Archive for the ‘Long Cycle Theory’ Category


The decline of American and the rise of Chinese hegemony?

September 16, 2014

This chart posted at Business Insider last week shows how the British, American, Russian and Chinese empires have risen and declined over the last 200 years.  It indicates that China is on a steady ascent and will overtake the US in the next few years.


However, if you were to extend this chart back another half century, and to include lines for France and Germany, you would see that France had surpassed Britain before its failed attempt at hegemony that ended with Napoleon’s defeat.  And you would then see that Germany had surpassed both Britain and the US before it’s own hegemonic bid had been finally defeated after two world wars.  So the relative decline of the lead economy does not automatically presage global ascendancy by its replacement.  Indeed, when we examine the hegemonic cycles of the modern era, we see that the victor in hegemonic struggles always has a more open society than the failed challenger, and it is always on the periphery of the World Island, not at the core.

The Six Cycles of the Modern Era copyright EnerGeoPolitics, 2010

The Six Cycles of the Modern Era
copyright EnerGeoPolitics, 2010

Of course, this does not guarantee that the US will continue its hegemony; an outside contender such as India might eventually take up leadership of the world system (nor, of course, does it prove that China is doomed to fail).  What it does indicate is that the final phase of our current cycle is near.

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching


Will Ukraine crisis push neutral Sweden into NATO?

May 8, 2014

In response to resurgent Russian militarism in Ukraine, two recent analyses have laid out the need for both Sweden and Finland to join NATO.  First, in the online edition of the journal Foreign Affairs, Jan Joel Andersson, a senior research fellow at the respected and influential Swedish Institute of International Affairs (SIPRI), laid out the case for both Nordic nations to finally join the Atlantic Alliance.    This week, Andrei Akulov from the Russian think tank Strategic Culture Foundation, has detailed a number of military and political signals from within the Swedish government that indicate a renewed willingness to examine NATO membership.



China to surpass US as largest economy; what does it mean?

May 1, 2014

According to new figures (and an alternate formula to typical GDP comparison) from the World Bank, China is expected to pass the United States as the world’s largest economy sometime later this year.   The World Bank is comparing Purchasing Power Partity (PPP), which is intended to standardize GDP across currencies and make direct comparisons of how economies work internally.  However, GDP is still the better measure of how economies compare in the globalized world because it takes differences in exchange rates into account.

In any case, China is going to pass the US sooner or later, but what that means remains to be seen.  In the two previous cycles of the world system, France’s GDP likely surpassed England’s in the late 18th/early 19th century and Germany surpassed the United Kingdom in the late 19th/early 20th centuries (see Angus Maddison for reconstruction of early GDP levels) , yet both still lost their challenge for hegemony.

The Six Cycles of the Modern Era copyright EnerGeoPolitics, 2010

copyright EnerGeoPolitics, 2010

Even after China becomes the world’s largest economy, it may not hold that position for very long.  China is facing a severe demographic crisis and, like Japan, will face an declining work force supporting an ever growing retiree population.  Indeed, it may fall off the demographic cliff even before the largest waves of retirees hit – last year, the working age population declined for the first time in history, a decline that will continue.  As the Financial Times notes:

Unless the country can keep lifting the labour force participation rate (for example by getting more women into the workforce or persuading older people not to retire), China will struggle to expand its labour force by even 1 per cent per year. To sustain economic growth of more than 7 per cent, productivity would need to grow by 6-7 per cent a year across the entire economy. This would be a tall order in any country. In China, where the labour-intensive services and agriculture sectors make up half the economy, it is well-nigh impossible.

Of course, a decelerating China does not mean the US will regain the top spot . . . India may well pass both nations.  And my analysis continues to be that India will be the next global hegemon, either in the next immediate cycle, or following one more term by the US.


How the US Lost the Naval War of 2015

April 9, 2014

That is the title of a 2010 journal article by James Kraska:

By 2015, U.S. command of the global commons could no longer be taken for granted. The oceans and the airspace above them had been the exclusive domain of the U.S. Navy and the nation’s edifice of military power for seventy-five years. During the age of U.S. supremacy, the Navy used the oceans as the world’s largest maneuver space to outflank its enemies. Maritime mobility on the surface of the ocean, in the air and under the water was the cornerstone of U.S. military power. The United States was able to utilize its maritime dominance to envelop and topple rogue regimes, as it demonstrated in Grenada and Panama, and use the maritime commons to ferry huge ground armies to the other side of the world and sustain them indefinitely, as it did in Vietnam and twice in Iraq. The unique capability to project decisive power rapidly in any corner of the world gave the United States deterrent power and unrivalled military influence.

All that changed in 2015, when the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, sunk to the bottom of the East China Sea. More than 4,000 sailors and airmen died and the Navy lost eighty aircraft. A ship that would take seven years and $ 9 billion to replace slipped into the waves. The incident upset not just the balance of naval power in Asia, but ushered in a new epoch of international order in which Beijing emerged to displace the United States.

If you have never read Kraska’s article, read it now.  If you have, read it again.  And ponder it while listening to senior US and Chinese officials trade tough talk over maritime disputes in the Western Pacific.


Putin’s Eurasianism

March 3, 2014

I have posted several times on Eurasianism and Russian geopolitical thinker Aleksander Dugin.  Students of either are unsurprised by Russia’s actions in the Ukraine.  Dugin has always seen the world as a contest between land and maritime powers, and the contemporary world as a contest between Russian-led Eurasianism and Anglo-American Atlanticism.  Ukraine is and always has been a core geopolitical interest for Russia, and she was never going to meekly allow that nation to simply walk away from Russia and become a member of The Atlantic Alliance.  The current crisis, or something like it, would be fully anticipated by Long Cycle Theory as a part of the Coalitioning phase.

Writing at National Review, Bob Zubrin has a brief but acceptable review of Dugin’s theories.  Read it, and the various posts I have made on Dugin and Eurasianism, to get a handle on the deeper geopolitical meanings of the current situation.


A new “scramble for Africa?”

January 16, 2014

The Scramble for Africa is a term for the 19th century colonization of that continent by all the major European powers.  It is considered one of the darkest periods of European imperialism, and many claim the sad state of much of the continent today is a direct legacy of that period.

Might we be seeing a new scramble for Africa, this time featuring Asian powers?  China has been actively pursuing both economic and political interests in Africa for nearly two decades, and now Japan is responding in kind, with Prime Minister Abe having recently returned from a major trade mission to several African nations.  The Japanese deny that they are in direct competition with China, but even if indirect, they are certainly in competition.

The East Asian nations are not the only ones.  India has always been involved in East Africa and are the nearest major power, with direct sea lanes across the Indian Ocean.  Over the last two years, I have noted how several Muslim states – in particular Qatar – are seeking to gain influence in North Africa and the Sahel.

None of this, of course, is akin to 19th century colonization, and there is no new Berlin Conference on the horizon where the map will be carved into spheres of influence.  But in many ways, this 21st century scramble is a more sophisticated version of the same geopolitical impulse.  Just as British power was perceived to be on the wane in the late 19th century, thus opening up the world to competition from other powers, so, too, is US power seen on the wane.  Into the perceived power vacuum, other powers – both regional and global – are jockeying for position before the next macrodecision begins.

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching


Japan’s New National Security Strategy

January 9, 2014

The new document released last month is the clearest official signal yet of Japan’s intent to leave its post-war semi-pacifism behind.  It also deeply and firmly enmeshes Japan into the US-led alliance system designed to check Chinese ambitions.  There is a clear arc around China – Japan, Australia, and India (although India has no formal alliance with the US, they have deepened their ties with Australia and Japan).

English translation here.