Empires rise because a group of people becomes more prosperous than their neighbours. This enhanced prosperity is usually the result of the superior management of the economy, society and resources. Relative prosperity gives the group the ability to project power.
As can be seen from the graph below, we are at a turning point in the history of the current empires. The previous change in imperial domination was due to the decline in the wealth of the British Empire after the First World War. Notice that the fall in GDP happened before the British Empire contracted in extent.
|Relation of empire to GDP
Empires are inevitable in a world that has a diversity of states. The world is not yet ready for global government and if such a global empire were to be imposed there would either be rebellion within decades or the total stifling of humanity to ensure control. This means that we are destined to see the rise and fall of empires for at least a few centuries to come provided WWIII does not happen.
The economic changes within empires are the real drivers of imperial succession but it is easy to look at the results of these economic changes, such as social unrest, and blame these for imperial decay.
The British Empire provides a good record of the social changes that accompany imperial decay. In the late nineteenth century nothing could threaten the British Empire so the governing class became full of hubris and a huge sense of security. This continued after victory in the First World War when the UK and USA were joint global superpowers. However, decline continued and the British government just assumed that the system that had performed so well in their youth would continue to do so. Obvious threats were disregarded such was the confidence of the Establishment.
After WWI the British Empire was no longer strong enough to disregard threats and its opponents knew this. Foreign powers such as the Soviet Union established subversive groups in universities that were dedicated to the overthrow of democracy and British power and the British Establishment said “boys will be boys” and did nothing. The Axis powers armed themselves to the teeth and the Establishment said “the Navy will stop them”. By 1939 this overconfidence was entirely out of kilter with the relative state of the UK economy.
In the two decades after WWII the British relinquished the Empire. It was not lost, it was given up. The British discovered that this had little effect on their individual prosperity but it greatly affected their power. Most British people did not care because real power had become unnecessary beneath the Allied treaty umbrella.
The hubris of the Establishment continues to this day and means that they apply the same economic model to the contracting phase of empire as they learnt at the peak. They continue to believe that foreign trade is the answer. In “Imperial Think” they do not understand that the correct course of action is to set up defences and restore the central economy, all the time hoping that any rising empire does not attack them before a new, world beating, economy is established that can defend our way of life. International trade is, of course, desirable but of much greater importance is a robust and innovative national economy.
Although the Americans like to think of the rise of the USA after WWI as the succession of the USA to the status of global hegemon what actually happened is that the Western Alliance become dominant economically and the USA became dominant militarily. The new empire should be called the “West” and it controlled over half of global GDP for 60 years. In economic and social terms it was very much the continuation of the British Empire with the governance shifting to Washington.
Each empire arose because of innovations that had a huge economic impact. Ancient Greece rose on the invention of democracy and civic culture, the Romans rose on engineering skills and the deft management of a slave economy, Charlemagne centred the village and town on the Church as a holy Roman Empire, the Arabs used Islam to centralise power and this was co-opted by the Ottomans, the Han Chinese invented the Civil Service and the British used science, industry and banking. The USA turned science, industry and banking into an art form for generating prosperity.
At the turn of the twentieth century it looked like China would become yet another Western country. However, the availability of information technology meant that it was unnecessary for China to relinquish tyranny to obtain prosperity. China discovered that almost one and a half billion people could be closely controlled yet permitted to develop their personal wealth.
The rise of China is being accompanied by civil unrest in the USA and, to some extent, in the UK. This is to be expected because serious civil unrest is almost always due to the meddling of foreign powers. The French Empire financed and supported the Secession of the USA from the British Empire, the USA supported the French Revolution, the Germans financed Lenin, the Russians financed Mao, the industrial unrest in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s was Soviet inspired. The USA financed the birth of the EU and the overthrow of more leftist governments than we can easily count.
China is exceptionally adept at subversion.
China has penetrated the UK Government and Corporate Elite, largely as a result of the corruption and hidden ownership that is possible by using the trillion dollar Chinese Cayman and Virgin Island Accounts. (See Daily Mail: China grooming storm).
The usual anti-British suspects such as Lord Heseltine (President of the European Movement) and Peter Mandelson are involved. Heseltine is even a major patron of the Chinese 48 Group, Tony Blair was on the list but only his sister in law remains to keep the seat warm after the group became the focus of public interest.
China is practicing international Jujitsu, it has watched Western politics and assessed which destabilising movements fit the bill of being supported by the Corporate Elite and by active members on the ground. The Soviet Union had already primed their fifth column with the idea of race war in the late 1960s (Black Liberation Movement – BLM – Black Lives Matter – see History of the Modern Black Liberation Movement). China set its Maoist sympathisers in the West loose.
Obviously there are rights and wrongs in any civil unrest but the elevation of unrest to create serious political damage needs external help, like the EU and USA are helping Belarus. BLM will sputter out but it dents the sense of purpose of the USA at a critical moment in the game of empires.
What is most interesting is that the Establishment in the USA still believes that China is no more than a regional power. This has strong echoes of British hubris at the end of Empire.
Where do we go from here? China is showing the way with its innovative use of information technology. In the West automation happened last century and IT has only shifted sales from retail outlets to online stores, IT has not boosted the UK economy in the past 25 years but it has boosted China. The features of the Chinese economy that can be copied without destroying our liberties are a National Firewall which keeps online sales within the domestic market and the central direction of IT infrastructure. China is now continuing a largely closed economy which allows the gross imbalance between Chinese wages and prices and those of the rest of the world (this is why China’s GDP is greater than that of the USA on the PPP measure but considerably less in international dollars).
No-one in the UK wants another empire but if we are to survive the rise of China we will need to automate the production of industrial commodities plus providing widely available low cost, small scale automation and provide sufficient income to sustain demand and produce the concentration of wealth needed for innovation. This displacement of the economy will require the Chinese model of economic openness. Only an automated economy will be able to counter the threat from China, it cannot be done by pursuing the policies of the past.
What happens if we do not act? When there is a change of dominant empire the whole world changes to imitate it. Imitating China’s automated autocracy will be very attractive to many countries and China will help finance the necessary changes. Winning the game of empires is crucial if we are to avoid global government on the Chinese model. China has played a masterstroke by helping to push racism into conflict. It is ironic that perhaps the most racist country on Earth has paralysed the West in this way. China will probably manage to persuade us that it is racist to say that it is attempting to become a dominant empire because while they are perceived as not being dominant it must be the West that is racist by accusing them of ambition.
A note on the extension of “racism”
The extension of “racism” to include the concept of the “nation” or other localised groups is a remarkable development. Without separate groups it becomes impossible for diversity to develop and hence far harder for new systems of social and economic management to arise. The extension of “racism” to cover national separateness stymies progress and diversity. It also devalues the idea of racism within a society. It is absurd to equate discrimination by skin colour with the protection of independent cultures and systems in nation states.
Who is responsible for the blurring of “racism” into the condemnation of the diversity of nations? Multinational corporations who want no barriers to their global trading dominance, competing empires which desire the removal of hot spots that could develop into competitors and “the other”, the academics and public service broadcasters who are government financed and see themselves as unattached to reality.
It is ironic that once “racism” is extended to include benign nationalism the anti-racist begins to discriminate against diversity and becomes racist. This has given us a truly postmodern racist anti-racism. Our media have excelled themselves.
This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog: https://pol-check.blogspot.com/2020/10/the-fall-of-empires.html