The Rise of China
December 29, 2007 2:01 PM   Subscribe

The Rise of China and the Future of the West: Can the Liberal System Survive? "China's rise will inevitably bring the United States' unipolar moment to an end. But that does not necessarily mean a violent power struggle or the overthrow of the Western system. The U.S.-led international order can remain dominant even while integrating a more powerful China -- but only if Washington sets about strengthening that liberal order now."

Long Time Coming: The Prospects for Democracy in China. "Is China democratizing? The country's leaders do not think of democracy as people in the West generally do, but they are increasingly backing local elections, judicial independence, and oversight of Chinese Communist Party officials. How far China's liberalization will ultimately go and what Chinese politics will look like when it stops are open questions."

The Battle of Beijing: What happens when an authoritarian government and thousands of activists go head-to-head at the Olympics? China is about to find out.
posted by homunculus (29 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Does Bush had access to such insights?
Oh. I forgot. He doesn't like to read.
posted by notreally at 2:17 PM on December 29, 2007

Has. Not does.
posted by notreally at 2:20 PM on December 29, 2007

Relax, notreally. You're two tense.
posted by hal9k at 2:32 PM on December 29, 2007 [6 favorites]

In the 50s, we had seen the world divided into two spheres of influence: Russia and US...then Russia became, well, no longer a player and the S emerged as the ONE superpower. Now we will see hina emerge as a second superpower. How that country is governed may play some important role but clearly capitalism is now blended into the commie led country and they are doing very well. I suggest that they will replace what was Russian sphere and have their own spehre, a sphere that will pretty much control in many respects Japan, Korea, etc The difference is that the US is entangled economically--everything we make and import--comes from China, so that neither nation will be in a position to "attack" the other. A sore point will of course be Tawain.

America is dissolving from the nation it once was and has become an empire-builder, with hundres of miliary bases throughout the world. We fund all of this--and those countries we protect have no need for large military budgets and can take care of domestic needs--at the expenxe ofour own domestic needs: education, infrastructure, housing, health care. Were we to bring home the thousand upon thousands of troops stationed in Japan, Germany, Korea etc etc, we would have a massive line at the unemployment line. But taxpayers will keep our troops clothed, housed, and taken care of. All ofthis best summed up in the title to a comic record some years ago: The Future Lies Ahead.
posted by Postroad at 2:41 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

If anyone is interested in how the word, and concept, of "democracy" has been applied in China, I cannot recommend the book "Chinese Democracy", by Andrew J. Nathan, highly enough.

China isn't my specialty, I'm a Japanese specialist, but China is the 800kg gorilla of East Asian history and politics, you can't avoid studying it. Personally, I'd argue that modren China is more of a genuine Fascism than anything much resembling a Communism. And Fascism has always had an element of show democracy involved.

I'm a pessimist when it comes to China. Its going to take a revolution to get the rulers of China out, and I seriously doubt that the revolution can be as bloodless as the one that broke up the USSR (though, hopefully, it will not result in the rise of a new dictatorship as seems to be happening in Russia).

How the USA, and the EU are going to deal with China is one of the most important issues today. China is outmaneuvering the USA/EU when it comes to African development, and is finally recovering from the shattering effects of Mao and the Gang of Four, and seems poised to become a major world power.

I'll argue, however, that Fascism simply doesn't work, it gives the appearance of working, but it has a lousy track record for technological development, exploitaton, etc. Add to that the Communist baggage China still has and I really do doubt that without a radical change of government China will be able to accomplish much more than the old USSR did: big armies, ICMB's at the cost of crippling their economy, etc.

While I think China won't be able to do much without a meaningful change, I'll also agree with Postroad, the USA is poised to decend into third world status. Our infrastructure, both physical and cultural, is crumbling and that's always a bad sign when it comes to governments. From my POV the USA has the choice of continuing to be an advanced democracy, or attempting to grab an empire. The world doesn't need superpowers, and the USA doesn't need to be a superpower, it costs too damn much.
posted by sotonohito at 2:53 PM on December 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

Meant to add: every single nation on the planet that has ever tried to be an empire, has fallen into collapse that lasted decades, if not centuries. Look at Spain: it was a powerful nation, it tried to carve out an empire in the Americas and it fell to pieces. Look at France: it was a powerful nation, it tried to carve out an empire in Africa and SE Asia, and it fell to pieces.

Look at the USA: it was a powerful nation and now its trying to carve out an empire in the Middle East...
posted by sotonohito at 2:57 PM on December 29, 2007

China is here, Mr. Burton [wav]
posted by kirkaracha at 4:00 PM on December 29, 2007

Democracy delayed in Hong Kong.

Interesting articles with the first playing into what will probably be considered one of the most important things the Bush Administration did not do, or actively attempted to oppose doing. Thanks, George. 387 days and counting.
posted by Atreides at 4:16 PM on December 29, 2007

The latest Newsweek has a couple of good articles on China: The Rise of a Fierce Yet Fragile Superpower and Mao to Now.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:31 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

We've had a yen for being a superpower -- or at least a Nation among nations -- for much (if not all) of our history. The dream of Manifest Destiny doesn't go away overnight, unfortunately. It may take a real calamity like a downward spiral into third-world status to wake us up from that dream.
posted by blucevalo at 8:00 PM on December 29, 2007

There's only one thing that can bring democracy to China and that is a full-on nationwide recession. China's government is predicated upon bringing economic wealth to everyone and as long as GDP growth continues, no one cares one whit about democracy.

I was in Hong Kong during the 2007 July 1st protests (10th anniversary of the handover from Hong Kong to China), expecting to have a lot of fun pictures to take -- no such luck. The protests were significantly smaller than the 2003/2004 protests -- even though it was a historic anniversary with many of China's top leaders in Hong Kong. I asked around, and everyone I talked to said something to the effect of, "What is there to protest? The economy is doing well." Everyone. In fact, if you map out the protest levels to the Hang Seng Index, you'll get a heavy correlation (note the significant recession/decline in 2003/2004 -- yes correlation does not equal causation, but if you ask many of the majority less-radical protesters, the motivation is primarily economic). My armchair speculation is that the collective culture is not yet at a Maslowian level that demands democracy and that the government is sucessfully running the bargian of fascist rule for economic growth.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:22 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

The democratization of South Korea and Taiwan was the inevitable result of an expanding middle class. It's a sensible way to chose bureaucrats, and generally leads to things working smoothly in the government. It's been a big success in Japan, too, although not as naturally emerging as it was in the other two modern and successful large Asian states.

Singapore can keep a lid on, but China's population is too vast and varied for that to work very well. The "Communist Regime" isn't very communist these days, and totalitarianism costs too much money to maintain if you have a growing economy and a growing middle class to go along with it. One day you'll turn around, and China will be a prosperous and stable democracy, and it will seem odd to think it was once any other way... not because of a bloody revolution, or because the US browbeat them into it, but simply it's an efficient and inexpensive way to run a government, and things evolved that way in its civil structure.

Dude, if Democracy could overcome the legacy of Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT, Hu Jintao and the CPC will be a cakewalk.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:14 PM on December 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

Given how much America seems to enjoy being scared of China ("Oh Noes! They sell us everything we ask for! On credit!!!"), I'm surprised she has enough time to hate Islam.
posted by pompomtom at 3:44 PM on December 30, 2007

Hey ! It's surprising how the analysis avoids the fact that resources are not in infinite supply. It's fine to compare aspects from the current situation with past ones, but what's different is that the earth itself isn't the same. Russia built whole cities on the permafrost : those cities are sinking. Oil is running out, climate is changing and nobody knows what the effects are going to be... It's time to wake up and make meaningful moves. I hope that responsible people are going to take care of diplomacy in the next few years.
posted by nicolin at 8:29 AM on December 31, 2007

nicolin I hope so too.

Unfortunately, I rather doubt its the case. I suspect that Bush's War will, in future history books, come to be known as the first phase of the Great Oil Wars. There's trillions of Euros involved in the fossil fuels industry, evey advanced economy on the planet is *COMPLETELY* dependent on fossil fuels for its very survival, and it won't be cheap or easy to switch to alternates (especially considering that alternates don't, yet, really exist to replace everything we use fossil fuels for). To me that seems like a recipe for a series of quite nasty wars.

I hope I'm wrong, I really hope I'm wrong; but I doubt it.
posted by sotonohito at 9:07 AM on December 31, 2007

My first day in China was Mayday, 2006. I had never been to, nor really ever had an overwhelming desire to go to China before my wife suggested we move there. On my first day, it being Mayday and all, my wife took me down to Tienanmen to see the throngs queing to see Mao. We walked down to the south a bit to Qianmen to see the soon to be demolished (in the name of progress!) centuries old hutong and have a fabulous meal. Nearly within sight of Mao's tomb itself my wife and I passed between an old man and old woman sitting on facing benches. Deaf, old and unfettered they were shouting back and forth. As we passed between them my wife overheard the old woman exclaim something and translated for me, the gist of which was, "...I don't know if it will be violent, but there is definitely going to be a revolution!"

Later after having stuffed ourselves with Li Qun's succulent meat and my head spinning from the 14 hour flight and several large beers, we opted to take a pedi-cab back to the streets. My wife struck up a conversation with the driver as he pedaled us through the soon to be demolished streets. ragging deeply on his cheap cigarrette as he biked our corpulent American bodies through the alleys, he told us, loudly, within full earshot of all passers-by, that he, his family and neighbors planned to resist the push to destroy the neighborhood by any means necessary. Even my wife with her years of China experience was a little shocked at his outward candor in a society that's not really known for full disclosure to strangers (well, ok, maybe not full disclosure of opinions and views that could be considered contraversial).
posted by Pollomacho at 9:07 AM on December 31, 2007

They are Communist that put Christians in jail , are polluting our west cost and sending there food to our country which I want nothing to do with. They have no laws to protect the food that we eat and drink just look at the juice when you buy it for your children , where it is made they all burn coal no pollution devices for cars they make . They are the reason our prices for gas is so high including wood, everything because of there demand . They are slowly making the American dollar worth less because of it . Fifteen years ago they were all riding bicycles . Lead in our toys . Taking our jobs because of companies greed . What the heck we all must stick together and buy Made in USA product,food for the sake of our people and jobs .
posted by MrsaKiller at 9:53 PM on January 1, 2008

MrsaKiller: Yeah! How dare they attempt to purchase products that the USA wants in an effort to make their lives better! Filthie Commies, bikes were good enough for their sub-human needs fifteen years ago, they should all just keep riding them today and not try to buy oil!

I hope you were writing ironically....

As far as bad food, unsafe products, etc, I'd argue that while certainly the Chinese government bears much of the responsibility, a large share should also go to US corporations that outsource their manufacturing to China. You can't tell me that they aren't aware that one reason the goods manufactured in China are so inexpensive is becuase they don't meet US safety regulations. They know it, and they're prefetly happy importing dangerous goods, and selling them to Americans knowing that they harm us. As long as the practice lets them put millions more into the executive pay packages they'll keep doing it.

Want to ensure that goods imported from China meet US safety standards? There's a really easy way to do it. Pass a law mandating huge fines on the *individual*people* who compose the board of directors, and other executive positions, of the US firms doing the importing when goods are found that don't meet US standards. [1] The same sort of law could also quickly eleminate US firms using abusive labor.

For really quick cleanup fold part of the fine into a Whistleblower Compensation Fund, and reward whistleblowers with enough money to keep them set up for life (say, $5 or $6 million). Anything less won't do becuase whistleblowers are pretty much guaranteed to never get a job above the level of burgerflipper for the rest of their life, so the reward for being a whistleblower should be big enough to make up for that.

[1] Why the individuals rather than the corporation? Because if we just fine the corporation the fine will be rolled into the cost of doing business, and the circle of corruption will continue. Take away the yhacts, McMansions, and other toys of the elites and you get their attention. For added safety ammend the law so that any individual serving in an executive position, or on the board, of a company importing unsafe goods is banned from a) owning stock, b) holding an executive or board position with *ANY* company for a period not less than 10 years, and c) gets a few years of jail time.
posted by sotonohito at 5:58 AM on January 2, 2008

Though China is certainly majorly polluted, I would like to put in a word of defense for the nation. While we spread farther and farther out of the city center and drive our SUV's alone to the mega shopping centers, the Chinese are actually passing laws to limit urban sprawl. They mostly live in dense apartments. They mostly drive (when they do drive rather than bike or take public transport) small cars. There are solar collectors on most buildings. Every lightbulb is a flourecent. They eat better, fresher, locally grown foods. They teach math and science (and music and art) to their children so that future generations will understand the concequences of unfettered industry.

In a country that is four times the size of the United States they as of now still use less energy. China consumed one 8th of the gasoline that the US, they consumed about half a billion gallons more gas than California alone. Hardly the cause of America's energy woes as MrsaKiller believs.

It is true that China uses about 300 million more tons of coal per year than the US, though if that is distributed per capita its actually a rate about one third of that of the US. For a country where home heating is largely done through the use of small coal burning stoves, that makes us look pretty bad.

Americans use about 13,000 kilowat hours per person per year as opposed to 1,500 for a Chinese person. The US uses about 13 times more natural gas than China in a year, that comes out to about 2100 cubic meters for and American and about 36 m2 for the Chinese.

The world's largest producer of geothermal energy? Yep, China. The nation that invested the most money into renewable resource development last year? China.

Certainly, China is dirty. There is coal smoke visibly hanging over every city in the nation right now. Of course auto emissions, as are hanging over all American cities, are largely invisible, but they are hardly the ones who deserve the blame for our overindulgence.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:03 AM on January 2, 2008

Pollomacho: Quite true. However, re: coal, don't forget that most of the coal burned in China is soft yellow coal, with a high sulpher content, and its making such awful acid rain that its leading to deforestation and mudslides in some parts of China, harming agriculture, etc.

Most coal burned in the US is of a different type, and we've got scrubbers to take out pretty much everything but the CO2 [1].

Not to argue that China uses less energy than the US does, you are absolutely correct. Just nit picking, I suppose.

The real problem is that in order to enjoy the same quality of life the people of the US do, the Chinese will need to consume about the same amount of energy. Which leads to the question of where they'll get it, or if its even possible (with current technology) to generate that much juice in China given its resources, infrastructure, etc.

Right now, what the world really *needs* is a genuine breakthrough in energy production. There's not a problem on the planet that can't be relieved (at least a bit) by abundant, clean, energy.

[1] Which, of course, now looks like its an even bigger long term problem than acid rain, joy.
posted by sotonohito at 8:16 AM on January 2, 2008

The real problem is that in order to enjoy the same quality of life the people of the US do, the Chinese will need to consume about the same amount of energy.

Why? Is the quality of life seriously that diminished in other parts of the world, say Europe for instance, where there is less energy gluttony? Couldn't things like solar collectors, flourecent lighting, smaller cars and green rooves on new construction, things that are largely lacking in the US, could produce the same quality of life with less consumption of resources.

Incidentally, that high-sulfur coal, where does it come from? Why the strip mines of the Ohio River valley of course! But China is working on tackling the emissions problem too.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:58 AM on January 2, 2008

How China Loses the Coming Space War: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
posted by homunculus at 2:41 PM on January 11, 2008

Thanks for the additional and interesting posts, folks.
posted by Atreides at 1:16 PM on January 14, 2008

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