(ANTIMEDIA) — Last week, headlines were made around the world when it was reported that China had dispatched troops to the Horn of Africa in advance of establishing its first overseas military base. Reuters opened its article on the subject by noting that this latest move falls in line with others as “China’s rapidly modernizing military extends its global reach.”
China broke ground on the base in Djibouti, a tiny country on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean, last year. It’s a high-value patch of land, as the nation is located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal. The strategic importance of the location is evidenced by the fact that the U.S., France, and Japan all have bases there.
An editorial in the state-run Global Times, however, was far more assertive in stating the significance of China’s presence in Djibouti. The paper highlighted the fact that world leaders everywhere are taking note of China’s power projection, and said, basically, that they absolutely should:
“Certainly this is the People’s Liberation Army’s first overseas base and we will base troops there. It’s not a commercial resupply point. It makes sense there is attention on this from foreign public opinion.”
But the very fact that China felt, once again, the need to state it’s not out to rule the planet speaks volumes to the perception that China is on a path to surpass the United States as the dominant geopolitical power on Earth.
All this came hours after China made headlines for an entirely different reason in an entirely different field.
On Monday, the team behind the Micius — named after an ancient Chinese philosopher — announced the results of their first experiments. From the MIT Technology Review:
“The team created the first satellite-to-ground quantum network, in the process smashing the record for the longest distance over which entanglement has been measured. And they’ve used this quantum network to teleport the first object from the ground to orbit.”
The object teleported was a photon, and if you want the science behind how it all went down, MIT Technology Review — which spoke with the Chinese team about their findings — broke it all down very nicely. But anyone, regardless of technical background, can fathom the significance of something on Earth being beamed into outer space.
The folks at MIT Technology Review did something else in their coverage. In closing their report, they brought the whole thing back to the geopolitical level:
“It also shows China’s obvious dominance and lead in a field that, until recently, was led by Europe and the U.S. — Micius would surely have been impressed. But an important question now is how the West will respond.”
On that note, let’s turn to U.S. news.
On July 10, it was reported that a campaign committee had been officially filed with the Federal Election Commission making Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson eligible for the 2020 presidential election. In an interview with GQ back in May, Johnson said he’d consider the idea of running, and he joked about it on camera a couple of times since then.
The man who created the committee, called “Run the Rock 2020,” is 26-year-old political consultant and freelance writer Kenton Tilford. Speaking to CNN, Tilford said the goal is “to build a grassroots community of Americans to show to Mr. Johnson that his incredible popularity as an actor and public figure can translate into politics seamlessly.”
A few days later, Robert James Ritchie, better known as Kid Rock, appeared to announce his intention to run for the U.S. Senate in his home state of Michigan. The 47-year-old self-described “American badass” has been injecting himself into politics in recent years, but many still wonder if it’s all some sort of marketing ploy.
Others, however, such as The New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich, went further, asking readers to look at the broader societal implications on display:
“Yet that we are paying attention at all — that a belligerent, proudly debauched rock star suddenly seems as if he might be a viable candidate for public service — is a terrifying new normal.”
On Saturday, political analyst Julian Zelizer weighed in on the matter for CNN. His commentary, titled “Kid Rock, The Rock and our rocky future,” opened:
“It looks like these days everyone with a Wikipedia entry or a star on the Walk of Fame is thinking of running for public office.
“With the former star of ‘The Apprentice’ inhabiting the White House, the doors are wide open.”
After joking about one day seeing The Rock using his signature wrestling move, The People’s Elbow, on legislatures who don’t vote his way, Zelizer asked his audience if all the American political madness is finally coming to a head:
“Are we now entering an era of celebrity politics? Has all of the distrust in government and frustration with perpetual gridlock generated a moment when Americans would rather have telegenic entertainment stars making decisions about war and peace, rather than those who have spent their lives in politics learning about public policy, negotiation, deal-making and diplomacy?”
As Petrusich astutely pointed out in The New Yorker, the fact that all this is being taken largely at face value suggests the answer to Zelizer’s questions is yes.
So as China continues to strengthen and extend its geopolitical might while simultaneously pushing science to its absolute limits, the United States remains obsessed with the notion of elections — indeed, of the election cycle itself.
No one really seems to like what’s happening in America, and everyone has their own reasons why. The one thing people do seem to agree on, however, is that it can all be fixed if the right guy — their guy — is in charge.
And if that guy happens to be a former wrestler-turned movie star, a greasy rap-rocker prone to vulgarities, or a millionaire mogul and reality TV celebrity, the current prevailing attitude among the American populace seems to be…Sure. Why not? Anything is worth a try.
Because something within the American engine is broken. This much is all but irrefutable. And equally so is the fact that China’s engine, meanwhile, seems to be humming along just fine.