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Geopolitics: U.S. and China




America and the West face a very serious challenge from the East, but not in terms of the conventional definitions of the China threat, says Stefan Halper from the American Spectator. Halper argues that China has no interest of military competition with the United States.

Chinese military development can be described more accurately as a "just-in-case"  capacity to "puncture" the American battlespace, Halper says. China seeks to leapfrog American military hardware with the development of high-tech, close-in weapons, which target American vulnerabilities, principally U.S. reliance on communications and intelligence technology.

With regard to Taiwan threat, Halper reminds us that China has become Taiwan's largest trading partner while Taiwan has become one of China's biggest investors, thus the economic effects of a war between the two sides today would be catastrophic for both countries.

Another myth is Chinese economic threat. China has as much interest in keeping the U.S. economy and the U.S. dollar stable as Americans themselves, argues Halper. The Chinese government has purchased American debt for the simple reason that such purchases sustain the macro-economic engine that Beijing relies on. The more serious problem, says Halper, is how this stable system of mutual dependence can weaken America's voice on the global stage. He thinks that the realities of economic interdependence blunt American influence on other issues that underpin the U.S.-led system of international liberal order, such as progress on human rights, the rule of law, and free speech in the world beyond the West.

According to Halper globalization led the societies into bigger economic integration, it helped non-western nations to get richer, but it did not help to make them more democratic or close to the West. There is an advance of state capitalism that, as opposed to the liberal capitalism, lays the fundaments for political and ideological conflicts. China's model of illiberal capitalism became an example of development for the non-democratic regimes over the world. Beijing has provided the world's most compelling, high-speed demonstration of how to liberalize economically without surrendering to liberal politics, Halper notes.

Ideas have traditionally been among the West's most important exports, and now China's rise on the world stage coincides with a time when the appeal of free market capitalism and Western democracy - as exemplified by the American brand - has, at least momentarily, been lost in a tide of disdain across the globe.

Halper agrees with Harvard Professor Joseph Nye, who, speaking about the opportunities of "soft power," famously said: "It's not whose Army wins, it's whose story wins." This is the real battle today; ideology and the example is the real threat that China poses to the United States. (read in depth)


There are many projections that the United States is declining world power. But if the United States is genuinely in decline, it is the shortest hegemony on record, says George Friedman, the author of the new book The Next 100 Years. Global power does not emerge quickly, nor does it erode that fast, Friedman thinks. The United States become undisputed world power in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Unlike Fareed Zakharia, I do not see the individual power or a coalition of powers that would usurp American primacy soon, Friedman said.

China, according to Friedman, is not even a regional power and so it cannot be a global power. Although China is experiencing fast growth it has serious internal problems. China's growth is not overstated, but its challenges are understated. Over a billion of its people live in a condition of poverty on the order of some of the poorest third world countries, says Friedman. He thinks that the only visible challenger to the United States would be a united Europe that operated as a single entity economically and militarily, but Europe has no military ambitions and therefore it is not a real challenger. (read the New Statesman's interview with George Friedman)


China's influence is at its all time high. "Many in the West are troubled that China is not following the Western development model," said Kishore Muhbubani, dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in an interview with Xinhua. "It is amazing that many in the West are not aware that if China had followed the Western model, the Chinese could have suffered as much as Russians did after Gorbachev have followed the Western model." Kishore believes that the three biggest powers in 2050 will be China, India and the United States. These counties will form the future global geopolitical triangle. He thinks that China must keep equally good relations with both states. Kishore said that China's peaceful rise to great power is partially due to the multilateral order created by the United Sates and Europe after 1945. China will continue this policy, it will provide political and intellectual leadership to keep the multilateral order open, thinks Kishore. (read in depth)


The United States will never be replaced as a hegemonic power in Asia because they have never been a regional hegemon there, John Lee write in a recent commentary for the Project Syndicate. The U.S. will stay dominant despite the rise of China. America has strong bilateral relations with Japan, Australia, South Korea and etc. that makes her legitimate leader, she also have massive military and economic power that can assure her future leadership. Although the United States are in decline, they have never been a Hobbesian Leviathan with absolute authority and power, writes John Lee. American decline is a positive thing. The sense of strategic vulnerability, writes Lee, breeds interdependency, which has always been the key to successful US leadership in Asia.(read in depth)

Lee's assumptions about the American "balance-of-power" approach in Asia have been confirmed in recent interview with Raymond Burghardt, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam from 2001 to 2004. "The U.S. and Vietnam have a convergence of strategic interests, among which is to maintain a balance in Southeast Asia," said for Bloomberg Raymond Burghardt. In the same article Bloomberg noticed the Congressional Research Service's report that U.S. interests in its relationship with Vietnam include "shared concern over the rising strength of China."(read in depth)


The financial crisis in the U.S. and the growth of China as world leader urges many political analysts to formulate a new possible model of world order. As major players on the international scene the U.S. and China have to reformulate their goals and strategy to keep this world safe and peaceful. Henry Kissinger reminds us the bad experience of the beginning of XX century when Britain and Germany moved from friendship to a confrontation that led to a global war. America and China should not repeat the old mistakes, Kissinger said in an interview for Stern Magazine. The policy of confrontation known from the Cold war is unreasonable. There are no signs for serious conflict of interests between the U.S. and China, but Kissinger warns that world powers must be very careful not to slide into a 21st-century version of classic balance-of-power politics. "While the center of gravity of international affairs shifts to Asia, and America finds a new role distinct from hegemony yet compatible with leadership, says Kissinger, we need a vision of a Pacific structure based on close cooperation between America and China but also broad enough to enable other countries bordering the Pacific to fulfill their aspirations." (read more)


Global recovery can happen only if there are markets and consumers, but the world can no longer rely for growth on free-spending Americans. The economist Robert Samuelson thinks that developing countries - China, India, and Brazil - would seem to be the obvious replacement for American spending as the world's economic motor. These countries already account for nearly half of global economic output. All these societies have huge needs for housing, consumer goods, health care and more, but they still don't have a culture of consumerism. For example in 2008, China 's saving rate was 54 percent of GDP while the U.S. saving rate, including both households and businesses, was 12 percent of GDP. The pessimists say that China is not capable to change its export based economy and will continue its aggressive trade policy that puts in danger "emerging market" countries, such as Brazil and Egypt. Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute is more optimistic. China's leaders, he says, are trying to boost domestic spending by decreasing household saving. Without the prop of American spending, the world needs a new basis for mutually beneficial growth, says Robert Samuelson. Without it, we may face protectionism, nationalism and economic strife. (read more)


Germany was in good relationships with Britain until the end of XIX century, and the United States had not considered Japan as a serious rival until 1930 and the outbreak of WWII. Could the same be happening to the United States and China today, the historian Niall Ferguson asks in article published in Nesweek Magazine. In early 2007 America and China were so intertwined they'd become one economy. The Chinese did the saving, the Americans the spending. The Chinese did the exporting, the Americans the importing. The Chinese did the lending, the Americans the borrowing. Their relationships are like one of those unhealthy marriages between a compulsive saver and a chronic spender. They always finish soon or later. If Chinese seek divorce they have to continue to grow alone until they become a global power, and they also have to build a domestic consumer society that would replace the Americans. The tectonic plates of geopolitics don't move that fast, says Ferguson, but the danger signs are there. read more


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