. In this way, the Euro-Asian “heartland” was denied economic growth and integration, thanks in part to artificial ideological barriers — the Iron Curtain and then the Sino-Soviet split — that stalled any infrastructure construction across the vast Eurasian land mass. No longer.

Only a few years after the Cold War ended, former National Security Adviser Brzezinski, by then a contrarian sharply critical of the global views of both Republican and Democratic policy elites, began raising warning flags about Washington’s inept style of geopolitics. “Ever since the continents started interacting politically, some five hundred years ago,” he wrote in 1998, essentially paraphrasing Mackinder, “Eurasia has been the center of world power. A power that dominates ‘Eurasia’ would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions… rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent.”

While such a geopolitical logic has eluded Washington, it’s been well understood in Beijing. Indeed, in the last decade China has launched the world’s largest burst of infrastructure investment, already a trillion dollars and counting, since Washington started the U.S. Interstate Highway System back in the 1950s. The numbers for the rails and pipelines it’s been building are mind numbing. Between 2007 and 2014, China criss-crossed its countryside with 9,000 miles of new high-speed rail, more than the rest of the world combined. The system now carries 2.5 million passengers daily at top speeds of 240 miles per hour. By the time the system is complete in 2030, it will have added up to 16,000 miles of high-speed track at a cost of $300 billion, linking all of China’s major cities.

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China-Central Asia Infrastructure Integrates the World Island (Source: Stratfor)

Simultaneously, China’s leadership began collaborating with surrounding states on a massive project to integrate the country’s national rail network into a transcontinental grid. Starting in 2008, the Germans and Russians joined with the Chinese in launching the “Eurasian Land Bridge.” Two east-west routes, the old Trans-Siberian in the north and a new southern route along the ancient Silk Road through Kazakhstan are meant to bind all of Eurasia together. On the quicker southern route, containers of high-value manufactured goods, computers, and auto parts started travelling 6,700 miles from Leipzig, Germany, to Chongqing, China, in just 20 days, about half the 35 days such goods now take via ship.

In 2013, Deutsche Bahn AG (German Rail) began preparing a third route between Hamburg and Zhengzhou that has now cut travel time to just 15 days, while Kazakh Rail opened a Chongqing-Duisburg link with similar times. In October 2014, China announced plans for the construction of the world’s longest high-speed rail line at a cost of $230 billion. According to plans, trains will traverse the 4,300 miles between Beijing and Moscow in just two days.

In addition, China is building two spur lines running southwest and due south toward the world island’s maritime “marginal.” In April, President Xi Jinping signed an agreement with Pakistan to spend $46 billion on a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Highway, rail links, and pipelines will stretch nearly 2,000 miles from Kashgar in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province, to a joint port facility at Gwadar, Pakistan, opened back in 2007. China has invested more than $200 billion in the building of this strategic port at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, just 370 miles from the Persian Gulf. Starting in 2011, China also began extending its rail lines through Laos into Southeast Asia at an initial cost of $6.2 billion. In the end, a high-speed line is expected to take passengers and goods on a trip of just 10 hours from Kunming to Singapore.

In this same dynamic decade, China has constructed a comprehensive network of trans-continental gas and oil pipelines to import fuels from the whole of Eurasia for its population centers — in the north, center, and southeast. In 2009, after a decade of construction, the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) opened the final stage of the Kazakhstan-China Oil Pipeline. It stretches 1,400 miles from the Caspian Sea to Xinjiang.

Simultaneously, CNPC collaborated with Turkmenistan to inaugurate the Central Asia-China gas pipeline. Running for 1,200 miles largely parallel to the Kazakhstan-China Oil Pipeline, it is the first to bring the region’s natural gas to China. To bypass the Straits of Malacca controlled by the U.S Navy, CNPC opened a Sino-Myanmar pipeline in 2013 to carry both Middle Eastern oil and Burmese natural gas 1,500 miles from the Bay of Bengal to China’s remote southwestern region. In May 2014, the company signed a $400 billion, 30-year deal with the privatized Russian energy giant Gazprom to deliver 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually by 2018 via a still-to-be-completed northern network of pipelines across Siberia and into Manchuria.

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Sino-Myanmar Oil Pipeline Evades the U.S. Navy in the Straits of Malacca (Source: Stratfor)

Though massive, these projects are just part of an ongoing construction boom that, over the past five years, has woven a cat’s cradle of oil and gas lines across Central Asia and south into Iran and Pakistan. The result will soon be an integrated inland energy infrastructure, including Russia’s own vast network of pipelines, extending across the whole of Eurasia, from the Atlantic to the South China Sea.

To capitalize such staggering regional growth plans, in October 2014 Beijing announced the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. China’s leadership sees this institution as a future regional and, in the end, Eurasian alternative to the U.S.-dominated World Bank. So far, despite pressure from Washington not to join, 14 key countries, including close U.S. allies like Germany, Great Britain, Australia, and South Korea, have signed on. Simultaneously, China has begun building long-term trade relations with resource-rich areas of Africa, as well as with Australia and Southeast Asia, as part of its plan to economically integrate the world island.

Finally, Beijing has only recently revealed a deftly designed strategy for neutralizing the military forces Washington has arrayed around the continent’s perimeter. In April, President Xi Jinping announced construction of that massive road-rail-pipeline corridor direct from western China to its new port at Gwadar, Pakistan, creating the logistics for future naval deployments in the energy-rich Arabian Sea.

In May, Beijing escalated its claim to exclusive control over the South China Sea, expanding Longpo Naval Base on Hainan Island for the region’s first nuclear submarine facility, accelerating its dredging to create three new atolls that could become military airfields in the disputed Spratley Islands, and formally warning off U.S. Navy overflights. By building the infrastructure for military bases in the South China and Arabian seas, Beijing is forging the future capacity to surgically and strategically impair U.S. military containment.

At the same time, Beijing is developing plans to challenge Washington’s dominion over space and cyberspace. It expects, for instance, to complete its own global satellite system by 2020, offering the first challenge to Washington’s dominion over space since the U.S. launched its system of 26 defense communication satellites back in 1967. Simultaneously, Beijing is building a formidable capacity for cyber warfare.

In a decade or two, should the need arise, China will be ready to surgically slice through Washington’s continental encirclement at a few strategic points without having to confront the full global might of the U.S. military, potentially rendering the vast American armada of carriers, cruisers, drones, fighters, and submarines redundant.

Lacking the geopolitical vision of Mackinder and his generation of British imperialists, America’s current leadership has failed to grasp the significance of a radical global change underway inside the Eurasian land mass. If China succeeds in linking its rising industries to the vast natural resources of the Eurasian heartland, then quite possibly, as Sir Halford Mackinder predicted on that cold London night in 1904, “the empire of the world would be in sight.”

Alfred W. McCoy, a TomDispatch regular, holds the Harrington Chair in History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the editor of Endless Empire: Spain’s Retreat, Europe’s Eclipse, America’s Decline and the author of Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State, among other works.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: American Military, China, Eurasia 
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  1. Alfa158 says:

    Our elite remind me a little of that old example of tunnel vision thinking. It goes something along the line of; if you could somehow ask a Tyrannosaurus Rex what are the most important characteristics that define a superior creature that will rule the future earth, it would never occur to it that the secret is big brains and opposable thumbs. It would tell you that having the biggest teeth and most powerful jaws are what counts.
    Washington/Wall Street think the Chinese are simply too short on big teeth.

    • Replies: @annamaria
  2. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Excellent summation of the state of the geopolitical world.

    China has a very long view of history, Cleverly and carefully planned the Silk Belts and Roads and Maritime Silk Road developments, and has the wealth to make it happen.

    Infrastructure construction is the bedrock of Eurasian development.
    All the energy (gas, oil and nuclear for electrical) come from the sources in Russia, Central Asia and Iran.

    And finally, security is from the powerful military of Russian and China and the SCO which now will include all major Eurasian nations (India, Pakistan and Iran).

  3. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Phenomenal article!

    Really shows how incompetent our leaders are compared to China and Russia.

  4. Holyshit! that was a great read. unz never fails to deliver great articles 🙂

    my one and only question: is there anything the usa can do to stop this?

    I know war is out of the question, you don’t go to war with a nuclear power. the posturing in the south china sea is stupid beyond belief.

    • Replies: @Realist
    , @Vendetta
    , @Zhu Bajie
  5. Looks like the NSC neocons are biding time, treading water – except that the worst of them seem to be filled with passionate intensity … while the best appear, of course, to lack all conviction.

    Maybe it’s like when Kennedy locked USA into a holding pattern on Cuba, having granted Miami Cubans leave to do their durndest – but stopping short of providing or promising air support for any actual invasion run. Maybe the Eurocentric Ukraine-connected neocons have managed to put themselves into a policy as carved in stone as the policy of the old China lobby of the old KMT days or as unchangeable as the political standoff that even today prevents USA from taking up Vietnam on its offer to go partners with the US Navy in a real ‘pivot-to-Asia’ containment policy for the PRC. Maybe we have turned over the NSC to people who have built themselves into, and who perpetuate, the erstwhile neocon ‘anti-Communist’ delusional system – people who are as powerful as, or more powerful, in terms of USA domestic politics than the anti-Castro neocons that have long been committed to the dream of overthrowing the Castro government. Why not? Wouldn’t that fit in nicely with the dysfunctional government of the USA in the 21st Century?

    We seem to be a nation that talks a good game, but cannot act consistently in any kind of credible ‘global security’ policy … not unlike Great Britain or France in their decades of decline before World War II.

    Obama? He has been so undercut by the polarized domestic politics of the current decade, he has no ability to do anything more than hold on and try to look good like Jackie Chan in one of his comedies, catlike, smiling as he miraculously lands repeatedly on his feet, maximally hoping to eke out a peace-keeping arrangement with Iran, but not able to take the steps necessary to lend any such arrangement credible in the least. What really are his options?

    And we the people … what could/would/should we do? USA has too long been a province of a global capitalist empire …wouldn’t it be fine to be a NATION ONCE AGAIN!

    • Replies: @annamaria
  6. Why do you choose 1602 as the start of the age of sea power?

    • Replies: @Big Bill
  7. I haven’t finished the article yet but my respect for it jumped through the roof when I saw Mackinder mentioned (30 times actually, good job!)

  8. KA says:

    Blaming the failure in Iraq on Iran and Syria is like blaming Kissinger for Watergate .

  9. Big Bill says:
    @Added Reality

    I wondered the same. John the Navigator and Columbus came a bit before that. But they were not military endeavors, but strictly commercial.

    • Replies: @Added Reality
  10. War for Blair Mountain [AKA "Battle for Blair Mountain"] says:

    Our scummy White Elites since the early 1970s have implemented a policy of systematically destroying a Native Born White American Engineering-Tech-Medical Workforce by importing Chinese Legal Immigrant Scab Workers. Thousands of years of Native Born White American Engineering-Tech-Scientific-Medical experience will be lost forever…The new Chinese Overlords in post-White “US” will make certain that this is a permanent state of affairs.

    The scale of the Treason is monumental….And its driven by enormous White Male Mega-CEO Greed…The White Liberal Mega-CEO Greedy Cheating Class.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  11. @Big Bill

    I looked through the list of events of 1602, and the only possible candidate seems to be the founding of the Dutch East India company.

    Also, John the navigator? Do you mean Henry the navigator?

  12. Realist says:
    @Astuteobservor II

    “my one and only question: is there anything the usa can do to stop this?”

    No. Too many stupid people in the USA.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  13. Johann says:

    I was pleasantly surprised reading this article. To find so much erudition and clear thinking in anything printed in the American Imperial media today is breath taking. Right now the soi disant Americans are running around talking and opining on an insignificance of the so called Kaitlyn whatever or they spend countless hours mastering the art of the inflatable football. To find an article that is researched so well and makes so much sense in the present day world situation is outstanding. It makes the American billion dollar Foreign policy of the present Obama/Biden regime appear to be something children make up on the play ground. Kerry, the idiot, Biden the idiot, Hilary the lying idiot, Obama the street thug are the leaders that the brainless American populace have chosen. O tempora! O mores!

  14. Sean says:

    Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. China’s leadership sees this institution as a future regional and, in the end, Eurasian alternative to the U.S.-dominated World Bank. So far, despite pressure from Washington not to join, 14 key countries, including close U.S. allies like Germany, Great Britain, Australia, and South Korea, have signed on

    That really got the US’s attention, and they publically complained about Britain joining.

    In a decade or two, should the need arise, China will be ready to surgically slice through Washington’s continental encirclement at a few strategic points without having to confront the full global might of the U.S. military, potentially rendering the vast American armada of carriers, cruisers, drones, fighters, and submarines redundant

    Interesting and new to me. But isn’t the real potential encirclement of the Chinese by countries such as Russia and India? I think the Chinese will not confront the US for fear of provoking an antiChina alliance. (Russia would love to be a partner with the US).

    My bet is the US will be kept happy for another generation, until the time China will have turned into Giant Hong Kong, a mega state that will be too powerful for the US or anyone else to constrain.

    • Replies: @Seamus Padraig
    , @Anonymous
  15. Andrei Martyanov [AKA "SmoothieX12"] says: • Website

    Mackinder in his “Democratic Ideals and Reality” speaks openly that in the end it is human, who defines history, not merely geopolitics. Geopolitical prism is just a tool in viewing one of the facets of the world. WW II changed a lot and this change is what being ignored by many geopolitical scholars. After all, Mackinder “predicted” that GB, USA and Chine “will lead the way”, he didn’t elaborate where to;-)

  16. Vendetta says:

    America took the same trillion China spent on these world-altering projects and pissed it away fighting jihadist peasants and securing dirt roads in Afghanistan.

    A big thank you to Obama, Bush, Clinton, and all the others in Washington who helped run this country into the ground.

    • Replies: @annamaria
    , @Wally
    , @Anonymous
  17. Vendetta says:
    @Astuteobservor II

    Accord the Russians and Chinese the spheres of influence they deserve and stop trying to rule the whole world. Get an anti-jihad partnership running with Russia, China, India, and Iran to check the rampaging Sunnis.

    One can only wish…

    • Replies: @midtown
    , @Pshr
  18. annamaria says:

    When the country is governed by plutocracy that forfeit meritocracy, then the incompetence strikes along all fronts.

  19. annamaria says:

    Do not forget that the Bravest Decider helped certain people to profit colossally on the war projects.

  20. midtown says:

    In general I agree, but the devil would be in the details. Would you just let Russia have its way with Ukraine?

    Great article, by the way.

    • Replies: @annamaria
  21. War for Blair Mountain [AKA "Battle for Blair Mountain"] says:

    Seriously…what the fuck are you talking about? The Kenyan Foriegner administration started the War in the Ukraine. Nuland…Powers…Rice…should get War Criminal treatment.

  22. Wally [AKA "BobbyBeGood"] says: • Website

    “America took the same trillion China spent on these world-altering projects and pissed it away fighting jihadist peasants and securing dirt roads in Afghanistan.
    A big thank you to Obama, Bush, Clinton, and all the others in Washington who helped run this country into the ground.”

    IOW, the US did what Israel and it’s supremacist Jews demanded.

  23. anywhere in the 5,000 words did the author mention China printing $25,000,0000,0000,000 since 2008 or, as is always the case in most China supremacy and US decline articles, it was just ignored?

    and never mind the peg to the $ which allows this to apparently go unnoticed.

  24. Ivy says:

    People are seeing that the TPP and related secret forays represent merely the latest chapter in a type of China panic that has been playing out in Washington.

    The 1972 opening of China was followed by our best and brightest bringing about a subsequent essentially costless transfer of American patrimony via manufacturing know-how, software, security and numerous other knowledge capital items. They brought China into the modern economy but didn’t think through how it might work out, given that they don’t play by our rules.

    Obama is merely the latest among the callow political class to have been swept up in the short-term thinking machine, and now will face another blot on his ‘legacy’. Community organizer Manchurian candidates don’t do the populace any more good than knee-jerk anti-Clinton candidates like W.

    There is a US systemic defect that discourages longer-term approaches, and that is only exacerbated by lobbyist legislation and court decisions like Citizens United and similar self-enrichment devices for those that are selling out their country for a mess of pottage.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  25. Philip Neal says: • Website

    True: Eurasia is a bigger prize than the rest of the world put together.

    False: control of the ‘pivot area’ confers control of Eurasia. It does not. There is nothing there. Russia east of the Urals is mostly permafront, tundra and forest. Central Asia is an arid backwater, fragmented and surrounded by chokepoints. Successive empires – the heirs of Alexander, Tang China, Tsarist Russia – have subdued it and progressed no further to the far side of the Old World.

    Control of the Indian Ocean conferred instant empire on marginal Portugal and its successors, and is still the key today. You do not mention China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy in the Indian Ocean and its increasing involvement in Africa. That if anything is what to watch.

  26. @Sean

    But isn’t the real potential encirclement of the Chinese by countries such as Russia and India? I think the Chinese will not confront the US for fear of provoking an antiChina alliance. (Russia would love to be a partner with the US).

    Washington’s dual-containment strategy on Russia and China has backed both countries into one another’s arms. And judging by India’s BRICS and AIIB memberships, as well as their large-scale Russian arms purchases, they may well decide to go neutral in this cold war, just as they did in the last one.

    Well, that basically leaves us, Israel and the Euro-clown show!

  27. MarkinLA says:

    Once you start believing in economics being the primary motivation in human activity you start believing in the crap the US leadership is pushing. Once Chinese become “economic man” they will be just like everybody else and there will be no need to worry about the aims of the Chinese leadership.

  28. Ed says:

    This is an erudite essay, but its wrong in its analysis on several grounds:

    1. Starting approvingly with MacKinder is strange on historical grounds. The empires that controlled a whole bunch of territory in Eurasia, the various Mongol and Jurchen empires and of course Russia, all wound up controlling a whole bunch of territory in Eurasia. They have never come close to being able to leverage this to control any part of the “periphery”. And Central Asia itself has never been particularly valuable except maybe as a means of getting someplace else more importance, its strategic importance has consistently been overrated since the days of Alexander the Great. Once MacKinder publish his theories, the Germans and the Japanese really tried hard to apply them to their grand strategy, with results that were disastrous.

    2. Historically, the Chinese elites have prioritized control of China itself, and areas bordering China, which are enough. Its usually been the most advanced part of the civilized world or close enough to it, and contains a huge chunk of the world’s population. The area is self sufficient (except crucially in oil, I did a search and there is no mention of oil in this strategic analysis) and there is no real need to go out and control other parts of the world. And really great powers with strong ideologies that try to control the globe is a twentieth century phenomenon. The US has some interests in East Asia, notably Taiwan with its semiconductor industry, and Japan and Korea for historical reasons, so there is some need to keep an eye on China, but alot less than these sorts of essays indicate.

    3. And really for that matter, there is no need for America to be the base of a globe dominating empire. Just keeping other great powers out of the Western Hemisphere, and coming to terms with the only two other potential Western Hemisphere based powers, Mexico and Brazil, was enough to make the US the dominant world power by 1917, enough so that sending an expeditionary force to Europe for a few months was enough to turn the tide against Germany. The twentieth century ideological powers such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were another matter, but the only such power now is the United States itself.

    4. This is one of those strategy pieces where its obvious the author has been spending too much time looking at maps. If a country wants to project power, its pretty clear that there are some key ingredients: internal cohesion, a knowledgeable and competent elite, a population/ agricultural/ industrial base of sufficient size (but no larger), a technological edge, and the lack of strong enemy neighboring countries. Geography is really distant to this, except that if you are surrounded by geographical barriers, as England was and both the US and China now mostly are (both are continental sized nations, with the US surrounded by oceans and China by high mountain ranges and deserts), that helps with the lack of enemy neighboring countries.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  29. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Ed. I disagree with you.

    To benefit from this huge land mass you do not need to physically hold the heartland. What you need to do is to create infrastructure, so trade from one region can happen with trade from another region cheaply and quickly.

    The west would like to deny this, because without this infrastructure world trade will need to happen around the bottle necks through the waterways that America can control. If trade can flow throughout Eurasia by avoiding these bottlenecks, then there is nothing America can do. Even 2nd rate militaries can sink our entire fleet (except for subs) if our navy gets too close to land.

    So, the only country that needs to physically hold the heartland is America itself. And that is in order to deny the infrastructure from being built. But there is no way America can do this with soft power, hard power, or a combination of the two. There are so many different countries we would have to control with such different cultures, that we could not possibly accomplish this. I mean just look at how hard it is to hold Afganistan. If we did manage to control some of the countries, all it would take would be going around the unfriendly countries to connect Eurasia.

    Here is the thing though, if we want to dominate the world we do probably need to control the heartland; but only at a tremendous cost to America and Americans. If we do not control the heartland it does not mean we will be poor and will be pushed around. It just means we will have to give up our empire. So to all the people here thinking about ways to try and stop this integration from happening, I say why be bothered by it. Zbig is so vested in this because he is an aristocrat and would benefit a lot by denying Eurasia. The average American? Not so much.

  30. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    @ Vendetta,

    That money was not pissed away, it went into the pockets of a few people who got all those contracts for training locals, building “infrastructure” etc., all at obscenely inflated prices, for “security reasons”… It is funny, but everybody the US trains ends up bolting from combat when the shit hits the fan: it happened in Mali, in Nigeria, and recently in Iraq where more than 2,300 hummers were abandoned to the barbarians by US-trained Iraqi that fled combat…

    That is corruption, American-style, and that is why the vast majority of leaders in the “Third-World” only pay lip service to US diplomats and other activists when those people lecture them on “corruption”.

    Most Americans do not realize that people in the “poor” parts of the World are a lot smarter than they are, especially when it comes to politics.

    The only reason the US, Britain, the French, Portuguese or the Spanish were able to conquer anything in the past is by way of deception: they abused the trust of the people that they eventually pillaged and slaughtered. Had the Africans killed off all those early adventurers à-la-American instead of giving them water, food, and shelter when they found themselves stranded in that far-away place, there would have been no slave trade nor genocide in North America as those early scouts would never have been heard from back in those musty European fiefdoms…

  31. denk says:

    Philip Neal
    *Control of the Indian Ocean conferred instant empire on marginal Portugal and its successors, and is still the key today. You do not mention China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy in the Indian Ocean and its increasing involvement in Africa. That if anything is what to watch.* [sic]

    whats wrong with china doing business with africa, why should it worry U ?
    anyway u’r behind the curve, the master of the universe doesnt just watch, it has virtually recolonise africa under the guise of the fraudulant wot and ebola, in case u havent noticed.

    the socalled string of pearl is a chinese strategy to defend its vital energy transit sea lane.
    once again u can relax kid.
    myanmar, a key component of the socalled sop is already co-opted,
    thailand is again under pro us military rule, pro china prez in sri lanka has recently been relaced with a washington patsy…
    all in all, your mou in washington has everthing nicely sewn up already?
    happy now ?
    why dont u just go back enjoying your nba series , the kadhasans, and leave politics to caesar, the way i see it, he has been doing a fine job ruling the universe.
    hmm, if only he’d spend some time at home hehehe

  32. annamaria says:

    “Would you just let Russia have its way with Ukraine?”
    Could you enlighten us on why Russian Federation would need a crisis in Ukraine? How did it happen that the State Department was so thoroughly involved in the Maidan revolution? How come that the State Dept. found itself on a side of Ukrainian neo-Nazis, McCain and the then CIA Director Brennan in the same picture with the neo-Nazi leaders? – Guess, this is now a reliable sign of “democracy on the march…
    Take a note of the coincidence du jour: Brennan (CIA) comes to Kiev. The very next day Kiev begins military actions (civil war) against federalists in east Ukraine.

  33. Pshr says:

    “rampaging Sunnis”

    Why? You whitrashs wish to continue with the rampaging and pillaging, forever? You should take a break, after centuries of hard work.

    • Replies: @Vendetta
  34. @War for Blair Mountain

    Well thank G for those Jewish university administrators for holding back the tide of Asian dominance in the Ivies (vide Ron Unz’s “The Myth of American Meritocracy”)

    • Replies: @Sam Shama
  35. @Realist

    “Too many stupid people in America”. True but not very relevant. You don’t want seriously stupid private soldiers but America is much better able to put all important boots on the ground than European countries where that really does matter. And most of America’s stupid people don’t vote. Still it is important that America’s, or the Angloshere’s dominance of non-stupid activity is being whittled away. Narrow test case: will America be able to match the talent in Eurasia which threatens its and its corporations’ cybersecurity?

    • Replies: @Realist
    , @Sam Shama
  36. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I think the US is in a relatively strong position here, as it will be positioned to reenact and exploit another “Sino-Soviet split” which is likely to occur if either China or Russia becomes too strong. This is a structural feature that no amount of pipelines or economic development will change.

    • Replies: @Andrei Martyanov
  37. Vendetta says:

    I draw distinctions. You don’t see Hezbollah chopping off people’s heads, suicide-bombing mosques, rounding women up into slave-wifery. The Sunni are the ones going nuts. The Shia are not.

    You should try a different line with that. After centuries of raping and pillaging, we’ve got a legacy to live up to.

    In all seriousness, though, you don’t detect the slighest note of savagery in any particular group of Sunnis? Nothing ISIS is doing that could be described as a rampage? “There are no savages in the Islamic State?”

    Yeah, so long as this wave of mania persists amongst the Sunni extremists, I hope for the day everyone else in the world breaks bread and kicks the shit out of them whenever they act up.

  38. Realist says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    “And most of America’s stupid people don’t vote.”

    Not true, there is no way the assholes we have in office would have been elected without idiots voting.

  39. Andrei Martyanov [AKA "SmoothieX12"] says: • Website

    reenact and exploit another “Sino-Soviet split” which is likely to occur if either China or Russia becomes too strong.

    Any other irrelevant and beaten to death cliches here? Nominally, China is already “stronger” than Russia, because it produces way more consumer goods junk than Russia ever will. Reality and the “strength” , however, are not measured with Wall Street “tools” and metrics. The problem, however, if you didn’t notice is in those pesky details like the fact (one among many) that China still doesn’t have decent, let alone world-class, jet engine, Russia does. Hence China’s really desperate desire to get her hands on SU-35s. China-made subs even today are very noisy and highly unsurvivable beyond First Island Chain, and even inside this chain it is a huge question. And if one goes over this (much longer) list, granted one understand the difference between some junk like iPhone and real hi-tech, a very peculiar picture emerges. The foundation of any world-class nation is its machine-building complex. But then again, this is not what they teach in all those “business” and “economic” schools in Ivy League madrasas. Russia will be doing just fine as the China’s supplier of resources and, when necessary, of technologies which China still does not and, most likely, will not posses for a long time. And that is just small detail.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  40. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Andrei Martyanov

    The point is that if either Russia or China become relatively too strong, then there will likely be some sort of detente between the US and the relatively weaker party.

  41. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This assumes that the Chinese and Russians haven’t learned anything from the last 100 years. Something I doubt, as both China and Russia fear the West far more than each other now. This kind of hubris, the thought that at any time the west can effectively go back to divide and conquer, is what got the west into the bad position it is in now.

  42. Andrei Martyanov [AKA "SmoothieX12"] says: • Website

    then there will likely be some sort of detente between the US and the relatively weaker party.

    1. Russia is already a “relatively weaker” party, at least in Wall Street universe;
    2. United States committed cultural suicide in Russia and I mean suicide;
    3. United States is not treaty-worthy party anymore. Any treaty signed with the US is not worth the paper it is written on.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  43. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Andrei Martyanov

    I’m talking about geopolitically. Geopolitically, Russia is not really weaker.

  44. M says:

    Ah, like how owning the Sahara Desert and Central Africa would be the key to having a profitable and powerful empire in Africa. Not South Africa or Nigeria or Egypt, linked by sea.

    Agree mostly with Ed and Phil Neal.

    The Heartland idea – I can see how it makes sense in a way. Having that land means that you can act to dominate the periphery, where stuff actually gets made and where people actually live. And it means you can bulk ship natural resources there easily.

    At the same time, owning and managing that empty interior is expensive. Not cost free.

    It’s not necessarily cheaper than a sea network, dealing with the attendant problems that entails.

    Similarly, Russia’s issue with manufacturing is not that it lacks access to resources. It’s that it can’t make products that people want to buy (even if it has access to some good engineering that people generally won’t pay for but which the state will).

    China’s issue with manufacturing is not that it lacks access to resources. It’s that it’s still in low value sectors relative to the number of Chinese the state needs to support. Solve that, and why go to the cost of investing in the resource extraction? Let the Russians and Central Asians that don’t know how to make things pay for that shit, and sell them back finished products.

    If it works, I’m sure the Americans will be the first to use the increased access to resources to buy them with clever finance and lead in manufacturing though (‘cos they’re dynamic, culturally being pretty Anglo is always a plus, not overpopulated and reasonably smart, just for a few).

    It seems like most “Colonize world…. Profit!” plans, and not the reality that empires are expensive and barely profitable and even when you’re operating them, at cost and with investment (it ain’t Africans who funded those African railroads to ship gold and diamonds out, they were far too piss poor), and can get resources out of them, then….

    …. someone else ends up buying those resources at massively reduced cost (see what happened with Spain and New World gold and silver), and so you don’t actually see much of a relative advantage, especially if they end up managing them well, and then using them at the right time to exert leverage over you.

  45. Sam Shama says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    [Laugh]. Gelman (at Columbia) might claim otherwise. Same result nevertheless, more or less…..

  46. Sam Shama says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    will America be able to match the talent in Eurasia which threatens its and its corporations’ cybersecurity?

    very pertinent test case… own feeling is that we will

    • Replies: @Sam Shama
  47. Sam Shama says:
    @Sam Shama

    Also the race is in AI/HLMI and Nano technology leading to molecular assemblers in production.

  48. WhatEvvs [AKA "Prada Yada Yada"] says:

    What about China’s demographics? That doesn’t look too good.

  49. Zhu Bajie says:
    @Astuteobservor II

    Why would you want to prevent other people from prospering?

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