About an year ago, on July 26, 2008, we wrote an article titled Iraq & Tibet – Strategic Will of The American and Chinese People. Today, on this Fourth of July, it seems appropriate to review what has happened in Iraq and what has not happened in Tibet. Not only is this important for the two respective sectors, it is even more important for the overall debate today about the future of both America and China.
Nothing good has happened in Tibet. Tibet continues to be under the heavy Chinese boot. The Dalai Lama has accused China of conducting “cultural genocide” in Tibet. The freedom struggle of Tibet continues even though most people in the world ignore it because of fear of Chinese retaliation.
The aggressive behavior of China is being extended to China’s other neighbors. China has claimed the South China Sea as its own waters and seized fishing trawlers belonging to Vietnam and Philippines. Chinese behavior has become so transparent that even Japan has begun increasing its military presence at its islands in the South China Sea. China’s behavior towards India in the eastern sector has become so aggressive that even the passive Government of India has begun significantly increasing its military presence in Arunachal Pradesh.
(Iraqis celebrating in Baghdad, June 29, 2009 – Washington Post)
Compare Tibet to the situation in Iraq. On June 30, America withdrew its combat forces from Iraq’s cities and turned over the security to Iraqi police and soldiers. Jubilant Iraqis celebrated in Baghdad. As the Washington Post reported “Out, America, out!” a group of sweat-drenched young men chanted Monday at a Baghdad park as the sun was setting. They jumped up and down to the deafening beat of drums and the wail of horns.”
Can you imagine this ever happening in Tibet? We cannot.
This is not just a foreign policy issue or even a Middle East specific issue. It encompasses the entire gamut of US-Chinese relations. Consider China’s seemingly relentless drive to reduce the importance of the US Dollar as the world’s sole reserve currency. China seems to think that as its imports grow and its economy expands, countries around the world will come to accept using Chinese Remnimbi as a currency in which they trade and maintain a part of their reserves.
We do not think so and the parallels between Iraq & Tibet are the main reason. Chinese hegemonistic behavior towards its neighbors and towards Tibet in particular is a warning sign to countries that trade with China. They can keep their reserves in Chinese Remnimbi but taking that money out when they want may not be as easy. A superpower China would behave in the currency and economic field just as hegemonistically as it does in military matters. China has already begun showing its true colors at the Asean Development Bank by trying to block a loan to India for non-economic reasons. (see our April 18 article China-India Border Tensions Move From The Military To The Economic Arena).
In contrast, even the worst and seemingly disastrous military adventure of America can end up with a positive result. Look at Iraq. The majority of Iraqis, the Shiite community, have gained power in the new democratic Iraq. The people of Iraq can at least hope for a free democratic rule in which they are free to create businesses and build a future for their families. The neighbors of Iraq have to wonder why they do not have the same free democratic opportunity that Iraqis now do. We believe that these aspirations had a great deal to do with the success of the elections in Lebanon and with protests by the young intellectual class in Iran.
The entire world, including China, keeps their reserves in US Dollars and freely participates in the America-led global Financial system. No neighbor of China will risk putting their reserves in any system controlled or dominated by China. Other countries will welcome Chinese infusion of capital but they will do everything possible to keep Chinese influence at arms-length.
The only people who don’t understand this are American financial commentators or writers, people who can never see anything beyond today’s markets, people who have remained secure in America’s financial system. These are the people who believe in an era on “benign cooperation” with China.
These are people presumably like one James Fellows that David Brooks of the New York Times wrote about in his July 2 article titled Chinese Fireworks Display. According to David Brooks, Mr. Fellows argues that “integration (with America), is deep and will get deeper. Many, many Chinese leaders were educated in the U.S. and admire or at least respect it…..Instead, he has described officials who are thrilled to be integrated in the world. Their mothers had bound feet. They themselves plowed the fields in the Cultural Revolution. Now they get to join the world.”
Mr. Fellows is correct but he misses the most important point. We do believe that China is thrilled at its “integration” with America and that they intend to make it deeper. But that is not from a benevolent perspective.
Unlike America, China does not see a world where smaller nations can participate freely in the world’s economy. Instead, China sees a two-nation oligarchic system in which America & China share the spoils and carve up the world in their centers of dominance. They have already expressed this viewpoint in the geo-strategic arena. If you do not believe us, read what a Chinese Naval Official said to Admiral Timothy Keating, Chief of PACOM in May 2009 (see our May 16 article China’s Leadership – Just Drunk Or Delusional?)
We wrote in our May 9 article “The Bubble Is Dead. Long Live The Bubble.” that “Chinese leaders live in a cocoon and are not subjected to any intellectual opposition. Their policies have been very successful during the past few years and now they seem to be drinking too much of their own concoction. They seem to believe that they are smart and their economic system has worked well while the American leaders have behaved stupidly and the American economic system is in trouble. Their actions are beginning to reflect this arrogance.This is why China today is behaving differently than it behaved during the past few years. “
We have been worried that the Chinese Leadership could end up making a big mistake based on their insular view of the world. Now David Brooks tells us that Niall Ferguson of Harvard is so concerned along these lines that he has begun comparing today’s China with “Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany in the years before World War I – a growing, aggressive, nationalistic power whose ambitions will tear through pre-existing commercial ties and historic friendships.”
We have said it before and will say it again – China will be the most engaging and the most frightening story of the next two decades. We hope that people like Mr. Fellows are correct and China emerges as a more democratic, more liberal nation that respects rights of all countries, small and big. Unfortunately, we are deeply concerned that China will emerge as a hegemonistic, single-race nation that uses its power to intimidate neighbors to create an empire of sorts. It appears that people like Niall Ferguson concur with us.
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