The Unz Review • An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewPepe Escobar Archive
The Unbearable Lightness of China
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
Singaporean ex-diplomat and author Kishore Mahbubani speaks at an Asia Society event in a file photo. Photo: Flickr Commons

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
AgreeDisagreeThanksLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll 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 three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

As a living embodiment of how East and West shall meet, Mahbubani is immeasurably more capable to talk about Chinese-linked intricacies than shallow, self-described Western “experts” on Asia and China.

Especially now when demonization-heavy hybrid war 2.0 against China is practiced by most factions of the US government, the Deep State and the East Coast establishment.

Distinguished fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute, former president of the UN Security Council (from 2001 to 2002) and the founding dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (2004-2017), Mahbubani is the quintessential Asian diplomat.

Ruffling feathers is not his business. On the contrary, he always deploys infinite patience – and insider knowledge – when trying to explain especially to Americans what makes the Chinese civilization-state tick.

All through a book elegantly argued and crammed with persuasive facts, it feels like Mahbubani is applying the Tao. Be like water. Let it flow. He floats like a butterfly reaching beyond his own “paradoxical conclusion”: “A major geopolitical contest between America and China is both inevitable and avoidable.” He centers on the paths towards the “avoidable.”

The contrast with the confrontational, stale and irrelevant Thucydides Trap mindset prevalent in the US could not be starker. It’s quite enlightening to observe the contrast between Mahbubani and Harvard University’s Graham Allison – who seem to admire each other – at a China Institute debate.

An important clue to his approach is when Mahbubani tells us how his Hindu mother used to take him to Hindu and Buddhist temples in Singapore – even as in the island-state most Buddhist monks were actually Chinese. Here we find encapsulated the key cultural/philosophical India-China crossover that defines “deep” East Asia, linking Confucianism, Buddhism and the Tao.

All about the US dollar

For Asia hands, and for those, as in my case, who have actually lived in Singapore, it’s always fascinating to see how Mahbubani is the quintessential Lee Kuan Yew disciple, though without the haughtiness. As much as his effort to understand China from the inside, across the spectrum, for decades, is more than visible, he’s far from being a disciple of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

And he stresses the point in myriad ways, showing how, in the party slogan, “Chinese” is way more important than “Communist”: “Unlike the Soviet Communist Party, [the CCP] is not riding on an ideological wave; it is riding the wave of a resurgent civilization … the strongest and most resilient civilization in history.”

Inescapably, Mahbubani outlines both Chinese and American geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges and shortcomings. And that leads us to arguably the key argument in the book: how he explains to Americans the recent erosion of global trust in the former “indispensable nation,” and how the US dollar is its Achilles’ heel.

So once again we have to wallow in the interminable mire of reserve currency status; its “exorbitant privilege,” the recent all-out weaponization of the US dollar and – inevitably – the counterpunch: those “influential voices” now working to stop using the US dollar as reserve currency.

ORDER IT NOW

Enter blockchain technology and the Chinese drive to set up an alternative currency based on blockchain. Mahbubani takes us to a China Finance 40 Forum in August last year, when the deputy director of the People’s Bank of China, Mu Changchun, said the PBOC was “close” to issuing its own cryptocurrency.

Two months later, President Xi announced that blockchain would become a “high priority” and a matter of long-term national strategy. It’s happening now. The digital yuan – as in a “sovereign blockchain” – is imminent.

And that leads us to the role of the US dollar in financing global trade. Mahbubani correctly analyzes that once this is over, “the complex international system based on the US dollar could come tumbling down, rapidly or slowly.” China’s master plan is to accelerate the process by connecting its digital platforms – Alipay, WeChat Pay – into one global system.

Asian Century

As Mahbubani carefully explains, “while Chinese leaders want to rejuvenate Chinese civilization, they have no missionary impulse to take over the world and make everyone Chinese.” And still, “America convinced itself that China has become an existential threat.”

The best and the brightest across Asia, Mahbubani included, never cease to be amazed at the American system’s total inability to “make strategic adjustments to this new phase in history.” Mahbubani dedicates a whole chapter – “Can America make U-turns?” – to the quandary.

In the appendix he even adds a text by Stephen Walt debunking “the myth of American exceptionalism.” There’s no evidence the Exceptionalistan ethos is being seriously contested.

A recent McKinsey report analyzes whether the “next normal” will emerge from Asia, and some of its conclusions are inevitable: “The future global story starts in Asia.” It goes way beyond prosaic numbers stating that in 20 years, by 2040, “Asia is expected to represent 40% of global consumption and 52% of GDP.”

The report argues that, “we may look back on this pandemic as the tipping point when the Asian Century truly began.”

In 1997, during the same week when I was covering the Hong Kong handover, I published a book in Brazil whose translated title was 21st: The Asian Century (excerpts from a few chapters may be found here). By that time I had already lived in Asia for three years, and learned quite a few important lessons from Mahbubani’s Singapore.

China then was still a distant player on the new horizon. Now it’s a completely different ball game. The Asian Century – actually Eurasian Century – is already on, as Eurasia integration develops driven by hard-working acronyms (BRI, AIIB, SCO, EAEU) and the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Mahbubani’s book, capturing the elusive, unbearable lightness of China, is the latest illustration of this inexorable flow of history.

Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy (Kishore Mahbubani), published by Public Affairs (US$19.89).

(Republished from Asia Times by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics • Tags: China, China/America 
The China/America Series
Hide 8 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
    []
  1. SteveK9 says:

    What is amazing to watch, is that although the US is afraid of the Chinese model taking over, they have slavishly copied the insane ‘lockdown’ approach to an epidemic. Rows of cots set up in stadiums, spraying streets and buildings, locking residents in their homes and suspending all rights and laws. This is the ‘Chinese’ way. The Chinese may not want to turn every place into China, but apparently they won’t have to do that. We will do it for them.

    • Agree: follyofwar
    • Replies: @Getaclue
  2. Erebus says:

    The best and the brightest across Asia, Mahbubani included, never cease to be amazed at the American system’s total inability to “make strategic adjustments to this new phase in history.”

    I’d think the reason for that is actually quite simple. The “American system” ain’t really American nowadays. It was hijacked by an international elite with a view to leveraging America’s “natural” powers (incl geography, human/natural resource base, etc) to their ends – namely Global Hegemony.

    They really do believe that what they want is what’s best, and so the best of all possible worlds is one where they’re in in a position to dictate their vision to the lesser elites that run other countries. The notion of abandoning their quest is anathema – it really is do or die for them. They’re quite sure they’re almost there and a century of working the plan isn’t abandoned in the face of an upstart or two.

  3. Parfois1 says:

    @ Erebus

    I’d think the reason for that is actually quite simple. The “American system” ain’t really American nowadays. It was hijacked by an international elite with a view to leveraging America’s “natural” powers (incl geography, human/natural resource base, etc) to their ends – namely Global Hegemony.

    I respect and understand your perspective on the perceived “Chinese challenge” to US hegemony suggestive of being misdirected by the notion that the current US ruling elite is not “American” (whatever that means) and, by implication, a genuine pre-PNAC (Project for a New American Century) “America” would reacted differently to the challenge. Would it?

    We tend to accept the conventional approach to the interpretation of history as being a series of conflicts for domination by one state against another, usually imposed by the ruling elite (often a monarch) motivated by, and for, power and profit. Such a view presupposes that all states would act the same way at all times. Would they?

    I agree the current political elite riding the US warhorses may not be “true American” to a vast segment of the US population that holds dear the pioneering myths of “American nationhood” (which I find debatable and problematic), tainted as it is by the Jewish dominance and hold on the levers of power and ideological and institutional supremacy, therefore not “American”. But such distinction may be no more than a face-saving device to protect one’s moral perception of self.

    If you look into the history of pre-Jewish-eminence US you’ll find numerous examples of dominance conflicts engaged by the US in its quest for empire-building – in fact the whole history of the US is a long table of conquests and conflicts for the sake of imperium (including the civil war) and for the benefit of whatever ruling elite was the directing mind. Mind you, it was not a unique US tendency; rather a peculiar “Western” ethos to climb to the top of the pecking order.

    On the other hand, one may come across historical oddities such as the Chinese aversion to expand and dominate other nations, as illustrated symbolically by the Great Wall as a message to the world outside: “Get stuffed, mind your bloody business and leave us alone”. However, the present China, regardless of its civilizational model, cannot ignore the barbarians by simply erecting walls; hence its phenomenal rising to the challenge by economic and military might.

    One could say such a “choice” for China was actually an ultimatum: “if you don’t rise to the US threat you’ll be occupied by the Western masters again”. China was “pushed” to it because of US belligerence, as a dialectical imperative.

    • Agree: Mary Marianne
  4. China didn’t get rich before it got old. The middle income trap awaits.

  5. Getaclue says:
    @SteveK9

    The Globalist NWO One World Government “Elites”/Banksters do want to turn every place into China– they are the ones who exported USA Manufacturing and prosperity to China and to just pretend it was China that magically created same (which you see pimped here all the time) is laughable — the authoritarian system in China where the Peons have no Rights, are carted away in vans never to be heard from again for criticizing the “Party”, and have to look for a green light on their cell phones to walk outside is the “Model” the “Elites” have for the rest of us–we are now seeing it rolled out.

    The NWO Globalist Mainslime Media and NWO “Elites” gush over the Chinese Communist system constantly and embarrassingly– today CNN pimping China authoritarianism over the Peons yet again — this is not The Onion but their Headline: “China’s model of control has been blamed for the coronavirus crisis, but for some it’s looking increasingly attractive” — this same attitude appears elsewhere among our “Elite” opinion often…– so if you haven’t been following the Rockefeller Foundation/Gates Foundation and the work of the CFR for years now, you might want to tune in and understand that the roll out we are now seeing of “Medical Martial Law” has been “gamed” and “planned” by them for years in order to bring in the type of authoritarian “Social Credit Score” System they have in China to the USA and the West —

    The fact the CFR “Elites” have always wanted a Communist type One World Government run by the Bankster “Elite” has been warned about for years and of course ignored by the Mainslime Media (and the average person is completely uninformed/ignorant of what is going on) — because the Globalist Media are in on it– the “World Government” David Rockefeller is talking about below IS the ChiCom “Model”– destroying the USA has been necessary in their eyes to bring all this about– that is playing out right now.:

    “We are grateful to the Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years.

    It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years.

    But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government.

    The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.” David Rockefeller – 1991

  6. The Globalist NWO One World Government “Elites”/Banksters do want to turn every place into China– they are the ones who exported USA Manufacturing and prosperity to China and to just pretend it was China that magically created same (which you see pimped here all the time) is laughable

    You, like many others seem to have have no idea how far China had advanced along the road to its present industrialization before Deng’s rapprochement with Nixon. Right from the start in 1949, the CPC has stressed the importance of Science and Education. Power production and steel were well advanced before the first of the US manufacturers turned up to take advantage of the Chinese offer. In 1964, students in Pudong University, were making transistors as a bench experiment. The idea that the USA somehow Gifted the Chinese their industrialization on a plate is RIDICULOUS. It may serve to massage bruised American egos, but it is no help whatever in understanding the present World.

    • Replies: @DB Cooper
    , @Getaclue
  7. DB Cooper says:
    @foolisholdman

    “Right from the start in 1949, the CPC has stressed the importance of Science and Education. Power production and steel were well advanced before the first of the US manufacturers turned up to take advantage of the Chinese offer.”

    Thats not true. In the beginining everything including science and technology was subservient to the political ideology of the time, which can be changed from day to day. Many top notched scientists were purched and persecuted. As late as the late 1980s power outage and blackout was a regular occurence. People were still burning coal cakes everywhere in major cities. Granted there were some showcase examples like launching satellite and denotating nuclear bombs, but by and large everything including things as innocous as mathematics was tightly controlled. When Chen Jingrun proved an important conjecture he has to get the approval of ZhouEnlai in order to publish it. And of course Chen was also persecuted.

    It was Deng that put China on the right track.

  8. Getaclue says:
    @foolisholdman

    The USA Working Class Citizens didn’t “gift” anything– “Elites” NWO Banksters/Globalists/CFR especially Henry Kissinger — made China a “project” (just like Dr. Armand Hammer and other Wall Streeters “created”/served the Russian Communist Revolution– it was financed by Globalist Wall Street types just like the China “miracle” was/is serviced by the same: https://nosnowinmoscow.net/2013/01/31/how-the-west-built-the-ussr/amp/ ).

    The same NWO Banksters/Globalists/Council On Foreign Relations (CFR) wrote and put thru the laws in the USA thru our corrupt and bought off Congress/Presidents that gave huge tax advantages for off shoring USA Manufacturing to China — what sane country does this? The USA was totally betrayed and we are seeing more of the same daily with this NWO roll out using the ChiCom Virus.
    http://www.exponentialimprovement.com/cms/offshoresubsidies.shtml

    The goal ALWAYS has been a One World Government that the Bankster “Elites” are the Lords over — the Chinese Communist Authoritarian Government is the “Model” for controlling the Peons — and the “Elites” who want that authoritarian control of all the World’s Peons have done all they can to help China get where it is today while destroying the USA Middle Class — CFR Member and NWO Globalist Henry Kissinger was extremely involved in accomplishing all of the changes that empowered Communist China, and destroyed the USA, you will find if you do any historical research and he is even now recently pimping the ChiCom Virus as reason to do even more NWO damage to the USA. https://katehon.com/article/chinas-globalist-agenda Here’s NWO Henry who is a CFR member/leader:
    https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2020/04/07/kissingers_call_for_a_new_world_order_142873.html

    The Globalist Agenda calls for the destruction of the USA– UN “Leaders” have been very open about this fact– if you are on board with it that’s your decision but don’t be ignorant or worse, deceptive, as to what has been done and what is still going on and claim China wasn’t heavily aided by the CFR and other NWO Globalist traitors in the USA– the facts are otherwise. http://www.globalistagenda.org/

Current Commenter
says:

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 have been licensed to 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 Pepe Escobar Comments via RSS
PastClassics
Our Reigning Political Puppets, Dancing to Invisible Strings
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?