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Archive for May 3rd, 2005

Switching Crisis

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A few items, all variations on a common theme… All picking up, perhaps, where I let off here.

1) Get yourself a copy of this quarter’s New Left Review and take a look at Giovanni Arrighi’s "Hegemony Unravelling." (The essay is here
if somehow you have subscriber’s privileges at NLR). The first part is
more or less a recapitulation of David Harvey’s descriptions of /
arguments about "spatial fixes," "switching crises," and current
affairs vis a vis the war on terror, the end of US dominance, and the
rise of China. In a sense, Arrighi (and Harvey) seem to be arguing that
the backstory of the war on terror is a reluctance on the part of the
US (a reluctance crystallized in the documents of the Project for a New American Century)
to pass forward the torch of economic and cultural centrality to
China… (the torch handed by Venice to the Dutch, from the Dutch to
the British, and from the British to the USA…) Anyway, tough article
to summarize that itself is an extremely lucid summary of recent
events. Arrighi develops a more subtle understanding of the
relationship between new imperialism and capitalism than the usual "war
for oil" line… Go take a look…

2) Was trying to explain this article to my wife at dinner tonight,
sounding a little sinostruck and gleefully paranoiac I imagine, only to
come home to these in the mail:

AtlanticNewsweek_1

3) The sneak-preview after last week’s episode of 24 showed Jack
Bauer kicking some PLA-uniformed ass. I was like, huh, that’s
interesting. There’ve never been any Chinese involved in the terrorist
plots featured by the show in previous seasons.

Well, it turns out (spoiler alert!) that some sort of dissident
Chinese engineer sold nuke technology to the terrorists… And then
promptly sought shelter at the PRC consulate in Los Angeles. OK. The
Chinese govt won’t hand this guy over, and so Jack has to take matters
into his own hands. In the crossfire, the Chinese consul is shot and
killed (friendly fire – weird translation of the bombing of the Chinese
embassy in Belgrade?) and now it looks like the US and Chinese are
headed toward nuclearish confrontation.

OK – why am I telling you all of this? First of all, it’s always an
important sign in US "political" "culture" (both of course in quotes)
when the bad guys change on tv and in the movies. Seriously – I’m not
kidding. Germans, Japanese, Native Americans, Russians, narcolatinos,
swarthy Arabs, and now, suddenly, the Chinese… There’s a sort of
attunement that goes on, the US public has to get used to the idea of
its enemies. And this is how it does it. 24.

Further – the scenario in 24 is an interesting inversion of
Arrighi’s thesis about the relationship between the war on terror and
the Chinese. Where 24 casts Chinese tension as the result of an
accident, a misunderstanding, in the course of the real battle with
Arab fundamentalists, Arrighi persuasively argues that Afghanistan,
Iraq, have both been at root displacements and deferrals of a
confrontation with China. The US, the PNAC, wishes, in other words,
that Iraq was the battle that needed to be fought in order to
concretize a "new American century."

4) On China Daily today: "Workers of the World Unite and Go Shopping." Contains some gems:

An online poll by Sina.com shows nearly 66 per cent of voters prefer to stay
at home during the so-called Golden Week.

And 80 per cent say they want to celebrate May Day by shopping.

And that’s good news for the country’s retailers.

Here’s the best one, a case study of tortured discursive transition if there ever was one:

"Enjoying more leisure time is an essential index in measuring human rights."

5)
Apologies if all of this is terribly incoherent. But I am, believe it
or not, quitting cigarettes today (very un-PRC)… Trying the patch,
which works a lot better than I would have expected. Confident that
it’s actually going to work this time. But needless to say, I’m not
myself, and the writing would be the first to go… Anyway, never
thought there’d be a shoutout to GlaxoSmithKline on Cultural
Revolution, but there it is. Switching crisis indeed…

 

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May 3, 2005 at 12:36 am

Posted in Current Affairs