Chinese Century? Not So Much
Joseph Nye (the gentleman who coined the term “soft power”) has written one of the best things I’ve read on China in a long time for the Financial Times. Here’s a snippet:
In 1974, Deng Xiaoping told the United Nations General Assembly: “China is not a superpower, nor will it ever seek to be one.” The current generation of Chinese leaders, realising that rapid growth is the key to domestic political stability, has focused on economic development and what they call a “harmonious” international environment that will not disrupt their growth. But generations change, power often creates hubris and appetites sometimes grow with eating. Some analysts warn that rising powers invariably use their newfound economic strength for wider political, cultural and military ends.
Even if this were an accurate assessment of Chinese intentions, it is doubtful that China will have the military capability to make this scenario possible. Asia has its own internal balance of powers and, in that context, many states welcome a US presence in the region. Chinese leaders will have to contend with the reactions of other countries as well as the constraints created by their own goal of growth and the need for external markets and resources. Too aggressive a military posture could produce a countervailing coalition among its neighbours that would weaken both its hard and soft power. A recent Pew poll of 16 countries found a positive attitude towards China’s economic rise, but not its military rise.
Read the whole thing. I agree with former President Bill Clinton’s assertion (yes, you heard that right) that we have more to fear from a weak China than from a strong one. I believe that China faces formidable obstacles in the coming years including demographic issues fomented by their disastrous “One Child Policy”, enormous environmental problems, and serious problems of fundamental social infrastructure. The Chinese, we, and the world as a whole will be better off if China is able to deal with these problems effectively.
Further, China’s continuing prosperity is dependent on its ability and willingness to cultivate its own internal markets. Simply put, growing as much in the next decade as it has in the last cannot be done via export alone. The numbers don’t support it. And the United States potentially has much to gain from a strong, vibrant, more open Chinese market.