Thursday, August 04, 2005

A lot of lefty blogs are ragging on Max Boot's recent column on the dangers presented by the Chinese government. For good reason. Boot, as usual, is easy to mock --- Boot's own

The bid by China's state-owned CNOOC Ltd. to acquire Unocal? Resource warfare. Attempts by China's spy apparatus to infiltrate U.S. high-tech firms and defense contractors? Technological warfare. China siding against the United States in the U.N. Security Council over the invasion of Iraq? International-law warfare. Gen. Zhu's threat to nuke the United States? Media warfare.

verges so close to self-parody that The Editors' riff

Speaking Chinese? Linguistic warfare. Walking upright? Bipedal warfare. Breathing oxygen? Gas warfare. Inhabiting China? Land war[fare] in Asia. Covering Bob Dylan songs in an English folk style? Warfareport Convention. Skipping school to go to a Cubbies game? Warferris Beuller's Day Off.

seems almost redundant.

Disturbing as it may be that this Bootsian hyperventilation is what passes for thought among the neocons, the irony is that he's making a bad argument to a good point. The Chinese ruling class clearly does see the United States as a long-term rival. They certainly don't see us as a friend (as was on plain display during the spy-plane crisis early in Dubya's term). And so, if they see a way to undermine our position while doing less damage to their own, it's perfectly reasonable to expect them to take it. Boot runs off the rails by calling it "warfare" --- it's not politics continued, in a Clausewitzian way, by other means, it's just plain politics. But it's real nonetheless. And you can't ignore it when you're trying to figure out the Chinese leaderships' behavior.

Let's take, for instance, their highly peculiar affection for buying dollar-denominated securities of all kinds. Their avowed purpose for doing this has been to peg the value of their currency to the dollar (or, more recently, to a basket of currencies including the dollar). Over the short term, despite Dubya's political protests, this is an arrangement which has benefits for both parties. But in the long run, as I've explained a few times already, both parties are going to get hurt --- perhaps more, perhaps less, depending on the timing with which it happens.

Now, the Chinese leaders know this is coming, as much as anyone else does. And they certainly could ask the math whizzes that trade every day for their central bank under its jewelled globe to see if they could arrange a crisis so that the U.S. gets hurt worse than they do --- perhaps, say, by timing it so that they have other export markets in place to replace the demand they're losing from us, while we're unable to replace the cheap manufacturing which they've been providing, suddenly no longer cheap due to the inevitable dollar drop. And if they could ask, why not?

One possible answer is that in a staged crisis, China would get still get hurt domestically. That is the answer that would apply in any democratic country. But China is not that. They are the proud heirs of a party that has a long history of ordering slaughters. Their plan for any domestic unrest, particularly the forseeable kind, would be very much the same one we saw in full effect lo these many years ago at Tiananmen Square.

The Chinese, in other words, can be reasonably expected on the basis of their own history, to have no problem hurting themselves, if in the process they hurt us worse. (High-level play in their ancient board game Wei-Chi, known in English as Go, puts a premium on the well executed sacrifice).

And yet many folks in the West openly mock the contention that the Chinese leaders will follow any course other than the one that maximizes the economic interest of their population. The Chinese Communist Party's greatest trick yet seems to be getting a whole lot of westerners to act as if it no longer exists...

1 Comments:

Blogger Michael Miller said...

You actually READ one of Boot's columns?!?!?

I did that once. Once and a half if you count the time I tried to read him again. Given his PNAC status, I should read them all, but ...

6:49 PM  

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