Tuesday, July 05, 2005

China Syndrome

The last university I worked in was populated by a little sub-set of American war-strategy students. They were all great fun to hang around with, in part because their fascinating subject matter, combined with the academic habit of looking very sure of what they were talking about, made them all sound like strangely indiscrete spooks.

One noticeable common trait all these guys had was an excited concern about China. 9/11 didn't dent their fascination one bit. For them, China was the next big enemy, the real threat that the US will face in the 21st Century.

Right or wrong, it does seem that the Bush Administration had noticed the same thing. I mean, that Star Wars fantasy weapons programme that was Bush's main plank of foreign policy was surely not meant for a tiny state like North Korea? Their bigger more menacing neighbour might have provided more motivation on that front. Moreover, the US has been building bases in central Asia and the Pacific rim like nobody's business: not just a response to the 'war on terror' but also to the shift in geopolitical concerns after the collapse of the Soviet Union. That said, the utter insanity of Bush's economic policy has left the US in hock to the Chinese to the tune of $200bn. The only thing that limits Chinese power over the US economy is that China relies on the US to buy its exports.1

Anyway, there's been a flurry of commentary on China in the last few days. Pub Philosopher has been on the case with two separate posts here and here.

I think Steve's not entirely on the mark in what he says. Chinese strategy seems not to be world domination in a sense that's any more sinister than America's. Rather, it's simply about economic and regional dominance, combined with a global scramble for resources and influence. That said, many of the observations he notes are spot on. Similar comments to the ones he notes about Chinese influence-building in Africa were made on last night's Channel 4 News. On the Sino-American struggle for oil, the generally brilliant Will Hutton had a fascinating piece in Sunday's Observer. All well worth the read.

1 For some numbers on the American debt, see here and for some interesting commentaries on Sino-American relations, see here and here. Also, I've blogged on the precarious state of the Dollar before.

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