The China threat, yada yada yada

A good article on why the Pentagon insists on resurrecting this old chestnut every few months. (Discovered in this fine thread in the duck Pond.)

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 9 Comments

Richard, to play devil’s advocate, if you really feel as you do that China’s “peaceful rise” resembles the rise of another great power in a contentious corner of the globe 70-odd years ago then the Pentagon’s plans seem prudent. How is your personal “China threat” card more justified than the hawks’? How is it any different?

June 1, 2006 @ 11:11 am | Comment

What IS my”personal China threat card”? I have no idea what you are talking about.

June 1, 2006 @ 5:33 pm | Comment

I think what he is asking (or at least what any sensible person should ask) is why should China’s rise to be a great power again be any different from that of other great powers? Why should we expect China will behave better than current and past great powers when it is rich and powerful? Why should we expect a powerful China in the future to behave any differently than China did in the past when it felt strong and powerful?

June 1, 2006 @ 8:22 pm | Comment

I can’t answer any of those questions, and doubt if anyone else can. What I can say based on all I’ve read is that no matter how nasty and gross China’s leaders may be, the strength of their army and the magnitude of their weapons expansion have been consistently exaggerated and hyped to instill fear, for whatever reasons (political, economic, whatever). The “China threat” canard has been disproved time and again, to my satisfaction, at least. China might pose many threats to the world on many levels – human rights, labor, economics, banking, pollution, etc. – but militarily their “threat” has been sensationalized by the Pentagon and obliging “analysts” at the Washington Times.

June 1, 2006 @ 8:50 pm | Comment

By the way, Dylan, it’s great to see you back. Where have you been??

June 1, 2006 @ 9:20 pm | Comment

Richard, what I am referring to, and perhaps I was too coy with my wording, is your posts that compare the rise of China to the rise of Nazi Germany, and, by way of that comparison, imply a threat.

Now, you don’t go respond to that threat by calling for weapon systems and security regimes and so on, but it is a threat card you play frequently, only your reaction seems to be despair rather than warmongering. If you disagree that you are actually positing a threat, I ask you to consider what a comparison to Nazi Germany means in the discourse.

Dylan, I’m not actually asking anything beyond this comparison. If today’s China has echoes of Nazi Germany, as many foreign observers left and right seem to posit, then that’s a potential threat on the horizon. If it’s not a “threat,” why the need to make that comparison?

Finally, just so no one can put any words in my mouth, I agree that China’s military power has been overstated, and furthermore, I’ll argue that a failure of imagination has left the Pentagon largely been unwilling to think past Cold War divisions in Asia when creating force and procurement doctrines. Is China a threat? Only in the sense that all great powers are threats to the system leader.

June 2, 2006 @ 3:52 am | Comment

My comparison with Nazi Germany in a past post was to make this point: that a society can be prosperous and happy and successful while at the same time terrible things are going on in the background. I do not in any way compare China’s rise with that on the Nazis in terms of military power. I never said that China’s rise posed a military threat. Hitler fueled Germany’s rise by turning the country into a war machine, and spending vast amounts of government money to do so. Hitler literally HAD to go to war so he could win the plunder to pay for his state spending. As far as I know, China is not pursuing this strategy. Hitler’s entire foundations were built on militarism and aggresive racism, while China’s appear to be based on commerce/greed. Hitler was an obvious military threat within a very short time of coming to power. I see no evidence of such a threat from China, but if i did, I’d jump on it. Right now, all I see is the Pentagon crying “wolf’ so frequently that if a true China threat someday materializes no one will listen to the warnings.

June 2, 2006 @ 4:37 am | Comment

Richard, to compare the rise of China to Nazi Germany, in the minds of most (perhaps not your own) implies one of of two threats — that China is a threat to its own people internally or that China is a threat to others externally.

If you want to say, “a society can be prosperous and happy and successful while at the same time terrible things are going on in the background,” then why not compare China to Argentina, Chile, South Korea, or even Taiwan? Nazi Germany was and is a loaded comparison, and though you may mean for it to be taken differently, it paints China’s rise in a very sinister light. Don’t be surprised if some of the PNAC/DOD essays sound a lot like your own.

June 2, 2006 @ 7:48 am | Comment

In only one post did I ever mention the CCP and Nazis together out of my thousands of posts, and in that post I clearly wrote, “I am not drawing any direct comparisons of the CCP to the Nazis, tempting though it may be. The CCP is at least showing dramatic signs of continuing reform. But there are still interesting historical parallels.” If you want to read into that, go right ahead. My whole point was that repression can happily co-exist with prosperity.

June 2, 2006 @ 9:41 am | Comment

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