Saturday, May 14, 2005
Topic of the Day: China
Today's Topic of the Day was inspired by yesterday's post plus a couple of nice articles I've found recently.
The People's Republic of China is in an interesting state of change. Over the next decade or two, China's economic and political power will only continue to grow. Is this a bad thing? Considering the impoverished state of the Chinese people, no. The question is how do we prevent the Chinese economic boom from bringing the U.S. down too much? Politically, the Chinese are quite dangerous. Having a rather autocratic past and not being anywhere near a democracy, combined with the use of ultra-nationalism to control its population and repress civil rights, makes for a dangerous superpower. Imagine a U.S.S.R. without the whole collapsing Communist system.
Adam Wolfe of PINR writes in "Domestic Threats to China's Rise":
The general consensus is that China will gradually emerge as a power in East Asia able to challenge the U.S. for regional dominance. In preparation, every country facing the prospect of Beijing's wake is reassessing its strategic options in order to gain the best position possible after China sails ahead. Japan is looking for methods to challenge China's rising military power in the region and may amend its constitution in order to see this through. The A.S.E.A.N. states are pursuing a strategy of interlocking their economies with China's, while looking to the U.S. and India for balance and leverage. South Korea is moving closer to Beijing, though will continue to rely on its special relationship with Washington. Washington's current National Security Strategy sees about a decade of opportunity for the U.S. to act in order to achieve permanent security dominance in the region before China will be able to block such an effort.Some points to make on this: First, the China v Japan political battle plays out in almost everything here. The US encouraging Japan to increase the size of its military is behind the first highlighted item. Second, as far as South Korea, you have to remember that Korea is the #3 guy in the region, and since they are geographically located smack in the middle of Japan and China (as well as North Korea), they have to take sides. In the past, Korea has hung more with Japan as North Korea tended towards China. But with the liberalization of China's economic system combined with Japan's not-so-wise attempt to re-write its history books, Korean sentiments have drifted towards China lately. Finally, it is clear we have to have some serious plan to deal with the multitude of issues that would arise if we do nothing.
In the meantime, China's foreign policy has largely been driven by immediate needs -- access to economic markets and energy resources.
Is there hope? Well, some. Clearly, China's eco-political rise is inevitable. But there are some signs that we do, indeed, have some time. You cannot, after all, build a superpower overnight. Bloomberg is reporting a slowdown in China's growth. This was expected and completely intentional, as the Chinese understand that they need to manage their growth. The Times Online has an article that the Chinese might be more willing to re-value the yuan. This has both good and bad implications for the US in and of itself, something for another time or at the very least a google search.
But the fact is that all US foreign policy should keep China in mind over the next decade. This includes how we deal with North Korea but also some of the less obvious nations. I believe, although I'm not entirely sure, this is guiding our lack of policy towards Darfur. Sudan is a major oil supplier to China, and declaring Darfur a genocide zone might make already shaky relations with China shakier. Does that mean our policy on Darfur is correct? Hell no. Good Chinese policy isn't worth genocide.
More than anything, in my opinion, it relates to Taiwan. Now do we really want Taiwan to be a part of China? Hell no. But its a chip in the game we might just have to give up eventually. Even the Catholic Church just might. I personally am in favor of just delaying the Taiwan issue as long as humanly possible so that the people of Taiwan have an opportunity to determine their own fate. By the way, Taiwan seems to have been teaming up with Japan lately.
The upside of China's economic might is that, given time, it just might work itself out. As I noted before, China is looking like it will run into a labor shortage, which will mean higher wages for their working class. Furthermore, China's new middle class is starting to demand political rights.
The lesson? Lou Dobbs isn't gonna stop whining, so don't worry about that. We just need to delay China's power grab long enough for the Chinese political system to catch up to its economic system.
UPDATE (5/16/05): Just opened a fortune cookie that reads:
:) The Chinese ancient civilization attracts you. :)Indeed.