Tag Archives: maritime empire

Taiwan Republic in world history and global studies

End of Globalization 1.0, strategic corruption, the American global maritime empire, and a new era of global instability while moving towards a democracy and human rights-focused Globalization 2.0

[Edited reply to a student writing with questions about Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan Republic, and the Chinese communists’ typical belligerent response.]

The issue of Taiwan is related to your broader questions. In quick summary, this is how:

  1. World history and global studies context. Because America is not world history/globe studies literate, we often only focus on episodic things like Pelosi visiting Taiwan Republic, or communist China making war threats (yet again!), history and global context-free. Taiwan is just a tiny dot in a broader world history scale issue — I’ve called it Globalization 1.0 before, recently I have conceptualized it as the postwar maritime empire built by the US Navy.
  2. Globalization 1.0 and the US global maritime empire. The US is the first empire in world history to figure out that occupying land/people is impossible. So we have a huge navy, we have allies and international organizations (UN, WTO, World Bank, WHO, NATO, EU ….) and the rules the US has imposed are simple — relatively open global access to labor, raw material, manufacturing, and markets. And for the US, the big no-no is whenever anyone claims the international sea is not open to all. Say, the Taiwan Strait. Or in the case of the Chinese communists, claiming the South and East Seas along with the Taiwan Strait, while making military-strategic moves into other major harbors and canals.
  3. Russia and Communist China; Taiwan Republic and Ukraine. Regional powers like Russia and China never liked this American world order, but when America was in its primacy, they tolerated it. Russia adjusted poorly and has been far more aggressive in trying to upend this global order and western democracies. From 1980 to 2019 communist China made trillions from this American world order and imported western technology that greatly enhanced its military power. Between Ukraine and Taiwan, we see evidence that Moscow and Beijing’s temporary acceptance of this American world order are over.
  4. Seeing like a western imperialist. Western experts often overestimate our role. I think we are missing some of the pictures here. I think both Putin and Xi have independently decided that they’d rather be poorer, with less access to western technology, than risk globalization endangering their dictatorships.
  5. The defunding of American democracy, 1980-2019, strategic corruption, and the end of Globalization 1.0. America and other western democracies started defunding their democratic institutions in the 1980s with tax cuts for the wealthy and multinationals, deregulation, financialization of the economy, and cutting funds and regulations from institutions important for democracy, such as journalism and education. The rise of American and western populism/fascism leading to a decline of our democracy – led by domestic and foreign oligarchs – is adding pressure on the Globalization 1.0 world order. We are in an era with major challenges from abroad and at home, and they are linked-related.
  6. Taiwan Republic is just one of the dozens of global flashpoints in the struggle between America and its democratic allies and communist China. So seen in this world history and global context — yesterday I noted that while the headlines are Taiwan, the US and its allies, and communist China in seven days have been jockeying for positions from Africa to the Middle East, Sri Lanka to the South Pacific, South Korea to Japan. Taiwan is a flashpoint, but merely a dot in a broader global struggle between China and the US.
  7. Re-funding American democracy is key. Which gets us back to your observations about the CHIPS Act. My conservative estimation is that when America started defunding its democracy in 1980 (the irony is this, President Reagan spent much on the military – a good decision in my estimation – which was like putting the best lock on the front door; but he also deregulated key economic institutions and had tax cuts for the wealthy and multinationals while defunding institutions important to democracy, which was like opening the back door for strategic corruption from foreign malevolent forces like the Russians and Chinese communist and the Gulf oligarchs to corrode American democracy), from 1980 to 2022 many trillions flowed from American pro-democracy institutions to Chinese communist, Russian, Mideast, and American oligarchs. This is not even to mention the decades and trillions lost from the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Imperfect as President Biden may be, he is the first president since Reagan to put real money behind re-funding American democracy — from pandemic relief to infrastructure to CHIPS to inflation/climate change, about 4 trillion. While importantly, trying to decrease the wealth gap among American citizens.
  8. When I talk about the “Third World War” people think I mean a modern version of WW2. In this modern war, it is universal healthcare, resolving student debt, regulating news ownership and social media algorithm manipulations, making sure citizens have dignity and social safety nets so that extremist dangerous ideas hold no appeal, and not funding by the trillions of foreign dictatorships like Moscow and Beijing, that’s the main battlefield.
  9. Summary. The most important change in America is this. The foolish and self-defeating Globalization 1.0 premise that capital should flow without regard for national borders, democratic values, and national interests/security is over. So while re-funding American democracy with cash, regulation, and taxation is important, even more critical is having two pro-democracy American political parties that can agree on this basic premise — that foreign and domestic economic policies must always address two questions: “Is this good for American and other democracies?” “Is this good for American and allies’ national security?” 12.8.2022

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