China, the Peacemaker? By Alfred McCoy, Jeremy Scahill, and Murtaza Hussain

Alfred McCoy sees the world as it is, not as the propagandists picture it. He has the rare ability to put himself in the other side’s shoes. From McCoy, Jeremy Scahill, and Murtaza Hussain at

Historian Alfred W. McCoy discusses China’s rapid economic and political rise and how Beijing is well positioned to broker an end to the war in Ukraine.

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a long call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which Xi appealed for negotiations to begin between Ukraine and Russia. This week on Intercepted, hosts Jeremy Scahill and Murtaza Hussain are joined by Alfred W. McCoy, the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of “To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change.” As McCoy explains, China’s role in brokering a peace deal could be instrumental. And it also signals that the U.S. government is no longer the most powerful and influential world power in every region of the world, as it once was. McCoy says, “If Putin sat down with Xi Jinping and Zelenskyy and they sign an agreement, Putin couldn’t break that agreement. He can break any other agreement, he’ll break them, he’s done it many times, but that’s one he can’t break.”

Jeremy Scahill: Welcome to Intercepted. I’m Jeremy Scahill.

Murtaza Hussain: And I’m Murtaza Hussein.

JS: Well, Maz, there’s a lot of hawkish talk in Washington, D.C. these days. Not just the discourse around the war in Ukraine and the confrontation of Vladimir Putin and Russia, but also increasingly about China. And on both sides of the official political aisle in Washington, D.C., there is a sort of emerging consensus that, sooner or later, the U.S. is going to be in a dramatically escalated reality with China, maybe even a military war. And much of the microfocus of this discourse surrounds the fate of Taiwan, but it certainly extends beyond that.

And if you look at recent history, you see that the U.S. has been on a steady arc toward more focus on China as the primary U.S. adversary in the world, and that has brought increased spending on military planning for potential hot conflict, or a defensive response to a potential Chinese attempt to take Taiwan by force.

But buried not so deeply underneath this public display that often manifests as chest-thumping in Washington, D.C., lies a much more complex web of social, economic, political, military, geographic battles that are being waged between Washington and Beijing. And China has steadily adopted a quiet public posture — certainly recently — as a world leader capable of major international diplomacy, and as the central player in leading this multipolar battle to challenge U.S. hegemony.

And today, we’re going to be speaking with one of the most important historians of the U.S. empire, of the politics and history of the Asian continent. His name is Alfred McCoy. He’s probably very familiar to listeners of this podcast. In fact, when we had him on the show a few years ago, it was by far one of our most popular and most downloaded episodes.

Alfred McCoy is the Harrington Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s the author of several really important books, most recently, “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.” His newest book is “To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change.”

Al McCoy’s latest article, which was published on Tom Dispatch, is titled “The Rise of China (and The Fall of the U.S.?): Tectonic Eruptions in Eurasia Erode America’s Global Power.” And in the article, Professor McCoy writes, “Unlike the U.S., China hasn’t spent significant effort establishing military bases, while Washington still maintains some 750 of them in 80 nations. Beijing has just one military base in Djibouti, on the east African coast, a signals intercept post on Myanmar’s Coco Islands in the Bay of Bengal, a compact installation in eastern Tajikistan, and half a dozen small outposts in the South China Sea.”

Professor McCoy continues, “Moreover, while Beijing was focused on building Eurasian infrastructure, Washington was fighting two disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in a strategically inept bid to dominate the Middle East and its oil reserves (just as the world was beginning to transition away from petroleum to renewable energy). In contrast, Beijing has concentrated on the slow, stealthy accretion of investments and influence across Eurasia from the South China Sea to the North Sea. By changing the continent’s underlying geopolitics through this commercial integration, it’s winning a level of control not seen in the last thousand years, while unleashing powerful forces for political change.”

So, we have a lot to discuss with Professor McCoy, and he joins us right now. Thank you so much, Al, for joining us once again on Intercepted. 

Alfred McCoy: Jeremy, lovely to be here. Thank you. 

Continue reading


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.