Published on March 27th, 2018 | by Zachary Shahan0
China’s Next Step To Take Economic & Political Power From United States, & How It Could Help
March 27th, 2018 by Zachary Shahan
I’m going to get to China in a moment, and the notable news of the week from that side of the world — another power grab of sorts that will almost certainly shift the global economy and politics to some degree or another. First, though, I just watched some great interviews with two conservative American pundits that I think made some important notes that relate to the broader story (you have to connect a few dots, which we’re not great at these days, but connecting the dots does create a coherent picture).
⊕ First, there are these notes from David Frum: “Something has gone very wrong in the less educated part of white America, that people are killing themselves with drugs. You know, America has the lowest seat belt use of any developed country. Why? We’re less likely to put children in car seats than any other developed country. Why? There’s something, people are not finding life precious enough. The addiction, the self-medication with food, and video games, and I would say — I get in trouble with this — with the rise in use of marijuana, which I think has doubled since 2007. Something’s going wrong.”
⊕ More from David Frum a bit further into the interview regarding Trump’s erosion of US global leadership vs Trump’s erosion of democracy at home: “The erosion of global leadership will certainly be faster to go into effect — it’s already happened. Just think — if you’re South Korean, how can you trust the United States? The president of the United States is clearly contemplating a future in which he trades hundreds of thousands of casualties in your country in order to avoid any nuclear risk to his country at the same time as he’s reneging on deals of how you pay for the missile defense of South Korea and as he’s attacking the US–South Korea free trade agreement which is so essential to your country’s prosperity. Meanwhile, he tweets out about once a month, if you want protection from a North Korean nuclear missile, the person to ask that protection from is the President of China. … The Korean people and China, they have a history of nationalist conflict — and obviously one’s a democracy and one is not — but … if you need security and the Chinese can provide it and the United States can’t or won’t, then you’ll have to talk to China, whether you like it or not. I think that’s already in place.”
⊕ From a different part of the formula, Charlie Sykes notes: About a decade ago, the right-wing, influential Drudge Report started linking to Infowars (a hyper-conspiracy-obsessed entertainment outlet that somehow has a ton of followers and pushes insane conspiracy theory after insane conspiracy there), thus injecting paranoid conspiracy theory culture “into the bloodstream” of the Republican base. Trump then came onto the political scene pushing the ridiculous and racist “birther” conspiracy theory about Obama. Just after getting elected, Trump actually called into Infowars to thank them for their support and congratulate their “work.” (Conspiracy obsession has actually grown on both sides of the aisle, imho, and my first article about Donald Trump’s political campaign was titled, “Could The US Really Elect A Conspiracy Theorist?” — a genuine question that I was concerned would be answered in the affirmative.)
Many in the United States are having trouble with an acceptance of reality, enjoyment of “normal life,” and logical actions that prioritize self-preservation over self-destruction. If that wasn’t apparent before, it has become dramatically apparent with the current presidency.
Aside from matters of actual war, reliance on the US economy or US industry for security is obviously something that companies and other countries have to think twice, or three times, or 50 times about.
That brings us to the news. The title on Bloomberg: “China Is About to Shake Up the Oil Futures Market.” The key action: yuan-denominated oil futures started getting traded in Shanghai on Monday. “The world’s biggest oil buyer is offering yuan-denominated futures that foreigners can buy and sell — a first in Chinese commodities. Among the most intriguing questions is whether the traditional benchmarks of Brent crude in London and West Texas Intermediate in New York will face a serious challenger. … Futures trading would wrest some control over pricing from the main international benchmarks, which are based on dollars. Denominating oil contracts in yuan would promote the use of China’s currency in global trade, one of the country’s key long-term goals.”
Global trade in yuan, relying on China for national security, bringing Infowars crazies into the White House — what does all of this have to do with cleantech? Of course, the cleantech world is a subset of the world as a whole, so that’s one thing. More directly, industries, investors, and countries are taking more of their signals from China. Ford, Volkswagen, and GM are investing more into transport electrification because China requires it. The value of the US dollar has just decoupled a bit from global oil trade, making the US economy probably less stable to some degree but also reducing (again, to a small degree for now) political investment in a large global oil industry.
If the United States is losing economic clout, is experiencing a degraded middle class (while the wealthiest portion of society reaches new levels on an almost daily basis), and is masochistically sacrificing geopolitical influence, perhaps we can at least take advantage of the situation by cutting our vast military spending and redirecting that money into industries and programs that boost our domestic economy. Perhaps we can support initiatives focused on boosting quality of life in communities across the country. Perhaps we can stimulate the hot cleantech industries that will be global stars of the 21st century economy.
(Alas, a Republican Congress and Republican President just pushed through record military spending that puts us deeper into the red. But maybe we can cut military spending and boost clean electric transport and renewable energy next time? Yeah? Maybe?…)
Image by US Embassy Canberra