China and the Clash of Civilizations

China and the Clash of Civilizations, by David Archibald.

To recap briefly, after the collapse of most communist states in 1990, the world appeared to have entered a period of permanent peace. Stanford University-based political scientist Francis Fukuyama called it “the end of history,” in which democracy and free-market capitalism would become the final form of human government. In response to Fukuyama’s 1992 book, Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington penned an article entitled “The Clash of Civilizations?,” which he expanded into a 1996 book entitled The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Huntington argued that now that the age of ideological conflict between communism and capitalism had ended, civilizational conflict, the normal state of affairs in the world, would reassert itself. His book concentrated on the “bloody borders” between Islamic and non-Islamic communities.

Huntington recognized nine civilizations, and as per his prediction, two of those civilizations are trying to impose themselves on the rest of the world. Islamic civilization got off to an early start with the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, following that attack up with demolition of the structure in 2001. But the Islamic effort will pale into insignificance compared to what China has in store. Countries that don’t want to be dominated by China are at last organizing in response to that threat.

Using Huntington’s cultural divisions as a template, the world can be divided into three camps: the anti-China camp, the indifferent, and China. This graphic shows each group relative to the size of their economies:

The Europeans are also realizing that they have been played by China. European companies came in to build factories and establish themselves in that once booming economy. Now that those efforts are successful, China is effectively expropriating ownership. For example, the Danish shipping company Maersk has 25% of its assets in China and at its peak had 1,100 expatriates in China to run the operation. The Chinese government hasn’t renewed visas for almost all of them. There are now only two Maersk expatriates in China, and the company has lost control of 25% of its asset base. Other European companies have been fined for being too successful against their Chinese competitors. …

The indifferent grouping is like China in that its members are mostly dictatorships with plenty of corruption and not much in the way of rule of law. The latter two factors hobble productivity. For example, the mystery of why Russia’s economy is not much larger than Australia’s is answered in corruption causing costs to be three times higher than they should be. Being amoral, these countries will happily continue to trade with China, no matter how many deaths the Chinese cause.