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October 30, 2010

A Brief Respite From Election Concerns: Let's Worry About China Instead

While we've been preoccupied with the latest election polls and candidate gaffes, the rest of the world has been ambling along. And Gregg Easterbrook, taking note of some of the more hostile ambling betwixt the US and China, tries to convince us that China is no threat at all:

China should not be our next whipping boy
But in the main, there has never been a superpower relationship like the one between Washington and Beijing — mainly constructive, mainly cooperative, neither side positioning to destroy the other.

The world’s largest public works endeavor — the $75 billion South-to-North Water Transfer Project in its early stages in China — could be smashed from the air in a day by United States precision-guided bombs. China is building the project because Chinese leaders assume they will never go to war with the United States. That’s what we should assume too — and not make China into a distant whipping boy for our own domestic problems that U.S. leaders are afraid to face.

Apparently Mr. Easterbrook can't conceive of a China that may believe that they can dispute American air power over their country. But what has China been up to lately? Well, in the past week:

  • China Sends the Marines to Thailand (10/28/2010)
  • Chinese Army conducts live military exercises in Tibet (10/27/2010)
  • China, Azerbaijan pledge to strengthen military ties (10/26/2010)
  • Yemen, China discuss military cooperation (10/26/2010)
  • China wants full military exchanges with India (10/24/2010)
  • High-level Chinese military delegation arrives in North Korea amid succession (10/23/2010)
  • Rwanda, China boost military ties (10/23/2010)
  • Turkey-China Military Drill Reveals Deepening Ties, Widening Reach (10/22/2010)
While China's been gallivanting about the world consolidating its military relationships and conducting military exercises, we've sent in our toughest man in the administration to deal with the Asian situation: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I honestly don't think anybody in this administration is better suited to address the problem, but that's not saying much when you've got dim bulbs like this on the National Security Council:
"We're seeking the mantra of a positive, cooperative, constructive relationship," Jeff Bader of the National Security Council said Thursday.

He noted that Obama has met seven times with Hu and three times with Premier Wen Jiabao. "I guarantee you that's unprecedented in modern history," Bader said.

Yeah, unprecedentedly ineffective. Bush got his diplomatic ass handed to him by Jintao Hu, pursuing diplomatic talks with the expectation that economic interdependency would lead to concessions on the part of the Chinese. Didn't happen. The Chinese love diplomacy for the same reason that Iranians love it - it costs them nothing and gives them the time to do what they want.

But back to Easterbrook. He eventually talks about China's naval limitations:

China is expanding its navy, which today is equipped only for coastal operation, though perhaps someday will venture into the “blue water” where the United States Navy rules.
But Financial Times tells us:
2010 is likely to go down as the year when China’s blue-water navy became reality. This switched on warning lights among China’s coastal neighbours as well as the US, the incumbent superpower.
Attention Mr. Easterbrook: in geopolitical reality, "perhaps someday" = "this year."

A lot of people believe that China's unsustainable growth rate, weakening demographics and hyperinflated real estate market will lead it to crash before it becomes a threat. But people have been making that point for nearly 10 years, and China is still growing, still modernizing its military, and still extending its influence around the world. They may indeed collapse, but sitting and hoping for it isn't a very formidable strategy.

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posted by Geoff at 03:24 PM

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