2013 October 27 Sunday
China To Become Dominant Power?

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer takes a look at the rise of China:

YALTA – Given its rapid and successful development, there can be no doubt that the People’s Republic of China will become one of the dominant global powers of the twenty-first century. Indeed, despite the massive problems that the country is confronting, it could even emerge as the global power.

Well, America certainly can't continue to be dominant. Partly that's because some (though by no means all) other countries are going through rapid development. Also, partly that's because lots of things are going wrong inside America that will not get fixed.

Fischer's best point is that China's government has enough on its hands just to manage its own very large population. Certainly the Chinese leaders have to tread carefully to maintain

The permanent danger of overstretching the country’s internal political structures is unlikely to permit any imperial foreign-policy role. Insofar as this is true, the United States won’t be replaced as the dominant power unless and until it abdicates that role. This may sound simple, but it will have far-reaching consequences for the coming century’s international order.

But I disagree with Fischer's assertion that this means the United States will therefore remain as the dominant power. The US work force is declining in quality at a time when the importance of brain power is rising. US tax revenue is getting shifted from external (defense, foreign aid) to internal purposes (medical care and other services for the poor lower classes).

My sense of it is that the world is going to be less managed by one or two or three powers. The European Union is caught up in the problems of its nation-states, aging population, and its own low quality immigration problem. China's aging population will start slowing its growth as well. I also expect natural resource costs to slow growth.

Another important development which I expect will weaken large nation-states: capital will break its connection to large populations as robots eliminate the need for manual laborers and computers end the need for lower skilled brain workers. Capital will flee from nation-states with large welfare states and dependent populations. Capital will move to small countries with lots of robots. Capital will pay smart people to move to these countries.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 October 27 11:28 AM 

Sam said at October 27, 2013 3:35 PM:

China will obviously be a large great power but will never reach hyperpower status like the US once was. The reasons I believe this are:
1. The most important point. They had only 15 years before the very large aging of their population started. If they don't get rich in that time the aging population will suck the life out of them. I can't see how they're going to make it.
2. They have always had decentralization forces tearing the country apart. This trend is strengthened by technology. Information technologies make the defense of smaller political entities easier.
3. Randall's theory of,"...capital will break its connection to large populations as robots eliminate the need for manual laborers and computers end the need for lower skilled brain workers. Capital will flee from nation-states with large welfare states and dependent populations..." This is very powerful and will lever some areas away from other areas in China. If it ferments a war this will further strengthen decline and stop progress.
4. As China modernizes each step gets harder and harder. The easy pickings of growth are almost already taken and others countries are not standing still. They have to keep up with the rest.

Wolf-Dog said at October 27, 2013 3:36 PM:

" Capital will move to small countries with lots of robots. Capital will pay smart people to move to these countries. "

But will the robots of the smart people who have isolated themselves in small fortresses be powerful enough to defend that small area against the invading jealous hordes? And will the robot soldiers be strong enough to bring in new raw materials from more distant continents without being destroyed by guerrilla robots? It takes just a cheap and low-tech torpedo to sink a ship that is carrying raw materials.

And separately, the definition of capital is very abstract. The value of any currency is always backed up by the military. Switzerland does not have a big army to protect the value of its currency but the US and EU does this for the Swiss. Geography and geopolitics will always be essential. The real capital is composed of (in this order of importance) 1) Intelligent and well educated work force, 2) Raw materials 3) Military force. This combination is always necessary for long term survival. Weak small countries were always invaded in the past. Consider the fate of Croesus:

Stephen said at October 27, 2013 10:13 PM:

Add in AI - say around 95 IQ - and combine it with mechanisation. We end up with the vast majority of lower and middle class jobs being automated (white and blue collar). This won't be your great grandpa's depression - this will be multi-generational zero hope of income elimination.

Then factor in a 1 point increase in IQ for the AI every five years (surely very conservative). It gets quickly becomes quite nasty

Randall Parker said at October 27, 2013 10:29 PM:


Invading jealous hordes: They might be too poor to invade. The owners of robot factories will ally themselves with the countries that have the most natural resources per person. They'll pull the smart people out of countries where the dummies come to dominate.

Wolf-Dog said at October 28, 2013 12:36 AM:

"Invading jealous hordes: They might be too poor to invade."

But these "hordes" will be emerging large countries that will be strong militarily strong even though their populations will be poor in average. (The same model as the invasion of the fabulously wealthy city-state of Lydia by an emerging empire.)

James Bowery said at October 28, 2013 10:29 PM:

Here's the big picture: Group selection yields eusociality in its extreme manifestation. As E. O. Wilson has pointed out in "The Social Conquest of Earth", this eusocial potential of humans is being realized in civilization which people misidentify as "human". Its not. Civilization is an asexual organism and the erstwhile "humans" that make up its primary forms of intelligence are increasingly specialized cells in the "tissues" of that organism. Right now this organism is _very_ primitive -- not even possessing anything like a DNA code with good fidelity replication to reproduce "fit" innovations in civilization. The impulse toward decentralized production, such as 3D printers/replicators, is primarily an individualistic impulse. Indeed, because it is individualistic, it emphasizes individual selection over group selection. That individualistic predisposition is imprinted on northern Europeans by that culture's ancient emphasis on natural duel as the appeal of last resort in dispute processing -- an individual being honored in this demand despite his over-ruling the opinion of community elders. This is why northern Europeans fought civilization for so long -- finally succumbing to JudeoChristianization only about 1000 years ago. The discovery of the New World unleashed this genetic predisposition once again in the pioneering of its frontiers by northern Europeans -- who had only very recently been "domesticated". These individualistic impulses are now being bred out _very_ rapidly just as species of animals are going extinct from civilization's inexorable "social conquest of earth". This confused state of northern Europeans -- trying to be civilized while being individualistic -- is doomed. There are lots of groups that are very good at exploiting this confusion, which is why the US is in such a mess. Other cultures aren't nearly so confused and among them, the Chinese are probably the most competently pursuing the group organism culture -- consciously, deliberately and intelligently. The end result will be massive "organs" that are highly efficient at producing hives that, on a per capita basis, are far less insulting to the Earth. I don't like that culture but then I don't like civilization. I'm a conscious "barbarian" who would gladly go into a wilderness preserved from man's eusociality by the demand that any man who is challenged to a natural duel must accept or be put to death. I only hope that when the Chinese finally take over the world, they'll allow some nature preserves for the culture of individual integrity to continue its evolutionary direction.

Sam said at October 30, 2013 11:45 PM:

James Bowery that's a very good post. I particularly like the story about Chinese man linked.

There's a lot of post on alpha males getting the girl but also a lot of post where she marries a beta male when she gets older and has kids. Maybe the alpha males are not having as many children.

Michael L said at October 31, 2013 6:13 PM:

regardless of whether China will or will not become a superpower, obsession with Chinese aging is idiotic. Having all of your elderly rich enough to book Caribbean cruises is unrelated to the goal of being economically and military powerful enough in the aggregate to boss others around. The key word is "aggregate" - e.g. late Soviet Union was relatively poor per capita, and even poorer in actual living standards, but that had no bearing on the size of their military, foreign aid budget and general ability to throw their weight around.

Another thing to notice is that a lot of these aging Chinese people are involved in subsistence agriculture on plots that must be pretty darn small by historical standards (amount of agricultural land has not significantly increased since early 20th century when population was three times smaller). If elderly people get too old to farm, the (fewer) younger farmers will buy them out and work larger plots. That should be doable even without much mechanization, and of course nothing stops them from investing in mini tractors and similar.

Moral of the story is, a lot of what passes for analysis in the West nowadays seems to be an echo chamber of clueless BS.

Michael L said at October 31, 2013 6:20 PM:

not sure if James Bowery is trolling or whatnot, but here is a relevant quote from wikipedia about a similar dueling custom: "Professional duelists used holmgangs as a form of legalized robbery; they could claim rights to land, women, or property, and then prove their claims in the duel at the expense of the legitimate owner. Many sagas describe berserks who abused holmgang in this way. In large part due to such practices, holmgangs were outlawed in Iceland in 1006, as a result of the duel between Gunnlaugr Ormstunga and Hrafn Önundarson,[2] and in Norway in 1014."

Somehow I suspect that it wasn't the evil eusocial Jews/progressives/etc who passed the anti-holmgang law. Conservative Germanic individualists like security of person and property too, as much as anyone else.

Ace said at October 31, 2013 7:45 PM:

I think James Bowery has watched too many wuxia movies.

Sam said at October 31, 2013 11:16 PM:

Michael L said,"...regardless of whether China will or will not become a superpower, obsession with Chinese aging is idiotic. Having all of your elderly rich enough to book Caribbean cruises is unrelated to the goal of being economically and military powerful enough in the aggregate to boss others around. The key word is "aggregate" ..."

Good point. "Quantity has a quality of it's own" or something like that.

James Bowery said at November 2, 2013 10:03 AM:

The arguments presented here against natural duel in humans are the arguments for eusociality and merely reinforce my argument. Property rights are not derived from the individual but from the eusocial potential of humans.

Most vertebrate sexual species have natural duel between males as an essential aspect of their social organization and it should be obvious to the most casual thinker that this is a bulwark against eusociality.

The inability of some here to see civilization as the realization of human potential for eusociality is hardly an argument against my position that nature preserves that include humans must include natural duel as a protection of that environment against social conquest by humans.

James Bowery said at November 2, 2013 10:12 AM:

As for Wikipedia and the Sagas portrayal of Holmganga:

The Sagas were written by Christian monks who, shall we say, had about as much motive to be unbiased in their portrayal of pre-Christian Norse culture as Hollywood Jews have to make unbiased movies about the Nazis. Its clear the editors of Wikipedia are unwilling to, in this case, recognize that bias -- which indicates their own bias.

At least Wikipedia got one thing right: As Christianization encroached, rules were imposed on duels that made them about as absurd as "natural" a selection process as pistols at 20 paces.

Ekdromos said at November 2, 2013 6:06 PM:


Dueling removes all the advantages high-IQ people have.

Without our brains, it's even: we have 4 limbs, they have 4 limbs.

This and this disagreement, for example, were settled by natural duel.

Civilization is a mechanism for shifting the balance of power from violent types to high-IQ types.

It's the old Sky Cake dodge (Patton Oswald).

James Bowery said at November 2, 2013 11:37 PM:

A good surmise of the way natural duel was actually conducted in the thousands of years prior to civilization of the northern Europeans is simply a mutual hunt using basic hunting equipment that was fabricated by the individuals involved. The "island" that was later the basis of the prefix "holm" in "holmganga" mentioned in the Sagas and other references to "going to the island" in the legend of Arthur was simply the way north sea people -- the last of the northern Europeans to be civilized -- chose to isolate this mutual hunt thus rendering it fair.

In a hunt, man against beast, it is the wits -- including tool-making and utilization as well as strategy and tactics -- that count.

None of this is to say that it is a better way to specialize for intelligence, since other factors come into play. However, and here is the rub, in civilization, it boils down to who can use words to manipulate other people into ganging up on one's enemies -- hence mass warfare. The fact that this warfare takes the appearance of "politics" and "business" is neither here nor there. The bottom line is that it selects for group integrity over individual integrity. Yes, that means we get specialization including very intelligent "cells" in the superorganism's tissues that direct the other specialized "cells" in the superorganism's tissues. And, indeed, these specialized intelligence "cells" may very well end up with intelligence that is superior in a specialized way -- particularly verbal intelligence. But ultimately, words cease being used to communicate and end up being nothing more than pheromones in a hive. And then we have civilization as we know it. It has its advantages, but then, so does heroin.

Sam said at November 3, 2013 10:15 PM:

We had a lot of "natural dueling" in WWI and WWII. How did that work out for Europeans? Natural dueling also favors psychopaths which if you read anything I've posted I'm not so enthusiastic about.

Actually I'm poking a little fun. If by natural dueling you mean fair and witnessed duels between men of honor you may have a point. The idea being you can refuse to duel. The excellent story linked James being along those lines.

James Bowery said at November 4, 2013 6:40 PM:

For the purposes of preventing the emergence of human eusocial potential, acceptance is mandatory -- although a mutually-agreed shielding relationship between individuals can prevent an individual from being challenged, as is naturally the case between a woman her man. Moreover, for the purposes of evolution, witnesses must be barred so that an inventive genius's techniques are not disclosed. See W. D. Hamilton's warning about civilization which I posted here several times over the years.

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