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Asia has been the future for more than a generation.

When Americans try to glimpse what’s to come, images of the Pacific Rim flood the imagination. For movie audiences in 1982, the rain-soaked Los Angeles of Blade Runner looked like downtown Tokyo. By 2014, the City of Angels in the Spike Jonze film Her had more of a Shanghai vibe. This upcoming October, with the release of Blade Runner 2049, Los Angeles will likely resemble Seoul.

Off-screen as well, Asia has been almost as good as a time machine. When I was coming of age, it was the place to go for anyone hankering for the next big thing. After college, a number of my classmates traveled to Japan to strike gold teaching English. Today, recent grads are more likely to visit the big cities of South Korea and China, or head further south to Singapore and Malaysia. They all come back, as I did in 2001 after three years in Asia, with stories of the future: bullet trains, otherworldly urban landscapes, the latest electronic gizmos.

So, it’s not surprising that when foreign policy elites think about what will replace a U.S. superpower in relative decline — speculation that has grown more feverish in the Trump era — they, too, look East. But no longer to Japan, which is passé, or South Korea, which has also perhaps peaked. Instead, they tremble before China, which has already surpassed the United States in gross economic output, while steadily enhancing its military capabilities. It seems like the only country remotely capable of challenging the United States as the world’s sole superpower.

The anxiety of declining U.S. influence became so intense during the Obama years that the notion of a Group of Two (G2) gained considerable currency: if we can’t beat ‘em, went the thinking at the time, then maybe we should join ‘em. However seriously intended such a proposal to co-rule the world with China might have been, the Obama administration never followed up beyond agreements on climate change and bilateral investment.

Ambitious and impatient, Beijing decided to strike out on its own. It has unveiled a twenty-first-century, industrial-strength version of the post-World War II Marshall Plan with which the U.S. once put a devastated Europe back on its feet. China’s vision, however, focuses on the building up of all the countries on its periphery and some even further afield, as it tries to draw the whole Eurasian continent into its sphere of influence. Although it’s expected to provide an estimated \$1 trillion to more than 60 countries, this “One Belt, One Road” plan is anything but a charity mission. It will direct a major influx of resources to Chinese construction companies, bring minerals and energy to Chinese factories, and promise a better potential return on investment than U.S. treasury bonds. Some infrastructure projects will also allay security concerns, like the energy pipelines to be built through Myanmar that will bypass the watery bottleneck of the Malacca Straits where a determined adversary could potentially shut off 80% of Beijing’s oil imports.

The victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 elections has only deepened anxiety over China’s ascendance among Washington’s policymakers and pundits. During his campaign, Trump frightened both the neocons and more conventional militarists with his talk of avoiding military entanglements overseas. As president, he has pledged to boost military spending but seems to have no idea of how to use all the Pentagon’s new toys other than to bomb the stuffing out of the militants of the Islamic State.

Nor does Trump care a whit about the soft power the United States has traditionally used to cultivate international support. For instance, Washington had long promoted international financial institutions and free trade agreements, but Trump has railed against the “false song of globalism.” China, meanwhile, is positioning itself to become the new overlord of global capitalism, even going so far as to set up a parallel international financial system to realize its vision. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which began operations in January 2016 without the support of the United States or the European Union, will function like the World Bank in providing financing for China’s various building projects abroad. Whereas Beijing controls less than 5% of the votes at the World Bank, it commands 28% of the shares in the AIIB. Although still a small operation compared to China’s commercial banks, it will be quite capable of scaling up if the opportunity arises.

The contrast between Beijing and Washington has become even sharper around climate change. Trump’s denial of global warming — he once labeled it a Chinese “hoax” — has whetted the Beijing leadership’s appetite for global influence. As one of its top climate change negotiators said shortly after Trump won the November election, “China’s influence and voice are likely to increase in global climate governance, which will then spill over into other areas of global governance and increase China’s global standing, power, and leadership.”

All of this is part of a larger trend of power flowing from West to East. In 2010, North America and Western Europe were responsible for 40% of the global gross national product. By 2050, that share, the Economist Intelligence Unit estimates, will fall to 21%, with Asia’s share rising to a commanding 48.1%.

But don’t rush out to begin that crash course in Mandarin and exchange your dollars for yuan quite yet. The showdown between Beijing and Washington is unlikely to play out exactly as the Chinese hope and Americans fear.

The Decline of the United States

On a visit to Beijing in October 2016, in the presence of the Chinese leadership, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared, “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow.” He went on to imagine a new axis of Russia, China, and the Philippines arrayed against the arrogance of American power.

Talk about shockers. The Philippines has traditionally been a cornerstone of U.S. influence in Asia, a place for Washington to station troops, dock ships, and, in the post-9/11 era, send military advisors to help suppress a Muslim insurgency. Moreover, Manila had gone toe to toe with Beijing over disputed islands in the South China Sea, even submitting its case to an international tribunal for arbitration. But that was before Duterte became president in May 2016 and labeled President Obama, who took a dim view of Duterte’s gruesome record of extrajudicial killings, a “son of a whore.”

The apparent defection of the Philippines was the coup de grâce for one of the Obama administration’s most heralded foreign policy efforts aimed at staving off American decline. In October 2011, just before the Arab Spring broke out, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton authored an article in Foreign Policy laying out what would become known as the “Pacific pivot.” The United States, at the time, was fitfully trying to extricate itself from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to imports from Mexico and Canada, as well as investments in shale fracking and sustainable energy, Washington was no longer quite so dependent on Middle Eastern oil. The Obama administration felt that it might finally put the failures of the Bush years behind it and turn to new horizons.

The Pacific pivot should have been called the Willie Sutton policy. When Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he replied, “That’s where the money is.” So, too, with Asia. It contains four of the top 11 economies in the world: China’s, Japan’s, India’s, and South Korea’s. With the United States focused on losing bets in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen, China has been cornering this rich Asian market. By now, it has become the leading trading partner for South Korea, Japan, Australia, and virtually all of Southeast Asia.

To recapture its edge in the region, the Obama administration promoted a free trade compact known as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). U.S. negotiators managed to achieve the near impossible by getting a dozen disparate countries on the same page while leaving China out of the picture. But Congress proved, at best, lukewarm on the deal. And sentiment among the American public ran even colder — so cold, in fact, that one of its chief architects, Hillary Clinton, fearing that the trade agreement might take her presidential bid down in flames, came out against it in 2016. Withdrawing from the TPP would, of course, be one of Donald Trump’s first acts as president.

The United States, in fact, faces more than just an economic challenge in Asia. Washington had long considered the Pacific to be an “American lake.” It currently has 375,000 military and civilian personnel stationed within the Pacific Command’s ambit and devotes roughly half its naval capacity to Pacific waters. It maintains treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, as well as dozens of military bases in the region. But China, after more than a decade of double-digit increases in military spending, has begun pushing back against American pretensions to be the only Pacific power around. It has developed new weapons to deny the U.S. military access to its coastal waters and has come to excel at cyberwarfare, vacuuming up huge amounts of confidential data by hacking into U.S. government agencies. Meanwhile, in the world of spy versus spy, China has managed to plug leaks on its end by jailing or killing more than a dozen U.S. intelligence assets.

Even before the ascension of Donald Trump, the Pentagon’s effort to pivot eastward had come up short. For all its overwhelming military edge, Washington has increasingly found itself unable to dictate outcomes through force anywhere in the Greater Middle East. The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and turmoil in Yemen and Libya have all continued to bedevil the U.S. military.

In the meantime, the Obama administration made some token rearrangements of its forces in the Pacific, sold some high-tech weaponry to its allies in the region, and threw some brush-back pitches at Beijing. But in the end, as with so many of Obama’s initiatives, the Pacific pivot proved largely aspirational. The U.S. never really pivoted out of the Greater Middle East.

As a presidential candidate, Trump was content to bluster about Chinese threats, even as he also threatened to withdraw the U.S. nuclear umbrella from both Tokyo and Seoul. He demanded that U.S. allies pony up more money for American help and protection, while offering no new ways of anchoring the United States in the Pacific.

Now in the Oval Office, Trump has sent mixed signals. He’s repaired relations with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, but he’s also been pushing a major rise in the Pentagon budget. And what country would be the target of those additional tens of billions of dollars in military spending? The U.S. Navy certainly doesn’t need a 350-ship force to counter the Islamic State. Trump has welcomed the election of South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, but also insists that he wants to renegotiate “bad” trade and security deals with South Korea. He has tried to bully North Korea, but has also held out the possibility of meeting personally with that “pretty smart cookie,” Kim Jong-un.

Thanks to his erratic pronouncements, even though it’s early in Trump’s term, American influence in the region is already dropping as inexorably as the president’s approval ratings at home. Add to this mix a president who only wants big wins but doesn’t see the likelihood of that happening in Asia and you have the definition of decline.

That decline has, in recent years, often been calculated in terms of approaching horizons: when North Korean missiles can reach the West Coast; when China’s military spending pulls closer to the Pentagon’s; when Japan and South Korea, like the Philippines, begin to reconsider their allegiances. Now, in the Trump era, add one more item to the list: when Asia faces an incompetent, corrupt, and self-defeating administration in Washington.

The way seems clear enough for China, the strongest country in Asia, to fill the potential vacuum. But, as they say, the best-laid plans oft do go astray.

The Weakness of Asia

Japan is the incredible shrinking country. Between 2010 and 2015, the population of America’s most steadfast ally in the Pacific dropped by a million people to just over 127 million. As a result of a strikingly low fertility rate and negligible immigration, there could, according to official projections, be only 85-95 million Japanese by 2050. By 2135, after living in a fossilized society, the last Japanese, at the age of 118, could breathe his or her final breath. This worst-case scenario, as spelled out by former trade negotiator Clyde Prestowitz in his recent book Japan Restored, is perhaps far-fetched, but Japan is nevertheless on a path toward what looks like national seppuku: ritual suicide by attrition .

Ah, well, that’s Japan, you might think. It’s been in a fiscal funk since its economic bubble burst back in 1990. But the rise, stagnation, and shrinkage of that country remains a cautionary tale for all the other lands that have followed its path of export-led and state-facilitated growth.

After all, South Korea has entered its own period of diminished economic expectations, with anemic growth, widening inequality, and pervasive corporate corruption. Young South Koreans, facing the prospect of unemployment or poorly compensated contract labor, refer to their country as “Hell Choson,” a play on the Choson dynasty that ruled from 1392 to 1897. Taiwan, another member of the “flying geese of industrialization” responsible for Asia’s tremendous economic growth, faces a strikingly similar set of problems, according to economist Frank Hsiao, including “low and stagnating wage rates, increasing income inequality, the hollowing out of domestic industries, and languishing exports.”

Some of the shine is even wearing off China’s economic miracle. The days of annual double-digit growth in its gross national product are long past. Officials are happy now if they can cite growth figures closer to 7% (and even those are believed to be overstated). The Chinese labor force has been contracting since 2012. Strikes and labor protests increased dramatically in 2016, while unrest continues in China’s westernmost provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet. The government’s official anti-corruption campaign, despite netting some highly placed individuals, has only driven the corrupt into more discrete forms of graft.

Meanwhile, it’s not only Japan that faces a demographic crisis. The fertility rates of both Taiwan (1.12) and South Korea (1.25) are even lower than Japan’s (1.41), while China’s (1.6) is only a bit higher. None of them is close to the replacement rate of 2.1. Approaching 2050, all four countries will have to dig deep to pay the retirement benefits and healthcare costs of all the industrious workers currently outperforming their counterparts elsewhere in the world. What was once called “Japan passing” — investors skipping that country in search of better opportunities elsewhere in the region — is already morphing into “China passing.” Financial flows are also going to be affected by the rising waters of climate change, which, later in the century, will threaten major cities like Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Predicting the coming supremacy of the East has been a veritable cottage industry in the West, and its stock is still rising as China’s One Belt, One Road venture, meant to tie the vast Eurasian continent together, goes head to head with Trump’s “my way or the highway.” The future, however, promises to be far messier than China or its boosters imagine. Demographics, corruption, and reduced economic growth — not to mention environmental degradation and the declining legitimacy of its ruling party’s ideology — are by no means the only problems that Beijing faces.

Asia’s New Nationalism

The United States once billed itself as the antidote to nationalism in Asia. After World War II, it established a permanent military presence across the region to prevent the resurgence of Japanese militarism. It portrayed itself as a neutral party, with no territorial ambitions. It restored the island of Okinawa to Japan in 1972. It refused to take sides in several island disputes in the region. In this way, its liberal internationalism squared off against the illiberal Communisms of China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Both these supranational ideologies, which flourished in the region during the Cold War, have entered hospice care in the twenty-first century. Communism has functionally disappeared from the region, replaced by nationalisms of varying degrees of intensity. Xi Jinping’s China and Kim Jong-un’s North Korea are hardly the only places where nationalism has taken root.

In Japan, for instance, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is busy trying to rebuild the very militarism that the United States once professed to despise. A succession of U.S. administrations has aided and abetted this right-wing nationalist effort to dispense with the country’s post-World War II “peace constitution” and push the Japanese Self-Defense Forces onto the offensive.

Nationalist leaders, meanwhile, have assumed power throughout Southeast Asia: the murderous president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte; the former military commander, now prime minister of Thailand, Prayuth Chan-ocha; and the corrupt Najib Razak, prime minister of Malaysia. Even more ominously, nationalism has taken hold in South Asia, particularly in India, which recently replaced Great Britain as the world’s sixth largest economy and where Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made Hindu exceptionalism the heart and soul of his ruling party.

One obvious result of this rising nationalism has been escalating arms imports across the region. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India became the world’s largest arms importer in 2012-2016. During that period, Southeast Asia’s arms imports rose by more than 6%, with Vietnam jumping to 10th place globally. In 2012, for the first time, Asia surpassed Europe in overall military spending.

Both the nationalist rhetoric and those weapons imports are certainly linked to regional perceptions of the waxing and waning of great powers. To reinforce their claims to the South China Sea and several other disputed territories, countries in the region feel the need to arm themselves in the face of a newly aggressive China and a perennially distracted United States.

At the moment, those two countries are cooperating in one key area: pouring money into the kind of military hardware that could someday lead to a catastrophic showdown. This reality has led ever more foreign policy analysts to invoke the “Thucydides trap,” in which a rising power like Athens (read: China) takes on the hitherto dominant power Sparta (read: America) in a long, debilitating conflict like the Peloponnesian War (read: World War III).

But the conflicts in Asia may, in fact, shape up quite differently. Movements for greater self-determination are undercutting the reach of both the rising and the reigning superpower. Consider the contrasting examples of Myanmar and South Korea.

China is the largest investor in Myanmar, and at one time the two countries were as thick as thieves. But relations between them have grown tense. In 2011, the new civilian-led government in Myanmar stopped work on the Myitsone dam, one of a number of mega-projects financed by Beijing. “Plenty of Burmese blame China for helping to prop up the military junta,” writes journalist Tom Miller in his new book, China’s Asian Dream. Newly enfranchised, the Burmese have taken aim at projects like Myitsone, where 90% of the electricity generated would have gone to China. Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi must now decide between permanently mothballing the dam, which would require paying back the \$800 million owed Chinese financiers, or going forward with a deeply unpopular project she previously opposed.

The example of Myanmar is not unique. Sri Lanka has recently swung away from China and back toward India. Filipino President Duterte has recently edged back toward a United States led by Donald Trump, who has praised the Philippine leader’s drug war (despite its massive human rights violations). Vietnam is perennially suspicious of China’s geopolitical intentions, but anti-Chinese sentiment has also been building in Laos, Indonesia, and Malaysia. One Belt, One Road might outstrip the Marshall Plan in size, but it lacks the underlying regional political solidarity that ensured the latter’s success.

And yet China is not alone in feeling a backlash in the region. In South Korea, for instance, a decade of conservative rule came to a crashing end with the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye on corruption charges, a hastily organized election, and the victory of progressive Moon Jae-in. The new South Korean leader is no firebrand, so don’t expect a dramatic break with Washington. South Korea has been subservient to the United States for too long to risk that any time soon. Moon has, however, promised to take another look at the missile defense system — the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) — that the United States worked so hard to deploy in South Korea before he took office. The new president also wants to mend fences with China, the country’s largest trading partner, and revive a more cooperative relationship with North Korea as well.

Meanwhile, in Japan, opposition from politicians, activists, and ordinary citizens in Okinawa has blocked a plan hammered out in Tokyo and Washington to close an old U.S. military base in the city of Futenma, only to build a replacement elsewhere on the island. Okinawa is where America houses a good deal of its Pacific firepower. The refusal of Okinawan inhabitants to support the construction of the new base has not only scrambled the Pacific plans of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton but given new legitimacy to the idea of withdrawing U.S. forces from Japan and South Korea to a secondary tier of islands like Guam.

The growing willingness of Asian countries to put their own interests above those of their putative patrons has also made it more difficult for the region to find common ground. “Asia is not remotely cohesive,” writes Jessica Mathews of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “There is no ‘East’ comparable to the ‘West.’ Though the region is integrating economically, it is riven by active conflicts, bitter historical memories, and deep cultural divisions.”

Past as Prologue?

If liberal internationalism no longer appeals to U.S. allies in Asia — or, indeed, to the new leadership in Washington — it might be easy enough to assume that the future will be a replay of the past: the return to a Sinocentric universe that prevailed for 1,000 years or more in the region. Instead of local satraps loaded with gifts visiting an emperor in Beijing, the leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and the Philippines will build dams and ports and pipelines with Chinese money and then repatriate much of the proceeds to that country.

As it happens, though, the intensification of nationalism in Asia has greatly complicated this picture and may leave leaders like Duterte playing Beijing off against Washington, or striking out on their own, or perhaps seeking help from India — or even Saudi Arabia, which has made a bid for greater influence among Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. If the rise of China has caused much anxiety in the West, so has the possibility that no country will become dominant in Asia in the wake of U.S. decline and that a new kind of chaos will descend on the region.

“The idea of a multipolar world, without dominant powers and guided solely by the rule of law, is theoretically attractive,“ Financial Times journalist Gideon Rachman writes in his recent book Easternization. But he adds, “I fear that just such a multipolar world is already emerging and proving to be unstable and dangerous: the ‘rules’ are very hard to enforce without a dominant power in the background.”

For years, Asia has contemplated an alternative to both Chinese and American hegemony. Following the example of the European Union, politicians and scholars have imagined a future of economic and political integration. But the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and similar efforts continue to fall far short of the EU ideal (which itself looks increasingly shaky and fragmented).

In other words, despite all those dreams of Asia’s glittering future, it’s unlikely to resemble the peaceful prosperity of Europe, nor is it likely to see a continuation of U.S. hegemony or a repeat of the China-centered system of centuries past. It’s likely, however, to involve population decline, economic contraction, heightened nationalism, and rising waters — a future, in short, filled with troubles and dangers of every sort.

Although Washington still commands considerable power in the region, it could stand back, Trump-like, and just watch everything unravel. Or, alongside Beijing, it could make a serious investment in a new organization of security and economic cooperation, in which the United States and China would be equal partners, the region could have its collective say, and the new nationalism would be deprived of its major raison d’être.

Without such a supranational vision that could bring the region together around the twin threats of climate change and economic inequality, one thing is essentially guaranteed. The Asia to come won’t look shiny and new like some Hollywood movie. The future may not look like Asia at all, but more like Europe circa 1913, at the edge of conflict and cataclysm.

John Feffer is the author of the new dystopian novel, Splinterlands (a Dispatch Books original with Haymarket Books), which Publishers Weekly hails as “a chilling, thoughtful, and intuitive warning.” He is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies and a TomDispatch regular.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Asia, China, Donald Trump 
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  1. the ‘rules’ are very hard to enforce without a dominant power in the background

    Well, the empirical evidence shows that the rules are impossible to enforce with the single dominant power. The dominant power doesn’t want any rules; it prefers ‘to create its own reality’. On the contrary, in a multi-polar world rules are beneficial for everyone.

    Also, you’re using the word ‘nationalism’ a lot, but it’s not nationalism that ‘takes root’ and ‘takes hold’. It’s sovereignism. Independence.

    • Replies: @Sergey Krieger
  2. ” The days of annual double-digit growth in its gross national product are long past. Officials are happy now if they can cite growth figures closer to 7% (and even those are believed to be overstated)”.

    The author confuses growth with acceleration. Though China’s economy (30% bigger than America’s) is not accelerating as rapidly as before, it is growing faster. 6.5% is a RATIO expressing the rate of acceleration, not growth. Knowing that ratio, 6.5%, tells you nothing about growth.

    Growth is a value–a number or figure–derived by multiplying the rate of acceleration with the previous year’s GDP. It is expressed in RMB or \$, not a ratio. Growth \$ = Annual GDP \$ x Rate of acceleration.

    Ten years ago, China’s economy was \$7.6 trillion. Growing at 12%, added \$761 billion (South Africa’s entire GDP in 2006). Growth = 7.6 x 1.12 = \$761B
    In 2016, China’s economy was \$21.1 trillion. Growing at 6.7%, added \$1.3 trillion–(twice as much as 2006). Growth = \$ 21.2 x 1.06 = \$1.27T
    China’s econmy has not slowed down. China’s growth has speeded up. Because arithmetic.

    And as to China’s figures ‘believed to be overstated’? That’s only been ‘believed’ because beliefs about slowdowns were so thoroughly debunked. China’s figures are better than Canada’s.

  3. What a pile of crap.

    What does it matter what Asia does?

    US should pull its military out of East Pacific and take care of the US. It is SW territory that need to be protected.

    Also, Feffer is wrong about resurgent nationalism.

    He would have us believe China was communist in the past but now is nationalist.

    No, Chinese communism was very nationalist. So was Vietnamese communism.
    China and Vietnam fought as communist powers.
    Also, Khmer Rouge was intensely nationalist.

    If anything, communism made things more dangerous because it suppressed real nationalist differences among these nations. So, violence exploded once US retreated from Vietnam. Cambodia attacked Vietnam, Vietnam invade Cambodia, China attacked Vietnam.

    It’s like communism suppressed serious differences between USSR and China in the 50s and eventually things came to a head. Today, China and Russia get along better because they are more candid about their nationalism and nationalist interests.

    Things are nicer now because the nationalism today is more honest.

    Also, Japanese nationalism of Abe is purely defensive. It is nothing to do with nationalism of yesteryear that was associated with Japanese imperialism.

    Besides, even if Japan wanted to conquer other parts of Asia, it aint gonna happen.

    Feffer’s problem is he thinks globally. He wonders what new hegemony will replace the old hegemony and etc.

    It’s all nonsense. The world doesn’t need a sole superpower or multi-polar this or that. It just needs nations that secure their borders and do trade with other nations. There will always be differences and disagreements, but hey, that’s life.

  4. Karl says:

    > He is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies

    but he can’t tell us, which nationality is the dominant crowd during lunch, at the foodcourt of the Guam Premier Outlet mall

    Guam, of course, is as US-military-specific-density as it gets

    Ron Unz is very easily impressed by East Coast “pointy headed” credentials. I wonder how much he paid for this article?

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Blah Blah Blah. This author just rambles on not really saying much of anything.

    Yes. Asia has a low birth rate, but so does the west save for the blacks and browns.

    Something about economic stagnation. Well, part of the reason the economies have stagnated is that they have a mercantilist economy that relies on keeping their currency low.

    Part of the wests retreat from Asia will be the death of the petrodollar and will allow more wealth to stay is Asia. Not recycled back into the west to buy treasury bonds.

    Something about nationalism. Well, Asia should be glad they don’t have something like the EU which only serves the globalists.

    This is the laziest piece I have ever read on Unz.

  6. Randal says:

    Lots of good stuff here, mixed in with lots of boilerplate leftism and the usual Trumpophobic nonsense.

    The most egregious misdirection is probably the nonsense about Japan’s (and other Asian countries’) shrinking populations as a supposed economic catastrophe.

    In an era of ever increasing automation and likely shrinking employment together with ever present environmental concerns, reducing the high population densities achieved in the C20th is surely a good thing overall. (As long as policymakers aren’t so stupid as to import en masse troublesome communities of culturally and racially distinct people to try to make up the numbers – but surely no remotely responsible government would ever authorise such a suicidally irresponsible policy!)

    It’s a basic error of course to take a current trend and extrapolate it to some future zero point, as the author above does with Japan’s population, but if there are real concerns about declining population then the answer is to institute state policies to increase birth rates, as draconian and/or costly as the a situation requires (and if necessary raise retirement ages to reflect longer healthy lives). There’s no reason to suppose significant increases in indigenous birth rates couldn’t be induced, given the effort. The only thing stopping it is ideological – that such objectives are invariably hysterically opposed as “fascist” by people with ulterior ideological motives for wanting to promote mass immigration instead.

    But given a choice Japan’s “crisis” is infinitely preferable to our “solution”.

  7. Randal says:

    John Feffer is the author of the new dystopian novel, Splinterlands (a Dispatch Books original with Haymarket Books), which Publishers Weekly hails as “a chilling, thoughtful, and intuitive warning.”

    Might have to have a look at that one. I like science fiction, and I’m quite partial to a bit of dystopia.

    A bit cautious, though, given the author’s clear political prejudices in the piece above – I’d be risking getting dumped into a grossly partisan lecture about the suppose evils of nationalism. And there’s always the risk with lefty writers that they’ll unload some gratuitous homosexual shit on you in the middle of an otherwise decent read. Still, might be worth a punt at £6.99 for the Kindle version.

  8. dearieme says:

    “Asia is not remotely cohesive,” writes Jessica Mathews … “There is no ‘East’ comparable to the ‘West.’

    The only place I’ve seen politicians assuming the contrary is Australia, and that was thirty years ago.

  9. neutral says:

    Meanwhile, it’s not only Japan that faces a demographic crisis.

    These neocon/neoliberal types raise this a lot, they like to mention the birth rates of Japan or China, but then they completely forget to raise the demographic realities of Western Europe or North America. The USA is already close to having the demographics of Brazil and it will get worse than even Brazil. A third world USA will struggle to keep order in its own land let alone being able to run a global empire, to believe that a third world populated USA can muster an army to challenge China (or Japan or Russia) is laughable.

    • Replies: @Joe Wong
  10. @Randal

    One of the major constraints on the reproduction of Europeans and I would guess that of USAmericans, is the fact that over my lifetime we have gone from a situation where it was possible for a family to exist and reproduce on the husband’s wage alone; to a situation today where even a family with two relatively well paid adults, cannot see how they can afford a child, let alone, children!

    • Agree: Seamus Padraig
    • Replies: @Joe Wong
  11. @Mao Cheng Ji

    There used to be multipolar world quite a few times. It was beneficial to selected few and then those selected few tended to go for each other throats.considering we are approaching resources limits I doubt it all will end well. Somehow everybody keeps piling on weapons. The major issue seems that capitalism had outlived it’s usefulness and within capitalistic system there is no solution.

  12. I started this article but found that I couldn’t maintain the levels of interest to finish it. If China wants to squander its resources trying to develop non-Chinese economies in Southeast Asia, I say let them do it. Are the Phillipines turning to China? So much the better–let their bar girls learn Mandarin rather than English. The notion that the Pacific Ocean needs to be an American lake was never realistic, nor of any real benefit to the American people. Donald Trump needs to focus attention and resources on problems at home and leave the geostratigizing about Asia to Asians.

    • Replies: @Joe Wong
  13. Mr. Feffer, have you ever heard of the concept in physics know as “leverage”? A lever provides a mechanical advantage such that, with an application of e.g. 10 pounds of force here, one can exert 100 pounds of force there.

    Well, this is precisely what machines do, only they generally convert chemical to mechanical energy or one type of mechanical energy to another. By means of this, one man can perform the work that had formerly occupied ten men and this either frees up those other ten to do other things or it enables all the men to work only on tenth of the time they had hitherto been forced to work.

    As Japan is very good at deploying levers, it is no longer necessary for them to maintain such a large population. Neither, due to human factors, is it desirable to do so. Fewer people can do the work that formerly required many and yet people can still enjoy the good life, maybe even a better good life since they won’t be so crowded.

    Physics, Mr. Feffer. Simple physics. That and a sensitivity to how people interact.

  14. Joe Wong says:

    In Joseph Goebbels’ rules of propaganda, rule number one is it is always about others, it always talks about others never about one self.

  15. Agent76 says:

    Jul 10, 2017 Malaysia forms secretariat to oversee Belt and Road projects

    Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Investment has established a dedicated secretariat to oversee projects under the Belt and Road umbrella.

    • Replies: @Joe Wong
  16. Joe Wong says:

    The source of the trouble is the 1% and they induced obfuscate ideology, free market capitalism.

  17. Agent76 says:

    There is no retreat I can assure you of that fact.

    August 20, 2014 “The Pentagon’s Strategy for World Domination: Full Spectrum Dominance, from Asia to Africa,”

    Author Noam Chomsky has described US foreign and military policy regarding oil supplies as a “lever of world domination.” Control over natural resources keeps competing markets dependent on the US as well as in line with its interests.

    Sep 11, 2011 General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned – Seven Countries In Five Years

    “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”

  18. Joe Wong says:
    @Diversity Heretic

    “nor of any real benefit to the American people.” is a grossly ungrateful statement. American has made huge amount of money from Asia, about 100 years the American made money by selling Opium to Chinese like the British and Japanese by pointing the gun at the Chinese head. Stole, looted and cheated the land and the riches from Chinese, Filipino and other Asians using extraterritorial judicial Kangaroo court, the United States Court for China. Extorted war indemnity by waging reckless wars on fabricated allegations, false flag ops and ruthless suppression. Selling war materials and war technologies to the Japanese in invading China and murdering and committing atrocities against Chinese.

    The American will not be where it is now, still filthy rich (although always complaining) without the huge amount of wealth they extorted from Asia.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  19. mp says:

    …the peaceful prosperity of Europe…

    Did I read that correctly?

  20. @Priss Factor

    Well put. I’d just add that every concern for the future of Asia expressed in this article is another good argument for the USA pulling back its Pacific sphere of influence to somewhere far east of Wake Island.

  21. Che Guava says:
    @Priss Factor


    I am agreeing with most of your post, but not on Abe and Japan’s polity.

    Abe’s rise to power is based on two things.

    a. Family connections going back to pre-war politics.

    b. Writing comics, purportedly documentary, that were saying that Japan was right etc. That was a long time ago, but was the lead-up to his election to the Diet in the eighties.

    We have territorial disputes with every neighbouring country, both Koreas (for the same reason, but it is SK that holds the disputed islands, and is close to the one held by Japan).

    Russia, of course, an agreement was signed in USSR times, but the govt. now does not want to recognize it. Many in the ruling party would also like at least half of Sakhalin, preferably all of it..

    RoC (Taiwan) and PRC, as in the case of the Koreas, dispute the same places.

    Not just Diauyu or Senkakus, but also Okinotorishima, tidal rocks with concrete fortifications, it is a joke, and no doubt the inspiration for some of the PRC and Viet activity in the Sth. China Sea.

    I am strongly recommending you look at the photos of those rocks, and the concrete circles, the territorial claim is a pure joke, but scores of ultra-nationalist Tokyo residents are listing the concrete circles as their place of residence!

    There was talk of plans for a permanent built structure atop the concrete, I have not kept track of the nonsense, so do not know if it was built. Suppose it must have been.

    Every one (except with Korea) has had the US eagerly to fanning the flames.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  22. Don Bacon says:

    China (unlike US) is also big in Africa with its major GDP growth and raw materials.

    • Replies: @mp
  23. Glad to see the neocon perspective represented at Unz!

    There was talk of plans for a permanent built structure atop the concrete, I have not kept track of the nonsense, so do not know if it was built. Suppose it must have been.

    I, for one, advocate for more seasteading constructions out of nationalistic ambitions. I’m sure that Japan can make a beautiful structure, one that will make even Mr. Trump gasp in delight of its beauty.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  24. Who Will Take America’s Place in Asia?

    China. Makes sense actually. China is actually IN Asia.

  25. @Che Guava

    We have territorial disputes with every neighbouring country,

    Yeah, but that’s still not saying japan should be imperialist again.

    These are issues concerning small bits and pieces. and all nations have those problems.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  26. Joe Wong says:

    Malaysian has to thank for the never ending threat of blocking Malacca Strait by the American and their lackeys the Singapore and Australia. Without their thuggish threats China would not have to find alternate routes to bypass the chocking point, Malacca Strait. In addition to Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar are also being developed to sideline the Malacca Strait.

    The American definitely can claim credit this time that there are not all negatives with their military hammers, although they do not build anything constructive for anybody themselves, but they brought infrastructure building to Malaysia nonetheless.

    • Replies: @Agent76
  27. Che Guava says:
    @Joe Wong

    I do not think that your comment is sound, individual USA people may have been involved in the opium trade in China, but I have never read of a systematic involvement.

    Britain and then Japan, for sure. I would guess that the sad state of the Qing fleet in 1894 to 1895 (yes, I know that Qing fleet is not entirely accurate) due to theft and sabotage from opium addiction.

    Japan only started to move in, copying the British with opium distribution, at least 15, probably more years later. Admitedly, there are few records that document the activities of groups like the Black Ocean group, etc., probably running opium through Manchuria post-Russo-Japan war, the British had demonstrated the effect, but Japanese secret societies only had a big effort a little later.

    I’m anti-American polity, although I love many US people I meet.

    Despite its many crimes in that war, I have never seen a reference to opium trade. AFAIK, that started only after the OSS/CIA supported remnant and rogue Chiang Kai Shek forces in Northern Myanmar etc.

    This turned around to bite them, US service people in Vietnam became junkies, they spread the sickness on R&R in other places, then at home.

    I hate opiates and opioids, even codeine, makes me feel really bad.

    • Replies: @Joe Wong
  28. So, it’s not surprising that when foreign policy elites think about what will replace a U.S. superpower in relative decline — speculation that has grown more feverish in the Trump era —

    Two points:

    1. Among who this speculation has grown? Call it a hunch, but I suspect I wouldn’t listen opinions of those “experts” (among whom this speculation has grown) on even the brand of the toilet paper I use. Any Nobel Prize winners in whatever among those?

    2. US foreign policy “elites” specifically (with some few exceptions) are an Exhibit A of delusion, ignorance and incompetence.

    US decline (both relative and absolute) is an objective process now, it didn’t have to be this way but now it is a reality. If anybody can arrest it (even if for a little while) it is Trump but, I suspect, those very US foreign policy “elites” could be the undoing of his not perfect as it is economic effort.

  29. mp says:
    @Don Bacon

    China (unlike US) is also big in Africa with its major GDP growth and raw materials.

    Unlike in China, Africa is also big in the US. That’s a major difference one has to consider.

  30. Che Guava says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    You, Daniel, are either more intoxicated than me, or simply a moron.

    You may be reading a comment and series before posting an asinine reply.

    Think you display wit, but truth is, that post is witless.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  31. polistra says:

    Speaking as a proper nationalist: We don’t have a “place in Asia”. China has a place in Asia. Japan and Korea have a place in Asia.

    We have a place in North America. We can deal with Asian countries if and when we gain an advantage from doing it. All of our PRESENT dealings are suicidal for Americans, so we should give them up entirely.

    • Replies: @anon
  32. Joe Wong says:
    @Che Guava

    My “narrative” is never sound in the eyes of the “developed civilization,” the British said they were coerced by the Chinese to sell opium, the wars they fought was not “Opium Wars” but to convenience the lawless Chinese to open up for free and fair trades.

    The Japanese said their killing and torturing and other unscrupulous deeds against Chinese were not war crimes and crimes against humanity, because Chinese has killed and committed more atrocities against themselves.

    Perhaps you can get more convincing facts from the Japanese or other western libraries to explain away Chinese side of the history is wrong or tinted by the CCP brainwashing.

    But if you have read “Orientalism, China, The United States, and Modern Law” by Ruskola, Teemu, and “The Breaku-up of China: With an account of its present commerce, currency, waterways. armies, railways, politics, and future prspects” by Charles William De La Poer Beresford Beresford (1st Baron), perhaps you would consider contributing the crimes against Chinese committed by the Westerners to individuals is like Nazi and Japanese using “I am just following orders” to explain away their war crimes.

  33. Sean says:

    If the whole thing is determined by where the money the world will be run by Chinamerica, because they can make more together.

  34. yeah says:

    Oh my God, what a load of crock. The author has one foot in the intellectual fashions of 30-40 years ago, and the other in the zones of Trumophobia and the Globalist La La land.

    Yes, Asia is rising, perhaps will continue to rise, but it has nothing to do with Obama or Trump or Globalization or the other labels that the talking heads affix onto processes they have no grasp of. Will Asia ever come to have the quality of life that is possible in North America or Australia? I don’t see that happening. Nor do the Chinese and other Asian billionaires and millionaires whose favorite investment is investing in real estate in Australia and North America. Why? Precisely because these locations are not over-populated and offer quality of life. But the author, clearly a city slick enthralled by mega malls and other symptoms of urban overcrowding, sees overcrowding as a growth engine. He faults Japan for being in demographic decline. Would Japan be more peaceful if that miserable overcrowded island had millions of educated unemployed youth fighting for jobs and survival?

    Nationalism is yet another process (yes, it is a process, not a fixed thingee) that this ignoramus knows nothing about. The Chinese nationalists/communists were that because at a certain stage of their history the world political and economic processes required that as a policy to ensure survival. They are capitalists/nationalists now because the world of today is different from the world of 50 years ago and they had to transition to new processes operating in the world of today.

    The author should go back to Asia with the mindset of a serious student and quit being a talking head. When he gets back, he should study America with an open and inquiring mind. Who knows, he may then like to recant the nonsense he has spewed out today.

  35. @Priss Factor

    No, Chinese communism was very nationalist. So was Vietnamese communism.
    China and Vietnam fought as communist powers. Also, Khmer Rouge was intensely nationalist.

    I was about to make the same point, but you beat me to it, Priss. Asian communism–just like Latin American communism–has always been fundamentally nationalistic, because, for them, the first order of business is anti-imperialism.

  36. @Randal

    The most egregious misdirection is probably the nonsense about Japan’s (and other Asian countries’) shrinking populations as a supposed economic catastrophe …

    But given a choice Japan’s “crisis” is infinitely preferable to our “solution”.

    Could not agree more. I would definitely prefer a smaller population to out-of-control mass immigration.

    • Agree: Sergey Krieger
  37. @Che Guava

    I’m a witty moron.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  38. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Chicken Little alarmist projections aside, I am perfectly certain Japan will still be around and recognizably still JAPANESE in 2135. Wish I could say the same thing for the historically white nations of the west……

    In any case I do not see, or have ever seen, any reason for US forces to be deployed in Asia, the far east, or the eastern Pacific. Whether they leave because America finally smartens up or because of Chinese Resurgence the end result is the same.

  39. anon • Disclaimer says:

    He writes that Japan now has a population of “only” 127 million. This is more then DOUBLE that of Great Britain’s. And Japan’s population is almost 100% Japanese, while Britain now has many millions of blacks and browns and culturally alien Muslims. It would seem to me that NOT having immigration was as much a boon to the Japanese as having it was a disaster for the British. Yet the article is supposed to suggest the opposite. Unreal.

    • Agree: Seamus Padraig
  40. anon • Disclaimer says:

    America should never have gone into Asia and the Pacific. It all started with the incredibly stupid Spanish-American war. A war that was totally not necessary and 100% a war of choice. Had America not acquired these territories from Spain war with Japan in 1941 would have been improbable.

  41. Anonymous [AKA "thhtr"] says:

    “One Belt, One Road might outstrip the Marshall Plan in size, but it lacks the underlying regional political solidarity that ensured the latter’s success.”

    Solidarity- not military invasion followed by permanent occupation combined with the US holding half of the worlds wealth in 1945? Yea China is not going to replicate the US until its troops magically end up running national security for the worlds major states, but it doesnt need to do that for One Belt, One Road to succeed. All the latter does is replace Chinas dependency on sea routes, where the US navy can blockade like it did Japan in the early 40s, with land routes across the Asian landmass, where the US army are much weaker (see Afghanistan).

  42. Japan vs Korea.

    Vulgar but provocative.

  43. Che Guava says:
    @Priss Factor

    all nations have those problems

    Priss, you do seem to having a split personality at times.

    AFAIK, the only comparable amount of territorial disputes is the case of India, with Pakistan and China, and the places in between that have not been annexed by China (Tibet) or India (Assam and Sikkim).

    Our govt’s claims will not be imperial, but are in service of the imperialistic U.S.A.

    The game is very obvious, to encircle the sea lanes around China by allowing any claim, no matter how stupid. Please do a search for photos with terms ‘Ishihara’ and ‘Okinotorishima’, if you have not already seen that nonsense.

  44. Che Guava says:

    You are badly to misunderstand my words, I do not need to read the books you are to recommend, I have read much.

    Two of my closest friends are Chinese, one an older woman from Taiwan, whose father was in the Japanese Imperial Army.

    The other a young man from southern province, he never met his grandparents. I cannot feel comfortable to asking him why, but a very nice person. I am quite sure that he never met his grandparents because of one of the CPC’s campaigns. He is too young for them to have died in wartime.

    I am not to denying crimes by Japan at all, suspect I have much more detailed reading on that in the background than you.

    Please, don’t misunderstand me.

  45. Che Guava says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    Well said, and you show you’re not a moron by displaying good humour.

    You may still try reading posts before replying?! ?


    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  46. @Che Guava

    Well, for what it is worth, the neocon perspective I was speaking of was in reference to the original writer; the ramble about floating fortresses in the sea is a personal conceit.

  47. Agent76 says:
    @Joe Wong

    The Communist are following the American model. Jul 13, 2017 Opening up the economy: The role of China’s free trade zones

    It’s been over three months since China approved the setting up of seven new free trade zones with the aim of reigniting the competitiveness of the country’s traditional industries and opening up of new sectors for foreign investments. In Liaoning free trade zone, businesses are beginning to boom. CGTN’s Guan Yang has more.

  48. Peterkar says:

    This whole essay is highly suspect, rooted as it is in generalities and inaccuracies. No one close to TPP negotiations could claim that “U.S. negotiators managed to achieve the near impossible by getting a dozen disparate countries on the same page”, when the reality was quite the reverse: America proved to be the biggest blocking force at every phase of the negotiations. And what does it mean in suggesting that China will become a leader in “climate governance”? If it means that China will demonstrate wisdom greater than Europe’s in its energy policies by its commitment to fossil fuels, then I agree; but that has little to do with the U.S.
    For the record, I believe that Trump has made a major stragic error in walking away from TPP. China is now poised to revive its own version with the Pacific Rim nations, and to combine that version with Belt and Road.

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