It was a photo op for the ages: a visibly well-disposed President Xi Jinping receiving centenarian “old friend of China” Henry Kissinger in Beijing.
Mirroring meticulous Chinese attention to protocol, they met at Villa 5 of the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse – exactly where Kissinger first met in person with Zhou Enlai in 1971, preparing Nixon’s 1972 visit to China.
The Mr. Kissinger Goes to Beijing saga was an “unofficial”, individual attempt to try to mend increasingly fractious Sino-American relations. He was not representing the current American administration.
There’s the rub. Everyone involved in geopolitics is aware of the legendary Kissinger formulation: To be the US’s enemy is dangerous, to be the US’s friend is fatal. History abounds in examples, from Japan and South Korea to Germany, France and Ukraine.
As quite a few Chinese scholars privately argued, if reason is to be upheld, and “respecting the wisdom of this 100-years-old diplomat”, Xi and the Politburo should maintain the China-US relation as it is: “icy”.
After all, they reason, being the US’s enemy is dangerous but manageable for a Sovereign Civilizational State like China. So Beijing should keep “the honorable and less perilous status” of being a US enemy.
The World Through Washington’s Eyes
What’s really going on in the back rooms of the current American administration was not reflected by Kissinger’s high-profile peace initiative, but by an extremely combative Edward Luttwak.
Luttwak, 80, may not be as visibly influential as Kissinger, but as a behind the scenes strategist he’s been advising the Pentagon across the spectrum for over five decades. His book on Byzantine Empire strategy, for instance, heavily drawing on top Italian and British sources, is a classic.
Luttwak, a master of deception, reveals precious nuggets in terms of contextualizing current Washington moves. That starts with his assertion that the US – represented by the Biden combo – is itching to do a deal with Russia.
That explains why CIA head William Burns, actually a capable diplomat, called his counterpart, SVR head Sergey Naryshkin (Russian Foreign Intelligence) to sort of straighten things up “because you have something else to worry about which is more unlimited”.
What’s “unlimited”, depicted by Luttwak in a Spenglerian sweep, is Xi Jinping’s drive to “get ready for war”. And if there’s a war, Luttwak claims that “of course” China would lose. That dovetails with the supreme delusion of Straussian neocon psychos across the Beltway.
Luttwak seems not to have understood China’s drive for food self-sufficiency: he qualifies it as a threat. Same for Xi using a “very dangerous” concept, the “rejuvenation of the Chinese people”: that’s “Mussolini stuff”, says Luttwak. “There has to be a war to rejuvenate China”.
The “rejuvenation” concept – actually better translated as “revival” – has been resonating in China circles at least since the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1911. It was not coined by Xi. Chinese scholars point out that if you see US troops arriving in Taiwan as “advisors”, you would probably make preparations to fight too.
But Luttwak is on a mission: “This is not America, Europe, Ukraine, Russia. This is about ‘the sole dictator’. There is no China. There is only Xi Jinping,” he insisted.
And Luttwak confirms the EU’s Josep “Garden vs. Jungle” Borrell and European Commission dominatrix Ursula von der Leyen fully support his vision.
Luttwak, in just a few words, actually gives away the whole game: “The Russian Federation, as it is, is not strong enough to contain China as much as we would wish”.
Hence the turn around by the Biden combo to “freeze” the conflict in the Donbass and change the subject. After all, “if that [China] is the threat, you don’t want Russia to fall apart,” Luttwak reasons.
So much for Kissingerian “diplomacy.”
Let’s Declare a “Moral Victory” and Run Away
On Russia, the Kissinger vs. Luttwak confrontation reveals crucial cracks as the Empire faces an existential conflict it never did in the recent past.
The gradual, massive U-turn is already in progress – or at least the semblance of a U turn. US mainstream media will be entirely behind the U turn. And the naïve masses will follow. Luttwak is already voicing their deepest agenda: the real war is on China, and China “will lose”.
At least some non-neocon players around the Biden combo – like Burns – seem to have understood the Empire’s massive strategic blunder of publicly committing to a Forever War, hybrid and otherwise, against Russia on behalf of Kiev.
This would mean, in principle, that Washington can’t just walk away like it did in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Yet Hegemons do enjoy the privilege to walk away: after all they exercise sovereignty, not their vassals. European vassals will be left to rot. Imagine those Baltic chihuahuas declaring war on Russia-China all by themselves.
The off-ramp confirmed by Luttwak implies Washington declaring some sort of “moral victory” in Ukraine – which is already controlled by BlackRock anyway – and then moving the guns towards China.
Yet even that won’t be a cakewalk, because China and the about-to-expand BRICS+ are already attacking the Empire at its foundation: dollar hegemony. Without it, the US itself will have to fund the war on China.
Chinese scholars, off the record, and exercising their millennia-old analytical sweep, observe this may be the last blunder the Empire ever made in its short history.
As one of them summarized it, “the empire has blundered itself to an existential war and, therefore, the last war of the empire. When the end comes, the empire will lie as usual and declare victory, but everyone else will know the truth, especially the vassals.”
“The Grand Chessboard”, published in 1997, before the 9/11 era, argued that the US should rule over any peer competitor rising in Eurasia. Brzezinski did not live to see the living incarnation of his ultimate nightmare: a Russia-China strategic partnership. But already seven years ago – two years after Maidan in Kiev – at least he understood it was imperative to “realign the global power architecture”.
Destroying the “Rules-Based International Order”
The crucial difference today, compared to seven years ago, is that the US is incapable, per Brzezinski, to “take the lead in realigning the global power architecture in such a way that the violence (…) can be contained without destroying the global order.”
It’s the Russia-China strategic partnership that is taking the lead – followed by the Global Majority – to contain and ultimately destroy the hegemonic “rules-based international order”.
As the indispensable Michael Hudson has summarized it, the ultimate question at this incandescent juncture is “whether economic gains and efficiency will determine world trade, patterns and investment, or whether the post-industrial US/NATO economies will choose to end up looking like the rapidly depopulating and de-industrializing post-Soviet Ukraine and Baltic states or England.”
So is the wet dream of a war on China going to change these geopolitical and geoeconomics imperatives? Give us a -Thucydides – break.
The real war is already on – but certainly not one identified by Kissinger, Brzezinski and much less Luttwak and assorted US neocons. Michael Hudson, once again, summarized it: when it comes to the economy, the US and EU “strategic error of self-isolation from the rest of the world is so massive, so total, that its effects are the equivalent of a world war.”