Archive for the Capitalism crisis early 21st century Category

Beijing hosts First World Congress on Marxism [Global Times]

Posted in Beijing, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, China, Education, Marx, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics on February 8, 2016 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Zhang Hui
Published: 2015-10-12

*** Ideology to help China through social, economic challenges: analysts ***

China attaches great importance to the …first World Congress on Marxism in Beijing in solving its growing social and economic problems during the transition period, and the event offered a chance for China to spread Marxist ideology, observers said on Sunday.

As the biggest academic conference on Marxism held in China, the congress, “Marxism and the Development of the Human Race,” attracted more than 400 Marxist scholars from 20 countries.

The discussions center on China’s development path, theories and systems, together with the worldwide influence exerted by Marxism to promote human development, the Guangming Daily reported on Sunday.

Observers said that the congress helped address China’s concerns during a critical transition.

“China faces an increasing number of problems in the midst of its economic slowdown and deepening reform, such as corruption and the growing income gap, which require the country to use Marxism to explain and solve them,” Xin Xiangyang, a research fellow on Marxism at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

The congress also provided an opportunity for Western countries to learn from China, as China’s adherence to Marxism for decades has made huge headway in both social and economic development, while the Western world has not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, Xin said.

Observers said that since President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of Marxist ideology, there has been a resurgence of the ideology as the theoretical foundation of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in China.

President Xi said in January that Marxist philosophy provides CPC members with the right approach to problem-solving, as China continues its path of reform and development.

He stressed several times “sinicization” and modernization of Marxism in his speeches since 2013.

However, China still faces challenges in adopting Marxism.

China has not reached a level of “common prosperity” as stated in Marxist thought. Corruption still exists, while Marxism has called for clean government, Wang Zhanyang, director of the Political Science Department at the Central Institute of Socialism, told the Global Times.

Peking University, sponsor of the congress, has attached increasing importance to Marxism.

It held a foundation-laying ceremony in May for a building named after German philosopher Karl Marx, to celebrate his 197th birth anniversary.

Edited by Zuo Shou. Original article title: “Beijing hosts 1st Marxism congress”

Full article link: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/946549.shtml

See also related article from event host Peking University website, link: http://english.pku.edu.cn/news_events/news/global/3979.htm

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Obama declares “national emergency” based on alleged cyber threats from Russia, China [World Socialist Website]

Posted in Anti-China propaganda exposure, Black propaganda, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, China, China-bashing, DPR Korea, FBI, Internet Global Hegemony, Iran, Pentagon, Psychological warfare, Russia, US imperialism, USA, USA 21st Century Cold War on April 12, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Thomas Gaist
3 April 2015

In yet another escalation of the drive by the US ruling class to establish unconstrained control over the world’s information networks, US President Barack Obama issued an executive order Wednesday declaring a “national emergency” over cyber attacks on US targets. The order authorizes economic sanctions and the seizure of financial assets and other forms of property from any entity considered a “security risk…”

Excerpted; full article link: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/04/03/cybe-a03.html

“US faces another debacle on Pacific economic treaty” – TPP, fake free trade pact, in trouble [World Socialist Website]

Posted in Anti-China propaganda exposure, Australia, Canada, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, Chile, China, China-bashing, Economic crisis & decline, Economy, Encirclement of China, EU, European Union, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Media cover-up, Mexico, New Zealand, Obama, Peru, Protectionist Trade War with China, Singapore, south Korea, U.K., US imperialism, USA, USA 21st Century Cold War, Vietnam on April 5, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Mike Head
4 April 2015

Having suffered a decisive defeat in its efforts to block other countries from joining the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the US government faces mounting difficulties with regard to its most far-reaching move to dominate the Asia-Pacific region: the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

In Hawaii last month, the latest round of five-year-long TPP talks between the 12 governments involved broke up without any further agreement. For the third year in a row, the White House’s deadline for a final deal looks set to be breached in 2015.

Significantly, the main stumbling block this time was reportedly not ongoing differences between the US and Japan over auto and agricultural markets, but doubts over President Barack Obama’s capacity to get congressional approval for the pact.

Falsely presented as a “free trade” deal, the TPP is the opposite. It is aimed at creating a vast US-controlled economic bloc. In return for favoured access to the US market, which is still the largest in the world, the TPP requires its members to scrap all legal, regulatory and government impediments to American investment and corporate operations.

The TPP is an essential component of Washington’s military and strategic “pivot” to Asia, aimed at establishing unchallenged hegemony over the region, including China, which has thus far been excluded from the treaty. The “partnership” seeks to restructure every aspect of economic and social life across the Asia-Pacific in the interests of Wall Street finance capital and the largest US corporations, particularly the IT, pharmaceutical and media conglomerates.

A similar drive is underway to incorporate the European Union into a Transatlantic Trade and I nvestment Partnership (TTIP) bloc. Like the TPP, the European treaty is being negotiated behind the backs of the international working class amid tight secrecy, with hundreds of the world’s largest corporations taking part.

Obama has resorted to blatant anti-Chinese rhetoric in a bid to overcome opposition to aspects of the TPP from sections of the Democratic and Republican congressional leaderships. In one recent interview, the US president declared: “If we don’t write the rules out there, China’s going to write the rules and the geopolitical implications of China writing the rules for trade almost inevitably means that we will be cut out or we will be deeply disadvantaged. Our businesses will be disadvantaged, our workers will be disadvantaged.”

Washington is concerned that other imperialist powers, such as Germany, Britain and Japan, could strengthen their positions in China at the expense of the US unless America “writes the rules” for world trade in the 21st century.

Global financial commentators are drawing attention to what is at stake. Under the headline, “Round two in America’s battle for Asian influence,” David Pilling wrote in the London-based Financial Times on April 1: “Washington’s attempt to lead a boycott of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank ended in farce after Britain broke ranks and other nations from Germany to South Korea fell over themselves to join. If round one was a defeat for America, round two hangs in the balance.”

Pilling noted that the TPP’s exclusion of China, on the grounds that its economy was state-owned and centrally planned, was obviously concocted. “In a peculiar display of diplomatic contortion,” he wrote, “Vietnam — a country whose economy is as centrally planned and as rigged [sic] as the best of them — is somehow considered fit for entry.”

The Financial Times Asia editor pointedly added that the TPP was “just as likely to annoy America’s allies in the region as reassure them” because of its intrusive demands, which include the dismantling of state-owned enterprises, tendering restrictions, financial regulations, data protection rules and intellectual property laws.

Washington’s aggressive drive to establish the TPP and TTIP economic blocs marks a reversal of its post-World War II role, when the ascendancy of American industry permitted it to champion the reconstruction of its Japanese and European rivals, albeit always for its own benefit, including via the expansion of markets for its exports.

Today, amid the ongoing decline of US industry, its ruling elite depends increasingly on the parasitic activities of Wall Street, the exploitation of patents by Silicon Valley, Hollywood and the drug companies, and contracts for the supply of military hardware. These rapacious interests will most directly benefit from the TPP.

Many details remain secret, but pro-TPP lobbying efforts highlight the anticipated profit bonanzas. Mireya Solis of the Brookings Institution think tank stressed advantages such as “internationalisation of financial services, protection of intellectual property and governance of the Internet economy.”

US technology firms would benefit from a ban on requiring companies to house customers’ data within a specific country. “If we’re going to serve the customer of Malaysia from, say, a data center in Singapore, the data has to be able to move back and forth between those two countries,” Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, told the Wall Street Journal.

Central to the treaty are punitive Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) clauses, which permit transnationals to sue governments for losses allegedly caused by official policy decisions. WikiLeaks last month published a chapter of the TPP treaty showing that firms could bypass a country’s courts to obtain damages for changes in “environmental, health or other regulatory objectives.”

Apart from the US and Japan — the two biggest partners by far — the other TPP participants are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The willingness of many of these countries to make the required concessions to the US has been undermined by Obama’s failure to secure support for a Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill so that he can sign the TPP and then have it ratified by Congress with a single “yes” or “no” vote. Without TPA, Congress could force amendments to the negotiated pact, effectively rendering the agreement void.

According to a Japan Times report: “Several negotiating partners, including Canada and Japan, have publicly stated they will not put their final negotiating positions on the table until Congress grants TPA for the Obama administration. With a presidential election looming in the United States, further delay creates a real risk of TPP being delayed until 2017.”

Much of the US congressional resistance is bound up with protectionist lobbies, based on national-based industries and their trade unions. In response, the Obama administration is ramping up a campaign that explicitly spells out the expected benefits to corporate America.

On March 30, the White House published letters from former senior economic officials, including 10 ex-commerce secretaries representing every administration, Democratic and Republican, since 1973, urging congressional leaders to give Obama TPA authority.

The commerce secretaries stated: “Once completed, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will give the United States free trade arrangements with 65 percent of global GDP and give our businesses preferential access to a large base of new potential customers.”

This demand for “preferential access” by US imperialism threatens to break up the world economy into the kind of rival blocs that preceded World War I and World War II.

Edited by Zuo Shou

Article link: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/04/04/tppo-a04.html

“A decisive turning point in the crisis of American imperialism” – AIIP is here [World Socialist Website]

Posted in Assassination, Australia, Beijing, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, China, Denmark, Early 21st Century global capitalist financial crisis' US origins, Economic crisis & decline, Engels, France, Germany, IMF - International Monetary Fund, India, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Obama, Pentagon, Police State, south Korea, Taiwan, Torture, Trotsky, US imperialism, USA, USA 21st Century Cold War on April 2, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

1 April 2015

Yesterday was the deadline for countries to sign up as founding members of the China-backed Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). It will go down in history as marking a significant defeat for the global foreign policy and strategic objectives of United States imperialism.

Against strenuous opposition from Washington, more than 40 countries have now indicated they want to be part of the AIIB. Major European powers including Britain, France and Germany, as well as Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, are on board. Almost all countries in the South East Asian region, which count China as their major trading partner, have also signed up. India is also a signatory, together with Taiwan.

The most significant blow against the US was struck by Britain, its chief European ally, which announced its decision to join on March 12. It opened the floodgates for others to follow, including two key US allies in the Asia-Pacific -— Australia and South Korea. Japan is also reported to be considering joining, possibly as early as June.

The full significance of the US defeat and its far-reaching implications emerge most clearly when viewed from a historical perspective.

One of the chief objections of the Obama administration to the new bank was that it would undermine the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Together with the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944, they constituted central pillars of the global economic order established after World War II by the United States, which played the central role in rebuilding world capitalism following the devastation of the 1920s and 1930s and the wars and revolutionary struggles it produced.

Of course, both of these institutions, together with the Marshall Plan for the restabilisation of war-torn Europe, operated to the economic and strategic benefit of American imperialism.

But while America drew enormous gains from the post-war order, it was not narrowly conceived. There was a recognition in ruling political and economic circles that if American capitalism was to survive, it would have to use the enormous resources at its disposal to ensure the growth and expansion of other capitalist powers, above all, those against which it had fought a bitter and bloody conflict.

Post-war reconstruction enabled the expansion of Germany and turned it once again into the industrial powerhouse of Europe. At the same time, concessions to Japan on the value of its currency -— it was pegged at 360 yen to the dollar -— opened up export markets for its industry. The decision to build trucks and other military equipment in Japan during the Korean War laid the foundations for the development of Japan’s auto industry, as it incorporated, and then developed, the advanced production techniques that had been established in the US.

The industrial and economic capacity of the United States, even when it took reactionary forms as in the case of the Korean War, was utilised to facilitate a new phase of global capitalist expansion—the post-war boom.

What a contrast to the present situation! American capitalism is no longer the industrial powerhouse of the world, ensuring the expansion of the capitalist economy as a whole. Rather, it functions as the global parasite-in-chief, as its rapacious banks, investment houses and hedge funds scour the world for profitable opportunities, engaged not in the production of new wealth, but in the appropriation of wealth produced elsewhere, often via criminal or semi-criminal operations.

In the immediate post-war period, the US was the champion of free trade, recognising that the restrictions and beggar-thy-neighbour policies of the 1930s had produced a disaster. Today, through measures such as the Trans Pacific Partnership and similar arrangements being prepared with regard to Europe, Washington seeks to forge exclusivist agreements aimed at protecting the monopoly position of US corporations. America, Obama has stated, must write the global rules for trade and investment in the 21st century.

American influence in the post-war period was not confined to the immediate economic sphere. Notwithstanding all its contradictory features, American society appeared to have something to offer the world as a whole, which had suffered decades of war, fascism and military forms of rule, along with economic devastation.

Again, the contrast with the present situation could not be starker. American democracy, once held up as a beacon for the rest of the world, is a withered caricature of its former self, no longer capable of concealing the dictatorship of the financial and corporate elites.

Social conditions are characterised by deprivation and state violence, reflected not least in the daily police killings. America has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and in Detroit, once the centre of the American industrial economy, paying the highest wages, water shutoffs are being imposed. The US government carries out torture, abductions, assassinations and mass spying on its own people and others around the world. The country is ruled by criminals who cannot be held accountable for their crimes.

In the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the removal from the scene of its global rival, the American ruling class was gripped by the idea that while its economic position had been severely weakened -— the stock market crash of 1987 was a harbinger of things to come -— American hegemony could nevertheless be maintained by military means.

But as Frederick Engels had earlier explained in refuting another exponent of “force theory,” the notion that economic developments—the advance of industry, credit and trade—and the contradictions to which they gave rise could be “blown out of existence” with “Krupp guns and Mauser rifles” was a delusion.

The past 25 years of American foreign policy, based on the use of cruise missiles and drones, combined with invasions and regime-change operations grounded on lies, have produced one debacle after another.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost, as other capitalist powers, great and small, begin to conclude that hitching themselves to the American juggernaut is the surest road to disaster. That is the historic significance of their decision to join the AIIB.

How will American imperialism respond? By increasing its military provocations, threatening to plunge the world once again into war.

Charting the rise of American imperialism in the late 1920s, Leon Trotsky noted that in the period of crisis, its hegemony would operate “more openly and more ruthlessly than in the period of boom,” and that it would attempt to extricate itself from its difficulties and maladies at the expense of its rivals, if necessary by means of war.

However there is another, and, in the final analysis, decisive, aspect to the economic decline of American imperialism, marked so powerfully by the events of yesterday.

For decades, the American working class was disoriented by the idea of a continually rising power -— that America’s “best days” were always ahead. Reality is now coming home with ever-increasing force.

Events are shattering the delusions of the past and will propel the American working class on to the road of revolutionary struggle, creating the conditions for the unification of the international working class in the fight for world socialist revolution.

Nick Beams

Article link: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/04/01/pers-a01.html

Interview: Does capitalism have a future? [The Hankyoreh / 한겨레]

Posted in Capitalism crisis early 21st century, Marx, south Korea on March 21, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Jan 16, 2015

~Yale professor Immanual Wallerstein says South Korea’s future hinges on integration with the rest of Northeast Asia~

Does capitalism have a future? Today’s capitalist system is facing such serious issues that the word “crisis” has become part of the everyday conversation, while discussions on alternatives have become tinged with despair. Last year saw the publication in Korean translation of a book that asks this very question: Immanual Wallerstein’s “Does Capitalism Have a Future?,” co-written with Randall Collins, Michael Mann, Georgi Derluguian, and Craig Calhoun (translated by Seong Baek-yong for Changbi Publishing). The release was accompanied by a conversation exchanged in letters between main author Wallerstein, a Yale University emeritus professor and analyst of global systems, and Lee Kang-kook, an economics professor at Japan’s Ritsumeikan University.

In the conversation, Wallerstein said the recent crisis of capitalism is beyond solving through the Keynesian approach of increasing state intervention. While Thomas Piketty, whose “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” has drawn global notice, contributed to the public debate on worsening inequality under the current global system, Wallerstein also noted that he suffers from the same limitations as other mainstream economists. According to Wallerstein, US hegemony is in a state of catastrophic collapse, and while its place could be taken by China and Northeast Asia, the growth of the middle-class of Chinese consumers is poised to strain the world economy and exacerbate the crisis…

As South Korea loses its economic vitality, its future hinges on integration with the rest of Northeast Asia, Wallerstein said. He noted that the country could play a pivotal role in that process, but added that doing so would first require improving relations with North Korea and creating a system of inter-Korean integration.

= The Global Financial Crisis and Its Aftermath =

Lee Kang-kook: First, I like to know about the reason and motivation why you and your co-authors planned to write this book. Why should we pose this fundamental question about capitalism now? We will ask you about the end of capitalism later in more detail.

Immanuel Wallerstein: We all believe that the world-system is in enormous difficulty and that the general discussion lacks historical depth as well as weak theorizing. We hope to stimulate a more useful debate about the world’s alternatives.

Lee: After the global financial crisis, the world economy has been in serious recession for long, much longer than economists expected. How do you evaluate the current state of the global economy, and especially responses of the advanced country governments such as quantitative easing policy? Following the crisis, Keynesians appear to have returned and become more powerful. They argue that the crisis was a failure of unregulated capitalism and the state can and should manage the capitalist economy rather successfully. I think that you must be very critical of this view.

Wallerstein: This is one of the things upon which the five authors do not agree. Two of us seem to argue that a Keynesian approach might work. Two others, including me, think the situation is way beyond that point. Even those who are sympathetic to a Keynesian approach argue that this is not enough.

Lee: Then, what do you think are fundamental causes and implications of the global financial crisis, and how is your view different from other positions, including lefitsts? I think that this crisis could be the specific crisis of financialization in the B phase of Kondratiev cycle from your perspective. But I am not so sure whether it is really a part of the structural crisis once in 500 years, as you emphasize.

Wallerstein: The major difference between my own view and that of many, probably most, leftists is that most leftists emphasize the strength of popular resistance to a worsening situation. I don’t deny this, but for me popular resistance is a long-time constant. What has been added now is the fact that capitalist accumulation via market processes no longer works for capitalists. Therefore, capitalists as well as the vulnerable classes are looking for alternatives to capitalism in order to ensure their wealth.

Lee: It is interesting that even in mainstream economics there are now concerns about a gloomy future of capitalism. For instance, Larry Summers mentioned ‘secular recession’ and Robert Gordon argues that growth rate will become lower in the long-run mainly due to stagnation in innovation. Could you make some comments on these arguments from your point of view?

Wallerstein: What you will notice in such mainstream gloom is that there always is an escape clause. They are saying: All is gloomy, unless you do x or y. I don’t think there is such an x or y.

Lee: Now, inequality in capitalism is a hot issue in economics. Thomas Piketty recently presented dynamics of inequality in capitalism in “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”, which became a bestseller. He calls for higher progressive income tax and global capital tax in order to reform capitalism. He predicts that the 21st century will become worse without any efforts since the return on capital tends to be higher than the growth rate. It brought about a serious debate among economists. How do you evaluate Piketty’s work and the related debate? What do you think of the dynamics of inequality in the history of capitalism?

Wallerstein: Piketty is basically an intelligent and very technically competent mainstream economist who favors a social-democratic solution to the situation. He suffers therefore from the same limitations of other mainstream economists. That said, his book has had the virtue of reinforcing a public debate about growing inequality in the world-system. And that is a good thing.

~Capitalism and Prospects for Transition~

Lee: You have argued that the fundamental cause of the end of the current system is a continuous rise of cost in production, including labor, input/infrastructure, and tax for several hundred years. I think your explanation is somewhat different from an original Marxist argument about the falling rate of profit rate due to the rise of organic composition of capital. Anyways, one may argue that the trend of rising costs is not so clear in reality. For example, at least wage has been stagnant after the 1980s in comparison with labor productivity growth, which resulted in a fall of the labor share. What do you think?

Wallerstein: The costs of production have always risen in a pattern of two steps upward, one step downward. You are noticing the one step downward, and ignoring the two steps upward. This pattern over 500 years has brought the costs to such a high level that they are approaching an asymptote and are too near the possible maximum price rate for their products. Hence, the system oscillates and is in chaotic wild swings…

Excerpted; full article link: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/674079.html

Writing Unions Out of the Story on Fighting Poverty [FAIR]

Posted in Capitalism crisis early 21st century, Corporate Media Critique, Economic crisis & decline, Media cover-up, New York Times lie, Psychological warfare, USA on June 14, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

June 6, 2014

by Peter Hart

The New York Times (6/4/14) took a look at one of the economic puzzles of the last few decades: If growth has been strong, why aren’t we seeing a greater reduction in poverty? Interestingly, the research the Times is relying on offers some explanations–ones the paper doesn’t see fit to mention.

The story by Neil Irwin – “Growth Has Been Good for Decades. So Why Hasn’t Poverty Declined?” – notes that it’s considered conventional wisdom that the “surest way to fight poverty is to achieve stronger economic growth.” But since the mid-’70s, the US economy has grown, but the benefits of that growth have not been shared. He writes: “The mystery of why–and how to change that – is one of the most fundamental challenges in the nation’s fight against poverty.”

The piece is based on research from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. As Irwin sums it up:

If the old relationship between growth and poverty had held up, the EPI researchers find, the poverty rate in the United States would have fallen to zero by 1986 and stayed there ever since.

So what has happened to explain this? Irwin gives only a hint, writing that “liberal-leaning group’s policy prescriptions are open to debate.” Click on the EPI link in the Times piece, though, and you’ll see the researchers offer some pretty clear ideas about why they think this has happened:

Direct evidence highlights the key roles of the two most-visible and well-documented changes in labor market policy and practice over the past generation in driving wage trends: the erosion of the inflation-adjusted value of the federal minimum wage and the sharp decline in the share of the American workforce represented by a union.

Most specifically, EPI notes:

Between the 1970s and the late 2000s, the eroded minimum wage explains roughly two-thirds of the growing wage gap between low- and middle-wage workers, and weakened unions explain a fifth to a third of the entire rise of wage inequality.

The point of the piece is to think about what happened from the late 1970s onward. And Irwin does a good job of explaining how Paul Ryan-esque rhetoric about the need to get poor people to work misses the point, since “the reality is that low-income workers are putting in more hours on the job than they did a generation ago – and the financial rewards for doing so just haven’t increased.”

So why didn’t Irwin talk about the minimum wage or unions–the factors EPI singles out as being especially important to understanding this story?…

In this case, there does seem to be an explanation for the story it’s trying to tell. And for some reason, the Times doesn’t want to talk about it.

Article link: http://www.fair.org/blog/2014/06/06/writing-unions-out-of-the-story-on-fighting-poverty/

“US frustration as its hegemony declines” – Syrian election underlines limits of US global dominance [People’s Daily]

Posted in Afghan quagmire, Afghanistan, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, Iraq, Obama, Pentagon, Russia, Syria, U.K., US foreign occupation, US imperialism, USA on June 14, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

June 5, 2014

Note: Assad won the June 2014 Syrian election, which the following article pre-dated. — Zuo Shou

The Syrian authorities opted to hold a presidential election on June 3. Bashar al-Assad is one of the three candidates. The international media generally assume that there is no doubt that Bashar al-Assad will win re-election. In spite of public discontent with the current situation and a desire for change, the essence of the Syria crisis is that foreign forces have tried to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs, provoking a civil war in an attempt to overthrow the Syrian government.

The US President Barack Obama announced on August: “The rule of Bashar al-Assad has lost its legitimacy and he must step down.” However, far from falling, Bashar al-Assad has secured another three years in power, for many reasons. Most importantly, the United States has made no direct military strikes against Syria. Why did the U.S. military decide not to wield the big stick this time?

Boogged down by its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the peak of the United States hegemony is past. The U.S. economy crashed during the 2008 financial crisis, triggering further domestic issues. Coupled with the rise of the emerging economies, it is an indisputable fact that the dominance of the U.S.A. is in decline. Increasingly powerless to halt this decline, the United States is at a loss. Through his implementation of the “Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy” in 2011, Obama adjusted his Middle East policy by reducing investment in the Middle East, slowing down the implementation of the “new interventionism” and seeking shelter in stability.

A war in Syria is now contrary to its global strategy, and it would leave the U.S. facing too many associated difficulties. In August 2013, the West contrived the Syrian ‘chemical weapons’ crisis. The United States schemed with the United Kingdom to threaten Syria, declaring its intention to carry out a limited military strike. But 59% of Americans were opposed to aiding the Syrian opposition.

The UK Parliament forced their government to abandon its war plans. Obama had to accept a Russian proposal to turn over control of Syria’s chemical weapons in exchange for peace as an “acceptable” conclusion to the crisis.

Mr. Qian Wenrong, a reputable Chinese scholar, points out that after World War II and the Cold War, the United States has always been ready to make war, and has always been able to assemble a group of willing helpers. As a result, the U.S. suffers from the illusion that it can do whatever it wants. This time round, Obama’s compromises on the Syrian “Chemcal Weapons crisis” testify to the declining strength of the United States. The U.S. is weaker than before. The prime of U.S. hegemony has passed, and is perhaps fated to disappear for ever.

Some commentators suggest that Bashar al-Assad’s participation in the 2014 presidential election will become an excuse for the U.S. to use military force.

However, the U.S. response to date has been firstly to claim that the elections are not legitimate and the U.S. will not accept the results, secondly to grant diplomatic status to the Syrian anti-government organization office in the U.S.A., and thirdly to provide $27 million in aid to the Syrian opposition.

The United States and its allies may have plans for further actions, but so far there is no sign of any military strike against Syria. On May 28 Obama delivered a speech at West Point in which he stated that as far as Syria is concerned, while military action is not a solution, the United States will support the opposition against the authorities. The speech suggests that the option of direct military intervention has been ruled out. A political solution to the Syrian crisis repressents the international consensus. But Western countries, led by the U.S., and some of the countries of the Middle East, still insist on supporting the Syrian opposition and on demanding that Bashar al-Assad should step down as a prerequisite to any talks. Only a political solution will resolve this impasse .

As long as the U.S. continues to support the opposition, it will be difficult to end the Syrian civil war; as long as the United States does not launch direct military strikes, Bashar al-Assad’s regime will not be overthrown.

Efforts are still being made to find a political solution to the crisis, but if neither side is willing to change its attitude, any such efforts will be in vain. The Syrian crisis could drag on. The crisis has not evolved in the way that the U.S wished. Not only has Bashar al-Assad refused to step down, he will be re-elected as a president. His continuance in power is a frustrating reminder to the U.S. of its declining hegemony.

The article is edited and translated from《美国的无奈, source: Jiefang Daily, author: An Huihou. The author is formerly Chinese Ambassador to Algeria, Tunisia and Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt and is now a distinguished research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS).

(Editor:Gao Yinan、Yao Chun)

Article link: http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/n/2014/0605/c98649-8737275.html