Iraq is a tragic problem for the U.S., but hopefully a temporary one. America’s substantial military presence is unlikely to outlast the Bush administration. And though the threat of jihadist terrorism persist, it does not pose an existential threat to America as did the Soviet Union.
Thankfully, like Humpty Dumpty, the old USSR is gone, no matter how hard Vladimir Putin might attempt to put it together again. But there is another potential superpower that makes many Americans uneasy: China.
China is increasingly asserting itself around the globe. With the world’s largest population, swiftly growing economy, ancient culture, and authoritarian politics, the People’s Republic of China is seen as an almost inevitable American rival. Some analysts even view war as likely.
Last month, the Council on Foreign Relations released a new task force report on U.S.-China relations, bound to join many similar volumes on the over-burdened bookshelves of scholars across the nation. The panel’s recommendations are sensible, but generic: “Improving economic relations,” “Enhancing security relations,” “Encouraging political reform,” etc. Whether there is will on both sides of the Pacific to achieve these ends is the real issue.
Much depends on getting U.S.-China policy “right.” Even today, any confrontation with the PRC, a nuclear-armed power with regional reach, would be far different from the wars with Serbia and Iraq. A future U.S.-China conflict could become a global conflagration.
Moreover, a friendly PRC could help resolve a range of lesser security and political issues, such a potential nuclear North Korea. Finally, there’s the potential benefit of a continuing economic relationship.
WHITHER RELATIONS BETWEEN the two nations? There’s no cause for the touch of paranoia that afflicts some U.S. policymakers. Today America stands astride the globe as a colossus, with the world’s most productive economy, dominant military, and ubiquitous culture. Equally important, the People’s Republic of China is no substitute for the Soviet Union.
Unsurprisingly, PRC officials disclaim any interest in confrontation. They acknowledge domestic weakness and emphasize the benefits of cooperation.
Undoubtedly more hostile voices also join in Beijing’s policy councils — as in Washington as well. Uncle Sam need not be a Pollyanna, following an “anything goes” policy so long as American companies make money, Ronald Reagan’s policy of “trust but verify” can be applied to Asia’s great new rising power.
But the worst strategy would be to treat the PRC as an enemy. First, China is no longer communist in the traditional sense. With as much as two-thirds of the economy outside of government control, increasing personal autonomy, and an outward orientation, today’s PRC is quite different from that of Mao Zedong.
With only a hint of a smile Chinese officials spoke of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” when I visited last year. There no longer is any pretense of Beijing promoting world revolution.
Second, international integration has helped erode China’s old totalitarian state. Membership in the World Trade Organization has nudged the PRC towards something closer to a rule of law. Foreign investment and trade have given China a stake in a peaceful global order.
Third, though Shanghai, Beijing, and other leading cities should impress visitors, rural China remains a century behind the PRC’s modern urban landscape. Chinese officials estimate Shanghai’s per capita GDP at about $14,000, but that of China nationally at only $1,700. As a new book by a study team from the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Institute for International Studies observes, “China remains firmly in the ranks of the world’s low-income economies.”
In 2005 America’s per capita GDP ran $42,000. Assuming recent growth rates continue — unlikely as the Chinese economy matures — the PRC’s GDP won’t surpass that of the U.S. until 2035, and even then America’s per capita production will be four times as great.
China faces potential labor shortages as its population ages. Moreover, China’s vast gulf between urban and rural creates social dynamite that might be difficult to defuse.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online