After China’s Decline: 3 Futures for the National-Security State
What will the national security state do with itself if it becomes evident that China is in long-term relative decline?
I think about this question more than is probably healthy, but Raja Menon posed it in a good, triggering way on Twitter:
Why the media has jumped on the narrative of China decline is a little puzzling, because China’s very real economic troubles have been simmering since the late ‘90s. The accumulation of bad debt, chronic low consumption, overcapacity in key sectors, and a giant real estate bubble are not new problems—they’re just more acute than usual at the moment.
To know this is to know that adaptation/managing through the “crisis” is more likely than total implosion, and that China as a high-growth engine was always going to taper off. The smarter political economy folks I track expected the end of the growth miracle would’ve started a decade ago.
So Chinese decline—relative to its past growth trajectory—has been inevitable. And decline relative to the US—which is also in a long-term relative decline—is more than plausible too.
Why does this matter? Because it takes a sledgehammer to the very foundation of Washington’s claims about China threatening to take over the world. A declining power is not in a position to become global hegemon.
So I just want to point out two things, one concise and one more elaborate.
First, regardless whether China declines or keeps rising, it can’t supplant the US position in the world system as it exists, as I recently explained. Straight up.
Second, we can see three most-likely paths for the national security state once the evidence of a no-longer-rising-China becomes impossible to refute. They’re all horrific for the rest of us…unless “we” can populate the national security state’s imagination with alternative visions or win enough political power to bridle it.