Monday, June 28, 2010

The China Threat

Brahma Chellaney is Professor of Strategic Studies at New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research, a privately funded think-tank. Not surprisingly for an Indian, he is concerned about both China’s rising military power and America’s apparent inability to counter the threat. Chellaney points to these developments:

➢ China's inclusion of the South China Sea in its "core" national interests;

➢ its telling the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam that discussions among them of South China Sea claims is interference in China's internal affairs, and;

➢ the fact that China's expanding naval role and maritime claims collide with U.S. emphasis on freedom of navigation.

Quite naturally, Chellaney is upset by Chinese protests against the Indian prime minister’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, Indian territory claimed by Beijing. But he’s focused on America’s seeming indifference to rising Chinese power. China, Challaney asserts, believes the 2008 global financial crisis symbolizes 1) the decline of Anglo-American-style capitalism, and 2) the rise of Chinese style state-steered capitalism to “unstoppable” global ascendance:

➢ China's exports and retail sales are soaring and its foreign-exchange hoarding is now approaching $2.5 trillion, even as America's fiscal and trade deficits remain alarming;

➢ the U.S. remains dependent on Beijing to buy billions of dollars' worth of Treasury bonds every week to finance a “yawning” budget deficit — an advantage China will exploit in the years ahead;

➢ add the two wars the U.S. is waging overseas — one of which appears increasingly unwinnable — revealing a global superpower bogged down in serious troubles.

Chellaney worries that China’s efforts to lock up supplies of key resources guarantee continued support to renegade regimes including Iran. He says the recent U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution exempted energy, opening a path to greater Chinese clout in Iran. And with such "friends," and following a 13-fold expansion of its economy over the past three decades, China has enlarged its capacity to “sharpen its military claws.”

Chellaney contrasts U.S. policy toward China with the way Washington responded to Japan's emergence as a global economic powerhouse in the 1980s. In those days, when Japan kept the yen undervalued and erected hidden barriers to the entry of foreign manufacturers into its market, the U.S. pressured Japan into trade concessions. Today, the U.S. cannot do the same to Beijing, because China is also a military and political power.

To Chellaney, the central assumption guiding U.S. policy on China has gone awry — that assisting China's economic rise would help create both a compatible and cooperative partner and political openness within.

Challaney is right that the U.S.’s China policy rests on a belief that, in the interests of continued prosperity, an economically strong China will behave like Japan and support the existing political and military order.

And he is almost certainly right to suggest such thinking is wrong. China is no Japan. China expects big political and military changes will occur to accommodate the world’s once and future “Middle Kingdom.”

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