Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Chinese Conundrum

Let's leave aside, for a moment, the debate over whether or not China and the United States are destined to clash (something addressed in the current issue of TNI by former Defense Sec'y Bill Perry and Ashton Carter and in the next issue by Robert Art of Brandeis). Let's also leave out the Taiwan factor as well.

At bottom, what you are left with, when faced with the announcement that, at least for the foreseeable future, China's military spending will occur at double the rate of its economic growth, is whether the U.S. really does want other countries to begin assuming more burdens for world security (our loudest and biggest complaint vis-a-vis our allies and partners) or whether the benefits of having other powers continue to depend on us to keep the international system "ordered" outweigh the costs we have to assume to dissuade other powers.

But what the Chinese announcement is the wakeup call for is that we cannot continue to indefinitely postpone our choices in the matter.

Do we welcome China into a security-first paradigm--as Amitai Etzioni argues should be the organizing principle for U.S. foreign policy? Or do we treat China as a future adversary?

We keep saying to ourselves, it will be decades before we have to choose---but the years are slipping away ...

I think the compliant that the European allies should invest more in military to be able to engage in hard power solution is actually justifiable, although it would lead to a more complicated trans-Atlantic consensus-building.
So the USA would have to pay a higher political price for the hard power increase of their allies and considerably loose leverage.
But in the case of the trans-Atlantic partnership this would have a positive effect bringing the parties closer together (forcing them to consolidate decision making) and massively increasing the leverage of the West coming from a consensus position. The trans-Atlantic cooperation has a successful past and it has a promising future, we will see that the minute Geroge W. Bush leaves the White House.

In the case of Iran for example having a strong EU force cooperating with the American forces, combined with Western sanctioning capabilities would be a diplomatic overrun, also constraining the Russian position.

This is just not the case with China. As a matter of fact the more China's hard power grows the more pressure will the USA have to confront on all issues, the trade deficit and the USD-Yuan ratio just cannot be understood as a separate interest conflict. It is also problematic to predict attitudes of and trust Chinese Communist leaders because they do not need legitimacy for their policies, they are basically autocrats and concentrate to much power in their hands, power that cannot be decisively confronted (or not at all) through Chinese media.

Therefore it would be smart to make USA-China cooperation dependent on Sino-Japanese relations and cooperation. This is economically inevitable and important for democratic, law binding influence on Asian institution.

China is not a reliable ally, it is really questionable if China can ever become a real ally at all.

The US does not maintain a large military for altruistic purposes of making the world safe for democracy. The US gains benefits from being the world's hyperpower that it would lose if it became more isolationist and just one of several powers.

You know that China is not going to be in a position to threaten US supremacy for a long time; this is just a scare given that commitment to military spending may start lagging after the debacle in Iraq.
America must try to resist temptation that it has already fallen into with Russia--of always taking the side of the neighbors in any conflict or dispute. Asian countries have to find their own balance with China and US should be careful about inserting itself into those disputes.
stirring up the pot against china with this post? lesson of korean war should be clear. china won't get involved in your affairs if you don't push up against us. if we could fight you to standstill back then with low-tech army think of what we can begin to achieve now.
We should rule our war with China as an option - unless they just decided to attack an ally and we would be compelled to respond.

This new century holds great promise with the rise of China - if it can be peacful, but if we have to go to war with China it will be sometime in the future and it will destroy of the world.

Besides - you can't ever occupy China - It's not Iraq and we can't occupy Iraq. So if we won battles with China they would be inconclusive because we would not able to occupy them in a meaningful way. Unless, you are thinking the unthinkable - then the whole world is cooked.
We must attempt to accommodate China as its power increases and its role in Asia changes. China can be useful in maintaining regional instabilities which the US as offshore balancer cannot manage. China has benefited so much from the relative stability of the system over the last 25 years, why would it seek to disrupt that system. Moreover, it seems unlikely that China would be able to establish regional hegemony given the economic rise of other Asian economies to world class status. As such, we have little to fear in the way of China expanding its military influence into our own backyard. It will be more concerned with its own regional security issues. Hopefully, we will be able to recognize our mutual interests and form a more solid basis for cooperation.
Yes, the rise of China has in fact been a huge factor in US freedom of action the last decade or so.

They're loaning us close to a billion dollars *a day*. Does anybody think we'd have the freedom of action we now have without that? Fact is, they're supporting us as well as any of our "treaty" allies, and better in some cases, and the fact that some in our Natinal Security State and Punditocracy insist on treating the rise of China as a threat just shows their brainless belligerence.
Anonymous 4:09:

You don't get it, do you? China should be GRATEFUL it has the opportunity to lend money to the United States! After all, who else will defend peace and freedom and democracy around the world? And that's why China doesn't need a military because the only reason to have a military is to oppose the United States which is the fount of all goodness.

Yes, this is the prevailing attitude here.
China is pumping huge amounts of air pollution into the atmosphere that wafts across the North Pacific and is beginning to disrupt North American weather. In the future America may also receive higher levels of airborne carcinogens from Asia.

The danger of future conflict with the United States is likelier to arise from things like this. If the rise of China's military becomes a threat to the region, it will trigger a countervailing buildup by its neighbors, and the risk will be much greater of a clash with these neighbors than of conflict with us.

It is in China's own interest to move to a more sustainable kind of industrial development that preserves its diminishing supplies of fresh water and arable land. We need to make clear our own interest in their doing so and we should help them if we can to make the transition.
"They're loaning us close to a billion dollars *a day*. Does anybody think we'd have the freedom of action we now have without that? Fact is, they're supporting us as well as any of our "treaty" allies, and better in some cases, and the fact that some in our Natinal Security State and Punditocracy insist on treating the rise of China as a threat just shows their brainless belligerence."

There is deeper connection with your "treaty" allies than just a treaty, a cultural, ethnic, religious and historic connection and correlation, additionally it is a tested alliance.
Sounds to me you have not encountered ruthlessness of Communist leaders, yet. The billion dollars a day have a price. Chinese economic supremacy will result in China imposing conditions on you one day, indebtedness, USD vs. Yuan and a trade deficit, do not be naive. Military conflict, adversary these are not the adequate words. Undermining of economic law, ignorance of intellectual property and economic nationalism is the issue.

The ideological inconsistency in American-Sino partnership is not be neglected either, it is the basis of "legitimacy" for Chinese Communist leaders.

@David Billington
can only agree with your comment, on target.
Regardless of whether China is specifically hostile to us or not, their differing set of values in approaching foreign relations will ultimately lead to conflict with the US.

For an example, see what China is doing in Zimbabwe.

For better or worse, America - and for that matter, Europe - is wedded to a morality-driven foreign policy - or at least a morality-influenced foreign policy - and China is not.

China must continue to evolve. Personally, I fear that capitalism's power to liberalize is overrated, and it won't.
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