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United States is Facing Historic Dilemma

[Editor’s note: The following is a translation of an article published by Liu Ji, Jiang Zeming’s advisor, in the Hong Kong Observer Star in October 2004]

As the world’s only superpower today, the United States has reached its pinnacle, economically, scientifically, technologically, and militarily. For example, the U.S. GDP exceeds ten trillion U.S. dollars, an equivalent of 30% of the total GDP in the world. In addition, 60% of the world’s capital, or 23 trillion dollars, are in U.S. reserves U.S.  This accounts for 70% of the foreign currency reserve of all countries. Of the 2003 U.S. budget, 393 billion dollars were allocated for national defense, which account for 36.3% of the defense budgets around the world. This exceeds the defense budgets of the other top fifteen nations combined. Because of its huge defense budget, United States is able to maintain 757 military bases in 130 countries around the world.

In particular, as a result of its economic growth, the U.S. has seen great potential in further expanding the defense budget.  Despite the relatively slow GDP growth rate of 2-4%, the economic growth must not be underestimated due to the astronomical base of the U.S. economy. As a result, it seems absurd to talk about the waning of U.S. as a whole. Very likely, most Americans would simply laugh at the idea.

– United States is facing dilemma in the twenty-first century

It seems farfetched to assert that such a super giant would fall down in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, the basic goal of strategic analysis is to foresee the nature and the general trend of matters. Strategically, it is not a mistake, in my opinion, to say that the United States has started to decline since the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and the super giant is facing a decline in the twenty-first century. The decisive reason is that the United States is facing a historic dilemma in the twenty-first century.

– Loss of prerequisites for rapid economic growth

The first aspect of the dilemma is that the United States must continue to maintain its leading position in economic growth that can be characterized as one that necessitates high living standards and high-level consumption.  Without it, the American people, who have enjoyed the “high living standards and high level consumption” in the past century would not be satisfied, and the result would be chaos in American politics.

What is the U.S. economy of high living standards and high-level consumption based on? Historically, the two world wars in the twentieth century created wealth for the U.S.  At the Breton Woods Conference, during the International Monetary Financial Conference, the U.S. leveraged its wartime advantages to force other countries to accept the official gold price of $35 U.S. dollars an ounce. Shortly within four years, the U.S. gold reserves jumped to $24.6 billion U.S. dollars in 1949, which accounted for 73.4% of the total gold reserves in the capitalist countries, leading to the dominance of the U.S. dollar in the world financial markets, a situation that still exists today. Such tremendous opportunities do not, and, at least in the foreseeable future, will not emerge again.

The concept of anti-terrorism goes beyond borders. Now the United States is no longer a peaceful land. To ensure the economic prosperity of high living standards and high- level consumption, the U.S. economy relies heavily on resources from around the world. According to some U.S. statistics, the U.S. population, which accounts for less than 5% of the world population, consumes 42% of the energy that the whole world consumes on an annual basis. That fact has been challenged, and other statistics indicate the number should be only 26%. Whichever number is more accurate, it is undeniable that the U.S. population consumes a huge amount of energy.

While I was visiting Taiwan, Chiang Wei-kuo, then the director of the Strategic Research Association, told me, “After many years of study, I found that out of the eighty strategic materials that impact the survival and the development of a country, United States only has one, and for the remaining 79 materials they have to depend on imports.”

The U.S. reliance on imports goes beyond material resources. In fact, in terms of brainpower, United States depends on imports as well. With its high living standards and high-level consumption, the United States has been able to import outstanding minds from developing nations, and even the developed nations in Western Europe. In the advanced science and technology sectors including microelectronics and bioengineering, as well as in the hi-tech industries, scientists and engineers from China and India form a significant proportion. The scientific and technological advantages and the resulting advances in production in the U.S. has become a huge propeller for its economy.

Even the available resources for the average citizen are increasingly becoming the bottleneck of the U.S. economy. Among the generations that have been enjoying high living standards and high-level consumption, those who excel have become senior hi-tech workers or managers; even the average employees are making good salaries, which increase the cost of the work force and weaken the competitiveness of American firms. Those who are not employed at their level of education and ability and yet do not want to become low-salary workers still are living at a standard above other countries.  As a consequence, United States has to import workers to do labor for low wages, and even accepts various forms of illegal labor. Such a situation certainly has some historic reasons. Nevertheless, since what constitutes history is changing fundamentally, it becomes increasingly difficult for U.S. to maintain its position in the wave of peaceful development and economic globalization around the world. As many countries are developing peacefully, they will have to utilize their own resources. Therefore the United States will face formidable challenges to support its high living standards and high-level consumption economy merely by relying on the world resources.

– World Domination and Robbery is only a dream

Another aspect of the U.S. dilemma is reliance on strong military power and the export of its ideology to establish the politics of world domination.  The U.S. must secure the ability to obtain sufficient world resources to support the high living standards and high-level consumption of the U.S. economy and to maintain the stability of its domestic politics.

The Iraqi war is, by nature, a war to secure the oil resources in Middle East. It has been clearly confirmed that the excuse for launching the Iraqi war, namely the coalition of Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden, with Saddam as the supporter of the terrorism, and the Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction, are all but untrue! The criteria of the politics of world domination are that if you don’t give me resources, I will be against you and I will treat you with missiles and battleships.  An example of this is the Bush administration’s unilateralist and “preemptive” measures. As Professor Paul Kennedy, the historian at Yale University, pointed out, “To some Americans, there is only one reality, which is the reality that the United States is the only superpower in the world that nobody can challenge. Any other forces, including Europe, Russia, China, and Arabic nations, can only accept the fact. Any attempt to complain will be like blowing whistles in the wind.”

However, as the rule of history tells us, “wherever there is oppression, there is resistance,” and “the longer it continues, the stronger the resistance.” If the U.S. battles this today and that tomorrow, not only will its military expenses skyrocket (the Iraqi war has so far incurred direct cost of 300 billion U.S. dollars), but also, the day will come when the economy simply cannot sustain (as was evidenced by the fall of Spanish and British empires in the history). More importantly, the United States would surely become the common enemy of the world.

The politics of dominance the U.S. demonstrates is also in the form of ideological exports. It is the U.S. tradition to force other nations and other people to accept their ideology. Back in 1898, Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. President, had a famous saying, “It is our mission to Americanize the world.” Most recently, in the 2002 “National Security Strategy Report” by the Bush Administration, it reads, “In the 21st century, United States has the opportunity to bolster the victory of freedom in all enemy nations. United States welcomes the responsibility to lead in this great mission.” (Translator Note: The original words in the National Security Strategy Report, not exactly the same as in Liu’s quotation, were “Today, humanity holds in its hands the opportunity to further freedom’s triumph over all these foes. United States welcomes the responsibility to lead in this great mission.”)  However the fight for freedom, democracy, and human rights, and the fight against the politics of dominance are becoming more and more intense.

By and large, United States will be inevitably facing the historic dilemma in the twenty-first century: without hegemony, the U.S. will not be able to maintain the high living standards and high-level consumption economy and the lives of its people as supported by the world resources, or to maintain the stability of its domestic politics. The U.S. will fall in the wave of turbulence created by the lack. On the other hand, if United States continues its path of hegemony and pushes forward its military dominance, its ideology, and its politics, it will become the common enemy of the world, and eventually be destroyed by anti-U.S. movements around the world.

– We are Hopeful for American people to resolve the issue

We do not want to see United States to fall or become extinct, because the fall of U.S. will have too much of an impact on the world economy in the globalization era. As the Judeo-Christian saying states, “If God wants a person to be destroyed, He will first drive him crazy.” We do not wish to see the U.S. to go crazy, either, because the world would pay a costly price. All we hope for is that the American people will eventually find an intelligent solution to their dilemma — they must abolish the hegemony and notions of world dominance while maintaining the U.S. prosperity.

Originally Published in Chinese on Observer Star.