Belmont Club

The global world vs the global world

The global world vs the global world
We are the world (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

News that China was caught inserting a custom spy chip into the computer supply chain in 2015 is worrisome because it is probably the tip of a very large iceberg.  “The attack by Chinese spies reached almost 30 U.S. companies, including Amazon and Apple, by compromising America’s technology supply chain, according to extensive interviews with government and corporate sources.”  Beijing’s strategy was clever and simple: they piggybacked their rogue chip onto a ubiquitous video compression circuit board they manufactured for a US company by intimidating or bribing engineers at the plant level.

The middlemen would request changes to the motherboards’ original designs, initially offering bribes in conjunction with their unusual requests. If that didn’t work, they threatened factory managers with inspections that could shut down their plants. …

This system could let the attackers alter how the device functioned … alter part of that code so the server won’t check for a password—and presto! A secure machine is open to any and all users.  … U.S. officials had caught China experimenting with hardware tampering before, but they’d never seen anything of this scale and ambition. …

Obama was reluctant to get tough on the Chinese because they were by then part of his world. “One Friday in late September 2015, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared together … after months of negotiations, the U.S. had extracted from China a grand promise: It would no longer support the theft by hackers of U.S. intellectual property to benefit Chinese companies. Left out of those pronouncements … was the White House’s deep concern that China was willing to offer this concession because it was already developing far more advanced and surreptitious forms of hacking founded on its near monopoly of the technology supply chain.”

Global interdependence, whether reflected in manufacturing partnershipss or international political corruption imposed risks which are only now being fully realized. China can spy on the West and it’s hard to do anything about it. The difficulty of escaping from the logistics trap was  forcefully described by the South China Morning Post. “Tethered by the supply chain: US tech community resists Donald Trump’s China tariffs, fearing collateral damage.”  Companies and countries are now tethered to their enemies.

Josh Kallmer of the Information Technology Industry Council said that “the companies that are engaged both in the production of goods and supply of services have really complex global supply chains that cannot just be picked up and moved”. … Trump said at the time that ZTE’s violations were a national security concern, and the hard line the commerce department was taking was in keeping with the president’s threats to place tariffs on up to US$150 billion in Chinese imports.

The hardware insertions from 2015 — along with Benghazi, ISIS, Russia’s incursion into the Ukraine, its shootdown of MH17, Beijing’s fortification of the South China Sea — are anecdotal reminders that the old globalist world held grave perils. There was even a stealth recession in 2016 that the New York Times can tell us about now.  There was danger galore except the press just didn’t want to talk about them.

Rather than being a safe, rule based system of myth, the “global world” was widely corrupt and rife with reassuring lies. It is now in danger of falling apart. Yet at the turn of the 21st century it seemed destined to sweep all before it. Its rise and fall is described in Bill Galston‘s article How the Third Way lost its way. Galston was part of the effort to reinvent the Democratic party after it became clear that Ronald Reagan had written finis to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal world. The idea was to turn Reagan’s Cold War victory into the triumph of social democracy.

The Third Way, the political movement that crested at the end of the 20thcentury and the beginning of the 21st, represented the most recent effort to reimagine the center-left in the face of massive economic and social changes.

At its apogee, when it dominated the politics of United States, the UK, and Germany, it was thought to provide a stable template for governance well into the new century. Confidence ran high that the business cycle had been tamed and that the forces of globalization and technology could be managed for the good of average citizens as well as meritocratic elites. …

The task of reconstructing the center-Left began in the United States. After the Democratic Party had lost its third consecutive presidential election in 1988, a small band of Democratic dissidents (myself included) undertook to modernize their party, succeeding just four years later with the election of ‘New Democrat’ Bill Clinton. This achievement attracted global attention from supporters of the center-Left. As a White House official during Clinton’s first term, I can attest to the fact that representatives of Tony Blair’s New Labour movement were in the building from Day One, taking notes.

The final link in the chain was forged when Blair, who had by then become prime minister, and Germany’s newly installed SPD chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, issued a joint manifesto, Europe: The Third Way/Die Neue Mitte, which crisply articulates the movement’s main themes.

The success of this project rested on the key assumption that the Third Way would remain the only game in town.  That assumption did not hold and it began to founder..

In retrospect, it is clear that the Third Way rested on optimistic assumptions about the new world we had entered. We assumed that the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union represented that triumph of democracy, which had become (as the cliché ran) “the only game in town”. We assumed that unipolar American power would spread a protective canopy over a global order of free governments and free markets….

Needless to say, our hopes were not realized. History did not end as, in 1992, Francis Fukuyama assured us it would; after a brief slumber, it returned with a vengeance, bringing with it a resurgence of nationalism, populism, and alternatives to liberal democracy. Russia regressed to autocracy; radical Islamism went to war against the West; China became far more prosperous without becoming a whit more democratic, confuting decades of modernization theories.

As events proved, the unipolar world did not remain the only game in town. “Russia regressed to autocracy; radical Islamism went to war against the West; China became far more prosperous without becoming a whit more democratic, confuting decades of modernization theories,” Galston wrote.  Entrepreneurship declined, middle class incomes stagnated and a revolt against unlimited immigration began.  Most of all new decentralized technological possibilities arose within the West.  In a word, the power of the elites at the center was challenged as never before.  All this came to an unexpected head in 2016.

Now all enemies are near enemies, as the supply chain problem and the “collusion” allegations in every Western country illustrate.  We are engulfed in a civil war because in a globalized world that’s the only kind there is. Yet in retrospect Brexit and the election of Donald Trump should not have been the shocks they were. They were only surprises because the media refused to see the growing storm.

The Left, after having reinvented themselves to cash in on Reagan’s success rose now faces the problem of reinventing itself after Trump.  The Third Way is dead, long live the Fourth Way, for there will be one whatever it turns out to be.  The only problem socialism ever had is it was never tried hard enough.

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Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America, by T.J. Stiles. Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in History, this book paints a portrait of Custer that demolishes historical caricature, revealing a volatile, contradictory, intense person — capable yet insecure, intelligent yet bigoted, passionate yet self-destructive, a romantic individualist at odds with the institution of the military (he was court-martialed twice in six years). The key to understanding Custer, Stiles writes, is keeping in mind that he lived on a frontier in time. In the Civil War, the West, and many other areas, Custer helped to create modern America, but could never adapt to it. Stiles casts surprising new light on a near-mythic American figure, a man both widely known and little understood.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger. We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding or “tribes,” a connection now largely lost. But its pull on us remains and is exemplified by combat veterans who find themselves missing the intimate bonds of platoon life at the end of deployment and the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by military veterans today. Combining history, psychology, and anthropology, Junger explores what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty, belonging, and the eternal human quest for meaning. He explains why we are stronger when we come together, and how that can be achieved even in today’s divided world.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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