Much has been said about the fact that President Obama has not pressed China on human rights during this trip, and that China has not released any dissidents as they have in the past during previous visits from US Presidents. Human rights advocates, of which I like to think I am one, are calling for the US to take a stronger role in applying pressure on China to improve its human rights record, to free Tibet, to buy more American goods, to expand democracy within its borders.
The problem is, the US has lost its power where China is concerned and Obama is well aware of the lack of leverage he has to assert the usual demands. China has very quietly over the past few years been buying up the US debt in the form of treasury securities, and currently owns nearly a quarter of the US debt. That is more than any other nation.
In 1988, foreign interests owned only 13% of the debt; by 2007 that figure had climbed to 25%. At that time, Japan topped the list of foreign holders of US debt with $644 billion compared to China’s $350 billion. China now leads the way with $800 billion which generates about $50 billion a year in interest for that nation.
The US has clearly lost its bargaining chips in the face of these facts. If China loses interest in its investment in US bonds and tries to dump its holdings, it could collapse our economy. Such a move would also mean a collapse in China’s investment, which is a no-win for everyone. But there’s no doubt that the balance of power has shifted as the ownership of the United States has moved to the East.
The current cycle involving Saturn (challenge and limitation) and Pluto (endings and transformation) is tightly aspecting the Midheaven in the chart of the United States. The Midheaven in a national chart describes its government and its standing in the world, as well as the President of the country. Pluto began to square the Midheaven back in 2008 as the nation floundered under economic pressures, and Saturn is crossing the Midheaven right now as Obama attempts to bring the American message of democracy, human rights and spending to the Chinese.
I think we will look back on this period over the next few months as Saturn moves back and forth over the US Midheaven, and realize that this was the time that global power shifted to the East. I wrote about this last month when George Soros indicated that China needed to be included in any global discussions.
China is certainly behaving as if they understand that the balance of power has shifted. Hopefully the folks that run things in Washington will wake up to that before it’s too late.