Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A billion Chinese can't be wrong, but even if they are... they aren't

One billion pennies

David Seaton's News Links
Before the Second World War, my father worked in a large mail-order firm in Chicago. Among his fellow workers was a very popular Japanese who quit and returned to Japan a couple of years before the war started.

A couple of years after the war ended, the Japanese man reappeared and wanted his job back... They remembered him, they liked him, he was a good worker, he got his job back.

My father and he picked up their friendship where they had left off before the war. Over drinks he told my father about returning to militaristic Japan at the end of the 30s. People in Japan were talking about how they would wipe up the floor with the United States.

"Japan is such a small place," he said, "nobody there had any idea of how big America is, the distances, the scale." There was no way he could communicate his knowledge of America's immense size to his people. Knowledge
he had acquired while visiting the company's warehouse all over the USA; exhausting days spent crossing America's vast spaces by car, bus and train.

Only some Japanese navy officers, men who had sailed the seven seas, crossed and recrossed the Pacific, caroused in the world's port cities, had any idea of what he was talking about. They were nervous too, but the army people, with their doll house view of the world, were running the show and they thought that invading and occupying the USA would be a piece of cake.

My father's friend kept his head down and survived the war.

I remembered this story, when I was thinking about Robert Kagan's "league of democracies" and the neocon idea of confronting China. The neocons remind me of the Japanese militarists. They have no idea of what they would have us confront. Here is a sample of what is waiting:

As human rights protesters dogged the Beijing Olympics' torch relay around the world, as supporters of Tibet condemned the violent crackdown in Lhasa, and as Darfur activists demanded change in China's Sudan policy, Chinese young people worked themselves into a different form of righteous anger. In online forums and chat rooms, they blasted Beijing's leaders for not being tougher in Tibet. They agitated for boycotts against Western businesses based in nations that object to Beijing's policies, and they directed venomous fury against anyone critical of China.(...) The explosion of nationalist sentiment, especially among young people, might seem shocking, but it's been simmering for a long time. In fact, Beijing's leadership, for all its problems, may be less hard-line than China's youth, the country's future. If China ever were to become a truly free political system, it might actually become more, not less, aggressive. (...) Even after 9/11, a time when the governments of China and the United States were building a closer relationship, some young Chinese welcomed America's pain. "When the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, I really felt very delighted," one student told Chinese pollsters.(...) They also have begun traveling and working abroad. They can see that Shanghai and Beijing are catching up to Western cities, that Chinese multinationals can compete with the West, and they've lost their awe of Western power. Many middle-aged Chinese intellectuals are astounded by the differences between them and their younger peers. Academics I know, members of the Tiananmen generation, are shocked by some students' disdain for foreigners and, often, disinterest in liberal concepts such as democratization. (...) Beijing has long encouraged nationalism. Over the last decade, the government has introduced new school textbooks that focus on past victimization of China by outside powers. The state media, such as the People's Daily, which hosts one of the most strongly nationalist Web forums, also highlight China's perceived mistreatment at the hands of the United States and other powers. In recent years, too, the Communist Party has opened its membership and perks to young urbanites, cementing the belief that their interests lie with the regime, not with political change -- and that democracy might lead to unrest and instability. (...) In the long run, this explosive nationalism calls into question what kind of democracy China could be. Many Chinese academics, for example, believe that, at least in the early going, a freer China might become a more dangerous China. Able to truly express their opinions, young Chinese would be able to put intense pressure on a freer government to adopt a hard line against the West -- even, perhaps, to invade Taiwan. Joshua Kurlantzick - Los Angeles Times
The neocons idea of confronting China is totally insane.

Kagan is basically saying, "let a hundred Pearl Harbors bloom".

China is a country of one billion people, they have money, they have knowhow, they work hard, they are proud.

They have the world's longest memory.

Size matters.

China is a rule maker, not a rule taker.

China must be accommodated not confronted.

Is this appeasement?

How do you confront an 800lb gorilla?

For starters you call him "Sir". DS


Terry Calhoun said...

I'm certain there a young Chinese who don't like the US, but on a recent trip I certainly saw tremendous admiration for the US, still. Over and over I was told, "We are embarassed by the Cutural Revolution, but that is history. We are not like that now." I also saw a growing sense of pride and anticipation of China's future strength and world leadership.

We can still be their good friends. I hope our political leaders work on that.

Anonymous said...

I agree in large part where you are coming from but I think at the end you go too far. Yes, our ability to influence China is limited but your "Sir" comment suggests that China will soon be a sole superpower that can dictate world events and I just don't think that is the case. This might be true if China could manage the same type of per capita productivity Americans enjoy. China will never have a billion people with an average American's productivity. There are not enough resources in the world to accomplish that. Similarly a growing China will be opposed by a nuclear Russia, India and Pakistan along its borders. Finally, it is hard to gauge what effects climate change may have on China. In particular, if the Himalayas ice cap should melt China will have even more difficulty than it does now feeding its population. I agree we should be careful not to underestimate China but I would also suggest that you may have gone over the cliff in the opposite direction.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I don't suggest that China will ever be the "sole super power", but I think that title will soon be vacant. What I don't think we will ever be able to do again is lean on them. the term "Sir" is ofter reciprocal.

RC said...

David, Sire: Excellent post and visual. At least I enjoyed it immensely. I saw a review of a new Fareed Zakaria book. He recommends that China pal around and get involved with the other countries instead of being aggressive. Don't bother buying this pathetic pulp.
The Chinese aren't aggressive at all in terms of the military, but they have just completed a 15 year long round of buying all possible raw materials and energy sources they can get their hands on throughout the world, including my bailiwick, Latin America, and they will continue on that path.
Meanwhile, the US government burned their money in Iraq. Those who have not figured out yet that the American {US} century is long over haven't been paying attention and I include Fareed. He's far too late to be prophetic.
More posts like this one, Sir!