Sunday, September 21, 2014

An Arab view about China

I asked a brilliant Arab graduate student from a Gulf country who studies Asian affairs about his view about Chinese reticence in global affairs. He wrote this:  "Deng's 24 character advice exercises a role here, but there are strong pressures now internally for the state to assert itself (military, Han nationalists, corporate interests) that are pushing the state in new directions. However, the Chinese elite understand a few things: (1) they have too many internal economic and social challenges to get too assertive especially given the current administration's campaign to push for deeper economic reforms/transparency that will be painful (although regional conflicts particularly with Japan are very useful,) (2) they understand very well that while they want to hedge against the US military (and they are spending considerable amounts with almost yearly 12% increases) but at the same time want to keep the current status quo where they are free riders (why take on more responsibilities quickly - like defending the SLOCs which might alienate different countries - when the US can pay for it?) (3) the Chinese lack so far effective power projection capabilities on a global basis - they are developing a blue water navy and first-class airforce - but these are focused on strengthening China's hand in East Asia where its direct national interests like Taiwan, the South China Sea and East China Sea territories lie, and (4) they are deeply influenced by what they see as the US-experience of empire. They are, given many variables including have a Muslim population and their dependency on oil, worried about getting involved in 'hot regions'. To explain the fourth point, I'll give you an example: there are growing voices amongst Chinese academics and scholars for China to get involved in Iraq to defend their oil interests and investments against ISIS, but the elite will not countenance such a thing because they see the region as a graveyard. Another peripheral point I could add is that the Chinese ave been accustomed for the last three decades in playing a 'quiet' diplomatic role, and its only now that they are getting socialized into a more larger and activist role - a process that will take a while.

I wouldnt say the Chinese arent asserting themselves - they are working to erode the US security order (their recent energy deal with Russia or their attempt to aggravate tensions between Korea and Japan are good examples of this). However, this is done very slowly so as to not aggravate an already very anti-China US establishment and jeoprodize their most significant relationship (the one with Washington.) "