Academic journal article Asian Perspective

What to Do About-Or With-China?

Academic journal article Asian Perspective

What to Do About-Or With-China?

Article excerpt

What to Do About-or with-China?

US POLITICIANS, BUSINESSPEOPLE, FARMERS, UNIVERSITY RECRUITERS, policy analysts, and others who are mesmerized by the statistics of economic growth ponder how to respond to a China that is steadily becoming richer, stronger, and aggressively self-confi- dent. Potential answers-ideas, insights, and advice-are avail- able from dozens of experts who offer a bevy of divergent explanations of the past and present and significantly different prognoses and policy recommendations.

A solid overview of many aspects of relations between the ail- ing superpower and the rising power is David Shambaugh's Tan- gled Titans: The United States and China (Shambaugh 2013). All but two chapters of this edited volume are by US scholars, but the major options-cooperation, competition, limited conflict-are outlined by Shambaugh and Wu Xinbao of Fudan University. Shambaugh warns, however, that mutual distrust is pervasive in both Washington and Beijing. Few bureaucratic actors in either government have a strong mission to cooperate.

The game is not the United States' to lose, according to Arvind Subramanian in Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China's Economic Dominance (Subramanian 2011). Barring a catastrophic meltdown, China will win. Unless the United States overcomes its dysfunc- tional ways, China will dominate politically as well as economi- cally. The best Washington can do is to prepare for relative decline.

Contrary to those who assume that China's continued growth and expansion are unstoppable, Ye Zicheng at Beijing University and colleagues detail the internal problems from unemployment to inequality to pollution that impede China's development. Their book, Inside China's Grand Strategy: The Perspective from the People's Republic (Ye, Liu, and Levine 2010), suggests that democracy could help reduce these problems. But Ye does not prescribe Western-style democracy for China.

Taking into account the many factors that shape the global balance of power, another expert reaches this conclusion: "Over the last two decades, globalization and US hegemonic burdens have expanded significantly, yet the United States has not declined; in fact it is now wealthier, more innovative, and more militarily powerful compared to China than it was in 1991" (Beckley 2011/2012, 43). He notes, for example, that more than 90 percent of China's high-tech exports are produced by foreign firms. There is ever more foreign direct investment in China and fewer joint ventures in which technology is transferred. No matter the size of China's GDP, per capita incomes in the People's Republic will remain low next to those in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and the West. The smog over Beijing became so thick in 2011 that many residents turned to the US Embassy for accurate reporting. As a result of the one-child policy, China within twenty years will have 300 million pensioners, causing the ratio of workers per retiree to plummet from 8 to 1 today to 2 to 1 by 2040. Taking care of pensioners by then could consume the country's entire GDP.

Hard-line prognoses and prescriptions cite the theory of hege- monic war, which claims that conflict is inevitable between a fal- tering hegemon and its rising challenger. Variants of this warning have been posted in books by Richard Bernstein and Ross H. Munro, Bill Gertz, Steven W. Mosher, John Mearsheimer, and Robert Kagan. The theory gets some empirical foundation as the US military establishment shrinks and China's grows, in tandem with ever stronger assertions of Chinese sovereignty over the East and South China Seas. As Ian Johnson writes, "China's territorial claims to islands and waters in East Asia are long-standing but they have turned insistent, bellicose, and even provocative, caus- ing a sharp rift between China and many of its neighbors." Thus, he continues, the Philippines and Japan announced recently "that they would become 'strategic partners' in settling their maritime disputes with China-anathema to Beijing, which prefers to see these disputes handled separately" (Johnson 2013). …

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