Let China sleep, for when she awakes, she will shake the world. -Napoleon
The East is Red! -Mao Zedong (upon reaching the summit of Mount Taishan)
If capitalism is restored in a big socialist country, it will inevitably become a superpower. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which has been carried out in China in recent years, and the campaign of criticizing Lin Piao and Confucius now under way throughout China, are both aimed at preventing capitalist restoration and ensuring that socialist China will never change her colour and will always stand by the oppressed peoples and oppressed nations. If one day China should change her colour and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should identify her as social-imperialism, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it. -Deng Xiaoping (circa 1974, quoted in Time‘s The China Blog)
Over the Christmas holidays, a friend recounted, with some concern, having dinner with a Filipina who has essentially abandoned her Filipina identity, adopting, instead, a Chinese cultural supremacist attitude that extends to weeding out what she considers her former, inferior, culture. My friend and I discussed the enthusiasm with which some Filipinos jettisoned their own identity in order to take on the characteristics of a culture they viewed as the “up-and-coming-one,” and hence, superior. No different from the worship of Spanish culture in the past, I suggested; and in the case of today’s Sinophiles, no different from the debates on Asiatic Monroeism in the 1930s in the wake of Japan’s expanding prestige and power in the region, and the Japanophiles during the War. In the case of China, as far back as the 1920s, the rise of Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist government led to proposals, in the Philippines, to orient the independence movement towards China, in an effort to counterbalance American influence.
Since the closing of the US bases and the banishing of the Philippines to the periphery of American strategic and other concerns, Filipino leaders have been at a loss to make up for their shortcomings at home no longer being lavishly subsidized by Washington. When the United States started showing concern over the resurgence of China, in the late 1990s, Filipino leaders sensed an opportunity (shared by many countries in the region, also nervous over the growth of China) to reburnish old alliances with Washington.
The problem was that Washington blew hot and cold, and after courting Asean governments (Singapore and Thailand, most notably), during the Bush, Sr. and Clinton years, the Bush, Jr. years saw a dwindling of American interest in the region, which it seemed content to delegate matters to Australia as far as the Western presence was concerned. The Americans oriented themselves, primarily, towards neutralizing Islamic Extremism (see this Japanese article, Hu Jintao’s Strategy for Handling Chinese Dissent and U.S. Pressure from 2007, on the lack of American interest in the Chinese ploy to assert Beijing and Washington as the ultimate arbiters of Taiwan’s fate).
The Philippines, having achieved favored nation status by climbing onto the Coalition of the Willing bandwagon, promptly hopped off for domestic reasons, and this led, in turn, to the government playing the “China Card” as a foil to Washington. A kind of modus vivendi ensued, in which Washington remained content with focusing on Mindanao, while making noises from time to time to remind Manila not to fall too firmly in Beijing’s pocket. But the pockets of Beijing are deep, and somehow, despite domestic crises, Manila and Beijing’s relationship seems to be fairly stable.
This has raised repeated questions about how the Philippines will be affected by the rise of China to, potentially, Great Power status.
This detail (below) of a wartime American speculative map (found at Strange Maps) shows how the Americans envisioned our region as victory seemed imminent in World War II. The Philippines was portrayed as an American protectorate, with added territory from the then-Dutch East Indies. Note how Indochina and Thailand are given over to the Chinese sphere of influence, while Burma belongs to an undivided India’s sphere of influence.
From the same site (see China as a World Power: How Big?), comes this map, showing China’s potential sphere of influence in the world:
In the case of a “Regionally Dominant Greater China,” the Philippines lies just outside the informal borders of China; in the case of a “Greater China as a Global Power,” the Philippines lies firmly within the Chinese sphere of influence. It’s interesting that in the New World Order Map, the “United Republics of China (URC)” was envisioned by the Americans, even then, as federation composed of China, Korea, Indochina, Thailand and today’s Malaysia.
Back in 2008, I’d pointed to Waving Goodbye to Hegemony, and it’s well worth reviewing what Parag Khanna said was taking place:
Aided by a 35 million-strong ethnic Chinese diaspora well placed around East Asia’s rising economies, a Greater Chinese Co-Prosperity Sphere has emerged. Like Europeans, Asians are insulating themselves from America’s economic uncertainties. Under Japanese sponsorship, they plan to launch their own regional monetary fund, while China has slashed tariffs and increased loans to its Southeast Asian neighbors. Trade within the India-Japan-Australia triangle – of which China sits at the center – has surpassed trade across the Pacific.
At the same time, a set of Asian security and diplomatic institutions is being built from the inside out, resulting in America’s grip on the Pacific Rim being loosened one finger at a time. From Thailand to Indonesia to Korea, no country – friend of America’s or not – wants political tension to upset economic growth. To the Western eye, it is a bizarre phenomenon: small Asian nation-states should be balancing against the rising China, but increasingly they rally toward it out of Asian cultural pride and an understanding of the historical-cultural reality of Chinese dominance. And in the former Soviet Central Asian countries – the so-called Stans – China is the new heavyweight player, its manifest destiny pushing its Han pioneers westward while pulling defunct microstates like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as oil-rich Kazakhstan, into its orbit.
And the process is continuing.
All right, so apparently Deng Xiaoping did not say “to get rich is glorious,” but the China’s that emerged since Deng was at the helm has come closer to the kind of Great Power he warned about, when still toeing the Cultural Revolution line in the 1970s. The rise of China, too, has been put forward in the context of the decline of the United States. But what if they’re joined at the hip?
Niall Ferguson’s been plugging the concept of “Chimerica” in his book, “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World” (Niall Ferguson).
Here’s more on the themes of his book and “Chimerica”:
Aside from “Chimerica,” there’s even, as Brad Setzer proposed on December 21, 2008, Chieuropa.
Europe is part of the equation: Chimerica only works, in some sense, if China lends the (large) surplus it earns with the non-Chimerican world (and Europe in particular) to the US, allowing the US to run a deficit with the non-Chimerican world.
On one hand, cash-rich, China has continued going shopping, essentially buying futures in minerals and oil for when times get better; there’s also the effort to start building up the Yuan as a Reserve Currency, see China to Boost Yuan Swaps, Payments on Dollar Concern.
In “Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China’s Most Wanted Man” (Oliver August), there’s a scene where the author talks to a Chinese citizen who remarks that China’s mistake was that it confused paper with power; that is, it bought American debt but in the end, even though it ended up holding vast amounts of that debt, the Americans, indebted as they are, still held on to the tangible manifestations of power: China might have paper, America continued to possess nuclear aircraft carriers for projecting influence -even to China’s shores.
So, the game plan seems to be:
1. Strong currency, strong country. Build up the Yuan.
2. Rich country, strong country. Use the vast amount of cash reserves to get plugged into the economies of many nations.
3. Armed country, strong country. (see Tony Abaya, on the Chinese buying the HMAS Canberra for scrap, but making blueprints for future reference.)
Ferguson in his documentary mentioned how “crisis-free” China’s growth has been. That was before recent news that 20 million migrants have lost jobs, China says. There therefore remains the serious problem of maintaining internal peace.
Back in 2007, Cheng Li (see China’s Inner-Party Democracy: Toward a System of “One Party, Two Factions”? ) pointed out the era of party purges seems over and instead,
For the first time in the history of the PRC, the ruling Party is no longer principally led by a strongman, such as Mao or Deng, but instead consists of two competing factions or coalitions. These two factions cannot be divided along typical ideological lines, such as liberals versus conservatives, or reformers versus hardliners. Rather, a more accurate set of labels would identify the two factions as the “elitist coalition” and “populist coalition,” with the former led by ex-President Jiang Zemin and current Vice President Zeng Qinghong and the latter by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. These new factional dynamics have three main features: (1) the two coalitions represent two different socio-political and geographical constituencies; (2) the coalitions have contrasting policy initiatives and priorities; and (3) they compete with each other on certain issues but are willing to cooperate on others.
Now in this more recent article, China’s Team of Rivals: Cheng Li says,
Of the six members of the fifth generation serving on the Politburo today, three are tuanpai and three are princelings. The policy differences between these factions are as significant as the contrasts in their backgrounds. To a great extent, their differences reflect the country’s competing socioeconomic forces: Princelings aim to advance the interests of entrepreneurs and the emerging middle class, while the tuanpai often call for building a harmonious society, with more attention to vulnerable social groups such as farmers, migrant workers, and the urban poor….
Despite their many differences, the fifth generation of tuanpai and princelings share a common trauma: They are part of China’s “lost generation.” Born after the founding of the People’s Republic, they were teenagers when the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966….
If there is another event that approaches the importance of the Cultural Revolution in the lives of these men, it is undoubtedly the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989….
These events taught the fifth generation two lessons: First, they must maintain political stability at all costs, and second, they should not reveal their fissures to the public. Although these leaders wear their differences on their sleeves, there is solidarity at the highest level, inspired by past unrest, to avoid any sign of a split in the leadership, which would be dangerous for the party and for the country….
…Barring something entirely unexpected, though, the populist policy platform will prevail over the next three to four years, and the ongoing global financial crisis will likely push Chinese leaders to increase government intervention in the economy. Yet there may be a swing in the opposite direction in 2012 as princeling Xi Jinping succeeds Hu Jintao, similar to the transition from Jiang to Hu.
RGE Monitor on February 4 noted,
IMF: Asia’s growth forecast for 2009 reduced to 2.7% with further downside risks. Developing Asia will grow 5.5%, the slowest pace since 1998. China will grow 6.7% though an additional stimulus package could help China reach the 8% target. India will grow 5.1% while South Korea’s growth will contract by 4%. The region may expand 6.9% in 2010. Given high trade and financial linkages, Asia will recover (rapidly) only when global recovery begins. But improved fundamentals and considerable room for counter-cyclical policies are pluses.
What the hell does that mean? Two blogs I find essential reading are China Financial Markets ,which covers the present-day economic development of China (two recent entries, as a sampler: Did China experiencing January hot money outflows? and Trade, CPI and other numbers came in this week, about whether the global crisis is seeping into China’s “real economy”), and Frog in a Well, where all sorts of historical topics concerning China are explored.
For us, there remains the question of how, exactly, do we define our national interest? Does a consensus exist? Could one be put together?