End of China's Surreptitious Rise

Posted in China | 16-Apr-08 | Author: Judith Apter Klinghoffer| Source: History News Network

Deng Xiaoping developed the strategy entitled "The Peaceful Rise of China." Developing economically and militarily without attracting notice until it is too late. On the whole his successors dutifully followed that basic strategy with great success. Now somethings happened and the world woke up.

In the aftermath of the Olympics torch fiasco, China has replaced the US as the biggest threat to stability according to a recent FT/Harris poll.

The FT/Harris poll, carried out between March 27 and April 8, found an average of 35 per cent of respondents in five European countries saw China as a bigger threat to global stability than any other state. In the US, 31 per cent of respondents also named China, putting it way above Iran and North Korea, which were both perceived as greater threats last year. . . .

Italians were the most concerned about China with 47 per cent naming the country as the biggest threat, compared with 26 per cent when the question was last asked in June 2007. . .

. . . .China was the biggest threat for 36 per cent in France, up from 22 per cent last year, 35 per cent in Germany, up from 18 per cent, and 27 per cent in the UK, up from 16 per cent. All three last year ranked the US as a bigger threat.

Only inhabitants of Spain still considered the US to be a bigger threat than China, by 41 per cent to 28 per cent. . .

The US was considered to be the biggest threat by 29 per cent of respondents in Europe, down from 32 per cent in June.

What happened?

The West looked at the current Maoist style anti-Tibetan propaganda campaign, at China's failure to act as a responsible global stake holder in Darfur and Burma at the flooding of the world markets with shoddy goods made by poorly paid workers and did not like what it saw. Indeed, China has come to symbolized everything that is wrong with globalization.

Global financial difficulties increased concern over the potential dangers Chinese Sovereign Wealth funds pose to the global financial system. Military strategists can no longer ignore the way China is not only acting as "a free rider" when it comes to dealing with militant Islam but also taking advantage of Western preoccupation with fighting Militant Islam to develop a Chinese blue water navy so as to monopolize East Asian waters and cause the US navy to retreat to Hawaii.

Just as importantly, democratization experts can hardly continue to ignore the real threat that the economically successful Chinese authoritarian model is posing to continued Third world political development. Most disconcerting was China's use of the tragic post election blood shed in Kenya to argue against democratic reforms in developing countries.

For Chinese counter claims aside, it is not China's rise that democracies find distressing. It is the overwhelming evidence presented by China's response to the Olympic torch demonstrations that China's political opening has not only not kept pace with China's economic development but that it has not made any progress at all. Indeed, Chinese promises of liberalization at the time it was awarded the games were no more reliable than promises of tyrannies have always been.

Why would a democratic Chinese superpower be less dangerous than an autocratic one?

Because the "real enemies" of a all governments are those capable of wrestling the power from them. In democracies the "loyal opposition" is the greater threat and wars are often perceived as an unwelcome distraction.

In autocracies, domestic oppositions need to be routinely repressed and the presence of an outside enemy helps justify so doing. Hence, an autocratic super-China we are currently facing does pose a real and present danger. Even more troubling, unless something unexpected happens, the danger is bound to increase with every passing year.

Be all that as it may, the days of stealth Chinese rise are over. Hence, China's rulers will be judged by their ablity to deal with increased international scrutiny.