Sunday, February 16, 2020

Cold War II

Are we now engaged in a second Cold War? Noted economic historian Niall Ferguson thinks so, and we ought to grant considerable credence to his view.

Recently, he explained his views to The Japan Times:

I think we are in Cold War II. The U.S. and China are obvious geopolitical rivals. (China) is engaged in the arms program that is directed against U.S. naval capabilities. It is engaged in cyberwarfare not only against the U.S. but also its allies. China has become ideologically much more overtly hostile to the West than it was in the previous generation of leaders.

China’s global ambitions, embodied in One Belt, One Road initiatives, are no longer something that can be ignored. The Cold War originally was about geopolitics and ideology and economic rivalry, and so is this one. The Cold War was also technological competition. The U.S. led and the Soviet Union tried to catch up with technology, space race and a bunch of other things. In the same way, China’s trying to catch up with the U.S. in artificial intelligence and quantum computing in a whole variety of different domains.

Perhaps we should consider that this new Cold War more closely resembles a clash of civilizations, a competition between different civilizations, between liberal democracy and authoritarian capitalism. 

One should remark, that while China is gearing up to compete against the West, our mortal enemy, radical Islam, is not trying to compete. It is trying to destroy Western civilization from within, the better to impose Islam on Judeo-Christian civilization.

Ferguson seems to see Cold War II as an economic, political and social competition:

If you start a cold war, you shouldn’t assume it will last 40 years and the U.S. will win. It could last a lot longer. China’s economy is bigger than the Soviet economy ever was, and it may well be that China’s one-party system with its high level of technological sophistication, investment and education, is actually able to win this.

He recommends cooperation between Western nations:

The U.S., Japan, Europe and others should be working together to try to counter Chinese and Russian aggression in cyberspace and try to create international agreements and standards that limit the damage that can be done by our adversaries.

We also need to compete more effectively against China’s technology companies, which are rapidly establishing their payment systems all over the emerging world. That’s a big challenge to the dominance of the U.S. dollar.

I will sagely refrain from commenting on the last point, even though it is probably the most salient. China is working to undermine the reserve status of the dollar, an event that will have marked repercussions, on the nation’s debt and ultimately on its solvency.

As for cooperation among allies, that is surely an important point. And yet, when the weak sisters of Western Europe are more concerned with propping up the regime in Iran and in becoming dependent on Russia for gas supplies-- that means Germany-- one wonders how that is going to come about.

And, at a time when the West is working to accommodate Islam-- surely at odds with the Asian approach-- one wonders whether its leaders have the stomach to defend their own civilization. Not just to defend it, but to make it work.

Besides, do you really believe that our educational system, geared up to producing social justice warriors, will ever be able to compete against the Asian systems, geared up to produce more engineers than lawyers and teachers? Today, for example, I read that approximately one third of American schoolchildren cannot read at grade level.

Then again, hope gleams eternal. Today, despairing of our ability to compete against China, we are awaiting divine intervention. We believe that the corona virus will do the work for us, by destroying the Chinese government and the party structure.

You might think that the Chinese belief in the Mandate of Heaven is somewhat primitive. After all, the notion that a natural catastrophe, like a flood or a hurricane or an earthquake or an epidemic should be a sign that Heaven is withdrawing its support for a dynasty feels unworthy of our rational minds.

And yet, many people in America today are silently cheering for the corona virus because they believe that it signals the end of a regime that seems geared to outcompete us. It beats working to counter China in world markets and in world diplomacy.


David Foster said...

It strikes me that China is more analogous to Kaiser Wilhelm II's Germany than it is to the Soviet Union. There is more nationalism; less ideology--indeed, the "Communist" in the name of China's Communist Party seems mainly about maintaining a mantle of historical continuity. And both today's China and Wilhemine Germany had very dynamic economies.

OTOH, Germany did have at least *some* tradition of parliamentary government and judicial independence; the ratio of civil society to government was higher.

Also, the Chinese leadership is hopefully a little more emotionally stable that was Kaiser Bill.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree with you... It's an important point. I believe that the concern for historical continuity causes them to keep calling themselves Communist. Also, after decades of brainwashing they couldn't just come out one day and say: Just kidding. And, the victims of Mao's cultural revolution did not erase Mao from history-- they kept his picture in Tienanmen Square and on their currency.

UbuMaccabee said...

This nation is divided, permanently and irrevocably. And it’s not just a policy dispute, it is a disagreement about first principles, a dispute about natural law. One event, two entirely divergent accounts of the event follow. One is wrong. One side event wants large replacement population to alter demographics permanently and ensure political control. Pure power, law is just another tool. This civil war will go on for some time, and will profoundly limit the US to compete internationally. And yet, China may still lose. They are hopelessly corrupt, plus they have the albatross of 70+ million murdered people on their ledger. For those of us who hold unconventional views about such things, all debts must be paid in full.

Illuninati said...

I'm not prepared for another Cold War. You have already pointed out our true enemy who has been our enemy for over a thousand years, Islam. China and the USA both have enough problems of their own without starting a cold war.