Wednesday, 15 June 2011

China coup in the West?


Among all the discussions of the fall of the West, and which civilization might take-over, there seems to be little attention paid to China.

Yet, as the Western elites have turned-against their own civilizations and nations, and as their tactics have by now turned from passive acquiescence in decline to active promotion of decline (national subversion, attacks on allies, systematic assistance of enemies), perhaps China is as well placed as any to take-over and run the West?


Since a modern coup is about 'taking over the means of communication', China is exceptionally well-placed to mount such a coup - due to the international presence of Chinese nationals at high levels in science and technology, computation, and in key positions in the world of the internet and electronic media.


The main question - and it is one to which I don't know the answer - is whether or not China wants to take-over and rule the West.

If China did want to take-over, it is hard to see the Western authorities as having the will to stop them.


Indeed, since the Western elites are determined to abdicate rulership, and the Western populations are currently being prepared for future subordination; and if leadership becomes a choice of external powers or populations - is it possible that China might be among the best of potential candidates?


Note: I intend to be very selective about publishing comments for this post.



Dragon-Watcher said...

You might want to consider reading:

"In the Jaws of the Dragon: America's Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Dominance"

by Eamonn Fingleton

It seems relevant to your blog post.

Alex J. said...

Based on my not especially well-informed China knowledge, there's no way that either the Chinese people or elite are that ambitious. China is still a per-capita poor nation (poorer than Mexico) and a dysfunctional society, and their people know it. Though they are vastly improved and rapidly improving, and things may change in the indefinite future.

Cantillonblog said...


I am not sure that I will be live up to your high standards in this case, but I would like to note the applicability of the work of Gustave Le Bon on mass psychology. He wrote about the phenomenon he called prestige - in some ways a forerunner of Max Weber's 'charisma'.

It is seen from what precedes that a number of factors may be concerned in the genesis of prestige; among them success was always one of the most important. Every successful man, every idea that forces itself into recognition, ceases, ipso facto, to be called in question. The proof that success is one of the principal stepping-stones to prestige is that the disappearance of the one is almost always followed by the disappearance of the other. The hero whom the crowd acclaimed yesterday is insulted to-day should he have been overtaken by failure. The reaction, indeed, will be the stronger in proportion as the prestige has been great. The crowd in this case considers the fallen hero as an equal, and takes its revenge for having bowed to a superiority whose existence it no longer admits. While Robespierre was causing the execution of his colleagues and of a great number of his contemporaries, he possessed an immense prestige. When the transposition of a few votes deprived him of power, he
immediately lost his prestige, and the crowd followed him to the guillotine with the self-same imprecations with which shortly before it had pursued his victims. Believers always break the statues of their former gods with every symptom of fury.

Prestige lost by want of success disappears in a brief space of time. It can also be worn away, but more slowly by being subjected to discussion. This latter power, however, is exceedingly sure. From the moment prestige is called in question it ceases to be prestige. The gods and men who have kept their prestige for long have never tolerated discussion. For the crowd to admire, it must be kept at a distance.

All living things breathe, and Economy and Society are no exceptions. Long periods of prosperity are followed by long periods of adversity, and these shifting tides seem to be more powerful than is the ability of any man or group of men to hold back the tide. Knut's tale is not told very much these days, nor do people recognize the broader applicability of tides to natural phenomena other than the sea.


Cantillonblog said...

The US has of late been through a long period of difficult economic times - most notably since 1999/2000, but actually in many cases developments that people have only noticed today are the culmination of trends that began in the early 1970s. Real hourly wages for men appear to have been stagnant since that time, although no doubt some technological developments are not properly incorporated in the statistics.

On the other hand, over that same period (notably since 2001, but really since the Nixon visit to China) China has boomed. Perhaps it is the most striking modern demonstration of Adam Smith's dictum that all that is required for prosperity to develop is peace, low taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice. In other words perhaps it is not necessarily the specifically Chinese features of governance that explain Her success, but the avoidance of basic mistakes that in the West we feel we can afford to make.

As a result today there is widespread belief that the future belongs to China and that the West (particularly the US) is doomed, and beyond saving so that perhaps the only hope for us is to learn from a Chinese approach to governance. But although it is human nature to extrapolate the past in order to form a view of the future, Nature tends to exhibit more reversion to the mean.

Here is, for example, a story about the loss of US economic and geopolitical dominance:-

However it is not from the present day, but from early 1989 as the Japanese equity and real estate bubbles approached their climax.

Here is an example of present sentiment regarding the US today:-

Mean reversion can take a long time to unfold, and it is human nature to be impatient and to focus on the very distressing symptoms rather than on the deep underlying causes. A prerequisite for a problem to begin to be solved is that some people in a society recognize the existence of the problem. Indeed, as an observer of economies, markets and societies (both contemporary and historical) I have noticed that by the time a trend reaches the point of widespread public recognition (let's say by the time it is written about prominently in the New York Times or the Economist) we are often pretty close to the point where the trend is about to reverse.

The situation in the US is quite complex but briefly it involves social, political and economic indigestion from incorporating the emerging world into existing structures. This has manifested as an offshoring of lower skilled production, a spike in commodity prices, a bubble in progressivism and feminism (in part relating to the rising ratio of female to male wages), the deliberate creation of bubbles to cover up stagnant male wage growth etc.

All of these phenomena are in my view on the verge of reversing themselves due to natural exhaustion and the setting into motion of (slow but powerful) processes of negative feedback. For example, a spike in crude prices has led to potentially massive increases in shale oil supply that could per the respected Medley economic think tank lead to an increase in supply of 3mm barrels a day of crude (when total imports are only 10mm barrels a day). So the US dependence on imports is about to reverse itself anyway (and I suspect for various other reasons that crude prices will correct massively). I think therefore that the US share of global GDP is likely to rise significantly from this point.

Cantillonblog said...

In another example, the rise of feminism has led to a burgeoning mens' and traditionalist movement. For now the feminists may still have the greater mindshare, but differential rates of change over time can be very powerful and it is clear that the traditionalists are growing in confidence and influence whereas (as Mr Moldbug observes) the feminists and progressivists seem tired and worn out.

With regards to China specifically, much more could be written. But Peter Bernholz points out in his study of inflations that following a large increase in the money supply one tends to see a strong boom that lasts for a couple of years before fading suddenly with economic activity reaching a worse state than before the stimulus. At that point the authorities have a choice between introducing an even larger monetary stimulus (one more step on the road to out of control inflation), and accepting the corrective period of economic activity. China increased broad money and credit at 40% in 2009, and is now rapidly reaching the stage where it must face the consequences. The difference between basic conditions there, and the mass perception continues to widen.

I am not saying that China will fall into the ocean, but I do believe that it is very unlikely that within five years time (if not much less) anyone will be speaking of China as a model of governance in the West. Prestige earned by success can be lost very quickly as a consequence of a stumble.

dearieme said...

When people write about China, I like to point out that there have been periods in history when there was't one China but several. Due again?

Thursday said...

You are talking as if only our elite's opinion on this matters. They do not have infinite license to do whatever they want in defiance of the populace. Something so high profile and radical as a takeover by the Chinese would arouse stiff opposition.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Thursday - Stiff opposition? Maybe in the US... But I'm talking about The West in general and the concept of 'stiff opposition' has dropped out of use in Europe.

More widely, if the elite's opinion is not to matter, then they will have to be replaced.

Who is going to do this, and how?

The Western ruling elite will fight against being replaced by right wing natives, but would they fight other groups - if it came to actual fighting?

I'm afraid I could easily imagine several European countries being taken over at any time - tomorrow or next week - by a variety of alien groups; simply because the elites would not be willing to fight them.

If lethal force was the only thing that would stop them, and the Western elites were not prepared to use lethal force against these groups, then they would win without a fight.

Theoretical superiority of force is completely irrelevant if you are not prepared to use it, as we see all around us and in the current international wars.

This is something new in human history, something deeply insane, but something mainstream in the West.

Wurmbrand said...

How does the spread of Christianity in China figure in?

Cantillonblog said...

>More widely, if the elite's
>opinion is not to matter, then
>they will have to be replaced.

> Who is going to do this, and how?

If one thinks back to the shape of things as perceived as recently as October 2008 and compares this to the outlook today (if one exercises a reasonable degree of speculative imagination), are we not seeing this begin to happen in its nascent stages?

People thought that Obama represented the end of the long-dying 'free-market' 'American' system and the beginning of a move towards European-style welfare state socialism.

But instead we can see that it was perhaps something more like the moment when the Progressivist monster was finally reduced ad absurdum. Somehow, in the space of a short period of time the Republicans went from being a dead party to more or less the only political force of vitality. We have Obama declaring (in an attempt to tone down his pinko position) that government does not create jobs; business creates jobs! He sounds like the reincarnation of Sir Keith Joseph!

We have seen also a renaissance of the right in Europe - starting with the elections immediately following the crisis but ever since then each data point has surprised in a rightist direction. People are a little slow on the uptake - people initially ignored how the True Finns were able to exert some significant influence on plans for a Greek bailout. For Finland is a far-off country of which we know little (and the Finns are in any case notoriously odd). But there is now a broad recognition that this is a shift developing across Europe. Serious people in the financial markets are contemplating the possibility of Marine Le Pen as the next President of France.

It's interesting incidentally that in the case of the True Finns, I understand that the Established parties tried to discredit their Founder by spreading various rumours and smears. Voters however went directly to the internet to read his essays for themselves and make up their own minds. So just as Gutenberg undermined the power of the Catholic Church, so we are seeing Bill Shockley (ie the transistor/internet) undermine the power of the Old Political Establishment (with a lag significant in human terms, but hardly important measured against the general pace of history).

Now, I do not say that these are universally the sound kind of rightists and clearly there is a degree of variation. But to my eyes the trend has broken clearly in favour of the Reactionary populist movement that you have been anticipating would undermine our elites.

Ibn Khaldun spoke of the rulership of cities being revitalized by a fresh infusion of barbarians from the desert uncorrupted by comfort and strong in group-feeling. Well is not the Tea Party the American equivalent of this? America has its own untapped peasant cultural capital ready to save us from degeneracy. It's not that Palin is important in herself, one way or another - but her astonishing rise to prominence surely signifies the ascendancy of what was until recently one of the most-despised outgroups in any discussion amongst the Coastal Elites.

Cantillonblog said...

What I have observed is that when there are large changes in society that unfold over very long periods of time, they are usually the consequence of multiple powerful fundamental factors turning together. However we humans are not very quick on the uptake early on in these developments - our grasp of extrapolation is much better than our grasp of mean reversion.

So more specifically, I do believe we are early in a cycle relating to the shift of power from the mega coastal cities to the countryside (the kind of shift that has played out on many occasions throughout history). Part of this shift of power involves a rise in interest rates over many decades that will be accompanied by a sustained bull market in both agriculture and domestic manufacturing. This will tend to penalize activities related directly or indirectly to government spending and to asset shuffling (ie finance, real estate, marketing, leisure) but will tend to reward activities relating to more traditional kinds of value creation.

(As it happens, the kind of people and jobs celebrated in that notoriously conservative genre of country music).

I accept that all of these suggested changes ahead require a great deal of homework to be able to understand and accept, and I won't try to explain much more in a blog comment. But Marc Faber and Jim Rogers have written about many of the underlying factors. And I do not consider it a coincidence that the regions that have led the US most strongly out of recession have been North and South Dakota (agriculture and energy), Iowa and the former Rust Belt States whereas the service sector has lagged. Measured by unit labour costs (ie adjusting for productivity), the US is now one of the most competitive places to produce and we are likely to see manufacturing continue to perform strongly.

We know that prestige and social influence tends to follow economic prosperity. There is quite a different in values and ethics between the people of Iowa/the Dakotas and those in Manhattan. If I am right we shall see the culture tilt over time towards more traditional values. Perhaps the "Sex and the City" movie marked the end of the past era of distraction and hedonism.

(Peripheral Europe - ie outside of Scandis/Benelux/Germany - may see an entirely different dynamic. There are some ugly possibilities ahead economically that may shape social and political developments. The response to anarchy is however usually a desire for order).

My apologies if this is overly rambling or unclear. It's hard to condense all these relevant factors into a single post, particularly when we are so early in the unfolding of these new trends.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dale - Yes I have been aware of these reports of rapid expansion of Christianity in China for a few years, and can see for myself a very obvious increase in the number of Chinese at an evangelical church I sometimes attend. It is an unexpected and hopeful phenomenon.

@Cantillonblog - what you describe is a media phenomenon - and on the ground, the trend towards liberalism and PC continues unabated.

There has been no repudiation, no repentance, no willingness to pay the price. It is still politics as usual.

IF the leftward tide is ever reversed, there will be no doubt about it whatsoever. Things will change very obviously. The whole manner in which things are evalauted will change. The personnel in charge will change (or those who remain would need to 'recant' explicitly and publicly).

Real change will be unmistakeable and pervasive; the rest is just media chit chat.

JP said...

Alex J said,

"there's no way that either the Chinese people or elite are that ambitious. China is still a per-capita poor nation (poorer than Mexico) and a dysfunctional society, and their people know it."

The USSR was poor and dysfunctional for its entire existence, and yet strove for Weltmacht and hegemony. In contrast to the Soviets, and for that matter the Germans, the Chinese thus far have been slick enough not to make an overt bid for hegemony before they are ready.

The logic of history suggests that a nation will attempt to control its environment in accordance with its power to do so. As Bruce said, western elites are busy abdicating their power, which creates an opportunity for the Chinese.


The elites have effected so many radical changes in past decades that I hesitate to take anything off the table as "going too far".

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - my sentiments precisely.

Thursday said...

The elites have effected so many radical changes in past decades that I hesitate to take anything off the table as "going too far".

But they have had to do all of them slowly (liberalism works by boiling the frog, not sending a canary into the mine) and they have had to provide lots of goodies along with those changes.

Thursday said...

Our elites are also not nearly all powerful. For example, during the Reagan and Thatcher years they had to reverse course and make their peace with capitalism, mainly because their mucking around in the economy was hurting people's bottom line. Political correctness gets to have its way in the intellectual world because most people couldn't care less unless about the intellectual world unless it directly affects their material comfort.

Thursday said...

In my opinion, the only real existential threat to the West is immigration. And that is definitely a boil the frog type phenonmenon.

Otherwise the higher birth rates of the native religious would start to balance things out like it already has started to in Israel, where over 30% of all school children are ultra-orthodox. (Though the return of the religious creates its own problems.)

Bruce Charlton said...

@Thursday - But they have had to do all of them slowly (liberalism works by boiling the frog, not sending a canary into the mine)

In fact the changes are very rapid, but we live in a hyped up world where five years seems like a long time. Certainly in one generation there has been an astonishing moral inversion.

@Thursday - Our elites are also not nearly all powerful. For example, during the Reagan and Thatcher years they had to reverse course and make their peace with capitalism

In fact this didn't happen in the UK. The left never admitted that the Thatcher economic changes were necessary, they have never admitted that she turned around the economy from decades of decline. Yet this is as clear and objective a fact as you ever get in economics. And because they never admitted it, they have completely undone it and some, since 1997 when Blair was elected.

@Thursday. In my opinion, the only real existential threat to the West is immigration. And that is definitely a boil the frog type phenomenon.

Immigration may be boil the frog in the US but it is in your face in the UK - the difference is visible on a quarterly timescale, it is almost like a time lapse movie of population replacement, and it is accelerating with no sign of plateau.

The Western elites do pretty much what they want when they want - so long as they move things to the left, and because there is almost nothing about it in the media, people assume that it isn't really happening.

JP said...

Part of a critique of Henry Kissinger's new book:

While no sane person in the West and Japan advocates military engagement, not to recognize that American interests are jeopardized by an increasingly powerful, hostile China is to ignore reality.

Ignoring reality, indeed, has been until now Washington's modus operandi:

• The U.S. has made great efforts to bring China into the highest world councils, with Beijing responding by courting pariah regimes that threaten peace and stability.

• Washington has pursued free trade and investment with China, while Beijing responds with unfair trade practices, protection for state corporations and markets and financial manipulation.

• Washington has sought open exchange of military information and provided security for an expanding China trade, but Beijing rejects transparency and secretly pursues a rapid military buildup against an unidentified enemy.

These American policies have strengthened the power and influence of a highly vulnerable Chinese regime, one facing great economic ambiguities and unpredictable political challenges.

None dare call it treason when the Kissingerites do it.

Cantillonblog said...


I do agree that any changes on the ground so far have been modest, particularly in Britain.

As Jim Rogers points out in a financial context, people will only change their flawed policies when there is a collapse, or the threat of imminent collapse.

I am not so sure that the change in the attitude of core Europe towards the periphery is purely a media phenomenon, and potentially this will have very lasting consequences. We have gone from a situation where the idea of any member state leaving the EU seemed unthinkable, to the possibility of France having a president who compares the EU to the Soviet Union, thinks it will collapse, and would like to withdraw.

I note also that for some unknown reason social and financial trends that have been in place for quite some years often go parabolic just as they reach a point of natural exhaustion. This certainly seems to be the case with political correctness.

I don't know about repentance, but there are some early signs of recantation and repudiation amongst parts of the elite. The admission that the recommended diet was completely wrong, and studies showing that low-fat and low-salt diets are not good for you. Growing recognition of the weakness of the case for AGW (and the very real danger posed by a potential Maunder-type solar minimum). The chap now chairing the US Subcommittee on Monetary Policy responsible for supervising the Fed has written a book about abolishing it (three years ago he was considered a total crank). Of course these are all small things in themselves, and don't really relate to the greater delusions and dysfunctions you have identified.

"IF the leftward tide is ever reversed, there will be no doubt about it whatsoever. Things will change very obviously. The whole manner in which things are evalauted will change. The personnel in charge will change (or those who remain would need to 'recant' explicitly and publicly). "

There certainly has been no proper reversal as yet. But I wonder if we have not perhaps seen the seeds of a reversal start to gently push out roots. Time will no doubt tell.

Anonymous said...


You may be interested in reading an interesting series of blog posts on China and its near future and demographics by the anthropologist Peter Frost. Frost argues that China is on a similarly suicidal path as we have been on:

Brett Stevens said...

"Yet, as the Western elites have turned-against their own civilizations and nations, and as their tactics have by now turned from passive acquiescence in decline to active promotion of decline (national subversion, attacks on allies, systematic assistance of enemies), perhaps China is as well placed as any to take-over and run the West?"

Isn't this why the Mongols were able to invade so far last time -- the West was divided against itself, and more invested in its internal drama than paying attention to reality?

I always thought Tolkien based Mordor in part upon the Mongols.

Thursday said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bruce Charlton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.