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China: new regional dynamics? « Previous | |Next »
August 29, 2005

Whilst the US has been fighting the war on terror and ensnared in its occupation of Iraq, China has become both a regional power in the Asia Pacific and a rising world power. The center of world affairs is quietly shifting toward Asia.

The unipolar understanding of the world of nations no longer holds as the moment a debt-laden US being the only superpower begins to fade. Republican Washington is back talking about China in terms of it being a strategic competitor, as a power that wants to change Asia's balance of power to its own advantage, and a rising military rival.

The economic strength of China has seen the fear and prejudice associated with China bashing of the economic protectionists start up again in Washington. We can expect more anti-free-trade policies generally, more anti-China policies, and the traditional US geopolitical hostility to China being increasingly framed in terms of a confrontation.

Australia needs to deflect US demands for unquestioning support of its hostile policy on China on the ground that it is not in accord with our separate national interest.

Australia has its own problems with China as an economic partner. China's growing economic might (and India's) calls into question whether free trade is a win-win game for us. Over time, China and India could displace Australian high-tech jobs, as well as Australian wages being forced further down to sustain 'international competitiveness.' Even though Australian consumers get cheaper Chinese-made goods, many Australian citizens could be net losers from the free trade agreement, due to worker's income declining from lower wages.

Thus the realities of globalization. Though a minority of the Australian population might well gain from free trade with China and India, more may well suffer lower living standards.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:10 AM | | Comments (4)


America has managed to hold off all challengers so far, I recall Japan supposedly taking over from the US in the 80s. America's great advantage is its ability to turn an R&D dollar into revenue. China so far is copying American designs and innovation. In reality China is nothing more to the US than Indiana was. China is the factories of America. Unlike Indiana, China has a military, this is where the tension is. Unless China ditches it's unitary state and party controlled system, it will not be able to compete with the US over the long term. American business is too dynamic for a unitary state to challenge it - or even come close.

you write:

"America has managed to hold off all challengers so far"

I'm not saying that China will become top dog and replace the US as a hegemon or imperial power. I'm saying that the unipolar understanding of the world of nations is misplaced, because China is a regional power in a military and economic sense.We are talking about the limits of empire and the emergence of a multipolar system.

You write:

"In reality China is nothing more to the US than Indiana was."

China props up the debt ladened US economy by spending its surplus by US Treasury Bills and keeping its reserves in US dollars. There is a lot of tension there.The US's annual trade deficit is around $730bn pushing---6.0% of GDP---with US exports stagnant and imports continuing to soar.

Total exports would have to grow at a nearly 16% pace just to keep the trade deficit stable. I cannot see that happening. Hence a declining US dollar. A falling currency is what happens to the currencies of countries with large trade deficits.

You seem to agree with Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, who has stood by even though the US current account deficit has reached record levels. He has argued that financial globalization has reduced the risks associated with a more leveraged US external position, and neither large US trade deficits nor a rising debt to GDP ratio is a particular concern so long as the US economy stays nimble.

I would argue that no country's debt can increase indefinitely, even if many of your creditors are seemingly generous foreign central banks.

Gary, I would agree with this;

I would argue that no country's debt can increase indefinitely, even if many of your creditors are seemingly generous foreign central banks.

except that the Asian style of capitalism is so export driven with the state supporting it. America is their big customer, until the Asian economies turn into US/Au/UK style consumer economies I dont see it happening. I also believe the Indonesia will soon do a China too. The interest with Indonesia is if it will adopt (maintain) the Asian style of capitalism or become a western-style consumer based economy.

I do think that we ned to think in terms of a diversity of capitalisms, and not in terms of one -the free market Anglo-American one---being the ideal type to which all must aspire.

The latter view merely expresses the Washington consenus--global neo-liberalism. It is representation of an economy marked by ever greater inequality becoming institutionalized.

In the US neither the political establishment, nor the electorate, is any longer willing to spread around the benefits of freer trade to help those in the US hurt by globalization.

This is quite different from the aftermath of the Great Depression after World War II,where the benfits of globalization were spread through a progressive tax structure, government social spending, and transfer payments.

Instead of either Asian or American capitalism we need to think in terms of a Brussels, Beijing and Washington nexus: they will have to meet to better coordinate their efforts to manage globalization in the form of a process of constructive and inclusive triangulation.

Re your comment

"the Asian style of capitalism is so export driven with the state supporting it and America being their big customer"

Is not this kind of capitalism shaped by the power relationships of the global economy? After all, China is entering into a world system designed by the West for its own benefit.

If we go back 150 years to when the British promoted free trade when its economy was the strongest in the world. we find that Friedrich List, in his National System of Political Economy (1841), arguing that political economy as espoused in England, far from being a valid science universally, was merely British national opinion, suited only to English historical conditions.

List's institutional school of economics asserts that the doctrine of free trade was devised to keep England rich and powerful at the expense of its trading partners; and that it must be fought with protective tariffs and other protective devises of economic nationalism by the weaker countries.

Today, it is the US that promote free trade because unbalanced trade has worked in favor of the stronger US economy. So China is forced to adopt a state national system of political economy.