The reader is a bit puzzled by Ferguson’s reliance on his proximity to ‘The Great Man’, he is now at The Hoover Institution, where 1929 went to live, and conservative thought flourishes, and is the author of a hagiography of Kissinger.
“We are in the foothills of a Cold War.” Those were the words of Henry Kissinger when I interviewed him at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Beijing last November.
The observation in itself was not wholly startling. It had seemed obvious to me since early last year that a new Cold War — between the U.S. and China — had begun. This insight wasn’t just based on interviews with elder statesmen…
After Kissinger comes his History Made to Measure of the New Cold War with China:
What had started out in early 2018 as a trade war over tariffs and intellectual property theft had by the end of the year metamorphosed into a technology war over the global dominance of the Chinese company Huawei Technologies Co. in 5G network telecommunications; an ideological confrontation in response to Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur minority in China’s Xinjiang region and the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong; and an escalation of old frictions over Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Ferguson articulates The Party Line, with an assist from ‘The Great Man’ , as if he were surprised.
Nevertheless, for Kissinger, of all people, to acknowledge that we were in the opening phase of Cold War II was remarkable.
More of that History, with a plug for his and co-author Moritz Schularick, political Disney Cartoon of Chimerica :
West Chimericans are wealthy and hedonistic; East Chimericans are much poorer (even adjusting on the basis of purchasing power parity, their per capita income is around 16% of that in West Chimerica). But the two halves of Chimerica are complementary. West Chimericans are experts in business administration, marketing and finance. East Chimericans specialize in engineering and manufacturing. Profligate West Chimericans cannot get enough of the gadgets mass produced in the East; they save not a penny of their income and are happy to borrow against their fancy houses. Parsimonious East Chimericans live more humbly and cautiously. They would rather save a third of their own income and lend it to the West Chimericans to fund their gadget habit — and keep East Chimericans in jobs.
Under this arrangement, East Chimericans generate massive trade surpluses which they immediately lend back to West Chimerica. By channeling all these surpluses through government hands into government paper, East Chimerica depresses the key long-term interest rate in West Chimerica. And thanks to artificially low interest rates, financial and real assets in West Chimerica and its satellites are booming.
To be sure, Chimerica is an economic but not a monetary unit: East Chimericans have the renminbi, West Chimericans the dollar. Nevertheless, the scale of the financial transactions between the two halves is comparable with the flows that traditionally have occurred within nation states rather than between them.
This part so beyond what an actual academic thinker might produce, It had to have been written by Ferguson, its pop culture vernacular is the proof.
Ferguson rambles on. But Ferguson’s essay wakes, from its technocratic reverie, and comes alive.
Yet the book that has done the most to educate me about how China views America and the world today is, as I said, not a political text, but a work of science fiction. “The Dark Forest” was Liu Cixin’s 2008 sequel to the hugely successful “Three-Body Problem.” It would be hard to overstate Liu’s influence in contemporary China: He is revered by the Shenzhen and Hangzhou tech companies, and was officially endorsed as one of the faces of 21st-century Chinese creativity by none other than … Wang Huning.
“The Dark Forest,” which continues the story of the invasion of Earth by the ruthless and technologically superior Trisolarans, introduces Liu’s three axioms of “cosmic sociology.”
First, “Survival is the primary need of civilization.” Second, “Civilization continuously grows and expands, but the total matter in the universe remains constant.” Third, “chains of suspicion” and the risk of a “technological explosion” in another civilization mean that in space there can only be the law of the jungle. In the words of the book’s hero, Luo Ji:
‘The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost … trying to tread without sound … The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life — another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod — there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them. In this forest, hell is other people … any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out.’
A quick re-entry by Kissinger, Ferguson adopts the role of Mrs. Malaprop:
Kissinger is often thought of (in my view, wrongly) as the supreme American exponent of Realpolitik. But this is something much harsher than realism. This is intergalactic Darwinism.
The ‘Yellow Peril’ makes its fated return:
Of course, you may say, it’s just sci-fi. Yes, but “The Dark Forest” gives us an insight into something we think too little about: how Xi’s China thinks. It’s not up to us whether or not we have a Cold War with China, if China has already declared Cold War on us.
Not only are we already in the foothills of that new Cold War; those foothills are also impenetrably covered in a dark forest of China’s devising.
‘How Xi’s China thinks’ is the purist form of anthropomorphism!