How To Change China

By Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa, (On Twitter) @c_tamirisa

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China, the sleeping giant, has awakened, much as Europe had done after the Renaissance. China had lost as long a period of prosperity since its decline in the late 15th century as Europe had experienced since about the same time. Yet, there is a contest of wills between those in the West and those in China about how best to govern themselves.

The evolution of China, given its desire to regain its lost pride to a Japan that had succumbed to the bomb and to a European ethos that had bombed Japan, makes the Chinese psyche complicated. It wants to lead Asia and in achieving that status it wants Japan to understand that its former oppressor should now be wise to prepare to play second fiddle soon on the continent. By leading Asia, it wants to eventually lead the world, surpassing Europe and the United States.

The path to that prominence could make for interesting geopolitics. In Asia, to help Japan recover, it would want to extract as much advanced technology as it can from its neighbor, playing nice with all other countries, such as Korea, that were just as tormented by the Japanese through World War II. In the rest of the world, it will compete with the United States and Europe to secure natural resources to fuel its global ambitions. Still, these aspirations must be balanced carefully with its size in terms of its population, so as to be careful not to falter along the way into a political implosion similar to that of the former Soviet Union if it moved too fast.

The West believes that democratic capitalism is the surest sustainer of prosperity in the long run and China seems to be of the opinion that an enlightened state can achieve the same outcome. The emperor it had lost to European (and Japanese) colonialism has now been replaced by the benevolent state run by a single political party, whatever its past name may have been. It is doubtful if Milton Freidman’s the rest of the economic fantasies of the West can come true by bringing about democracy through capitalism in China. Even the old man was doubtful about those prospects before he died. The reason is the capacity of the Chinese people to see eye to eye with their government on the future of China: they would rather bear the burden of authoritarianism to regain their lost pride, because doing so has worked well for them thus far since Nixon and Kissinger had visited their country.

Then the issue that confronts the democratic West, especially in the milieu of the socialist tendentiousness of their own governments after the recent economic crisis, is should China be changed at all? If so, when is the right time to do so? Will there ever be a right time for it if the United States, the last bastion of democratic capitalism, also turns socialist? Is the world heading to converge to Franco-German socialism, with China on the far left end of that political spectrum?

The reasons for changing China, politically, are twofold, ideologies aside: first, the immediate material need for a more equitable natural resource allocation toward production so that it is not subject to any neo-colonial tendencies on the part of China in its eagerness to garner them. Second, those tendencies could adversely impact the sovereignty of other countries, especially as their resources deplete and they become dependent on a de facto Chinese hegemon, only to replace European imperialism of the past two centuries with Chinese imperialism.

China, quite correctly, argues that the West, including the United States, is not a saint either, albeit the rhetoric of human rights and democracy. That it still wields the same power through international institutions over the resources of other countries to enhance its standard of living and perpetuate dependence.

It is important for the United States and Europe to learn to live within their means (foreign savings are the equivalent of foreign resources) so that other countries have the fair chance to learn to compete of their own ingenuity and if they cannot, provide access to countries with the competitive know-how to leverage their resources (which include their capacity to consume or their markets) for their own benefit by consuming what they produce within their own countries by working for corporations from advanced countries who employ their peoples in their own countries.

Therefore, given the validity of the principles which underlie democratic capitalism whatever may be the peccadilloes and pitfalls of the realpolitik in their implementation, of which there are many, changing China is a clarion call for the West to change its own ways by walking the talk or else it could risk becoming China.


About Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa
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