Clash of the Titans LXI: China

October 3, 2008, 2:00 pm; posted by
Filed under David, Debate, MC-B  | No Comments

Originally published in November 2007.

In this corner, arguing that China is an enemy, is David!

And in this corner, arguing that China is our friend, is MC-B!

If the question is “Should we view China as an enemy?,” my answer is yes. Should we be marching in the streets burning Chinese flags, boycotting Chinese restaurants and dry cleaners? No. But make no mistake: the Chinese government views the US as its chief rival for military and economic dominance in Asia, and ultimately throughout the world, and that makes us enemies.

China is experiencing an economic boom that has pushed it into the top 6 in both GNP and GDP, and it’s using that windfall to increase military spending, even though it already possesses the largest standing army in the world and the 5th-largest military budget. It’s also using that money to upgrade its technical capabilities, acquiring sophisticated guidance systems and other improvements (legally or illegally), with a stated purpose of developing capabilities to interdict US expeditionary forces and US carrier battle groups in the Western Pacific.

China boasts 20% of the world’s population and aspires to be the dominant force in Asia, which contains 61% of the world’s population and 3 top economic powerhouses, including Japan and South Korea. Anyone remember why Japan bombed Pearl Harbor? America was flexing its economic and military muscles in Asia, and Japan felt they had one choice — expand or die. They gambled on confronting the dominant power in Asia rather than settling for playing second fiddle for the next few hundred years, and they lost. China has the sense to know they will face that same choice one day. It is no secret that they are preparing for it, and so are we.

But where is the danger zone? Aside from general tensions arising from our projection of power across the ocean to remain the dominant force in Asia, there are two major flashpoints:

North Korea — we fought the Chinese face to face in North Korea at the Chosin Reservoir, and by proxy all over Asia from the 1950s through the 1970’s. Has North Korea been in the news lately? Is Afghanistan part of Asia? Think they feel threatened by the only superpower fighting in their backyard and threatening to start another war in their side yard?

How about their front yard? Taiwan. They currently have 790 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, and are not at all secretive about the fact that invading the island is the primary focus of their short-term military planning. We are pledged to defend Taiwan in case of invasion, and in fact have already intervened twice when China has amassed amphibious assault groups across the strait.

Don’t get me wrong; I do not mean to say that we as Christians are their enemy — but as I said before, they know that our country is ultimately their enemy, and our military planners know the same thing.

Knowing the feelings of many Bweinh!tributors on this issue, I am under no delusion that I will win this Clash. I also do not take issue with my opponent’s claim that China might see the USA as a potential military threat. However, I would like to point out that defining our enemies to include all nations that would consider taking up arms against us if their regional interests were threatened could characterize almost every nation in the world as a potential enemy.

Remember the stink that certain Europeans raised when the US intervened through a legitimate organization (NATO) in the Balkan region? Even our closest allies, those with whom we have a history of cooperation, were highly mistrustful of our intentions. Since our history with China has been considerably more spotty, it is quite likely that the present situation is simply the same phenomenon exacerbated by past interactions.

In other words, in the military arena China and the USA certainly have differences, but the differences aren’t large or deep-seated enough to net China a special “enemy” status.

In any case, friendliness among nations isn’t measured by alliances and military agreements as much as it used to be. Rather, it is measured in dollars, and in economic terms we have seen over and over again that in the era of globalization, ostracizing any one large nation hurts everyone involved far more than cooperation does.

An example: our dollar is currently in a free fall (thanks, Ben Bernanke!). Even though we’ve sunk past the pound, the Euro, and now even the Canadian dollar, the Chinese government and other “unfriendly” governments around the world continue to hold reserves in US dollars, which helps to stave off the inflation of our dollar — even though switching to a different reserve currency could provide far more stability and credibility to foreign investment than staying with a weakening currency.

Being friendly with China also provides more opportunities for trade, which could open one of the largest single markets in the world (aside from India, I suppose) and lead to further harmony between our two nations. True, the Kantian peace thesis of democracies not warring does not hold when one nation involved is not democratic. However, in China’s case, the other two legs of the Kantian Triangle (involvement in international institutions and involvement in trade) are increasing by the day.

China cannot afford to treat us as an enemy because its economy would slow to a crawl, and we cannot afford to treat China as an enemy, due to the vast potential of its economy to shape the way the world operates. We must continue to engage China with the wariness that we would afford to an engagement with any nation, but the end goal should be to bring China into a closer, friendlier relationship with the United States.



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