Beijing sees the United States as a modern-day version of the ancient Roman empire in its declining years, writes Joseph Poprzeczny.
China Confidential, a global network of strategically placed correspondents claims Beijing’s tiny ruling elite has reached a “startling consensus concerning the world’s political future”.
The view has two key strands. First, the United States should be seen as a dying but still dangerous “Hegemon”, a modern-day version of the ancient Roman empire in its declining years. And, second, Europe is seen as increasingly a politically irrelevant collection of weak states.
The 2008-09 Wall Street-sparked global financial meltdown is seen as a turning-point in long-standing Euro-American dominance, the origins of which date back to Christopher Columbus’s epic 1492 voyage that linked the destinies of the Old to the New Worlds.
European penetration, colonisation and exploitation of the Americas are seen as the uplifting events for Europe’s feuding nation-states that were eventually put on the road to unity by an expansive US.
But this 500-year long Euro-American or Northern Atlantic global dominance, that even extended into China’s immediate vicinity through military and other treaties with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, has begun ebbing.
China Confidential, a daily weblog, carries anonymous and pseudonymous news reports to “protect sources and preserve freedom of travel to and from the mainland”. Its reports are regularly referenced by other news outlets, including the BBC and The Wall Street Journal. Western and other intelligence analysts also monitor its output.
The report outlining the Chinese leadership’s new global overview is presented by one Andre Pachter.
“China sees Europe not as a power, but as a market,” Pachter says. “A European Union in name only – from China’s perspective, the old Common Market name is more fitting – it is certainly not a serious rival to either China or the US for international influence and prestige.”
China Confidential says the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), in particular, is convinced that Europe is destined to be overwhelmed and irreversibly transformed by its Muslim minorities, especially if Turkey’s bid for EU membership, which US President Barack Obama has endorsed, eventuates.
Pachter says: “In contrast with Europe, the US clearly has a long way to go before it is Islamised. In terms of importance, Detroit, for example, can’t be compared with Londonistan.
“But Beijing … believes that the continuing Muslim influx into the United States and rise in Muslim supremacist groups, combined with the ceaseless flood of illegal immigrants from Latin America – capable of turning overnight into a human tidal wave if Mexico collapses into chaos and anarchy – will eventually overwhelm and ultimately bury the Hegemon.
“Chinese Communist Party economic advisers also believe the US economy is doomed as a result of years of hollowing-out and outsourcing, incapable of being revived without a radical restructuring. A slow death is foreseen; hence, the need to diversify out of the dollar in an orderly fashion – without killing China’s stake.
“There is more to the story. China’s military strategists are said to be convinced that the US is dangerously vulnerable to asymmetric warfare, including Islamist terrorist attacks. Another mega-attack, the Chinese believe, could be fatal for the US. A series of Mumbai-style, swarming attacks on so-called soft targets – schools, hospitals, commercial buildings and shopping centres – could prolong the recession or turn it into a full-blown depression.
“Several Chinese asymmetric warfare experts believe it is only a matter of time before the US is hit by nuclear terrorism.”
The report that Beijing has made such an assessment certainly seems credible, not least because China has traditionally thought in cyclical terms.
Chinese historians view their country’s past in terms of what they call the Dynastic Cycle. Dynasties displaced collapsed predecessor dynasties. Each dynasty could last for considerable periods, sometimes more than 400 years as with the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD). Good governance would endure because it would enjoy the blessing of the Mandate of Heaven – that is, until corrupt practices set in.
Before each period of decline, China’s traditional Confucian examination system would be corrupted, with fifth-raters bribing examiners and later gradually gaining the reins of power but inevitably proving incapable of properly administering and defending the realm.
Thereafter the economy would founder, as China’s present leaders see the US and European economies doing. The Mandate of Heaven was then seen as slipping away, and new challengers would emerge to topple the failing dynasty.
This cyclical process was seen to be repeating itself, with, at times, dynasties fracturing into warring states from which new unifying dynasties eventually emerged.
The flip side of such thinking is, of course, that it’s essential that a challenger quickly emerge to displace the once all-powerful dynasty that is seen to be in decline.
It is quite likely that China’s current ruling elite, which controls all levers of power and the People’s Liberation Army, views the West’s current problems as its historic opportunity.
– Joseph Poprzeczny is a Perth-based historian and freelance journalist.