The Chappaqua Library Foreign Policy Discussion Group sent out an announcement that on October 16, there will be a Skype linked seminar, entitled, China’s Challenge - How Can/Should the West contain China’s Global Aspiration, to be facilitated by Tyler Beebe, a Chappaqua, New York resident. The speaker will be Dennis Wilder, the managing director for the Initiative for U.S.- China Dialogue on Global Issues at Georgetown University and an assistant professor of Asian studies. Wilder has served as the National Security Council's Director for China and as the NSC Special Assistant to the President for East Asian Affairs. He is also a former CIA Deputy Assistant Director for East Asia and the Pacific. The topic is an interesting and important one, but the title suggested that the speaker came with a background to discuss ‘how can the West contain China’s global aspiration’ first before the more logical consideration of whether or not ‘should the West contain China’s global aspiration’. Judging from the speaker’s resume, I am not surprised that he is more versed on the “how can” methodology under the strategy that the West “should” contain China rather as an academic scholar who studies: What is global aspiration? Should any country have global aspiration? Can any country define its own global aspiration? Should any country or a collected group (for instance, The West, a rather old fashioned imprecise term used by Wilder’s speech title compared to G7, G8 or G20) contain another country’s global aspiration?
I certainly will attend Mr. Wilder’s talk but I feel obligated to remind him of the above logical thinking. As the US-China relation has reached to a multi-lateral intersection, the China issue is more of the U.S.’s Challenge to ponder on the “should” question before the “how can” question and less as a China’s challenge to worry about “the West”. China seems to have come a long way, steadfastly, to pursue a simple goal to raise her citizens’ livelihood into middle class by economic development and to engage herself in the world body to earn her respect and dignity by rejuvenating the glorious Chinese culture and heritage which was nearly destroyed by ‘the West’ and ‘the Communism’ in the 19th and most part of the 20th centuries. Yes, we do need to understand China’s global aspiration, but more importantly we need to understand both the U.S. and China’s global aspiration and why and where is there a clash?!
First of all, we should not have a bias to discuss the China issue. Thus, I am less interested in “how can” ( a relatively easier question) than in the question of “Should” (a harder question to answer) the West contain China’s global aspiration. As modern seminars sometimes do beg for questions from the prospective audience in advance for the speaker, I decide to write about the above seminar topic in a logical sequence in this column before attending the seminar, more as thought provoking questions and a preparation for me to join the coming discussion seminar.
The logical thinking about this serious topic must be ‘Should the West contain China’s global aspirations?’ first; then second, ‘How can the West contain China’s global aspirations?’ Since WW II, the world has gone through many transformations, abolishing colonialism, rising of super powers and communism, collapse of the Soviet Union, revision of communism to embracing capitalism, striving developing countries in the third world, numerous regional wars and enduring global financial crises. Now the international community is a complex and sophisticated one. It is no surprise that China, as the most populated nation, is struggling with her development and searching her own formula for sustainable economical and political stability and growth. So, the “should” question must be asked by Americans, Europeans, Russians, Asians, Australians and Africans all with their own perspectives since the rise of China has impacted everyone one in the world.
However, since the U.S. is a superpower, self-charged with world leadership and global aspiration (American version), it is more important for us to focus on Americans’ view (of course including Chappaqua citizens) on the “should” question. First, I ask myself, am I qualified to answer that question? Based on what? On Justice? Should any country other than the U.S. have global aspiration? Does global aspiration mean challenging the U.S.? Challenging the world leadership of the U.S.? Challenging militarily by force? (No, no one is strong enough to challenge the U.S.) Challenging economically? May be so, however the U.S. is still one of the richest nations on Earth. The U.S. spent a defense budget over $700 B versus China $150 B, thus still maintaining her super military power status in the world. But the U.S. can’t stop N Korea, a small country, to develop nuclear missiles, what makes us sure that the U.S. can stop China to continue her military development, especially when the U.S. adopts a hostile containment policy to agitate and induce China to compete in military strength. What would this arms race lead to? The end result is not going to be a happy ending! Hence, we need to rethink the ‘should’ question.
Many hate-China people want to justify a containment policy towards China by stressing that economically the U.S. is threatened by China! Let’s take s historical view, not too long ago, when China was the number one economy in the world in 18th century, she did not threaten any country, did she? It was the West brought colonialism to the world, invaded China, inflicted more than one century of misery to China. The U.S. played a minor part in the West aggression to squash China and later helped China fighting the Japanese in early part of 20th century. Post WW II, colonialism was abolished and the U.S. emerged as the strongest nation both militarily and economically. China came out of ashes, experimented miserably with communism, later embraced capitalism gingerly while transforming or reforming with socialistic principles. It took four decades for China to rise economically to be the second largest economy in the world. With 1.3 billion people working harder than the rest of the world, should we be surprised that China rises again? Should China be allowed to have her global aspiration? What is global aspiration? Do the U.S. and China have the same definition of global aspiration? Will human society forever be cursed by the ancient Greek Thucydides Trap? Is the U.S. a role model of global aspiration? Is maintaining superiority of military strength, having military bases everywhere in the world, settling international affairs unilaterally or simply earning world respect on the world stage the definition of global aspiration? Do we understand China’s global aspiration? Is there a hidden agenda behind raising the vast Chinese population into middle class, such as mimicking the U.S. or threatening the world leadership of the U.S.? Shouldn’t we understand these questions before addressing the ‘should’ question. (Part I)