The Octant
Insights and reporting from Caleb Maupin

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The rise of China is the largest geopolitical gamechange of the epoch. Never in history has a country so rapidly shifted its status, from one of the poorest countries on earth to the planet’s second largest economy. The impact of this dramatic shift cannot be under-estimated. The energy markets are changing, international relations are changing, but the ultimate results could be much deeper. A new political concept is developing.

Western Politics Rejects Progress

Observing the prevalent political atmosphere in the US, Harvard Psychology Professor Steven Pinker observed “For all their disagreements, the left and right concurs on one thing: the world is getting worse.” Pinker isn’t the only one to observe that the western world seems to have universally embraced pessimism.

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The Islamic Republic of Iran is probably even stronger than it was prior to December 28th, 2017. On that date, the international media announced that protests were taking place across Iran. The White House, the US State Department, and the American media all swung into action, celebrating the protests and demonizing the Iranian government. It was all over within a few days, and despite an emergency UN Security Council meeting, it was pretty clear that no “Iranian Spring” was in the works. Unlike the “revolutions” in Libya and Syria, Washington’s efforts to foment unrest were unable to shake the country.

Seizing A Moment To Create Unrest

In reality, the initial protests which sparked the instability were convened by supporters of the government. The issue raised by crowds on the streets of Mashhad was bank defrauding of the public. The protests expanded into a general display of outrage at cuts in social programs and financial de-regulation.

1024px Gravel road ahead Road 60 Iceland 

As the end of 2017 approached, the Chinese Ministry of Transportation announced its plan for the next year. In 2018, China intends to build over 200,000 kilometers (124274.238 miles) of new roads in rural areas. The result will be to connect 5,000 rural villages to asphalt roadways and bus services. Furthermore, the Transport Ministry intends to renovate 180,000 kilometers (111846.815 miles) of roads, as well as restoring 2,500 bridges. In the last five years, China has constructed 1.275 million kilometers (776713.9903 miles) of news roads.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the opposite is taking place. According to Wired Magazine, municipalities across the country are un-paving roads due to budgetary concerns. In order to save money, rural towns in 27 different states have removed asphalt and restored dirt roads. For example, the city of Montpelier in Vermont, saved $120,000 by removing asphalt from a number of its roads. The process involves a machine called a “reclaimer” that pulverizes the asphalt and spreads it evenly across the roadway.

This stark contrast, with still-developing China building new roads at great speed as the long-developed USA un-paves them, is a culmination of two trends. Politics and economics are closely tied, and the government policies of China and the United States have both evolved over the past decades, leading to the current situation.

 

The $27 billion Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility just established in Russia’s Arctic Yamal Peninsula may seem like just another energy project. However, it should not be glossed over. This new LNG facility is an example of how an alternative economic order is emerging in the world.

 

“Especially on the Eurasian continent, this is a golden era, and in the Eurasian continent we’re seeing a lot of power accumulating, we’re seeing roads, cities, train networks snaking through the post-Soviet wilderness, and creating a fabulous amount of wealth and dynamism.” These words come from Asle Toje, the research director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. He is describing a process taking place across Russia, China, and Central Asia, which the Yamal facility is one small part of.

 

 

The common charge of hypocrisy against wealthy people with leftist views (“champagne socialists” “limousine liberals”) now has a new twist, as the growing number of billionaires in China, or the purported wealth of leaders in Bolivarian countries, is presented as proof that socialism is simply a myth utilized by power hungry politicians.

 These very common charges are based on a misconception, and fundamental lack of understanding about what socialism really is, and why it is different from capitalism. Furthermore, if one looks into the lives and activities of various figures labelled as “Socialist Oligarchs” and sees how they acquire their wealth, and how they function in their respective society, it is apparent that they are quite a different breed than the western profiteers they are compared to.

 

What is Socialism? What is Capitalism?

In order to understand why the phrase “socialist billionaire” is not an oxymoron, it is important to clarify the difference between the two economic systems. Contrary to popular cliché socialism and communism are not “everyone getting paid the same wage no matter how hard they work.”

 

The media executive and political activist Steve Bannon, now no longer a member of the Trump administration, has dedicated himself to traveling across the United States espousing a political gospel he calls "economic nationalism."

In his rhetoric, he highlights the shortcomings of the American economy, and offers his unique solution. His rhetoric presents a view of world politics that is potentially damaging to the global community and contains blatant falsehoods.

Speaking on December 5 at the"Black Americans for a Better Future" summit in Washington DC, Bannon agitated about the decline in wages, the opioid crisis, and the real problems plaguing the U.S.

 

There are clearly big disagreements among the American ruling class. Donald Trump is President of the United States, despite having a large number of adversaries in powerful places. Congress continues to investigate Trump for alleged ties to Russia, with leftist comedian Randy Credico being subpoenaed and former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleading guilty to perjury. Meanwhile, an unprecedented number of public figures have been fired or stepped down in a wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations.

This is just the latest episode in an ongoing drama. As the impoverished countries of the world have been asserting their economic independence, centered around Russia and China, the circles of wealth and power in the United States have long disagreed about how to respond. Disagreements about geopolitics, which become particularly intense in the context of domestic unrest, has been the basis for lots of Bonapartist maneuvering in modern American history.