In my Catching my eye feature yesterday I mentioned the sabre-rattling with respect to China I was seeing. Zenpundit Mark Safranski has noticed it, too, and offers a critique of Robert D. Kaplan’s recent article in The Atlantic, which is one of the flashpoints for the sabre-rattling. Here’s the basis of Mark’s argument:
This is not an argument that China is a friend or ally of the United States. It is not. Nor will I argue that China’s economic and geopolitical rise does not represent a shift in the global order and a strategic challenge for American policy makers. It does. What I will illustrate is that China in 2005 is not the Soviet Union of 1945 and that to base our strategic policy of how to relate to China as “Cold War II” is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
One crucial difference that Mr. Kaplan does not seem to be aware of is that the fundamental economic and foreign policies of China today and the Soviet Union circa 1945-1949 differ by approximately 180 degrees.
I agree with that completely.
I’m stealing my own thunder but the points I’m trying to make in my as-yet-unfinished “China’s time bombs” series are that
- China has problems of its own.
- China is focussed on China in a way that Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have never been.
- We should be encouraging China to solve its problems rather than worrying about what China’s plans for us might be.
As a simple illustration of my point take a look at the characters over at the top left of this post. Those are the Chinese characters for the name of their country: Zhong Guo. The double ax character on the left is the word for “Middle”. The character on the right is the word for “Country” (America is Mei Guo, the Beautiful Country, and England is Ying Guo, the Brave Country).
But look more closely at the character for “country”. It has two components: the inner character is the character for “region” and it is enclosed by a border. A country is a region enclosed by a border. Remove the border and it’s no longer a country, just a region.
So there are two important thoughts here. For the Chinese, China is the Middle Kingdom, the center of the world. And a country has a border. When you think about Chinese policies and actions, keep these two things in mind.