Tuesday, October 23, 2007

China Redux

800pxchinageography Here is an exchange between my friend Jim Wallace living in Rwanda and me last week.  Please jump in with information, views, comments. There is a lot of "China bashing" going on. Recent articles in the Economist, The NYTIMES, and Foreign Affairs come to mind.  Is it sheer xenophobia on our part or is there are larger geo-political strategy at work.  Maybe it's just envy.  ~ R. A. M.

I listen to BBC and Deutsche Welle radio here in Rwanda and can't decide which is better. Both are excellent. Both have featured long reports on China with lots of interviews from Pentagon types and their counterparts in China.

Looks like the next arms race is on, just in time for Iain and your grandchildren. This cold war I doubt will turn out with an economically worn China conceding gracefully to the US, as the USSR did. Or as Britain did during and after the second world war. My impression is that the US will not go quietly into that good night. Damn.

Wowy, man, China is ramping up a military space program to trump ours. and they are preparing a modern blue water navy with carriers and nuke-armed subs.

They have 980 missile sites aimed at Taiwan should that rogue territory decide to go free. The US, as you know, is committed by treaty to defend it and when Clinton sent two aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait in his tenure in the 90s, China stopped its sword rattling. Now it has missiles and modern subs in the area. It's consolidating its unwieldy army and modernizing weapons control and smart bombs for its air force.

It says its burgeoning blue-water navy is to protect its trade shipping, doesn't trust the Pax Americana with its bases in Japan, Korea, and the Philippines--or Australia and New Z .
I wouldn't either.

This mighty new kid on the block has to get respect and will do everything to get it. The US is weakened by commitments in the Middle East (Iraq and Afganistan) and by Russia's opposition to new bases and missile shields in East Europe, not to mention its natural aging process. Its top dog has yellowing teeth and some white whiskers on its muzzle.

That navy is to ensure that China's new oil depot abuilding in Pakistan's coast and China's massive trade in raw materials from Africa will have clear sailing through the Strait of Malacca, its only clear-water route to its homeland. The US will block that passage during war and China is planning a sufficient force to unblock it.

What a war, says Iain. It will immediately involve Japan, the Koreas, Australia-NZ, and Russia, besides the principals, either by treaty or because they are in the line of fire. All his thoughts, admiringly seconded by his old man.

What will start it? Not the murder of Archduke Ferdinand and his young wife this time, huh? Or the Dali Lama's spirit. It may be over Taiwan, which a powerful China, vying for top dog superpower spot, will not hesitate to do battle for. And Taiwan is not going to forget about its freedom that has carried it so far to date, a freedom it wants to authenticate more and more to judge from recent news.

If war, not in your time or mine, most likely, but who knows.
Jim   Kigali, Rwanda

What a good thoughtful piece!
Chinesedragonred      However, I remain confident that China has no grand extra-territorial schemes of a military nature up its ample sleeves. First, historically China in its five thousand plus years of history has not been adventurous on a military level---with the exception of what is now Vietnam.  Its incursion into Korea was also limited and strategic. China is huge as a land mass and in its population. It dominates the South East Asian area, and it is looked up to for guidance and aid.  China with its central leadership has embraced market capitalism  ( Deng Shao Ping) and is competing aggressively in the globalized  world economy.  Military adventurism  is simply not in their interest.   Money and competition for markets are far more powerful weapons. Their military is and has been a major part of  their need to be protective of their homeland and  to absorb the huge labor pool that otherwise would be unemployed, posing significant societal problems that could lead to internal strife and discord.
     However, the US is often bellicose, and our defensive posture re Taiwan could produce an unwanted result --  warfare.  Let us not forget Russia. It too could cause problems. We should not ignore Japan; China hasn't.  Nanking and other outrages on Mainland China in the Second World War remain as deep wounds, debts unpaid. Serendipitous events—unintended consequences—can result in war.
     You are right that China needs oil and is pursuing it in the Middle East.  Its relations with Africa are growing, although their approach seems to be more colonial than simply trade oriented. Pollution, air and water are huge realities. China is aggressively seeking help in developing alternative energies such as wind power, but its burgeoning economy is fueled by soft coal, oil and gas. The demand for motor scooters, motorcycles, and cars is growing. Global warming is exacerbated by this carbon-based fuel.
Chinesedragonyellow5large     There is a wonderful book --- one of the Chinese classics--called THREE KINGDOMS that is worth reading; it examines China during a long internal warring period. Give it a read if you can.
     As for China owning and continuing to buy US debt, I would be worried.  On one hand they, China, can't afford to dump our debt due to a weak dollar and their dependence on the US importing Chinese goods; but--- and a big BUT this is---  China probably has a strategy to slowly sever its ties to the US and establish its economic hegemony in Europe and Asia over time.  Their military is a bulwark against militarism directed at them, an issue of pride, and a necessity in this dangerous world.
     We should look at population figures for the US and China and compare energy consumption per capita.  It is measured in calories, and you will find it quite enlightening, I believe.  Google will help.

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