By Johan Galtung
Washington is working hard to reconquer slipping world hegemony; in the Anglo-American tradition assuming that No. 2–this year maybe No. 1 economically–is an enemy, instead of deepening cooperation.
In addition to military confrontation, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)-AMPO (Japan-US Security Treaty) against SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) over Crimea-Ukraine, economic exclusion; isolating China like they try to isolate Russia over Ukraine. Together in SCO, with new ties being spun daily in the budding Eurasia and giga gas deals in the making, “isolation” of the most populous and largest countries in the world seems out of touch with reality.
Bordering on the Asian sub-continent and the Islamic world most of them might actually lean toward China-Russia, or prefer being open to “isolators” and “isolated” alike.
Sounds like acts of despair. But Washington has strong forces on its side. Many heads of state are obsessed with economic growth as a measure of success and they may get some. After all, it only measures value-added when buying and selling; the gains of business activity.
Basic needs of humans and nature do not count, only increase in the marketed value due to processing and-or commissions.
Inequality is not a consideration; lower and middle classes only engage in end consumption; mainly buying, very little buying-selling.
But let us assume that both TAP (Trans Atlantic Partnership) and TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) are duly signed by the few who have become parties to the texts; neither the public at large, nor their elected representatives, except for hand-picked reliables. Let us assume the primacy of the economic buying-selling market over the opinion market, and the primacy of the power of money and money people over words and word people. And the National Security Agency building a security world nipping opposition in the bud, not only a modest security state–USA.
At least it is no longer by noble birth, “only” a shift from competition for votes to competition for money, buying elections and decision-making. Will it work? Or, is there somewhere a tipping point?
There are significant changes in the EU relative to the USA, like being positive to the Fatah-Hamas accord. Of more direct relevance: ten EU members want to levy a small tax on financial deals, anathema in the USA. There are fault-lines in the TAP-TPP giga community. A not-very-far-left paper like Süddeutsche Zeitung (6 May 2014) reports a political storm, for months, against what the paper wrongly calls a “free trade deal” with the USA. That trade has been very free for decades, there is little to gain. But business has much to gain freed from social costs and political steering–the legislatures, not banks or the judiciaries leaning in their direction– having the final word.
German politicians see parliaments subordinated to secret deals of democracy. Protesters in Malaysia worry about “our medicine”, of positive discrimination favoring Malays for a more equal society. A major concern all over.
As Thomas Piketty – like many others – points out in Capital, updating Marx, inequality backfires because of decreasing buying power on the market, making people indebted, not enriched. China has a formula: inequality and corruption are rampant but they also lift the bottom communities up to participation in the market economy. The United States let them sink further down.
The struggle for welfare states was mainly in Europe – apart from a bitterly contested US interlude associated with Franklin Delano Roosevelt – and Europe stands to lose much of the gains reversing social progress to social regress to stimulate economic growth. But Piketty’s remedies – progressive global tax on capital and much higher minimum wages – are far away and tied to individualistic views of society instead of strengthening poor communities, families, clans; starting with the poorest, making them self-sufficient in basic needs to start with.
In the meantime bad things are happening in Europe and the USA.
Le Nouvel Observateur writes recently about the burnt-out young and the Alzheimer old; maybe 3 million French of each. Heavy loads.
Communication overload from Internet, and social overload from multi-tasking, are listed among the causes. Maybe the basic point is not the quantity but the ambiguity, contradictions, unsolved dilemmas with lack of training in handling conflict? Anyhow, debilitating.
Over to China.
China has conquered the world markets the old way, with high Q/P, quality over price; not easily beaten. Electric cars and scooters fill their streets, noise- and exhaust-lessly (well, the whole system is not that green). In the USA Chinese Q/P adds to US M+C/W, the alliance of management and customers against workers, paid miserably at Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. Can the US customer suffer a switch from deflation to inflation to help business?
Can TAP-TPP compete? With China all the time gaining in the socio-economic and civil-political rights that the West are losing?
China has huge cultural comparative advantages in its both-and philosophy as opposed to the western either-or. And structurally by using clans – very extended families to recruit workers – customers – in the West looked down upon as “veterN-wirtschaft“, economy based on cousins, relatives. People in the West hardly even know their names. Burnt-out societies? Unable to relate, Alzheimer societies?
Add the Russian gas-oil, seemingly inexhaustible, not fossil, but deep down. “Isolating” China-Russia from markets, lowering Q/P, increasing energy costs and US-EU business elites tapping societies for more profit may run into a tipping point in favor of China-Russia. And their huge Eurasian context; many sitting on the fence, like ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). They may turn to China-Russia, even soon.
At the same time BRICS works on a currency basket alternative to the US dollar as the world reserve currency. What is left for the USA is a sweet little world war, to get rid of deficits and boost the morale; destroying capital for new contracts, wheels turning. The SCO knows that and is prepared.
USA, please, stop it; cooperate instead.
First published here.