October 07, 2003

Patient Explanations

Martin Wolf patiently explains that the U.S. and China's common interests are what is important--not the possibility that China-bashing can be used by the Bush administration for short-run political advantage:

FT.com Home US: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the failure to cope with the rise of Germany, Japan and the US led to two world wars and an economic calamity. After the second world war, the US confronted a communist superpower, the Soviet Union, and the rapid rise of its new ally, Japan. While the first conflict was much the more dangerous, some Americans worried as much about the second.... China seems suited to a future role as public enemy number one. It is a dictatorship... the world's largest population, growing military capacity... most dynamic economy.... Congress is responding to complaints about China's rising bilateral surplus and undervalued currency. Further ahead, geopolitical conflict could readily return.... we need to distinguish the two aspects. Economics is a positive-sum game: everybody can become richer together (unless resource constraints limit growth), something that is too often misunderstood. Political power is a zero-sum game, since only one country can be the most powerful. But outright conflict is almost always worse than co-operation.

How then is this potential for friction to be managed? The answer is to keep a firm grasp of shared interests....

Do you think the Bush White House cares a fig for America's and China's common long-run interests? I don't either.

Posted by DeLong at October 7, 2003 02:09 PM | TrackBack

Comments

"... not the possibility that China-bashing can be used by the Bush administration for short-run political advantage"

You mean, used by the Bush Adminsitration to defend against Democrats seeking short-run political advantage -- Lieberman saying China is America's opponent now and actually comparing it to the old Soviet opponent, Schumer with his tariff proposal, et. al.

Our own party's candidates don't deserve the stern lecture that it's the interests we have in common with China that count?

Well, I guess it might get in the way of the pandering that permissible to the good guys.


Posted by: Jim Glass on October 7, 2003 03:07 PM

Of course China's 18th/19th century trade surplus ended up in the Opium wars...

Posted by: Jack on October 7, 2003 03:45 PM

Actually my thinking in August of 2001 was that we had blown the surplus, meaning that we would probably not pay off our debt before China became a medium-to-biggeshpower (I made that word up). I believe that China and the US are destined for good relations, and fiscal discipline on the US side would help shore up the Chinese economy in case of failure, etc. A nasty relationship with fiscal discipline would mean that the US would have more legroom to manouver against the Chinese.

But simultaneous sloth and shield beating? Not my first option.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on October 7, 2003 04:21 PM

Jim Glass, if it doesn't cause another earthquake I'll agree with you. Leiberman is being dishonest and hypocritical when he bashes China's human rights record. Same goes for Nancy Pelosi. Their obvious motivation is to make a plug for protectionism of the worst sort.

Now if I can agree with Jim Glass on something, that might explain why the car in the parking lot is levitating. The laws of physics are clearly in abeyance...

Posted by: James R MacLean on October 7, 2003 04:23 PM

Actually my thinking in August of 2001 was that we had blown the surplus, meaning that we would probably not pay off our debt before China became a medium-to-biggeshpower (I made that word up). I believe that China and the US are destined for good relations, and fiscal discipline on the US side would help shore up the Chinese economy in case of failure, etc. A nasty relationship with fiscal discipline would mean that the US would have more legroom to manouver against the Chinese.

But simultaneous sloth and shield beating? Not my first option.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on October 7, 2003 04:26 PM

If I had to guess, I'd say the neocon vision of the long-term US-China relationship prominently features a Chinese civil war.

Posted by: David Yaseen on October 7, 2003 06:47 PM

If I had to guess, I'd say the neocon vision of the long-term US-China relationship prominently features a Chinese civil war.

Posted by: David Yaseen on October 7, 2003 06:48 PM

If I had to guess, I'd say the neocon vision of the long-term US-China relationship prominently features a Chinese civil war.

Posted by: David Yaseen on October 7, 2003 06:49 PM

If I had to guess, I'd say the neocon vision of the long-term US-China relationship prominently features a Chinese civil war.

Posted by: David Yaseen on October 7, 2003 06:50 PM

Whoa...sorry. Safari timed out on the comment. Please delete extra posts.

Posted by: David Yaseen on October 7, 2003 06:52 PM

Further to David's guess about the neo-con vision, I'd guess that the US and China are in for a prolonged period of geopolitical rivalry. China certainly wants to become dominant in Asia. US foreign policy, even at the best of times, has not been intelligent or active enough in Asia to offset China's eventual advantages, so the rivalry is not likely to look very happy from our perspective. Without getting into a big debate about Prof. Huntington's views, the ideal world from the Western point of view is very different from that which China is likely to try to foster. I want my children's children to enjoy the liberties that I aspire to.

The notion that we should focus on our common interest is a very good and useful one, but must be balanced by a clear-eyed realization that China will have to be confronted on many issue along the way. Giving ground too readily will only encourage China to give little and take much at each turn. Though it is likely to become less true as China becomes more modern, Chinese diplomacy and statecraft tend to be far more patient than that of the US. The world I want for my grandchildren is likely to be eroded as a result of that difference, unless we set our mind to much greater efforts on behalf of liberal values.

Posted by: K Harris on October 8, 2003 04:35 AM

There is always the possibility that a strong Chinese economy will increase the power of the Chinese middle class. Thus forcing the current government to modernize further and eventually become a representative government.

Posted by: James on October 8, 2003 08:04 AM

David, I think most are simply dillusional about our ability to maintain our dominance. It appears that they don't understand that hegemony is a temporary condition.

Posted by: Stan on October 8, 2003 12:37 PM

Sure the Bush Administration is concerned about long term US-China interests. To put it in anti Bush terms that people around here are willing to believe, major US corporations (read Bush contributors) have many billions of dollars invested in China. Major companies (read Bush contributors) like WalMart rely on Chinese suppliers. I would be willing to bet that people close to and in the Bush Administration have major financial interests in China and are perhaps directly on the take from the Chinese government, this was certainly true in Bush I.

I think your concern here is misplaced Brad. All that is going on is a little jawboning, nothing approaching the truly ugly Japan bashing of the 1980s. China is a major player in international trade and they ought to allow their currency to float. Why is this only an obligation of Western nations in the WTO? It bothers me when we go after Vietnamese catfish farmers, but I know that the Chinese communists are big boys and can take care of themselves.

Posted by: Joe Blog on October 8, 2003 01:25 PM

I don't know but I've always thought that China was one of the important ingredients on the strategic recipe that led the US to go to Iraq and try to create a longterm, subservient launch-pad for central Asian operations? But maybe I am just trying to rationalise bad politics.

Posted by: Tobias on October 8, 2003 06:07 PM

Joe, Bush's "review" of our China policies had some very serious negative impacts early in this Administration. The Administration seems to have learned its lessons. I'm pretty sure you correct about this only being jawboning.

China likely is way too big to play the currency undervaluation game very long however. The dislocations in developed countries will likely be too large politically if they continue to follow the model. I'm fairly certain that we've been making that point to them.

I'm more concerned with the leadup to the war in Iraq. I cannot tell how hard the Administration tried to bring the Russians, French, and Germans along. Our current stance on the Iraq UN resolution makes me believe that we have been and are being too unilateral.

There seems to be an ongoing effort by some to prevent emergence of contending actors in Europe and elsewhere. If true, the costs of our actions will escalate over the coming years. We cannot stop these countries from catching up. Efforts expended trying to delay them will only make the world a much more dangerous place. The hegemonists who appear to be pushing these policies don't appear to understand their folly.

Posted by: Stan on October 9, 2003 06:44 AM

Tobias, China had many shared interests in our going into Iraq. The two major reasons to go into Iraq, energy security and social pressure on Muslim militancy were shared with most nations on the planet. China's biggest concern was/is what type of control we gain over energy markets (their own energy security). It would take some fairly interesting strategic calculus to put China into our equation.

Posted by: Stan on October 9, 2003 07:07 AM
Post a comment