Robert Kagan argues against the conventional wisdom that wise policies can "manage" the rise of China to produce a favorable outcome. Attempts to manage China fly in the face of a historical record of failed attempts "manage" the rise of Germany, Japan, and other powers in the past.
The security structures of East Asia, the Western liberal values that so dominate our thinking, the "liberal world order" we favor -- this is the "international system" into which we would "integrate" China. But isn't it possible that China does not want to be integrated into a political and security system that it had no part in shaping and that conforms neither to its ambitions nor to its own autocratic and hierarchical principles of rule? Might not China, like all rising powers of the past, including the United States, want to reshape the international system to suit its own purposes, commensurate with its new power, and to make the world safe for its autocracy? Yes, the Chinese want the prosperity that comes from integration in the global economy, but might they believe, as the Japanese did a century ago, that the purpose of getting rich is not to join the international system but to change it?
Kagan argues that the Chinese really want to see US influence in Asia to decline and that the values and goals of the Chinese are sufficiently different that US and Chinese interests will inevitably clash. He also argues that the US already has a containment policy toward China even as US policymakers attempt to deny this.
Kagan's essay strikes me as pretty reasonable. Go read the whole thing. China already supports elements of an illiberal world order in North Korea, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere. The extent of China's economic rise will determine the extent of the growth of Chinese influence. If, as I expect, China becomes the wealthiest country in the world illiberal autocracy will gain against liberal democracy.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2005 May 29 10:52 AM China|