James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

A China reality check

Oct 28, 2009 18:26 UTC

Thomas PM Barnett makes good sense, as usual:

Japan’s rise and decline should serve as a grim warning to China right now.

Japan got old, but China will get older faster. Japan kept its environment relatively clean, China is trashing its own. Japan built its manufacturing power on excellent goods, China is fly-by-night by comparison (reading a book on that now).

In sum, China has so many huge hidden deficits incurred during its rise, that I think it will suffer future stagnation that makes Japan’s seem tame, especially since China’s political system is so brittle and unimaginative.

I guess I’m just responding to all this China-will-rule-the-world vibe connected with the 60th b-day celebration. As soon as I read stuff like that, the Irish in me says you’re heading for a fall.


It’s kind of sad that people have to look to China for hope. It really is a terrible land, aside the wonderous construction projects that are meant to overpower the senses and confuse us. A land that feels it needs to make monuments to power really has none… they’re growth rates are completely doctored, corruption is open and rampant, the gov’t keeps the currency pegged artificially, and the gov’t uses the military to control the citizenry. Though it is little reported here, there are numerous regions of (essentially) open revolt in China, not to mention occupied land (Tibet) which spurs more defiance from the people. So while the coast cities may seem like a beacon to the future, the rest of the country is in chaos and in big trouble. So much for the Chinese miracle… the real miracle will be if they survive a sustained downturn in the American economy.

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Globalization and war

Sep 8, 2009 13:59 UTC

Something to think about  from Tom Barnett when contemplating globalization and the revolt against it:

Connectivity is a dangerous, destabilizing thing, creatively destructive in the worst way. The rap on me (Barnett thinks connectivity creates peace instantly) has always missed the point about it being the Pentagon’s new map: connectivity is revolution. It will almost always get scarier and more unstable before it settles down, and no, containment is a chimera. There is no containing globalization, our international liberal trade order unleashed upon the planet. There is only mitigation. The revolution is largely generational (young v. old) and gender-based (women against men). It offends custom on almost every level possible.

How global capitalism (and the U.S. military) is defeating Al Qaeda

Aug 6, 2009 21:29 UTC

A lengthy post from Thomas PM Barnett always makes it a great day. Here he talks about the video truce offer from Zawahiri, and why it is another sign of Al Qaeda strategic weakness and failure:

Radical Islam has overplayed its hand again, creating popular resentment escalating to political backlash. … Why? Because the penetrating embrace of globalization is doing the truly profound damage to Al Qaeda, and we are globalization’s bodyguard. The flow of proliferating networks that offer ideas and conversations and products and expressions of individualistic ambition — especially with regard to women — offer radical Islamic groups no hope of gaining permanent political control. … The Middle East currently suffers from a destabilizing youth bulge around people between the ages of 15 and 30. In two decades time, the region’s demographic center of gravity will have shifted upward commensurately, meaning the Middle East will hit “middle age.” What do we know from this shift in other parts of the world? That criminal behavior wanes, meaning bin Laden and Al Qaeda do not have time on their side. … Globalization is not some elite conspiracy hatched in Manhattan or Davos; it’s now largely fueled by the ravenous demand for a decent lifestyle by an emerging — and huge — global middle class located overwhelmingly beyond our shores. That world-spanning force demands the Islamic world’s progressive integration into globalization’s vast universe.

Me: Another reason why American needs to stay open to the world, especially in terms of trade. But all the cross-border flows count: goods, services, ideas, capital, people.


Capitalism has always been the answer. That’s what the Reagan-wing of the party kept trying to say: you can’t spread liberty with guns.

Welcome to reality.