Sunday, January 04, 2009

Democracy: good for peace!

...and if you believe that, you really ought to read this older piece from the New Yorker on the rise of belligerent nationalism among China's equivalent of my generation.

I also like the author's tone, which make me laugh at the extent to which an American writer is so confused about the sense of Chinese grievance against the US.
Tang’s friend Zeng smiled disdainfully as he ticked off examples of Chinese companies that have tried to invest in America.

“Huawei’s bid to buy 3Com was rejected,” he said. “C.N.O.O.C.’s bid to buy into Unocal and Lenovo’s purchase of part of I.B.M. caused political repercussions. If it’s not a market argument, it’s a political argument. We think the world is a free market—”

Before he could finish, Tang jumped in. “This is what you—America—taught us,” he said. “We opened our market, but when we try to buy your companies we hit political obstacles. It’s not fair.”

Their view, which is popular in China across ideological lines, has validity: American politicians have invoked national-security concerns, with varying degrees of credibility, to oppose Chinese direct investment. But Tang’s view, infused with a sense of victimhood, also obscures some evidence to the contrary: China has succeeded in other deals abroad (its sovereign-wealth fund has stakes in the Blackstone Group and in Morgan Stanley), and though China has taken steps to open its markets to foreigners, it remains equally inclined to reject an American attempt to buy an asset as sensitive as a Chinese oil company.

Tang’s belief that the United States will seek to obstruct China’s rise—“a new Cold War”— extends beyond economics to broader American policy. Disparate issues of relatively minor importance to Americans, such as support for Taiwan and Washington’s calls to raise the value of the yuan, have metastasized in China into a feeling of strategic containment
Ah yes, owning a share in Morgan Stanley totally counteracts the facts of, say, US military bases throughout the Pacific Rim and a lopsided nuclear deal giving advanced weapons technology to India for a song. No, those Chinese are totally loopy when they talk about America trying to "constrain" China.

The author of the piece tries to make symmetry between these Chinese youth and the American neocons, of course totally failing to note that the neocons have had substantial power and influence for the last decade (yes, even in the late Clinton years) while the youth of China have had pretty much zip.

When democracy comes to China, we'd best be prepared for some unpleasantness. I hope for the best, but I've never been as foolhardy as to indulge the liberal thesis that "democracies don't go to war with each other."


Anonymous said...

Why do you say "When democracy comes to China"? Isn't that more of an if? What real chance does democracy have in being established in China?

Frank Wilhoit said...

Two hundred years ago, it was understood that national boundaries are things that neither people, nor goods, nor money, nor information should routinely cross. Soon enough, we will have been driven back to that old, correct understanding.