spot_img
Friday, April 12, 2024
More
    HomePoliticsBalancing on the precipice

    Balancing on the precipice

    -

    The Western world remains under the spell of the Ukraine and Middle East wars, refugee and domestic political crises – meanwhile military tensions are growing in the Far East. China ignores maritime borders with military maneuvers and provokes its neighbors; it is building artificial islands in the South China Sea; Above all, it claims sovereign, democratic Taiwan as its own, threatens invasion and forced annexation, and calls it a “sacred patriotic duty.”

    “China is dramatically upgrading its navy, its missile stocks, which are already the largest in the world, and its nuclear weapons,” writes Matthias Naß. “The military potential of the People’s Republic is increasingly perceived as threatening. In Japan, in India and in Australia.” The USA has long been on alert, and Europe is now also nervously watching what is brewing in East Asia.

    Matthias Naß: Ruthless power politics

    The Time-Journalist, deputy editor-in-chief from 1998 to 2010, international correspondent since 2011, is an expert on the region and on Atlantic-Chinese relations, which are “deteriorating dramatically.” The People’s Republic is pursuing a ruthless power policy; it has intensified repression in its own country and aggressively enforced its interests abroad, “even towards a country as small as Lithuania, just because she didn’t like its friendly attitude towards Taiwan.” She made a fool of herself with the goodwill that was shown to her from Europe. “This is now taking its revenge. And it is uniting the West,” says Naß.

    As an author, the 71-year-old also demonstrates his in-depth knowledge of the region, he plausibly assesses developments and events, and his analysis of the conflict situation reads understandably and without fluff. However, some things that once had meaning have been overtaken by the course of events. Do you want to see a detailed replay of the visit of then Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in August 2022 in the fall of 2023? Or the participation of former Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in an international conference in spring 2021 on the Pacific island of Guam? Just because Naß had already reported extensively on it as a correspondent? Especially since this chapter was published verbatim as a report in the Time had appeared.

    The political book: Mathias Naß: Collision.  China, the USA and the struggle for global political supremacy in the Indo-Pacific.  CH Beck publishing house, Munich 2023. 282 pages, 26.90 euros.  E-book: 19.99 euros.

    Mathias Naß: Collision. China, the USA and the struggle for global political supremacy in the Indo-Pacific. CH Beck publishing house, Munich 2023. 282 pages, 26.90 euros. E-book: 19.99 euros.

    (Photo: CH Beck)

    Naß is reminiscent of the “frenzy” in which the German economy “stormed” eastward since the beginning of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in the late 1970s. And a policy that did its best to open doors. “When it came to China, all chancellors saw themselves as CEOs of Deutschland AG. When they set off for Beijing, the leaders of the most important DAX companies crowded into the government plane. (…) Criticism of the human rights violations was seen as incorrigible ‘do-gooderism’ ridiculed. German China policy was economic development policy.”

    When it comes to the ingratiation and subservience of German corporate bosses in their China business, Naß’ overall assessment is mild. One misses the point that hardly any CEO used his status to appropriately criticize the oppression and persecution of ethnic minorities or political dissidents.

    Taiwan will be the test case of whether the United States and China can find peaceful coexistence, Naß concludes. Nowhere is there a greater risk of a regional conflict turning into a world war. He quotes Australian politician Kevin Rudd: Even a regional war between the two countries would be enough to trigger “truly seismic geopolitical shifts around the world.”

    Kevin Rudd: Instructions for action to Washington

    This same Rudd also publishes on the topic. In a good 250 pages, he traces the genesis of Chinese-American relations, as well as the role of Europe and other regions of the world. This abridged version of his 2022 “Avoidable War” could certainly have been streamlined further, particularly the 25-page, chatty introduction. Australia’s former prime minister (2007 to 2010 and 2013) has been ambassador to the USA since this year. The 66-year-old Sinologist is qualified for the topic: He has lived, studied and worked in both countries, he met Xi Jinping and various US presidents, he admires both nations equally and, as he tirelessly emphasizes, he speaks Mandarin fluently.

    The Political Book: Kevin Rudd: The Avoidable War.  The threat of catastrophic conflict between the United States and Xi Jinping's China.  Translated from English by William Boer.  Weltkiosk-Verlag, Berlin 2023. 256 pages, 22 euros.The Political Book: Kevin Rudd: The Avoidable War.  The threat of catastrophic conflict between the United States and Xi Jinping's China.  Translated from English by William Boer.  Weltkiosk-Verlag, Berlin 2023. 256 pages, 22 euros.

    Kevin Rudd: The avoidable war. The threat of catastrophic conflict between the United States and Xi Jinping’s China. Translated from English by William Boer. Weltkiosk-Verlag, Berlin 2023. 256 pages, 22 euros.

    (Photo: World Kiosk)

    Rudd is not satisfied with the position of knowing observer and interpreter. “The Avoidable War” reads like a mix of political legacy, instructions to Washington and Beijing and a letter of application for even higher orders. Here writes the (ex-)politician who has an insight into global events – “As already mentioned, Chinese political thinking is rarely properly understood in the West” – the elder statesman, who could do better if they let him: “As someone who speaks Mandarin, I have been able to speak directly to my counterparts in the Chinese government and other officials in their language as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Australia. Western leaders will have to do the same in the future.” Rudd sees his book as “a roadmap that is intended to help the two great nations find a common path into the future,” but it turns out to be over-doctrinaire and even arrogant.

    The Political Book: They are at least talking to each other: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and his counterpart Wang Yi (right) in Washington at the end of October 2023.The Political Book: They are at least talking to each other: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and his counterpart Wang Yi (right) in Washington at the end of October 2023.

    After all, they are talking to each other: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and his counterpart Wang Yi (right) in Washington at the end of October 2023.

    (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP)

    Rudd’s analysis of China’s crude strategies is sometimes brutally clear, and he takes sensible positions. But they often get lost in convoluted sentences and awkward German, such as: “Based on what has been publicly reported about American and Chinese war games, the prospect of the United States achieving a decisive ‘victory’ in such a war is also less likely than the other way around.”

    The author emphasizes that it is not an academic text; there are neither footnotes nor a bibliography. However, anyone who evaluates world events should provide evidence. Rudd’s vanity culminates in a final interview chapter (“Five Questions for Kevin Rudd”), with no indication of who interviewed him here. So one suspects that Rudd was talking to himself. However, he did not come to any conclusions other than those in his extensive introduction. “I wish I hadn’t had to write this book,” is Rudd’s opening sentence. Well, one might reply, no one forced him.

    Josef Braml, Mathew Burrows: Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

    Josef Braml and Mathew Burrows provide material for prophets of doom. Their topic is “How China and the USA are sliding into a new world war.” The two think tank employees compare the current world situation with the eve of the First World War. At that time, dream and sleepwalkers ruled Europe, according to the authors, and today the powers are also heading towards an abyss; Russia’s attack on Ukraine may have been just the beginning. The political consultant Braml and the former CIA employee Burrows draw up gloomy scenarios, whispering about the “approaching four apocalyptic horsemen of conquest, war, the resurgence of poverty and famine and the death of our planet.” Be it the financial crisis, the collapse of Libya and Syria, the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, hurricanes Sandythe conflict in Ukraine, the rise of the “Islamic State”, the wave of migrants, Brexit, Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election or the floods in the Ahr Valley: In view of numerous crises, disasters and conflicts, a global war is looming.

    However, the historical comparison does not want to be made, but rather limps through the 160 pages. There were, of course, then as now, threatening scenarios, such as “the naval rivalry between Germany and Great Britain before the First World War” and thus “a well-documented historical competition that has some worrying similarities to today’s Sino-American economic and military war games.” the conditions today are completely different. Trying to construct parallels doesn’t help, especially when it comes to solving a problem, and so no coherent argument develops in this hidden object picture book. Braml and Burrows jump between eras, events, continents, ideologies and politicians.

    The Political Book: Josef Braml, Methew Burrows: The Dreamwalkers.  How China and the USA are sliding into a new world war.  CH Beck publishing house, Munich 2023. 198 pages, 18 euros.  E-book: 12.99 euros.The Political Book: Josef Braml, Methew Burrows: The Dreamwalkers.  How China and the USA are sliding into a new world war.  CH Beck publishing house, Munich 2023. 198 pages, 18 euros.  E-book: 12.99 euros.

    Josef Braml, Methew Burrows: The dream walkers. How China and the USA are sliding into a new world war. CH Beck publishing house, Munich 2023. 198 pages, 18 euros. E-book: 12.99 euros.

    (Photo: CH Beck)

    The wobbly thesis is accompanied by a German that is as awkward as it is clumsy, for example: “The huge gap between living standards is not really understood by the Western public, only the fact that the US and Western middle classes feel like losers in the globalization game and others, particularly China, are perceived as having stolen well-paying manufacturing jobs that were the bedrock of a comfortable middle-class existence in the industrialized West.” Some sentences remain incomprehensible even after reading them several times (“There is a palpable concern that America’s power relative to its challenger China is decreasing in relative terms, even though the topic is taboo in most elite circles.”), others are unintentionally funny (“fueling a Cold War “). Incorrect, meaning-warping subjunctives, incorrect prepositions, unclear temporal references and annoying word repetitions make reading even more difficult. The actual, serious questions are lost in this labyrinth: the Taiwan crisis, hyper-nationalism, China’s economic vulnerability, threatening gestures in the South China Sea.

    Chris Miller: Microchip dependencies

    The American historian Chris Miller delivers by far the best book in this collection, and he does you the favor of concentrating on one aspect, or rather on a tiny object, of the American-Chinese conflict: the computer chip. The particles that are now found in almost all electrical devices, from smartphones, televisions, refrigerators, dentist drills to car and rocket engines.

    We owe our modern world to computer chips or semiconductors; we depend on “trillions of transistors and a handful of irreplaceable companies,” says Miller, and the fate of entire nations depends on their ability to exploit the potential of microelectronics. The US’s military supremacy is largely based on the efficient use of chips in the defense industry. However, only a very small number of companies control their production. The Californian tech company Apple, for example, does not produce a single one of these chips.

    The Political Book: Chris Miller: The Chip War.  How the USA and China are fighting for technological supremacy in the world.  Translated from English by Hans-Peter Remmler and Doro Siebecke.  Rowohlt-Verlag, Hamburg 2023. 500 pages, 30 euros.  E-book: 27.99 euros.The Political Book: Chris Miller: The Chip War.  How the USA and China are fighting for technological supremacy in the world.  Translated from English by Hans-Peter Remmler and Doro Siebecke.  Rowohlt-Verlag, Hamburg 2023. 500 pages, 30 euros.  E-book: 27.99 euros.

    Chris Miller: The Chip War. How the USA and China are fighting for technological supremacy in the world. Translated from English by Hans-Peter Remmler and Doro Siebecke. Rowohlt-Verlag, Hamburg 2023. 500 pages, 30 euros. E-book: 27.99 euros.

    (Photo: Rowohlt)

    No other area of ​​the economy is so dependent on so few companies. Chips from Taiwan account for 37 percent of the world’s new computing power produced annually. With Xi Jinping’s threats of invasion, there is a lot at stake in the Far East. The global economy could become hostage in this dangerous political conflict. “Even a partial blockade by Chinese troops would have devastating consequences,” writes Miller. A single missile attack on TSMC’s most advanced chip factory could easily result in hundreds of billions of dollars in damage.

    The USA (in design) and its allies (Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Netherlands) still dominated the market for high-performance silicon chips, which gave Silicon Valley its name. “However, this supremacy is under threat,” warns the economic historian. “China now spends more every year on importing chips than on oil.” In order to free the semiconductor industry from America’s grip, the country is investing billions of dollars in the development of its own chip technology: “If this strategy is successful, Beijing will be able to reshape the global economy and readjust the military balance.”

    Washington also knows this and reacts accordingly. Since 2022, President Joe Biden has been forging an international alliance to cut off China’s access to the latest generation of chips. If he succeeds, Beijing’s plan for global technology leadership from robotics to space travel will be at risk.

    In good American style, Miller explains the dimensions and functions of chips, semiconductors and transistors in a layman’s terms and in an entertaining way. “The Chip War” resembles a business thriller at times, and the book also impresses with its practical handling: well-explained maps, photos, an extensive glossary, index and list of people make reading and getting used to specialist vocabulary easier. And if the company and entrepreneur biographies are too detailed for you, you can skip through them thanks to the logical structure. The original 2022 edition rightly won the award “Financial Times Business Book of the Year”.

    Related articles

    LEAVE A REPLY

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Latest posts