Last November, Amy Goodman interviewed historian Alfred McCoy about his current work (see video below), recently released as his latest book, “To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change.” In it, McCoy describes the common factor found in every ruling empire — or world “hegemon” — over the last 500 years, and that common factor is dominance over the Eurasian landmass.
McCoy says (from the interview):
“Over the past five centuries, every world hegemon has done one thing the same way. Every world hegemon, from Portugal to Holland to Britain to the United States and now China, has dominated the Eurasian landmass, which today is home to 70% of the world’s population and productivity. And with the $4 trillion that China made by 2014 as a result of its open trade with the United States, China has invested $1.2 trillion in this massive infrastructure, laying down a steel grid of rail, road and gas pipeline, integrating the vast Eurasian landmass into a single market in which trade and power, as if by natural law, is going to flow towards Beijing.
“China is also working to break the U.S. geopolitical hold over the Eurasian landmass. During the Cold War, we controlled what are known as the axial ends of Eurasia through the NATO alliance in Western Europe and four bilateral treaties, mutual defense treaties, with Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Australia. And from these two axial positions, we ringed Eurasia with bands of steel, aircraft carriers, jets, fighter-bombers to dominate Eurasia. And now China is punching through those circles of steel, breaking the U.S. geopolitical grip over Eurasia and, through the Belt and Road Initiative, consolidating its control.
“Moreover, China has built 40 ports ringing the Eurasian landmass and the coast of Africa. So, the combination of this geopolitical circling of the coastlines of Eurasia, combined with this massive grid of infrastructure across the continent, is placing China in control, where it is going to dominate the Eurasian landmass. And that is the key to geopolitical power — has been for the last five centuries and will likely be for the rest of this century, as well.
” … over the last 20 years, the bulk of our military operations, as we all know, has been focused in the greater Middle East. And the strategic logic of that was, in effect, securing the Middle Eastern oil, giving us kind of a permanent presence that will give us absolute access to Middle East oil. And we were doing that at the time when that oil was about to join cordwood and coal as superseded sources of fuel. So, we invested $8 trillion, $10 trillion in securing a commodity which was passing into the dustbin of history, OK? So it was a gross strategic miscalculation. When the history of the U.S. empire is written, in 2030, starting in 2030, when it’s over, OK, that will probably go down as one of the greatest strategic miscalculations in U.S. history.
“And then, militarily, the point of naval expansion is not so much conflict. Most people don’t understand that. Most people think of naval history just in terms of wars. But what do navies do? The oceans are a global commons, and the way that a rising global hegemon secures oceans is through weaving an invisible line of constant patrols and dominance over those open spaces to claim it strategically and also, in terms of the minerals and values and fishing beneath the sea, to claim that, as well. So that’s what China is doing. China is weaving those lines of constant patrols by air and sea all the way to the first island chain, pushing us back, building seven island bases in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, pushing in the East China Sea. So, it’s part of an imperial game that’s been played for 500 years. And China is doing that quite successfully.
“In terms of President Xi’s strategy, which he announced in 2013, under the Belt and Road Initiative, what he was going to do and what he’s been doing is turning the vast Eurasian landmass into a single market linked by infrastructure. And if you will, the kind of hole in the donut — crude metaphor, apologies — the hole in the donut was Afghanistan, right? In terms of that network of massive natural gas pipelines going across the heart of Central Asia, the one connection that couldn’t be made was from Central Asia down to the energy-deficit areas of Pakistan and India. And that had to pass through Afghanistan.
“And by ringing Afghanistan with the gas pipelines to the north, the China-Pakistan economic corridor to the east, and then, just this year, a massive economic agreement between China and Iran to build rail and gas pipelines, in effect, China surrounded Afghanistan with these lines of steel and was just waiting for Afghanistan to fall into its hands without a shot fired. And in July, a month before the Taliban took power, they sent a top-level delegation to China and met with China’s foreign minister. And they worked out an agreement that the Taliban would promote and allow Chinese investment.
“And there’s another great prize in Afghanistan. Geologists estimate that there is about a billion dollars of rare earth minerals, critical for the construction of lithium batteries, which are going to fuel our transport and much of our reserve power as we switch from fossil fuels to solar power — that Afghanistan has a billion dollars of rare earth minerals that are very valuable to China, indeed to the whole international economy. And China will begin developing those in conjunction with the Taliban. So, in effect, China just sat back, surrounded Afghanistan with its geopolitical network and waited for it to fall right into its hands. And they didn’t pay a dollar. And we spent $8 trillion on Afghanistan and got nothing.
“The New York Times has reported that the Pentagon has war-gamed a war over Taiwan between the United States and China, and in the last 18 of these war games, the United States has lost 18 times. China has the world’s most sophisticated anti-ballistic missiles, the most sophisticated missile defense. Taiwan is extremely close to China. And if the United states moved aircraft carriers into the Taiwan Straits, like we did in the last conflict back in the 1990s, China could destroy those aircraft carriers. It could sink those aircraft carriers. So the United States, in the immediate future, is faced with the possibility of fighting a war over Taiwan. And if that conflict emerged, the United States would have to either retreat in defeat and see Taiwan conquered, or the United States would have to go to war and fight a war that it would probably lose.”
See full interview here:
See McCoy’s latest book here: