Pandas, those cute little bears, are the reason for the decline of the US hegemony.
Like a modern day trojan horse, those cuddly little bears have distracted our nation (and many others) while China has slowly built an economic and military behemoth that is now rivaling or surpassing the US in many key areas.
When Nixon went to China the national sentiment was one of pessimism. We were weary of closed and communist China, unsure what to expect after years of cold war with the USSR. Nixon had unflappable anti-communist credentials, hence his ability to enter into the heart of the proverbial beast. Unbeknownst to the US, the Nixons, more specifically his wife Pat would be sneaking two delightfully charming trojan horses into our nation’s capital or more accurately the National Zoo. According to the Nixon Foundation it happened innocently enough with Pat making an offhanded comment about a cigarette case covered in panda pictures. In reply to her comment the Chinese premier told her that he would give the Nixon’s some pandas.
Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing arrived shortly after.
The decline of our hegemony started shortly after that.
The 1970s mark the first time in the post war era that the US had a trade deficit. This shift from producing to consuming marks the first weakness in the armor of our hegemony. More weakness would certainly follow, but this was the first sign of weakness.
What should you do to a weakened enemy? Crush them. That’s what the pandas started to do to us in 1973. There could perhaps be no tool better suited tool to destroy our collective psychological defenses than the panda. Their epic cuteness, significant helplessness, and general imperturbable calmness melt our significant defenses and extend and aurora of goodwill towards those that have endowed us with their special beauty.
Since that first weakness in our armor appeared in the early 1970’s look what else has transpired:
- In 1950 the United States supplied half the world’s gross product, against 21 percent at present.
- 8 of the 10 largest car manufacturers are located outside the US.
- 7 of the 10 largest petroleum companies are outside the US.
- 6 of the 10 largest banks by market capitalization are outside of the US including 4 in China.
- Almost 100% of our panda tchotchkes come from China (unverified, but probably true).
While the above might be upsetting, it’s really the larger macro trends that are more disturbing:
- Washington pursues minor military clients in Asia; while China expands its trading and investment agreements with major economic partners – Russia, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere.
- Washington drains the domestic economy to finance overseas wars. China extracts minerals and energy resources to create its domestic job market in manufacturing.
- The US invests in military technology to target local insurgents challenging US client regimes; China invests in civilian technology to create competitive exports.
- China begins to restructure its economy toward developing the country’s interior and allocates greater social spending to redress its gross imbalances and inequalities while the US rescues and reinforces the parasitical financial sector, which plundered industries (strips assets via mergers and acquisitions) and speculates on financial objectives with no impact on employment, productivity or competitiveness.
- The US multiplies wars and troop build-ups in the Middle East, South Asia, the Horn of Africa and Caribbean; China provides investments and loans of over $25 billion dollars in building infrastructure, mineral extraction, energy production and assembly plants in Africa.
- China signs multi-billion dollar trade and investment agreements with Iran, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, securing access to strategic energy, mineral and agricultural resources; Washington provides $6 billion in military aid to Colombia, secures seven military bases from President Uribe, backs a military coup in tiny Honduras and denounces Brazil and Bolivia for diversifying its economic ties with Iran.
In fact, the IMF recently projected that the Chinese economy would become the world’s largest in 2016.
And it all started with Pandas.
A decline in a global or regional hegemony has almost always meant war. Power Transition Theory states that war is likely when a challenger approaches parity with the dominant state. It certainly appears that this might happen during our generation.
Luckily, I think this can be a peaceful transition. It won’t be easy, but it should be possible.
I call my plan Pandamonium: to avoid a war we’ll need pandas, many, many pandas. China should immediately start to invest in building a larger panda population, one that when deployed to the US will blanket us in warm and fuzzy feelings of adorable cuteness. I’m not sure the appropriate citizen to panda ratio but I would imagine somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000:1 should suffice – that would mean we’ll need almost 16,000 pandas.
Until operation Pandamonium commences I imagine that we’ll be inundated with popular culture panda references. From the baseball player Pablo “Panda” Sandoval to panda cell phone cases we’ll be getting used to our new fluffy overlords.