Saturday, May 21, 2005
Topic of the Day: China
Today's Topic of the Day was inspired by today's WashPost article as well as this blog post from WILLisms that was featured in Thursday's Aside.
I talk about China a lot. Why? Because lately the only thing bloggers are talking about is the nuclear option which I, like the Senate Parliamentarian, a Republican, am opposed to, but that shouldn't be any surprise. I am, after all, a Democrat. But I do think the debate is a silly lot of partisan crap that is well overblown. It's like there's an elephant in the living room and we're arguing over which scented Glade plug-in to purchase. China is a real problem, and being the pragmatic person I am, I choose to discuss China. Isn't going to get my posts mentioned in any of the major blogs, but I'm standing on principle. Sorry about the side-rant, now on to the main event.
Two Different Worlds
Reading about China really does feel like reading about two different worlds. There's the Economic Giant China and then there's the Political Fiasco China. During election cycles, we act as if there were two separate countries, yet during that short period of time where national politics doesn't encompass our lives, the Administration (both Bush and Clinton) seemed to ignore the political world and pretend China was another Japan, Korea, or Germany.
In truth, we are harsher to our allies than we are to China. We negotiate detailed deals to maintain a Boeing-Airbus balance of power and our trade reps go nuts when these rules are broken, yet we seem to overlook problems in places like the Darfur region of Sudan simply because China has a veto power and we don't want any economic retaliation from them. Remember that whole "I don't believe we should reward bad behavior" line Bush used to give? Well that might work for pissant North Korea but it sure as hell should apply to China as well.
If the Bush Administration isn't going to have some balls in its China policy, then it better take off the cowboy boots and stop spreading the straight-talk image, because the Administration is being neither straight nor tough with China.
Go read a NYTimes or Wash Post or WSJ article about China. Most apply to one of the two categories I gave, not both. It will either talk about how China is crushing us economically, or what China is doing with either Taiwan or PRNK. Now I talk continuously about how we compartmentalize and how bad that can be, so maybe we should make sure when we talk about tariffs that we also talk about human rights. Maybe when we talk about military build-up in China we should talk about the average Chinese laborer's quality of life. It doesn't make things easy, I grant, because China doesn't fit the mold. For a long time we've believed that Communism and Autocracy went together just like Capitalism and Democracy. It challenges our very notion of what it means to be free. When you see Chinese malls and McDonald's and all the symbols of a traditional American lifestyle, you tend to forget that the Chinese aren't allowed to protest. When you see Chinese kids wearing Yao Ming jerseys and Chinese tourists and Chinese students at our universities, you forget these people don't have political freedoms, that their civil rights are largely created in an effort to build up the Chinese economy. Do you think if China was still Communist that it would allow things like cell phones and Internet access? Hell no. The Chinese government likely hates these things, but they allow them because they are key to increasing their economic might.
One of two things will happen to these two worlds. The Chinese will either slowly move to a democratic system spurred on by an emerging middle class. Or these two worlds will flank us from both sides and we'll be too unprepared to deal with it.
The Bush Administration needs to have a paradigm shift. You simply cannot change the laws of capitalism. China will become the world's largest economic might--the US won't even be second, we'll sit at third behind India and the two population giants will duke it out.
Since we can't stop China's economic rise, we should take a harder stand on their political rise. Maybe we can learn something from the filibuster--if the minority wants to veto something, remove their veto through some pre-agreed on violation of the UN's own rules. Chinese leaders strut through the UN building like they were dignified representatives. They're not. They're tyrants in power just like North Korea and Iran. They just are tyrants with cash, lots of cash.
You can't fight the laws of Capitalism. Barring a world war, the world will become flat. Accept that and deal with the political nightmare that is China.