Power and Principle

It is important to understand that over the long run, our path dependency on global expansionism and global hegemony is unsustainable. Over the last four to five years, we have witnessed that all of the five major transnational threats – namely, climate change, disease and pandemics, mental health crises, economic inequity, and violence – have affected the United States directly. Shifting our focus away from global expansionism and hegemony and towards a green economy and sustainable economic and social development at home requires a gradual military withdrawal plan from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia that is underpinned by a comprehensive diplomatic and political strategy tailored towards global order and peace.

            But as long as we are vexed by a global system that is shaped by greed, hedonism, and a handful of special interests, we can never be truly free. As the economist Amartya Sen has argued, economic and social development requires freedom. But when an entire system is tailored towards a handful of special interests extracting resources and wealth from everyone else, that system cannot be deemed as one that is based on the principle of individual freedom. However, in general, the prospects for global order and stability are good, given that the United States, European Union, and China – which are the first, second, and third richest political blocs respectively – are intertwined with one another through commercial and trade ties. Kant’s idea of progress stems from the hypothesis that increased commercial and economic interdependence between nations will eventually preclude the possibility of war.

            Nevertheless, the pitfall for global order and stability remains constant, which is the ever-present possibility that entanglements with smaller countries can drag the major powers into a conflict with one another. After all, it only took the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian lone wolf to ignite World War I. Today, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Hong Kong, and especially Taiwan are the spots on the geopolitical map that can lead to the conflagration of a broader conflict between the United States and China. We can transcend the zero-sum paradigm that exists between the major powers if we try. But it will be difficult when taking human nature into account, which is shaped for the most part by greed, and the special interests which dominate government.

            Spheres of influence are perhaps a solution to the zero-sum paradigm that has intensified the tensions between the United States and China. But due to the zero-sum paradigm between major powers that still exists and is still prevalent, when China enters a certain place for its business interests – for instance Myanmar – America is automatically inclined towards taking it away from the Chinese. In a sense, America does not want to let go of Afghanistan and the Middle East – even though the overwhelming majority of Americans are against being in these places – out of angst and fear that China will capitalize off of an American withdrawal. As Karl Marx once argued, human greed is unlimited, whereas the global market is limited in size and scope. Thus, as major powers compete for the global market, the competition itself – which is premised upon the notion of unbridled greed within a limited market – will lead to the destabilization of the international system.

            Much of what Karl Marx said has played out in reality. His ideas pertaining to “technological determinism,” the debasement of the law and medical professions due to the corrosive effects of money, the emergence of class divisions in the United States, as well as the destabilization of the international system by major powers due to the lack of proportionality between greed and market size were all correct. The only major idea that Marx came up with that has not come to fruition is the idea that the working class will one day take the government away from a handful of special interests in the societies that Marx had in mind, namely, England and the United States. Critics of Marxism use this point to discredit Marx’s body of work as a whole, despite the fact that virtually all of his other ideas were absolutely correct and sound.

Due to the increasingly intensified competition between the United States and China, we are bound for more chaos and disorder in the international system than before. Unless there is a political settlement between the United States and China, we will have to brace ourselves for more trouble ahead. Thus, a political dialogue and settlement between the United States and China which brings an end to the fluctuations in the global balance of power between the two countries is crucial and perhaps vital for everyone. The sine qua non of global order and stability is a political dialogue and settlement between the United States and China that covers all the major transnational dilemmas (climate change, public health, mental health, economic inequity and poverty, and war/violence) and all the global trends (corporate expansionism, hyper-militarization, and technological evolution).

As long as the balance of power between the United States and China is in a state of flux, the American government will only augment its extractive institutions rather than mitigate them, which in turn extracts a huge toll on the American public in terms of productivity and growth. Moreover, belligerence and hostility towards China cannot coincide in the long run with the interconnection and interdependence that exists with China as a result of the commercial and trade ties that have been developed over the course of four decades. Decoupling from China because one disapproves of its handling of internal matters has adverse economic consequences for the entire American economy at this point. The principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of another country is important in stabilizing relations with other countries, and the West has lost sight of this idea to a large extent.

Although China’s astronomical rise and its transformation from a largely agrarian society to an advanced economy based on services and technology within the span of two decades is a cause for increased competition, China is now a potential counterpart and partner for the management and ordering of global affairs. China is bound to reach peer status with the United States due to the rate by which it is growing. Since 2000, China’s national wealth grew from 3 trillion dollars in value to about 80 trillion in 2021. The amount of national wealth China accumulated over the last twenty years equals the amount of national wealth accumulated by the United States, whose national wealth grew from 42 trillion dollars to 120 trillion dollars over the same period of time.

What makes things interesting is that the gap is closing between the two major powers at a rapid rate. China’s annual growth rate now stands at 8.6 percent, according to the IMF, whereas America’s growth rate hovers at about 3 percent. Although economic competition with China is necessary, the competition should be coupled with cooperation on global issues. The sole factor which precludes cooperation with China in conjunction with economic competition is racism. Europe and China are both approaching peer status with the United States. Yet, one is elevated over the other in the eyes of the United States. One is deemed a partner, whereas the other is deemed an enemy and a threat. If we cannot overcome our racial and religious biases, then we can do away with all the talk about ideals and values.

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