China’s Leadership – Just Drunk Or Delusional?

Last week we wrote* 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. Their actions are beginning to reflect this arrogance. This is why China today is behaving differently than it behaved during the past few years”.

This week we share with our readers a new piece of supporting evidence.

Admiral Timothy J. Keating is the Chief of PACOM, the Pacific Command of the US Navy.  Today, China, mainly a Pacific navy, is on an ambitious drive to build a blue-water navy capable of projecting China’s power to distant lands. In this context, China has decided to build six aircraft carriers to augment its large fleet of destroyers, cruisers and nuclear submarines. It would be Admiral Keating’s job to face up to the challenge of the Chinese Navy.

We assume that Admiral Keating studies the Chinese Navy and meets regularly with his counterparts in the Chinese Navy for candid discussions about China’s aims.

So, when Admiral Keating speaks about China, we listen. But sometimes, we simply do not know what to make of what we hear.

Admiral Keating disclosed this week that China had offered to divide the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions between China and the USA. This deal or division of the world would take place after China builds its own aircraft carrier fleet.  This offer was made by a unnamed Chinese Navy Officer during his discussion with Admiral Keating about China’s ongoing aircraft carrier program.

In Admiral Keating’s own words, the Chinese officer said to him “You, the US, take Hawaii East and we, China, will take Hawaii West and the Indian Ocean. Then you will not need to come to the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean and we will not need to go to the Eastern Pacific. If anything happens there, you can let us know and if something happens here, we will let you know.”

Admiral Keating said that this somewhat “tongue in cheek” offer was declined by the US.

We recall that when Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson first visited China in his official capacity, the Chinese discussed a long term eco-strategic relationship with him. That is how the autocratic regime in China thinks. They like long term government to government relationships with defined areas of control. They simply do not get how free market economies or democratic societies work. 

In our opinion, the Chinese military leadership is even more isolated and jingoistic than China’s civil leadership. At least, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao meet with with global leaders and the world’s media. The Chinese Military leaders do not. Chinese economic and military power has grown during the past 5 years and these leaders might well think they can do no wrong. 

They could be forgiven for thinking so. Look at China’s neighborhood. They have disdain for Russia because of the manner in which Russians let the Soviet Union blow up. They think that 140 million Russian people are no match for 1.3 billion Chinese. They used to be afraid of Japan. But, today’s Japan seems to be performing societal hara-kiri with its declining birth-rate and aging population. China has no reason to fear any of its South-East Asian neighbors. Finally, Chinese leadership has utter contempt for India. They see India as a weak, vacillating society with numerous social, religious and linguistic divisions. They feel they have India encircled by hostile neighbors like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, all countries now dependent on Chinese financial aid. 

The Chinese also feel that the American economic model has proved to be a failing model and their own state-controlled, managed economy model is the correct model for sustained and stable growth. As one of the authors of the Chinese best seller “Unhappy China” wrote, “From looking at the history of human civilization, we (the Chinese) are most qualified to lead this world; Westerners should be second,”. 
So it would be natural for China’s military leaders to feel that they can demand their fair share of the control of the world from America, today’s predominant power. From China’s point of view, they have earned that right.
What China does not seem to get is that Chinese arrogance and racial superiority is exactly the wrong strategy for China. It is waking up the other Asian powers. Russia has now stopped selling its most sophisticated weapons to China. Japan has begun increasing its navy. The Chinese have also done the improbable. They have awakened the sleepy, complacent Indian leadership and broken India’s inherited English-liberal, Nehruvian bias against America.

Look where Admiral Keating made his comments about the Chinese offer – in a meeting with Admiral Suresh Mehta, Chief of the Indian Navy on Thursday, May 14, 2009. “I related (to Mehta) a conversation I had with a senior Chinese Naval officer during which he proposed, in his words, that as China builds aircraft carriers – he said plural – we can make a deal,” Admiral Keating said after meeting with the top Indian military leadership besides India’s National Security Advisor and India’s Foreign Secretary.

During the meeting, Keating and Mehta also discussed the recent “aggressive” tactics of Chinese vessels against US Navy warships operating in the East China sea. Calling the tactics as ‘dangerous”, Keating said that he and Mehta viewed them with “concern”.

Look at China’s behavior these days:

  • They are demanding that the US “guarantee” the value of their investments in America,
  • They are demanding a new global reserve currency based on an IMF-based multilateral government model,
  • They are hoarding commodities in their “fight” against irresponsible Western stimulus,
  • They are making territorial claims against virtually every neighbor in Asia,  and now,
  • They are demanding “their half” of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

We hope that the Chinese leadership is merely drunk with power. Intoxication can be cured by a simple hangover. There is no simple cure for delusion! 

* See our May 9 article
The Bubble Is Dead. Long Live The Bubble
** The source of this article is

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