The next great war is going to be between America and China. China is actually spoiling for a fight, though it doesn’t show it. The presidents of the two countries met in Washington last month but the Americans admit in private that the summit didn’t go very well. There were the usual talks and, of course, the usual state dinner, but neither China nor America came out with what was in their minds. The Chinese are an inscrutable lot and what they kept to themselves is probably more important than what they said for the record.
Just as you cannot force two swords into the same scabbard, you cannot expect two great powers to remain at peace with each other for a long time. The British, once a great imperial power fought with every great nation in the world from time to time. So did Russia, Germany and Japan. Now, there are only two powerful countries in the world-America and China. The latter is still to gain strength, which it will in another 20 or 30 years. According to estimates being made by American experts, China will overtake America in 20 to 30 years, by which time India will also do so. Such calculations do not always prove accurate-there was a time when Japan was supposed to overtake the US-but China is gaining economic strength so rapidly that the experts are unlikely to go wrong.
Why is China itching for a fight? Because war is in the genes of every great power. Why did Hitler take on not only Britain and America, but also Soviet Russia? Because, he knew that without settling scores with these nations, he would never be taken seriously. He would be laughed at as a joker and made fun of, as Charlie Chaplin did in his film. War is the only accepted way of proving to your enemies that you are a genuine power, and can take on the whole world to prove it. War, in fact, is politics in another form, and it does not matter whether you win or lose it. You wage a great war only once, even if you lose it.
In any case, you cannot expect a power to remain at the top for ever, for there are ups and downs in the life of every country, and even the Americans now feel that their days are over. The Americans are not what they used to be. Take their economy. It is still the topmost economy in the world, but others-like China and India-are catching up. There was a time when America used to be the workshop of the world. It manufactured every thing from pins to missiles. Now, if you go to any mall in the US, you hardly come across any thing made in the US. Almost, all textiles are made in Asia or South America. Most other consumer goods, from bicycles to electronics are made in China. The Americans in their search for profits have stuck only to information industry-what in India is called IT, which brings in huge profits, but you can’t eat money. Another industry they specialise in is banking, which also brings in huge profits, so huge that even junior bankers make millions of dollars a year.
But this is just paper money, here today and gone tomorrow. And how do they make this money? Through investment banking, which is nothing but investing somebody else’s money-since the Americans save nothing and are always broke-in somebody else’s industry. So you have bankers like Goldman Sachs investing Saudi money in China or Brazil and taking some commission on it. Sachs is only acting as a commission agent which is what America has become. And this is also what Britain also has become, whose largest industry in tourism-showing Buckingham Palace to tired tourists-not anything solid, like, say, automobiles or machine tools or airplanes. The Americans and the British do have cash-all commission agents have cash-but they have nothing else.
Countries that did not suffer during the recent recession were countries that had real industries, industries you could see and touch like engineering and metals, not bogus industries like IT and investment banking. For instance, Germany and France did not suffer much, and were able to survive. Germany is backed by its engineering industries, among the finest in the world, and France is backed by defense and atomic industries. Their currencies did not fall, nor did their stock markets. The Chinese and Indian economies also survived because of the same reason. The nations that went under and nearly collapsed were America and Britain, where the banks went bankrupt and had to be bailed out by the government.
America has all the money in the world although it is not US money but other nations’ money, but it cannot win a single war. Either it is fighting wrong wars or it does not know how to fight wars. Its soldiers go into battle armed with computers and Coca-Cola tins and are promptly massacred. In Afghanistan, the Taliban has neither computers nor Coke, but it is winning. America has lost almost all wars in the last twenty or thirty years. It lost in Vietnam, where not a single man or soldier had ever seen a computer, also in Somalia, where its soldiers were slaughtered, and is now losing in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is waiting to take over the country as soon as the Americans go home. Ditto in Iraq, where the Shias are lying in wait to take over the country, with the help of Iran. The Americans have spent over 25 billion dollar in the two wars-may be twice as much if you count all the costs-but in the end, has got nothing in return.
The same thing is happening in Pakistan. The Americans are so foolish they do not know whether Pakistan is their friend or foe. They think they are winning in Pakistan but Pakistan is a country you see only on the map, just like Afghanistan, but has neither a proper government nor a proper army. In Pakistan, as in Afghanistan and most other so-called Islamic countries, everyone is for himself and cares two hoots for what is happening to other, or to the country. I won’t be surprised if, within months, may be days, of Americans leaving these countries, which, one day, they will be forced to do, both Asif Zardari in Pakistan and Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan will commandeer one of their planes-which no doubt they have kept in reserve-to flee their countries for the more salubrious climate of Zurich in Switzerland, where their investment bankers, almost certainly some American from Goldman Sachs, will be waiting for them, with cocktails in hand and a couple of cheque books in their pockets.
If you ask me when the Chinese will be ready for their coming war with the Americans, I must say I don’t know. Did Neville Chamberlain know when Hitler would attack his country? I suspect the Chinese have ordered a thousand copies of Mein Kampf and are going through its fine type. And the copies are being printed right now in – where else-America!