Archive for the 'Asia' Category

TechnoFeudalism Killed Capitalism

Thursday, May 16th, 2024

Techno Feudalism; What Killed Capitalism, Yanis Varoufakis, 2023

Self proclaimed libertarian Marxist.

The Rise of Big Finance and Big Business

To produce the rivers of credit necessary to fund the Edisons, the Westinghouses, and the Fords of early twentieth-century capitalism, small banks merged to form large ones and lent either to the industrialists directly or to speculators eager to buy shares in the new corporations…And it led to emergence of Big Finance, which grew up alongside Big Business in order to lend it monies borrowed effectively from the future: from profits not yet realized but which Business promised to delivery.

The Creation of the American technostructure in WWII (Eisenhower’s military industrial complex)

(after Pearl Harbor brought the US Into WWII) the US government began to emulate…the Soviet one.

Galbraith at work in 1940
It told factory owners how much to produce and to what specifications, from aircraft carriers to processed food. It even employed a price czar – the economist John Kenneth Galbraith – whose job, literally, was to decide the price of everything, to fend off inflation, and to ensure a smooth economic transition from wartime to peacetime is no exaggeration to say that American capitalism was run according to Soviet planning principles, with the exception that the networked factories remained under private ownership of Big Business.

Under President Roosevelt, the US government’s deal with Big Business was simple: they would produce what was necessary to win the war and, in exchange, the state would reward them with four incredible gifts. First, state guaranteed sales translated into state guaranteed profits. Second, freedom from competition, since prices were fixed by government. Third, huge government funded scientific research (e.g. the Manhattan Project, jet propulsion) that provide Big Business with wonderful new innovations and a pool of highly skilled scientific personnel to recruit from during and after the war. And forth, a patriotic aura to help rinse off the stench of corporate greed that clung to them after the crash of 1929 and make them over as heroic enterprises that helped America win the war.

Galbraith called this nexus (at the end of the war) the technostructure.

With the war behind them, one thing kept the good folks of the technostructure up at night: if the government would no longer guarantee sales and prices, where would they find the customers ready and willing to pay for all the chocolate bars, cars, and washing machines that they were planning to manufacture…(hence the rise of Madison Avenue and consumer behavior modification)

In the 1960s, a decade marked by an ideological and nuclear clash between America and the Soviet Union that almost blew up the world, Soviet planning principle were implemented with remarkable success in …the United States. Irony has seldom taken a more effective revenge over earnest ideology.

The American Golden Age of Bretton Woods 1944-1971

This dazzling design, America’s Global Plan to remake Europe and Japan in the image of its technostructure, led to capitalism’s Golden Age. From the wars end until 1971, America, Europe and Japan enjoyed low unemployment, low inflation, high growth and massively diminished inequality.

As long as America was the major surplus nation, Bretton Woods was safe as houses. And that’s why, by the late 1960s, the Bretton Woods system was dead in the water. The reasons? Three developments which caused America to lose its surplus and become a chronically deficit economy. The first was the escalating Vietnam War which forced the US government to spend billions in South East Asia on supplies and services for its military. The second was President Lyndon Johnson’s attempt to make amends for the ill effects of conscription on working-class America, its black communities in particular. His valiant but expensive Great Society program substantially reduced poverty but, at once, sucked lots of imported goods from Japan and Europe into the United States. Lastly, Japan’s and Germany’s factories surpassed America’s in terms of quality and efficiency, partly due to the support successive US governments had extended to Japan’s and Germany’s manufacturing sectors – the car industry being an obvious example.

Nixon Shock the death of Bretton Woods 1971

..on 15 August 1971 President Nixon announced the eviction of Europe and Japan from the dollar zone. Bretton Woods was dead. The door had been opened on a new and truly dismal phase in capitalism’s evolution.

Fed Dismal Chairmen Volcker, Greenspan, Bernanke

In 2002, thirty years after the Nixon Shock, humanity’s total income approximated $50 trillion. In the same year, financiers around the world had wagered $70 trillion on a variety of bets…. By 2007 humanity’s total income had risen from $50 to $75 trillion – a decent 33 percent increase over five years. But the sum of bets in the global money market had gone up from $70 to $750 trillion – a rise in excess of 1000 percent…Bretton Woods was designed to prevent such greed-fueled recklessness from bringing humanity to the brink of another Great Depression, indeed another world war, ever again.

Once they lost their fixed exchange with the dollar, the dollar value of European and Japanese money began fluctuating wildly…The dollar became the only safe harbor, courtesy of its exorbitant privilege, namely, that if any French, Japanese, or Indonesian company, indeed anyone wanted to import oil, copper, steel, or even just space on a freight ship, they had to pay in dollars…The Nixon Shock produced a magic trick for the ages; the country going deeper and deeper into the red was the country whose currency was becoming more and more hegemonic…But there was another reason why the dollar’s hegemony grew: the intentional impoverishment of America’s working class.,,It is also no coincidence that union busting became a thing in the 1970s.

Crash of 2008

With investment first knocked out by the crash of 2008 and finished off soon after by austerity, throwing new money at the financiers was never going to resurrect it. Put yourself in the position of a capitalist at a time when austerity is eliminating your customer’s income. Suppose I give you a billion dollars to play with for free, i.e. at a zero interest rate. Naturally you will take the free billion but as we’ve established you would be mad to invest it in new production lines. So what are you going to do with the free cash? You could buy real estate or art or better still, shares in your own company. That way, the shares in your company appreciate in value, and if you are the CEO running it, your stature and share-linked bonuses rise too. No new investment, in other words, but a lot more power in the hands of the powerful.

For while the American deficit returned with a vengeance a year after the crash of 2008 and the subsequent bankers bailouts, it never restored the beast’s capacity to recycle the world’s profits. True, the rest of the world continued to send most of its profits to Wall Street. But the recycling mechanism was broken: only a small fraction of the monies rushing to Wall Street returned in the form of tangible investments in factories, technologies, agriculture. Most of the world’s money rushed to Wall Street to stay in Wall Street. There, it sloshed around doing nothing useful. As it piled up, it bid up share prices, thus giving the Jills and the Jacks of of finance yet another opportunity to do stupid things at a mammoth scale.

When an activist states makes fabulously wealthier, the same banks whose quasi-criminal activities brought misery to the majority, while they are punished with self-defeating austerity, two new calamities beckon: poisoned politics and permanent stagnation. The poisoned politics we need not elaborate on – from Greece’s neo-Nazis to America’s Donald Trump we have all lived through the nightmare. But permanent stagnation? Why would more wealth for the ultra-rich stagnate capitalism? And how did it lead to the funding of cloud capital?

Cloud proles and cloud serfs

…capital has hitherto been reproduced within some labor market – within the factory, the office, the warehouse. Aided by machines, it was waged workers who produced the stuff that was sold to generate profits, which in turn financed their wages and the production of more machines– that’s how capital accumulated and reproduced. Cloud capital, in contrast, can reproduce itself in ways that involve no waged labor. How? By commanding almost the whole of humanity to chip in to its reproduction – for free…By doing so, we shall see that while workers have become ‘cloud proles’ we all have become ‘cloud serfs’…Cloud proles – my term for waged workers driven to their physical limits by cloud based algorithms—suffer at work in ways that would be instantly recognized by whole generations of earlier proletarians. (As in Chaplin’s 1936 movie Modern Times)
Workers employed by General Electric, Exxon-Mobil, General Motors or any other major conglomerate pay in salaries and wages approximately 80 percent of the company’s income. This proportion grows larger in smaller firms. Big Tech’s workers, in contrast, collect less than 1 percent of their firm’s revenues. The reason is that paid labor performs only a fraction of the work that Big Tech relies on. Most of the work is performed by billions of people for free…The fact that we do so voluntarily, happily even, does not detract from the fact that we are unpaid manufacturers – cloud serfs whose daily self-directed toil enriches a tiny band of multibillionaires residing mostly in California and Shanghai.

Amazon and Jeff Bezos the end of capitalism

Enter and you have exited capitalism. Despite all the buying and selling that goes on there, you have entered a realm which can’t be thought of as a market, not even a digital one…Even the ugliest of markets are meeting places where people can interact and exchange information reasonably freely. In fact, it’s even worse than a totally monopolized market – there at least, the buyer can talk to each other, form associations, perhaps organize a consumer boycott to force the monopolist to reduce a price or to improve a quality. Not so in Jeff’s realm, where everything and everyone is intermediated not by the disinterested invisible hand of the market but by an algorithm that works for Jeff’s bottom line and dances exclusively to his tune.
(Amazon is) a type of digital fief…A post-capitalist one, whose historical roots remain in feudal Europe but whose integrity is maintained today by a futuristic, dystopian type of cloud-based capital.

Tesla and Elon Musk Amazon copycat

Copycat ecommerce platforms, offering variations on the Amazon theme, are springing up everywhere, in the Global South as well as the Global North. More significantly,other industrial sectors are turning into cloud fiefs too. Take for example Tesla,,, Elon Musk’s successful electric car company. One reason financiers value it so much higher then Ford or Toyota is that its cars’ every circuit is wired into cloud capital. Besides giving Tesla the power to switch off its cars remotely, if not, for instance, the driver fails to service it as the company wishes, merely driving around Tesla owners are uploading in real time information (including what music they are listening to!) that enriches the company’s cloud capital.

A.I. Algorithms produce Cloud Proles and Cloud Serfs

It took mind-bending scientific breakthroughs, fantastical sounding neural networks and imagination-defying A.I. Programs to accomplish what? To turn workers tolling in warehouses, driving cabs and delivering food into cloud proles. To create a world where markets are increasingly replaced by cloud fiefs. To force businesses into the role of vassals. And to turn all of us into cloud serfs, blued to our smartphones and tablets, eagerly producing the cloud capital that keeps our new overlords on cloud nine.

Privatization of the Internet Commons

Capitalism surfaced when owners of capital goods (steam engines, machine tools, spinning jennies, telegraph poles, etc.) acquired the power to command people and nations– powers that far exceeded, for the first time, those of landowners. It was a Great Transformation made possible by the prior privatization of common lands. Same with cloud capital. To acquire its eve greater powers to command, it too required the prior privatization of another crucial commons: Internet One.
Previously, to exercise capital’s power to command and make other humans work faster and consume more, capitalists required two types of professionals; managers and marketeers. Especially under the auspices of the post-war technostructure, these two service professions achieved greater prominence even than bankers and insurance brokers…Then cloud capital arrived. At one fell swoop it automated both roles. The exercise of capital’s power to command workers and consumers alike was handed over to the algorithms. This was a far more revolutionary step than replacing autoworkers with industrial robots. After all, industrial robots simply do what automation has been doing since before the Luddites: making proletarians redundant, or more miserable or both. No, the truly historic disruption was to automate capital’s power to command people outside the factory, the shop or office – to turn all of us, cloud proles (blue collar working-class) and everyone else, into cloud serfs in the direct (unrenumerated) service of cloud capital, unmediated by any market.
Meanwhile, conventional capitalist manufacturers increasingly have no option but to sell their goods at the discretion of the cloudalists, paying them a fee for the privilege, developing a relationship with them no different to that of vassals vis-a-vis their feudal overlords.

The Apple iPhone and the Apple Store

The stroke of genius that unlocked cloud rent for Steve Jobs was his radical idea to invite ‘third party developers’ to use free Apple software with which to produce applications for sale via the Apple Store. In one fell swoop Apple had created an array of unwaged laborers and vassal capitalists whose hard work yielded a host of capabilities available exclusively of iPhone owners in forms of thousands of desirable apps that Apple engineers could never have produce themselves in such variety or volume.

Google’s Android Operating System and Google Play

Only one other conglomerate managed to persuade a significant proportion of those developers to create apps for its own store: Google. Long before the iPhone arrived, Google’s search engine had become the centerpiece of a cloud empire which included Gmail and YouTube, and which would later include Google Drive, Google Maps and a host of other online services…Google followed a different strategy to Apple’s. Instead of manufacturing a handset in competition with the iPhone, it developed Android, an operating system that could be installed for free on the smartphones of any manufacturer, including Sony, Blackberry and Nokia, who chose to use it. The idea was that if enough of Apple’s competitors installed it (Android) on their phones, the pool of smartphones operating on the Android software would be large enough to lure third-party developers to produce apps not only only for the Apple Store but for a new store running on Android software. That’s how Google created Google Play, the only serious alternative to the Apple Store.

Creation of Vassal Capitalists and the Precariat

But large or small, powerful or otherwise, all vassal capitalists are by definition dependent to a greater or lesser extent on selling their wares via an ecommerce site, whether Amazon or Ebay or Alibaba, with a sizable portion of their net earnings being skimmed off by the cloudalists they depend on.
Meanwhile, as Amazon was snaring makers of physical products within its cloud fief, other cloudalists were focusing their attention on the precariat (people whose employment and income are insecure). Companies like Uber, Lyft, Grubhub, DoorDash and Instacart in the Global North, along with their imitators in Asia and Africa, wired into their cloud fiefs a vast array if drivers, delivery people, cleaners, restauraneurs – even dog walkers – collecting from these unwaged, piece-rate workers a fixed cut of their earnings too. A cloud rent.
The Great Transformation from feudalism to capitalism, was predicated on the usurpation of rent by profits as the driving force of our socio-economic system. That was why the word capitalism proved so much more useful and insightful than a term like market feudalism. It is this fundamental fact – that we have entered a socio-economic system powered not by profit but by rent – that demands we use a new term to describe it. To think of it as hyper capitalism or rentier capitalism would be to miss this essential defining principle. And to reflect the return of rent to its central role, I can think of no better name than technofeudalism.

Technofeudalism Underlies the Great Inflation

…the Great Inflation and cost-of-living crisis that have followed the recent pandemic cannot be properly understood outside the context of Technofeudalism…I recounted how for twelve long years after the crash of 2008, central banks printed trillions to replace the bankers’ losses. We saw how socialism for bankers and austerity for the rest of us dampened investment, blunted Western capitalism’s dynamic and pushed it into a state of gilded stagnation. The only serious investment of the central banks’ poisoned money during this time went into the accumulation of cloud capital. By 2020, cloud rents accruing to cloud capital accounted for much of the developed world’s aggregate new income.
…rents stunning comeback could only mean deeper and more toxic stagnation. Wages get spent by the many struggling to make ends meet. Profits get invested in capital goods to maintain the capitalists’ capacity to profit. But rent is stashed away in property (mansions, yachts, art, cryptocurrencies, etc.) and stubbornly refuses to enter circulation, stimulate investment into useful things, and revive flaccid capitalist societies. And so the vicious cycle begins: deeper stagnation.
The pandemic (2020) exacerbated the same trend. The only significant difference from the pre-pandemic period was that, this time, and for the first time since 2008, some of the fresh trillions printed by the central banks were spent by governments on the population, to keep their citizens alive while locked down. Nevertheless, most of the new monies ended up bolstering the share price of Big Tech corporations. This explains the report of the Swiss Bank UBS, published in October 2020, which found that billionaires had increased their wealth by more than a quarter (27.5 per cent) between April and July of that year, just as millions of people around the world lost their jobs or were struggling to get by on government schemes. What happens when supply suddenly dies? Especially during times when the locked-down masses get some income support from the central banks’ money tree. The price of groceries, exercise bikes, bread makers, natural gas, petrol, housing and host other goods goes through the roof and, following a dozen years of subdued prices, a Great Inflation sets in.
When, for whatever reason, prices surge across the board, a social power game is afoot in which everyone attempts to suss out their bargaining power. Business managers try to work out how far they can raise prices – if not to profit then, at least, to recoup their own rising costs. Rentiers, both traditional and cloudalists, test the water with rent hikes. Workers assess the extent to which they can push for a pay rise – at least to compensate for the higher bills they must meet. Governments play the game too: do they intervene by using the greater income and VAT tax receipts flowing from the rising prices to assist weaker citizens being crushed by inflation? Or do they subsidize Big Business as it is squeezed by high energy prices? Or do they do nothing much? Until these questions get answered inflation continues to roll.

Delayed Green Energy Adoption

The need to switch from fossil fuels to green energy could not be more urgent. The rise in energy costs that is an integral part of the Great Inflation would seem to have taken us away from that goal, offering a windfall to the fossil fuel industry. But this will not last long. Advances in green energy are pushing down fast the costs of green electricity generation. Even though the life cycle of fossil fuels has been extended, ruinously for the planet, cloud based green energy is growing – and, with it, so is the relative power of cloudalists.

China’s Dark Deal Post 1971 Global Capitalism

From the 1970s onward, global capitalism was founded on this fascinating recycling of, mainly, Asian manufacturing profits into American rents, which in turn sustained the American imports that provided Asian factories with sufficient demand.
Why call it a Dark Deal? Because in the small print of this pact between America’s and East Asia’s ruling classes was written misery for workers on both sides of the Pacific. American workers faced the exploitation and immiseration that resulted from under investment and its industrial heartland being hollowed out by manufacturing in Asia and the underdeveloped Global South. Meanwhile, in China’s fast-industrializing coastal cities, workers suffered the frenzied exploitation associated with over investment…
The came the crash of 2008. This had two main effects that, together, underpin today’s New Cold War: it strengthened China’s position in the global recycling mechanism, ant it turbocharged the build-up of cloud capital both in the United States and China.
…when the bottom fell out of Wall Street, China stabilized global capitalism by cranking up domestic investment to more than half of China’s national income. It worked in that Chinese investment took up much of the global slack caused by Western commitment to austerity. China’s international stature rose, and its accumulating dollar surpluses allowed Beijing, in addition to feeding Wall Street, to become a major investor in Africa, Asia, even in Europe through its famed Belt and Road Initiative.

Chinese cloudalist agglomeration

…to grasp the enormity and nature of China’s big five cloudalist conglomerates – Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Ping An and – consider the following thought experiment. Imagine if, in the West, we were to roll into one Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the version of Chinese owned Tik Tok still available to American users. Then include the applications that play the role that telephone companies used to: Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, Snapchat. Add to the mix ecommerce cloudalists like Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, Disney Plus, Airbnd, Uber and Orbitz. Lastly, throw in PalPal, Charles Schwab and every other Wall Street bank’s own app.
Unlike Silicon Valley’s Big Tech, China’s is directly bound into government agencies that make all-pervading use of this cloudalist agglomeration: to regulate urban life, to promote financial services to unbanked citizens, to link its people with state health care facilities, to conduct surveillance of them using facial recognition, to guide autonomous vehicles through the streets – and, outside its borders, to connect Africans and Asians participating in China’s Belt and Road Initiative to its super cloud fief.
With this great leap into financial services, China’s cloudalists acquire a 360-degree view of their users’ social and financial life. If cloud capital is a produced means of behavior modification, Chinese cloudalists have accumulated cloud capital beyond the wildest dreams of their Silicon Valley competitors, who, by comparison, enjoy far less power per capita to accumulate cloud rent.

American Dollar Reign

It (dollar’s reign) has allowed countries with large trade surpluses, like China and Germany, to convert their excess production – their net exports – into property and rents in the United States: real estate, US government bonds, and any companies that Washington allowed them to own. Without the dollar’s global role, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or German capitalists would never have been able to extract such colossal surplus value from their workers and then stash it away somewhere safe. Michael Pettis: “While the US dollar may create an exorbitant privilege for certain American constituencies, this status creates an exorbitant burden for US the economy overall, especially for the vast majority of Americans who must pay for the corresponding trade deficits either with higher unemployment, more household debt, or greater fiscal deficits.”

Cloud Capital Affect on the Liberal Individual

It (cloud capital) has produced individuals who are not so much possessive as possessed, or rather persons incapable of being self-possessed. It has diminished our capacity to focus by co-opting our attention. We have not become weak-willed. No, our focus has been stolen. And because technofeudalism’s algorithms are known to reinforce patriarchy, stereotypes and pre-existing oppressions, those that are most vulnerable – girls, the mentally ill, the marginalized and yes, the poor – suffer the outcomes most…Bigotry is technofeudalism’s emotional compensation for the frustrations and anxieties we experience in relation to identity and focus…it is intrinsic to cloud capital, whose algorithms optimize for cloud rents, which flow more copiously from hatred and discontent.
And therein lies the greatest contradiction: to rescue that foundational liberal idea – the liberty of self-ownership—will therefore require a comprehensive reconfiguration of property rights, over the increasingly cloud-based instruments of production, distribution, collaboration, and communication. To resuscitate the liberal individual, we need to do something that liberals detest: plan a new revolution.
To stand a chance of overthrowing technofeudalism and putting the demos back into democracy, we need to gather together not just the traditional proletariat and the cloud proles but also the cloud serfs and, indeed, at least some of the vassal capitalists. Nothing less than such a grand coalition that includes them all can undermine technofeudalism sufficiently.

Cloud mobilization

The beauty of cloud mobilization is that it stands on its head the conventional calculus of collective action. Instead of maximal personal sacrifice for minimal collective gain, we now have the opposite: minimal personal sacrifice delivering large collective and personal gains. This reversal has the potential to pave the way toward a coalition of cloud serfs and cloud proles that is large enough to disrupt cloudalists control over billions of people.
Under technofeudalism, we no longer own our minds. Every proletarian is turning into a cloud prole during working hours and into a cloud serf the rest of the time. Every self employed striver mutates into a cloud vassal, while every self employed struggler becomes a cloud serf. While privatization and private equity asset-strip all physical wealth around us, cloud capital goes about the business of asset stripping our brains. To own our minds individually, we must own cloud capital collectively. It’s the only way we can turn our cloud-based artifacts from a produced means of behavior modification to a produced means of human collaboration and emancipation.
For a more thorough discussion of the required mobilization see Yanis Varoufakis’novel, Another Now, 2021.

Why China Will Not Rule the World

Saturday, November 5th, 2022

The China Boom; Why China Will Not Rule the World, Ho-fung Hung 2016

The China Boom <><> <> <> <> Ho-fung Hung

Hong Kong born Hung is a sociologist who has studied capitalism and Chinese history extensively. This book sites the many studies and research about the rise of modern China, its politics, economics, its capitalist development, and its place in the global world order. Here is a short summary of his conclusions.

Amid the late twentieth-century rise of global neoliberalism, under which the United States and Europe shifted to financial expansion, debt-driven consumption, and reliance on imported manufactured goods from low-wage countries, China eschewed central economic planning and absorbed substantial foreign-capital accumulated during the industrial takeoff of its Asian neighbors, particularly those of Chinese diasporic origins, turning itself into a dynamic center of export-driven capitalism…It is apparent that China has no intention of or capacity for transforming the global neoliberal order because the China boom has been relying heavily on transnational free trade and investment flow. China also makes significant contribution to the perpetuation of U.S. global dominance through its addiction to U.S. public debt.

Mao and Deng

..SOEs (State Owned Enterprises) and state control of the marketing of agricultural products as a means to speed up rural surplus extraction and industrial capital accumulation began in certain KMT (Kuomintang) controlled areas before 1949. What the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) did after 1949 was to expand this state-owned sector to the whole economy and to collectivize agriculture, turning the state into the sole agent of capital accumulation. As a consequence, China managed to build an extensive network of heavy industries and infrastructure despite its international isolation in 1949-1979. It also successfully defended its sovereignty and geopolitical security vis-a-vis both the United States and the Soviet Union. The Mao period in China represented the culmination of a century of the state elite’s quest for state-led industrialization…the expansion of KMT-controlled state enterprises, the successful land reform, and the rise of state-directed rural cooperatives that facilitated agriculture-to-industry surplus transfers in Taiwan can be seen as a mild variation of SOEs and the People’s Commune in Mao China. This continuity attests to Immanuel Wallerstein’s provocative formulation that “actually existing socialist countries” emerging in mid-twentieth century were always part of the capitalist world system and that their socialist system has been little more than a strategy of rapid capital accumulation and industrial catch up under the strong hands of mercantilist states.

In retrospect, many Deng and post-Deng reform measures would not have been that successful had it not been for the legacies of the Mao era. The SOEs and infrastructure constructed in Mao times, though moribund and unprofitable at the advent of reform, were important foundations for the capitalist takeoff during the reform period. For example, many foreign companies investing in China did not start from scratch but began as joint ventures with preexisting SOEs. At the same time, many SOEs developed into sizeable transnational capitalist corporations with financial and policy support from the state, though ownership changed from the state by itself to other combinations — for example public listing but with the government owning a majority share. Most of China’s biggest corporations today originated in the Mao era or were built on state assets developed in that era…It is not surprising that many other former socialist countries in Russia and Eastern Europe have also witnessed a similar predominance of state corporations.

Other Mao-era legacies include the restriction of rural-urban migration by means of the household registration system and public investment in rural education and rural health care in the People;s Communes. These policies created a generation of literate and healthy rural laborers available in great numbers for private, export-oriented enterprises as well as TVEs (Township and Village Enterprises) from the 1980s on. The self reliance policy in the Mao period prevented the large-scale external borrowing in the 1970s that many other developing or socialist countries indulged in, thus sparing China from the international debt crisis in the 1980s that brought large setbacks to the developing world and the Soviet bloc.

China has not challenged U.S. global dominance despite its leader’s postures and its nationalist press’s rhetoric. On the contrary, it has been a key force in helping perpetuate U.S. global dominance. China’s SOEs have been transformed into U.S. style capitalist corporations, many of them with the aid of Wall Street financial firms, and floated in overseas stock markets such a Hong Kong and New York. China’s export-oriented growth relies on the United States and Europe, the two biggest markets for its manufactured goods, and China’s exports to both places have been paid for mostly in U.S. dollars. The massive flow of U.S. dollars into China in the form of trade surplus impels China to invest addictively in U.S. Treasury bonds as the most liquid and largest US dollar-denominated store of value.Since 2008, China has replaced Japan as the biggest foreign creditor to the United States, and such financing enables the United States to continue living and fighting beyond its means. This investment in U.S. Treasury bonds in turn facilitates the perpetuation of the global dollar standard, which has been the single most important foundation of U.S. global power. The foreign exchanges brought in by China’s export sector have been the foundation of the state banks’ profligate creation of liquidity that fuels fixed-asset investment. In short, the China boom relies on the global free market instituted and warranted by the United States. It is thus far from China’s interest to undermine the global neoliberal status quo and U.S. leadership in it.

Any readjustment of the structure of capitalist development in China will have to involve an increase in domestic consumption’s share in GDP and a corresponding reduction in export and investment’s share…such restructuring must be associated with a profound redistribution of wealth and income that will let average households share a larger slice of the pie of the expanding economy, reducing the advantages that the state has been offering to the export sector and state enterprises, both of which have been protected by the entrenched interests in the political process. Such readjustment, coupled with the cleaning up of existing bad debts in the system, will inevitably bring a slowdown in economic growth through either a disorderly hard landing or an orderly soft landing…Although such a slowdown is inevitable and normal in the adjustment and rebalancing process, it is unknown whether existing political institutions in China can withstand it.

Winston Churchill – In His Own Words

Friday, September 2nd, 2022

Winston Churchill: His Times, His Crimes, Tariq Ali 2022

This well researched history is too dense and comprehensive to summarize. Tariq Ali read so many books and sources in preparation that he only presents a Select Bibliography at the end. Winston Churchill was born an aristocrat in 1874 and died in 1965 at age 90. The book is as much a history of British aristocratic rule and imperialism as it is a biography of the man. The ambitious Winston made certain he was present at most of the critical events affecting imperialism and labor relations during the course of his long life. He never took personal responsibility for his many failures during his long life. The life of Winston Churchill makes an interesting contrast to American marine general Smedley Butler who was born middle class in 1881 and died in 1940 at age 58. Like Winston, Smedley seems to have been present at almost every significant event in extending and securing American imperialism. Unlike Winston, his military exploits were largely successful, even if they primarily benefited American exploitative capitalists. The British military officer that most matches the exploits of American Smedley Butler, is Sir Charles Wickham, whose exploits include Ireland, the Boer War, Russia supporting the White army fighting the Bolsheviks in the civil war, Greece, and Palestine.

Know thy enemy:
he does not care what colour you are
provided you work for him
and yet you do!
he does not care how much you earn
provided you earn more for him
and yet you do!
he does not care who lives in the room at the top
provided he owns the building
and yet you strive!
he will let you write against him
and yet you write!
he sings the praises of humanity
but knows machines cost more than men.
Bargain with him, he laughs and beats you at it;
challenge him, and he kills.
sooner than lose the things he owns
he will destroy the world.

Christopher Logue, poster poem, Black Dwarf (June 1968)

Iris Chang

Iris Chang published The Rape of Nanking in 1997, focusing worldwide attention on Japan’s “orgy of cruelty” where as many as 350,000 civilians are estimated to have died. 1000 women were raped every day. The assault on Nanjing was led by Hirohito’s fifty-year old uncle, Prince Asaka, the senior most officer present. To this day influential Japanese leaders, journalists, and academics deny that the Nanjing events happened. Historian Herbert Bix quotes from standing Japanese orders to military units that specified the killing of all prisoners, civilian and military, and the burning of houses. After Nanjing fell the soldiers went on an unplanned rampage of arson, pillage, murder, and rape. Herbert Bix published Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan in 2000 establishing the direct responsibility of Hirohito for all major military actions including Manchuria, Nanjing, Pearl Harbor, Singapore, and so on. Hirohito was left in place after Japan’s defeat and was never tried for war crimes, unlike Tojo who was tried for war crimes and executed.

From 1942 to 1944 the British rulers, under Churchill, diverted all available rice and other grains from Bengal to feed American and British soldiers. Fearing a Japanese invasion of Bengal they also confiscated and destroyed privately owned boats needed to transport food and other products throughout Bengal. The result was that an estimated 5 million Bengalis died of starvation. This genocidal war crime was only discovered after the war ended. Satyajit Ray made the film Distant Thunder in 1973 based on a novel describing this genocide. The film was panned by American reviewers. This war crime, near the level of the Jewish holocaust, is not even mentioned in the Oxford History of the Twentieth Century 1998. More proof that history is written by the victors.

A 1948 U.S. State Department Assessment:

We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.5% of its population…Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security…We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization…We should concentrate our policy on seeing to it that key areas remain in hands which we can control or rely on.

Sun Yat-sen, Lenin and China’s long term plans for sole global hegemony

Sunday, July 31st, 2022

The Long Game; China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order, Rush Doshi, 2021

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László Ladányi was a Hungarian Jesuit who lived in China from 1936 until his expulsion by the Communists in 1949. He moved to Hong Kong where he published China News Analysis from 1953 til 1982 when he retired to write books. China News Analysis was the only English language coverage of events from a closed China and based on published speeches and other high level official sources. He covered Mao’s paranoid machinations from the Great Leap Forward where Ladányi predicted 50 million Chinese deaths from starvation to the Cultural Revolution.

Rush Doshi adopted much of the research methodology of Ladányi in preparing this book which is a study of Chinese foreign policy (political, economic and military) from Deng Xiaoping to the present. Doshi notes that China inherited its nationalism from Sun Yat-sen and the Chinese century of humiliation at the hands of the west and the desire to return China to its historic role as the Central Kingdom surrounded by tribute bearing smaller states, and its political structure, the Chinese Communist CCP from Lenin.

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In 1973 Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai visited Washington in preparation for Nixon’s visit to China. Zhou asked a young American member of the delegation “Do you think China will ever become an aggressive or expansionist power?” The American answered “No.” and Zhou said “Don’t count on that. It is possible. But if China were to embark on such a path, you must oppose it…And you must tell those Chinese that Zhou Enlai told you to do it.”

The book highlights significant events that caused Chinese leaders to reevaluate their policy focus. The first was a trifecta of events from 1989 to 1991, The Tiananmen Square Massacre, overseen by Deng and widely criticized by the United States and the West; The Gulf War to expel Iraq from Kuwait, which shocked China with the technical superiority of the Americans and the speed with which the war concluded; and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Following the collapse and the end of the cold war, China focused much more on the United States and after Tiananmen started to be more sensitive to human rights concerns of the liberal West even though these concerns dated at least as early as the Chinese annexation of Tibet. China also acquired a new respect for the military technical superiority of the US as demonstrated in the Gulf War.

When Deng Xiaoping became Premier, he followed the example of Singapore as a model of a democracy free capitalist economic system open to western investment and engagement under an authoritarian rule pioneered by Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
The era from China opening to the United States and the West for investment and trade was given a central policy directive from Deng “Tao Guang Yang Hui” or “hide capabilities and bide time”, applying to political, economic, and military policy as directed by the CCP. During the US Kosovo war a Chinese military leader reiterated:

“what the PLA should do” in response to “the rise of military intervention” by the United States was to remember that “our approach is Tao Guang Yang Hui” He elaborated, “As a military, this means…vigorously developing ‘shashoujian’ equipment, [and following the principle of],’whatever the enemy is most afraid of, we develop that’.”

Second, at the political level, the trifecta and China’s strategic adjustment led Beijing to reverse its position on joining regional institutions. Memoirs of Chinese ambassadors are explicit on China’s need to join institutions to blunt American power in three ways: (1)stalling the institutions so they couldn’t become functional; (2) using them to constrain US freedom of maneuver; and (3) using them to reassure neighbors so they wouldn’t join a US-led balancing coalition…Even s, these efforts were taken consistent with Tau Guang Yang Hui’s principle of avoiding claims of leadership, which meant China refrained from launching new institutions; moreover, Deng himself had said that China’s diplomatic voice would grow loader once Tao Guang Yang Hui was retired.

Finally, the trifecta also shaped Chinese international economic policy…China raised new concerns in Beijing about its vulnerability to US leverage, and blunting these became the focus of Chinese efforts. China not only focused breaking economic sanctions, it also sought to secure MFN (most-favored-nation) status on a permanent basis, or permanent normal trading relations (PNTR). The goal was not to limit China’s dependence on the United States but to reduce the discretionary exercise of US economic power…It also pushed for WTO membership, hoping it would further tie Washington’s hands.

China limited its military expansion during this time to the development of mines, missiles, and conventional silent submarines. Their largest fleet in the world of silent submarines could surface right next to a US aircraft carrier without detection. In 1973, 75 year old Zhou Enlie was suffering from bladder cancer which Mao had ordered Zhou’s doctors to not reveal or treat, when he lamented that China had not yet acquired an aircraft carrier.

In 1992, after the Soviet Union collapse, a PLA delegation visited a new Soviet carrier, the Varyag, then under final construction in Ukraine on the Black Sea. China chose not to acquire it. Then five years later China’s top leaders changed their minds and launched a plan to acquire the Varyag that is worthy of a movie.

Xu Zengping joined the PLA in 1971 and left in 1980 to found a trading company that he claimed made him wealthy. Xu’s wife was a basketball player on China’s national team that played alongside Yao Ming’s mother. PLAN Vice Admiral He Pengfei recruited Xu to serve as the military’s intermediary in the Varyag purchase.

Consistent with Tao Guang Yang Hui, Xu knew he needed to deceive the world about his wealth, intentions, and government connections. Xu created the persona of an outlandish tycoon who wanted to use the carrier as a floating casino in Macao. Xu set up a shell company and spent $1 million to acquire licenses to operate the casino in Macao. Xu then bought one of the most expensive villas in Hong Kong for $30 million.

In October 1997, Xu went to Kiev to negotiate with the Ukrainian owners of the Varyag. The private owners acquired the Varyag during the massive neoliberal privatization of Soviet public assets after the collapse in 1991. After months of parties and millions in bribes, the owners finally agreed to sell the Varyag to Xu for $20 million. But Xu also needed the blueprints and the engines which were beyond Chinese capabilities to build at the time. The engines had already been installed but Xu got fake documents showing that the engines had been removed. Xu received 45 tons of blueprints and documents and the engines and then set out on the arduous process of moving the ship to Dalian China.

In all the government of China spend $120 million and in March 2002, the Varyag arrived in Dalian where it was rust protected and left in December 2005. Even the original Soviet name and markings were left on the carrier.

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Then, in response to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, which Chinese leaders took as a clear indication of the weakening of the US and the West, Chinese foreign policy entered a new more aggressive direction. The top level decision to build a carrier fleet was made in 2009. The Varyag was completed, renamed Liaoning , and commissioned on 25 September 2012.

After the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, China began to emphasize building regional order. It no longer felt the need to constrain itself fowir fear of rattling Washington or the wider region. The capabilities that carriers were know for were now fully in line with China’s own strategic objectives, which leaned increasingly toward enforcing maritime sovereignty and cultivating the ability to intervene regionally. And so, China entered the ranks of carrier-fielding great powers.

…the 2008 Global Financial Crisis caused a much bigger shift. China’s assessment of the relative power gap with the United States fell significantly and President Hu then officially revised Tao Guang Yang Hu by stressing “Actively Accomplishing Something” in his 2009 address.

In 2012 Wang Jisi, dean of Peking University’s School of International Relations wrote:

“Unlike East Asia, there is no U.S. led regional military alliance among the countries to the west, and there is no possibility that one will arise”…Instead, China had abondant resources and a continental vacuum in that direction, as well as the surplus capacity and dollar reserves to fill it with pipelines, railways, highways, and even overland Internet infrastructure that would reduce China’s dependence on the sea and bind the region tighter to China.

In 2013 Xi would launch the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

Mao’s Cultural Revolution began in 1966 and ended with Mao’s death in 1976. It impacted virtually all Chinese leaders from Deng to the present. Two stories of auto-didactic education are featured in this book:

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On March 16, 2013, Chinese diplomat Wang Yi was formally promoted to minister of foreign affairs. The urbane but fierce defender of Chinese interests was sometimes known as a “silver fox” for both his “looks and his diplomatic wiles.” but he was also brilliant and diligent. After graduating high school during the Cultureal Revolution, Wang Li was sent to labor on a farm in northeast China for eight long years. A former classmate of his recalls that Want Li “did not waste his time” but engrossed himself in literature and history entirely on his own direction. When the Cultural Revolution ended , Wang Li’s diligence paid off, and he earned a spot at Bejing International Studies University, where he dedicated himself to Japanese language studies.

Wang Li married the daughter of Quian Jaidong an underling of Zhou Enlai and member of China’s first overseas delegations to the Geneva conference in the 1950s. Quian Jaidong became China’s UN ambassador in 1980.

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On January 16,2016, The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was declared “open for business” and a grey haired enthusiast for English literature, Jin Liqun was elected its first president…Jin grew up in an educated but poor family with what was then an unusual passion for English literature. When he was sent to labor in the countryside for a decade during the Cultural Revolution, he spend three quarters of his meager annual salary and what little time he had after a day’s work in the fields continuing that pursuit. “I was outfitted with a worn out Remington typewriter and a copy of Webster”, he said later, as well as a radio he kept tuned to the BBC that gave his English a trace of the “standard BBC accent of the 1970s.” When the Cultural Revolution abated, the twenty nine year old autodidact won a seat at the Beijing Institute of Foreign Languages, excelled in graduate work, and was offered a faculty position…It was not to be. That same year, China joined the World Bank, and English speakers were needed to staff its new office in Washington…He spent a dozen years at the World Bank and then the Asian Development Bank, rising to become its first Chinese vice president, and developed a resume and Rolodex in multilateral finance no other Chinese official could match. When China decided to build its own development bank, Jin was the logical choice.

Another remarkable story about a misfit coming out the Cultural Revolution was previously blogged.

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On October 18. 2017, General Secetary Xi Jinping, in a 3 1/2 hour 30,000 word speech announced the next great change in Chinese foreign policy.

The speech announced a “new era”, put forward timetables for China’s rejuvenation in 2049, promised greater Chinese activism in global governance, called for a “world-class” military, committed China to becoming a “global leader in innovation,” and declared that China would “become a leading country in comprehensive national strength and international influence.”
Like other changes in China’s grand strategy, this shift toward greater global ambition was driven by what Beijing saw as the West’s irreversible decay and decline. In 2016…the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, and Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. From China’s perspective–which is highly sensitive to changes in perception of American power–these to events were shocking. The world’s most powerful democracies were withdrawing from the international order they had helped erect, creating what China’s leadership and foreign policy elite has called a “period of historic opportunity” to expand the country’s strategic focus from Asia to the wider globe and its governance systems.

The Living Planet Earth – Gaia and Solaris

Friday, February 18th, 2022

The Nutmeg’s Curse; Parables for a Planet in Crisis, Amitav Ghosh, 2021

Out of these processes of subduing and muting was born the idea of “nature” as an inert entity,a conception that would in time become a basic tenet of what might be called “official modernity”. This metaphysic, fundamentally an ideology of conquest, would eventually become hegemonic in the West, and it it now shared by the entire global elite: within its parameters the idea that a volcano can produce meaning; or that a nutmeg can be a protagonist in history, can never be anything other than a delusion or a “primitive superstition”. To envision the world in this way was a crucial step toward making an inert Nature a reality. As Ben Ehrenreich observes; “Only once we imagined the world as dead could we dedicate ourselves to making it so.”

Standing Rock Protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline – Camp became a prayer camp because its lands are a site of ancestral knowledge

Now, as humanity faces the possibility of a future in which living will indeed have turned into a battle for survival, it is becoming increasingly clear that Indigenous understandings of terraforming were, in fact, far more sophisticated than those of today’s techno-futurists.

Exhaustion is a metaphor that occurs often in science fiction stories about terraforming. Swarms of aliens go off to conquer another planet because their own is “exhausted”. It is the same presumption that impels billionaires to plan the conquest of Mars, now that the Earth is “exhausted”…what the Earth is really exhausted of is not its resources, what it has lost is meaning.

He (Tennyson) sees the ascent of his “crowning race” as coming about by the severing of every kind of earthly tie, through the overcoming of everything that links humanity to other creatures and animals. He even proposes what we might call an “end of history” or an “end of the world”…This is man’s final ascent, when all creation ends and he is united with God.

As we watch the environmental and biological disasters that are now unfolding across the Earth, it is becoming ever harder to hold onto the belief that the planet is an inert body that exists merely to provide humans with resources. Instead, the Earth’s responses are increasingly reminiscent of the imaginary planet after which the Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem named his brilliant novel, Solaris: when provoked by humans, Solaris begins to strike back in utterly unexpected and uncanny ways.

James Lovelock; “Long ago the Greeks…gave to the Earth the name Gaia or, for short, Ge. In those days science and technology were one and science although less precise, had soul. As time passed this warm relationship faded and was replaced by the frigidity of schoolmen. The life sciences, no longer concerned with life, fell to classifying dead things and even to vivisection…Now at least there are signs of a change. Science becomes holistic again and rediscovers soul, and theology, moved by ecumenical forces, begins to realize that Gaia is not to be subdivided for academic convenience and that Ge is much more than a prefix.”

Other-than-human beings, forces, and entities, both manmade and earthly, could be pursuing their own ends, of which humans know nothing. Gaia, at once bountiful and monstrous, has now assumed a new avatar: Solaris.

It is this compressed time frame (the last 30 years) that has made sure that non humans too are no longer as mute as they once were. Other beings and forces–bacteria, viruses, glaciers, forests, the jet stream– have also unmuted themselves and are now thrusting themselves so urgently on our attention that they can no longer be ignored or treated as elements of an inert Earth.

So the true question then is not whether non humans can communicate and make meaning; rather we must ask: When and how did a small group of humans come to believe that other beings, including the majority of their own species, were incapable of articulation and agency? How were they able to establish the idea that non humans are mute, and without minds, as the dominant wisdom of the time?

The reason why coal powered mills began to edge out their water-powered competitors in the early nineteenth-century was not that coal was cheaper or more efficient. Water powered mills were just as productive, and far cheaper to operate than coal-fired mills. It was for social rather than technical reasons that steam-powered machines prevailed: because, for example, coal-mills allowed mill owners to locate their factories in densely crowded cities, where cheap labor was easily available. “The steam engine” writes Malm,”was a superior medium for extracting surplus wealth from the working class, because, unlike the waterwheel, it could be put virtually anywhere”…In short, steam, and thus coal won out over water precisely because it empowered the dominant classes and was better suited to their favored regime of property.

The role that fossil fuels play in war making is another, monstrously vital, aspect of their enmeshment with structures of power and forms of violence…Today the Pentagon is the single largest consumer of energy in the United States–and probably in the world…A single non-nuclear aircraft carrier consumes 5,621 gallons of fuel per hour; in other words, these vessels burn up as much fuel in one day as a small midwestern town might use in a year…In the 1990s the three branches of the US military consumed approximately 25 billion tons of fuel per year. This was more than a fifth of the country’s total consumption, and “more than the total commercial energy consumption of nearly two thirds of the world’s countries.”…Indeed, the predicament of the US Department of Defense is a refraction of the quandary that now confronts the world’s status quo powers: how do you reduce your dependence on the very “resources” on which your geopolitical power is founded?

Viewed from this perspective, climate change is but one aspect of a much broader planetary crisis: it is not the prime, cause of dislocation, but rather a cognate phenomenon. In this sense climate change, mass dislocations, pollution, environmental degradation, political breakdown, and the Covid-19 pandemic are all cognate effects of the ever increasing acceleration of the last three decades. Not only are all these crises interlinked–they are all deeply routed in history, and they are all ultimately driven by the dynamics of global power.

Just as the Lakota, repeatedly displaced by wars and the rising of dammed waters, were herded into ever shrinking reservations, so too are the refugees of today’s geopolitical wars being forced into zones of containment in North Africa, the Sahara, Mexico, Central America, and islands like Nauru. They too are casualties in a conflict that is not recognizable as war, in the sense defined by Western legal theorists. Yet the parallels with the biopolitical wars of the past are perfectly clear to many indigenous peoples–thus the title of Nick Este’s powerful account of the environmental struggles of the Lakota and their kin Our History is the Future.

Since the adoption in 1989 of the Washington Consensus, the ideologies and practices of settler colonialism have been actively promoted, in their neoliberal guise, by the world’s most powerful countries, and have come to be almost universally adopted by national and global elites. It is those settler-colonial practices that are now being implemented by China, in Xinjiang; by Indonesia in Papua; and by India,in Kashmir and in many of its foreign regions.

And surely it is no accident that today there exists a technology of last resort that many believe will ultimately work in favor of the neo-Europes: geo-engineering. As novel as it may seem, geoengineering is nothing other than terraforming carried literally into the stratosphere; it should by rights be called “strato-forming”. Today some of the richest and most powerful people, and institutions, in the West are openly promoting geo-engineering. Their enthusiasm makes it impossible to forget that “from the mid-eighteenth century onward, modern science explicitly supported empire, defining strategies for colonization.”

This is the great burden that now rests upon the writers, artists, filmmakers, and everyone else who is involved in the telling of stories: to us falls the task of imaginatively restoring agency and voice to non humans. As with all the most important artistic endeavors in human history, this is a task that is at once aesthetic and political–and because of the magnitude of the crisis that besets the planet, it is now freighted with the most pressing moral urgency.

Pope Francis; “A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach, it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

Pax Britannica, Pax Americana, Pax Zhōngguó, The Last World Empire?

Friday, January 28th, 2022

To Govern the Globe, World Orders & Catastrophic Change, Alfred W. McCoy, 2021

Indeed, the Iberian (Spain and Portugal) vision of expansive sovereignty — acquisition of terrain by conquest and oceans by exploration — would continue under Dutch and British hegemony, illustrating the capacity of these global systems to survive the empires that created them…Thanks to the British and Dutch decisions to strip their colonial subjects of civil liberties and carry the transatlantic slave trade to new heights, the Iberian hierarchy of human inequality would, in all its cruelty and tragedy continue.

In the years following the (Dutch) East India Company’s founding in 1602, the city’s (Amsterdam) dynamism led to a host of financial innovations that soon made it… “the clearinghouse of world trade”. The new Bank of Amsterdam took deposits, transferred funds trans nationally and later stored vast quantities of precious metals in its vaults, helping make the city “Europe’s reservoir of gold and silver coin.” The Chamber of Maritime Insurance offered coverage for dozens of dangerous destinations, while the newspaper Amterdamsche Courant gave the city’s merchants critical information about the prices of goods arriving from those distant shores. Amsterdam also built the world’s first stock exchange, where up to five thousand met to trade more than four hundred commodities around a central courtyard that became “the nerve center of the entire international economy.”

William III Mary II

William’s (of Orange) reign also witnessed a modernization of the British economy along Dutch lines, exemplified by the founding of the Bank of England, the London Stock Exchange, and a profusion of private banks, insurance companies, and joint stock firms.

Coal was the catalyst for an industrial revolution that fused steam technology with steel production to make Britain master of the world’s oceans

Each step in slavery’s eradication was foreshadowed by a new stage in Britain’s use of coal-fired energy–including the introduction of steam power in mills and mines by the time Parliament banned the slave trade in 1807; the development of mobile steam engines for land and sea transport prior to the Later, abolition of West Indies slavery in 1833; and the adoption of coal powered steam power in almost all British industries by the 1850’s, when the Royal Navy’s anti-slavery patrols reached their coercive climax. Later, new forms of fossil energy — electricity and internal combustion engines — would render even the coerced labor of the imperial age redundant.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Swedish physicist Svante Arrhenius would publish the first report on the capacity of industrial emission to cause global warming. By countless hours of painstaking manual calculations, he predicted with uncanny prescience and considerable precision “the temperature in the arctic regions would rise about 8 degrees to 9 degrees C., if the [carbon dioxide] increased 2.5 or 3 times its present value.”

Britain was the world’s preeminent power for more than a century, but its dominance nevertheless evolved through two distinct phases. From 1815 to 1880 it largely oversaw an “informal empire” with a loose hegemony over client states worldwide. In the period of “high imperialism” from 1880 to 1940, however the empire combined informal controls in countries like China, Egypt, and Iran with direct rule over colonies in Africa and Asia to encompass a full half of all humanity.

Parliament rescinded mercantilist laws that had protected British commerce for centuries, starting with the abolition of the (British) East India Company’s monopolies on Asian trade.

British engineers built the world’s first major central power plant at Deptford, London in 1888, capable of lighting two million electric bulbs. As electrical plants spread quickly, their generators were powered by the first coal-fired steam turbines…tying a knot between coal and electricity that persists to this day.

By century’s end (19th), discoveries (Iran, Indonesia, Burma) had created a sufficient supply of oil to enable a shift from steam to internal combustion engines in ships, trains, automobiles, and ultimately, aircraft.

Eleanor Roosevelt Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In fulfilling this commitment to human rights (The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948), the United States would face some exceptional challenges. Unlike earlier imperial powers, it was, after all, a former colony with a long history of slavery and a succeeding system of racial segregation that would compromise its commitment to those principle at home. As its global power grew during these postwar decades, Washington would cultivate anti-Communist allies among authoritarian leaders in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, tacitly endorsing torture and repression in their lands. Even as the US practiced racial segregation at home and backed ruthless dictators abroad, civil society groups worldwide would continue to fight for human rights, just as African Americans would struggle for their civil rights at home, making this universal principal a defining attribute of Washington’s world order, almost in spite of itself.

By the time Washington’s world order was fully formed in the late 1950’s, the unequal power of its nuclear-armed bombers, its countless overseas military bases, and its covert interventions in the affairs of countless nations coexisted tensely with a new world order, epitomized by the UN, that was meant to protect the sovereignty of even small states and promote universal human rights. This underlying duality of Washington’s version of world power would manifest itself in numerous contradictions during its 70 years of global hegemony.

Washington’s visionary world order took form at two major conferences — at Breton Woods, New Hampshire, 1944 where 44 Allied nations forged an international financial system exemplified by the World Bank, and at San Francisco in 1945, where they drafted a charter for the UN that created a community of nations. The old order of competing empires, closed imperial trade blocs, and secret alliances would soon give way to an international community of emancipated colonies, sovereign nations, free trade, and peace through law. In essence, the UN charter’s many clauses rested on just two foundational principles that would soon become synonymous with Washington’s world order; inviolable national sovereignty and universal human rights.

Between 1945 and 2000, the US intervened in 81 consequential elections worldwide, including eight times in Italy, five in Japan, and many more in Latin America. Between 1958 and 1975, military coups, many of them American sponsored, changed governments in three dozen nations — a quarter of the world’s sovereign states — fostering a distinct “reverse wave” in the global trend toward democracy.

George Kennan supported covert operations

George Kennan, State Department official later called the creation of the CIA with authorization to conduct covert operations “The greatest mistake [he] ever made.

President Truman tried to limit the newly created CIA to intelligence gathering only with no authorization for covert activities. Allen Dulles maneuvered Frank Wisner into position as OPC Chief and by 1952 OPC was operating 47 overseas stations and employed 3000 people. It specialized in the black arts of espionage sabotage, subversion, and assassination. When Eisenhower became president in 1953, Kermit Roosevelt led the overthrow of the elected President of Iran and installation of the Shaw.

Throughout its rise to world power from 1820 to 1870, Britain increase its share of gross world product by just 1 percent per decade, while America’s rose by 2 percent during its accent from 1900 to 1950. By contrast, China was increasing its slice of the world pie at an extraordinary pace of 5 percent from 2000 to 2020.

…the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers calculated that China’s economic output had already surpassed America’s in 2014 and was on a trajectory to become 40 percent larger by 2030.

Across Europe, hypernationalist parties like the French National Front, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Alternative for Germany, and the British Independence Party won voters by cultivating nativist reactions to just such trends, often attacking the economic globalization that had become a hallmark of Washington’s world order. Simultaneously, a generation of populist demagogues won power in nominally democratic nations around the world — notably Viktor Orban in Hungary, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Narendra Modi in India, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and of course, Donald Trump in the United States.

While a weakening of Washington’s global reach seems likely, the future of its world order is still unclear. At present, China is the sole state to have most (but not all) of the requisites to become a new global hegemon. Its economic rise coupled with its expanding military and growing technological prowess under the “Made in China 2025” program, has given it many of the elements fundamental to superpower status…Yet, as the 2020s began, no state seemed to have both the full panoply of power to supplant Washington’s world order and the skill to establish global hegemony. Indeed, apart from its rising economic and military clout, China has a self referential culture, recondite non roman script (requiring 4000 characters instead of 26 letters), nondemocratic political structures, and a subordinate legal system that will deny it some of the chief instruments for global leadership.

Successful imperial transitions driven by the hard power of guns and money also require the soft power salve of cultural suasion if they are to achieve sustained and successful global domination. During its near century of hegemony from 1850 to 1940, Britain was the exemplar par excellence of soft power, espousing an enticing political culture of fair play and free markets that it propagated through the Anglican church, the English language and its literature, mass media such as the British Broadcasting Corporation, and it virtual creation of modern athletics (including cricket, soccer, tennis, rugby, and rowing). Similarly, US military and economic domination after 1945 was made more palatable by the appeal of Hollywood films, civic organizations like Rotary international, and popular sports like basketball and baseball. On the higher plane of principle, Britain’s anti-slavery campaign invested its global hegemony with moral authority, just as Washington’s advocacy of human rights lent legitimacy to its world order…China still has nothing comparable. Both its communist ideology and its popular culture are avowedly particularistic.

China has been a command economy state for much of the past century, and as such has developed neither the legal culture of an independent judiciary nor an autonomous rules-based order complementary with the web of law that undergirds the modern international system.

Xi Jiping – Zhōngguó (China) is translated as Middle Kingdom

If, however, Bejing’s potentially immense infrastructure investments, history’s largest by far, succeed in unifying the commerce of three continents, then the currents of financial power and global leadership may indeed flow, as if by natural law, toward Beijing. But if that bold project falters or ultimately fails, then for the first time in five centuries, the world could face an imperial transition without a clear successor as global hegemon.

From scientific evidence, it seems clear that, for the first time in seven hundred years, humanity is facing another cumulative, century long catastrophe akin to the Black Death of 1350 to 1450 that could once again rupture a global order and set the world in motion…If the “Chinese century” does indeed start around 2030, it is unlikely to last long, ending perhaps sometime around 2050 when the impact of global warning becomes unmanageable. With its main financial center at Shanghai flooded and its agricultural heartland baking in insufferable heat, China’s days as a global power will be numbered.

Given that Washington’s world system and Beijing’s emerging alternative are largely failing to limit carbon emissions, the international community will likely need a new form of collaboration to contain the damage. In the years following the Paris climate accord, the current world system — characterized by strong nation-states and weak global governance at the UN — has proven inadequate to the challenge of climate change. The 2019 Madrid climate summit failed to forge a collective agreement for emission reduction sufficient to cap global warming to 1.5C, largely due to the obstruction of major emitters like Australia, Brazil, China, India, and the United States. Any world order, whether Washington’s or Beijing’s that is based on primacy of the nation-state will probably prove incapable of coping with the political and economic crisis likely to arise from the appearance of some 275 million climate refuges by 2060 or 2070.

The American Empire’s 20 Year War On Terror

Saturday, January 8th, 2022

Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire; 20 Years After 9/11 Deepa Kumar, 2021

Twenty years since the launch of the global war on terror, the human toll has been nothing short of devastating. The Cost of War project at Brown University estimated in 2020 that between 37 and 39 million people were displaced as a result of US wars in eight countries and that about 800,000 have been killed due to direct war violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Those advancing the proposition that the United States should “bring democracy” were committed activists who didn’t understand that they were using colonial and Eurocentric (or US-centric) frameworks, which work by naturalizing power dynamics and concealing imperial prerogatives.

When racism is formed in terms of “free speech” and democratic rights it becomes a covert liberal form of racism, which erases the humanity of those being subjected to what is in reality hate speech.

The attacks of 9/11 produced a convergence (of conservative and liberal political classes) and a commitment to take a confrontational approach, launching the war on terror as an endless and boundless project of war making and race making. US imperialism was greatly strengthened after 2001.

Economist Samir Amin “Enlightenment (eighteenth century) thought offer[ed] us a concept of reason that is inextricably associated with that of emancipation. Yet the emancipation in question is defined and limited by what capitalism requires and allows.”

Ella Shohat and Robert Stam “Racism is above all a social relation…anchored in material structures and embedded in historical configurations of power.”

The dominant definers of the “problem of Islam” after 9/11 created a framework. “These frames are not new but often have a longer history rooted in Orientalist world views even if they are repackaged in new ways.” Kumar lists the dominant narratives and ideological frames employed to represent Arabs, Iranians, South Asians, and the Muslim world:
1. Islam is a monolithic religion.
2. Islam is uniquely sexist and Muslim women need to be liberated by the West.
3. Islam is anti-modern and does not separate religion and politics.
4. The “Muslim mind” is incapable of rationality and science.
5. Islam is inherently violent.
6. The West spreads democracy because Muslims are incapable of democratic self-rule.

Kumar debunks each frame.

Former President Bill Clinton stands with former U.S. President George H.W. Bush during the opening session of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) September 24, 2008 in New York City. President Clinton is hosting the fourth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), a gathering of politicians celebrities, philanthropists and business leaders grouped together to discuss pressing global issues.

In the 1990s, the central goal shared by the (first) Bush and Clinton administrations was to expand US power and prevent the rise of any potential rival. Like their Cold War counterparts, these leaders sought to integrate the world into a capitalist order under their control. This time, instead of modernization, the model was neoliberalism with an emphasis on privatization, deregulation, a move away from public and social welfare policies, and the adoption of other free market principals. To realize what Bush described as the “New World Order”, the United States militated against “rogue regimes” that refused to play by American rules and attempted to control regions whose instability could undo the smooth functions of the capitalist system. Non-state actors outside the US control had to be contained or removed.

Arun Kundnani agues the “War on terror paradigm…makes ideology the root cause of political violence [and] derives from the cold war theory of totalitarianism, which presumed a similar direct causal connection between ideology and the repressive practices of political control.”

Counterterrorism policy and practices of surveillance, indefinite detention, and arbitrary deportation flow from this logic.

Afghanistan War $2.3 Trillion FUBAR

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

The Afghanistan Papers, A Secret History of the the War, Craig Whitlock, 2021

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…it (this book) is an attempt to explain what went wrong and how three consecutive presidents and their administrations failed to tell the truth. All told, the Afghanistan Papers is based on interviews with more than 1,000 people who played a direct part in the war. The Lessons Learned interviews, oral histories and Rumsfeld snowflakes comprise more than 10,000 pages of documents…(people) who know that the official version of the war being fed to the American people was untrue, or aggressively sanitized at best.

By 2002, few al-Qaeda followers remained in Afghanistan. Hundreds had been killed or captured, while the rest fled to Pakistan, Iran and other countries. The United States and its allies were left fighting the Taliban and other militants from the region — Uzbeks, Pakistanis, Chechens. So for the next two decades the war In Afghanistan was waged against people who had nothing to do with 9/11.

The problem was that the military had not run a counterinsurgency campaign since the Vietnam War. To figure out what to do, (David) Barno scrounged up three textbooks on counterrevolutionary warfare he had read as a West Point cadet more than twenty-five years earlier. “We had no U.S. military doctrine whatsoever at this point in time by which to guide us.”

“He (Pakistani ISI head Ashfaq Kayani) says, ‘You know, I know you think we’re hedging our bets. You’re right, we are because one day you’ll be gone again, it’ll be like Afghanistan the first time, you’ll be done with us, but we’re still going to be here because we can’t actually move the country. And the last thing we want with all our other problems is have turned the Taliban into a mortal enemy, so, yes, we’re hedging our bets.'”

The table of contents pretty much summarizes this important book

Part One: A False Taste of Victory, 2001–2002
Chapter One: A Muddled Mission
Chapter Two: “Who Are the Bad Guys?”
Chapter Three: The Nation-Building Project
Part Two: The Great Distraction, 2003–2005
Chapter Four: Afghanistan Becomes an Afterthought
Chapter Five: Raising an Army from the Ashes
Chapter Six: Islam for Dummies
Chapter Seven: Playing Both Sides
Part Three: The Taliban Comes Back, 2006–2008
Chapter Eight: Lies and Spin
Chapter Nine: An Incoherent Strategy
Chapter Ten: The Warlords
Chapter Eleven: A War on Opium
Part Four: Obama’s Overreach, 2009–2010
Chapter Twelve: Doubling Down
Chapter Thirteen: “A Dark Pit of Endless Money”
Chapter Fourteen: From Friend to Foe
Chapter Fifteen: Consumed by Corruption
Part Five: Things Fall Apart, 2011–2016
Chapter Sixteen: At War with the Truth
Chapter Seventeen: The Enemy Within
Chapter Eighteen: The Grand Illusion
Part Six: Stalemate, 2017–2021
Chapter Nineteen: Trump’s Turn
Chapter Twenty: The Narco-State
Chapter Twenty-One: Talking with the Taliban

An excellant prequel to this book is Steve Coll’s 2007 Ghost Wars account of how the CIA seeded this next conflict

We seem to have even forgotten how to be Imperialistic Extractive Capitalists by ignoring the vast endowment of natural resources in Afghanistan.

Far more value, however, lies with the country’s endowments of iron, copper, lithium, rare earth elements, cobalt, bauxite, mercury, uranium and chromium. While the total abundance of minerals is certainly vast, scientific understanding of these resources is still at an exploratory stage.Aug 31, 2021

An Anthropologist looks at U.S. forts, bases, lily-pads – endless wars and first strikes

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

The United States of War, David Vine, 2020

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The U.S. military has waged war, engaged in combat, or otherwise employed its forces aggressively in foreign lands in all but eleven years of its existence.

Rather than being a book about battles, this book uses military bases as windows to understand the pattern of endless U.S. wars…These bases have expanded the boundaries of the United States, while keeping the country locked in a state of nearly continuous war that has largely served the economic and political interests of elites and left tens of millions dead, wounded, and displaced.

Beyond a way of warfare, this mode of total genocidal war (against native Americans) became important to the development of a distinct U.S. identity. This identity in turn has played some role in shaping later wars and the conduct of those wars, especially against peoples deemed to be supposedly racially inferior. “Successive generations of Americans, both soldiers and civilians, made the killing of Indian men, women, and children a defining element of their military tradition, and thereby part of a shared American identity.”

By the end of World War II…the United States would build and occupy some thirty thousand installations at two thousand base sites worldwide. While large numbers of bases would close at War’s end what remained was a global base network larger than any in human history…By war’s end, Roosevelt would oversee the largest expansion of bases, territory, and imperial power in U.S. History – arguably far exceeding the power of Jefferson’s purchase (Louisiana Territory).

Other “territories” (excepting the Philippines which was granted independence in 1946) remained colonies without democratic incorporated into the United States. They included Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Guantanamo Bay, and the Panama Canal Zone.

U.S. officials further used the nation’s unchallenged military superiority at the end of World War II to dictate much of the postwar international economic system, on which geoeconomic power would be based. New global institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations became important economic and political tools to open and dominate markets and maintain other countries in subordinate relationships.

“The United States did not abandon empire after the Second World War. Rather it reshuffled its imperial portfolio,…investing in military bases, tiny specks of semi-sovereignty strewn around the globe.”

Across history and geography the Chagossians and others displaced by U.S. Bases abroad are thus linked along a continuum of violence to the victims of war in Southeast Asia, Iraq, and Afghanistan; to Native American peoples displaced, dispossessed, and murdered; to Angolans and Mozambicans kept under Portuguese colonial rule for decades with U.S. Aid exchanged for Azores basing rights; to Indonesians slaughtered in a U.S. Supported genocide; to Cubans and Haitians and many others killed during dozens of U.S. Invasions in Latin America; to Guatemalans and Chileans tortured, assassinated, and disappeared during U.S. Based coups; to the enslavement, murder, and disenfranchisement of African-Americans over centuries; to attacks on immigrants and religious and sexual minorities in the United States; and to the poor in the United States whose bodies are so often ground up by the workings of everyday capitalism and the U.S. Wars they are so often sent to fight.

Continued Myths and Propaganda about the murder of Osama Bin Laden

Sunday, September 12th, 2021

The Killing of Osama bin Laden, Seymour Hersh, 2016
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This spring (2016) I contacted (Asad) Durrani (former head of Pakistan’s ISI in the 1990s) and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources; that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at Abbottabad compound since 2006; that (Army General) Kayani and (ISI head) Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the SEALS to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA dis not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the SEAL team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false

In August 2010 a former senior Pakistani ISI officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA’s station chief at the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find bin Laden in return for the reward that Washington had offered in 2001…The walk-in passed the (polygraph) test.

The CIA needed to determine if bin Laden was really in the compound. Obama was informed in October, but was skeptical, wanting proof that bin Laden was in the compound. A Pakistani Army doctor by the name of Amir Aziz was treating bin Laden at the compound.

The (US) planners turned to Kayani and Pasha, who asked Aziz to obtain the (DNA) specimens…Aziz had been awarded with a share of the $25 million reward..because the DNA sample had showed conclusively that it was bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Pakistan agreed In January 2011 to cooperate on an operation if the US would come in lean and mean and kill bin Laden. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia insisted that bin Laden be killed because they did not want him interrogated by US authorities as he would have been able to implicate both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in having supported his activities. Pasha met with officials in Washington. The US agreed to increase assistance to the ISI and give Pakistan a free hand in Afghanistan as the US started withdrawing its forces.

Pasha and Kayani were promised that the deal would remain secret. Once the mission was carried out and bin Laden killed, the US would wait at least 7 days and then announce that bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike on the Afghan side of the Hindu Kush.

Obama instantly broke the agreement, announcing the raid and murder for political/electioneering purposes and setting in motion an incredible series of false, fabricated stories about the whole history of events, worthy of Lewis Carroll. The CIA has sealed most of the fabrications to keep the truth hidden from journalists and the public. That didn’t stop them from revealing classified material to the makers of the 2012 propaganda film “Zero Dark Thirty” who used the material to propagate false narratives in an amazing work of propaganda/fiction posing as a depiction of actual events. Much of this fictionalized account has survived to be repeated in the 2021 Netflix series Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror, Part 5.

– – – – “Stealth” Chinook Helicopters delivering tanks to battle

At the Abbottabad compound ISI guards were posted around the clock to keep watch over bin Laden and his wives and children. They were under orders to leave as soon as they heard the rotors of the US helicopters. The town was dark; the electricity supply had been cut off on the the orders of the ISI hours before the raid began. One of the Black Hawks crashed inside the walls of the compound, injuring many on board…The cockpit of the crashed Black Hawk, with its communications and navigational gear, had to be destroyed by concussion grenades, and this would create a series of explosions and a fire visible for miles. Two (giant) Chinook helicopters had flown from Afghanistan to a nearby Pakistani intelligence base to provide logistical support (like refueling the Black Hawks) and one of them was immediately dispatched to Abbottabad…The crash of the Black Hawk and the need to fly in a replacement were nerve racking and time-consuming setbacks, but the SEALs continued with their mission. There was no firefight as they moved into the compound; the ISI guards had gone…Instead…an ISI liaison officer flying with the SEALs guided them into the darkened house and up a staircase to bin Laden’s quarters…Aside from those that hit bin Laden, no other shots were fired.

The SEALS reported recovering a treasure trove of computers and documents from the compound.

“Why create the treasure trove story? The White House had to give the impression that bin Laden was still operationally important. Otherwise, why kill him? A cover story was created — that there was a network of couriers coming and going with memory sticks and instructions. All to show bin Laden remained important.”

Bin Laden was under arrest of the Pakistani ISI with Saudi Arabia providing financial support for the compound. Bin Laden was very ill and delusional by this time. The ISI gave the CIA all materials remaining in the compound when they razed it. bin Laden’s wives and children were not allowed to be interrogated by US authorities.

– – – – – The Mythical Burial of Osama bin Laden Aboard the USS Carl Vinson- Photos not Provided

“The (SEAL) squad came through the door and obliterated him.” There were no other arms in the compound. Once Obama broke the Pakistani agreement, the administration was left with a very long list of unexplained problems and questions, which journalists immediately started asking.
– How did you know bin Laden was in Abbottabad? Invent a non existent al Quaeda courier with a white car that you followed to the compound.
– How did you know he was an al Quaeda courier? Tortured him or someone else.
– How did you confirm that bin Laden was in the compound? Blame an innocent man, Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor that operates a well funded, independent medical operation that provides free Hepatitis B vaccinations, and claim that he was assigned to collect DNA samples from the bin Laden compound. This started a worldwide rumor that the CIA was funding fake vaccination programs. Afridi was accused of treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison.
– What happened to the courier? The non existent courier was killed in the non existent Abbottabad firefight.
– What happened to bin Laden’s body? He was immediately buried at sea off the USS Carl Vinson. (Never happened but all records of the ship have been sealed by the CIA).
– Where are the photo proofs of death and burial? There aren’t any.
– Where is the body? Several SEALS later reported they had thrown bin Laden’s body parts out of the helicopter somewhere over the mountains and arrived in Afghanistan without a body. With the originally agreed story of death in a drone attack there would be no need for a body – in fact a body would pose problems for the original false story agreed between the US and Pakistan.