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Talking Ourselves into a Cold War with China

January 6, 2019 in Economics

By Simon Lester

Simon Lester

Sometimes the latest turns of phrase in policy circles are just
fleeting headlines, soon to be forgotten. As a presidential
candidate, Hillary Clinton called for “smart and fair trade.” But she
disappeared from the political scene before we figured out what
that meant.

However, other times they lead us down the road towards real
changes in policy. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, Bush administration
officials were accusing Saddam Hussein of being involved. At the
time, the invasion of Iraq was hardly inevitable, and may not have
seemed likely, but armed with the phrase “weapons of mass
destruction,” the administration got the war momentum going,
and that is the direction in which the country went.

The U.S.-China relationship is facing similar attempts to define
it with very serious sounding terminology, as U.S. policymakers are
in the grips of the latest bout of buzzwords and groupthink. The
U.S.-China relationship, we are told, may undergo a “conscious uncoupling.” The two countries
could be moving towards an “economic cold war.” Actual war is
unlikely (although you never know), but nevertheless a seismic
geopolitical shift is supposedly upon us.

A world with two separate
economic spheres, one for the United States and one for China,
could be disastrous.

But what does all this really mean? Are these just transitory
phrases that will be superseded quickly by the next big policy
thing? Or is this view of the U.S.-China relationship becoming
entrenched across the Washington establishment, with the course of
history already set?

Let’s hope it is the former. Because if the rhetoric
becomes reality, then today’s trade skirmishes will seem
inconsequential compared to the economic disruption that would
result.

On the American side, a contributing factor may be the
wistfulness for the simplicity of past conflicts such as the real
Cold War. Us versus them and good versus evil are simple and easy
to comprehend. In the United States, there has been a continued
search by some people for a powerful rival with whom we can compete
for superiority and control of the world. “Radical
Islam” briefly looked like it might fill this role, but it
turned out to be a marginal threat. The idea of radical Islamists
taking over the world was just not credible.

But China’s economic rise came along and gave people a new
rival to elevate to the status of “existential threat.” China’s
economy and military are large enough, and have advanced quickly
enough, to constitute a source of worry about America’s
standing in the world for those determined to worry about it.

Of course, China’s many flaws are real. Its …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How Trump Can Truly 'Solve' the North Korea Challenge

January 6, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader
Kim Jong-un are heading toward another summit. Yet Kim’s
public frustration is rising. In his New Year’s Day talk he
pledged to “work hard to produce results welcomed by the
international community without fail,” but threatened to take
“a new path for defending the sovereignty of our country and
supreme interests of our state” if the United States did not
respond to his efforts. The latter could return Northeast Asia to
the dangerous polarization of just a year ago.

Start afresh with a new
negotiating strategy. First, maintain denuclearization as the
ultimate objective, but set intermediate goals that would enhance
security.

Denuclearizing North Korea remains a long-shot. The isolated
dictatorship is allied with China. It lags far behind South Korea,
which is allied with America, the globe’s dominant military
power. One could argue that it would be irresponsible, from a
standpoint of regime survival, for the Kim dynasty not to develop
the ultimate deterrent.

Trump is the fifth president to insist that the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea cannot be allowed to develop nuclear
weapons. The last four presidents failed in that endeavor. However,
he is the first president to engage in direct negotiations with the
North’s leadership. While Kim likely is no more eager than his
father and grandfather to disarm, there is evidence that this Kim
would prefer to take a more responsible path, which could make
Northeast Asia a safer place.

Whether or not that happens will depend on the president’s
objectives and expectations. It will also depend on, most
critically, his willingness to ignore hectoring from just about
everyone. He will need to ignore the ever-aggressive
neoconservatives, who appear to prefer war as a matter of
principle, and uber-nationalists determined to bring the world to
heel, antagonist liberals who hate the president more than they
support peace. Also, he will need to sidestep a potpourri of
analysts who prefer the status quo—U.S. domination,
American-run alliance, overseas military deployment—to
denuclearization, if the latter requires meaningful concessions.
That is, a rather tattered Pax Americana, which could erupt into
nuclear war, trumps an imperfect peace, in which Pyongyang reduces
its ability and willingness to do harm.

In thinking about what to do with North Korea, it is important
to see the issue plain. In particular:

  • The Korean Peninsula has lost much of its importance to the
    United States. Without the Cold War, a fight between North and
    South would be just that. Neighboring states would be significantly
    affected and regional commerce would be disrupted. But no longer is
    Korea in any way vital to America, part of a global chess game with
    a hegemonic …read more

    Source: OP-EDS