Sheng Li (gmachine1729) wrote,
Sheng Li

More on America’s disingenuousness and its overrated achievements and capabilities

Originally published at 狗和留美者不得入内. You can comment here or there.

I generally agree with the thesis that America is in rapid decline. All you have to do is remember how powerful the U.S. was in the nineties. How far we have fallen in thirty short years.

I know many girls that were very talented and pretty. While they were young, for one reason or another, they either think that all the suiters were not good enough for them or never bother to look. Then in their late twenties, they started panicking. They started responding to people that once pursue them but those are mostly not available anymore. They did not realize that their dating capital had declined a lot from their early twenties. Thus the journey ensues where the ever declining expectation never quite catch up with reality until their late thirties or forties where they resign themselves to curling up with their cats.

I think for the next couple of decades, we will follow a similar course. The old cold warriors that dominated the Trump foreign policy clearly were delusional about how powerful the U.S. still was. Biden may make some adjustments, but nowhere near enough to match reality.

While the Chinese economy is 70% of the U.S. by currency exchange terms, they are already on parity with us today if you care to scrutinize the numbers in more detail. For example, the construction portion of the economy, the U.S. is similar size to the Chinese. If you look at the number of buildings and roads etc that were actually built, you will find that the Chinese actually built multiple X the actual number of buildings that we did. This has been true for many decades. Just look at numbers like concrete and steel usage of the two countries and you know that to be true. Add to that the medical, legal and financial sectors which are all out of proportion to the value contribution to the society. Our military contributed a lot of good stuff, but contrast the MIC for the two countries and you will see the same things. The Chinese, with a small fraction of our military budget, were able to churn out more stuff with less money. We are not talking 10% or even 50% disparity, but 3x in ship building. In 2028, just eight short years from now, their economy in currency exchange terms, will be on parity with the U.S., there isn’t a thing we can do to stop that from happening. During that time, the Chinese will achieve a great deal, for instance, being able to produce semi-conductors near the top of the technology using none-American tech. If we are parity now with the Chinese, when their GDP is the same as us in currency exchange terms, they will be much more powerful compared to us. We would already be clearly number two by that time.

In foreign policy, there are maybe three and a half countries that have independent foreign policies. U.S., Russia, China and Iran. In that sense, the U.S., unlike in the nineties, is no longer a hegemon. If the Chinese and the Russians don’t agree, we no longer have the power to topple any government in the Eurasian continent. Russia and Iran can continue onward with their economies as long as the Chinese are still around. All Putin had to do is to last another decade, by which time the Russian ruling class will not be able to tilt toward the U.S. even if Putin is out of the picture because it will be obvious to everyone by that time that the Chinese have come up on top.

Status quo is very bad for the U.S. as the Chinese continue to grow stronger year by year. By that extension, more and more countries will peel off from the U.S. alliance to the Chinese orbit. We lost a great deal of soft power in 2020 and will not be able to regain them. Short of a nuclear war, we will not be able to reverse these trends. Unfortunately, like those girls that I knew, the U.S. will fail to reconcile our policy with reality as we continue to deteriorate our positions.

To the following, I responded:

I’ve realized over the past year after actually looking into some of the details that America did not actually win the arms race. That the arms race bankrupted Soviets into collapse is a commonly believed myth for those with American hubris. If not for Gorbachev giving permission to open the Berlin Wall, etc, the USSR could have pretty much remained indefinitely. Even with disintegration of USSR, Russia itself was still extremely powerful. Even after much destruction of Russian economy by Yeltsin and Western compradors, Russia still had some military technology superior to that of America and could not be anything close to subdued. Moreover, starting in 1999, the economic situation in Russia began to reverse; it is a good example of regression to the mean of extremely bad luck.

It is certainly true that the Eastern Bloc economies and standard of living were quite a bit behind those of America and Western Europe in late 80s; but it is also certainly true that the Eastern Bloc was not anything close to starving or lacking in basic material needs by then. In the 90s in China, many people in big cities were still riding bicycles to work, and there was a noticeable lack of athletic facilities, in contrast to all the basketball courts, tennis courts, and cars in American suburbs. Now it is ever more obvious that what America had on the surface possessed material wealth wise was much like the flash of a pretty 20 year old girl at an elite school, that of a nature which necessarily regresses and fades over time as others catch up. A lot of idiot Chinese in the 90s fell for that flashy 20 year old girl. Seeing that America was far ahead, they tried to take a shortcut out of angst.

America is mostly good at marketing, propaganda, and PR, as are 20 year old girls at elite schools. The American way of thinking inclines towards over-emphasizing upsides while utterly ignoring downsides. Moreover, America loves to present sexiness and flash on the surface to mask shallowness or waste at the core. It was annoying how in America, one is expected to go out of one’s way to come across as “cool” and “successful” and “elite”, especially for the more introverted and reflective. There is little confrontation and acceptance of reality in American culture. It’s obviously a very short term strategy, because exposure of these hidden weaknesses in the long term is inevitable.

To make a few more points:

  • I was surprised to learn this year for instance that Soviet actually developed a deployable hydrogen bomb before America with very likely at least 10 times less the total yield of nuclear testing. Yet, because America tested the first hydrogen bomb, Americans will delude themselves in thinking that they got there first.
  • I finally learned a few days ago that hundreds of American airplanes were shot down by Soviet surface to air missiles in North Vietnam, after the SAMs had already succeeded American airplanes in PRC, USSR, Cuba. In comparison, American air defense systems are close to unproven.
  • The Japanese pioneered high speed rail in the late 60s, Europe followed, and China developed/acquired it in mass in the 2000s as well; America was on the other hand left far behind.
  • Soviets not only pioneered the space age, they also pioneered automatic docking of spacecraft and space stations. America on the other hand often talks about Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11 as if America won the Space Race, when in fact, almost $200 billion in 2021 dollars was spent on the program. Unlike Soviets (and later PRC), America never actually did a robotic lunar sample return, and I would also not be surprised if America never developed automatic space docking technology. It would, after all, be consistent with America’s being generations behind in cruise missiles.
  • American media tends to talk about and exaggerate the earlier economic success of Japan and the Four Asian Tigers (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore) to demonstrate superiority of their system to that of the Soviet derived PRC and DPRK. However, it does not make any mention of Japan’s have already been an advanced nation by pretty much all means during WWII. As for the Four Asian Tigers, the first two were colonized by Japan, and the latter two were colonized by Britain, and thus also generally better off to begin with. Sure, one might say that North Korea and Northeast China were also colonized and developed by Japan and parts in big cities in China by the Anglo world, but then, one ought to also mention that the KMT and some rich people when they fled also took quite a bit of wealth with them to Taiwan and Hong Kong. Exceptional leaders (or compradors) of more of a conformist and expected nature like Lee Kuan Yew delude themselves into superiority vis-a-vis PRC and the so called communist world purely out of their being economically better off per capita (in a very small place devoid of geographic obstacles) without ever noting that the Four Asian Tigers are geopolitically and militarily null compared to PRC, which despite being poor developed into a giant in that regard since the Korean War. They also do not realize that much of comparing GDP between countries in different economic and geopolitical system is silliness. The idea that low cost, labor intensive manufacturing is the only way for a third world country to advance to first world status, though held by many in the West, was patently proven false by PRC. PRC with a planned economy embarked on manufacturing of high technology especially in military right from the start and mostly succeeded by 1970. In some sense, that Lee Kuan Yew is a midget in comparison to Mao Zedong is even too obvious to miss, yet the US media even manages to mask the obvious out of ideological imperative.
  • American media acts as if PRC strictly needed access to America to develop well, when in fact access to America, which PRC obtained in 70s purely in exchange for helping counter the USSR, merely made it easier for PRC economically. PRC knew its roots and never wanted to fully enter the American system. Simply said, modern China and especially PRC politically and technologically is much of Soviet roots. What PRC obtained from USSR was fundamental, foundational, and technological at the core, in contrast to the transactional exchanges with America later on more of an economic and business nature. PRC was able to get what it could from America later on mostly due to the military and geopolitical foundations established between 1950-1970.
  • I’ve written on the Chinese internet towards those who angst about development of first rate scientific research institutions in China that each important scientific discovery and its process only really makes history once through the person or nation that first achieved it, and that China in the modern era has pretty much forever lost out on the chance to make history in science and technology due to only having realized the superiority of the West once it was already mostly too late. What’s happened in history is done and cannot be changed. Similarly, by blundering in their support of KMT and especially during the Korean War, the US forever lost its opportunity to truly shape the construction of modern China to the Soviets. Those Chinese who joined the CPC pre revolution and stayed on became the big winners, while those who fled to Taiwan and Hong Kong were the big losers, or at the very least, they lost out on the chance to play a role in the mainstream of China post 1950. This does not change just because those Chinese in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and America enjoyed a higher standard of living, or were able to do more advanced work in STEM in America in a minority of cases. Because of this history, PRC does not owe anything to America, and nor does PRC owe anything to overseas Chinese without PRC background. Whether it’s science or politics, at least collectively, those who pioneer tend to be massively rewarded, while the gains of those who merely follow tend to be limited. Especially despicable are those of a derivative nature who go out of their way to present themselves as better than the originators. In science and culture, America is simply a derivative of Western Europe advantaged mostly in size, natural resources, and wealth, and therefore the culture and roots are not really actually there. That Facebook deletes a photo of a Red Army soldier with Soviet flag on the Reichstag on Victory Day also does not change the fact that it was mostly USSR that won WWII.
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