Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Group Therapy: Another American Century?

The colony that brought Wall Street waves of profit throughout the cold war is getting stepped on by the colony that’s delivering even more today. In other words, Japan and China are not getting along. Hence, the Pacific Century is looking very much like a carbon copy of the American Century, as an arms race in North East Asia has matured steadily in this first decade of the millennium.

Washington is deeply invested in keeping its Pacific Fleet anchored in Japan and Korea and across China’s periphery, but also dependent on Chinese loans. In the upcoming weeks the Pentagon must choose between carrying out its threat to deploy an aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea or continue to bow to China’s demands.

China’s forceful move into US-guaranteed Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands may have seemed an unrelated incident, but it gave Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ pledge to include the USS George Washington in US-South Korea Yellow Sea exercises the weight of an ultimatum. How we arrived at an ultimatum that carries with it the determination as to whether things will be pacific, or that this will indeed be a New American Century requires a little background:

--In 1872 Japan billed China for damage caused by residents of Formosa. Japan’s feudal rulers knew how to make a thousand little hands churn out silk scarves for next to nothing and used the proceeds to buy some of those shiny new revolvers Commodore Perry wore on his belt. Still in spears and flintlocks, China paid the bill.

--Before Connecticut’s Electric Boat Company was purchased by General Dynamics it already had a bad reputation for selling submarines to both sides of the Japan-Russian war. Of course, that could hardly have dissuaded GD from adding it to their portfolio.

--And when Czar Nicholas finally got the bums rush in 1917, Japan earned the permanent appreciation of America’s railroad men by giving the revolution hell on the eastern front.

There are a few more chapters in that book before we get to the Chinese fisherman who rammed the Japanese Coast Guard earlier this month, but the story starts here, in the gentle waves of the Black Current.

There’s oil and gas deposits beneath these waters, and a string of South East Asian capitals abutting it. Yet the oil lies nearer to the surface of Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. As such, Wall Street claimed the Middle East, where keeping allies and enemies from getting a toe hold in the sand was perhaps the chief thrust of foreign policy in the American Century. (Keeping wages down, a close second).

By manipulating access to oil, it chose which economies grow and which grow fallow. But when Chinese ships pulled into Mid Eastern ports just over a year ago, China made clear it would not tolerate attempts at the US choking off its oil supply with the same resignation that European challenges to US hegemony over the region were characterized by.

Today China faces a new plague of obesity. Perhaps just overcompensation for people damn near starving to death each winter since the Yangtze Valley was civilized, as there is no minimum wage in a feudal society. Similarly, before Japan’s present corporate class grew fat on cold war bucks, its feudal lords dominated all but a tiny middle class on an archipelago that started in Siberia and stretched to Nagasaki.

When Japan invaded China in 1931, leading Japanese Barons, Mitsu and Iwasaki (of the trade groups Mitsui and Mitsubishi Electric, respectively) were tied up with the Western heavy industry/munitions far right: Dupont, General Electric, Ford, I.G. Farben, Standard Oil. Most of the latter group are no longer commonly associated with Nazi slavery or Japanese abductions, etc. of the period.

Second and third sons of Tohoku farmers, amid scarce jobs and limited inheritance were forced into the imperial army. That army tried to do in Manchuria and Korea what South Carolinians did in the Congo, and decimated the population of Nanking beyond words. It was a massacre not meant to be forgotten, and is still fresh in the minds of the people who welcomed the trawler captain home from Ishigaki prison on Friday.

The Chinese estimate as many as 600,000 were massacred in China’s then-capital, while the Japanese insist the number was much lower. The massacres and medical experiments in Europe that the corporate right helped underwrite were not meant to be forgotten either, though their corporate sponsors were.

Chinese media reminds Chinese who their enemies were, while consumers of US media haven't got a clue.

Discussions over uniting Chinese, Japanese and Korean currencies through a single, East Asian Community – perhaps the chief characteristic of any prospective Pacific Century -- have been delayed, in part, because of this history. China’s distaste for making deals with the scions of those who held power in Japan in the 1930s persists, while, ironically, the world has long ago obscured the results of US Senate investigations that revealed US backers of European and Asian authoritarianism.

Today, Asia's schism leaves sustainable economic and social development of Asia to be determined by the same interests who helped drive it apart.

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