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Long Ball Larry

The Foreign Policy and Geopolitical Grand Strategy Thread: In Which We Solve the World

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I have been thinking for a few months about the global geopolitical order, largely through the lens of how the Trump administration is handling foreign affairs and what the grand strategy is (if there is one).  What is the U.S. doing globally that make sense and what things do not? I am interested in this primarily in a practical geopolitical strategic sense, not necessarily what is right or wrong morally. Probably one of the most pressing issues prompting me to consider this is our actions and orientation toward China and whether they are good or bad.  

I think the first thing to think about what is the landscape is, who are the players and what are the actions that are really shaping the future of the world.

The Major Players?

Reading a book review a few weeks ago of The Empire and Five Kings, the author, Bernard-Henri Levy states (paraphrased): The U.S. has given up its role in maintaining order around the world.  Into that vacuum have stepped China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey (the 5 kings).

The first three make sense to me and were key players that I was initially thinking about.  I recognize the role of Iran and Turkey, but am less sure about the total impact on the world right now.  I suppose I understand that those countries are increasing their attempts to influence events and spaces in the world, though I have been skeptical of their real impact.  Iran’s recent aggression on tankers and planes, as well as recent stories about their attempts to use methods of social media manipulation in America, perhaps indicate that they are more serious than I thought.  

For Turkey, I know that Erdogan has been consolidating power over time, put out the hit on Gulen, and generally seems to have been trying to flex various relationships throughout the world.  (Interesting report here from CFR: https://cfrd8-files.cfr.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/CSR82_Cook_Turkey_0.pdf)

Who are other key players on the world stage and who are enemies or allies of the U.S.?

I assume we consider the G20 countries to be major players (France, Germany, England, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Indonesia).

Other non-G20 countries that I would consider to be particularly relevant: UAE, Israel, North Korea, Syria.

Of every country I’ve listed, probably the only ones that are obvious enemies are Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Who are our strongest allies?  Maybe KSA, Israel, Canada, Germany, England, France, Australia (?)  Despite all of Trump’s bluster, I still think that those last 5 are still pretty strong allies.

I would put China, Russia, Turkey and UAE in their own category of doing things that suit their own interests, working with the U.S. when there is something they want, but going on their own when they want.  KSA might fit here too, but my sense is that they are more firmly in Trump’s camp based on recent events.

I assume that the rest of the countries listed are basically allies at this point, but I am unclear about how strong the relationships are.  India is a strange one to me, because they seem like they could have become a much bigger force and helpful friend in that area, but it also seems like Modi is overmatched in terms of working on a large scale like that.

What events and actions are shaping the world right now, among the above countries and others?

Well, we could spend hours on China (and there is a China a thread, I believe), but to name a few: Belt and Road Initiative (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/all-roads-lead-to-china-the-belt-and-road-initiative-explained/), building out man-made islands in the Pacific, stealing IP, what is really happening with their economy, Made in China 2025, etc.

Unrest in Venezuela is a situation into which the U.S. has inserted itself and I assume will have ripple effects in South America and Central America.

Our approach to aid/crackdowns in Latin America and the effect on immigration.

Russian aggression around the world.

What is Kim Jong-Un going to do?

What is Assad doing (seems mostly laying low internationally lately, but I may have missed some stuff.  I guess still doing a lot domestically to crush opposition)?

Also huge swaths of Africa where seemingly anything goes, continual upheaval and disorganization, though also some improvement and also likely long-term investment and routes from China (and a little bit from Russia potentially).

What’s the point of all this?

I’m mostly trying to organize my own thoughts on this and thought it might be worthwhile to post here so that others could help me fill in the gaps.  It also helps to try to have multi-faceted view and relevant factors to consider for major geopolitical strategy and our foreign policy moving forward.  Regardless of whether you believe in a more isolationist position or more global intertwining, we are going to be affected by the actions of the rest of the world more and more as time goes on.

 

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Marvelous thread topic. 

I often get ripped for too much pontificating on topics like these, so this time I think I will wait and see what others have to say and then chime in in response. 

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24 minutes ago, Long Ball Larry said:

The Major Players?

 Reading a book review a few weeks ago of The Empire and Five Kings, the author, Bernard-Henri Levy states (paraphrased): The U.S. has given up its role in maintaining order around the world.  Into that vacuum have stepped China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey (the 5 kings).

I agree and I think this started under Obama passively, but Trump has been a fullthroated activist and nationalist on this.

IMO global nationalist dynamics were the norm up to and through 1945 and its aftermath.

The post war rubric really started coming unwound with the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the USSR, which naturally we encouraged.

The premodern nationalists include Putin, Erdogan and Xi.

I’m glad to talk more about this, but the point is leaders who fail to see this dynamic are incapable of really understanding or dealing with world affairs.

Edited by SaintsInDome2006

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28 minutes ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

And I’m unabashed in saying there is one solution to this: democracy.

this is absolutely true but, if the last 50 yrs have taught us anything, attempting democracy in regions that arent ready - nay, screaming - for it is an invitation to tyranny

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1 hour ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

I agree and I think this started under Obama passively, but Trump has been a fullthroated activist and nationalist on this.

IMO global nationalist dynamics were the norm up to and through 1945 and its aftermath.

The post war rubric really started coming unwound with the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the USSR, which naturally we encouraged.

The premodern nationalists include Putin, Erdogan and Xi.

I’m glad to talk more about this, but the point is leaders who fail to see this dynamic are incapable of really understanding or dealing with world affairs.

Which leaders are you talking about?  And do you mean those who fail to appreciate that the idea of modern global cooperation is really more of an aberration when thinking about the world?

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1 hour ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

And I’m unabashed in saying there is one solution to this: democracy.

Is it?  Interesting wapo article today: https://www.google.com/amp/s/beta.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/07/20/how-trashy-tv-made-children-dumber-enabled-wave-populist-leaders/%3foutputType=amp

“Young people who watched Mediaset during their formative years would, Durante said, grow up to be “less cognitively sophisticated and less civically minded” than their peers who had access only to public broadcasting and local stations during that period.”

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9 minutes ago, Long Ball Larry said:

Which leaders are you talking about?  

I mean American leadership principally, but also apparently in the UK and to some extent soft nationalists carried along by the nationalist push in continental Europe..

Edited by SaintsInDome2006

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13 minutes ago, Long Ball Larry said:

Is it?  Interesting wapo article today: https://www.google.com/amp/s/beta.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/07/20/how-trashy-tv-made-children-dumber-enabled-wave-populist-leaders/%3foutputType=amp

“Young people who watched Mediaset during their formative years would, Durante said, grow up to be “less cognitively sophisticated and less civically minded” than their peers who had access only to public broadcasting and local stations during that period.”

Quote

 

In Italy, it’s not that television made voters more conservative. Instead, Durante said, it seems to have made them more vulnerable to the anti-establishment stances favored by the country’s populist leaders of all persuasions.

In the ’90s and early 2000s, Berlusconi was “well positioned to benefit from the decline in cognitive skills and civic engagement,” they write, but by 2013, he was outflanked by the insurgent Five Star Movement, whose strong rhetoric won over the Mediaset-affected voters who had once broken for Berlusconi.

Let's say I agree with this - as applied to America and elsewhere in the west - and still maintain my position.

I'm conscious of arguing that power needs to be devolved to the people and various power centers to the extent reasonable, but also realize that freedoms allow for countervailing forces. We can't control everything, that's the point.

That may be self-defeating, but IMO this is really an argument about technology. Tv & A/C drove people inside and off the porches and community settings, mobile phones, the internet and social media drove them inward even further and into a tunnel mentality.

This is an argument about technology driving societal and political conditions which is as old as Marx. And he was right then but wrong about the solution. For every instance of a Facebook driving stupidity I'll give you a Tiran or Maidan Square driving authoritarianism out of power. YMMV though, revanchism is always lurking that is absolutely true. And that's been true since revolutionary France, that's not conditional on technology at all, that's just part of the human condition.

Edited by SaintsInDome2006

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1 hour ago, wikkidpissah said:

this is absolutely true but, if the last 50 yrs have taught us anything, attempting democracy in regions that arent ready - nay, screaming - for it is an invitation to tyranny

Well you can look to post-revolutionary France for that. 

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2 minutes ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

Well you can look to post-revolutionary France for that. 

that is a response which seeks to win an argument, not to heighten understanding, so i will defer

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9 minutes ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

Let's say I agree with this - as applied to America and elsewhere in the west - and still maintain my position.

I'm conscious of arguing that power needs to be devolved to the people and various power centers to the extent reasonable, but also realize that freedoms allow for countervailing forces. We can't control everything, that's the point.

That may be self-defeating, but IMO this is really an argument about technology. Tv & A/C drove people inside and off the porches and community settings, mobile phones, the internet and social media drove them inward even further and into a tunnel mentality.

This is an argument about technology driving societal and political conditions which is as old as Marx. And he was right then but wrong about the solution. For every instance of a Facebook driving stupidity I'll give you a Tiran or Maidan Square driving authoritarianism out of power. YMMV though, revanchism is always lurking that is absolutely true. And that's been true since revolutionary France, that's not conditional on technology at all, that's just part of the human condition.

Yeah, it’s not truly a refutation, but something I found interesting and something that seems true from idiocracy to the last election.

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I'm not solving the world here, but Obama did not withdraw from being a world leader 'passively.' He did so despite many objections -- especially those on the neocon right -- and did it willfully. Our shifting of allies also began under Obama. 

Bush II, despite his grand pronouncement to the contrary during campaigning, was very much an internationalist and a Wilsonian at heart. I don't follow other countries' foreign policy matters enough to assume or know who has stepped into the void or vacuum left by the U.S., but pretending this wasn't a deliberate act by our 44th president abdicates all responsibility for our shifting of our alliance with the U.K., and as world leaders. 

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15 hours ago, rockaction said:

 

I'm not solving the world here, but Obama did not withdraw from being a world leader 'passively.' He did so despite many objections -- especially those on the neocon right -- and did it willfully. Our shifting of allies also began under Obama. 

I didn’t mean it was forced upon him, I meant that he did it through policy but not overtly. Primarily I am speaking of Ben Rhodes’ comments about withdrawing from mideast affairs.

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cross-posting Bucky's post in the Iran thread:

Quote

 

Well, that's interesting.

𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙡 𝘾𝙧𝙖𝙗 Retweeted

Replying to

@lummideast

and

@aawsat_News

Russia and Iran signed a document on the expansion of military cooperation. This is the first memorandum of understanding between countries of this kind. Also, countries will hold joint exercises until the end of the year. (link: https://iran.liveuamap.com/en/2019/29-july-russia-and-iran-signed-a-document-on-the-expansion)iran.liveuamap.com/en/2019/29-jul… #Iran

 

 

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4 hours ago, Long Ball Larry said:

cross-posting Bucky's post in the Iran thread:

Quote

 

Well, that's interesting.

𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙡 𝘾𝙧𝙖𝙗 Retweeted

Replying to

@lummideast

and

@aawsat_News

Russia and Iran signed a document on the expansion of military cooperation. This is the first memorandum of understanding between countries of this kind. Also, countries will hold joint exercises until the end of the year. (link: https://iran.liveuamap.com/en/2019/29-july-russia-and-iran-signed-a-document-on-the-expansion)iran.liveuamap.com/en/2019/29-jul… #Iran

 

 

And people can't figure out why Russia would want trump in office??  It's right in front of your faces people.  :lmao: 

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So Brazil...

Run by Jair Bolsonaro, retired military who seems interested in returning the country to more of a military dictatorship.  Rode a similar type of populist wave to the presidency, though it now appears that there really was a conspiracy to take out the more left-leaning democratic politicians in the country through targeted corruption cases (which were seemingly mostly legitimate, but only focused on those on the left.) The current justice minister (appointed by Bolsonaro) was previously a federal judge overseeing the corruption probes, but now troves of text messages have come up showing that he was actually coordinating with the prosecutors. (leaks/corruption) This investigation led the imprisonment of the former president Da Silva, crippling his election campaign in 2018.

Brazil is a recent democracy and a decade ago was seen as a rising star in the world as part of the BRICS economies.  But that seems to have stagnated and Bolsonaro looks to be taking the country backward.  Particularly disquieting is the government's increased willingness to allow deforestation of the Amazon, which provides close to 25% of the oxygen on the planet, not to mention his allowance of unfettered violence among police officers and aggressive homophobia.

Also interesting is that Trump has just designated Brazil as a non-NATO ally, making it easier for the South American country to purchase U.S. weapons and defense equipment.  (non-nato ally)

does @msommer live in Brazil?

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7 hours ago, Long Ball Larry said:

So Brazil...

Run by Jair Bolsonaro, retired military who seems interested in returning the country to more of a military dictatorship.  Rode a similar type of populist wave to the presidency, though it now appears that there really was a conspiracy to take out the more left-leaning democratic politicians in the country through targeted corruption cases (which were seemingly mostly legitimate, but only focused on those on the left.) The current justice minister (appointed by Bolsonaro) was previously a federal judge overseeing the corruption probes, but now troves of text messages have come up showing that he was actually coordinating with the prosecutors. (leaks/corruption) This investigation led the imprisonment of the former president Da Silva, crippling his election campaign in 2018.

Brazil is a recent democracy and a decade ago was seen as a rising star in the world as part of the BRICS economies.  But that seems to have stagnated and Bolsonaro looks to be taking the country backward.  Particularly disquieting is the government's increased willingness to allow deforestation of the Amazon, which provides close to 25% of the oxygen on the planet, not to mention his allowance of unfettered violence among police officers and aggressive homophobia.

Also interesting is that Trump has just designated Brazil as a non-NATO ally, making it easier for the South American country to purchase U.S. weapons and defense equipment.  (non-nato ally)

does @msommer live in Brazil?

I don't live in Brazil any more but still talk to people who do.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bolsonaro is a mini Trump. There is also no doubt in my mind that Lula was guilty of the corruption he wassent to jail for, and more

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I was in a coffee shop last weekend and they happened to have the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.  https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2019-04-16/time-different

This article seemed to be trying to tie together a lot of the same threads that I have been thinking about.  You can't read the whole article without a sub, but toward the conclusion, I think the author gives a nice summary.  I don't agree with every single piece of this, but I do think that it properly characterizes the scope and nature of the future world if the U.S. continues to promote a heavily nationalistic and transactional foreign policy:

Quote

 

The Trump administration has unilaterally surrendered the set of ideals that guided U.S. policymakers for decades.  It is entirely proper to debate how much the United States should prioritize the promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law across the world.  What should be beyond debate, however, is that it is worthwhile to promote these values overseas and enshrine them at home.  Trump's ugly rhetoric makes a mockery of those values.  Although a future president might sound better on these issues, both allies and rivals will remember the current moment.  The seeds of doubt have been planted, and they will one day sprout.  

The factors that give the United States an advantage in the international system -- deep capital markets, liberal ideas, world-class higher education -- have winner-take-all dynamics. Other actors will be reluctant to switch away from the dollar, Wall street, democracy, and the Ivy League.  These sectors can withstand a few hits.  Excessive use of financial statecraft, alliances with overseas populists, or prolonged bouts of anti-immigrant hysteria, however, will force even close allies to start thinking about alternatives.  Teh American advantage in these areas will go bankrupt much like Mike Campbell in The Sun Also Rises did: "gradually and then suddenly."  Right now, the United States' Jenga tower is still standing.  Remove a few more blocks, however, and the wobbling will become noticeable to the unaided eye.

What would collapse look like?  The United States would remain a great power, of course, but it would be an ordinary and less rich one.  On an increasing number of issues, U.S. preferences would carry minimal weight, as China and Europe coordinated on a different set of rules.  Persistent domestic political polarization would encourage Middle Eastern allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, to line up with Republicans and European allies, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, to back Democrats.  The continued absence of any coherent grand strategy would leave Latin America vulnerable to a new Great Game as other great powers vied for influence there.  Demographic pressures would tax the United States, and the productivity slowdown would make those pressures even worse.  Trade blocs would sap global economic growth; reduced interdependence would increase the likelihood of a great-power war.  Climate change would be mitigated nationally rather than internationally, leaving almost everyone worse off.

 

We have already seen a rise of nationalism around the globe, and in a number of major players: U.K., Russia, China, Japan, Brazil, India, let alone many other places in Europe and also many traditionally tribal areas.  And the effects of this nationalism are already having foreign policy ramifications for the U.S.. For instance, Japan's nationalist streak has led some leaders to make inflammatory comments about their history in South Korea, making their alliance more tenuous.  The downstream effect on the U.S. is that it makes it more difficult to work with diplomats and intelligence in one of the most sensitive areas of the world.  Additionally, India's PM, perhaps seeing his election victory as an endorsement of his nationalistic policies, has decided to become more aggressive in the Kashmir region, reasserting India's claims to the territory disputed with Pakistan which has previously perhaps brought us close to a nuclear event.  Russia has of course been aggressive in this same way for many years now; China is trying to crack down in Hong Kong (not to mention the ongoing Uighur detention).

I have some skepticism of the article's claim that the U.S. will be seen as a bad actor across the world in future because of Trump.  I think that our many historical allies will recognize and understand who is in control of the U.S. and will have no trouble working with more cooperative U.S. leaders in the future (plus many will likely have no choice because the U.S. will continue to occupy a preeminent place in the world.  However, I do think that what the article gets right is that focusing on nationalistic independence could isolate the U.S. from future synergies that would benefit the U.S. economically, politically, informationally and environmentally.  I think that the current administration sees the world as a zero-sum game and on a strict case-by-case basis.  They push buttons on their enemies to see what happens without a good sense of what will happen in the future and considering the counterfactuals (which is largely driven by Trump's seemingly ingrained A/B testing philosophy). 

Perhaps the deepest and most important conflict where this is taking root is with China.  In the Frontline piece on the trade war from May, they described an intense conflict among White House advisors between nationalists and so-called "globalists".  Well, the globalists are pretty much gone now, meaning that we are far more likely to see more of Trump's brinkmanship in dealing with countries he deems as bad actors.  In this respect, I do think that Trump sees a certain long game, where the U.S. and China are vying for long-term power in the world (and for the record, I don't think that is necessarily wrong, though I will get into that in some other post at some point.)  But I think that his lack of perspective, nuance and really any detail about the interconnectedness of the world means that he will go down roads that he thinks will flex power and cause the Chinese to relent.  But the Chinese are so much more adaptable due to their massive resources, central control, and ability to wait things out, that they could draw Trump into a trap (whether intentional or not).  I don't think that Trump can win this game by just looking at it as a zero-sum game, despite the previous bad actions of China.  Those are sunk costs.  There is a future where the U.S. and China do not have to disentangle and in which the U.S. can benefit more than simply trying to remain the king of the hill.  My fear is that Trump repeating this action with many countries will lead to some of our allies forming stronger alliances within themselves and with other countries and that we do enter a period of greater separation among groups across the world and that losing out on those links will hinder the U.S. from moving forward. 

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Hong Kong getting stomped all over.

Russia has a nuclear incident.

Trump is meanwhile tweeting about Chris Cuomo and Clintons killing Epstein. 

Good grief how far we have slipped.

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I've been thinking lately about US policy toward China. In my view, China has become a world power on the dollars of American consumers, and I believe that this can be undone. To put it simply, would it be possible to provide aid and preferred trading to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Central American countries, or even Africa for infrastructure modernization and development of the products that Americans currently buy from China? Electronics might be more difficult due to sourcing of raw materials, but textiles and plastics, steel, auto parts, rubber, etc can be made elsewhere.

Using this link as a source, I find it hard to believe that we couldn't find/create another supplier for $425M worth of greeting cards or over $500M worth of disposable rubber gloves. In 2017, we imported $2.73B worth of "Electronic integrated circuits" from China, but that was only 8.2% of the total that was imported in that category. So where is the other 91+% coming from, and why can't we shift the remaining 8% there?

Whatever production we can incentivize from other sources serves our purposes of weakening China economically, which would in turn weaken them both geopolitically and militarily. It would be a longer game than I think we are used to, but China's rise has been meteoric. Maybe it's fall can be just as precipitous.

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4 hours ago, Tecumseh said:

I've been thinking lately about US policy toward China. In my view, China has become a world power on the dollars of American consumers, and I believe that this can be undone. To put it simply, would it be possible to provide aid and preferred trading to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Central American countries, or even Africa for infrastructure modernization and development of the products that Americans currently buy from China? Electronics might be more difficult due to sourcing of raw materials, but textiles and plastics, steel, auto parts, rubber, etc can be made elsewhere.

Using this link as a source, I find it hard to believe that we couldn't find/create another supplier for $425M worth of greeting cards or over $500M worth of disposable rubber gloves. In 2017, we imported $2.73B worth of "Electronic integrated circuits" from China, but that was only 8.2% of the total that was imported in that category. So where is the other 91+% coming from, and why can't we shift the remaining 8% there?

Whatever production we can incentivize from other sources serves our purposes of weakening China economically, which would in turn weaken them both geopolitically and militarily. It would be a longer game than I think we are used to, but China's rise has been meteoric. Maybe it's fall can be just as precipitous.

And this was the positive side of TPP.  Maybe the next President can restart those talks and eliminate some of the sovereignty issues and continue down this path.

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5 hours ago, Tecumseh said:

To put it simply, would it be possible to provide aid and preferred trading to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Central American countries, or even Africa for infrastructure modernization and development of the products that Americans currently buy from China?

I always think about how much further our spending could go in some of these places, particularly latin america. 

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8 hours ago, Tecumseh said:

To put it simply, would it be possible to provide aid and preferred trading to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Central American countries, or even Africa for infrastructure modernization and development of the products that Americans currently buy from China? Electronics might be more difficult due to sourcing of raw materials, but textiles and plastics, steel, auto parts, rubber, etc can be made elsewhere..

Maybe, but I think that China's Belt and Road Initiative could make that hard, considering that they are basically already doing that kind of stuff.

https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-massive-belt-and-road-initiative
 

Quote

 

Xi’s vision included creating a vast network of railways, energy pipelines, highways, and streamlined border crossings, both westward—through the mountainous former Soviet republics—and southward, to Pakistan, India, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Such a network would expand the international useof Chinese currency, the renminbi, while new infrastructure could “break the bottleneck in Asian connectivity,” according to Xi. (The Asian Development Bank estimates that the region faces a yearly infrastructure financing shortfall of nearly $800 billion.) In addition to physical infrastructure, China plans to build fifty special economic zones, modeled after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, which China launched in 1980 during its economic reforms under leader Deng Xiaoping.

China’s overall ambition for the BRI is staggering. To date, more than sixty countries—accounting for two-thirds of the world’s population—have signed on to projects or indicated an interest in doing so. Analysts estimate the largest so far to be the $68 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a collection of projects connecting China to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea. In total, China has already spent an estimated $200 billion on such efforts. Morgan Stanley has predicted China’s overall expenses over the life of the BRI could reach $1.2–1.3 trillion by 2027, though estimates on total investments vary.

What does China hope to achieve?

China has both geopolitical and economic motivations behind the initiative. Xi has promoted a vision of a more assertive China, while the new normal of slowing growth has put pressure on the country’s leadership to open new markets for its consumer goods and excess industrial capacity.

To date, more than sixty countries—accounting for two-thirds of the world’s population—have signed on to projects or indicated an interest in doing so.

 Experts see the BRI as one of the main planks of Chinese statecraft under Xi, alongside the Made in China 2025economic development strategy. For Xi, the BRI serves as pushback against the much-touted U.S. “pivot to Asia,” as well as a way for China to develop new investment opportunities, cultivate export markets, and boost Chinese incomes and domestic consumption.


 

 

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Recent BRI developments.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-14/china-s-belt-and-road-is-getting-a-reboot-here-s-why-quicktake

Quote

Since 2013 more than 130 countries have signed deals or expressed interest in projects geared to spurring trade along routes reminiscent of the ancient Silk Road. The World Bank estimates some $575 billion worth of railways, roads, ports and other projects have been or are in the process of being built. But President Xi Jinping’s signature effort has also come in for criticism including charges that China is exploiting poor countries -- luring them into debt traps -- for its own political and even military gain. The mixed reviews abroad and worries at home about the cost have led Chinainto something of a rethink as it tries to increase transparency, improve project quality and bring in deep-pocketed partners who can share the risk.

At a high-profile forum in April 2019, Xi signaled that the Chinese government would exert more control over BRI projects and tighten oversight. Rather than boasting about the initiative’s growth, as he did at the previous forum in 2017, he focused on steps China is taking to clean up its image, urging “higher quality” and “greener” projects and vowing “zero tolerance” for corruption. State-owned-enterprises, by far the biggest investors in BRI projects, are being told to beef up auditing and increase supervision for their overseas units and personnel. The government has been drafting rules for use of the BRI label to try to better protect its reputation.

Signs of a more cautious approach have emerged -- at least around its debt exposure. China has withheld some $4.9 billion in new loans for a major rail project it had been building in eastern Africa. The line was supposed to run from the Kenyan port city of Mombasa to Uganda and beyond, but only the stretch from the coast to Nairobi is done. China balked at funding the extension amid concerns that Kenya was at risk of debt distress. Revenue from the railway is supposed to repay the initial $3.6 billion loan, but critics say it won’t turn a profit for a long time. RWR Advisory Group, a Washington-based consulting firm, reported that the Export Import Bank of China backed out of providing financing for a giant solar project due to the Zimbabwean government’s legacy debts.

Italy in 2019 became the first Group of Seven country to sign a memorandum to join the BRI, despite pressure from many of its European Union partners and the U.S., providing a public relations coup for Beijing. After six years of wrangling, Russia quietly approved its first project designed specifically for the BRI: a toll road linking China’s western neighbor Kazakhstan with Belarus, which borders Poland and two other EU members. The second BRI forum attracted about three dozen world leaders, more than the first. Still, Asian powerhouses Japan and South Korea stayed away, as did the U.S. and the three biggest European economies: Germany, the U.K. and France.

 

 

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https://www.cfr.org/blog/trumps-trade-war-puts-belt-and-road-first

Interesting effect of China tariffs.

Quote

 

When he began slapping tariffs on Chinese exports last summer, President Trump said his actions would bring down America’s trade deficit. China, however, has retaliated by pressuring its firms to find alternative sellers for U.S. exports, from agricultural goods to oil, helping to increase the U.S. deficit with China to just over two percent of GDP—as the blue line on the above-left figure shows. Meanwhile, America’s global trade deficit has expanded by eight percent.

Though Trump’s tariffs have not rebalanced U.S.-China (or U.S. global) trade, they have helped reverse the flow of China’s trade with other nations. As the red line on the above-left figure shows, the overall emerging-market (EM) trade balance with China has, since the U.S.-China trade war began, soared toward surplus.

As China has cut its U.S. imports, it has bought commensurately more from the rest of the world. In particular, it has expanded trade with countries participating in its massive “Belt and Road” investment initiative (BRI). As the right-hand figure above shows, African and Latin American countries, many of which signed on to BRI last year, have been among the biggest winners of the U.S.-China decoupling. “The Sino-U.S. trade conflict, if it becomes long-term,” explained one China State Council official, “will definitely impact the import origins of some products.” BRI nations, in particular, were likely to “win orders from China for land-intensive agricultural products.”

 

 

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3 hours ago, parasaurolophus said:

I always think about how much further our spending could go in some of these places, particularly latin america. 

One thing that I have been thinking about writing about (though I need to research a lot more because as of now it is just a vague speculation) is about my perception that we have really drawn down our activities in the western hemisphere in the past 2 decades.  Perhaps because so much of our resources are tied up in the war on terror and elsewhere in the East.  But it seems like we used to have a much bigger hand in elections, leaders and activities within Latin and South America (not that all of that was right, of course) and that our loss in that area has led to some of the immigration issues and a lack of diversified sourcing.

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