Sunday, July 31, 2005

Washington Post dissects US China problems

A friend has forwarded to me an article by James McGregor from today's Washington Post that provides a good survey of the current strengths and weaknesses of Washington and Beijing in diplomacy and intelligence. A similar comparison for India and beijing would be very useful.

Nothing in this essay surprises me, for all we are seeing today is yet another instance of patterns of behavior by both countries that have been clear since the turn of the last century. China, being fundamentally weak, uses manipulation both of other governments--look at how she hoodwinked Pandit Nehru--and of international institutions such as the UN, WTO, etc. to achieve her aims. Lawyers spin words into real assets: money, recognition, sovereignty, etc. and one stream of Chinese diplomacy has recognized that this is an easier way to achieve ends than is war.

The United States has reciprocated with an intentional, self-renewing unwillingness simply to gather and establish the facts about China--Qing China, Nationalist China, or Communist China. This is a complex phenomenon, driven in part by massive business interests today, but also reflecting a long standing psychological pattern. One might compare our decades long policy toward India, of moral genuflection, much talk about shared values (which are real, of course, as is not the case with the communist rulers of China) and a complete unwillingness to come to grips with India's problems. In each case, this is a form of condescension

What the article suggests, and I endorse, is first that Washington somehow make an unblinking and unpoliticized assessment not only of China but of the likely reactions of her neighbors to her current policies. Then I would suggest that we identify as our real friends the other states in Asia with whom we share belief in freedom and democracy. Such a community--proposed recently by Ross Terrill in The Australian and Ellen Bork in the Financial Times--would rest securely on basic values. The present US-China relation rests on nothing very clear and is sustained chiefly by a variety of often conflicting government and domestic in