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Will the Pacific Remain Peaceful?

CAPITALISM IS a volatile social system and the Economist magazine, ever aware of its potentially explosive nature, has recently examined the possibility of the extreme economic rivalry in the Pacific region leading to what may turn out to be a more violent phase. The main contestants at present are the USA, China and Japan but there are other fringe countries that may well play an important role in the future.

Since the 1970s trade across the Pacific has far exceeded that of the Atlantic. ‘China, for  instance, has taken its hunger for high-protein foods and raw materials to Latin America and has become the biggest trading partner of distant Chile. By one estimate, in 2010 it provided more loans to Latin America than the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the United States-Import Bank combined’

(Economist, 15 November). The developing rim of the Pacific has become a giant growth factory. Take a look at some of the trading figures. Over the last decade the USA  economic growth was about 1.6 percent per year, the European Union was 1.7 percent, whereas Latin American expanded by 4.6 percent, East trans-Pacific group of Asian-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) account for nearly half of global trade. It is a situation in which the major players China and the USA must be very  cautious because there is a lot at stake here. This has not stopped China from doing a bit of sabre-rattling from time to time though.

‘We’ve seen indications that Xi Jinping has an ambition to increase China’s influence in east Asia, central Asia, and the western Pacific, said Shi Yinhong, an international relations expert at Renmin University in Beijing. Many statements and actions imply that this will come at the cost of American predominance in the same regions. I think that this is already raising concerns in Washington’

(Guardian, 9 November). A more likely policy to be pursued by China and the USA is probably the one outlined by Hilary Clinton when she was the Secretary of State in 2011 in an article in Foreign Policy: ‘We all know that feelings and misconceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific. Some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the US, some in China worry that America seeks to constrain  China’s growth. We reject both views.’ Even the belligerent Xi Jinping had a more re-assuring aside to Obama last year when he said ‘The vast Pacific Ocean has enough space for the two large countries of China and the United States.’

Despite the diplomatic language when a capitalist country’s trading profits are threatened there is no limit to which political threats and counter-threats can be carried out and the frightening use of military violence is always a distinct possibility in this crazy competitive society.

RD