An intriguing article appears in this week’s NY Times Magazine that I recommend you check out. No matter which way you lean, I suspect it will ruffle feathers. Written by thinktanker Parag Khanna, its main theme is the shift in the balance of power, which is more dramatic than a lot of us want to admit.
I began to recognize Hu Jintao’s foreign policy prowess back when I was living in Taiwan, long before I became a paid shill for the CCP. It became clear to me then, as I wrote at the time, that Hu was successfully scooping up allies alienated by Bush, and building alliances that shrewdly guaranteed China’s continued growth, opening up both new markets for exports and new pipelines for badly needed resources such as oil, iron, nickel, etc. (In that same post, I also noted the paradox of Hu’s utter impotency when it comes to controlling the thugs in his own party, in his own country.)
Anyway, pardon the long clip, but it’s thought-provoking stuff.
At best, America’s unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift. The post-cold-war “peace dividend” was never converted into a global liberal order under American leadership. So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing — and losing — in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world’s other superpowers: the European Union and China. This is geopolitics in the 21st century: the new Big Three. Not Russia, an increasingly depopulated expanse run by Gazprom.gov; not an incoherent Islam embroiled in internal wars; and not India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite. The Big Three make the rules — their own rules — without any one of them dominating. And the others are left to choose their suitors in this post-American world.
The more we appreciate the differences among the American, European and Chinese worldviews, the more we will see the planetary stakes of the new global game. Previous eras of balance of power have been among European powers sharing a common culture. The cold war, too, was not truly an “East-West” struggle; it remained essentially a contest over Europe. What we have today, for the first time in history, is a global, multicivilizational, multipolar battle….
Without firing a shot, China is doing on its southern and western peripheries what Europe is achieving to its east and south. Aided by a 35 million-strong ethnic Chinese diaspora well placed around East Asia’s rising economies, a Greater Chinese Co-Prosperity Sphere has emerged. Like Europeans, Asians are insulating themselves from America’s economic uncertainties. Under Japanese sponsorship, they plan to launch their own regional monetary fund, while China has slashed tariffs and increased loans to its Southeast Asian neighbors. Trade within the India-Japan-Australia triangle — of which China sits at the center — has surpassed trade across the Pacific.
I thinki Khanna’s onto something, even if he is a little too admiring of China while too easily dismissing India and Russia. I know, we can also find quotes that describe China teetering on collapse. Personally, I don’t think there will be any collapse any time soon – certainly some pain as the country feels the sting of decreased US imports, but China has stacked the deck too craftily while Bush played his cards like..well, he basically threw his cards on the floor.With zero moral compunction or conscience, Hu has befriended the scum of the earth, coddled them and established close relations with them. Totally vile, but also shrewd in the classic Macchiaivellian sense of the ends justifying the means. To Hu, all that matters is feeding the beast of China’s economic engine and he’s not going to let small things like human rights or genocide get in his way. It’s a cruel and heartless world and China has 1.3 billion mouths to feed and Hu and his Gang are going to do what they perceive is in the country’s best interests and anyone who dares get in their way will be crushed like a gnat. Whatever you have to say about them, one can’t deny that their Tsinghua University engineer’s approach to foreign policy has achieved many of the desired results, odious as they may be. The deals have been made; much of Africa is in Hu’s pocket.
As a disclaimer, I know nothing more than any average layman about China. I blog for fun, and my Chinese is only at an upper-elementary level (getting better, though).
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.