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April 04, 2006


Mao may not have been cosmopolitan in that he hadn't travelled outside China before 1949, but Mao had worked in the library at Beijing University (when it was called Yen Da) and lived in both Beijing and Shanghai before he along with others helped found the Chinese Communist Party. Mao was an experienced diplomat long before 1949, negotiating with, and navigating amongst, George C. Marshall and Stalin.

Mao's right hand man and top foreign policy specialist -- Zhou Enlai -- was cosmopolitan. Zhou had lived in France and Russia and came from a very privileged background in Zhejiang, just outside of Hangzhou.

This is to say that Chinese diplomacy has always been sophisticated cosmopolitan and realistic to the core. Under Mao and Zhou, a devastated post-war China faced the unrestrained enmity of the world's then paramount power -- the United States. China fought the US to a draw in Korea and survived a crippling economic boycott all the while keeping its independence from the Soviet Union.

Hu Jintao and the current Chinese foreign policy apparatus follow in the Mao-Zhou tradition. Their approach to the international stage is indistinguishable from what Mao and Zhou would've taken given similar resources.

Very thoughtful and insightful post, Emptywheel. And Kaleidescope's comment is enlightening. Thanks to both.

China (and Iran) have ancient cultures with long histories of diplomacy and warfare. My impression of China's culture in this area is that they are well aware of the traps of hubris. The contrast with the US couldn't be more stark.
While China's diplomacy has always been mindful of their allies motives and aims, the US can't see past it's own greed and sense of power. To lecture and threaten is the behaviour of idiots and bullies.
Almost every nation now sees a common interest in bringing the US to it's knees and many are quietly going about achieveing just that.

The US leadership has slipped it's moorings and the citizenry seem to be resisting overtures to restrain it.
This leaves the only option left to be to sink it for everyone's safety. The US has become a threat to the whole world and the only ones who don't see that are the US leadership.

I am more hopeful about the American people. A majority turned against the Iraq War without prompting from politicians from the Dem side or media figures. Just figured it out for themselves. They won't be so easily conned this time. "Don't start a third war until you've finished the first two" is a slogan anyone can understand. I just don't see the same enthusiasm for another war, except among the cowardly caucus on the right-wong blog sites.

The Chinese and the Iranians are so much smarter and more devious than we are, in part because they often are less blinded by ignorance, and in part because they take the long view and are patient. We are so insulated behind our oceans and so young and naive in the world. It really is embarassing.


I should qualify my use of "citizenry". I do not mean the good people who post and comment here. But I am not a US resident, so I, like the rest of the world, tend to see the US public as a whole in which you are a minority. The majority is made up of a range from rednecks to apathetics and the congress represents these types completely.

The protests did not stop the Iraq war nor will they stop the Iran war. Once the first bomb drops, it's all over.
Something else needs to happen. It needs massive civil disobedience. The populace needs to be more that against the upcoming Iran war, they need to stop it. Without exercising their power, they don't count in the scheme of things.

I don't think I would call a good poker player devious. That is to miss the point. To continue the poker analogy, Amarillo Slim famously said, "You can shear a sheep many times but you can only skin it once."

The power elites of the major nations have been shearing their populations and those of lesser third world countries for generations. Now the US wants to skin everybody and wreck the game. So now thes elites are combining to throw the US out of the game altogether.

Whatever happens now, the US will be a pariah state (as freepatriot said) but whether the States reverts to a democracy and starts on the long road to rebuilding itself (and stop a world war) or whether it continues down the road to feudalism (as Emptywheel insightfully points to) is in the hands of the US citizens. But collectively you need to DO something.

I probably sound bombastic and lecturing, but I am just trying to paint the scene as I see it and hope that I can influence the outcome for everyones' sake. I don't envy your situation.

I wouldn't characterize much of the US population as apathetic, exactly. A great many people are concerned about where things are going, but they are struggling to keep food on the table and keep their children safe--probably over half of the population is in this group--and they don't have time for politics. So much in the culture is designed to distract--TV, consumerism etc. They are unhappy, as is shown by the high "wrong track" and Bush disapproval figures. But they have lost any sense of connection between any action they might take and a change in governmental policy that might improve their life.

Only about 25-30% are Bushbots, nowhere near a majority. But as Digby says, probably the most we can hope here is that they become disillusioned and stop voting.

I am a congenital optimist, but I do think that as we get closer to the election the more marginal GOP folks are going to get nervous, and there won't be anywhere near the cheerleading by the press that there was last time. There will be more hardball politics played by China et al. Somehow Bush/Cheney will be pulled back from the brink.

"I wouldn't characterize much of the US population as apathetic, exactly. A great many people are concerned about where things are going, but they are struggling to keep food on the table and keep their children safe--probably over half of the population is in this group--and they don't have time for politics. So much in the culture is designed to distract--TV, consumerism"

You're quite right. It's the same in my country. I should have said "not engaged" rather than being judgemental.
I guess I am anxious because I don't think history will wait till November. I sincerely hope I am wrong

It is fascinating how China and Iran have come through revolutions that repudiated the old order, only to have the new elite kind of come around to the long view of themselves as the current minders of the civilization. Russia seems to be reverting to the mean as well. Deep cultural structures at play (I'm a lapsed nogoodnik cultural anthro guy, please excuse me).

Part of the reason they can be crafty and hard nosed and stealthy is of course the fact that they are not democracies. They don't even try to pretend that the public has a say. But they do have to provide for the people - enough to keep the pitchforks at bay anyway.

I wish I could be as optimistic as Mimikatz about the US. I think you may be right, but in the long term. In the short term - this year - I don't think we can pull out of the insanity. War drums are going to be banged hard until November.

Griffon, Don't stress out. Despite the nuttiness of the neocons, there's no way there will be an attack on Iran. Sure there will be bluster, posturing and media propaganda but we'll not see any kind of air attack. The outcomes are too unpredictable and Bush does not have the same overwhelming support!

Great Post with excellent comments!

In 2000, I could have never imagined a President, either Republican or Democrat, who could have wreaked such havoc in such a short period of time. Bush II and his minions have successfully ensured their place in the history books. Never has there been a Presidency that has so harmed the U.S. interest in the short-term or the long-term through such illogical and maleficent policies and practices as this Administration. For such a feat, this Administration deserves the condemnation of the American people.

Bush II and his odd assortment of would-be "plutocrats" will be well remembered in history. Surely, the voters of the U.S. will have the good sense to never elect such a mendacious regime ever again. Bush II will be well-remembered for their bumbling and ineffectual governance, a domestic policy of pay-to-play, a foreign policy hell-bent on pouring kerosene on the fires of Islamic fundamentalism, an economic and financial enrichment plan for cronies and lobbyists; a ruinous trade policy that has completed the stripping of the manufacturing base of the country and is well on course to strip the services industry of all but the most elemental service jobs while the highly paid technical jobs are swifting moving offshore; the perilous erosion of the soft power of diplomacy, a debacle in Iraq, an unfinished military mission in Afghanistan, and such scandalously poor war-prosecution skills that they almost border on the criminally negligent. Who could have known, in 2000, that in 5 short years, the standing of the U.S. in the world would have been so diminished, its moral authority depleted and its goodwill evaporated into the ether?

Whether it is economics; trade, military, domestic, or foreign policy; whether it is diplomacy or world affairs, Bush II has been an abject failure. Only when it comes to faking intelligence and hoodwinking the citizenry to enter an unnecessary war does Bush II excel. It's a good thing that G.W. doesn't care about what other people think of him b/c surely history will not be kind to this maleficent administration. Bush II is a failure both as a President and as a Presidency. I agree with Mimikatz in her optimism. We will survive Bush II. We will also remember it.

Thank you all for the excellent post and commentary. I always learn something when I read here. but for a person who knows little of the history of international affairs, my local take on what the Bush Administration has done is they have wrecked the government - on purpose. With no national government to oversee the nation, corporations (and the wealthy) are allowed to have their way. And that is their goal. When everything collapses, we will be back to the wealthy ruling class. As is their plan.

Every single thing they have undertaken has been messed up and people no longer have confidence in their government. Tell me this is not what Grover Norquist wanted -- and to have other governments despise us is all good in his book.

But I do believe it will have to be the international community who takes the corporate elites out for a thorough washing. They have much oil money to throw around to the new third world governments. Countries are being bought and sold as we speak.

Just a middle-of-the-night ramble from a very worried American citizen.

if you want to read some stuff that will shine a light on Chinese diplomatic thinking to some extent, I would recommend looking up Sun Tzu in you local library. Sometimes his name is written as Sun Tzi or Sun Zi. He wrote the "bible" on warfare and lived in the time before Christ. His book is still considered THE classic and is required reading for Chinese military officers.

I hope you and your family continue to heal. (I'm an FDL lurker and sometime poster)


Interesting observation--post-revolutionary traditionalism?

I think it's still too early to determine how things will work out, with BushCo on a national scale (even if we do survive him, though, I doubt we'll remember) or an international one (a big part of me agrees with you, GrandmaJ, they want to dismantle the state). One thing I do know. Our way of life won't last long without drastic changes. Our financial and environmental system can't handle it. So something's got to give.

I am usually an optimistic person, but I am currently losing my optimisim in the US at large. Living in Michigan has afforded me an opportunity to experience a rapid, democratically elected free fall. Our last governor (Republican John Enger), seems to have set a not-so-great example for the current national administration. He basically bankrupted the state, and this during good times, leaving in his wake a huge, gaping deficit, ruined state institutions, and a confused and demoralized electorate. Unfortunately, our current Democratic governor Granholm has not shown the strength or determination to turn things around. Michigan governors are afforded a lot of power which Engler used to reconstruct state departments to his will. Many of the things he did were not particularly popular at the time, but he pushed them through using bait-and-switch jargon along with shell-game economic maneuvers. I was greatly relieved when Granholm was elected, believing that she would try to unravel the mess that was left to her. I have been disappointed. Instead of using the tremendous power afforded to our governors, Granholm has instead tried to be nice and not alienate the conservatives or the corporations. The state departments are still a mess, filled with Engler appointees who cater to destructive corporate business interests rather than to the citizens of Michigan. Anyway, the reason for this rant, is that I am afraid the national Democrats will behave in the same way if they are voted into power. The resistance by the Democrats to use the power that is afforded to them, and the willingness of the Repubs to grab all the power they can get their hands on is quickly becoming institutionalized in this country. And I think that we can open the lens further and see that the US foreign policy will not be reformed much under the Dems beyond their desire to mend the US' image.

Our lack of historical perspective, along with our unwillingness to look beyond economic interests is an innate failing of democracy. We must understand this. Democratic structures have some very serious drawbacks and I don't see our particular version to be able to withstand the onslaughts of modern globalization. Dictatorships, neo-feudal states and oligarchies are better able to adapt and remain true to their characters (that said, some more modern versions of democracies seem quite a bit better able to maintain their integrity than the US). Our version, based, some would say, on an economic grab, will always be distorted by global economics, because our government was set up to protect our pursuit of happiness.

I hope the nation will not follow Michigan into poverty.

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