Here’s the strange thing: these days, you would think that China was “rising” to potentially top great-power status out of nowhere, out of nothing (unlike the United States). Historically speaking, however, America is the great-power newcomer on this planet. China has had a long history as an empire, the greatest one of its time during certain dynastic reigns, though in those days a great power couldn’t yet garrison much of the planet with 800 military bases. However, between 1405 and 1433 — long before Columbus “discovered” America — the third Ming emperor did send Admiral Zheng He and an enormous fleet, laden with goods, on seven voyages that took him as far as the Persian Gulf and the east coast of Africa to “increase trade and secure tribute”!
Isn’t it time today to stop saying that China is rising as if out of the blue? It is, if anything, rising again, hardly surprising given its size, natural wealth, and power. Even though Americans, especially those inside the Beltway in Washington, might prefer not to see it that way, what’s happening on our planet right now, in imperial terms, is less an aberration than the norm of history.
Still, it’s true that this isn’t an everyday moment. The “rise” of China might be nothing new, but the rise of what’s come to be called the “climate emergency” is new indeed. So it’s a little strange that Joe Biden continues to swear China won’t become “the leading country in the world” during his presidency, while the Annual Threat Assessment issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), as the New York Times recently reported, has just put “China’s push for ‘global power’ first on the list of threats” in 2021. Really? In this, of course, it follows the Trump administration. As ODNI’s previous director put it, China “poses the greatest threat to America today and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom worldwide since World War II.”
This is indeed a crisis moment in history in which you might think that the greatest powers on the planet would feel impelled to rise together in genuine cooperation. Despite John Kerry’s recent visit to China, however, it looks like no such luck. In that context, check out TomDispatch regular Dilip Hiro on who’s really rising and falling right now in economic, technological, and infrastructural terms. Tom
A Reality Check
Like his immediate predecessor, Joe Biden is committed to a distinctly anti-China global strategy and has sworn that China will not "become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world... on my watch." In the topsy-turvy universe created by the Covid-19 pandemic, it was, however, Jamie Dimon, the CEO and chairman of JP Morgan Chase, a banking giant with assets of $3.4 trillion, who spoke truth to Biden on the subject.
While predicting an immediate boom in the U.S. economy "that could easily run into 2023," Dimon had grimmer news on the future as well. “China’s leaders believe that America is in decline,” he wrote in his annual letter to the company's shareholders. While the U.S. had faced tough times in the past, he added, today “the Chinese see an America that is losing ground in technology, infrastructure, and education -- a nation torn and crippled by politics, as well as racial and income inequality -- and a country unable to coordinate government policies (fiscal, monetary, industrial, regulatory) in any coherent way to accomplish national goals.” He was forthright enough to say, “Unfortunately, recently, there is a lot of truth to this.”Read More