I agree that the world owes a debt of gratitude to the USA for its action in ending the two World Wars, its rebuilding of Japan and Europe and of its maintaining peace and stability in Europe and the world. Also, though, I remember the tragic and illegal bombing of tiny Laos, the most bombed country per capita in world history - a planeload of bombs dropped every 8 minutes for 9 yearsI I remember, too, the disaster of the Vietnam War and the again illegal bombing of Cambodia, acts which directly led to the rise of the murderous Khmer Rouge. The US cannot escape responsibility or those actions.
As for China, I think those who have read my posts over the years will know that I belong to the pro-China camp. I admire the way the country has pulled itself up from the disasters of the 19th century and the Mao era. It is far from perfect, but I do not know how any country of that size physically and in terms of the utter poverty of its population in general could have done better. Others disagree, and Tiananmen Square has been mentioned. That may seem a simple issue - a country murdering its own youth - but it is a hugely complex topic that really needs a thread all on its own. And let's not forget whilst this happened in a country just starting to pull itself out of extreme poverty and with extreme tensions within its leadership, other highly developed countries also turned their guns on their students. Need one mention Kent State?
But it is the nature of its government and the future that has been raised - expansionist or not, communist or not, repressive or not, risk to freedom or not? All these points were raised by firecat69. And I respectfully disagree with almost every one!
It is not just that I have been visiting China regularly since 1985, when streetlights in Shanghai's French Quarter were still lit by lamplighters and little happened in the city after dark. I was in Beijing in both May and July 1989 meeting with Chinese friends and business colleagues. I know what some think both of their government and the country's amazing economic advances. But I know just a tiny fraction. In this post I will quote rather extensively from one of the foremost experts on China and someone whose views I respect greatly, Kevin Rudd. He is perhaps best known as a former Prime Minster of Australia. Now he is the President of the Asia Society Policy Institute. He is, though, best known as one of the few true experts on China and Chinese thinking having first been posted to Beijing in 1984. As he himself points out –
Here in the Antipodes, what was quaintly described in London and Washington as the “Far East” has, since the fall of Singapore, been regarded as the “Near North”. Comprehending Asia, and the driving forces within it, has never been for us an exotic intellectual luxury. It has long been a matter of national necessity. Nonetheless, one of the great inheritances of the tradition of scholarship we have imbibed from British and, to some extent, American Sinology over the past century was embodied in the London School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas).
After the [2nd World] war, when the Australian National University (ANU) began teaching the disciplines of Asia comprehensively (its languages, its histories, its philosophy, its literature and aesthetics), the ANU adopted the teaching traditions of Soas by conscious design. The core principle was simple: if you are to understand the modern languages, politics and economics of, say, China, the deep historiographies of such ancient, continuing civilisations had to be understood as well. These were not optional “add-ons”. Rather they were an essential element in understanding the modern phenomena called China, Japan, Korea and India, as well as the various high cultures of south and south-east Asia. I was fortunate to have been taught Chinese in this tradition, the beneficiary of generations of scholarship and pedagogy before me. Because, each time I encounter modern China today, I also encounter a China profoundly shaped by its unique historical experience, and a country still searching deeply in its own classical traditions to understand how it might navigate its future in an unfamiliar world.
This is from a long and fascinating article Rudd wrote for the New Statesman in 2012. Headed “The West Isn’t Ready for the Rise of China”, he analyses China and its position in the world in the 21st century. He does so as one who knows many in the Chinese leadership, is a fluent Mandarin speaker and who has studied China for decades. China’s global dominance is, he suggests, imminent and it is high time that the west began to build bridges with the superpower of the future.
Near the start, he says this –
China has become the embodiment of the great east Asian transformation. As a result, it is becoming the embodiment of the great global transformation, as the centre of political, economic and strategic gravity moves from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Europe to Asia, from the US to China. Yet this deep structural shift in the underlying drivers of international relations, a structural shift that is happening before our eyes, is one for which the collective west is woefully unprepared.
He then goes on to quote from a 2011 book by Henry Kissinger, a work he says he much admires. There is no need here to quote more than a short section –
Like the United States, China thought of itself as playing a special role. But it never espoused the American notion of universalism to spread its values around the world. It confined itself to controlling the barbarians immediately at its doorstep . . . China did not export its ideas but let others come to seek them.
He states there is considerable debate within the Chinese government and associated state agencies as to the precise role of China in the future international order. He then discusses the nature of power in China –
If it does take two to tango, we also need to ask: who are we really dealing with on the Chinese side? China, though a one-party state, does not represent a monolithic political culture. Chinese politics is made up of many competing forces. First there are the liberal internationalists who have pioneered, implemented and seen the great harvest that has come from China’s decision in 1979 to bring about market reforms in its domestic economy and to liberalise its economic engagement with the world . . .
another big competing force in the Chinese political debate today is one more critical of the social impact of economic liberalisation, and one that is more conservative in its policy conclusions. This group argues that the reform process has already gone far enough . . . This group is particularly wary of the calls for democratic reforms arising from the burgeoning economic freedoms that already have been created, because it recognises these as significant medium to long-term threats to the continued political monopoly of the Communist Party itself.
One last group that will be central to the question of China’s future place in the world is the military. Even as someone who began studying China 35 years ago, I still find the country’s armed forces one of the most opaque institutions in the world. That is also the conclusion of most China scholars and analysts around the world.
Like most militaries, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is a conservative institution in terms of values, traditions and its intrinsic nationalism. However, under the Chinese system, the military in many respects operates as a structure separate from the Chinese government. Usually the PLA’s policy perspectives on the region and the world are brought together with those of the government only at the most senior echelons of the party itself – through the Central Military Commission and the Standing Committee of the Politburo. The problem with opacity is that it often induces “worst-case scenario” planning on the part of China’s neighbours, and those who share the country’s broader strategic environment. Naturally, the PLA would argue that US and allied contingency planning in relation to China leaves it with little option other than to engage in worst-case scenario planning itself.
And so the self-perpetuating cycle of strategic mistrust and military countermeasures continues. The problem with risk management of this order of magnitude, however, is that it runs an even greater risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Planning for the worst tomorrow often shapes the political behaviour of today.
After examining the possibilities for a closer association with China, he outlines four core elements essential to a “collective, intellectual effort, diplomatic co-ordination, sustained political will and, most critically, continued open and candid engagement with the Chinese political elite.”
First, the international community must accept that it is entirely legitimate for China to have a louder voice at the global negotiating table. Not only is China a great civilisation, it has become, once again, a great power. The international system should not be seen to be exclusively the expression of western interests. The history of European colonisation has done much to diminish the moral authority of the colonisers in the eyes of those in the previously colonised world.
Second, we should argue clearly with the Chinese political elite that the current liberal internationalist order, which has preserved the global peace and enhanced prosperity for two-thirds of a century, must be sustained. This will entail enhanced co-operation with China on the world’s security, macroeconomic, macrofinancial, trade, investment, social, environmental and humanitarian challenges, based on the agreed norms of the present global rules-based order.
Third, if, for whatever reason in the future, China steps beyond these agreed norms, the rest of the international community should be prepared not only to say no resolutely, but also to act accordingly. Understandably, the international community will hedge to some extent against this possibility.
Fourth, the crucible for China’s rising role in the world is of course the Asia-Pacific region. This is where the new regional institutions underpinned by shared international values will be needed to craft principles and practices of common security and common property for the future. In the past, Asia has had no such institutions with either the mandate or the membership to discharge this function. But with the expansion of the East Asia Summit last November to include the US (and Russia), we now have all the major powers of this region around a single table at summit level with an open mandate on political, economic and security issues. And this for the first time in Asia’s history. Confidence-building and security-building measures, greater military transparency, common responses to natural disaster management (the greatest scourge for the peoples of the region) as well as common regional commitments to open economies and sustainable development are now possible . . .
And then, I believe crucially, he starts his summing up -
Mine is not a starry-eyed optimism. I have lived in China, travelled in China and studied China in one capacity or another for most of my life. Like all civilisations, it reflects an accumulation of historical experiences, perceptions and achievements. But China’s history does provide us with a reasonable basis for optimism. The China that I have studied over the decades is one that has not been in the business of invading other countries for more than 2,000 years. Nor has China sought to establish colonies around the world, even though its navigational skills and naval capabilities during the Ming Dynasty were considerably more advanced than those of countries in the west . . . China today seeks respect in the eyes of the world for the contributions of its ancient civilisation and modern economy. These are all historical truths that we in the west can work with.
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/in ... rise-china