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The Chinese Dimension of the USA-China-Russia Triangle Today

by Alexander Nagorny

Conference Program

Alexander Nagorny

Alexander Nagorny, of Russia, is deputy editor of Zavtra weekly newspaper and a member of the Izborsk Club. He is a historian who has specialized in relations among China, the United States, and Russia for several decades. He delivered this speech during the opening panel of the Schiller Institute conference near Frankfurt am Main, on April 13.

First of all, I would like to express my great gratitude to the Schiller Institute, and to Lyndon LaRouche personally, for organizing such an interesting, large, and timely conference.

We represent a new intellectual club formed in Russia approximately six months ago, the Izborsk Club, which brings together various experts and specialists, with various ideological outlooks, who are thinking about the future-about what Lyndon LaRouche has just discussed here in such a profound and interesting way.

The topic of my short presentation may be situated as a continuation of the propositions set forth by Mr. LaRouche. Its title is “The Chinese Dimension of the USA-China-Russia Triangle Today.” I think that this topic should perhaps be somewhat expanded: The triangle should incorporate also the European Union, or Europe as such, insofar as these are the players in international relations which essentially determine the current political situation in the world, and the prospects for the future that the world and mankind are facing-as Lyndon LaRouche has just discussed.

The Korean Crisis

In order not to give you merely dry, theoretical considerations, I would like to begin my presentation by describing the dramatic situation taking shape in the world today, which is being trumpeted in mass media like CNN, ABC, Euronews, and so forth. Almost everybody is focussed on the Korean situation. Just now, before leaving the hotel this morning, I was watching the latest news from CNN, which reported on the special statement made by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry in Seoul, South Korea. He said that the United States, like the entire world, is extremely concerned about the nuclear threat from North Korea, and that the USA is extending its hand for dialogue with North Korea, and cancelling a number of maneuvers. Then Kerry got to the core of his speech, saying that he was now going to fly to Beijing, and that it was the Chinese leadership, the Chinese comrades, who should play the decisive role in settling the current crisis, which includes the threat of a military conflict with the use of nuclear weapons.

I think that this episode expresses the entire situation taking shape within this big triangle, or quadrilateral, that I’m talking about. What we see here, is that the United States, as the hegemonic world power and the player in international relations which has virtually an absolute concentration of military-strategic power in its hands, and which effectively runs the policy of such international economic policy organizations as the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, etc., was forced to turn to the People’s Republic of China-one could say, to fly to Beijing and kow-tow to the Chinese emperors-and request that they do something, somehow, to settle the situation between North and South Korea, in order to prevent Pyongyang from using nuclear weapons and placing the world on the brink of a nuclear cataclysm.

Herein, in my view, lies the secret of Chinese diplomacy. If we follow the logic, then certainly North Korea’s high degree of dependence on China, for both energy supplies (80-85%) and food, not to mention the technology side, has created a situation in which the United States, although it has both military-political and ideological power far in excess of China’s, is forced to appeal to the Chinese Emperor and plead with him to do something to help prevent a military clash.

Now, if we review the entire situation as it comes together, we see that this Korean crisis has eclipsed the situation in Iran and the situation in Syria, with everything being concentrated on this Korean segment. China thus has demonstrated that the United States has lost face, politically. And this is something very important in the Asia-Pacific region, where China traditionally, and continuing now today because of its very high development rates, lays claim to the dominant position.

Dangerous Return to Geopolitics

This episode is a particular case, but it’s one which easily allows making broader generalizations about the world situation. What have we seen, during the past several years? The world is returning to geopolitics. There is a resurrection of the lines typical of the traditional geopolitical constructs known to world politics in the 19th and 20th centuries, which had been on the back burner after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, when the socialist bloc lost its place in international relations. It was in 1991 that the USA gained the ability to take a completely new approach to world issues. LaRouche talked about this. The USA would have been able to take the lead in addressing the global problems, which had been so much discussed in the 1980s. Instead, the USA focussed on strengthening its egotistical positions.

As a result, we witnessed an entirely new alignment, especially as we entered the 2000s. This involved, above all, the astronomical growth of the economic, political, and military power of the People’s Republic of China.

Here I should say a few words about Russia. Although in 1991-93 Russia came under the practically total political influence of the United States, under Putin this situation began to change. Now, Russia has begun to play an increasingly independent role within these geopolitical constructs.

It is quite clear that this rebirth of geopolitics is based on egotism on the part of the players in international relations. Under these conditions, each participant in these complex geometrical constructs-the triangle or the quadrilateral-is seeking his own benefit and attempting to achieve it, directly or sometimes indirectly (as in the case of Syria, where the USA and Europe are essentially smashing the secular state in order to shape a completely new situation regarding energy supplies to Europe).

This narrow egotism characterizes just about every player. This is an obstacle to any attempts at finding a common approach to solving the global problems Lyndon LaRouche was talking about. After all, it’s difficult to believe that such diverse players in international affairs as China, Europe, and the USA could be brought together around a single program. Yet the need for such a single program is absolutely clear and is hanging over the head of mankind.

Because of this, we can say with absolute certainty that the rise of this geopolitical thinking impedes the possibility of finding a common program. If we look at the countries involved, we can see that, in order to find a common position, the United States will need to give up its orientation toward maintaining de facto hegemony in both the military-political and the economic domains. All the countries in question will need to reconsider those positions and principles which are based on national egotism, in their relations with their neighbors. And what LaRouche mentioned is extremely important: to reject the now dominant theories of monetarism and liberalism in international economic relations.

Is it possible to bring about the rejection of these things? It seems to me that this will be difficult to achieve.

Effects of the ‘Asia Pivot’

Look again at the situation in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States has announced the Asia pivot, that they are shifting the center of gravity to the Asia-Pacific region. What does this mean for Beijing and the Chinese comrades? It means that they are beginning to sense that the United States, slowly but surely, is creating a system of restraints and counterweights, which in effect is a system for the military-political and military-strategic isolation of China.

China views this situation from the standpoint of the fact that the United States may, at any moment, cause a cut-off of hydrocarbon fuel and energy supplies to China, thus strangling the Chinese economy and creating socially unacceptable conditions for the existence of the Chinese people. From this standpoint, Beijing naturally has to look for a way out of this situation-some kind of guarantees. They need to look for a way to break out of the harsh system being constructed at the present time. This is the motivation for China’s seeking involvement in major economic projects in Central Asia, in countries like Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and the bid by the People’s Republic of China to achieve an abrupt spurt in relations with the Russian Federation.

It was no accident that the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping made the Russian Federation the destination for his first foreign trip. A number of fairly important agreements were concluded. Even more important is what was discussed behind closed doors, and what Xi and Putin would have agreed upon. Naturally those talks would have revolved around how successfully to defend their interests, as much as possible, in the face of American and European pressures.

Thus, what we see coming together, perhaps gradually, is new blocs. Without question, the creation of this new geopolitical system is driven by the inflection points in the economic and financial crisis, and much will depend on what happens with the culmination of the second wave of that economic and financial crisis. Very unpredictable scenarios and alliances are entirely possible. But it is absolutely clear that if each of the players fails to overcome its national egotism, then the natural process by which international relations, and these new blocs, become chaotic, may quite easily not only place the world on the brink, but actually plunge us into military-political clashes, perhaps starting at the regional level, and moving to a mega-regional level.

Move Toward Strategic Cooperation

In this setting, I believe that our conference has a very important role to play, and that, to a significant degree, it can demonstrate to the leaders of the major geostrategic centers, that it is necessary to move in a completely different direction: not toward construction of this new bloc scheme, but rather toward strategic cooperation projects, for which each country could contribute the financial, human, and cultural-ideological resources it possesses.

It seems to me that this kind of an approach, this kind of new political thinking-I don’t like to use that term because of its association with Gorbachov, and we know how Gorbachov’s experiment ended up in Soviet Russia, but, nonetheless, the need persists precisely for this-is something which Putin does have a certain sense of, and he is attempting to find points of tangency with Europe, with the United States, and, above all, with the People’s Republic of China.

I view Putin’s, and Russia’s, relations with the European Union with a fair degree of skepticism, especially after the situation that developed in Cyprus, when Germany in effect stabbed Putin in the back. I think that he will not forget this, in shaping his approach to Chancellor Merkel, although outwardly he will maintain his diplomatic smile. But life has demonstrated that Russia’s approach to relations with Germany will not be what it might have been, had a more civilized approach been taken.

As for relations between the United States and Russia, it is also difficult to discern great positive prospects. The proposal Washington is now making for radical nuclear strategic and tactical force reductions are essentially unacceptable for the Russian Federation, insofar as they affect the very foundations of our security. After the Soviet military machine was shrunk and effectively broken, our nuclear missile forces are left as the clearest guarantor of the inviolability of Russia’s borders. Therefore, while the situation with Washington will of course go forward in the form of diplomatic contacts and smiles, at the same time both sides will be preparing for the worst-case scenario.

In that context, the proposals Lyndon LaRouche was talking about could break this ice, if each of the participants were to adopt an absolutely and fundamentally new approach to the most important aspects of their statecraft. In this sense, I repeat that this means giving up American hegemonism, and, for regional powers, giving up their national egotism. And it means a new approach to how the world economy is organized.

Translated from Russian by Rachel Douglas