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Archive for July, 2004

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004


Even before Deng Xiaoping defeated his hardline Maoist opponents in the late 1970’s to set Beijing on ” the capitalist road”, China’s potentially bright future has been the topic of investors and statesmen. Richard Nixon foresaw China as the superpower of the 21st century. So did Brooks Adams more than a century ago. So when academics and economists are awed this year by China’s stunning, near 9 % GDP growth rate, it appears the long-predicted arrival of China may be finally coming to pass.

Since we are discussing The Pentagon’s New Map it’s of no surprise that China is a critical country in Dr. Barnett’s strategy ( which I discussed earlier here and here ). Rivaled only by India, China would be the most important part of the ” New Core ” of states that decided to join the ” old Core” by adopting their rules and engaging with the world instead of isolating themselves from it. Barnett however, quickly identifies the crux of the problem with China’s progress ( p. 241)

” Of that New Core group, China is the most worrisome, while India is the most promising…China is most worrisome because the hardest rule-set still needs to be changed – the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party”


This is an aspect that clearly worries the United States government as well. ( hat tip to Jodi) Dr. Barnett has ample descriptions in his book of Pentagon war planners and defense intellectuals envisioning China in a worst-case scenario war for dominance of East Asia.  To focus on military might alone – where the increasingly professional PLA is really still not all that impressive next to say, the IDF much less the U.S. Navy – is a mistake that Dr. Barnett does not make. He’s looking at the global parameters of power that an economic surplus is giving- and demanding of – China for the first time since the fall of the Q’ing dynasty :

“Paul Krugman likes to point out that China’s central bank is one of the main purchasers of Treasury bills in the world, so -in effect- they finance our trade deficit” (p. 311)


” China has to double its energy consumption in a generation if all that growth it is planning is going to occur. we know where the Chinese have to go for the energy: Russia, Central Asia and the Gulf. That’s a lot of new friends to make and one significant past enemy to romance. “(p.230)

Overall, Dr. Barnett is betting that the growing complexity of connectivity’s interactions as China rewrites its rule sets to accept ” the four flows ” of globalization is the ultimate hedge against conflict with China. Or China lapsing into the disorder that plagues the Gap states.


First, I am not a Sinologist by training and my knowledge of Chinese history lags considerably behind my understanding of say American diplomatic history, Soviet history and a few other topics. On the other hand, the last part of what I’m going to state about China here applies analytically to most societies that would have to make the transition to ” the New Core “.

While China’s current growth rates are amazing we have to keep a few things in mind and try to see some of this PNM scenario through Chinese rather than western eyes. 

First, China’s cultural values formed during the warring states period and that China was twice unified and given stable government only by the most ruthless application of totalitarian rule.  First by the Emperor Shih Huang-ti who followed the tenets of Han Fei-tzu ‘s Legalist-Realist school and secondly by the equally indomitable Mao Zedong, with his own particular version of Marxism-Leninism.  In between the two despots dynasties rose and fell and generally tried to tie together a continental-sized nation with a natural centrifugal tendency to split into unrelated regional economies and eventually warlordism, civil war and dynastic collapse. In short, China’s rulers do not take the unity of their country for granted the way the French or the British or postbellum Americans do.  Chinese leaders are crazed about Taiwan because in their minds if Taiwan is ever recognized by the world as an independent state than so can Tibet…and Xinjiang..and perhaps the rich coastal provinces might feel better off without their inland cousins.  An authoritarian ledership of already shaky political legitimacy may choose the economically suicidal course if they believe that Taiwan’s independence will bring their regime down regardless.

Secondly, in assessing China’s might keep in mind the reality of per capita facts. As Brad DeLong conveniently noted the other day hundreds of millions of Chinese remain extremely poor, living on less than a dollar a day.  Hundreds of millions more are better off than a generation ago but they still hover not terribly far above subsistence. These people are not, as most suppose, a danger to the regime. Peasants have starved for a millenia without ill political effect and these people are, fortunately, at least eating. What they represent instead is an enormous claim on the economic surplus that China is currently generating – a claim on roads, schools, hospitals, infrastructure, basic comforts  – before providing ” rich ” urban Chinese with internet cafes, dance clubs, imported cars or  more missile frigates for the Chinese Navy.  These people need exceptionally robust economic growth for decades to see real improvement in living standards.

Thirdly, the inner circle of China’s leadership have undergone an important transformation during the end of Deng Xiaoping’s tenure as paramount leader.  Unlike in the USSR where the Red Army was strictly subordinate to the CPSU, Mao’s guerilla war left far greater cohesion between the PLA and the CCP. Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping were bona fide military leaders. Zhu De and Lin Biao were also political leaders.  PLA generals routinely sat in the Central Committee and higher party cadres did military work. Today, China’s generals and politicians are distinct leadership classes with factional interests. The generals have become much more the military professionals and no one mistakes Jiang Zemin for a field marshal. To  a certain extent, the politicians are appeasing the military elite while the latter are developing a far more narrow outlook.

Lastly, globalization brings with it to all societies a danger of raising up a countervailing power. For example, in one sense al Qaida’s radicalism is merely the culmination of an ideological debate that has been going on within Islam since the Turks retreated from the gates of Vienna in 1689. But in a general sense bin Laden’s violent answers only have traction among Muslims because globalization has created enough new ” connections ” to create economic and social upheaval in very traditional, formerly disconnected, Arab and Central Asian nations.

China’s previous experience with opening up to the outside world is not a heartwarming tale. The Ming and Q’ing dynasties, like the Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan, had ” disconnected ” from the world even as the European nations began explosive advances in science, wealth and technology. The world intruded anyway. Japan opted to reconnect via the Meiji Restoration and catch up to the West.  China resisted and suffered not only external humiliation at the hands of the West, Russia and Japan but also two internal rebellions – the Taiping Rebellion and the Boxers. The former revolt, fired by half-understood western religious ideas, was warfare of a magnitude not exceeded in scale until the western front in 1914.

China’s current rulers have chosen connection but the threat of countervailing power comes not from the still disconnected but from the already connected but discontented. Al Qaida and Hizb ut-Tahrir are not filled with illiterate fanatics but lawyers, engineers, doctors and businessmen who have chosen a radical political program for the goal of Islamist religious reaction. The Nazis appealed most to the lower middle class and unemployed intellectuals who had risen but feared to sink back into the ranks of the workers during the Depression.  The Russian peasant who was most helped by Petr Stolypin’s land reforms flocked not to support the Tsar but the Socialist-Revolutionaries in 1917.  In our own history the Populists and Alliancemen who agitated for cooperative economics and against banks and monopolies  in the 1880s were not workers but ex-yeomen turned tenant farmers, commercial farmers with mortgages and deflating prices.

If China’s growth sags trouble will come not from the rural areas but from the tens of millions of educated, new middle-class Chinese who have had their expectations raised by cell phones, scooter bikes, refrigerators, internet access and discman players.  They will not return to the countryside and nor will they abide a loss of status that Richard Hofstadter once identified as the root of paranoid politics.

That is the tightrope China will be walking for a long time to come.




Tuesday, July 20th, 2004



The very busy author of PNP penned an exceptionally lengthy and gracious post with a link yesterday. It was very rewarding to get that kind of response on the blogosphere. Tom’s only error was to mistake me for a man of the Left which isn’t the first time that has happened to me – my mentor in grad school came from the ” Open Door School ” and was himself an early student of William Appleman Williams. His research and reading seminars deeply immersed all of his grad and doctoral students in American economic history.  Therefore, the economic analysis I employ frequently strikes a chord on the Left, even though I draw different normative conclusions than they do.  Dr. Barnett is also formerly a prof of Marxist studies so I’m sure some economic points of reference I made were instantly recognizable to him ( I also have a number of progressives and liberals on my blogroll and my views while on the right, are eclectic. Then there’s the whole Zen thing).


China and PNM will be discussed later tonight – particularly how we must beware globalization’s historic propensity to raise up potential *countervailing* powers which in the case of China would make al Qaida look like a day at the beach.

Saturday, July 17th, 2004


Tom Barnett’s book , The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century is hip deep in concepts which makes it both an intriguing read and a difficult review. But since this is a blog I’m free to tackle the book in parts and today I’d like to look at Barnett’s key concepts of Connectivity and his four flows of globalization that “connect ” societies and nation-states into an interdependent whole. If you have a copy of PNM handy I strongly recommend you take a look at Chapter 4 ” The Core and the Gap “. It’s the one where Dr. Barnett lays out the war on terror in ” the context of everything else” – which is the essence of strategic thinking.

Context is important because it’s what usually gets dropped in these types of discussions because most government experts and academics are by definition niche specialists. They resist moving their arguments and ideas into the realm of everything else because it messes up their crisp clean models with real-world complications in fields where they do not feel nearly so expert. This is a major reason why American national security, foreign policy and even military planning seldom rises above the level of tactical thinking…that is when we are not stuck in crisis management, ad hoc, muddle through mode. American strategic thinkers have been so few – Brooks Adams, Alfred T. Mahan, Woodrow Wilson, Walter Lippmann, George Kennan, Paul Nitze, Herman Kahn, Richard Nixon – that a book like PNM, like Kennan’s ” X” article, fills a crucial intellectual gap at the policy planning level of our government.

Dr. Barnett advocates a Global Transaction Strategy to “shrink the Gap” and promote Connectivity to integrate disconnected states into the Core, advancing the process of globalization – and in so doing extending the benefits provided by the ” Rule Sets” associated with liberal democratic capitalism and the rule of law, broadly defined. Barnett further refines the enormous historical phenomenon of globalization to ” four flows” between the Core and the Gap ( p. 192).

                               PNM MODEL OF GLOBALIZATION

“…four essential elements, or flows, that I believe define it’s basic functioning from the perspective of international stability. These four flows are (1) the movement of people from the Gap to the Core; (2) the movement of energy from the Gap to the New Core; (3) the movement of money from the Old Core to the New Core; (4) the exporting of security that only America can provide to the Gap.”  

In other words, Barnett is defining globalization as a dynamic exchange relationship involving migration, resources, money and power.


He further elaborates on his model with ” the Ten Commandments of Globalization” (p.199-204):

1.   Look for resources, and ye shall find

2.   No stability, no markets

3.   No growth, no stability

4.   No resources, no growth

5.   No infrastructure, no resources

6.   No money, no infrastructure

7.   No rules, no money

8.   No security, no rules

9.   No Leviathan, no security

10. No will, no Leviathan

“Leviathan” is the enforcer of rule sets, in all practical purposes the United States acting alone, with an ad hoc coalition or through international organizations where we have a preponderant influence.


Dr. Barnett concludes his chapter with a superbly insightful (i.e. I agree with him here 100 %) explanation that conceptually ties together rogue state dictators and non-state actor terrorists into the Gordian Knot of menace that they truly are in reality (p. 205):


” A bin Laden enginerrs a 9/11 with the expressed goal of forcing the Core to clamp down on it’s borders, seek its energy elsewhere, take it’s investments elsewhere and ‘ bring the boys back home”. He wants all of that connectivity gone, because its absence will afford him the chance for power over those left disconnected.”


An explanation that applies equally well to Kim Jong-Il as to the erstwhile master of al Qaida. I’m just wondering why the hell the Bush administration hasn’t grabbed this one since they’ve been struggling to convince their critics ( who are invested at treating rogue states, terrorism and WMD as disparate unrelated problems in order to do little about any of them)  that the dots that they know in fact to be connected, connect in a comprehensible way. 



My first reaction to the section on the PNM Model of Globalization was that while Barnett has described the major categorical relationships of globalization the idea could still face some further refinement in terms of defining globalization ( and what connectivity really is ) as an action. What exactly is it ?

Jude Wanniski once made the brilliant observation in his book, The Way The World Works, that there is and always has been only one market in existence – the global market. Wanniski’s statement implied, correctly in my view, that the term ” Globalization ” is really describing something other than a new connecting of markets and cultures because they have always been connected to some degree however small. Even North Korea, in its self-imposed lunatic isolation, was never an autarky. The DPRK always had foreign goods, people and ideas – starting with Communism itself- flowing across its borders – the difference was in terms of degree.

Tariffs, immigration quotas, censorship, banking regulations, propaganda, environmental rules, cultural preferences or aversions, borders, police, armies, bureaucratic paperwork and all the other man-made obstacles to Tom Barnett’s ” four flows” do not stop the transactions and interactions – they slow them down and limit them to an artificially narrow, politically chosen, rate.


I would therefore define globalization as ” the general acceleration of the rate and widening of the parameters of exchange “. When we discuss globalization’s effects we are looking at the results of a recent global increase in the speed and the range of human interactions compared to the past, thanks to trade liberalization, the internet, the fall of Communism and the other systemic changes of the last twenty years.


Connectivity” might be a good way to express the degree to which a nation has maximized their possible rate and range of exchange – The UK is more ” connected ” than Russia which in turn is more ” connected than Kazakhstan. If I was more able at quantitative analysis I could probably bat out a reasonably valid, rough and ready 100 point scale to measure a nation’s connectivity in terms of ” the four flows” ( Unfortunately “…this is a job for…Brad DeLong !” or at least somebody with a Ph.d in Econ ). It could be plotted out on a bell curve and at a certain tipping point a nation could be considered “ disconnected” which is where you would expect to find many states of the Gap. I would also include the movement of ideas as a ” fifth flow” of globalization, particularly scientific ideas but Dr. Barnett was looking at globalization the prism of strategic American and Core interests – hence the movement of people, energy, money and security. 

Next post I want to examine the PNM strategy as it relates to China’s connectivity as part of ” The New Core”.  Four years ago, on the H-Diplo listserv, in a post called “ The Coming of the Global Hypereconomy” I posited some observations regarding the potentially centrifugal effects of an uneven spread of connectivity with high rates of speed in a nation of the size of China. I’m not certain if I would be as pessimistic today but the post does retain a great deal of congruence

Thursday, July 15th, 2004


The Foreign Policy Society.

Thursday, July 15th, 2004


How much does it currently cost to connect around the globe ? A lot. Often a day’s or a week’s wages.

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