Who Will Dominate Asia?
Date 2010/2/2 19:10:00
|Paris, February 2, 2010 – China and India stopped being part of |
what was called the “third world” when the “second” world, the
Communist world, disappeared in a shattering of global illusions in
Since then there has been a search to find a new King of the Global
Hill. The United States rejoiced for a few years in being the sole
superpower, considering it an opportunity to remake the world
according to its own advantage (including its effort to shove NATO
bases into Georgia and Ukraine).
The 9/11 attacks in 2001 gave it the opportunity and encouragement to
try remaking the Middle East and Asia. The effort has not produced
the desired results. In Afghanistan and Iraq the U.S. found itself
mired in interventions it has been unable successfully to conclude.
It has found itself drawn into deeper and much more dangerous
engagements in the political and military affairs of Pakistan, the
Iran nuclear imbroglio, and an out-of-control Israeli government.
Then came economic crisis. First the credit and Wall Street
collapse, an unexpected recoil of international opinion against the
American model of globalized capitalism, together with an
international consensus that the system has to be replaced on terms
that are not America’s terms.
China has assertively placed on the table its claims to international
status and authority, recognition of its geopolitical rank and
diplomatic weight, and its demand that international opposition or
interference cease with respect to its political claims on Tibet,
Taiwan, contested islands in the South China Sea, and – for future
attention – frontier adjustments with respect to North Korea,
Vietnam, and India.
It wants economic as well as political respect. China has been
financing the American deficit (and its own exports) for years now,
and is unmoved by American and West European complaints about the
managed exchange value of its currency, its trade practices, and what
widely are considered its predatory practices in securing foreign raw
materials for Chinese industry.
Now there is political trouble between the United States and China on
the Dalai Lama, and on the supply of arms to Taiwan -- an affair
whose origins lie in the Second World War and American support for
the wartime Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek.
Many since 1989 have promoted China as a model for speedy economic
development, a candidate to become the new “top nation” through state
mobilization of popular energies and ambition. India was at the same
time promoted to second place in the Asian competition by showing how
similar results could more humanely be produced by democratic
China acquired an increasingly glamorous reputation in the West
because of its very rapid growth and the soaring living standards of
that small minority of Chinese who live in the modernizing sector of
the economy. India has acquired the same reputation with the added
advantage of democracy.
In both cases world rank has been claimed (and often rewarded by the
press) by competitive GDP -- in these cases, initially at least,
resulting from relatively unsophisticated offshore production for
This is now changing, but it will be a long time before China and
India will manufacture innovative high-technology goods of autonomous
design, competitive with North American and European producers. It
will be even longer before standards of living throughout China and
India remotely approaches North American and West European levels.
By that measure, most observers would name the European Union the new
world’s King of the Hill
But politics has a potentially destructive role to play in all this,
both domestic politics and international politics. China has an
extremely dangerous and unresolved transition to make from one-party
dictatorship, ruled by the self-nominated successors to a leadership
that gave China a half-century of government that at best has been
despotic, and at worst rivaled, or surpassed, Stalinism. The Dalai
Lama is a symbol of what has happened to democracy in past and
present China. Indian democracy is real although ramshackle, riddled
with corruption and petty despotism at local levels.
The Barack Obama government in Washington (or should one say, of
corporate America) has uncritically accepted the sterile foreign
policy of fighting over who is political (and potentially military)
King of the Hill in Asia.
It has been making trouble with Japan (the real industrial power in
Asia) by insisting on a profitable but potentially politically
disastrous perpetuation of the quasi-occupation of Okinawa by the
U.S. Marine Corps.
With respect to China, the United States is legally obligated to
guarantee the security of (what now has become) a democratic Taiwan.
China’s legal claim to the island is impeccable (unless we go back to
the original aboriginal population, and the Portuguese, Dutch, and
Spanish who claimed the island; there was no Chinese presence until a
renegade Ming Dynasty general arrived in the 17th century.} Its
moral claim is not.
The Taiwan issue will nonetheless eventually find a sane resolution
if American secretaries of state, and Chinese governmental
authorities can find it in themselves to refrain from bombastic
mutual denunciation and efforts at political and economic blackmail
over matters, like Iran, that have nothing to do with Asia.
Economic progress and political development will eventually decide
who is future King of the Hill in Asia. China, with a continuity of
history that extends back to the Bronze Age, knows how to wait. So
do Tibetans. One cannot be so confident about American statesmen and
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