March 03, 2007
In Which I Cheer For Brad DeLong
Brad responds to Jeff Faux on China:
In 1877, it was the United States that was the rising superpower across the ocean to the west of the world's industrial and military leader. Today it is China. In 1917 and again in 1941 it was greatly to Britain's benefit that America regarded it as a friend and an ally rather than as a competitor and an enemy. And since 1945 it has been greatly to Britain's benefit that America has regarded it as a trading partner rather than an industrial competitor.
There is a good chance that China is now on the same path to world preeminence that America walked 130 years ago. Come 2047 and again in 2071 and in the years after 2075, America is going to need China. There is nothing more dangerous for America's future national security and nothing more destructive to America's future prosperity than for Chinese schoolchildren to be taught in 2047 and 2071 and 2075 that America tried to keep the Chinese as poor as possible for as long as possible.
This is why I worry when concerns over trade turn into accusations of currency manipulation and when neocons publish Atlantic Monthly cover stories on war with China and make it official US policy that we seek the preservation of the unipolar order. Whether China's internal contradictions will retard or eventually halt the nation's ascent into superpower status is, for now, unknowable. But if the country is able to transcend its growing pains and urban/rural divide and political unrest to emerge a functional, decent, powerful nation, I'd far prefer it viewed America as an ally that sought to open the doors to economic development and broad betterment, not slam them shut for a couple more decades of waning dominance.
June 26, 2005
Unocal in Red
I'm not particularly concerned by the Chinese government's bid (through CNOOC Ltd., which they control 70% of) to buy Unocal. If they offer a better deal than Chevron, why not? Worries that Chinese ownership somehow compromises our national security strike me as way overblown. If we and China ever get to a point where we threaten each other, who owns Unocal and its relatively minor energy assets will be the least of our problems. Moreover, in wartime, business ownership is something less than an inviolable fact of nature. Stateside Unocal assets would be nationalized by America, not allowed to continue production for the hostile Chinese under some bizarre fetishization of property rights.
Further -- and this is really an important point -- we're not going to war with China. They do not threaten our national security. They are not our enemy. Purchases they want to make should not be subjected to a extra level of scrutiny as they are not a hostile, or even threatening, power. America certainly has the right to be annoyed at Chinese monetary policy, but a country attempting to keep their export industry at a comparative advantage is hardly unheard of and shouldn't be seen as a more aggressive move than it is.
China's growing. We all know that. They will be powerful. Many of us fear that. But we, and them, will be in infinitely better shape if we cultivate a constructive and friendly relationship rather than create a self-fulfilling prophecy by treating China as a threatening power. If they want to buy Unocal and are willing to outbid Chevron, more power to them. We want as many nodes of interconnection as we can have in order to ensure the disincentives to future hostility -- on either side -- are as significant as possible.
March 24, 2005
Arms to China?
Timothy Garton Ash is quite right on this -- the EU should be ashamed that it needed White House pressure to maintain its arms embargo on China. Readers know I'm something of an EU booster, mainly because I think their emphasis on diplomatic relations, morally defensible policy-making, and emphasis on soft power are proving pretty powerful as a counterweight to American belligerence. But you can't spend the days pasting gold stars on yourself and then turn around to try and ship armaments to a country with a terrible human rights record and a continuing habit of threatening to invade Taiwan. And to be talked down by Bush? Someone should be apologizing for allowing that gut punch to European dignity.
As Garton writes, it's not that the US is blameless here -- we export 6.7% of China's weapons while Europe only provides 2.7%, and it's hard to fault the EU for wanting to cultivate the Dragon as a primary trading partner (this year, the EU passed America as China's largest source of trade), but they need to keep the moral high ground when doing it. China is an emerging force, no doubt about that. But we have to remember that, eventually, they won't be emerging anymore, they'll be a real force, and the dynamics of the relationships we forge now will dictate our ties later. For now, China is something of a precociously smart, shockingly strong, child. Don't let him think he can just bully the world.