China and the Clash of Civilizations
To recap briefly, after the collapse of most communist states in 1990, the world appeared to have entered a period of permanent peace. Stanford University-based political scientist Francis Fukuyama called it "the end of history," in which democracy and free-market capitalism would become the final form of human government. In response to Fukuyama's 1992 book, Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington penned an article entitled "The Clash of Civilizations?," which he expanded into a 1996 book entitled The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Huntington argued that now that the age of ideological conflict between communism and capitalism had ended, civilizational conflict, the normal state of affairs in the world, would reassert itself. His book concentrated on the "bloody borders" between Islamic and non-Islamic communities.
Huntington recognized nine civilizations, and as per his prediction, two of those civilizations are trying to impose themselves on the rest of the world. Islamic civilization got off to an early start with the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, following that attack up with demolition of the structure in 2001. But the Islamic effort will pale into insignificance compared to what China has in store. Countries that don't want to be dominated by China are at last organizing in response to that threat.
Using Huntington's cultural divisions as a template, the world can be divided into three camps: the anti-China camp, the indifferent, and China. This graphic shows each group relative to the size of their economies:
The coming war with China will mark the end of globalism. In preparation for that war, the anti-China forces will attempt to shrink the Chinese economy using trade restrictions, starting with the Trump administration's effort to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China. The front-line states in East Asia of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan realize the necessity of this. The traditional European naval powers of the U.K. and France also realize that China must be contained. Both countries have announced that they will be conducting freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea.
If China attacks these patrols, there is a high probability that the E.U. will retaliate by restricting China's access to the E.U. market. What is motivating the Europeans in this instance is that if China is successful in seizing the South China Sea, then every other body of water on the planet will be fair game, starting with parts of the Mediterranean.
Like the Muslims, the Europeans have been attempting some Kulturkampf on the rest of the planet, even as the E.U. is disintegrating at the margins. Global warming is the state religion of the E.U., and its principals have threatened trade imposts on countries that don't toe the line.
The Europeans are also realizing that they have been played by China. European companies came in to build factories and establish themselves in that once booming economy. Now that those efforts are successful, China is effectively expropriating ownership. For example, the Danish shipping company Maersk has 25% of its assets in China and at its peak had 1,100 expatriates in China to run the operation. The Chinese government hasn't renewed visas for almost all of them. There are now only two Maersk expatriates in China, and the company has lost control of 25% of its asset base. Other European companies have been fined for being too successful against their Chinese competitors. China is also hobbling its own economy with the move back to state-owned enterprises, which have one third of the productivity of privately owned companies.
China continues to attempt to chew away at India's territory in the Himalayas. In response, India is attempting to help stiffen the resolve of front-line states Vietnam and Indonesia for the coming conflict.
The indifferent grouping is like China in that its members are mostly dictatorships with plenty of corruption and not much in the way of rule of law. The latter two factors hobble productivity. For example, the mystery of why Russia's economy is not much larger than Australia's is answered in corruption causing costs to be three times higher than they should be. Being amoral, these countries will happily continue to trade with China, no matter how many deaths the Chinese cause.
At the same time, Chinese behavior has not won the Middle Kingdom any friends. Once it is clear that China is losing the war that it will start, there will be a strong temptation to throw their lot in with the Allied side and declare war on China because it will be the excuse to expropriate Chinese-owned assets.
What of China itself? We won't be fighting all 1,300 million of them, just the 330 million or so in the coastal provinces that have had the economic growth of the last 20 years. We don't have to have a land war with them – Vietnam is down for that role. All we have to do is sink all their ships and seize their artificial islands in the South China Sea. And then wait them out. The world will find that it can get along without China – quite happily.
In the meantime, it has become apparent that the crackdown on corruption Xi Jinping started early in his reign was aimed at purging the party hierarchy of officials coming from ordinary families. Almost no "princeling" was liquidated – only the exception of Bo Xilai. The Bos, husband and wife, committed a murder, and the local police chief refused to cover it up. This was a godsend for Xi. Among top "princelings," Xi and Bo were the only ones who had the potential to be the Big Brother. The Chinese political system has morphed into a gigantic, hereditary feudal system come open-air prison.
David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare.