This is something worth spending some time studying rather than simply criticizing.
What’s up? At the end of April, Jake Sullivan, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution titled: Reviving U.S. Economic Leadership. This speech had a great impact in political and academic circles and was generally considered to be of great epochal significance. Why does it leave this impression? Because, in this speech, Sullivan focused on attacking the neoliberal path that the United States has been advocating for the past 40 years, and fiercely criticized financial capitalism for its serious damage to the American economy. At the same time, Sullivan gave a set of “American plans” to correct past mistakes. What is even more concerning is that in Sullivan’s speech, the concept of the so-called “New Washington Consensus” appeared.
Is Sullivan’s criticism appropriate? What does the “New Washington Consensus” look like? Nowadays, there are many discussions about different opinions. Of course, it is more necessary for Chinese academic circles to make theoretical reviews and corrections. Especially in the process of building a Chinese-style modern country, we need to know ourselves and the enemy with the United States, and we need to study the ideas revealed in Sullivan’s speech. , the future path of the United States requires a broad mind to face different theories and cognitions, and identify whether they have reference value for China’s economic construction. But looking at it now, there are very few voices that can objectively view the content of Sullivan’s speech, and there is also a bad taste: On the surface, some articles are criticizing the “New Washington Consensus”, but in fact they hope that China will stay in the neoliberal state. in the quagmire of doctrine.
More importantly, simple criticism can easily lead us to give up on in-depth and detailed research and detailed explanation of the transformation of the US national strategy. This is not only prone to misjudgment and is not conducive to the proper handling of Sino-US relations, but also hinders our Understand the continuous evolution of the international landscape. Because of this, it is necessary for us to delve deeper and see clearly what medicine is in the American gourd, which will help China judge the situation and formulate policies.
Who is Sullivan?
The decision-making of the President of the United States is inextricably linked to some key figures who often appear. For example, the diplomatic level is dominated by the Secretary of State; the economic level is dominated by the Director of the White House National Economic Council, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve; the security level is dominated by the President’s National Security Advisor (also known as the Security Advisor) and the Director of the CIA, etc. Mainly; in the military aspect, the main ones are the Secretary of Defense and the Chief Military Advisor to the President.
Who is the Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Affairs? Generally speaking, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs is not the head of a certain government department, and his appointment does not require congressional approval. However, he is one of the most important personnel appointments of the President.
Compared with the specific roles and departmental powers of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, etc., the power role of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs is very special. He does not hold a position in the department, but he has an “implicit” power over all government departments, because he needs to assist the president in playing roughly six roles: (1) executive manager of the national security decision-making process; (2) various types of Aggregator and coordinator of intelligence information; (3) Crisis handler; (4) Supervisor of policy implementation; (5) Arbitrator and executor of government foreign policy decisions; (6) Adviser and advocate of the president’s independent policy By.
Why does the President’s National Security Advisor have so much power? From a historical perspective, in 1947, after the end of World War II, the U.S. Congress passed the National Security Act and established the National Security Council in the White House. When this committee was first established, it had a top-level position over various government administrative and think tank agencies. In 1953, the position of Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs was established on the basis of the National Security Council. At first, this position was only the role of the administrative secretary of the National Security Council, but the Kennedy administration gave it professional functions, making the relationship between the President and the National Security Affairs Assistant relationship is closer.
Subsequently, three presidents—Nixon, Ford, and Carter—continuously maximized the authority of the National Security Assistant. The famous strategists Kissinger and Brzezinski held this position in the Nixon and Carter administrations respectively. Sri Lanka held this position in the Bush administration. Now, Jake Sullivan holds this position in the Biden administration, which shows his high status and power, and his profound influence on the president’s decision-making.
To reveal the “new Washington Consensus” advocated by Sullivan, we must have some understanding of the “old Washington Consensus”. The famous American scholar Noam Chomsky clearly pointed out in his book “Neoliberalism and Global Order”: “The ‘Washington Consensus’ under neoliberalism refers to a series of theories oriented towards market economy. They are formulated by the U.S. government and the international economic organizations it controls and implemented by them in various ways.” Yes, the so-called “Washington Consensus” appeared in the late 1980s, and its historical background is roughly as follows: 1971
Bretton After the disintegration of the forest system, Western developed industrial countries experienced a severe stagflation – an economic process in which economic stagnation and prices soared. Precisely because Keynesian economic theory believes that “there is a positive correlation between price rises and falls and economic strength”, and “stagflation” exactly reflects “there is a negative correlation between price rises and falls and economic strength”, so some freedoms Liberal economists began to use this to deny Keynesian economic theory, and with the strong support of US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Thatcher, neoliberal economic theory became the mainstream guiding economic practice.
At the same time, with the switching of economic theories followed by economic policies, the development path of the entire world has also undergone a major and profound shift, entering a new stage of development. This stage of development has at least two major characteristics: (1) The U.S. dollar has shifted from being the sole pricing and settlement currency for gold to becoming the sole pricing and settlement currency for international commodities such as oil; (2) Under the influence of the “new dollar hegemony”, the entire West Industrial countries have begun to move towards the development stage of “globalization of industrial division of labor and global economic integration led by financial capital”, that is, a financial capitalist system dominated by US dollar hegemony.
In addition, there is another important background: in the 1980s, major South American countries had basically lost their economic and political capabilities under the impact of the severe “foreign debt crisis.” Coupled with the drastic changes in Eastern Europe, this resulted in a “unipolar world structure.” “It began to take shape gradually.
How to integrate more developing countries into the “financial capitalist system dominated by the US dollar”? The United States urgently needs a set of “codes of conduct for the economic development of developing countries.” In 1989, the Peterson Institute for International Economics in the United States invited the International Monetary Fund and other institutions to hold a seminar in Washington. John Williamson, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, wrote the so-called “Washington consensus”.
On the surface, the Washington Consensus is aimed at domestic economic reforms in Latin American countries, but in fact it is a “norm” for the economic system reform of all developing countries. It contains 10 policy measures: (1) Strengthen fiscal discipline, compress fiscal deficits, and reduce inflation. efficiency and stabilize the macroeconomic situation; (2) Shift the focus of government spending to areas with high economic benefits and areas that are conducive to improving income distribution (such as culture, education, health and infrastructure); (3) Carry out tax reform, reduce marginal tax rates, expand tax base; (4) implement marketization of interest rates; (5) adopt a competitive exchange rate system; (6) implement trade liberalization and open markets; (7) relax restrictions on foreign investment; (8) impose restrictions on state-owned enterprises Implement comprehensive privatization; (9) relax government controls; (10) protect private property rights.
To sum up, these 10 rules are nothing more than saying: first, we must build a big market and small government; second, we must significantly relax controls and realize global trade, finance and even economic liberalization; third, comprehensive privatization and all Assets become freely tradable assets so that the market can allocate resources. After 2008, Chinese academic circles also used the so-called “four new modernizations—privatization, liberalization, financialization, and globalization” to summarize the “Washington Consensus.”
Sound very familiar? Of course, but there are important questions hidden in this: First, under the “Washington Consensus”, the law of the jungle of “the weak and the strong” is maximized, especially when the core state-owned assets of developing countries lose government protection, will it change? Become the prey of international powerful capital? Second, under the “Washington Consensus”, will a country’s government quickly transform into a vassal of the international capital oligarchs, causing its own people to pay a huge price? The lessons in this area are rich and profound.
In 2002, economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz pointedly pointed out in his book “Globalization and its Dissent”: The “Washington Consensus” is a product of market fundamentalist dogma. Pushing the rest of the world to open up too quickly and allowing poor countries in need of economic stimulus to implement austerity policies instead. In his view, such a move led to turmoil in the financial market, contributed to the severe economic crisis in 1997, and also led to Russia’s privatization of state-owned enterprises when conditions were not mature.
The Washington Consensus and U.S. National Interests
Since the “Washington Consensus” is a game rule for developing countries, won’t the United States benefit greatly from it? I’m afraid there is no simple conclusion to the problem. To be more precise, the “Washington Consensus” has turned the world into a paradise for capital giants to get rich, but do the profits of capital giants benefit the United States – its government and its people? not necessarily. A typical case is that after Trump became the president of the United States, he used various means to coerce and induce capital giants scattered around the world to pay taxes to the U.S. government. But did he achieve it? Obviously blocked. A very typical argument at that time was: capital has no motherland.
Capital has no motherland. This sentence is very typical. It means that privatization, liberalization, financialization, and globalization—the propositions and practices of the “Washington Consensus” for decades have made those giant transnational capitals lose their Based on the concept of motherland, they will go wherever they can make money, ignoring both the national interests of the country where they are located and the national interests of their host country. What exactly is the national interest? There are many connotations, but the basic connotation should at least include “the interests of the people who are inseparable from the country, and the revenue of the government that is supposed to serve them and is also inseparable from the country.” Does this conform to the demands of transnational capital under neoliberal conditions? What is the ideal of transnational capital? They want their income to be as big as possible. Not only that, they also require the governments of the metropolitan countries to safeguard their transnational interests through military and diplomatic means, and the people of the metropolitan countries must support the government through tax burdens to “pay necessary expenses for the interests of transnational capital.” In the eyes of capital, this is something that should be taken seriously, because the nature of the United States as a country has destined the interests of capital to be supreme.
Can this logic be sustained? The current situation in the United States has given a negative answer. What’s the current situation? From the “Occupy Wall Street” crusade against financial giants, to “zero-dollar shopping” and endless health care reforms, as well as the serious fiscal crisis that is constantly being exposed in the United States, there is actually a story behind them: in poverty Under the polarization of the rich, the U.S. government is no longer able to continue to assume public responsibilities, and serious social divisions have reached the brink of crisis.
what to do? Trump’s approach was to “make money,” but due to the Republican Party’s stance, he simply could not obtain fiscal revenue from the wealthy, so he changed his approach. On the one hand, it coerces and induces American capital giants and all industrial giants around the world to move their factories to the United States to provide tax sources for the United States; on the other hand, it sharply increases import tariffs on China, its largest trade rival, and at the same time forces allies to pay taxes to the United States. Military protection fees; thirdly, using means such as “withdrawing from the group” to avoid international responsibilities and reduce government expenditures. But has Trump succeeded? No, but this has been picked up by Biden. Although he rejected some of Trump’s policies, what was more ruthless than Trump was that he successfully provoked the Russia-Ukraine conflict, forced the European manufacturing industry in the energy crisis to lose to the United States, and at the same time increased government revenue by increasing the sale of U.S. oil and gas resources. .
In fact, the 2008 financial crisis was a clear watershed. After Obama ascended to the presidency with his “re-industrialization” proposition, all U.S. economic and foreign policies began to undergo dramatic changes. But after all, Obama had to focus more on handling the crisis. Therefore, although he called for “re-industrialization”, he did not effectively promote it. Instead, he did an important thing: using crisis management to inject massive long-term fundamentals into the market. currency, and thereby created a stock market bull market for the United States that lasted for more than 10 years, paving the way for strong capital for the innovative development of local American companies.
Therefore, although Trump and Biden after Obama are different at the tactical level, their strategic intentions are the same. The core should be: rebuilding the lost national interests of the United States. Perhaps because of this, the U.S. government began to reflect on the neoliberal “Washington Consensus” and began to conflict with the interest demands of transnational capital. This point was relatively fully expressed during the Trump era.
Why is the U.S. diplomacy and economy targeting China? The key point is that the “Washington Consensus” stinks. The biggest change occurred in 2008. As the hegemonic country with the largest financial depth and the highest monetary status in the world, the United States did not escape the impact of the financial crisis. This caused the entire world to have strong doubts about neoliberal economic theory, especially the United States. The unscrupulous macroeconomic policies have made the world increasingly panic about the hegemony of the US dollar. In this context, in 2012, China vowed to “not follow the old path of isolation and rigidity, nor the evil path of changing flags and flags,” but made the “China path” clearer, which made it possible to “rely on the ‘Washington Consensus’ to defeat China and The attempt to inject water into the U.S. dollar to harvest China’s manufacturing industry and use this to “re-control U.S. industry” and make the U.S. and the U.S. dollar stronger again has completely failed.
What exactly is the “New Washington Consensus”?
Literally understood, the so-called “New Washington Consensus” must be a denial of the “Old Washington Consensus”. So what does the “New Washington Consensus” look like? British “Financial Times” writer Edward Luce once wrote that there are three key differences between the “old and new consensus”:
First, the “new consensus” is no longer an international consensus, but to a large extent only part of the United States itself. people’s political consensus. Second, the “new consensus” is about geopolitics, which largely uses economic means to contain China on the grounds of national security. So the “old consensus” was a positive-sum game, meaning that as one country gets richer, other countries will do the same, while the “new consensus” is a “zero-sum game,” meaning that one country’s growth will come at the expense of other countries. Third, as optimistic as the “old consensus” is, the “new consensus” will be as pessimistic.
In Edward Luce’s view, the United States’ adventurous spirit has given way to a “no-go list,” and today the United States is unable to reach trade agreements, negotiate global digital rules, comply with WTO rulings, and support the international monetary system. reforms, Washington has lost faith in economic multilateralism.
Harvard University professor Danny Rodrik once pointed out: Behind the replacement of the “old and new consensus” actually reflects the agenda of the United States’ domestic and foreign economic policies: Internally, the focus is on creating an inclusive, resilient, prosperous and sustainable world. The US economy; externally, it focuses on geopolitics and maintaining the US’s dominant position over China, while the future of the world economy will depend on the outcome of this competition.
To sum up, Sullivan believed in his speech that the United States faces “four major challenges”: First, in the name of market efficiency, in addition to the privileges obtained by some economic sectors such as finance, the overall supply chain of the United States’ strategic materials, including those who manufacture these supplies, All industrial chains and jobs have shifted overseas. For example, basic sectors such as semiconductors and infrastructure have shrunk so much that U.S. industry and sustained innovation have taken a real blow. In short, the U.S. industrial base has been hollowed out.
Second, the international economic policies implemented by the United States in the past few decades are wrong. Because the economic dependence established in the process of globalization and liberalization has made Europe and the United States subject to others, such as the uncertainty of European energy and the fragility of the supply chains of medical equipment, semiconductors and critical minerals that exist in Europe and the United States. Such dependence becomes a lever for other countries to advance their economic or geopolitical goals, thus forming a new environment for geopolitical and security competition.
Third, the climate crisis prompts a transition to clean energy. Therefore, the economy of the 21st century is a clean energy economy, which breeds major growth opportunities, but how to take advantage of this opportunity? The United States must have a thoughtful, hands-on investment strategy that drives innovation, lowers costs, and creates good jobs.
Fourth, for a long time, based on neoliberal assumptions, Americans generally believe that trade-driven growth will be inclusive and that the gains from trade will eventually be widely shared within countries. But that’s not the truth, and the truth is: the gains from trade have failed to benefit working Americans. As the U.S. manufacturing industry is hollowed out, the American middle class has lost its ground, causing the poor in American society to become poorer and the rich to become richer. Such social inequality challenges American democracy.
Why does the United States face “four major challenges”? Sullivan believes that this is the inevitable result of the United States following and requiring all countries in the world to comply with neoliberal doctrine in the past few decades. In particular, the implementation of the “Washington Consensus” under neoliberal theory has brought consequences to American politics and economy. Disastrous consequences, so Sullivan reflected five key points in his speech: first, denying the free market economic principle of “big market, small government” and denying the assertion that the market can automatically and effectively allocate capital and resources; second, Excessive globalization and liberalization of the economy have led to the shift of the industrial chain, hollowing out the industrial base of the United States; third, the excessive development of financial capital has affected the industrial and innovative capabilities of the United States; fourth, the free market economy has led to polarization and inequality between the rich and the poor. Equality has impacted American democratic politics; fifth, China’s industrial policy has been blamed for making the United States lose its competitiveness in certain fields of science and technology, so the United States must also develop its own industrial policy.
In light of this, what should the United States do? Rebuilding the American middle class and restoring American vitality. In order to achieve the goal, Sullivan elaborated on the measures and steps that the United States must take: First, use modern American industrial strategy to lay a new industrial foundation at home. Given the inability of private industry to make the investments necessary to secure the country’s ambitions, the U.S. government has identified specific sectors that are strategic from a national security perspective and fundamental to driving U.S. economic growth. These sectors will then make targeted public investments in key areas, unleashing the power of private markets, capitalism, competition and ingenuity to lay the foundations for long-term growth. Now, the Biden administration has made large-scale investments and support in important areas such as semiconductors, critical minerals, clean energy, and biotechnology.
Second, in the face of new economic and geopolitical realities, the United States will work with allies and partners to create a secure and sustainable economy and ensure that all parties are constructive, resilient, and inclusive. The ultimate goal: to build a strong, resilient, and leading technology-industrial base that the United States and its like-minded partners can invest in and rely on together.
Third, go beyond traditional trade agreements and establish new international economic partnerships that focus on the core challenges of the era. In Sullivan’s view, since the 1990s, the United States has defined or measured its entire policy based on lower tariffs, but it has missed something important. So the issues the United States needs to solve today are: (1) Create diverse and resilient supply chains; (2) Mobilize public and private investment to promote a clean energy transition and sustainable economic growth; (3) Create good, sustainable economic growth. work; (4) ensure trust, security and openness of digital infrastructure; (5) stop the race to the bottom for tax incentives for companies across countries; (6) strengthen labor and environmental protections; (7) fight corruption. Sullivan believes these should be a basic set of priorities rather than simply lowering tariffs.
Fourth, the United States will mobilize trillions of dollars of investment in emerging economies to innovate the infrastructure of these countries. At the same time, the United States will work to resolve the debt distress faced by more vulnerable countries, but this will require all bilateral official and private creditors to share the responsibility.
Fifth, build a “high wall” to protect basic U.S. technology. The next step for the United States is to usher in a new wave of digital revolution and ensure that the next generation of technology works for, rather than against, American democracy and security. To this end, the Biden administration has introduced the Chip and Science Act, as well as comprehensive export controls to prevent China from obtaining advanced semiconductor technology and products. At the same time, the U.S. government is planning to impose additional investment restrictions on Chinese technology companies, especially in strategically important sectors such as microchips.
What does Sullivan’s speech foreshadow?
Obviously, as the National Security Assistant to the US President, Sullivan’s speech may represent the “consensus” of the US government’s decision-makers, at least in terms of foreign policy. And this speech truly tells us: America has changed, and it is a very significant change. Its core is to deny neoliberal economic theory and the accompanying global economic integration and globalized industrial division of labor under the “Washington Consensus”. The United States must not only occupy the commanding heights of the industrial chain, but also repair its own supply chain, especially the supply chain of high-tech products, by developing its own modern industrial system.
Why does the United States do this? In fact, the trade war and technology war launched by Trump against China and even its allies have made the United States and the world fully aware that if you choke others, others will choke you back. Yes, while the United States is trying to choke others, it is also worried about being choked by others. Of course, there is another connotation: the world is no longer in an era when “the United States strangles people’s necks but others dare not or are unable to fight back.”
Looking at it now, from Obama to Trump to Biden, as well as the elites behind them, they probably understand in their hearts that American transnational capital, especially financial capital, has made huge profits in the entire process of implementing the “Washington Consensus” , but this oil and water failed to bring much benefit to the U.S. government and its local economy. On the contrary, it brought abundant “bubbles.” The repeated occurrence of financial crises, large and small, is a typical example.
Of course, the U.S. government does not dare to directly attack the characteristic of “transnational capital has no motherland,” so it provides another logic: the globalization and liberalization in the past few decades have actually put free trade and free markets above national security. What does the so-called national security include? At a minimum, it should include that the government has sufficient financial resources to maintain its administrative capabilities, military capabilities, diplomatic capabilities, and all public service capabilities. It should also include the ability to supply national strategic and tactical resources, the ability to promote economic activity and innovation, and the ability to provide fair national income. distribution ability, the promotion ability to maintain social stability, and the ability to control culture and values, etc.
If we are convinced that national security is related to the above capabilities, have these US capabilities gradually weakened over the past few decades?
In fact, neoliberal economic theory and economic policies, as well as the institutional arrangements of large markets and small governments, will almost certainly lead to the continuous weakening of the above-mentioned capabilities. Especially with the support of dollar hegemony, the arrogance of financial capital that despises everything is the key factor in destroying the United States’ capabilities. What should be fully recognized is that after the Bretton Woods system disintegrated in 1971 and the anchor of the US dollar was switched from gold to international commodities represented by oil, then US President Ronald Reagan supported Federal Reserve Chairman Volcker and relied on “managing stagflation.” In the name of the United States, it uses extremely high interest rates to drive away the domestic manufacturing industry in the United States, thereby standing at the top of the industrial chain such as financial capital, technology patents, product design, and business services, and using this to control the global economy. In other words, the “hollowing out” of the U.S. economy is its own choice, and the world’s compliance with the “Washington Consensus” is the result of U.S. coercion. Therefore, the U.S. is now reviewing itself and cannot really blame others.
Because of this, we have seen the “crazy operations” of the United States in the past 10 years, and we have also heard Sullivan’s review today.
In any case, the United States is changing and has given a very clear roadmap for its future development strategies and tactics.
Historically, smart Americans once advocated G2, but the G2 they advocated was just a “complementarity” of “China’s interests are conveyed and the United States’ interests are taken.” But if there are smarter people who can profoundly change the connotation of G2, make win-win cooperation between China and the United States the main theme, and bring the world into a new realm. The question is: Will the United States make such a choice? Sullivan and the elites in the US government should realize that China has actually proposed and is working hard to achieve such a state.
Enlightenment to China
Stiglitz once published a famous article “Objections to Globalism” in the American Prospect. The article stated that international financial institutions have been promoting a specific ideology-market fundamentalism. This is both bad economic policy and bad political policy. It is based on the argument that free market economies work best, an argument that does not hold true even in developed countries, let alone developing countries.
Because of this, we cannot simply rely on such a theory to promote China’s economic practice. Whether it is Stiglitz’s discussion or Sullivan’s criticism, they actually hit the key points of neoliberal economic theory, thus reminding us: first, developing the economy requires the combination of effective markets and effective governments. China has been insisting, but it still needs to be constantly reviewed and revised; second, neoliberal economic practices should be prevented from increasing financial liberalization; third, no matter what, the United States still maintains its global hegemony, so in the future, we must face the United States It will obviously be a long and arduous process to make changes in strategies and tactics and find appropriate countermeasures on this basis.
In addition, Sullivan focused more on the so-called “security issues” targeting the United States, but we need to see that this is a change in the system that will inevitably be reflected in all aspects of U.S. economic cognition, policies, and actions. Especially after 2008, the United States has continued to follow the New Keynesian economic theory without saying it, but it actually reflects that the United States has continuously strengthened the role of the government. This is reflected in the issue of U.S. national debt and currency issuance, which will actually bring us important enlightenment.
For example, when criticizing neoliberalism, Sullivan pointed out: The excessive development of financial capital has affected the industrial and innovative capabilities of the United States; the free market economy has led to polarization and inequality between the rich and the poor, which has impacted American democratic politics. Such a conclusion is reflected in the specific financial practices of the United States. We may see that before 2019, the Federal Reserve released a large amount of long-term base money through large purchases of long-term treasury bonds, while at the same time lowering the money multiplier, and thereby investing massive amounts of long-term capital into the market. Is this an extreme measure to provide a solid capital foundation for repairing the U.S. manufacturing industry, especially the high-tech industry?
Of course, a more profound explanation should be: the U.S. government has taken back the right to issue U.S. dollar currency, thus ending the practice of transferring U.S. currency issuance rights to financial capital during the neoliberal period in order to push up the currency multiplier to achieve currency issuance, thereby eradicating the financial The basic conditions on which capitalism can sustain and expand unbridled. We should realize that financial capital breaks away from its origin of serving the real economy and becomes a self-circulating system. It must focus on short-term arbitrage and achieve wealth redistribution. Isn’t this the case in the United States and even countries around the world under neoliberal conditions? Is this the basic reason why the economy continues to “shift from reality to reality” and society is rapidly heading towards polarization between rich and poor?
In short, in the face of the so-called “New Washington Consensus”, what should give us a clear insight is that Sullivan’s criticism of neoliberalism and financial capitalism is not unreasonable, and the old habits of neoliberalism and financial capitalism are precisely what we are today. We should strive to overcome it and pave the way for the development of finance with Chinese characteristics in the negation of negation.