The Rise Of China


Essays on the Future Competition

Edited by Gary J.Schmitt

Encounter Books New York- London 2009

181 pages

Reviewed by Maxwell D. Epstein, Dean Emeritus,

International Students and Scholars, UCLA

July 24, 2009

Gary Schmitt has gathered six authors (seven including himself) to contribute to this book. His underlying assumption is that "…despite the threat of 'Islamist terrorism,' and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, America's greatest challenge over the next decades will be the rise of China."

When Willard Manus, my friend and the creator of this site invited me to do this review for him, I looked at the book and was preparing to decline. The editor and most of the contributors are neoconconservatives, meaning that they occupy a far right position on the American political spectrum, whereas I am about the same distance from the center-on the other end. Then I reconsidered, and decided to do the review as a sort of character-building exercise. As I learned from reading the book, it would not exercise my character because these authors have written lucid, intelligent and almost balanced essays on an important topic about which most of us know very little.

A note about the punctuation used: There are more quotes than quotation marks, not because I wish to take credit for the words of another, but because it will be easier to read if not too crowded with marks. There are a few quotation marks where it seemed important to stress that these were the author's exact words, there are many paraphrased comments, and a few parenthetical comments, which are mine.

All of the authors, except for one, belong either to the "Project for the New American Century (PNAC) or the "American Enterprise Institute," (AEI) and two of them are or have been affiliated with both. PNAC produced the paper which essentially became the "Bush doctrine" in 2002. It held that America should attack any country which America perceives as capable of achieving a military position sufficient to threaten America. This concept is worded in the document as follows: "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing or equating to the power of the United States." (That sentence, which presumably would require the U.S. to now attack China, could stand as the credo for neoconservatives).

The AIE, by contrast, is conservative but not as far out, which might be why it has been in existence since 1943. PNAC is no longer in existence, which its founders say is because it accomplished its purpose. (?).

According to Max Boot, admittedly a conservative, but not, I would argue, a "neo," "This is the best single volume overview of U. S.-China relations that anyone has provided." Mr. Boot is with the Council on Foreign Relations.

So, who are these authors and what do they have to say?

Chapter One

First up is Robert Kagan, Yale, B.A., PhD, American University, Washington DC. Former adviser to New York Representative Jack Kemp, Kagan has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. He is an award-winning author whose book, "Paradise and Power," was an international best seller. He is co-founder, along with William Kristol of The Project for the New American Century (PNAC). .

In his essay in "The Rise of China," entitled "Ambitions and Anxieties, American Competition with China," Kagan predicts that the struggle between the two countries will dominate the 21st Century. Neither side wants war, he tells us, but still, the classic conditions for war are in place. According to Kagan, both seek power, and China will soon spend as much on defense as all of Asia combined. Their economy has been growing faster than any country in history, averaging 9% per year for almost thirty years (but now slowing).

They measure their greatness by the amount of respect accorded them, and they believe military power to be essential, if for no other reason than to right past wrongs, for example, their treatment at the hands of the Japanese. They also fear that absent great military power, America will thwart their ambitions, which would cause them trouble at home. Several of the authors mention how historically difficult it has been for China to maintain control over its vast country.

Today they are neither a democracy nor a Communist state, but they do have a strong belief that order depends on a strong, autocratic government at the top. They feel they cannot count on the existing economic order to protect them, and therefore they must insist on certain conformities to avoid the fate of the Soviet Union.

Chapter Two

The next essay is by Ashley Tellis, Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Senior adviser to the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Senior adviser to the U.S. ambassador to India (where he was born and raised), and a former scholar with the RAND Corporation. (He is the only one not listing PNAC or AEI as affiliations).

In his essay," China's Great Strategy- the Quest for Comprehensive National Power and its Consequences," he tells us what that quest consists of. He lists increased industrial and agricultural production; expansion of small scale industry, manufacturing and exporting; and an infusion of investment. In apparent contradiction of Mr. Kagan's view, Tellis thinks the Chinese notion of economic reform involves the retrenchment of state control, and the creation of a permissive environment for private business, along with new investment in education and human capital. He reminds us that China is now the number two economy in the world. (Perhaps if we make a sharp distinction between politics and the economy, the two authors may not be at odds, but that is not an easy distinction to make).

Mr. Tellis reviews the historic glory that was China, and speculates, with some logic, that they may now be seeking a return to those days. They do, after all, have a huge territory, the largest population in the world (for awhile, until India passes them) vast resources and a growing military strength.

He also refers to past humiliations as a current motivating force, and predicts that China will surpass the American economy by 2015 (but not per capita).

When ready, he says, China will oppose the American idea of world order. Among the challenges they face are the potential for their neighbors to object to their growing strength, and the question of whether they are capable of behaving like a great power. (This last challenge may be more in the mind of Mr. Tellis than in China's own perception).

Chapter Three

Third in the line is Dan Blumenthal, whose essay is "Deterring China-Old Lessons, New Problems" He too is with the AEI as Resident Fellow. He was Senior Director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia for the Department of Defense. He practiced law in New York, and holds a BA and MA from Johns Hopkins and a law degree from Duke University.

Mr. Blumenthal is confident about American capacity to deter China from using force against America or China's neighbors. He does recognize that weaker states have attacked stronger, including China which attacked Viet Nam despite the Soviet threat, and he sites their actions against America during the Korean War. Still, he argues, among other reasons for his confidence, China recognizes its military inferiority, and China believes in American resolve to fight a war if necessary.

As to the question of China's long tradition of warfare, Mr. Blumenthal notes that we think, or hope the current leadership is more pragmatic, but we know far less about their thinking that we did about the Soviets during the Cold War. He then turns to the most contentious issue between China and the U.S.-Taiwan. The U.S. has sought to ensure that the resolution of Taiwan's status occur peacefully, while at the same time remaining "agnostic" as to the outcome. Mr. Blumenthal speculates that it must seem odd, and perhaps not creditable to Beijing that Washington would fight a war with China in a dispute in which it has repeatedly claimed indifference to the resolution-- a most intriguing observation.

Moving to the heart of his essay, Mr. Blumenthal informs us what America's deterrence options are, beginning with a diversification of bases in the region, along with better dispersal and air and missile capabilities. He notes that it is essential for the U.S. to build up its intelligence capabilities, and once they are in place, to assure China that it cannot count on surprise.

Finally, he concludes "Containing China is not a realistic option. But if engaging China is to be the policy for the foreseeable future, it is imperative that the U.S. balance that policy with a hedging strategy that is at least as serious."

Chapter Four

The fourth essay is "Japan's Response to the Rise of China--Back to the Future?" It is contributed by Michael R. Auslin, PhD, Resident Scholar at AEI, and Associate Professor of Japanese History at Yale. Dr. Auslin visited Japan as a Fulbright Scholar in 1997-98. (He apparently is a man who treasures his privacy, because a search in excess of what was required for the other authors produced little information).

According to Dr. Auslin, no nation is as interested in the rise of China as is Japan. This is the first time in history that both Japan and China are major powers, which leads both to strive for advantage. In reviewing the history of Japan, we are reminded of how much they got from China, including their writing system, their cosmological beliefs, goods, ideas and people. At the same time, today, they have widely divergent political and security goals

There has always been some sense of competition, and when Japan observed how often Chinese dynasties collapsed as opposed to their own, Japan took this as a sign of weakness and an opportunity to attack. In the seventh century, Japan attacked Korea, and was crushed by a Chinese counterforce. Again in the 19th century there was war in a struggle for mastery of Asia.

According to Auslin, China's current rise is actually a return to historical Asian status, but now that Japan is also a force in the region, it fears the new China. Particularly does Japan worry about the huge disparity in military strength between the two countries. Japan depends on the U.S. for military protection, but still there is the question of Japan's use of its sea lanes.

China's amazing economic growth is a challenge for Japan, which must balance loss of market share against growing trade with China. By 2006, China was Japan's largest trading partner. Japan took advantage of China's lower labor costs, and licensed the production of goods to China. In fact, China's thirst for capital and goods helped pull Japan out of its economic slump.

The rise of China forces Japan to maintain a larger global strategy, and among other steps, it has formed alliances with neighbors Australia and India. The U.S. needs Japan in order to maintain its military bases. According to Mr. Auslin, the U.S. should support Japan's global reach vs. that of China.

In conclusion, Mr. Auslin predicts that China and Japan will continue to be economic partners and rivals. If China remains benign it will be because the U.S. and Japan will help create a regional economic and diplomatic strategy which moves China in that direction.

Chapter Five

Here, Editor Gary J. Schmitt has his say in an essay entitled "Facing Realities-Multiculturalism for the Asia-Pacific Century."

Mr. Schmitt is Adjunct Professor in the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and was a prominent member of PNAC. During the Reagan administration he was Executive Director of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and he is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Mr. Schmitt opens with the eye-catching statement that "More people live under democratic rule in Asia than in any other place on the globe." Further, he adds that, Asia is home to the two fastest growing powers, India and China; yet neither America's system of alliances nor the region's multilateral organizations account for these new realities. His list of democratic regimes consists of Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia, India, South Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Nepal, East Timor, Malaysia, and Taiwan- a total population in excess of two billion. (Some of these countries are more democratic than others, unless the sole criterion for being classified as a democracy is having elections).

If projections hold, according to Mr. Schmitt, China's GDP will equal that of the U.S. by 2030, and so will India a few years later. Not only are regional economies and populations booming, so are advances in technology and military strength.

While some may argue that U.S. has done little in response to these radical changes, Mr. Schmitt thinks that charge is not entirely valid. The U.S. has strengthened ties with Japan and Australia, for which Mr. Schmitt gives credit to President Bush. It has also increased military forces in the region, and improved strategic ties with India and Indonesia. These steps, however, involve only consultative relations, and not formal institutional support. Whether this approach is adequate, he says, is the question this chapter will attempt to answer (and the fact that the question is raised suggests the answer will be "no").

The author gives considerable space to The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and expresses disappointment that it has never become stronger, though it is the most important multilateral forum in Asia. He makes an observation, apparently unaware that he is describing a cultural difference between East and West. He notes that the charter of ASEAN "…reaffirmed the principles of non-interference and decision-making by unanimous consent, and provided no practical mechanism allowing ASEAN collectively to take a tough stand on issues such as human rights violations or coups among members." This, he claims, "…is in keeping with ASEAN'S continuing tendency to shrink away from dealing with sensitive issues…" Rather, it could be argued that the ASEAN charter represents an Asian notion of relationships, as opposed to the Western way of confronting things head on, in writing.

On stronger ground, Mr. Schmitt argues that the "ASEAN way," requiring consensus favors China, which has a virtual veto, to be exercised simply by getting a member nation to halt any initiative which China opposes.

Turning finally to "what's next," the author begins with a list of three significant trends in Asia which must be addressed if any new architecture is to succeed: 1. Asia's desire to create an Asian community. 2. The continuing growth of Chinese power, which only the U.S. can check.. 3. The spread of democracy in the region, which has sparked U.S. interest in seeing the Asia Pacific states become their own community. Unfortunately, squaring each of these trends with the others seems almost impossible, according to Mr. Schmitt. For example there can be disagreement on how broadly to define Asia, and there is the difference in the American and Asian notion of multilateralism. (See above on cultural differences).

For solutions we are offered tier one and tier two. Tier one requires our recognition that because of the diversity in the region, there is a limit to what a multicultural organization can hope to accomplish. This is not, however, a reason to give up. At one time Europe appeared incapable of coming together. (Here it could be argued that the countries of Asia are more diverse than the countries of Europe). Tier two recognizes that, while an Asian NATO is not feasible at the moment, a new multilateral "club" of Asian pacific democracies may be. The seeds for that possibility, he claims, are found in the polls in which a majority in the region outside of China expresses a preference for democracy. (Would not most people in the world vote that way, and does that signify a readiness to become a member of a multilateral club?). A good place to start, according to Mr. Schmitt, is with the creation of a free trade area between the U.S. and the democratic states in the region.

In conclusion, the two tiered approach is said to provide a more adequate framework for U.S. policy in the future, recognizing the complexity of relations in the area, while reassuring the region of U.S commitment to stay engaged on the basis of principles that serve our interests. (Sounds almost too easy and positive, and we thought it was the liberals who were optimists).

Chapter Six

"Rise of Taiwan-what's Left of the 'One China Policy?" is by Ellen Bork. If her name sounds familiar, it may be because she is the daughter of Robert Bork, unsuccessful nominee for the Supreme Court. More important, she is Senior Program Manager for both "Human Rights" and "Freedom House." She too has a history with PNAC, having served as deputy director and acting executive director. She was of counsel to Martin Lee, Chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party. She has a B.A. from Yale and a law degree from Georgetown University, and is published in several major newspapers.

Ms Bork begins her essay with the statement that the chief virtue of America's Taiwan policy is its immutability. The problem, she says, is that for more than thirty years Washington has clung to a policy adopted to meet the perceived strategic needs of 1972. Current events, she believes, make the policy unworkable, for one reason, because it concedes that the matter is a domestic Chinese affair rather than one of international concern. It effectively grants China sovereignty over Taiwan. It also represents shoddy treatment of the people of Taiwan, not all of whom see themselves as Chinese. In fact, she notes, Taiwan has not been governed by China since the end of the 19th century, and 85% of the people of Taiwan are descended form 17th and 18th century immigrants from China.

Ms Bork claims that the U.S. government fears the rising sense of Taiwanese identity because it may lead to a move toward complete independence from China, as some Taiwanese politicians have advocated, and that might move the U.S. and China towards armed conflict.

Having declared the current U.S. "one China" policy an illusion, the author takes us to what she considers a new and better Taiwan policy. First she notes changes which make a new policy possible, namely that Taiwan no longer claims sovereignty over the mainland, and the Cold War rationale for using China as a bulwark against the Soviet Union is no longer relevant.

The new policy being advocated here is one in which the U.S. would recognize Taiwan's democratic achievements, and at the same time, recognize its right to determine its own future, including its relationship to China. She wants the U.S. to take an aggressive approach to eliminate the notion that Taiwan's own declaration of its identity is provocative. This involves including Taiwan in regional organizations, as well as granting it membership in the United Nations. These steps would clarify the true status of Taiwan and end the absurdity of Taiwanese diplomats sneaking in the back door of the White House when they visit Washington. (She fails to inform us of what China would likely do if her policy were instituted).

Chapter Seven

Mr. Schmitt ends his collection with an essay by Nicholas Eberstadt which is quite different from the others. It is entitled "Will China (Continue to) Rise?

Mr. Eberstadt is a scholar with the AEI and was active in the PNAC. He has written for the Weekly Standard, edited by Fred Barnes (former New Republic liberal, now Fox News conservative) and William Kristol, co-founder of PNAC. Eberstadt once wrote that '…even if Saddam Hussein was not involved in 9/11, deposing him was essential to winning the war on terrorism."

The major difference in his essay is that, contrary to the others, he does not believe China will necessarily continue to rise. One of his reasons for exploring alternatives is to avoid surprises, such as that experienced when the Soviet Union collapsed. Here then are the factors militating against the continued rise of China.

The Communist government could collapse, since, after all, the collapse of regimes has been China's history. Threats to this government include rising economic inequalities, mounting social tensions, spreading corruption and a population seeking meaning from philosophical sources such as Buddhism, Christianity or Falun Gong.

China's economic boom will inevitably slow. To support this contention he quotes a RAND study which lists eight factors, some of which will likely happen. They include unemployment, pollution and the fragility of the financial system. Mr. Eberstadt concedes that there is no scientific method with which to assign probability to any of these events, but his thesis rests on the assumption that at least some of them will happen. The issue which he explores in greatest detail is, however, one which is more predictable-demography.

Despite a relatively low birthrate, by 2030 China will face an aging population and shrinking workforce. (Reminiscent of the U.S. problem with paying for Social Security in the future, the trend is apparently far worse in China). If the trend continues, it will put a huge strain on the Chinese economy, creating fewer working people, and more old people who must be supported. A sad by-product will be the diminished capacity of families to care for their own. A final note on demography is the growing unbalance between males and females at birth. It appears that the Chinese often abort girls, in order to try again for a boy, who will take care of his parents in their old age. The result will be a surplus of young men without wives, which will add to restiveness for the country.

So, there we have it-seven essays by seven conservatives who apparently tried to inform us while withholding the polemics which have characterized some of their other writings. For Sinologists, there may be little that is new here, but for the average reader interested in world affairs, this is an informative book, and it is well written. Because it is compact, containing only 181 pages, it has taken considerable space to review. In fact, since the review is approaching the length of the book, it must end here.