Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dr. George T. " Sam" Crane is Professor of Political Science at Williams College, where he is the Chair of the Asian Studies Department and- quite appropriately - is teaching a course on war and globalization. The author of Aidan's Way: The Story of a Boy's Life and a Father's Journey and numerous articles on international relations, Professor Crane is also the respected and discerning blogger at The Useless Tree, a blog devoted to world affairs examined through the prism of classical Chinese philosophy .

Globalization and Conflict in East Asia

by Sam Crane

I go back and forth on this question: has globalization had more of a positive effect or more of a negative effect on war over the past thirty years or so? Globalization has obviously contributed to the reduction in interstate war among advanced industrial countries, especially in Europe; but it has also spawned nationalist backlashes in various places and has engendered new forms of networked threats. The news seems generally good when one looks at the numbers of combat deaths reported in the new Human Security Report (which might need to have a post of its own), but then there is China.

China has obviously benefited from globalization and the extraordinary economic growth there has certainly allowed it to modernize its military. The potential threat of that improving military is offset to some degree by its intensifying interconnections with global institutions and its interdependence on foreign trade and investment. It is, in many ways, a status quo power. But globalization has also contributed to the strengthening of a new popular nationalism that resents slights by the US and other powers, and takes an especially hard line against Japan. The overall effect has been to raise the possibility of conflict in East Asia.

The problem is both general and particular. In general, China’s rise has contributed to Japanese fears (North Korea has also worried the Japanese), pushing Tokyo further down the road to constitutional revision that will allow it to have a “real” military and pressing it into a closer military relationship with the US, especially on the Taiwan issue . China, of course, notices these changes and does not like what it sees .

By themselves, these general trends might not be too dangerous; they could be offset by a strategic calculation in both Beijing and Tokyo that going to war is just too costly. But there is a more specific issue that could spark direct conflict: oil.

China’s globalization-driven economic growth has increased the demand for oil world-wide, and made petroleum diplomacy a priority for Beijing. Tokyo also worries about supplies. Add to this the specific territorial disputes between China and Japan in the East China Sea, an area said to have petroleum reserves, and we have the makings of a tense standoff .

So, globalization, in this case, may be increasing the possibility of interstate war. Thirty years ago the likelihood of a conflict between China and Japan was infinitesimal. Mao had buried the hatchet with Tokyo in 1972, when he dropped a demand for war indemnities in return for Japanese recognition of the PRC. No Chinese dared to get out on the streets and protest against past war crimes. And in Japan then there was something of a “China fever” as business interests eyed the seemingly endless opportunities. Fast forward to today and the ruling party in Japan has identified China as its most significant strategic threat and China is sending warships into the East China Sea to ward Japan off its oil exploration . And this change has happened as globalization has deepened in both places.

General theories that suggest globalization reduces the likelihood of interstate war are fairly persuasive. The problem comes when we dig more deeply into specific relationships. The China-Japan relationship is worsening. The reason why no shooting has broken out yet may have more to do with old-fashioned balance of power dynamics (which are not set in stone and could tip out of balance under the right circumstances) and less with globalization.
One could also argue China's recent outpouring of nationalism is not just manipulation by a party otherwise devoid of ideas, but a popular expression of mass desire by a populace that have been fed a steady diet of such material for years but had the means to express it repressed.
Good points by Sam. Didn't world war 1 take place when globalization was at a (pre Washington consensus) height.

This portends the stregnthening of the India-Japan relationship, and hopefully a ton of FDI coming India's way.
Perhaps a little globalization, like a little learning, can be a dangerous thing. The cure would appear to be more interconnectedness but that may be a hard sell in countries with a history of near or complete autarky.

This isn't just true of India and China. France's arguments against eliminating agricultural subsidies in the recent trade conference were, essentially, autarkic ones.
Vikram wrote:

"Good points by Sam. Didn't world war 1 take place when globalization was at a (pre Washington consensus) height."

Yes and No.

While Globalization I. took off after Great Britain repealed the Corn Laws and adopted Free Trade and Central Europe began to coalesce into nation-states like Italy and Germany ( eliminating trade barriers of the old petty principalities)1900-1914 represents a retreat from Globalization.

The United States led the charge with high tariffs and a strong protectionist regime. The critical tipping point though was Joseph Chaimberlain convincing Parliament to follow suit with " Imperial Preference" and the abandonment of Free Trade.

This autarlic-beggar thy neighbor put Germany at a terrible disadvantage as she had to import sizable quantities of raw materials and export finished, industrial goods. Ditto Japan and to a lesser extent France. Brooks Adams predicted that protectionism could lead to a general war as early as 1898 and tried to convince the American elite to lower trade barriers.
I'd go a bit further to say that the interdependence of pre-1914 was structurally distinct from the globalization of today. Diffusion of production processes are really quite different now than the more nationally-based production of the earlier time. So, today's announcement that the US trade deficit has hit a new record must be qualified by the observation that a good deal of that trade is intra-firm trade. And when we think of globalization in China we have to remember that we are talking about thousands of US subsidiaries there. Economic nationalism is much harder to sustain these days because the territorial basis of economic activity has shifted so much...As regards my points about East Asia, the distinct nature of today's globalization raises the costs for China and Japan going to war. The question is: does the perceived benefit of direct access to energy sources trump the high costs of going to war?
“The question is: does the perceived benefit of direct access to energy sources trump the high costs of going to war?”, Sam.
I suppose this statement would be an answerable question, if energy had anything to do with the situation. Otherwise, the energy question is only partially true. Oil and I suppose natural gas is used to make things out of, not to waste burning. The issue between Japan and the rest of Asian is who gets to be the people calling the shots by supplying “things” to their people? It is kind of hard to have an implicitly bankrupted nation like China in charge. Their implicit laws moved to Taiwan and never moved back.

You see, when the clans of China combined under one rule, the implicit laws that were unique to each clan passed on to that single ruler. Or I should say the laws that enabled all the clans to live under one rule were passed on. If a country were to lose those rules another bastardized form would have to take its place. Until those rules that were present at the time when a single China was created are restored, bullets will simply rule China. Of course for all I know it could have been simply bullets or spears, or what ever was used at the time, that forever binds them. In that case China will simply remain China.

On the other hand Japan’s implicit laws never quite left Japan. None of those nuclear bombs touched the Emperor of Japan. Their implicit laws are still safely tucked away, as far as I know. This was quite different for the clans of China. The Chinese implicit laws tying the nation together moved to Taiwan, along with the nationalists. While Taiwan is virtually one with China, how Taiwan will be assimilated into China will still have to be worked out.

It might be true that democracy can bind the clans of China. However for that to happen democracy will have to reach the individuals of all the clans. As long as our effort is in reaching the people not in power, democracy will have a chance in China. Otherwise, a nation held together simply by bullets, if indeed that is the case, will simply continue.

If that which binds China is in the form of “things” instead of bullets, it takes a lot of oil to make those “things”. So, for Japan it matters if China is building those things for Japan, or the other way around. The nation who controls those “things”, or bullets, rules. If you write “oil” where I wrote “things” the importance of the situation is realized.

I don’t believe that Japan will ever let China rule. It is about implicit laws not oil. If China is allowed to rule over Japan, then the implicit laws that are in place for that to happen are then part of China. When the clans fought, war gave those implicit laws to each clan. To fight your enemy is to know him. To win, you have to know him very well. The clans were tied together simply because they were at war all the time. Written law did not tie the clans together, they were united clans because they fought constantly.

Just to change the subject a little, Professor Rummel points out in his post, if no one really cares it is far cheaper to use bullets on your own people instead of attacking a foreign country or a clan to acquire wealth. With this in mind, China is quite naturally slow in adopting another way, although it looks like she is starting to pay big time for her bullets. I suppose the real question is who are those bullets for?

When deciding if to acquire wealth for your people or using bullets on your people, the nuclear bomb kind of makes the bullet option less costly. Look at North Korea. It is hardly costing their government anything to rule. For the cost of maintaining nuclear weapons, their government survives. Just think how much South Korea spends. North Korea is really doing it on the cheep! If South Korea wants to spend the price, I bet North Korea would say welcome home South Korea.

As to the relationship between China and North Korea it is like our relationship with Mexico, if Mexico was on steroids. The wealth of the enabled nation is concentrated at the top and doesn’t get sent to the people at the bottom. The bottom assets of the country then immigrate to the enabler country, and a love-hate relationship follows. Unlike our relationship with Mexico, in which both countries have strong implicit laws, Korea brings with it a strong set of implicit laws, which China does not have. The leaders of the enabler country of China are envious of how the wealth is divided and of the implicit laws ruling Korea.

The enormity of China being able to influence the USA will be overshadowed by its ability to influence Japan. To acquire the implicit laws that are needed to accomplish this task will be great. China will become the greatest nation ever. The impulse to try this will be almost unbearable for the leaders of China.
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