Viktor KUZNETSOV – Independent analyst and researcher
Though the third world war (“cold”) war between the global hegemon (the US) and its main rival for leadership (the USSR), which headed Western and Eastern political blocs respectively, ended with the defeat of the Soviet Union and a seemingly unconquered supremacy of the liberal and market model of the world order was established it was in that very time already when this model began to crash quite regularly…
Competition-based liberal market economy is steady only if it is constantly boosted by additional resources. Globalization policy conducted by the West has the goal to obtain these additional resources. Once the goal is met, globalization sets a limit to the economic growth based on external expansion. On completion of globalization the switch to “zero-sum game” is inevitable, which in its turn leads to fundamental restructuring of the world.
Now when the period of extensive growth on the planet is ending the crisis comes into its more serious stage, when it has not only economic but also political nature.
The studies, conducted by the Russian Academy of Science as part of the project “Complex system-based analysis and simulation of global dynamics” show that in the coming several decades the world will face a number of significant changes:
- Global demographic changes (stabilization of global population);
- Radical change of modern economic system and economic relations (first of all in financial sector), limitation of economic growth;
- Radical change of modern political system, including end of globalization and inevitable switch to distribution system and global regulation;
- The question which becomes pressing – whatare the grounds for this global regulation? The answer to this question will be the main “stumbling block” in global politics and future cause of military, political and economic clashes.
In coming years the war for resource may threaten the world. In order to avoid the disaster it is necessary to break the cult of consumption. However it is more likely that Western financial elites will prefer scenario tried on September 11 2001 relying on military power. Considering all this, what may Russia, Europe, the US and China expect in future?
* * *
The US is climbing down. The might is supported by three pillars: technological, financial and military leaderships.
Technological leadership of the US is ensured by the following factors:
1) Creation of the environment, which is receptive to innovations and producing them,
2) Inflow of scientists from abroad (this second factor will drastically reduce together with the reduction of in financing).
The US’ financial leadership is ensured by developed financial institutes but first of all by the fact that the Federal Reserve System prints dollars – the reserve currency everybody still needs. The fact that global community needed the increase of dollar monetization played a low-down trick on the US: in the last decades Americans got used to living in debt paid by the rest of the world and forgot how to live up to income. When dollar falls, “easy street living” will be over. It is difficult to say how the population of the US will behave when their income shrinks twice, but it is absolutely clear that social tension in this multi-ethnical country will increase and the notorious “melting pot of American nation” will blow out.
The US’ military leadership implies high costs, but when dollar collapses, the US authorities will have to scale down its military programs (or to unleash a bigger war).
The US controls information space and successfully positions itself as “stronghold of democracy and liberty” which also contributes to its leadership. But in the century of the Internet it is getting more difficult to control information space and the halo of a democracy advocate is fading (the list of failures is getting longer than list of victories).
For the revival the US its nation should be able to make sacrifices. To be able to do so they need one main external enemy. In the absence of such an enemy their ability to make sacrifices is getting lower (which is predictable in the society of consumption).
In general, the US will face hard times.
Russia is now snapped in the “trap of raw material countries”, which gradually may lead to the country’s break-up. With current demographic decline and depopulation in Russia gigantic efforts are required to change the situation for the better, which also implies an extremely strong political will.
China is still on the rise. China does not want a serious global crisis (otherwise it will lose buyers of its goods), but a light crisis is advantageous for it (as it weakens China’s geopolitical rivals – Western consumers who are getting poorer abandon expensive goods more and more easily in favor of cheap Chinese goods). But China’s rise is only a transition stage, which is to end sooner or later and then China will have to cope with greater number of problems: the share of old population is growing, in order to increase domestic demand the government should raise salaries, which leads to higher production costs and lower competitiveness; growing standard of living boosts demand but may weaken the ideological influence of the Chinese Communist party. However thanks to high demographical dynamics China may maintain the rise stage for quite a long time. So far the ruling Communist party of China manages to do right things in the right time.
The situation in Europeis quite complicated. Debt crisis is inevitable. The faith in United Europe has been significantly devaluated. An historical comparison, which comes to mind: in the early 20th century talking about “the United States of Europe” led to two world wars. A new war in Europe is hardly possible (though Europeans should expect stronger social instability), but backsliding on the idea of European integration is inevitable. Europe will have to “tighten belt” but it grew unaccustomed to it.
The US-China relations will influence greatly the dynamics of global development in short and medium term perspective.
On the one hand, the “geopolitical gap” between the US and China is rapidly narrowing and the US sees China as potential threat. A brief look at the US’ foreign policy is enough to see that China is Washington’s main headache. According to a recent report by the IMF, “the epoch of America is ending” and in five years the Chinese economy will outrun the US economy pushing the US to the second place. That is the reason why the US is trying to hold back the growth of the Chinese economy by blocking its access to energy resources.
On the other hand, globalization stabilized to a certain degree the Western and first of all the US’ economy when many unstable productions were moved from the US and Europe to China. Chinais actually the “industrial workshop” of the US, which is now quite important for America.
In fact, two main (and quite different) scenarios of development of the US-China relations are possible.
The first one is “moderate” (“crawling tiger”).
Under this scenario, China won’t make strong pressure on the US amid the continuing economic crisis. It will gradually occupy more advantageous position suppressing America more and more. To exploit its success China needs time and international stability that is why it is going to win better conditions for itself, without making any sudden movements. China needs Russia only as a supplier of resources. It is unlikely that China will unite with Russians (for example in order to resist the US) – it does not have to so. Moreover, Russia which is ready to make concessions to the West does not seem too reliable as a strategic ally. China will try to agree with the US on division of spheres of global influence.
Russian political analysts noted that during the visit of the Chinese leader to the US in January 2011 the parties for the first time declared the following intention of the bilateral relations: “Mutual respect for each others’ interests”. This means that the parties have recognized the rightfulness of the division of sphere of interests and are not going to violate this imaginable dividing line. It also means that Peoples Republic of China has replaced the Soviet Union in the role of powerful rival of the US in the bipolar world when the standoff between two powers serves as the main driving force of global development.
At the same time, considering the chances of the moderate scenario we cannot ignore the following thing.
Firstly, the agreements achieved between China and the US does not have the status of interstate agreements. These are intentions, voiced under the rule of Barack Obama and there is no reason to assume that the new US administration will keep them. The recent events in Africa , in particular in Libya, prove that already now the US is trying to drive China away from Africa. Even US high-ranking officials don’t hide it when explaining the role of the US in the Libyan events. Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts said recently that of Washington target in Libya is to push China from the Mediterranean region.
Secondly, though China is still abiding these extremely unfriendly actions of the US, including evident derogation of its vital interests it is not clear how long it will go on. The “tiger strategy”, which China is presumably using now implies approaching the target by crawling (the most important thing is to stay unnoticed) and then come a leap. But it is hard not to notice that the crawling tiger (China) is beginning to scratch its belly on different obstacles set by the US. Amid rapidly changing situation in the world this can provoke a leap quite soon, which means that the second (tough) scenario is possible («Chinese joker»).
Under this scenario the standoff between two main figures (the US and China) comes from its implicit stage to explicit stage, which may end with a new “cold war” leading to the “hot” stage of a local regional military conflict or even a bigger war.
Chinahas already given a yellow card to the West (including the US). In March 2009, a book of articles by most influential journalists was released in China (and Taiwan) under the title “Angry China. Great epoch, great targets and our domestic and foreign troubles”. The publication received a huge international response. The book gives an answer to the question how Chinese people should regard the external world (first of all the US but also Russia).
The authors make it clear that discontent over the Western policy towards China is growing among a large part of the Chinese society and military commanders. They advocate for tougher political course, calling up for “handling economic and trade issues holding a sword firmly in hands, to ensure supplies of necessary natural resources to China”. They make it clear to Chinese people that the authorities of China understand problems of common people and all their troubles caused by the West, which should be “brought to responsibility for insulting and humiliating Chinese people and which should meet fair demands of China” .
The Chinese journalists also make it clear for foreigners that now after 20 years of the policy the Western conducted towards China, “Chinese people understand all the injustice of this policy and protests against it can assume different forms which does not rule out military protection of is economic and other interests”.
On the first preparation stage of China self-identification in the world the Chinese mythology depicted wisdom in the image of an Ape which was sitting on the top of a mountain watching the fight of two tigers in the valley. At the active stage a new mythological image was the Master of Water element Dragon, which woke up, flew into the sky and now is able to demolish everything on its way. This Dragon can symbolize the modern China. China began to wake up in 1979 (the start of reforms) and it will take off in 2012, the year of Black Dragon …