China

Peace with China, and Other Suprises

A dispatch from Beijing

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BEIJING—When you play with fireworks, there is no big shock in seeing them explode. The surprise comes when you light one, toss it, and nothing happens.

Over the last decade, that's been the story of the United States and China. Despite plenty of gunpowder and matches, detonation has failed to occur.

For a long time, Americans have seen the Chinese as a security threat, and not without reason. We fought each other in the Korean War—known here as "The War of Resisting America"—and China helped the enemy bring us to ruin in Vietnam.

Mao Tse-tung's Communist regime offered guns and encouragement to "liberation movements" around the globe. Even in the 1990s, after he was gone, neoconservatives foresaw a new Cold War with an emboldened Beijing eager to settle old scores.

It's not hard to see why China can trigger cold sweats. After three decades of rapid growth, it now boasts the third biggest economy on earth. It is ruled by an authoritarian regime with a bad human rights record.

As anyone who watched the opening ceremony of the 2008 summer Olympics can attest, the country possesses an unnerving capacity to marshal its manpower for a specific goal. With 1.3 billion people, China brings to mind the comment attributed to Joseph Stalin: "Sometimes, quantity has a quality all its own."

Of more specific concern is that China has greatly enlarged its military budget, which now exceeds $100 billion a year. It has been suspected of hacking into Pentagon computers.

China makes no secret that it is constantly preparing for a possible war with us over Taiwan. And there are those recent incidents when Chinese ships harassed American surveillance vessels in international waters, which looked like a deliberate test of our new president.

China is definitely a force to be reckoned with—but not one to be overstated. Even today, it spends less than a quarter of what the United States lavishes on defense. It still lacks even a single aircraft carrier, the essential instrument for projecting offshore power.

Preparing for the possibility of war with America is not the same thing as wanting or pursuing it. It may just be an act of prudence. One consequence of being a messianic superpower is that we make some countries fear winding up on our list of targets.

China's buildup doesn't really look suspicious for a nation encircled by historical adversaries—Russia, India, and Vietnam—as well as two unstable nuclear powers, Pakistan, and North Korea. Or for a country just two generations removed from an invasion by Imperial Japan. After all, we spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined, even though our enemies are all half a world away.

Most if not all of China's military efforts would no doubt be going on even if we didn't exist. It is behaving like a normal rising power—not the sort of ideologically driven, expansionist state represented by the old Soviet Union.

But, of course, even normal rising powers can precipitate conflict with established ones as they demand more respect and a bigger role in the world. Yet so far this one has seemed to make an effort to avoid being disruptive.

Once an avowed enemy of the international order, China has joined the World Trade Organization, sent peacekeeping forces to African countries, cultivated closer ties with Taiwan, and tried to help us divert North Korea from the nuclear path. Lately, it's sent ships to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Zhang Xiaoming, a professor at Peking University's School of International Studies, told me and other visiting journalists, "China wants to be a status quo power, not a revolutionary power." The country's rulers say the same thing. A white paper published last year declared, "China pursues a national defense policy which is purely defensive in nature."

Prudent people will not take such declarations on faith no matter what government makes them. But in this case, there is no visible gap between Beijing's rhetoric and its conduct. So maybe they mean what they say.

For the most part—not always, but usually—the Chinese have behaved as though they think a country can best assure its prosperity and security through caution, restraint, multilateral cooperation, and a sense of the limits of military might.

No wonder people in Washington are baffled.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  1. Best China cartoon from the 60s showed a crowd the Red Guard, each waving the Little Red Book of Quotations from Chairman Mao, all stone-faced except for one fellow grinning ear-to-ear. In place of the Little Red Book he was waving a savings-account passbook labeled with the emblem of a Swiss bank. (Them were the days.)

  2. a crowd of the Red Guard

  3. It is behaving like a normal rising power-not the sort of ideologically driven, expansionist state represented by the old Soviet Union.

    Reference? Link?

    Sure, the Chinese are not expansionist, except, of course, for Taiwan, Tibet ect. Ideological? Even American socialists know that there must be a host for the body parasite to feed upon. A tiny bit of economic liberty hardly translates into “non-ideological” champions of the free market.

    One thing you can say about Chapman, his articles never fail to fail.

  4. I have lived in China for over 2 years now (yes, quite possibly the least compatible place with my libertarian beliefs, I know) and will say with 100% certainty that everything the Chinese government says is propaganda-based and intended to make the people feel good about themselves.

    Never before have I come across a more arrogant, nationalistic, and “we own the fucking world, so fuck you” attitude than here. Nationalism/patriotism is one of the things I hate most about the USA, but have a 5 minute conversation with one of these retards and you’ll quickly see why they are not a country to be trusted with anything. Period.

  5. In this article Steve Chapman makes the same mistake that liberal Jews and Western left wingers make about Islam.

    He and they believe that the Chineese and Muslims think like the people of the Book.

    This has proven over the millennia to be is extemely wrong and dangerous thinking.

    People of the Book need to learn about the Muslim and Chineese cultures and to learn how they think and what motivates them.

    Multicuturalism is the death of individual freedom and people’s right to choose how to live their lives.

    Why?

    Because a rotten apple, in this case a cultures with millennia of oppressive thinking and actions as taught in their holy books, whether religous or not, will spoil the other apples in rest of the barrel; i.e. take over and oppress those who believe in and value the individual human spirit and rights.

    Over time, only the players change, but the actions and results; i.e. war, death, oppression, remain the same.

    Free trade is a good thing, but to trust your tarding partner and believe that they view life the same way as you do, is a big mistake that thorughout history has led to the death of millions.

    Will it continue to do so?

    Just because you do business with someone doesn’t mean that you have to invite them into your home.

    All one needs to do is look at Eurabia today to see the truth in the above axiom.

  6. Never before have I come across a more arrogant, nationalistic, and “we own the fucking world, so fuck you” attitude than here.

    Sounds like you need to visit a few more countries, then. Arrogance is hardly a Chinese exclusive.

    -jcr

  7. “”””””Once an avowed enemy of the international order, China has joined the World Trade Organization, sent peacekeeping forces to African countries, cultivated closer ties with Taiwan, and tried to help us divert North Korea from the nuclear path. “”””

    This is the key, China became a member of the club. Once it joined the “international order” then all questions about legitimacy of its communist dictatorship were sidelined. The deal is that the “elite” of the West and the “elite” of China get together and trade technology, money and serf laborers so the all they can stay in power.

    They pretend to be “free market” and “free trade” when in fact they are involved in crony capitalism and mercantilism at best and outright fascism/socialism/communism at worse.

    You can tell the countries that have not joined the club, they will get routine denunciations’ for not being free or democratic in all the globalist media outlets while counties like China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Dubai etc who have joined the club get a free pass.

  8. China also understands that China comes first and not Europe or any other country. Something the US has been waffling on for a long time.

    Their approach to small changes over a long time is also something that is nice in government, even if they are communist pig dogs. In contrast we have a pendulum of legislation from government swinging like an orangutan on a rope. (oddly enough the end of each cycle is the same thing of over legislation)

  9. They pretend to be “free market” and “free trade” when in fact they are involved in crony capitalism and mercantilism at best and outright fascism/socialism/communism at worse.

    Pretty much like the U.S., then.

  10. The notion that China is our “adversary,” as Bill Kristol repeats over and over again, is total nonsense. The neo-cons and hard right need a bogyman to frighten the rubes into voting Republican. The notion that the Chinese government is “progressive” and peace-loving,” well, where have we heard that before?

  11. I like Chinese.

    I like Chinese.

    They come from a long way overseas,

    But they’re cute and they’re cuddly, and they’re ready to please.

  12. Having lived in China briefly, I can sort of back up what China Expat above says, though he overstates matters. Most Chinese people don’t care about politics, especially because caring about politics too much is dangerous there. But the government certainly is ultra-nationalistic, and quick to react with shock, rage, and horror over the slightest perceived insult to the government. Bj?rk performs in Shanghai, and just says the word “Tibet” during her song, “Declare Independence,” and she’s made a national pariah for being (supposedly) anti-Chinese and wanting to “split asunder” the Motherland, and banned from every returning. If a musician from Italy came to the US, and said during a show that he thinks Texas should be independent, the American government wouldn’t say a word, and if anything, he might be laughed at. It is true that strictly speaking, China is not “imperialistic,” but remember that the Chinese government believes itself to be the sole legitimate government for places where the locals might disagree, such as Tibet, East Turkestan, Taiwan, and the Spratley Islands. So if you agree with the Chinese government’s definition of “China,” sure, they aren’t imperialistic. But if you believe that people in those other places have a right to determine their own destiny, then China is imperialistic, but with ambitions fairly limited to those places. They’d be content to strongly influence other neighboring states rather than to control them outright.

  13. “It still lacks even a single aircraft carrier, the essential instrument for projecting offshore power.”

    Germany never had aircraft carriers, yet managed to “project offshore power” pretty well with submarines. The People’s Liberation Army Navy has 59 of them, all of which are in the Pacific.

    Meanwhile, the US has a decided shortage of aircraft carriers — 11, of which only 4 are in the Pacific Fleet. That gives the Chicoms nearly 15 subs to use against each of our Pacific carriers.

    An aircraft carrier is only of value when you can get it’s planes within striking distance of the enemy. With 15 subs to expend against each carrier, I can understand their confidence.

  14. “I have lived in China for over 2 years now (yes, quite possibly the least compatible place with my libertarian beliefs, I know)”

    Not counting Washington, DC?

  15. “Never before have I come across a more arrogant, nationalistic, and “we own the fucking world, so fuck you” attitude than here.”

    Never been to France, ha?

    The difference is that the Chicoms at least have some BASIS for that attitude.

  16. On the various issues commented:-

    i) Human Rights. – The concept or conception of human rights are relative. In the US it may meant that an individual rights shall overights the community interests or goals. However since 9-11 a lot of these rights had been taken away. In China and much of Asia the community interests at large prevails over an individual rights. To say there is no human rights in China missed a point.
    China would not be a superpower since ancient time all the way till 1850 and are beginning to take hus rightful place in the world.

    2) On Taiwan – Taiwan is part of China since the death of Coxinga who wrestle Taiwan from the Dutch in early 17th Century. Some authority may even show that it is part of the Han empire

    3) On military sophiscation and incrased in budget. In just another 5 years or so China GNP shall surpasses Japan. Another 15 – 25 years, she shall surpasses USA. In fact back in 1850 China GNP is about a third of the WORLD. It is higher that even the USA during her peak time (1950’s – 1960’s). China make a mistake – too frugal to spent on her military as a result Beijing was sacked by a 10 foreign nations army. She must NOT make this mistake again.

    4) The time that USA excel and surpasses all nation on eath in her science and technology is almost over. A lot of third world countries had catch -up. E.g. India in the area of Information Technology.

    5) Therefore the tunnel vision through the lens of a interested third party may not be correct but coloured by his reading, surrounding and brought-up.

  17. Allow me a few Fisks of this article.
    1) The Korean war ended in 1953.
    2) What would America have done if an army of Chinese were advancing in Mexico towards California?
    3) Why should our ships be near China’s waters?
    4) Why do we care about Taiwan for anyways?

  18. china expat wrote:
    I have lived in China for over 2 years now (yes, quite possibly the least compatible place with my libertarian beliefs, I know) and will say with 100% certainty that everything the Chinese government says is propaganda-based and intended to make the people feel good about themselves.

    Oh no, they want people to feel good about themselves, and their country? Nefarious! Evil! How dare they express pride in their country! The red menace must be stopped (Etc. etc).

    Never before have I come across a more arrogant, nationalistic, and “we own the fucking world, so fuck you” attitude than here. Nationalism/patriotism is one of the things I hate most about the USA, but have a 5 minute conversation with one of these retards and you’ll quickly see why they are not a country to be trusted with anything. Period.

    Sounds like a case of sour grapes to me. You find yourself an outsider amongst a nation of people who are proud of their national identity, so you sulk and feel resentful because you know that you will never be one of them.

    Well, get over it. Who cares if they are nationalistic? China has a bad human rights record, it is true, but it is also true that the US (to take one example) is just as guilty of many of the bad things that China has done over the last twenty or thirty years… it’s merely that we did them earlier. In the meantime we have been doing our best to maintain a military hegemony over most of the world, have tried to control and manipulate the global banking system, and have engaged in all kind of meddlesome and downright imperialistic behavior all over the globe.

    As the above article mentions, China is concerned with taking care of China. The believe that they can protect themselves by keeping their military at home, and not getting involved in overseas conflicts. Regardless of your ideological opinion of their central economic planning and related strategies, they seem to be earnestly committed to helping their country develop and stay out of international conflicts than our national leaders in the US are.

    So if they want to be nationalistic, let them. Why do you care so much about their nationalism? They’re not preaching about manifest destiny or the master race, they simply want China to be independent from US and Western European political military and economic influence, which seems like a pretty good idea considering that these systems are pretty corrupt and coopted by various interest groups.

  19. “John C. Randolph | May 25, 2009, 11:09am | #

    Never before have I come across a more arrogant, nationalistic, and “we own the fucking world, so fuck you” attitude than here.

    Sounds like you need to visit a few more countries, then. Arrogance is hardly a Chinese exclusive.

    -jcr”

    Ok. Gonna go off on a limb here. Please bear with me. I was married to a Chinese American man. I am going to have to agree with “China Expat”. I have never been over to China but was definitely given a crash course in their way of thinking. I am not saying all Chinese think in such a “we own the fucking world, so fuck you” way but the majority even here seem to think that way behind closed doors.(personal opinion based on what I saw) My Father is a Vietnam Vet who then worked Army Intel, and I always seemed to have very opposing views to my ex-husband’s, his family, and extended families’. It got to be very disturbing. In public they were very conceding and American but behind closed doors the bashing always seemed to take place. Once we had older relatives from China visit. All they did was compare how crude American culture and politics were the length of their stay. I was livid the whole time and no amount of explaining seemed to matter. Its as though they were brain washed. If they think we Americans are crude, backwards hicks, then I say pass me the beer and lets go possum hunting!

  20. What matters most is the temperament of a culture than what is the system of government. True, China is an authoritarian one party state with a dismal human right record, but it never was an expanding empire building civilization (No, China did not invade Tibet, in case this is your rebuke.)

    To give support to this thesis, please read Neville Maxwell’s ‘India’s China War’ and you will realize that authoritarian regimes are not necessarily expansionist and democracys are not necessary peace loving.

  21. I’m married to a chinese woman for the past 20 years. Yes,she is very pro china.America is a mess and as I see China today–Chinese have it alot better.I posted this comment a few minutes ago on ICh site. It answers what is wrong with America. I really do hate writers who blame china for human rights–it’s worse in USA.
    “I keep hearing about waterboardinng as the most evil but rarely about this: young boys are humped over and legs stretched apart and while their parents watch,our glorious troops ram-up a broom stick up the poor kid’s ass.
    FYI: this act is shown on one of the band photos.Americans get their kicks this way.
    Local police perfer to hire X-military types.You decide if a good practice.See video
    http://www.federaljack.com:80/20…le-female-cops/

  22. I am a New Zealander who has been living and working (teaching English) in China for more than 2 years and while it is probably premature to pass judgment on a nation of more then 1.3 billion people based on my observations I think I can make some generalizations.
    I have never seen (or heard of) a nation more dedicated to the concept and practice of education than the Chinese. The students are disciplined and eager the teachers are respected and well paid. all of the schools are teaching English with avengence and are becoming more and more sophisticated every year, you are just as likely to see a small child doing their home work in the family shop as playing ball.
    None of this is new it is part of an ancient set of cultural values that the Chinese are justifiably very proud of. While pictures of Karl Marx are still on the wall so are pictures of Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. But above all of those is Confucius who is taught to students from primary school and is still the intellectual father of China. Confucius was an intelligent practical and humane man who was deeply concerned about ethical and effective government. It is worth remembering that although he was contemporary with Socrates he was drawing on a body of work that was ancient even in his time.
    The thing that most Americans fail to recognize about China is not that it is very big but that it’s culture is very deep. All countries suffer from cultural amnesia but in America it is a chronic approaching fatal disease. When you hear an American leader talking about the policies of a previous administration they could be talking about Jimmy Carter but when Chinese leaders consider the policies of a previous government the could be talking about the Tang dynasty or even earlier. while Americans debate whether or not you can carve the 10 commandments into a rock at a court house, Chinese communist party officials are performing ancestor rituals for a man who died a thousand years before Moses.
    This is a big weakness in the American philosophy in general and in the libertarian view in particular. The human experience cannot be expressed just in reference to a single life and personal preferences are not the arbiter of reality. Each person must exist within a community and parts of that community are determined by geography, culture, language and history, none of which are determined by the individual. This is at the heart of the Chinese worldview and it has done some remarkable things, leave them alone and let them do some more.

  23. I am a New Zealander who has been living and working (teaching English) in China for more than 2 years and while it is probably premature to pass judgment on a nation of more then 1.3 billion people based on my observations I think I can make some generalizations.
    I have never seen (or heard of) a nation more dedicated to the concept and practice of education than the Chinese. The students are disciplined and eager the teachers are respected and well paid. all of the schools are teaching English with avengence and are becoming more and more sophisticated every year, you are just as likely to see a small child doing their home work in the family shop as playing ball.
    None of this is new it is part of an ancient set of cultural values that the Chinese are justifiably very proud of. While pictures of Karl Marx are still on the wall so are pictures of Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. But above all of those is Confucius who is taught to students from primary school and is still the intellectual father of China. Confucius was an intelligent practical and humane man who was deeply concerned about ethical and effective government. It is worth remembering that although he was contemporary with Socrates he was drawing on a body of work that was ancient even in his time.
    The thing that most Americans fail to recognize about China is not that it is very big but that it’s culture is very deep. All countries suffer from cultural amnesia but in America it is a chronic approaching fatal disease. When you hear an American leader talking about the policies of a previous administration they could be talking about Jimmy Carter but when Chinese leaders consider the policies of a previous government the could be talking about the Tang dynasty or even earlier. while Americans debate whether or not you can carve the 10 commandments into a rock at a court house, Chinese communist party officials are performing ancestor rituals for a man who died a thousand years before Moses.
    This is a big weakness in the American philosophy in general and in the libertarian view in particular. The human experience cannot be expressed just in reference to a single life and personal preferences are not the arbiter of reality. Each person must exist within a community and parts of that community are determined by geography, culture, language and history, none of which are determined by the individual. This is at the heart of the Chinese worldview and it has done some remarkable things, leave them alone and let them do some more.

  24. Isn’t interesting how many Chinese propogandabots this discussion group has brought out of the woodwork?
    There are suddenly more trolls her than in World of Warcraft….

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