Thursday, January 25, 2007

Chinese lesson: "Expediency is the mere shadow of right and truth; it is the beginning of disorder. " Lao Tzu

For years - a period coinciding with the rise of China - the US has failed to provide moral or political leadership in tackling the big challenges facing humankind, whether they concern global warming or the peaceful use of space. Crucially, the US has been reluctant to subsume its national interests into multinational efforts to benefit the wider world. Victor Mallet - Financial Times
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This article by Victor Mallet in the Financial Times is a must read. First it is a brilliant analysis of how China is exploiting America's hypocrisy and contradictions to its own benefit in true Sun Tzu fashion. But second it shows what the United States could do to remedy its situation.

As the worldwide BBC poll shows, hypocrisy is America's greatest failing. We talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. Everybody has caught on, is in on the joke... the jig is up. America's power and even its sovereignty may dissolve in this hypocricy.

One of the reason's I have taken such a recent interest in Al Gore, is that he has taken this issue and made himself a worldwide symbol of it. This is potentially a position of practically theurgic political power.

As universal consciousness of the danger of global warming grows, so also, will grow a demand to reverse it and an acceptance of the obvious sacrifices to be made in order to do so. The democratic political energy this will represent for any leader with the power to harness it will be enormous. Logically, the only leader that could effectively do so, for the moment, would be a president of the United States.

Here a truly marvelous contradiction arises. America is the parfait knight and sacerdotal celebrant of capitalism. The United States is the vanguard of the free market. History's purest exponent of market economy, capitalism, but as Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer and successor to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown points out, global warming is "the world's biggest market failure". In global warming, the industrial revolution and capitalism seem to have run into a brick wall; and modern science, heretofore their greatest ally, turns to rend them.

It may end up that the only way for humanity to survive will be a "planned economy", as egalitarian as ship wrecked sailors sharing out their water and rations in a lifeboat.

In short, global warming is the "game changer" to end all game changers. For a president of the United States, it is Excalibur waiting to be wrenched from the stone. The only one who seems to have noticed the sword stuck in the rock is Al Gore, If Gore wins the Oscar, I think it's too late for any other candidate to credibly touch this issue. DS

The geopolitical genius of China's satellite kill - Financial Times
Abstract: For years - a period coinciding with the rise of China - the US has failed to provide moral or political leadership in tackling the big challenges facing humankind, whether they concern global warming or the peaceful use of space. Crucially, the US has been reluctant to subsume its national interests into multinational efforts to benefit the wider world.(...) China's destruction of an obsolete weather satellite, similar to past tests conducted by the US and the Soviet Union, exploits this failure. Both China and Russia have for years urged the US to agree to a ban on space weapons and the use of force against satellites, but the US refused to negotiate, instead announcing a policy last year that boldly asserts US national rights in space.(...) The US is so protective of its sovereignty and complacent about its power that it often refuses to adhere to accepted international norms or contemplate an international regime that might constrain its room for manoeuvre. There are at least three areas in which China is happy to ride on America's coat-tails and the first is human rights. Until the US began detaining people without trial at Guantánamo Bay five years ago, it was possible for US politicians, without hypocrisy, to criticise Chinese Communist leaders for jailing their political opponents. The US could exert real influence on Chinese behaviour. Exchanges of presidential visits between the two countries were in those days preceded by the ritual release of Chinese dissidents into US care; today such visits are more likely to be marked by the ritual purchase of Boeing aircraft as part of China's efforts to reduce the US trade deficit. Chinese officials are not shy to point out Washington's selective approach to human rights. They do not see why resource-hungry China should not support dictatorships in Burma and Zimbabwe if the US does the same in Pakistan, central Asia and west Africa. Nor is there any obvious reason why China should not use its United Nations Security Council veto to protect allies such as Sudan from sanctions when the US does the same for its protégés, including Israel. The second issue is economic nationalism. China, along with several other Asian nations, is rightly accused of using dubious stratagems - including peculiar product standards and health and safety scares - to protect its domestic market from foreign competitors. Yet whenever this issue is raised, China has only to recall a two-year-old dispute that still rankles with Chinese officials: CNOOC, the state-controlled oil group, was stopped from buying Unocal, the US oil company, on spurious national security grounds. Third is the environment. True, air pollution from China has been detected on the US side of the Pacific and Chinese industrialisation threatens the global environment. But why should China take action when the US, still the world's biggest contributor to global warming, has refused to adopt the Kyoto protocol on climate change and has barely begun to take the matter seriously?(...) China is not the only nation to have taken advantage of the plight of the US since it became obsessed by Iraq and Islamic fundamentalism. Authoritarians everywhere - from Russia to Venezuela - have done the same. This month's satellite kill, however, is another sign that no big nation has learnt to play the game of geopolitics as skilfully as China. READ IT ALL

2 comments:

RLaing said...

Crucially, the US has been reluctant to subsume its national interests into multinational efforts to benefit the wider world.

Outside the altruism-tinted world of propaganda, has this ever happened in human history?

Similarly, has any nation ever failed to use the faults of others to justify its own?

John Measor said...

Hi David,

A fantastic piece indeed ... but as you start your day a treat :-)

Manifest Destiny: A New Direction for America
By William Pfaff
The New York Review of Books. Vol. 54, No. 2 (February 15, 2007)
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19879

All my best,

John