“If you wash your hair regularly, you’ll always lose a few hairs. If you don’t wash your hair regularly you’ll lose all of them.”
Such was Confucius’ advice the rulers of his day, in justifying the state’s use of violence to keep its citizenry in line; likely flavored by the fact he sought to be in their employ.
Confucius never obtained a post as an advisor in any ruler’s court, but the rulers of China today could be said to be following his advice, at least as regards their treatment of Uyghurs, Falan Gong, dissenters, etc. Some in the West say this is evidence of the superiority of liberal democracies over China’s communist/state capitalist form of government. In quoting Confucius (551-479 BCE) rather than Mao Zedong or Xi Jinping however, I mean to express the timelessness of issues confronting any state.
Western democracies claim to place greater value on the individual, but when the U.S. chastises China over the issue of human rights such entreaties fall on deaf ears, understandably when they point out that racism in our country underlies a much higher incarceration rate: 639 / 100,000 here, compared to 129 / 100,000 in China. The Chinese numbers fail to include the Uyghur and others trapped in forced labor re-education camps, somewhere between 300,0000 and 2+ million, but given China’s larger population the U.S. comes out on top, incarcerating more of its citizens per capita than any other country in the world. The U.S. case, then, points to failure, in practice, of its state ideology.
Time and again, when the foreign government of a smaller country tries a little too hard to serve its people, it finds itself in the crosshairs of our country’s policymakers.
Confucius also said (Analects 15:23), “Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” While seemingly contradictory to the statement above, it is very close to the “golden rule” common to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and in fact all major religions including atheist ethicists. That China’s government seems challenged in carrying out this diktat from the past master is no more hypocritical than our generation-long misadventure of collective punishment in the Middle East, characterized by our serving president at its inception as a “crusade” against evil. George W. Bush’s comment with its religious connotations just days after September 11th was widely viewed as a gaff by the press, but was felt less so by many in our serving military who numbered themselves among Christian fundamentalists, awaiting a major conflagration in the Middle East to hasten the return of Christ. One wonders what they think the master who exhorted them to love their neighbor and follow the “golden rule” would say to them about their actions were they to get their wish, but such contemplation seems beyond their grasp.
If America’s revenge fueled resource grab was intended to dominate the oil-rich region it failed, but it did rip aside the fig leaf of democratic-nation-building, revealing a confused muddle of opportunism that supported dictatorial control often as not until viewed as insufficiently obsequious.
Given AUKUS, this revelation doesn’t seem to have penetrated our political/economic leaders, or bother them that much. Such a disturbing bipartisan tack on foreign affairs has been the policy of our nation since our victory in the second world war and before, responsible directly and indirectly for millions of deaths, with millions more made homeless.
Our population’s response has been insufficient to derail this juggernaut. Once past the Vietnam era we seem to have adopted the subjugated stance of Winston Smith, the protagonist of 1984, when he cracked under pressure and declared to Big Brother’s representative, “Let it happen to someone else.”
Time and again, when the foreign government of a smaller country tries a little too hard to serve its people, it finds itself in the crosshairs of our country’s policymakers. They apply economic pressure to lay waste the economy for perhaps a decade or two, then invade militarily, though this is often unnecessary.
Once patriotic appeals have worn thin and multi-millionaires have become billionaires, our military is forced to leave with our policymakers admitting perhaps it was a mistake to have overstayed our welcome but our intentions were good; that’s what made it so hard.
The pain is portrayed as equal despite the fact our military has killed fifty to a hundred of theirs (military and civilian alike) for each of ours lost, a ratio that would have made any of Hitler’s lieutenants proud. The use of high tech weaponry by a volunteer force supplemented by contractors is designed to insulate our population from awareness of pain as much as possible, so support can be cajoled to continue as long as possible.
So, despite handwringing assurances in the media recognize the Afghanistan/Iraq conflicts performed as intended, but now that they are over the military-industrial-congressional complex that some believe is the United States needs a new target. Hence, we have AUKUS, the trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, announced on 15 September.
This is the wrong move, at the wrong time. This attempt to contain China through the old imperial system of gunboat colonialism will fail, but here the stakes are much higher.
The population of the U.S., UK and Australia combined is 425 million. That of China is 1.45 billion. Thanks to a couple generations of Western capitalists’ pursuit of ever cheaper labor, China has a larger industrial base than the three Western countries combined, adding to China’s one billion worker surplus an industrial edge when confronting the U.S./UK’s desire to use Australia’s 26 million people to contain expanding Chinese aspirations.
When the U.S. goes to Europe for support against China we discover nixing the Australians’ submarine deal with France has weakened the NATO alliance, just when it was recovering from Trump’s travesties. The two together have given greater impetus to those who say Europe must develop their own defense force to allow them to step out from under America’s shadow. From the point of view of maintaining Western hegemony, Brexit hasn’t helped matters either.
Given such obvious downsides, we are forced to examine an even greater one. Is the AUKUS pact a deliberate move to scuttle essential Chinese cooperation on climate ahead of Cop26, in deference to U.S., UK and Australian coal and oil interests? This move will, very predictably, push Chinese hard-liners in their efforts to hasten the economic decline of Western hegemony— an inevitable event that should be handled skillfully to avoid violent conflict. Cooperation on climate would be the perfect precondition to move to a more egalitarian global paradigm. Climate takes no prisoners, be they oil execs, politicos, farmers, or residents of low-lying coastal areas in Washington D.C., New York, London, Melbourne, Sydney, or China. Given AUKUS however, China likely will not budge on the hundreds of coal-fired power plants they are bringing online, which regardless geopolitics they have every right to do. The greatest amount of excess carbon in the atmosphere was put there by the industrialization of the West, as it sticks around in the atmosphere for 700 years.
In pushing China into a hard line stance with the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal, Biden’s climate promises are so much hot air, in the face of the very predictable consequences of such a move.So, what’s the upside? AUKUS will perpetuate business as usual for the arms and oil industries in several western countries for a while longer, preventing consensus on climate, further delaying our necessary transition— If you can call that an upside.
China is not Afghanistan. Assuming pre-eminence as the world’s largest economy has them feeling nationalistic oats. Lately they’ve cast aside the deferential politics that enabled their rise. They have more access within their borders to the rare minerals necessary for advanced technologies, as well as an abundance of advanced chip production compared to U.S. capabilities. This puts us more in the position of Japan versus the U.S. in 1941. Their jingoists won’t be contained or daunted by threats; rather they will be emboldened that their nationalistic stance is the only realistic one.
Many in our current crop of “leaders” manifestly display they prefer power and short-term profit to scientific literacy. Lacking concern for our nation’s future, they also lack the historical grounding necessary to understand and deal with a nation that counts 5,000 years in its history, and whose century long struggle out from under colonialism has culminated with their taking their place as the world’s largest economy.
Our economies are intertwined (China holds the number two investor position among foreign governments in U.S. Treasury bills, at $1.1 trillion; not as dangerous as it sounds as we are their number three trading partner and a sell-off would trigger a rise in the Yuan, depressing exports). The costs of our military-industrial-congressional misadventures keep going up. They’re already more than we can actually afford, having raped and pillaged our own infrastructure, human and physical, and our industrial base, save for weapons manufacture. The Soviets massive military might did not keep their economy from collapsing, nor will ours. Despite that scientists tell us climate puts our agriculture base on the chopping block, our leaders seem convinced we can all eat bullets.
In the misguided calculations of our economic leaders, these are externalities. The costs are not on their books because they don’t suffer the consequences. What is left unaddressed in these machinations is acknowledgement of the common need of every government to satisfy its citizens’ expectations for a decent existence, in order to retain legitimacy. The current circumstance of the climate crisis demands cooperation. It is essential for our mutual benefit, even for our mutual survival.
Instead, we get another fig leaf covering the same old bull ****. Nation states don’t really exist all that much, as far as the planet is concerned. It only responds to physics. Personally I’m convinced the belligerence of all nation states is due at least in part to the fear of population pressures from within their borders; hence closing their doors to refugees of all kinds in anticipation of many more climate refugees to come. In contrast to this fear, my home state of California (within the U.S.) would rank as the world’s fifth largest economy if it were its own sovereign nation, ahead of India and behind Germany. It also contains the largest number of undocumented workers in the nation.
Few states have attempted to address their growing populations with limited and controversial results. China’s one child policy became two (and now three); other states supporting a two child limit are Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, and Iran from 1992 to 2006. The UK cuts off support beyond two children. In the U.S., we have southern states going in the opposite direction, preventing abortion.
Certainly there must be an outside population limit, but more importantly, it’s the way we are living that has us bumping up against natural limits. Facing these issues requires thinking beyond the status quo, in politics as well as technology. In fact, we must. The good news is the answers are all fairly obvious.
Instead, we’re resorting to the same old B-S.
C’mon Biden. You said you would. Build back better.