Friday, April 16, 2021

Population size matters. China is bigger than the United States by a factor of four. It's not confusing.

These three countries are the largest - China, India, and the United States. It is amazing how often you read this, with an occasional reference to the top five or ten. Depending on the article, one can learn something about population growth, economies, etc.

Two months ago the Visual Capitalist offered this image...

...which gives the reader a sense of size comparison by placing inside China images of Europe, North America, South America, and Australasia, resized to reflect the comparative population. They then overlay India on China and Africa on China.

What is not presented is the very significant subject of "ethnicity" which in this post will include the term "race."

India and Africa have many ethnicities. Europe, the Americas, and Australasia as a group also have many ethnicities.

China is 91%± Han Chinese, the world's largest ethnicity of 1.3± billion, with one of the longest histories. Yes, there are 130± million Chinese of different ethnicities - at least 55 ethnic groups - who if they were in their own country would be the 10th largest.

But no single ethnic group comes close to the Han Chinese population in size.

Two facts about this ethnic group should be mentioned. First, the Han are identifiable genetically. Second, the standard Chinese language was adopted in the 1930's based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin. But numerous dialects of Chinese continue to be spoken locally at home as can be seen on the map below.

As a nation, India has 17.7% of the world's population which includes a diversity of ethnic groups. The United States has measly 4.25% of the world's population mostly from a diversity of immigrant ethnic groups.

The point here to remember is that as a nation China has 18.47% of the world's population, 91% of whom are of one ethnic group.

Monday, April 12, 2021

A reminder: Ignorance of the Chinese culture and language could lead to a war with no winners

The image above is from the 2018 post here Part 3. About China's most recent 4000 years included in the series The lack of comprehensive political economy goals will create concurrent pecuniary and environmental disasters for the U.S. Gen X and later generations. It is a long post in a series of five long posts intended to provide a knowledge base for the very, very few who might read it.

In that post it is suggested that you "pretend for a moment that you are among the Han Chinese population which is about 92% of China's population" so that you can get a feel for the reality noted there:

    It would be fair to say that the Chinese have never viewed the world with a European bias which makes gaining an understanding harder for non-Asians.
    To begin with, the native language spoken by Chinese President Xi Jinping and most of China's 1.4 billion people is not an Indo-European language. No influence from Abrahamic religions permeates Chinese history and culture, unlike American history and culture.
    Think about that.

Then think about this:

    Words in the basic spoken Chinese are not derived from Latin or Germanic sources. For someone whose native language is English, to master communications and thought patterns in Chinese requires absorbing a new pronunciation system, a new writing system and a totally different approach to grammar. And more recently brain scientists have discovered that learning Chinese involves a different brain development...

Literally, you could say "I don't understand how you think" to a Chinese citizen because you don't.

Unfortunately, a Chinese citizen could say to us "You don't understand our thought process." And that has been a concern.


On April 29, 2019, in an interview with fellow scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter at the Future Security Forum 2019, the State Department's Director of Policy Planning Dr. Kiron Skinner and Slaughter began by placing their conversation within the context of the strategic thinking of George F. Kennan with Skinner noting that everyone who serves as Director does so in the “shadow of George Kennan.” In addition to a number of other topics Skinner described the situation with China as a “long-term competition” that has “historical, ideological, and cultural” bases of which many in the foreign-policy community are unaware.

Skinner noted the mistake of projecting the traditional understanding of the world onto China simply transferring Kennan era views of the Soviet Union. She observed:

    This is a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology, and the United States hasn’t had that before, nor has it had an economic competitor the way that we have. The Soviet Union was a country with nuclear weapons, a huge Red Army, but a backwards economy, and that was the insight of Reagan when the intel community told him differently.
    He said I just don’t see the signs that it [the USSR] can survive a technology race with the West. So, in China, we have an economic competitor, we have an ideological competitor, one that really does seek a kind of global reach that many of us didn’t expect a couple of decades ago, and I think it’s also striking that it’s the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.

The result of this discussion was by August 2019, after serving two years, Skinner "resigned" (see the New York Times article State Dept. Officials Force Out Top Policy Planner and Adviser to Mike Pompeo). The highest-ranking African-American women in the Department had simultaneously:

  1. challenged the long-held beliefs within the State Department which has successfully pushed the idea that China is just another Soviet Union;
  2. because she used "Caucasian", an outdated grouping of human beings within the concept of race classifications, reflexively deemed “racist” by the modern warriors of identity-politics which gave the Chinese an opening to criticize her as a racist.

Of course, the Biden Administration has returned to a "Soviet Union" approach to China which could easily lead to war. Unfortunately, Biden's proposals are to bring back:

  • the Johnson Administration's domestic policy approach known in the 1960's as The Great Society which encompassed movements of urban renewal, modern transportation, clean environment, anti-poverty, healthcare reform, crime control, and educational reform; and
  • the Asian foreign policy which brought down the Johnson Presidency.

Keep in mind that Biden was first seeking public office during that time period around 1968.


On April 4, 2021, the South China Morning Post offered China says tough measures in Xinjiang are to beat terrorism – why isn’t the West convinced? as an explanation of the Han Chinese (92% of the population) point of view on the Muslim situation in Xinjiang which begins:

    Zhang Chunxian was seen by many as the hope of Xinjiang in 2010.
    Just months after the 2009 bloodbath and violent ethnic clashes that shocked the region and left more than 190 dead, Zhang, the region’s media savvy and somewhat charismatic new party chief, stepped in to replace his iron-fisted predecessor who had ruled the region for more than a decade.
    In one month, Zhang lifted an eight-month internet ban in Xinjiang. In 2015, he became the first Xinjiang party boss ever to join Muslim groups to celebrate the Eid ul-Fitr marking the end of the Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast.
    Yet despite Zhang’s pacifying approach deployed alongside his pledge of “no mercy to terrorists”, violent attacks continued to increase under his watch and reached beyond the region.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the article except that it presents a view that is Chinese. And with a Muslim population of 25± million the idea of terrorists even in relatively small percentages of the total is unacceptable.

The next day, April 5, 2021, an article in The New Yorker Surviving the Crackdown in Xinjiang: As mass detentions and surveillance dominate the lives of China’s Uyghurs and Kazakhs, a woman struggles to free herself. Nothing is inherently wrong with the article. The problem is the article views the world from an American view, albeit one that does carry support within other countries. It is an American view that can be held because we don't share either the attitude or experience.

The chart to the right lists the U.S. states by population and provides an estimate of the number Muslims in each state. In a May2019 post here it is suggested that Mike Pence have Trump offer to relocate the 14.5 million Muslims from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to seven states - Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas - which currently only have 17 thousand Muslims within 7.6 million residents. It would create a population mix within an area of approximately the same size and similar environmental conditions as Xinjiang.

Note that there is "religion" practiced in China about which Wikipedia offers the following:

    Chinese civilization has historically long been a cradle and host to a variety of the most enduring religio-philosophical traditions of the world. Confucianism and Taoism (Daoism), later joined by Buddhism, constitute the "three teachings" that have shaped Chinese culture. There are no clear boundaries between these intertwined religious systems, which do not claim to be exclusive, and elements of each enrich popular or folk religion.

"Religio-phlosophical" traditions. Simply put, "religion" is not a Chinese word. The term "folk religion" is an English (European) take on what historically is an extremely complex tradition. For a million or so Chinese who practice "religion" as used in the West, it is considered by the billion-plus Chinese as symbolically akin to the Easter Bunny.

Without belaboring the point, in China the culture says there is no acceptable number of deaths caused by "confused" religious practitioners. That's in contrast to the U.S. where the law may prohibit killing in the context of religion, but the culture dating back to...well...let's just say many of us are somewhat "confused" about killing people in the name of a religious cult.

The reason relocating the Muslims was suggested is that Americans could then find a way to deal with the few thousand extreme militants among that new population, of course after they have killed other folks because that is our way and religion is protected in the Constitution.

China officially espouses state atheism which bothers Americans far more than it should. In reality many Chinese citizens (including Communist Party members) engage in some kind of Chinese folk spiritual practice. U.S. officials are attacking the Chinese government for its unacceptable Muslim policy, even to the point of boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in China.


On Monday, April 12, 2021, the South China Morning Post told its readers in Taiwan says PLA flies 25 warplanes into its airspace, the largest incursion yet:

    China’s People Liberation Army flew 25 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, its largest incursion yet as tension in the Taiwan Strait continues to escalate.
    According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, the PLA warplanes – 14 Jian-16 fighter jets, four Jian-10s, four H-6K bombers, two Y-8 anti-submarine warfare planes and one KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft – entered the island’s southwest zone on Monday.
    The latest flights came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Beijing against invading Taiwan, a self-ruled island of 24 million that the Chinese government regards as a breakaway province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland - by force if necessary.
    This month the aerial incursions have taken place on a daily basis, and the Liberty Times in Taipei estimated that they have occurred on at least 86 days this year; Monday was the 102nd day of 2021 so far.

This news has been at the top of U.S. websites daily...oh, wait....

It would be good to say Americans are preoccupied with the South China Sea situation as explained in US-China rivalry: is the pressure on for Asean countries to choose sides? But we know that is not true. In fact, as discussed earlier currently we Americans are indignant over the situation in Xinjiang.


 This brings us back to the Sun Tzu quote at the top of this page. What do we know about China learned not from a Western perspective but from a Chinese perspective? If we depend upon a Western-based understanding, we risk a war over the long term.

Friday, April 2, 2021

A New World View: As of 2021 the Indo-Pacific has displaced the Atlantic as the world economic center

Embracing the Indo-Pacific in the 21st Century

Captain (Dr.) Gurpreet S Khurana, former Former Executive Director and Senior Fellow of the National Maritime Foundation of India, first formally introduced the term Indo-Pacific to describe a new world view in 2007.

Fourteen years later, that new world view has gained broad acceptance including the United States. On May 30, 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced in Hawaii that the Pentagon was changing the name of the Pacific Command to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

With the USS Arizona Memorial behind him, Mattis said:

    For U.S. Pacific Command, it is our primary combatant command, it's standing watch and intimately engaged with over half of the earth's surface and its diverse populations, from Hollywood to Bollywood, from polar bears to penguins as Admiral Harris puts it.
    Having grown up in Washington state, one of five American states with Pacific Ocean coastlines and looking out the plane's window yesterday coming across that vast expanse of ocean, in my flight here I was reminded that the United States is today and has been for two centuries a Pacific nation.
    Further, in recognition of the increasing connectivity, the Indian and Pacific Oceans, today we rename the U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Over many decades, this command has repeatedly adapted to changing circumstance, and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.

Despite beliefs by some that the United States is the dominant nation of the world, it is not. It is one nation among the 200± countries. Since WWII the U.S. has  lost wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Because of WWII, the U.S. was economically dominant for about 60 years. But since 2001, that situation has changed.

It is not that we do not have the preeminent military by 20th Century standards. It's just that the measurement of national strength is, and always has been, a strong economy. The Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor was recognized in the US-India Strategic Dialogue of 2013 by then Secretary of State John Kerry. In the future, pivotal technological decisions will not be made within a single national economy and it is likely that income distribution across the world will tend to become more egalitarian - except for that top 1% (or 10%) the existence of which is a source of complaints even in "communist" China.

Earlier this month in this blog the pandemic-related container-ship traffic jam off California’s coast was noted. This past week we followed the story of a massive container ship that became wedged in the Suez Canal and cut off traffic in the vital waterway for almost a week. The problem, of course, is that shipping is used to support a supply chain that has little room for delays which can create huge increases in costs.

Unacknowledged in a straightforward way is the complete flipping of humanities' economic view of the world. Yes, some focus on the idea of an Indo-Pacific oriented map was first presented here in a May 31, 2016 post Sanders and Trump to destroy Pacific Rim states of California, Oregon, and Washington which did emphasize: "We of California, Oregon and Washington ought to fear the Bernie/Donald Atlantic-Eurocentric world view. Our view of our western border, the Pacific Ocean, has nothing in common with what is experienced in New York or Vermont - or even Michigan or Florida - and that difference is threatening our economic well being."

But the map above offers not only a Pacific and Indian Oceans focus but a flipped image, a graphical revision of how we traditionally see our world to create an understanding that the Eurocentric world of 2nd Millennium AD is being replaced by an Indo-Pacific World View.

Europe, particularly Great Britain, was home to the Founding Fathers of the United States. Mental images of the world were based on maps that were focused on the Atlantic. The economics from that time until the mid-20th Century depended on relationships with European countries.

But that is not the Indo-Pacific World View.

Since the 21st Century numerous writers have begun to explore the nature of the new world view in terms of what it means. In an article in a 2019 edition of Journal of Indian Ocean Rim Studies, “The ‘Indo-pacific’ Idea: Origins, Conceptualizations and the Way Ahead”, Captain Khurana explained:

Notably, in the past half-century, it is not only China and India, but also the other countries in the entire swath of the Afro-Asian rimland and Australasia that have developed more rapidly than the rest of the world and are still rising. The GDP of the countries in merely in the maritime underbelly of Asia is poised to surpass 50 per cent of the global GDP, much sooner than what was predicted in the 2011 ADB Report. An analysis indicates that the combined GDP (PPP terms) of the 36 countries of =maritime Asia‘ already constitutes 48 per cent of the global GDP (2017). For the 62 Indo-Pacific countries of the Afro-Asian rimland—including Oceania—the proportion is 51.5 per cent. Furthermore, all 74 countries of the wider Indo-Pacific region (inclusive of the Americas) contribute to nearly 72 per cent of the global GDP. This indeed makes the "Rise of Indo-Pacific‘—rather than the "Rise of Asia‘—a more appropriate maxim.

The recognition of this underlies the following map:

In each case, the indicated policy boundaries were derived from official sources. In the case of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, the area encompasses more than 100 million square miles or roughly 52 percent of the Earth's surface. If you add to that the remainder of the area shown on the map, you have nearly 70% of the Earth's surface. If you include the west coast of the Americas and the east coast of Africa, you have nearly same percentage of the Earth's human population.

All this leads to the critical question: What international collision, deliberate or otherwise, could result from this reorientation of the world view?

21st Century Economic Competition

It needs to be made clear to all Americans that within the United States political power structure it was the military that first shifted its focus from NATO to the Indo-Pacific over a 30-year period.

And it is no accident that Steve Bannon, who as an officer in the United States Navy served on the destroyer USS Paul F. Foster as a surface warfare officer in the Pacific Fleet and then served as a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon, in a March 2016 discussion with Neoliberal Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation stated:

    We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years. There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those.

While Bannon does not make foreign policy for the U.S., he does reflect an attitude found among many former and current military officers and a surprising number of State Department employees. 

In 2005 Robert Kaplan wrote a long article in The Atlantic How We Would Fight China which extensively explains the complex world economic situation at that point in time, before the Indo-Pacific World View was acknowledged. However, in 2013 China introduced its Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure development strategy to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations. It's most significant effort to date involves lending through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank:

The formal shaping of both U.S. foreign and military policies was noted in The Contested Framing of the Indo-Pacific:

    Alongside the economics-driven rationale for this framing, there was an omnipresent geopolitical element in the Indo-Pacific framing, whether as text or subtext. This too is hardly surprising: the US “pivot to Asia” was a signature foreign policy move under the Obama administration in 2009. The “pivot” featured trade (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and military (Air-Sea Battle doctrine) components, both aimed at containing China. This latent or veiled conflict invoked by the geopolitical element in the Indo-Pacific framing came out into the open with the Trump administration’s promotion of the “free and open Indo-Pacific” in the 2017 US National Security Strategy. Hardly surprisingly, China reacted negatively, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi calling the Indo-Pacific framing an “attention-grabbing idea” that “will dissipate like ocean foam.”

With that said, it is the "economics-driven rationale" that has resulted in the evolution of the Indo-Pacific New World View while many, maybe most, Americans weren't looking. In the 45 years since the death of Chairman Mao, China has developed an economy that in total purchasing power exceeds that of the United States albeit China's average per capita income is still well below the United States.

This has left the U.S.with a substantial trade deficit most significantly because of trade with China. But that is becoming more complicated. In a well-written article by Bill Knighton, president of RightAngle Products, How the US Lost Most of its Manufacturing, published in January 2018, you can learn how and why over 60 years the American economy shifted to a service economy dependent upon imports. 

The point here is trade, particularly trade dependent upon shipping from other countries, is critical to the survival of the American economy which is, in turn, critical to the survival of the world economy as we know it. Here is a chart on containerized shipping in 2020:

Understand that the Trans-Pacific shipping of 25 million TEU's equals 300 million tons. We all should get an idea of the value of the huge volume of imports to the United States as shown in this 2019 chart:

It is admittedly hard to visualize physically what this shipping means. We do have a graphic available that gives a feel for the activity involved, but it is based on 2012 information and we have likely seen as much as a 40% increase in shipping. Nonetheless, it does give one a feel for the traffic:

You must click the "-" and drag the map to see what shipping was like in the Indo-Pacific. Then assume a 40% increase, certainly some from larger ships but also some from more ships.

Finally, the reality of the United States looks like this map which hasn't been inverted:

As noted in the beginning above, retired Four-Star Marine General and then Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a native of Washington State, noted that five of the 50 American states have Pacific Ocean coastlines. The United States is an unnatural Union that offers access from East Asia and Southeast Asia to Trans-Pacific shipping at ports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, all thousands of miles from population centers on the Eastern Coastal Plain.

The U.S. East Coast views the Atlantic looking east to Europe. The U.S. West Coast views the Indo-Pacific to the west. These offer radically different cultural views. By the end of the fourth millennium BC, both China and India had emerged as regions of highly developed civilizations.

But that was six millennia ago. It's time to acknowledge our economic relationship with the Indo-Pacific nations. It's time to acknowledge the United States Indo-Pacific Command commitment. It's time to create space, shifting our historical cultural focus from NATO and Europe to the map at the top of this post. Our economy already has.