The Currency of Empires – Asia Times
The ideas come from history, from human experiences filtered through readings, reasoning and introspection. But the feeling on our skin, in our flesh, makes us believe more in one thing or another. After all, that’s what Polybius explained two millennia ago, warning us against historians cloistered in libraries.
Then, the reasoning of two generals, a Chinese and an Italian, Qiao Liang, former head of education at the Defense University in China, and Fabio Mini, former NATO commander in Kosovo, also seems to stem from what they have lived. The book bringing together the reasoning, almost a virtual dialogue between the two, is The arco dell’imperorecently published by LEG.
In the book, Qiao exposes the complex web of links that seem indissoluble between war and the financial system in the structure of America’s new “empire.” His analysis stems from concrete experience.
Between 1997 and 1998, when China had just regained control of Hong Kong, the seat of Asia’s largest stock exchange, a huge financial crisis shook the continent. It all started in Bangkok, almost hours before the handover ceremony on July 1, 1997.
From then on, in a few months, one by one, several Asian countries fell into financial turmoil. Stock markets crashed, societies were thrown into chaos and politics was disrupted. Many governments in the region have failed, including the seemingly ironclad dictatorship of Indonesia.
Within months, Wall Street finance changed the political landscape of the region, without war or massive bloodshed, but better than a war. China was spared because it did not have, and does not have, a fully convertible currency, and because the Hong Kong dollar, a possible Trojan horse, was protected by a strong peg to the US dollar and by the large Chinese reserves.
In Beijing, the event was shocking, prompting policymakers to look back. In 1993 alone, similar financial turmoil brought down the European Monetary System, a semi-fixed exchange rate arrangement between the continent’s major currencies. In China, where the lens to watch everything is politics and strategy, they saw a connection between the two events: America wanted to take down two potential rivals, first Europe and then Asia.
American intervention in the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s was also interpreted accordingly in Beijing. It was an American attempt to undermine the political unity about to emerge in Europe after the launch of the euro on January 1, 1999.
The 2003 Iraq War was similarly interpreted in China as an attempt to gain control of oil, hence petrodollars, and to complete America’s global dominance over finance and war.
The explanation may seem fanciful, coming from a laboratory of fake news, seeking to find intrigues in and for everything. He seems to be an heir to 19th century conspiracy theories that saw the plans of Freemasons or Jews for capitalist rule or socialist revolution.
But there is no suggestion of a big old man pulling the strings or of a planned and explicit rational intentionality in the 1997-98 crisis. On the contrary, Qiao sees a deep connection in a dimension of economic warfare that is different from the old and traditional dimensions of economic warfare.
That is to say, “war”, or the pursuit of political goals by the state, can be waged in modern times with an ad hoc alliance, changeable from time to time, between finance and limited war in the Balkans or in the Middle East, in this context. Case.
During these years, America left aside the politico-diplomatic dimension of its foreign relations and focused on trade agreements around the new framework of the World Trade Organization.
It was at the time when history, that is to say politics, was considered to be over, when different civilizations clashed, which opposed each other, and when it seemed that everything would go through agreements commercial and financial. These could even be pushed by small wars. The model, however, was treading water, as Qiao notes.
Whether and to what extent there was a conscious and fulfilled American intention to move in this direction is not important here. Qiao notes that objective contiguity, effective in the 1990s but which has ceased to function since the Iraq war in 2004, has become a quagmire.
In China, where cruel realism is king, the point of criticism is not the intention to combine blood and money, but the inability to do so effectively. Rather, the point of criticism is the disaster of the American system gradually uncovered since 2004, bogged down in the Middle East until the disastrous global financial crisis of 2008, until the failure of the so-called Jasmine Revolutions.
Thus, Qiao devotes an admiration to the complex architecture of the American system, and it is not an antagonistic criticism, like that of the Soviets. It is an invitation for China to learn and, implicitly, an invitation for America to change.
The weakness of the United States, according to Qiao, is the monetization of everything, exchanging pieces of paper for real goods. His solution is a new digital currency.
Former NATO Commander Mini, in his extraordinary introduction, a book within a book, introduces Qiao and explains the complications of the Chinese system, which criticizes the government but still manages to have a fair voice in public debate. Then he recounts the cracks in the American empire.
His diagnosis does not imply the inevitable end of the American empire. It is a crisis that must be resolved; otherwise, the whole world as we know it, hinged around America, will crumble.
Qiao understands that the American empire is a world order. However, as it has applied over the past three decades, using structures designed 80 years ago, during and after World War II, it would need extensive modification to continue to function.
In this, digital currency implies a monopoly of power by one or more governments, or a complete surrender of power to cryptocurrencies. But monopolies or total surrenders of power are historically flawed, as another Chinese delivered Remarks. One could perhaps say that financial solutions to political problems do not work, but neither does the reverse. Politics cannot replace finance; it creates just as much turmoil as the reverse, with finance trying to replace politics.
These are complex questions to deal with, not least because the American empire is timid and even ashamed of itself; he keeps saying that he is in crisis and that we have to face a deep fault.
Mini writes, “U.S. military interventionism abroad always occurs in the name of a supposed divine mandate to direct world affairs and the gratitude others owe for exercising that role. The decision to use force is theoretically parliamentary, but in reality it is taken by a small circle of people.
He then quotes New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who writes, “I can name 25 people (all within a five-block radius of the White House) who, if exiled to a desert island ago a year and a half, the war in Iraq would never have happened.
Mini goes on to write, “American foreign policy is focused on safeguarding its interests while those of its allies are irrelevant unless they coincide with those of the United States. Ideological address became foreign policy and this guided for some time armed interventions, overt and covert, legitimate and illegitimate. The veil of American innocence and the myth of armed intervention to help allies and friends have long since fallen.
Knowing this, some Chinese wonder: is it better to have 25 people whose identity is unknown, who are still hidden, but for this reason very powerful; or 25 people from the party’s political bureau who are at least known to be there and are “clearly hidden?” But then can the world put itself in the hands of 50 “hidden-hidden” or “clearly hidden” people?
These issues also contribute to the ongoing confrontation between China and the United States. They touch on a deep problem, faith and confidence, which are the true root of power, that which animates the men who hold arms. The power comes from them, from their confidence, and not from the inanimate barrel of the weapon in their hands, as Mao so aptly put it.
They are soldiers, (since sold, money, salary) that is, paid men, they need money, as well as confidence, to move, as we know from ancient times. The link between military, money, power and faith is then welded by the motto on the American dollars “In God We Trust”.
He explains that beyond rationalist efforts, the question of money and finance is a question of trust, of being believed, of credit. If you don’t believe in America or China or the world, everything falls apart. Those who have credit, trust instead.
This story first appeared on the Settimana News website and is republished with permission. To read the original, click on here.
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