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And, Just Like That, China Is the World's Geopolitical Master
The United States isn't even in the room anymore
The US Secretary of State—once the most powerful diplomatic title on earth—announced that the US would not permit Ukraine to engage in peace talks with Russia and China. Hours later, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky invited Communist China’s Xi to Kiev to work on a peace plan.
On February 4, 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt joined Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet General Secretary Joseph Stalin met at Yalta in Crimea to divvy up the spoils of war. The United States, in that time and place, became the world’s final arbiter.
Despite the Cold War divide between the Soviet sphere and the so-called Free World, parties to international disputes invariably sought the US favor of support. Except for Soviet satellites, every country on earth wanted America’s endorsement.
Nineteen forty-five was also the end of the Great Power saeculum and the start of the Millenium saeculum, according to generational historians Strauss and Howe.
(Strauss and Howe named saecula by their end, not their beginning. Thus, 1946 saw the rise of America as the Great Power of the world.)
Generational history also admits that a saeculum’s end in a climax “wipes the disk drive” of the social order. As Cornwallis told his lieutnent when the American forces overwhelmed His Majesty’s army at Yorktown, “Everything will change, now. Everything has changed.”
The spirit of America comes once a saeculum, only through what the ancients called ekpyrosis, nature’s fiery moment of death and discontinuity. History’s periodic eras of Crisis combust the old social order and give birth to a new.1
For over 500 years, each saeculum saw America’s power, prestige, and wealth increase. The ravages of war, which ended each prior saeculum, left us stronger. World War II ushered in what friend and foe alike call “The American Century.”
Strauss and Howe warned in their 1997 book, The Fourth Turning, that history offers no guarantee that the next turning, about 2026, will be a continuation of that progression.
American society will be transformed into something different. The emergent society may be something better, a nation that sustains its Framers’ visions with a robust new pride. Or it may be something unspeakably worse. The Fourth Turning will be a time of glory or ruin.2
Such a rebuke from a country that has received hundreds of billions in US war gifts would have been unthinkable in the years after Yalta. The US State Department, for weeks, had refused to consider any peace plan for Ukraine short of regime change in the Kremlin. In so many words, Secretary of State Blinken and various State and Defense spokesmen made clear that the United States alone would decide when the war between Russian and Ukraine would end.
But Zelensky seems to have other ideas.
Zelensky probably sees what everyone outside of Washington sees: the petrodollar is dead, and the yuan is the new greenback. The man who can play the piano with his private parts is smart to realize that China would be a worse post-war enemy than the United States. With Saudi Arabia and Iran now happily inside the Russo-Sino orbit, Zelensky is not trading land for peace, but the past for the future, at least in his mind. If China offers a plan to end the war and give Ukraine assistance, Zelensky will take it. And China, recognizing the significance of such a geopolitical coup, will offer Zelensky a sweet, sweet deal. One that Zelensky would be hard-pressed to reject.
Americans will be slow to recognize this tectonic shift in global influence, especially Americans with advanced degrees in international relations. But they will take careful note, while the Americans offered endless tranches of cash and weapons to prolong a war no one wanted, China and Russia managed to make peace, not only in Europe, but between the Persians and the Arabians. While Washington talked tough and fed Ukrainians to the jaws of war, China offered a peace that even Ukraine found acceptable.
Germany, always a fair-weather friend, will quickly seek to repair relations with Russian energy. Don’t be surprised to hear Berlin blame the United States for the Nord Stream sabotage.
The UK, which matched US bellicosity chest-thump for chest-thump throughout the Ukraine war, will find itself in deep, deep trouble. The Brits can’t easily switch to the KGB-CCP alliance, but they will no longer trust us Yanks to protect their interests.
The rest of Europe—who knows. The French are adept at recognizing the wind direction and flying their kites accordingly. Italy has already begun distancing itself from the rest of the EU and NATO—it could quickly become friendly to the new superpower on the block. Poland would find itself isolated and encircled, as Poland so often has, with Hungary quickly escaping the EU for the new alliance.
Japan and South Korea would, of course, remain in the US orbit, giving the US a Pacific view of the world for the first time in her history. The US, in turn, would have no choice but to nurture those relations and assist Japan in re-arming.
American wealth will take a hit like you’ve never seen. Without the petrodollar money train, the government’s ability to borrow will plummet, with its $33 trillion debt bill suddenly triggering panic attacks. Its aging population and indifferent, androgynous youth will seem to indicate, not just decline, but irrelevance almost overnight. The very ideas of getting an education, starting a career, raising a family, or planning for retirement will sound like impossible feats. You could see a national malaise that looks like a mass lithium overdose.
Of course, these possibilities are not pre-ordained. China’s peace initiative could fail. Putin could snub Xi’s plans. A rogue terrorist group allied with Iran could lob a missile into Saudi Arabia and send the House of Saud back to the American bosom.
But, at this moment, it appears America’s standing as the arbiter of the world is over.
Elections have consequences. Rigged elections have catastrophic consequences.
Strauss, William; Howe, Neil. The Fourth Turning (p. 255). Crown. Kindle Edition.
Ibid. (p. 278)