US-China Trade War: Geopolitical Aspects
The hypothesis of this study is the assumption that the most appropriate (systemically) current trade and economic confrontation between the US and China can be interpreted through the prism of the concept of changing capital cycles (actively used in the framework of the so-called). world-system (world-system) approach, the most prominent representatives of which are F. Braudel, I. Wallerstein and J. Arrigi. From the point of view of this concept, the deployment of capitalism as a system in the course of the historical process is associated with a succession of one cycle of capital accumulation by another, which, in turn, completely coincides with the transition of hegemony from one country, the flagship of the capitalist system, to another. The following accumulation cycles can be given as examples:
1. Dutch (end of the XVI - end of the XVIII centuries).
2. British (late XVIII - early XX centuries).
3. American (beginning of the XX century. - AD).
According to D. Arrigi, it cannot be said that each of these cycles can be identified with a certain type of capital as the predominant one, be it commercial, industrial or financial. On the contrary, within each of the above cycles, a consistent transition from commercial capital to industrial capital and, then, to financial capital was clearly observed. This implies, in particular, the supposition of supporters of world-system analysis, according to which the financialization of the economic system is, though not a cause, but a consequence, an obvious manifestation of crisis phenomena accumulated in the system, in other words, a herald of a speedy transition from one cycle of capital accumulation to another this has happened more than once in stories. It should be noted that at the moment the main (if not to say that the only) contender for the title of leader of all mankind in the XXI century is China. A direct consequence of this is the current trade and economic war between the United States and China, which is nothing more than the desire of representatives of the American establishment (in the person of the current administration of D. Trump) to weaken the position of the PRC on the world stage and at the same time consolidate its own. First of all, by reducing the trade balance deficit (or, as Trump himself expresses, establishing the rules of international trade as “fair”). The only possible way for the United States to reduce the trade deficit is to break a significant part of its economic ties with China as its main trading partner through the introduction of protectionist tariffs.
According to Chinese statistics, for the period 1979-2016. bilateral trade between the US and China increased 208 times (from 2,5 billion US dollars to 519,6 billion US dollars), while bilateral mutual investments exceeded 2016 in the year 170 billion US dollars. Thus, it can be said that the USA itself logically (if not to say that “dialectically”) contributed to the formation of its main competitor for world leadership, when at the beginning of the 80's. of the last century, they solved their macroeconomic problems by bringing production to China, and this became an independent factor in the financialization of the system existing in the framework of the current (American) capital accumulation cycle.
And although this concept (which also correlates with Kondratieff's cycles of economic growth) provides a conceptual apparatus for the “strategic” vision of this situation (big picture), it does not say anything about what actions China is taking to counteract (including preventive) unilateral attempts The United States to restrict Chinese exports, and this despite the fact that the whole essence of the Chinese “economic miracle” lies in the export orientation of the PRC economy, the unhindered access of Chinese producers to the largest and most e solvent market of the modern world - the US domestic market. From the point of view of this study, the answer to this question, in turn, can be found among the classical concepts of geopolitics: A. Machen and H. Mackinder.
From the point of view of the theory of H. McKinder, the sea and land initially are in antagonistic relations. A direct consequence of this is the confrontation of states, the source of power of which becomes the sea (Carthage, Venice, Britain) or land (the Roman Empire, Germany, Russia). And although this theory is not quite suitable for describing a number of historical (Eastern Roman Empire, France) and modern (China) cases, with its help, from the point of view of this study, antagonistic (with respect to the American deterrence strategy ") Chinese" development strategy ". Which is the “One Belt One Road Initiative” initiative.
However, it seems necessary to make some clarifications here. The fact is that initially this project carried two dimensions: firstly, the sea (“belt”), and, secondly, land (“path”). However, the implementation of the maritime part of the road came across an insurmountable opposition from the United States, namely, control by the American fleet maritime communications along the entire route from Shanghai to the Suez Canal and, above all, in the straits (Mallack, Hormuz, etc.). This does not mean that China cannot transport its goods by sea, but it does mean that in the event of a serious (and not necessarily armed) conflict between the United States and China, the Chinese side will not be able to guarantee the unimpeded movement of its vessels in areas remote from the territorial waters of the PRC. As a result, these are unpredictable risks for private Chinese business. And while the Chinese side is currently implementing a number of projects to create military bases near key sea lanes (in particular, in Djibouti), in this regard, China is still far from the leading maritime power of the modern world - whose military doctrine, in turn, goes back to A. Mahen’s geopolitical concept that global domination can be achieved only by that power that puts the sea at its service.
According to the concept of Makhen, the sea is not an insurmountable obstacle, but on the contrary, a road (way). A particular consequence of this is that any war at sea for its success must, by definition, be offensive in nature: all borders are located off the coast of opponents. This also implies the need to possess a powerful fleet, ideally several times greater (both in number and total power) the fleet of the most powerful enemy. In turn, the need for this is dictated by the need to ensure the safety of maritime communications - moreover, for all countries of the world. It is this factor (and not at all the intimidation of military power) that is the key to genuine leadership on a global scale - when it becomes profitable for everyone. As a result, everyone becomes interested in maintaining the status quo achieved.
Thus, if we consider the current balance of forces on the world stage, we can conclude that the Chinese leadership, understanding the relative weakness of the PRC at sea (taking its source from the time of the completion of the expeditions, Zheng He) relies on land promotion, and namely, the implementation of the land part of “One Belt, One Road” - “New Silk Road” (“New Silk Road”). Moreover, it can be said that this project is not carried out out of a desire to harm the United States purposefully (maintaining the current level of cooperation between the United States and China fully meets the interests of China), as much as the objective need to diversify the economy and create a domestic market for Chinese goods. which, in turn, requires the development of internal provinces, in particular, the removal of excess production capacity from China to neighboring countries (primarily Central Asia, Heartland ). Another equally important motive is the desire of Chinese manufacturers to “reach out” to the European market, bypassing the sea - through high-speed railways.
Thus, from the point of view of theoretical geopolitical generalizations, it can be concluded that China, implementing its own development strategy, claims to undermine the 400-year dominance of maritime powers. With the current level of development of technologies associated with road (primarily railway) construction, it seems possible to real competition of goods supplied by land with goods delivered by sea. In case of successful implementation of this project (and also in the event that the European market meets the expectations of Chinese exporters in terms of the level of demand), the hegemony of the maritime power (USA) will be replaced by the dominance of China, but precisely as a land power. Thus, the concept of Mackinder, which was designed primarily to contain the USSR, is being implemented, but in the face of the “Chinese threat”.
In turn, for maritime security in the APR this may mean the following conclusions. First, the tension in this region (perhaps even the naval arms race between the US and China) will increase, and as a result, the potential and risks of instability will increase. However, at the same time, it is necessary to clearly realize that, secondly, this “theater of military operations” will have a secondary, even third-rate (“rhetorical”) character in comparison with the economic and, equally important, financial aspects of the opposition. on both sides, one of which is compelled to exert all efforts to prolong the “American age,” while the other, regardless of its own desire or unwillingness, cannot objectively undermine Pax Americana.
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