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  1. #1
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    History Repeating...Again

    Xi Jinping Could Make the Same Mistakes as Kaiser Wilhelm II

    U.S.-China tensions look eerily like the rivalry between Britain and Germany before World War I. Let’s hope it doesn’t end the same way.
    By Andreas Kluth
    July 29, 2020, 11:00 AM GMT+7
    Bloomberg/news


    The Thucydides trap. Photographer: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images
    Andreas Kluth is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. He was previously editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global and a writer for the Economist.

    Animosity between China and the U.S. was already bad when the year started, and it just keeps getting worse. Whether the two powers are hurling accusations over Covid-19, shutting each other’s consulates, rattling sabers in the South China Sea, escalating their trade war, or simply vilifying each other in speeches, they appear headed for ever more bitter clashes.

    Some say this is a new Cold War. But that label doesn’t quite fit, because nothing about the standoff seems frozen, and the rest of the world is not (or not yet) split into opposing camps. This is a different kind of rivalry — one that will touch every aspect of global politics, economics, technology and finance as it heats up, and could one day end in a hot war.

    Scholars call this kind of conflict spiral a “Thucydides trap.” It’s the apparent tendency, throughout history, toward war whenever a rising nation challenges an incumbent power. The label comes from the ancient Greek historian who so perceptively chronicled the complex Peloponnesian War, which he believed was ultimately caused by the rise of Athens and the fear this provoked in Sparta.

    But in the case of the U.S. and China, there’s a much better analogy, as these historians and economists have described. It is the struggle between the British Empire and the up-and-coming German Empire after its unification in 1871.

    That era, like ours, was one of industrial and technological revolution and uneasy globalization. Like the U.S., Britain was a democracy that largely believed in free markets. And as the U.S. has done since World War II — at least, until the presidency of Donald Trump — the U.K. chaperoned an international order regulating trade and finance, overseeing the so-called Pax Britannica.

    On the opposing side, resembling China today, was Germany, an autocratic state that held a grudge for being late to industrialize and was bent on overtaking the leader, with state-directed and nationalist economic policies. Also like China today, Germany did this in part by pilfering patents and technologies, and aggressively pushing alternatives to its rival’s standards.

    One race back then, for example, was for the dominant standard in radio communications. The Brits used and backed the technology pioneered by the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi. The Germans, at the behest of Kaiser Wilhelm II, did everything to develop and spread their own standard, from a company called Telefunken, which Britain resisted at every turn but was unable to squelch. The analogue today would be 5G telecoms networks, and America’s global campaign to exclude the main Chinese supplier, Huawei Technologies Co.

    In both eras, the challenger feared being geographically encircled and sought to break out with huge and geopolitically motivated infrastructure projects. Germany, looking east, tried to build the Berlin-Baghdad railway for access to the Indian Ocean that bypassed the British navy. China, looking west, has the Belt and Road Initiative, a plan to link ports, sea lanes, rail lines and information systems across Eurasia and Africa. Germany’s project was halted by World War I; China’s is running into opposition from some countries along the route.
    These rivalries initially escalated without causing military conflict. The U.K. then, like the U.S. now, levied punitive tariffs that achieved little, and tried other things short of shooting. Diplomatically, it helped that Germany in the 19th century and China more recently at first had leaders sophisticated enough to make their own countries stronger without risking an all-out conflagration.

    In the first case, this was Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who masterminded Germany’s rise under two Kaisers until he was fired by the third, Wilhelm II, a vain and insecure character who felt as threatened by “experts” as Trump does today. Bismarck’s analogue in China was Deng Xiaoping, who as “paramount leader” oversaw China’s industrialization, but without openly antagonizing the Americans. Under one of his successors, Hu Jintao, this policy of avoiding the Thucydides trap — and specifically the Anglo-German precedent which Beijing had studied in depth — became official doctrine under the label “peaceful rise.”

    But eventually the zeitgeist changed. Wilhelm II, a cousin of King George V, on one hand admired and envied everything English and on the other projected a crude and jingoistic militarism, changing uniforms several times a day. Chinese President Xi Jinping esteems the U.S. enough to send his daughter (under a pseudonym) to get a degree from Harvard University. But his foreign policy is known as “wolf warrior diplomacy,” after a buffoonish film about Chinese studs kicking Western butts.

    Trump, who is Wilhelmine in his narcissism and strategic myopia, has certainly made the situation worse. But even a victory by Joe Biden in November may not suffice to alter the fundamental dynamic of the Thucydides trap. As Germany under Wilhelm II bullied, postured and provoked, China under Xi is cracking down ever harder on Hong Kong and the Uighurs in Xinjiang, clashing with neighbors from the Himalayas to the South China Sea, and menacing Taiwan.

    History, of course, is not doomed to repeat. And yet, people in Beijing, Washington and other capitals would do well to reread it, lest our generation also “sleepwalk” into a world war. By 1914, as today, the international system had become too complex for the antagonists to grasp. And then a fuse was lit in Bosnia, a place many Germans and Brits couldn’t have found on a map. In our time, it may happen on the log of a computer that’s been hacked by an enemy, or on an uninhabited rock in the South China Sea.
    Majestically enthroned amid the vulgar herd

  2. #2
    Thailand Expat jabir's Avatar
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    Must say this for Jinping, he always looks calm and unflustered, almost bored, unlike Trump who looks pissed off when he's pissed off.

  3. #3
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    ...he definitely sports the happy Pooh bear look...

  4. #4
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    I don't think the US will go to war with China (or vice versa) but will remain a standoff with small "battles" similar to USSR days. Optimistically, the planet will will be divided into at least 3 main power camps, China-aligned, Western-aligned, and Non-aligned. This may be the closest to global equilibrium we can hope for.

  5. #5
    Hansum Man! panama hat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Agent_Smith View Post
    Optimistically, the planet will will be divided into at least 3 main power camps, China-aligned, Western-aligned, and Non-aligned. This may be the closest to global equilibrium we can hope for.
    Fairly well what we've had for the last 70 years, replace China with the Soviet Union. Though discounting Russia even now is a mistake as they'll pounce on any western weakness

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Agent_Smith View Post
    I don't think the US will go to war with China (or vice versa) but will remain a standoff with small "battles" similar to USSR days. Optimistically, the planet will will be divided into at least 3 main power camps, China-aligned, Western-aligned, and Non-aligned. This may be the closest to global equilibrium we can hope for.
    They won't go to war, ever. At the top level they are working together, despite all the sham 'trade wars' and 'human rights' infringements. When you see that the World Bank and IMF are funding all the Chink expansionism BRI 1&2, and multinationals knowingly profiting from slave labour. It's maybe what's intended for Western society a little further down the line.

  7. #7
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    ...fortunately, Russia and China can't overcome chauvinism nor work together to consistently degrade and demoralize western democracies (which, apparently, is in both their national interests)...their mutual distrust works to the democracies' advantage...

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    Hansum Man! panama hat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmart View Post
    When you see that the World Bank and IMF are funding all the Chink expansionism BRI 1&2,
    Rubbish.

    China's Exim bank and the other bg four banks, the China Development Bank, China's Policy banks are funding quite a chunk. The World Bank is in it as well, as are the ADB, AIIB, NDB etc...
    I'm currently working on a project for this for one of the participants . . . it ain't all conspiracy

  9. #9
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by panama hat View Post
    it ain't all conspiracy
    ...so they'd like you to believe...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomcat View Post
    ...fortunately, Russia and China can't overcome chauvinism nor work together to consistently degrade and demoralize western democracies (which, apparently, is in both their national interests)...their mutual distrust works to the democracies' advantage...
    Russia's and China's "chauvinism" ? When one listen to the rhetoric of ones and of the others?

  11. #11
    Thailand Expat harrybarracuda's Avatar
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    the rest of the world is not (or not yet) split into opposing camps
    That's not really true. There are lots of countries pissed off at the chinkies for the Wuhan Virus.

    And lots of tinpot dictatorships that will back the chinkies to the hilt to ensure the steady flow of filthy lucre.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmart View Post
    When you see that the World Bank and IMF are funding all the Chink expansionism BRI 1&2
    You may be surprised if you read this:

    Who is Financing the New Economic Silk Road?

    History Repeating...Again-logo-png


    Who is Financing the New Economic Silk Road? - Silk Road Briefing

    Part of this organisation:

    IR Global, Going Beyond Expectations.


    History Repeating...Again-d0f0448bf2b6550e105a0ba5e93dc00d-png


    "IR Global is a multi-disciplinary professional services network that provides legal, accountancy, financial advice to companies and individuals around the world."


    About IR Global | The Fastest Growing Professional Service Firm Network
    Last edited by OhOh; 05-08-2020 at 02:38 PM.
    A tray full of GOLD is not worth a moment in time.

  13. #13
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    kmart's Avatar
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    ^Interesting. The WB providing the Lion's share of funding (and is the main backer of other acronyms). Despite all the hoo-har at lower political levels, the global bankers all glad-handing each other worldwide.

  14. #14
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    ^ One presumes they consider the risk is acceptable. Although repossessing any assets, bridges, roads, railways .... may presents problems.

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