COVID-19 has not only presented the global economy with its greatest public health challenge in over a century but it has also likely killed off the notion of America’s “unipolar moment” for good. That doesn’t mean full-on autarky or isolationism but rather enlightened selfishness, which allows for some limited cooperation. Donald Trump’s ongoing threats to impose additional tariffs on a range of EU exports are exacerbating this trend as the old post-World War II ties between the two regions continue to fray. Even the possibility of a Biden administration is unlikely to presage a reversion to the status quo ante. Regionalization and multipolarity will be the order of the day going forward.
Many will regard these developments as chiefly driven by geopolitical prerogatives. But over time, the driving engine of the process will be a combination of maturing technologies that are rewriting the laws of profitability in manufacturing and production for advanced economies. The various capacities that enabled a far-flung global supply chain and sent the economies of Asia into hyperdrive over the past forty years have continued to mature. The rise of China, South Korea, and Japan in this period is just a phase of a larger series of advances that are now likely to become more distributed and at the same time reshuffle the geopolitical trend lines we currently experience.
The reshuffling is coming in large part because America’s historic military dominance has less relevance in a world where the new forms of competition place greater weight on access to advanced research and technologies, rather than the projection of brute military force—especially given the increasing proliferation of nuclear technologies and the rise of asymmetric warfare. Furthermore, the lack of American manufacturing capacity has left it open to a significant loss of influence to the benefit of other regions, notably China (in Asia), and Germany (in the European Union).
China in particular will likely remain both a geopolitical and economic rival to the United States for the foreseeable future, especially as it already supersedes the United States in some areas of technology, such as 5G, and is increasingly becoming the locus of economic activity in Asia. As yet, Asia is by no means a cohesive economic or strategic bloc like the European Union, especially given the ongoing American influence in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. But in the longer term, it is hard to believe that an independent democratic Japan would embrace a foreign policy stance that risks antagonizing a country of almost 1.4 billion people with nuclear weapons. According to some projections, by 2050, Japan will likely constitute about one-eighth of China’s GDP—South Korea, much less. On the basis of that size disparity, strategic triangulation is a non-starter. Japan will no more be able to “balance” China than Canada today can “contain” the United States. It is likewise difficult to envisage Seoul continuing to have its own relations with the North being continuously subject to the vagaries of Pentagon politics in D.C. Heightening instability on the Korean peninsula is hardly in the long-term interests of either Seoul or Pyongyang.
By the same token, the idea of a broad but shallow trilateral United States-European Union-Japan bloc against China is also a fantasy because the European Union, like Japan, increasingly finds its own interests clashing with those of the United States. These tensions have manifested themselves fully in the current dispute over Huawei, China’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer. The Europeans, especially Germany, may well be too invested in China to side with the United States in this particular dispute given its strong preexisting commercial ties with the former, as Wolfgang Münchau’s Eurointelligence highlights:
China is Germany’s biggest trading partner. Merkel continues to seek dialogue with China and insisted that ties with the country are of strategic importance to the EU. If this can be called a strategy it is clearly motivated by economic interests. These days, German car makers are dependent on the Chinese market, where record sales in Q2 compensated for the fallout from the pandemic in other markets, the FAZ reports.
This also applies in the specific case of Huawei, where the United States is spearheading an attempt to limit the Chinese company’s global reach on national security grounds. Berlin in particular is seeking to balance the tensions of preserving an increasingly fraying relationship with the United States versus safeguarding emerging German commercial interests in China. The Merkel government is expected to make a definitive decision on Huawei by the autumn when the German parliament reconvenes; this will have significant implications for Europe as a whole, as an increasing number of EU member states are moving away from the firm’s 5G wares.
German political opinion remains sharply divided on the issue of Huawei. The decision is also complicated by the fact that Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s largest mobile provider in which the German state owns a 32% stake, reportedly “already relies heavily on Huawei equipment” and “has lobbied strongly against any action that would make it harder for it to roll out 5G,” according to The Economist. If the Berlin government fails to follow the lead of the United Kingdom, which recently reversed an earlier decision to incorporate Huawei equipment in its growing 5G infrastructure, it will send a very powerful political signal in terms of how Germany prioritizes its long-term interests, which are no longer axiomatically tied to the United States.
However Germany decides on Huawei, Atlanticism as a concept is largely dead in Europe. Even before the onset of the pandemic, for example, Italy had already become the first European country to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), in response to ongoing economic stagnation. COVID-19 has, if anything, accelerated this Sinification of the Italian economy, given the ham-handed response to the country’s plight by Brussels—which is still governed by old prevailing austerity biases. Although the tangible economic benefits of the BRI have likely been overstated, Rome-based journalist Eric Reguly has written:
The Italian government rolled out the welcome mat to Chinese President Xi Jinping in part because it is desperate for foreign investment. Italy suffers from crushing youth unemployment and never fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis. It felt it was more or less abandoned by the U.S. and the rest of the EU on the investment front. The anti-EU sentiment among Italians rose during the migrant crisis, when other countries of the bloc refused to relieve Italy’s migrant burden, and rose again earlier this year, when Brussels ignored Italy’s initial pleas for help to fight COVID-19.
It is important to note that Huawei is but a symptom of a broader EU disengagement from the United States. Even if Huawei’s role in Europe’s future 5G networks is minimized, the big winners will be European companies Nokia and Ericsson not American ones. The 5G deficiency is but one illustration of how America’s failure to prioritize a robust manufacturing sector has contributed to a loss of influence and leverage in Europe.
That in turn explains the relatively tepid response to American pressure in many European capitals. Many EU member states have made the calculation that their interests are no longer inextricably tied to those of the United States. One also sees this in response to American threats over new Russian natural gas pipelines, which the European Union is largely ignoring. Europe has outgrown the suffocating embrace of Cold War exigencies.
The one outlier might well be the United Kingdom in its post-Brexit incarnation. Via the Five Eyes intelligence coordination among the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, it is possible that there will be a further tightening of the Anglosphere countries. Their current convergence on Huawei is one illustration of this, although Huawei’s Chief Digital Officer, Michael MacDonald, argues that the battle over 5G dominance is small fry compared to “the total Digital Economy,” which he says could “contribute as much as 25% of the world’s gross domestic product” by 2025, and “will be worth approximately $20 trillion, with 5G contributing just 0.2%.” And here the United States has everything to play for, given its ongoing dominance through American Big Tech behemoths such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.
As far as the United States itself goes, that also means a narrow but deep North America strategy (United States/Mexico/Canada), especially given the American government’s increasing proclivity to view economic warfare through the prism of national security considerations, as it did during the original Cold War. Those national security calculations have changed somewhat: in a reversal of old Cold War norms, in which the strategic importance of Japan via America’s offshore naval presence was paramount, Mexico is now being prioritized, at least in regard to manufacturing and investment flows via the new North American trade agreement. As US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer writes in Foreign Affairs, the newly reconfigured United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement reinforces this trend by “overhaul[ing] the ‘rules of origin’ that govern trade” in the automobile sector, increasing the threshold from 62.5 percent under the old NAFTA to 75 percent under the new USMCA.
These concerns are becoming bipartisan, as both parties are now tacking increasingly toward an overt form of economic nationalism.
Multipolarity need not usher in a Hobbesian world of eternal conflict. But as it becomes more of a reality, it signals the increasing eclipse of America as a preeminent superpower of one. Asia’s rise in particular simply returns the distribution of economic activity to what it was before the first industrial revolution. That’s not a bad thing, except for those rooted toward an embrace of American hegemony that must be retained at all costs, peacefully or by war. If anything, one could argue that America’s status as the world’s sole global superpower ushered in considerably greater global instability, given the absence of any restraining counterweight, as Washington went from one unilateral war of choice to another. A Joe Biden victory in November may temporarily arrest these trends, but the die has been cast.
Marshall Auerback is a market analyst and commentator. This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
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LOCK STEP & JUMP:
COVERT 19 & PANICDEMIC
WHILE CHINA DROWNED, TRUMP PLAYED HIS HAARP!
The individual comes face-to-face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists. The American mind has not come to a realisation of the evil which has been introduced into our midst. It rejects even the assumption that human creatures could espouse a philosophy which must ultimately destroy all that is good and decent.
J. Edgar Hoover
“The truth must be repeated over and over again, because error is repeatedly preached among us, not only by individuals, but by the masses. In periodicals and cyclopaedias, in schools and universities; every- where, in fact, error prevails, and is quite easy in the
feeling that it has a decided majority on its side.”
~ J. W. v. Goethe
SCENARIOS FOR THE FUTURE OF TECHNOLOGY AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT 2010
by The Rockefeller Foundation an Global Business Network
Every day world mainstream news reports more people in more countries diagnosed “positive” for the coronavirus illness, now called COVID-19. As the reported numbers grow, so does widespread nervousness, often in the form of panic shopping for masks, disinfections, toilet paper, canned goods. We are told to accept the testing results as science-based. While it is next to impossible to get a full picture of what is taking place in China, the center of the novel virus storm, there is a process, being fed by mainstream media accounts and genuine panic in populations unclear what the real dangers are, that has alarming implications for the post-pandemic future.
During the last week of January the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ordered an unprecedented lock down of an entire city of 11 million, Wuhan, in an attempt to contain a public health situation that had clearly gotten out of control. Never before in the history of modern public health had a government placed an entire city in quarantine by imposing a cordon sanitaire around it. That lock down was quickly extended to other China cities to the extent that, for the past weeks, a major part of the world’s second largest national economy has shut down. That in turn is impacting the global economy.
At this point, as cases and the first deaths are being reported in countries outside of China, especially in South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy, the prime question everyone has is how dangerous this virus is. The fiasco with the US CDC, where the putative tests for the novel virus were shown defective, underscores the fact that the testing for the now-named virus, SARS-CoV-2, said to cause the disease called COVID-19, is anything but 100% reliable.
Despite this, influenced by a steady stream of mainstream media images of empty shop shelves in Italy, of police cordons around Washington State nursing homes said to house several presumed Coronavirus patients, of pictures of Iranian hospitals filled with body bags, millions of citizens are understandably becoming alarmed and fearful.
What is being done in city after city and country after country is cancellation of major events where many people come together. This has included the Venice Carnival, major sports events, trade shows in Switzerland and elsewhere being canceled. Major airlines are being financially devastated as people around the world cancel holiday flights, as are cruise ship lines. China orders burning of cash notes claiming they might be contaminated. The French Louvre reopens but does not accept cash, only cards, as paper might be contaminated. WHO warns about paper money contagion risk. Countries are introducing laws such as in the UK allowing legal detention of citizens who might have a virus. Growing media promotion in the West of shop shelves bare of everyday essentials such as rice, pasta, toilet paper is feeding panic buying everywhere.
Questions on Death Rate
It is important to have a perspective on the apparent deaths provably due to COVID-19. Here facts become very imprecise.
As of March 3, 2020 according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom, worldwide there were a total of 90,893 cases of COVID-19, with 3,110 resulting in death. He then called this a 3.4% mortality rate, a figure highly disputed by other health experts. Tedros stated,
“Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.”
The problem is that no one can say precisely what the true death rate is. That’s because globally we have not tested all who might have mild cases of the virus and the accuracy of those tests are anything but 100% certain. But a statement about a death rate more than three times that of seasonal flu is a real panic-maker if true.
The reality is very likely a far lower true mortality according to epidemic experts. “We do not report all the cases,” says Professor John Edmunds of the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
“In fact, we only usually report a small proportion of them. If there are many more cases in reality, then the case fatality ratio will be lower.” Edmunds went on to say,
“What you can safely say […] is that if you divide the number of reported deaths by the number of reported cases [to get the case fatality ratio], you will almost certainly get the wrong answer.”
The WHO under Tedros seems to be erring on the side of spreading panic.
The WHO and the USA CDC some years ago changed the definition of deaths from seasonal flu to “deaths of flu or pneumonia.” The CDC calculates only an approximate flu death count by totaling death certificates processed that list “pneumonia or influenza” as the underlying or contributing cause of death. The CDC estimates 45 Million Flu Cases, and 61,000 what they deftly call “Flu-Associated” Deaths in 2017-2018 US Flu Season. How many were elderly with pneumonia or other lung diseases is unclear. Naturally the numbers help spread fear and sell seasonal flu vaccines whose positive effect is anything but proven. Worldwide, the CDC estimated in a study in 2017 that, “between 291,000 and 646,000 people worldwide die from seasonal influenza-related respiratory illnesses each year.”
In China alone the estimate for seasonal influenza-associated (including pneumonia) deaths was about 300,000 in 2018. Note that 3,000 corona-attributed deaths, as tragic as it is, is but 1% of the “normal” annual deaths from lung-related illnesses in China, and because of the mixed or changing China accounting, it is not clear how many of the 3,000 China deaths are even from seasonal pneumonia. But owing to dramatic videos, not verifiable, of people allegedly dropping dead on the streets in China, with no proof, or of Wuhan hospitals filled in the corridors with body bags apparently of dead from COVID-19, much of the world is understandably anxious about this strange exogenous invader.
Amid what is clearly confusion among many well-meaning health officials and likely opportunism by Western vaccine makers like GlaxoSmithKline or Gilead and others, with alarming speed our world is being transformed in ways just months ago we could not have imagined.
Whatever has occurred inside China at this point it is almost impossible to say owing to conflicting reactions of the Beijing authorities and several changes in ways of counting COVID-19 cases. The question now is how the relevant authorities in the West will use this crisis. Here it is useful to go back to a highly relevant report published a decade ago by the Rockefeller Foundation, one of the world’s leading backers of eugenics, and creators of GMO among other things.
The report in question has the bland title, “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development.” It was published in May 2010 in cooperation with the Global Business Network of futurologist Peter Schwartz. The report contains various futurist scenarios developed by Schwartz and company. One scenario carries the intriguing title, “LOCK STEP: A world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback.” Here it gets interesting as in what some term predictive programming.
The Schwartz scenario states,
“In 2012, the pandemic that the world had been anticipating for years finally hit. Unlike 2009’s H1N1, this new influenza strain — originating from wild geese — was extremely virulent and deadly. Even the most pandemic-prepared nations were quickly overwhelmed when the virus streaked around the world, infecting nearly 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million in just seven months…”
“The pandemic also had a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and breaking global supply chains. Even locally, normally bustling shops and office buildings sat empty for months, devoid of both employees and customers.”
This sounds eerily familiar.
Then the scenario gets very interesting:
“During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets. Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems — from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty — leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.”
A relevant question is whether certain bad actors, and there are some in this world, are opportunistically using the widespread fears around the COVID-19 to advance an agenda of “lock step” top down social control, one that would include stark limits on travel, perhaps replacing of cash by “sanitary” electronic cash, mandatory vaccination even though the long term side effects are not proven safe, unlimited surveillance and the curtailing of personal freedoms such as political protests on the excuse it will allow “identification of people who refuse to be tested or vaccinated,” and countless other restrictions. Much of the Rockefeller 2010 scenario is already evident. Fear is never a good guide to sound reason.
We are heading for COMMUNISM on steroids. The RICH and the POOR and your money will be on a card, so that if you fuck-up, your money is deleted and you are fucked!
And don’t expect any help from the sheeple!
You saw how the acted during COVID 19 – almost full compliance to stupid dogmas!