Trade wars have led to both World Wars

While trade war threats ramp up between Donald Trump and China there’s a timely warning that major trade wars have contributed to escalations into both World Wars.

CNBC: Trump says he’s ‘ready’ to put tariffs on all $505 billion of Chinese goods imported to the US

  • President Donald Trump has indicated he is willing to put tariffs on all $505 billion of Chinese goods the U.S. imports.
  • The rhetoric ramps up the U.S.-China trade war another step, though each country has issued just $34 billion in tariffs so far.

President Donald Trump has indicated that he is willing to slap tariffs on every Chinese good imported to the U.S. should the need arise.

“I’m ready to go to 500,” the president told CNBC’s Joe Kernen in a “Squawk Box” interview aired Friday.

“I’m not doing this for politics, I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country,” Trump said. “We have been ripped off by China for a long time.”

Trump said the U.S. is “being taken advantage of” on a number of fronts, including trade and monetary policy. Yet he said he has not pushed the tariffs out of any ill will toward China.

“I don’t want them to be scared. I want them to do well,” he said. “I really like President Xi a lot, but it was very unfair.”

From The Diplomat: Trump’s Trade War on China Is About More Than Trade

Against this backdrop, the trade war can be viewed as a paradigm shift of Washington’s China policy. Along with other recent developments in U.S. policy, such as the Taiwan Travel Act passed in February and the passage of U.S. Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait, the trade war is, in effect, part of a much larger strategy of hedging.

Once we realize that the trade war is not merely about trade, we can then appreciate the very real potential for large-scale conflict between the United States and China.

Dene Mackenzie at ODT looks at some history: Trade wars catalysts for world war, the past teaches

History often repeats itself if we do not learn from it. The two full-blown trade wars some 80 and 100 years ago helped to ignite the two world wars.

Trade wars can also cause currency wars.

The end of  World War 1 sparked the first worldwide currency war, starting in Weimar Germany in 1921, followed by France in 1925. In the end, all the major economies scrambled to devalue their currencies — sterling, the franc and the US dollar — throughout the 1930s.

In 1930, US president Herbert Hoover signed into law the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which intensified the currency war and deepened the Great Depression. The protectionist law raised tariffs on more than 20,000 imported products and triggered retaliation by many of the United States’ trading partners.

Trade wars stoke nationalism and hatred among people and finally trigger wars, as evidenced by the breakout of World War 2.

The Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931, and the whole of China in 1937; the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, then the rest of Europe; and the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941.

A quote often attributed to the 19th-century French economist, Frederic Bastiat, goes: “When goods do not cross frontiers, armies will”.

The geopolitical situation has changed a lot over the last two centuries – but as WW1 and WW2 showed, military might and technology has increased substantially. The risks are much higher when nuclear armed countries are involved.

Especially now when the erratic and loose-mouthed Trump is on one side of the tensions.

We don’t want to hear “I meant yesterday that I definitely wouldn’t be launching missiles immediately, not would“.

The trade war with the US could not have come at a worse time  for China, which had just begun focusing “in earnest” on fixing problems in its economy, JP Morgan analysts said on Wednesday.

…those indirect effects could lead to large collateral damage, they said.

There’s a lot of gamesmanship going on, and there are also major risks to local economies and the world economy.

Bluster and threats are often eventually moderated by discussions and negotiations leading to reasonable solutions. But not always.

There’s also always risks of things escalating into military war.

Apocalypse imminent?

Tobias Stone, described as a leading British academic who specialises in archeology and anthropology, has written an article suggesting that another great war is looming. And the warning of impending apocalypse is apparently gaining traction.

Predictions of apocalypses are common so I’m not sure why this one is getting so much attention.

The Doomsday clock was left at 3 minutes to midnight in January this year by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists…

…recent progress in the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate accord “constitute only small bright spots in a darker world situation full of potential for catastrophe.”

But that was before the rise of Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit vote in the UK.

NZH: Trump, Putin and Brexit all signs another world war is coming

Tobias Stone, who specialises in archeology and anthropology, has invoked the apocalypse in an article published this week that is rapidly gaining traction.

Stone argues that there are chilling similarities between the terrifying dictators who led us into WWI and WWII and modern politicians such as Vladimir Putin, Robert Mugabe and US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“Trump says he will Make America great again, when in fact America is currently great, according to pretty well any statistics,” he writes – an observation echoed by US President Barack Obama in his speech to the Democratic National Convention on Thursday.

“He is using passion, anger, and rhetoric in the same way all his predecessors did – a charismatic narcissist who feeds on the crowd to become ever stronger, creating a cult around himself.

“You can blame society, politicians, the media, for America getting to the point that it’s ready for Trump, but the bigger historical picture is that history generally plays out the same way each time someone like him becomes the boss.”

Stone says it’s a scenario that’s playing out across the world.

“Russia is a dictatorship with a charismatic leader using fear and passion to establish a cult around himself,” he writes.

“Turkey is now there too. Hungary, Poland, Slovakia are heading that way, and across Europe more Trumps and Putins are waiting in the wings, in fact funded by Putin, waiting for the popular tide to turn their way.”

Throw in Brexit and you have the perfect storm – conditions that are ripe for a Third World War, and a nuclear one at that. Stone paints a terrifying picture of how it could all play out.

“An example of how Brexit could lead to a nuclear war could be this: Brexit in the UK causes Italy or France to have a similar referendum,” he writes.

“Le Pen wins an election in France. Europe now has a fractured EU. The EU, for all its many awful faults, has prevented a war in Europe for longer than ever before. The EU is also a major force in suppressing Putin’s military ambitions.

“European sanctions on Russia really hit the economy, and helped temper Russia’s attacks on Ukraine (there is a reason bad guys always want a weaker European Union). Trump wins in the US. Trump becomes isolationist, which weakens Nato. He has already said he would not automatically honour Nato commitments in the face of a Russian attack on the Baltics.

“With a fractured EU, and weakened Nato, Putin, facing an ongoing economic and social crisis in Russia, needs another foreign distraction around which to rally his people. He funds far-right anti-EU activists in Latvia, who then create a reason for an uprising of the Russian Latvians in the east of the country (the EU border with Russia).

“Russia sends ‘peace keeping forces’ and ‘aid lorries’ into Latvia, as it did in Georgia, and in Ukraine. (Putin) annexes Eastern Latvia as he did Eastern Ukraine (Crimea has the same population as Latvia, by the way).

“A divided Europe, with the leaders of France, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and others now pro-Russia, anti-EU, and funded by Putin, overrule calls for sanctions or a military response. Nato is slow to respond: Trump does not want America to be involved, and a large part of Europe is indifferent or blocking any action.

“Russia, seeing no real resistance to their actions, move further into Latvia, and then into eastern Estonia and Lithuania. The Baltic States declare war on Russia and start to retaliate, as they have now been invaded so have no choice. Half of Europe sides with them, a few countries remain neutral, and a few side with Russia. Where does Turkey stand on this? How does [Isis] respond to a new war in Europe? Who uses a nuclear weapon first?”

Stone believes we ignore the warning signs, the unnerving feelings of déjà vu and allow history to repeat itself because most peoples’ perspective is limited to the experience communicated by their parents and their grandparents.

“My point is that this is a cycle,” he writes.

All sorts of things could and will happen. And have happened – the Highlanders didn’t make the Super final.

But is a World War more likely than usual?

Is the apocalypse really imminent? Just in case:

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Has a World War started?

According to John Pilger a world war is under way. Currently it is just a propaganda war but a growing nuclear raises the risks of a major escalation,

Pilger: A World War Has Begun. Break the Silence.

How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.

The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories.  Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion.

A mini nuclear bomb is planned. It is known as the B61 Model 12. There has never been anything like it.

And it raises the temptation and risk of a limited strike.

In the last eighteen months, the greatest build-up of military forces since World War Two — led by the United States — is taking place along Russia’s western frontier. Not since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union have foreign troops presented such a demonstrable threat to Russia.

What makes the prospect of nuclear war even more dangerous is a parallel campaign against China.

Seldom a day passes when China is not elevated to the status of a “threat”.

According to Admiral Harry Harris, the US Pacific commander, China is “building a great wall of sand in the South China Sea”.

What he is referring to is China building airstrips in the Spratly Islands, which are the subject of a dispute with the Philippines – a dispute without priority until Washington pressured and bribed the government in Manila and the Pentagon launched a propaganda campaign called “freedom of navigation”.

What does this really mean?  It means freedom for American warships to patrol and dominate the coastal waters of China.  Try to imagine the American reaction if Chinese warships did the same off the coast of California.

A bigger arsenal and more provocation.

The propaganda laying the ground for a war against Russia and/or  China is no different in principle. To my knowledge, no journalist in the Western “mainstream” — a Dan Rather equivalent, say –asks why China is building airstrips in the South China Sea.

The answer ought to be glaringly obvious. The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with ballistic missiles, battle groups, nuclear -armed bombers.

This lethal arc extends from Australia to the islands of the Pacific, the Marianas and the Marshalls and Guam, to the Philippines, Thailand, Okinawa, Korea and  across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. America has hung a noose around the neck of China. This is not news. Silence by media; war by media.

Hillary Clinton is shaping up as quite likely to be the next US president.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons. As Secretary of State under Obama, she participated in the overthrow of the democratic government of Honduras. Her contribution to the destruction of Libya in 2011 was almost gleeful. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was publicly sodomised with a knife – a murder made possible by American logistics – Clinton gloated over his death: “We came, we saw, he died.”

Among Clinton’s biggest backers are the Israel lobby and the arms companies that fuel the violence in the Middle East. She and her husband have received a fortune from Wall Street. And yet, she is about to be ordained the women’s candidate, to see off the evil Trump, the official demon.

Is Pilger close to being accurate? If so there are some real concerns – for the world.

What has happened to the great tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where is the courage, imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theatre, literature?

Where are those who will shatter the silence? Or do we wait until the first nuclear missile is fired?

Should we be worried?