entral glorious people's united country, supra
. China's test of a medium-range anti-satellite ballistic missile (ASAT) created a furor in the Imperial City. Barbara Economy, CFR's Director of Asian Studies, had a slightly bellicose reaction in the WaPo
China's successful anti-satellite missile test has sparked a political firestorm, as analysts have tried to ascertain who in China knew what when and to what end. Were China's diplomats in the dark about the missile strike? Was it all a gambit to force a reluctant United States to the negotiating table for a ban on space-based weapons? While interesting to China watchers and nonproliferation experts, this discussion risks obscuring the real message of the test: Chinese rhetoric notwithstanding, China's rise will be as disruptive and difficult as that of any other global power . . .
If this is the reality of China's rise, then the United States has work to do, the most important being to change the way it does business. If we want China to be a responsible world power on issues such as energy security, climate change, human rights and even space-based weapons, we need to step up and lead. We can and should condemn China for not respecting the international rules governing these issues or negatively affecting other countries' well-being, but we must be prepared to play by the same rules. While other powers may have granted American exceptionalism in the past, China is not inclined to do so. Indeed, China is more likely to seek its own “exceptional” status.
ine and good. We've heard similar analysis. We even share some of it.
Self Indulgent Weakness
o one explains exaclty how a more confrontational U.S. policy towards Beijing will work in practice. (Confrontational herein including divergent approaches such as outright containment/encirclement to mixed strategic coopetition to Economy's more balanced rhetorical flourishes.) No one wants to state the obvious — the U.S. is already subject to the growing power imbalances in favor of China. We are hard pressed to find one example in history when an alleged preponderant hegemon (now in a global economy, no less) was (i) a massive financial debtor to its rising rival with the viability of its currency in the hands of its rival; and (ii) increasingly dependent on its rising rival for the basic goods of its economy and increasingly high technology as well.
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ime Magazine shows us the same foresight, insight and journalisic chops that brought you, um, “you” as Person of the Year. Now in 2007 they let us in a deep secret. We are in “The China Century.”
“Blink for a moment and you can imagine that--as many Chinese would tell the tale--after nearly 200 years of foreign humiliation, invasion, civil war, revolution and unspeakable horrors, China is preparing for a date with destiny. ”The Chinese wouldn't put it this way themselves,“ says Lieberthal. ”But in their hearts I think they believe that the 21st century is China's century.“
OK, we can get down the that, as the kids say. So it is no surprise that Israeli Prime Miniser Olmert is wrapping up a visit to Beijing now
, where he received full military honors. His trip to the capitals of the permanent members of the UN Security Council continues while Kadima continues to plummet in Israeli polls due to scandal and lingering resentment over Israeli defeats in 2006. The Israelis are asking for greater Chinese support for holding Iranian nuclear ambitions in check. Naturally, what the Chinese say and what they do, of course, remain two different things. But there are reasons to suspect that China might well support a containment of Iran — although not an American/Likudnik provoked regional war.
The Chinese can not be blind to what Global Paradigms noted as the next Surge by Bush Administration/Likudiniks, seeking to engineer war with Iran
. Like even the intensely torn Pat Buchanan (eager to blame Democrats for a war they had no role in, crazed in his defense of unfettered Executive Authority, and burning with anti-Neocon rage), the Chinese can not have missed the obvious implications about the Warlord's forlorn speech the other day for Iran and Syria
There is little doubt that Beijing has much if any confidence in the Administration's strategic judgment. Nor are Chinese interests advanced by Likudnik/Administration plans to bootstrap a wider regional war with Iran and Syria.
But, having said that, we do happen to agree with this piece in Asia Times noting that China might well be prepared to support an active containment of Iran.
As noted, China recently rebuffed Iran in Beijing which asked China to reject recent UN resolutions as ”scraps of paper“. Iran misplayed its hand with both Russia and China recently. A current Latin American visit by Ahmadinejad does little to convince Beijing of Iranian political judgment or stability. The Chinese calculations balance Iranian interests with Western/American relations and other regionl players — and the importance of the Saudi point of view is underscored thusly:
But the most important factor in Chinese thinking will be the strategic considerations of its relationship with Saudi Arabia. The exchange of visits by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud and Hu to each other's capitals within a four-month period early last year greatly cemented Saudi-Chinese political equations.
The crucial Saudi role in the proposed buildup of China's strategic oil reserves should not be underestimated. China is planning to build four strategic reserve bases at Zhenhai, Daishan, Xingang and Huangdao, which when completed next year will be able to hold the equivalent of one month's national oil imports. Beijing plans to expand the reserves to the equivalent of three months' net oil imports by 2015.
Saudi Arabia's credentials for helping China fulfill its target are far more credible than Iran's. Apart from supplying 17% of China's total oil imports currently and making multi-billion-dollar investments in China's petrochemical sector, Saudi Arabia, as a ”swing producer", has unique capability to produce oil significantly above its Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries quota. The expert estimation is that if Saudi Arabia chose to produce for the next three-year period an extra half-million barrels of oil a day for Beijing, that alone would bring China's strategic oil reserve to three months' supply. That is why China has offered extraordinary privileges to Saudi Arabia in the collaboration over the setting-up of the strategic oil reserve.
f there is to be a brake on the Administration/Likudnik drive for a wider regional conflagration, one major source could be the Middle Kingdom. Despite Time's breathless restatement of the obvious, it is too soon in the Chinese Century and the evolution of its geopolitical position to deploy its financial power overtly viz-a-viz Dubya/the Likudniks and force a back down ala a Suez moment.
A more focused Chinese policy aligning with Saudi Arabia and the U.S., however could well offer something effective and less catastrophically ill-conceived as regional war: hard headed and robust containment of Tehran. Of course, such a policy by China would have to balance Iranian adventurism and the determined efforts by portions of the Administration to create provocations (such as sending troops to invade Iranian consolates (considered foreign sovereign territory — if you recall 1979, etc. ). A key concern on the minds of many in Beijing and elsewhere must remain: how determined are the Administration and its Likudniks here and abroad to fabricate a casus belli
, Saudi Arabia
wo short items before we return to Imperial Court doings.
proves the value of 5,000 years of Chinese culture and its related insights. Chinese Journalists Tire of Thomas Friedman.
Does anyone doubt this obvious insight? And marvel at its utter lack here in the States among people who should know better?
When he interviews people, he opens us [sic] his big Dell notebook computer and type in the other party's response, nodding occasionally. No other big-name reporter in the world will conduct interviews this way, because it clearly does not leave time to listen to others and think about the answers. But Friedman does not need to record the entire interview accurately. What he needs is an interesting quotation from the government official or CEO in front of him, so that he can suitably cite it in the column that he has already thought out . . .
iting various other Chinese blogs, the piece concludes with this zen-like epiphany from The Flying Pig
Is Mr Friedman a really good thinker? Maybe yes. Maybe not. This is something that can not be showed sufficiently within one day. How do you think if after one year you can still hear that he repeatedly and invariably cites his representative phrase:”Oh My God! The world is flattened! The world is flat!”? ...
... Whether from his book “The World is Flat” or his speech during the two days, it is not an easy job for negligent people like me to find some hints. What I learned at that day is the numerous way to express “Oh My God!”
et another reason for Big Russ to toss his little tyke into a trash bin and beat it like a cheap tin drum
. (As an aside, one time we should share a story re Tom Barnett boasting about his reception in Beijing — completely oblivious to the elaborate status refinements and irony imposed upon him — Chinese are very good at deflating barbarians without them even guessing it).
item speaks more broadly to the potential erosion of American soft power and cultural impact across the globe, in this case our number 2 market, Japan
. “According to the motion picture association, 28 Japanese films earned more than one billion yen (8.42 million dollars) in box-office revenue in 2006 while only 21 non-Japanese films — all from Hollywood — cleared the level. ”In addition, the way Hollywood movies attract audiences, such as noisily destroying things from cars to the earth, is getting old and no longer entertains people." The item notes that American films still do well. But Japan itself has become an exporter of soft power across Asia and to the U.S. — from movies, video game aesthetics, etc. It is a remarkable sign of confidence and change in racial attitudes that Korean pop and movie stars can be embraced by mass audiences in Japan so openly now.
The rise of a more nationalistic and even militaristic Japan is underway
. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution looks headed for repeal in 2007. The Japanese also have upgraded the Self Defense Forces from an agency to a full Ministry --symbolism not lost on Greater Asia. They are budgeting for first strike weapons for the first tme since 1945. And the new government is also openly resurrecting some of the more nationalistic pedagogical materials for school children from the 1930s. We have misgivings about alot of this, not only from geopolitical analytical points of view but from more personal perspectives as well. But there is no denying what is unfolding.
Appropos of this particular post, however, it will be curious to see how the spread and impact of Japanese soft power fares under these circumstances
. A more confident and assertive Japan need not follow the American militaristic trap. The Sovietization of American Power under Dubya may take a generation to undo. And nature abhors a vacuum. Japanese social and political integrative history suggests rather a melding of this newer, in many ways more Bushian attitude with the layers and strata of culture and affinities of the 1955 System and before. Were we betting, we would add some chips on Japanese softpower and let it ride. At least for the next few years.
Tags: Tom Friedman