Hence, while poetic language seems different on the surface because of our cultural and linguistic differences, poetic meaning and poetic symbolism are universal and are virtually the same throughout all cultures. I used the example of the “grape” and how it crosses civilizational borders. I should also note that “wine” has a dual meaning and dual symbolism. On one hand, wine is a symbol for an older woman. But on the other hand, wine is also a symbol for knowledge in universal poetic language. Both meanings of the same word can then essentially be combined into one, given that knowledge, experience, and wisdom are then incorporated within the older woman and vice versa.
I mentioned “State Capture” on numerous occasions and how it is virtually the only outstanding obstacle and hurdle left for the United States to overcome in the way of becoming a truly formidable and unchallengeable magnet for the world’s capital and people. But as Brooke Harrington noted at the very end of her book titled “Capital without Borders,” there is also potential irony and a paradox in the whole situation, in the sense that while capital has stonewalled the American people in their struggle to live up to their full potential, capital may actually end up being the one that enables the fulfillment of the people’s potential down the road. Harrington highlighted the possibility of capital “bending at last toward alignment with a form of authority it has sought in so many ways to escape or combat.”
Why capital will perhaps align with popular will in the United States is because of China and the potential of a “Eurasian Manifest Destiny” taking root because of the rise of China. In a sense, a new ‘world order’ is in the making because of the epochal and tectonic shift away from a two-hundred year modern age towards an indefinite and infinite postmodern age, but no one knows how it will be shaped or how it will ultimately look. Either cooperation or instability will arise in America as a result of a “dispersal of power” and a shift in the global balance of power in favor of China in recent years. As Zbigniew Brzezinski noted in his final book titled “Strategic Vision”:
“The more immediate risk of the ongoing dispersal of power is a potentially unstable global hierarchy. The United States is still preeminent but the legitimacy, effectiveness, and durability of its leadership is increasingly questioned worldwide because of the complexity of its internal and external challenges.”
But as mentioned before, despite its complex internal and external challenges, the United States can still make something out of itself and can still shape an emerging global order by virtue of its military and economic power:
“Nevertheless, in every significant and tangible dimension of traditional power – military, technological, economic, and financial – America is still peerless. It has by far the largest single national economy, the greatest financial influence, the most advanced technology, a military budget larger than that of all other states combined, and armed forces both capable of rapid deployment abroad and actually deployed around the world. This reality may not endure for very long but it is still the current fact of international life.”
And as Joseph Nye noted in a book titled “Is the American Century Over?” the military and economic edge which the United States has over all other countries can last for about another fifty years based on how things stand at the moment. The question, however, is what the United States will do over the course of the next fifty years in order to preserve this edge over all other countries. And as mentioned before, this edge can only be maintained through a revitalization of American society as a whole.
But at the moment, virtually all the major regions of the world – namely, Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia – are enveloped in an “American Imperium.” As Peter Katzenstein wrote: “Our contemporary world of regions does not float freely. It is embedded in the American imperium.” Katzenstein added:
“The American imperium…is defined by the intersection of territorial and nonterritorial dimensions of power, which parallel aspects of reality highlighted by theories of internationalization and globalization. Globalization and internationalization intermingle in creating conditions favorable to porousness; and characteristic differences distinguish Asian from European regionalism.”
The question then becomes one of how to incorporate the rise of China into this global but characteristically American “imperium” or system. The world is very much “wired through the West” to borrow from Gideon Rachman. But given the fact that Asian economic growth rates will exceed Western economic growth rates over the next few decades, it will mean that more of the world’s economic and political activity might go through Asia over the next few decades. As Rachman argued:
“The fact that so many institutions – formal and informal – that are critical to the governance of the global economy and international politics are located in the West is a major source of political power. But will this advantage endure in an era of Easternization? The answer depends on the significance of economic power in deciding who controls global institutions. If economic might is what ultimately matters, we can expect more of the world’s wiring to run through Asia in the future.”
One should note, however, that economics and money are not the only important aspects or dimensions of global power. As mentioned before, while Asia has comparative advantages that the West does not possess, the West in turn possesses comparative advantages which Asia does not possess. And while a geopolitical contest in the Third World is bound to occur between the United States and China, this geopolitical contest can also be offset by cooperation and partnership. Hence, the competition and contest between America and China is paradoxical, to borrow from Kishore Mahbubani, in the sense that the competition and contest is both “inevitable and avoidable.”
But given China’s rise as a major economic power and the fact that China’s total GDP and total national wealth may exceed those of the United States in the coming years, the ability of the United States to keep China “at bay” is diminishing, whereas the ability of China to keep the United States “at bay” in Asia is growing. Certain scholars have gone as far as arguing that China will replace the United States as the world’s dominant power within the next ten or twenty years. As Howard French wrote:
“A time when China will be able to keep the United States at bay is rapidly drawing nearer. A time when, by virtue of its new wealth and rapidly increasing military strength, it can hold at mortal peril the United States’ most precious symbols of national power…may already be upon us.”
What is perhaps central to Washington’s strategic thinking at the moment is the question of whether China’s rise can be “derailed.” As mentioned in the past, there are three ways by which China’s rise can be “derailed” but none of them will work, and for the most part, all of these strategic options will backfire on the United States. For one, there is the strategy of military “containment” which will exhaust America over the long run. Second, there is the option of a direct military attack on China which will backfire as a result of a strategic context based on “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD). And third, there is the option of economic warfare, which will hurt the American consumer more than it will hurt China. Thus, while the big picture will get clearer over the long-term, as time progress in the short-term, everything will very much be in both a state of flux and in a state of development and emergence due to an odd combination of complexity, paradox, and uncertainty which reigns over the international system.