The Perception of China's Rising Power Is in Need of Reappraisal

By Moravitz, Michael L. | The World and I, November 2013 | Go to article overview

The Perception of China's Rising Power Is in Need of Reappraisal


Moravitz, Michael L., The World and I


China is the rising power of the next century. The Pacific is now the region of growth. The United States must prepare for challenges from China as it grows. Are these widespread assumptions in need of a radical reappraisal? I think so. President Barack Obama and especially Mitt Romney made China a campaign issue in 2012, and many American voters were worried about the loss of jobs to the Asian giant. The United States engages with China and believes it can be an engine of growth but also wants to preserve jobs at home. American companies and multinationals invest there to maximize profits with ultra-cheap labor. The Pentagon warns that China's military expenditures are growing, while avoiding the basic facts of its military weakness and the geopolitical situation. The Western democracies largely avoid human rights issues, the basic Stalinist structure of the Chinese government, and the lack of real economic reform. China is actually a paper tiger in need of a radical reappraisal to deal with its weaknesses, the danger to Western capital there, and the possibility that it will lash out militarily against its people or neighbors if it is in danger of rapid social change. The Chinese system may be in danger of collapsing like the Soviet Union before it. The Middle Kingdom and the supposed engine of growth for the global economy in the next century may be in trouble--and the West is blind to the problem.

A comparison to the Soviet Union is in order. It is generally said that no one foresaw the rapid collapse of the Eastern bloc and disintegration of the Soviet Union. Throughout the Reagan administration, the United States rapidly increased defense spending, running huge budget deficits and accumulating massive debt. In the current year, the United States has a trillion-dollar defense budget, a projected deficit of 670 billion in fiscal year 2013, and an overall debt of 13 trillion dollars. China holds 1.275 trillion dollars in U.S. debt according to the treasury department. We need to face the facts of the real situation in China, because the danger to our economy should be apparent--not because of China's growing economic strength but because of its unperceived weakness. The United States needs to get its fiscal house in order to buy back Chinese debt and use it as leverage to get Beijing to adopt reforms.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union amassed a huge nuclear arsenal and threatened the United States ideologically in the developing world, but the inherent weaknesses of its economic system, its social problems, and its unwillingness to address these basic domestic issues were not perceived in the West. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev assumed power in 1985 and began the politics of glasnost--an opening of society and a willingness of government to allow criticism--and perestroika--a reform of economic structures. The reforms came too late or were resisted too much internally.

Soviet control over Eastern Europe in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 shocked the world with its rapidity. The changes were largely made without bloodshed, but there was always a danger of nuclear conflict or bloody repression, and the military coup attempt that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union should be a warning of what might have been and what could happen in China. With Gorbachev detained in the Crimea, the Soviet military in control, and the populace taking to the streets in protest, the possibility of widespread bloody repression is a warning to mankind. The army sided with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the protesters as he stood on the tank in defiance of the coup plotters. The world may have been on the brink of nuclear Armageddon as well. Suicidal and extremist forces in control of weapons of mass destruction will be a danger to the world in the decades or even centuries to come. The only atomic attacks in world history occurred in 1945 when the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. …

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The Perception of China's Rising Power Is in Need of Reappraisal
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