The years 1900-2000 can be described appropriately as the “American Century” where the USA was King.
Harvard Professor G.A., however, said that in the last 500 years, there have been 16 attempts of “rising nations” to overthrow “reigning nations” and 12 of such attempts ended in wars. He calls this the “Thucydides Trap.”
First, it was Greece vs Sparta; then, Germany vs Great Britain and now we have China vs the USA. He theorized that in three major instances, the powder keg was lit not by the main actors but by a secondary agent provocateur.
An example was the assassination in a small country like Austria that triggered World War I and it could be North Korea’s bellicose ways in our contemporary times. One can also think of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor that ignited World War II in a great way.
The march of China towards world supremacy has a known trajectory.
It now has 1.4 billion people – potential consumers and labor workforce – today. And it is not just quantity. In 1978, nine of ten Chinese (1 billion people, then) lived on below US$2 per day. In 2008, only one of ten lies below that poverty line.
According to the professor, the GDP of China was only half of that of the USA in 2004; by 2014, both countries had the same GDP size. Extrapolated, by 2024, China’s economy is bruited to become 50% bigger than America’s.
Chinese President X Jinping deals with blueprints: 2025 – China to be the world leader in “driverless cars, robotics, artificial intelligence, and quantum computation,” by 2035 – absolute world No 1 in economy and technology.
In 2049-or 15 years from 2035, the Chinese president sees a supremely dominant Chinese nation with an army “which can fight and win” wars. Fifteen years is significant in Chinese history.
In 1934, the Red Army went on a strategic retreat covering 12,000 miles to avoid direct confrontation with the then superior Nationalist Army. They famously label this as “The Long March.” After rebuilding for 15 years, the Red Army eventually defeated the Nationalist Army in 1949 and established the People’s Republic of China.
In an “Asian Review” article, it was pointed out that China could do a strategic retreat in the smoldering “trade war” with the USA but with a mind focused on her eventual target of dislodging America as an economic and technology superpower by 2035. A total of about 15 years from today.
The confidence of a Donald Trump in the current trade showdown with China is his knowledge that more than America, China is more dependent on the import and export trade. Therefore, the blistering trade war could fracture the sinews of the Chinese economy more than America’s.
The prospective Chinese strategic retreat in the trade war could be the moral equivalent of the: “ one step backward, two steps forward” being propagated by the famous Chinese military strategist author Sun Tsu in his book “The Art of War.”
China cannot forever smile away the current effects of the debilitating trade war of new sky-high tariffs which had driven thousands of companies, in the words of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo recently “from China into no-tariff nations.” This resulted, allegedly, into the loss of thousands of jobs in the “manufacturing, e-commerce and foreign companies” in the Mainland.
Some opine that America can win more concessions in the trade war-and will lower their tariffs southwards thereafter.
But as the saying goes “one swallow does not a summer make” and this “loss of face” of China for eventually blinking in the current trade war should not be mistaken as the end of the war. It is just one of the small battles taking place in a long war of attrition of 15 years.
The battles include those in the fields of technology, financial engineering, arms race, and military build-up, the space program, the nuclear agenda, food security and cultural -social influence upon the rest of the globe.
Is it likely that the American Century will soon give way to the Chinese Century and a New World Order will emerge?
The Harvard professor, however, has been proposing to as many world leaders that rather than be subsumed in the “Thucydides Trap” where usurpations of dominance resulted in wars, that China and America, instead, develop a new world community where sharing of powers can still be possible between the First and the Second biggest nations.
Wouldn’t that be a Utopia in our generation? That can happen if nations accept the futility of wars when taken as the only resort of competing interests.
There is wisdom in looking at the world as the “One Homeplace of Fellow Human Beings” rather than be divided and conquered by the strongest to the detriment of the weak.
(Bingo Dejaresco, a former banker, is a financial consultant, media practitioner, and a book author. He is a Life Member and Chair of the Broadcast Media of FINEX. His views, however, are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of FINEX.email@example.com)