Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Chinese Catastrophism Collides with Trump Catastrophism

I don’t share the US FP handwringing over Trump’s retreat from overarching multilateral initiatives in favor of bilateral engagements in Asia.

The point of the complex multi-lateral arrangements—the pivot, rebalance, whatever you want to call it, and TPP—were intended to position the United States as the “indispensable nation” in Asia, the glue that was needed to hold these various rickety structures together.

I considered these regimes to be weak, unsustainable in the long term, and excessively costly in the short term.

As an example, under the pivot it would be necessary to think seriously about some kind of regime modification in the Philippines to neutralize Rodrigo Duterte’s hostility to the US military and sustain the fiction of a military and diplomatic united front against the PRC.

Trump can either accommodate Duterte or overthrow him depending on the bilateral advantages he sees in the relationship. And Duterte can bargain for the US alliance while keeping a door open to China.

I guess the terms of art are “independent foreign policies” for the Asian countries, “offshore rebalancing” for the US. Maybe. Apparently, the rise of Trump, otherwise lamented by respectable FP practitioners, is causing a certain amount of heavy breathing in the Walt-Mearsheimer quadrant.

The Trump shock helped reveal the mindset and strategies of US globalists who had assigned the United States the role of indispensable nation in the “principled international order”.

In my most recent Asia Times piece, Atlas StumbledI wrote about an interesting interview Paul Krugman gave to VOA, in which he opines that one consequence of the deterioration of the globalist financial regime under Trump & Brexit is that “China will be too big to save” once its chickens of massive indebtedness and faltering economic reform come home to roost.

Krugman’s bitter Cassandra-ism offers an interesting perspective on what I think was an important but shaky pillar of the pivot, the assertion that “the United States is 6000 miles away but will always be in Asia; the PRC/CCP regime is near the center of Asia but will vanish within a decade or two.”

The message that the United States discreetly whispered in Asia’s ear was Chinese power is corrupt and fleeting; America’s power is pure and eternal, so place your bets with the pivot-enhanced Uncle Sam as the enduring Asian power, in other words.

Welp, as they say on the Internet.

I think the theoretical underpinnings of this approach is what I choose to call “Shambaughism”.

David Shambaugh was an original proponent of the “responsible stakeholder” strategy, by which the PRC would be allowed to enter the international order and in return it would ineluctably liberalize its politics and economics and a friendly partner of the United States.

Well, that didn’t happen for a number of reasons, one of which I suspect was the geopolitical hollowing out of the US thanks to its orgy of debt finance that nourished the PRC export machine, and the 2008-9 Great Recession. Anyway, today’s PRC/CCP is not too liberal and not too friendly.

Shambaugh naturally preferred to question the PRC/CCP’s wisdom instead of the wisdom of his own theory, so he began promoting the concept of the coming PRC/CCP crackup.

During the administration of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, China collapsism became intellectually respectable (i.e. more than a Gordon Chang obsession) and was a ready-made and critical theoretical premise for the pivot which, in an environment of declining US relative power, offered a narrow but plausible path to the objective of PRC rollback (and a broad, endless highway to enrichment and influence for pivot-oriented think tanks and the US military).

To raid the metaphor chest, the King Canute in the advancing tide scenario was not the United States confronting the inevitable erosion of its power and influence as its relative strength in Asia declined; the vulnerable monarch on the throne was the CCP, vainly trying to wish away the inexorable advance of globalized liberal values.

My personal conclusion is that everybody’s wrong! nobody knows anything! and Asia will reveal itself as a welter of relatively high-functioning states that will find a way to muddle through without the guiding genius of the United States and without submitting themselves to CCP bondage.

Hope so, anyway.

More articles by:

Peter Lee edits China Matters and writes about Asia for CounterPunch.  

October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail