Reviewing America's progress in containing the momentum of the Chinese challenge we must conclude that so far it is “too little too late”. Trump’s America needs to find another gear level to be successful
We have long argued that competition for resources regulates the rate of a strategic challenge, and ultimately wars. A prime example is the ‘cold war’ which can be modelled as below:
- A commodity cycle which commenced post WW2
- The cycle reached its peak in 1975 when the commodity producing USSR was at its zenith and America seemed sorely stretched to contain its aspirations.
- This commodity cycle hit a low again in 2000 by which time the USSR had collapsed.
Thus the commodity cycle is the drumbeat accompanying the road to wars that are caused by one great power challenging another. This gives us a specific danger window of 2024-27 for a global conflict after which the risks will abate with time.
More specifically drawing the analogy between Germany pre WW1 and China today:
- A commodity peak similar to that which catalyzed WW1 is next due in 2024-27. The analogy between the German challenge to Britain's hegemonic power and that of China to the Americas is very sobering. See Lions led by Lions
- As did Germany, China has powerful demographic forces driving expansion and the need for commodity resources. This is partly the reason for their expansion into Africa. China’s population is made up of 56% males giving an unprecedented extra 50 million males that can be considered “risk capital” above that which an average expanding nation would need to go into conflict. In all probability this will cause them to be more aggressive at times of global tension, once they believe they are strong enough militarily.
- As Germany was, China is essentially a land power seeking sea-powers to globalize their challenge to the hegemony. China is also an ardent follower of that great navel strategist Mahan using his blueprint to build a new modern and competitive navy, incorporating every new revolution in military affairs to give them an edge.
- Both China and Germany are constrained in their access to the oceans, Germany via the North Sea and China via the second island chain choke points.
- As Britain was then, America has been weakened by pilot wars. For Britain it was the Boar war and now America has been engaged in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. These conflicts have been prolonged and slow to bring to a clear resolution, giving a signal of weakness.
- Britain faced liberal democracy that appeared to be highly divisive post the Boer war, similar to that currently faced by America post Iraq and Afghanistan in the Trump era.
- A further commonality is the centralized dictatorial leadership polarising the nation to its goal of expansion
- China shares Germany’s past belief in their nation’s natural superiority and right to rule.
- China is in the 2nd stage expansion to empire and manifesting a massive wave of innovation and creativity, which is being harnessed in the economic and arms race. This is as per Germany pre WW1.
- Both grew from a small force, to a force of comparable power, to becoming the hegemon, in a relatively short time not anticipated by the conventional thinking authorities.
- Both have/had powerful industrial bases supported by powerful financial mechanisms
- Both had, and have, benefitted from military expansion for political gain establishing a powerful precedent for further such actions.
- Both entered a major arms race to challenge the hegemony of their time.
- In today’s power struggle both sides have built alliance structures around them similar to those in place in 1914. In America's case with Japan, India, and Australia; and in China’s case with Russia, North Korea and Iran.
With history repeating itself once again, what can we learn from the mistakes that lead up to WW1 and thereby avoid WW3 with China?
The one key lesson from history is that the only way to deter a hegemonic challenge is via effective deterrence. As described in Lions led by Lions Britain failed to deter WW1, whilst America did deter the USSR. Let us hope that America understands these key lessons and focuses on the key elements that will allow it to deter China’s imminent military challenge.
Let us consider the rhythm of the commodity cycle and make a comparison between the world today and the run-up to 1914:
- At best we are currently at a point similar to the situation in 1907 and at worst 1909.
- Therefore we have between seven and five years before the situation becomes supercritical between China and America.
The message then becomes very clear.....
If there is division between America and its western and its eastern allies then we will all fall to Chinese expansion.
However, if we unite together we have a chance through a strong military and political deterrence program not to repeat Britain's mistake in 1914.
We cannot be complacent and thereby be responsible for failing to deter WW3, and consequently the demise of humanity.