Wednesday, March 16, 2005

China Musings

John Derbyshire at NRO has some good insights on China and it's a bit depressing:

1. There may be some skirmishes between the US and China but a full blown war. "I am unable to imagine any casus belli that would persuade Americans of the necessity for that. The Chinese are another matter; but it takes two to tango, and in the current state of our culture, with self-loathing anti-Americanism a required course at our elite universities, I am sure we would back down in any Sino-American conflict that did not have our own territory at stake. (Yes, including a conflict over Taiwan. Bye-bye, Taiwan.)"

I hope he's wrong but I fear he might not be. The Taiwan Strait could decide once and for all whether Deterrence works. The best deterrence is to make sure we always have a carrier task force within striking distance of the Strait to show that Taiwan is on the radar and we are not so pre-occupied by other areas that we stand back during a Chinese invasion.

2. "What does the Chinese leadership want? That, as I said, is easy. What they want is regional hegemony. They want to be in East Asia — perhaps in all of Eurasia — what the U.S.A. has been in the Americas this past couple of hundred years."

I don't know if I agree. A long held belief of the old line Communists is that as long as there is a free society it threatens a totalitarian one. Nothing short of global hegemony which would mean the dimunution of the US is their strategic goal.

3. "My Chinese friends and relatives have been telling me for years that with rising prosperity and the demands of a confident middle class, China will morph into a rational, constitutional state any day now. Is there the faintest sign that this is happening? From all that I can see, the ChiComs really have got it worked out, and their despotism is stronger than ever. They learned all the right lessons from 1989, and there will be no massed popular demonstration in the streets of Beijing — not this year, nor the next, nor the next. An unelected and fundamentally lawless dictatorship rules China, and the Chinese people, by and large, are fine with it."

I think this is the brilliant insight. The buggers have found, for the moment, the Middle Way - brutal totalitarianism clothed in prosperity. They did learn the lessons from 1989 - the one from Eastern Europe as well as Tiananmen. Crush all opposition, imagined or otherwise - why else bother with oppressing harmless folks like Falun Gong? Let nothing threaten your grip on power.

What Derbyshire doesn't go into through is the primary vulnerability for China - they need phenomenal growth and prosperity to continue to mask the internal stresses and imbalances in an economy that has grown exponentially but has issues with hundreds of millions of migrant workers scratching out a living and a frighteningly high percentage of non-performing loans in the banking system. China is growing 8-9% a year. Reduce this growth ot 2% and some of the chickens will start coming home to roost. God help the Chicoms if that economy falls into recession. That's when we'll see regime change. In the meantime we should be wary partners in enterprises that will benefit us and continue to strengthen relations with India and Japan, neither of whom has any interest in seeing the Chinese colossus as hegemon.

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