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Thucydides Trap: A Primer

By OccasionalCortex following x   2019 May 7, 4:50pm 468 views   3 comments   watch   nsfw   quote     share    

I love how some folks on here are lambasting the trade war and accompanying tariffs between China and the US, demonstrating their complete lack of knowledge of one of the basic principles of Geopolitics: Thucydides Trap

You can see that in commentators like economist John Tamny and folks responding on threads like this: https://patrick.net/post/1324296/2019-05-06-trump-imposes-25-tariff-on-200b-chinese-goods

What they don't understand is that for the US, it is not about 'the consumer' or 'producer' as much as it is about using its vast market to manipulate the world geopolitical order to its advantage. During the Cold War, we let the American worker suffer...some times horribly...in order to bribe nations to play along in a world trade order that also fostered American dominance in leading the containment of the USSR. Now, we are reversing course because the Cold War is long since been over, kiddies. [See myth-busting fact below for more about the US and trade]

But that process of becoming 'normal again' is being accelerated because of something else: The Sino-American Thucydides Trap is finally being sprung.

What is Thucydides Trap? A term coined after the Athenian Thucydides regarding the rise of Sparta and how it led to war. The scholar Graham T. Allison came up with the term, while the concept itself has occurred multiple times throughout history:

Allison coined the phrase Thucydides's Trap to refer to when a rising power causes fear in an established power which escalates toward war. Thucydides wrote: "What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta." The term appeared in a full-page ad in The New York Times on April 6, 2017, the day of U.S. President Donald Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping: "Both major players in the region share a moral obligation to steer away from Thucydides's Trap." Other past examples of Thucydides's Trap include the start of World War I, the War of the Spanish Succession, and the Thirty Years War.

That fear is starting to finally spread even to the elites in DC. Trump isn't the cause but the symptom. And of course, Joe Q Public was on board before the crooked Biden-like elites were as well.

China played it cool for a looong while. They knew they had to keep a low profile to push this day from coming as far into the future as possible. But that day has come. While other instances of Thucydide's Trap did not result in war, the vast majority of them did. And trade became that battlefield long before the actual fighting started.

So for all you armchair economists bitching about 'tariff's only hurt consumers!', yes...technically you are correct in a specific, isolated contextual reference. But where you are clueless is that this isn't about that at all here in The World of Real Geopolitics. My advice: The faster you get on board with that, the less exasperated you will be.

For those of you who would like to really learn about Thucydide's Trap and its current context, you might want to check this out:
and read this article: https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/09/the-thucydides-trap/

Myth-busting Fact: America does not really trade much with the rest of the world. Oh, in absolute terms the numbers look high. But not as a share of GDP. They are quite low while for other nations (particularly smaller ones) it is quite high. And most of what it does trade is in services, as $$$/percent of GDP. With the shale oil revolution, our share of imported goods as a % of GDP has fallen even further. We will become a net oil exporter by 2025 or sooner, too. This means that if oil supplies get disrupted, it will effect everyone else negatively than us for the most part. And even if there is an effect, the resulting higher prices in oil we export will compensate for most of it. What will be really negative for everyone else (besides having to pony up $$$/barrel to those damn Americans!) will be how not-forthcoming we will be to let our boys and girls die on the sands in the ME or waves of the PG or wherever else the disruption occurs. No more Iraq Wars. Thus the US will effect the world more by hanging back and doing nothing, unlike how it did something to secure oil for its allies and even non-ally participants in the world trading system. And since it will cripple China real, real hard...
1   HonkpilledMaster   ignore (5)   2019 May 8, 9:35am   ↑ like (2)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Yes, historically the US has not been much of an exporter. In WW2 those weren't washing machines and toasters going to Europe.

Mostly, we've made our own consumer goods and exported wheat, barley, copper, etc. - raw materials.

People don't understand the reason we were the Arsenal of Democracy in WW2 was because International Harvester could go from making 1000s of tractors to 1000s of tanks. RCA went from making AM Radios to making Radars.

Unfortunately, Coldwell Banker Paperwork and Facebook Ads cannot be transformed into Tanks and Radars. But in China, where they now make Tractors and Radios, they sure can.
2   OccasionalCortex   ignore (3)   2019 May 8, 12:03pm   ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

HonkpilledMaster says
Yes, historically the US has not been much of an exporter.

We are the number one exporter of one vital, globally demanded product: US dollars and Treasury Bills/Notes. :)
3   OccasionalCortex   ignore (3)   2019 May 13, 12:22pm   ↑ like (2)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Wow! Looks like others who at least TOOK Geopolitics 101 (which seems to include Trump...I know: Shocking if true) have figured this out too:

Chinese exports, fixed-asset investment, consumption and industrial production may already have taken a hit. In the long term, both U.S. tariffs and Chinese retaliation may deter multinational companies from producing goods in China; some already are blaming the trade war for a slowdown in foreign direct investment. And by forcing China to shift from exports to investment in order to sustain growth, the trade war might push the country toward a less productive growth model.

There may be a grim sort of logic to this approach. So far, China’s ascent in the 21st century has looked unstoppable, as it gobbled up one manufacturing industry after another, shouldered the U.S. aside as the world’s biggest exporter, and became the beating heart of an East Asian economic supercluster. In addition to threatening to relegate North America to the global economy’s periphery, this trend directly imperils U.S. military dominance, as economic and technological supremacy tends to translate into military supremacy.

If Trump wants to slow China’s ascent as a superpower, a trade war might be an effective way to do it. If the harm to the U.S. is modest and the costs for China are severe and lasting, Trump might conclude that the former are acceptable losses. Geopolitical primacy, not maximum prosperity for Americans, might be the president’s true objective.


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