Geopolitics 101: What Comes After Pax Americana?

US Dollar out of time as world reserve currency?

US Dollar out of time as world reserve currency?


The USA is quickly using up most of its allotted 250 years of empire. Consistent with an empire-in-decay, current US leadership is accelerating the decline of US defence forces and economic competitiveness, while increasing entitlement and social spending using massive debt financing. So the question naturally arises: “What Comes After Pax Americana?”

China will not step up to the US role until China’s per capita income is a lot more.

China’s military is not professional. There are reports that during a 15 day military exercise that troops had to get a movie night, karaoke and hookers on day 9 because the troops were homesick. China is focused on using the military for internal political control.

The last time China fought was a border war with Vietnam in 1979, where China did badly.

The US is taking on a less active role.

International Law and institutions based upon the agreement of who was a world power in the 1880s and early 1900s will continue for a while.

But China and Russia will ignore it when they feel they can get away with it and it is to there benefit. _Brian Wang

More at the link above.

Brian Wang focuses on China as the natural eventual successor to the US as world superpower. We will look at some of China’s problems in a moment.

Other prognosticators suggest that Russia is likely to lead the next natural world empire. It all comes down to how one determines what is likely to be true, and what is likely to be false. More on the Russian Borei class nuclear submarine

The modern world is a enmeshed in contradiction, and it is easy to paint a particular facade without revealing the underlying core truth. Modern journalism has built an industry out of doing just that. A better term for that approach is “propaganda.”

The reality underlying the glitzy facade that Russia wants the world to see, is not so pretty. See Al Fin archives on “Russia” and “Russian Woe.”

Russia's Unbalanced Economy

Russia’s Unbalanced Export Economy and The Oil Curse

Putin’s craving for global power all hinges on Russia’s massive energy wealth. But if Russia cannot develop a balanced economy that can keep its best young men and women in Russia, it will be forever dependent on outside expertise — just as it is dependent on western oil companies to develop its vast shale resources. This dilemma is sometimes referred to as “the oil curse,” although the oil curse has many other unfortunate ramifications besides loss of native expertise.

As for China’s ambition to assume its rightful place as ruler of the world, a similar reality check is required. China’s recent ascendancy is largely built upon a bubble — a dangerous bubble. See also Al Fin archives on China Bubble, and China Collapse.

The Chinese Bubble Continues to Inflate

The Chinese Bubble Continues to Inflate


The US and EU have many of the same problems with economic hanky-panky in high places. But China’s frothy bubbly rise has been so rapid that there is not much in the way of a safety net if things go sour. The shadow system is built upon corrupt and shaky inter-personal relationships between kingpins, without much in the way of procedural rules to fall back on to prevent total collapse.

Regardless, it is an interesting question that Brian Wang poses: What comes after Pax Americana?

If you want to see the issue more clearly, always insist on seeing what is behind the glib predictions and the convenient numbers.

More interesting perspectives on China from Michael Pettis and Patrick Chovanec Note: Chovanec’s blog hasn’t updated in about a year, but the archives are extremely rich in useful information.

China File has much interesting information on China, including the audio interview with Jonathan Fenby: “Will China Dominate the Twenty-first Century?

More: Conspiracy theory site suggests that Putin triggered the countdown to WWIII by invading Crimea — a territory Russia had previously ceded to Ukraine by multiple agreements, most recently the 1994 Budapest Accords.

Russia’s invasion of Crimea is most correctly viewed by international law as an invasion, an act of war. But since most international courts are in Europe, and Europe is heavily dependent upon Putin for the reliable portion of its energy, international reaction is muted. Realpolitik.

China is behaving in a similarly reckless manner regarding the control of certain territories in and around the China Seas and the Sea of Japan.

Make no mistake: These invasions of foreign territory by Russia and China are not “catch and release invasions” of the type the US tends to engage in, for ideological and commercial reasons. China and Russia invade for keeps, to enlarge territorial claims.

While the US and the EU craft foreign policies that wittingly or unwittingly result in a net loss of territory and influence for the US and EU, China and Russia build their foreign policies around the potential gain of territory and influence.

China and Russia remain in formative stages of development, far from maturity. Innate insecurities drive them to overcompensate when facing real and imagined threats and insults.

Eventually, China and Russia will face off against each other over Siberian territories. China’s population is huge and still growing, looking for room to expand. The population of ethnic Russians in Siberia is disappearing, dying off and migrating west of the Urals.

This suggests that after Pax Americana is the coming anarchy.


The US is scheduled to pull back from the world stage, allowing the coming anarchy to proceed on its own.

A video and graphical view of “things to come”:

Zeihan’s 11/30/2016 keynote talk begins at 1:07 in the video above

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4 Responses to Geopolitics 101: What Comes After Pax Americana?

  1. Matt Musson says:

    There will be no protector of the weak. There will be only exploiters of the weak and
    annexors of the weak.

    Think of the whole world as High School. It is better to be feared than liked.

  2. Sam says:

    “…Russia’s invasion of Crimea…” A bit harsh don’t you think. The Crimeans want them there. They want to be part of Russia.

    As for the American empire. It will surely expire with the present leadership but if changed should we count the beginning of empire at 1776 or 1865?

    • alfin2101 says:

      Crimea was ceded to Ukraine under the USSR, with that territorial integrity assured by the 1994 Budapest agreement signed by Russia. Yes, Russia invaded the Ukrainian territory, Crimea, according to international law. Of course, international law means very little in the current political environment.

      “The Crimeans want them there. They want to be a part of Russia.” An interesting assertion, backed up by a “96% referendum.” But remember, it’s not who votes that counts, but rather who counts the votes. And who is free to publish and declare the election results.

      Crimea is only a fraction of the territory that Putin wants to annex in his quest for the grand Russian empire. Good luck to you, Poot. You’re going to need it.

      Poot’s invasion of Crimea will pay interesting dividends to many different groups. Not least of all a generous disillusionment to those who at this time are cheering Poot’s aggressiveness.

      The American empire has been declared dead multiple times over the past century. The starting point is debatable, but the ending point will probably be demarcated by some type of massive internal disorder along with some flashy terror attacks, polished off by attacks against key power/water/fuel/transportation/communication infrastructure points.

      The US is soft on the inside. And getting softer every day.

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