Saturday, June 1, 2019

Washington, we have a problem

[warning: A lot of links]


If we're paying attention, then we should all be holding our collective breath because Trump is seriously escalating tensions with China.

See the problem is that China has a plan, and that plan was to grab American industrial manufacturing. The key issue is that China had seriously cheap labor, and so just to sweeten the pot, built the manufacturing sites to attract those underpaid, wishing the stock prices would go up Wall Street CEO's.

While in America, the quarter reports determined a companies value, in China, the viewpoint was, "are we making money, or spending it?"
You can say they took the 100 year view point. If you're steadily making money for a hundred years...hey, doing alright.
For the American CEO, that three month window made or broke you.
So, when China advertised their industry, the Wall Street said, "oh!"
And voila, American manufacturing moved to China.

Now, the question was, how could American's pay a work force so seriously, pennies on  the dollar?

China's military.

China's military was the manufacturing labor force for American industry, but when Obama came into office, the first thing that was obvious was that American Intellectual Property was being blatantly stolen by the Chinese, and knocks off sold. So, Obama set up TPP, the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership which pointedly excluded China.
The TPP would give legal recourse to the US, and favorable trade advantages to any South East country signing on to it.

China didn't like that one damn bit.

So...China's military started becoming a Military...because...TPP was kind undercutting their theft of American IP.

So today, Trump has dumped TPP, because he think's it's bad for America.
Only problem is...once Trump backed out of TPP, China moved in, and opened up the American IP to the tune of several billion dollars loss of revenue.

But that's only a tip of the iceberg. China is modernizing their military.
And Trump is irritating China with this "trade war" in which we stand to lose billions, and billions of dollar, if not hunderds of billions.

And China, will just sell else where.

So, what makes China dangerous for us Americans?

They may get tired of our shit.

tl;dr We're pissing off the Chinese dragon, when we should be negotiating with them.


  1. I don't think negotiating with the political leadership (or its diplomatic bureaucrats) would achieve very much. It would all be superficial in the long term.

    What matters are the perceptions of the Chinese people. They still have grievances from the 19th century to mid-20th century against Europeans, Americans and Japanese and the idea of China being the greatest nation (which they are, by population - for now).
    The West should kind of tame this. Give them some prestige victories (such as first man on Mars, biggest skyscraper, biggest aircraft carrier) and manage these in a way that they don't go into overdrive towards jingoism, but rather become satisfied that the score became settled.
    They should also become more of global citizens; encourage Chinese tourism to all over the world (forget about CO2 emissions of their airliners - those are of less importance), and tourism to China.

    The managing part can be done together with their government, but negotiating alone isn't going to accomplish much.

    Grand strategies that pursue our own 1st order interests (say, of US and EU) may help to secure value added chains' integrities, but they will tend to run counter to Chinese interests and may rather promote than avoid conflict.

  2. I think that, to some extent, there are issues that the PRC simply won't "negotiate".

    As Sven points out, there's still a LOT of resentment over the "Unequal Treaties" era, and the PRC leadership as well as Zhang and Zia Lunchpail want to get their "place in the sun", whether it's through the prestige effects Sven recommends or through more concrete Great Power signifiers. No amount of negotiation is going to change that.

    Taiwan. That's not going away, and the U.S./China relationship is always going to have to dance around it somehow, but no U.S. government is going to be able to simple "give up" Taiwan and no PRC government can stop trying to "take" it, at least rhetorically.

    Economically? I hate to say this, but I think WASF for the following reasons:

    1. The PRC views commerce as Chinese governments going back far into the imperial period have always seen commerce - as an arm of state power.
    2. The U.S. has returned to the Gilded Age view of commerce as a separate thing unto itself, the "magic of the market", and either cannot or will not rein it the corporate entities that dominate its' economy.
    3. Those corporate entities will act in their economic interest and in that interest alone. They will not "help" the U.S. fight a trade war with the PRC. In fact, just the opposite; if the U.S. acts to hurt their profits and the PRC holds out the promise of profit, they will act in ways that will lean towards the PRC to secure that profit.

    The real genius of Trump is that he's too fucking stupid to understand this, and he's too damn in love with himself to understand that everyone around him sees that, so he'll keep humping that tariff war chicken while the PRC smiles and smiles.

    But IMO the only real military danger is if the USG refuses to accept a PRC "sphere of influence" in their near abroad, particularly the South China Sea and the Asian littoral. I think we may have to accept that the geopolitical reality is that the Koreas and Japan are closer to the PRC than they are to us, and that over the long term may have to move closer to the dragon than the eagle just to live with the former.

  3. related:

    I don't see the PRC limiting itself to a 'sphere of influence' in its own backyard as long as the U.S. thinks of cruising distant waters, undermining distant governments, "advising" (corrupting) foreign armed forces, bombing whatever country it wants to bomb and having troops & bases everywhere as its birthright.

    It might be possible to build a world of influence spheres (Monroe doctrine, Europeans dominate Med, Indians dominate South Asia/Indian Ocean, PRC dominates East Asia), but this could not possibly work out with one country thinking of the whole world as its own and exclusive backyard playground.

    1. "I don't see the PRC limiting itself to a 'sphere of influence' in its own backyard..."

      And therein is the part where I had to rethink my, few years ago, I believe, "theory" (based on Chinese history) that China was only interested in expanding their economic power.

      But as Chief points out, economy and government are one and the same...yikes.

      But, now, as I'm reading about the Chinese "expansionism" into the South China Seas me thinks they've adjusted their planning to expand influence.

      The problematic area is the abandonment of TPP...I mean, seriously, why not just hand over the entire Asia/Pacific markets to China, free. Any Asian nation now will view Chinese presence as a protectorate against American interference.
      at least that's what the real politik says in me.

      btw, I use the word "Negotiations" as a catch-all phrase for, "any way to talk/barter/hug is better than a shooting war."

      My concern is that our current Clown Circus in Government may stumble themselves into a shooting war because they're far to fucking stupid to avoid one.

    2. I have a suspicion that the absence of strategic action in Western governments is not rooted in nobody developing strategy, but in our governments being unable to choose one new (grand) strategy and implement it in a coherent way across departments and branches.

      The lying moron and his cult excluded, obviously. They ARE too stupid where and when it matters. The other explanations are exhausted by now.

    3. One thing to consider here is that a PRC "sphere of influence" and the methods the PRC may use to gain and secure it may look very different from the "...cruising distant waters, undermining distant governments, "advising" (corrupting) foreign armed forces, bombing whatever country it wants to bomb and having troops & bases everywhere as its birthright." the U.S. has been doing ever since it took its imperial model from the European imperial powers.

      I suspect it might look...well, much like the current "Belt and Road" scheme. Lots of loans, lots of "investment" backed with discreet PRC muscle (hired from local proxies..?), "trade agreements" and other commercial projects, perhaps some behind-the-scenes ratfucking of local governments. I think an aggressive PRC foreign policy might track with the above notion of the PRC seeing government and commerce as linked; less kinetic, more commercial. I think the PRC has been watching the West discover that now that They have the Maxim Gun, too (and the IED and the cheap automatic weapon) that old-school White Man's Burden imperialism is becoming a mug's game.

      Still...if you're going to play the Game of Empires, at some point you have to have the muscle to back your play. THAT could get ugly most quick smart if the US is still being run by these idiots (and probably less quick but still ugly if the idiots have been replaced by the usual gang of Washington Rules mooks...)

  4. Anti-TPP sentiment was prevalent among US progressives long before the Game-Show-Host-in-Chief jumped on that band wagon. You can thank Vermonter Bernie and radio host Thom Hartmann for yip-yapping about bad, bad TPP and getting the Tangerine Man elected.

    So the question about Trump's own anti-TPP platform in 2016 is:

    a] was it his "kill-everything-Obama-did" temperament?


    b] was Trump, or one of his advisors, devious enough to realize that an anti-TPP and anti-NAFTA stance would win some votes in MI, WI, and PA.

    1. To be fair, the recent (shortly before Trump) American-negotiated "trade" deals or their drafts were terrible. They were designed to rather enshrine corporate power even over foreign governments rather than actually liberating trade (there's little left to liberate).

      There was considerable and well-justified resistance in Europe against TTIP (which was negotiated in greater secrecy than bilateral weapon development programs), for example.

    2. I heard one of the reasons the TPP was negotiated in secret (not sure about the TTIP, but the justification might be similar) was to prevent lobbyists from influencing the politicians involved in making it. There are a lot of industries that could be threatened by increased trade with other nations and would try to convince politicians to not support it. There are also companies where the opposite is true.

    3. "was to prevent lobbyists from influencing the politicians involved in making it"

      ROFL. The lobbyists knew (and influenced) the draft's contents long before the German and EU parliaments finally gained the ability to look at it under ridiculous restrictions.

      Those trade deals involving the U.S. and Canada (TTIP, TPP, CETA etc.) were a big business dream and among the most undemocratic, plutocratic affairs of the 2010's.

    4. Sven -

      No agreement from me. Trump and his backers are corporate shills, yet he cancelled both TTIP and TPP. Standby for any new agreements to be twice as bad.

    5. LOL, there won't be any new trade deals with the Chinese, the Europeans etc..

      Everyone's playing for time till there's a non-moron who can be trusted to uphold a treaty on the other side of the table.
      Besides, it was far from certain that TTIP would have been ratified on the European side.


  5. Given what we know about climate change, I would like to remind people that Gaia has a seat at the table. We would all do much better if we could cooperate against her, but I fear we will end up playing meaningless status games until a failed global harvest upends the card table.


      (Disregard the title. It's about climate change mostly.)

  6. Sheerakhan - It's not just China alone. Xi Jinping was in Moscow yesterday canoodling with Putin. He called Putin his "close friend."

    This trip "marked Xi's eighth visit to Russia since he took the helm in 2012." Although they have met two dozen times at other venues during that same timeframe, for 30 lovefests all together.

    The Game-Show-Guy is missing the boat.

    1. I think that's Putin crowing about scoring a buyer for Russian farmers and their soy beans.

      Trump really screwed the pooch with's going to be one of those legacy issues future Presidents are going to have to deal with.

  7. As if the whole USN/PLAN in the South China Sea wasn't enough, apparently the Russian Far East Squadron wants to play, too:


    1. It looks like a Cod war ramming manoeuvre to me at first. The Icelandic coast guard boats did crash their stern into British ships with such manoeuvres.

      It might be a simple, meaningless episode of someone being drunk, though. Best is to wait for a while and see how this one plays out.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. For some impression about what the Cod Wars were like:

    4. Cod Wars! There's a blast from the past!

      IIRC this sort of thing happened more than once during the Cold War, too. Not just surface ships, Soviet and USN subs played a lot of reindeer games and more than once actually rammed each other in the 1990s. I don't recall where or when but another Soviet sub hit a US CVN in the Eighties. My guess is that there have been more of these collisions that we don't know about, as well.

      Same with aircraft (and my understanding is that the VVS has been sending Bears (and it's as pretty damn amazing to think that the Russians are still flying that damn turboprop antique as that the USAF is still motoring around in the B-52...) close to US airspace in Alaska.