doklam: India has much to gain from China’s peaceful rise - The Economic Times
No state was strong enough to impose its will; no religion retained sufficient authority to sustain universality. The concept of sovereignty and the legal equality of states became the basis of international law and diplomacy. China, by contrast, was never engaged in sustained contact with another country on the basis of equality for the simple reason that it never encountered societies of comparable culture or magnitude.
That the Chinese Empire should tower over its geographical sphere was taken virtually as a law of nature, an expression of the Mandate of Heaven.
Why China now? Catching the second wave of growth in the Middle Kingdom
For Chinese Emperors the mandate did not necessarily imply an adversarial relationship with neighbouring peoples; preferably it did not. Like the United States, China thought of itself as playing a special role. But it never espoused the American notion of universalism to spread its values around the world. It confined itself to controlling the barbarians immediately at its doorstep. China did not export its ideas but let others come to seek them. Although this may sound terribly interesting, is it all that important? The answer is yes, and for several fundamental reasons. I believe it is likely to come sooner rather than later because of the compounding effects of an economy that has grown at an average annual rate of more than 8 per cent for the past 30 years.
With regard to the sustainability of high levels of growth for the future, the Chinese are fully aware of the need to change their development model to one based on higher levels of household consumption, lower levels of savings, a greater role for the services sector, and the incorporation of principles of sustainable development in overall economic policy this last not through fashionable choice, but rather because of the dictates of national economic survival.
But the overall point is this: very soon we will find ourselves at a point in history when, for the first time since George III, a non-western, non-democratic state will be the largest economy in the world. If this is the case, how will China exercise its power in the future international order? Will it accept the culture, norms and structure of the postwar order?
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Or will China seek to change it? I believe this is the single core question for the first half of the 21st century, not just for Asia, but for the world. Importantly, some might say disturbingly, the matter remains unresolved among the Chinese political elite themselves. The internal debate continues to unfold. Hence the Chinese academy, in close co-operation with the policy agencies and research departments of the state, is searching the past for legitimate, non-threatening forms to explain their future regional and global role and to define, more fundamentally, what that role should be.
At present, there is no centrally agreed grand design. In other words, on this great question of our age, the jury is still out. It is not a question for China alone.
In international relations it takes two to tango. The content of this engagement, positive or negative, constructive or confrontational, principled or driven by pure pragmatism, is therefore important. I believe it is realistic to assume that we have, at best, the remainder of the present decade for this purpose — in other words, the better part of the ten-year presidency of Xi Jinping, who will assume office this autumn. If it does take two to tango, we also need to ask: who are we really dealing with on the Chinese side? China, though a one-party state, does not represent a monolithic political culture.
Chinese politics is made up of many competing forces. The benefits are there for all to see in the great Chinese political debate. Living standards have risen rapidly, and not just in the great cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, but also for hundreds of millions of people living in provincial centres and the countryside. Their formidable achievements notwithstanding, there is a growing internal debate about the sharpening of income inequality, as well as widening regional and subregional disparities. The foreign ministry argued that it was an affront to national sovereignty. I dare say the good burghers of Beijing are quite happy to know which days they should keep their toddlers indoors.
It follows from this that another big competing force in the Chinese political debate today is one more critical of the social impact of economic liberalisation, and one that is more conservative in its policy conclusions. This group argues that the reform process has already gone far enough. Elements of this conservative group argue that to take the economic reform process much further would endanger the interests of the still significant state-owned sector of the economy. They say that, when push comes to shove, it remains important for the Chinese state to be able to pull the levers of the national economy, not just through the classical forms of fiscal and monetary policy as we have in the west, but by actively directing state-owned corporations and financial institutions to expand or contract their economic and financial activity in direct response to government direction.
This group is particularly wary of the calls for democratic reforms arising from the burgeoning economic freedoms that already have been created, because it recognises these as significant medium- to long-term threats to the continued political monopoly of the Communist Party itself. That is also the conclusion of most China scholars and analysts around the world. However, under the Chinese system, the military in many respects operates as a structure separate from the Chinese government. Naturally, the PLA would argue that US and allied contingency planning in relation to China leaves it with little option other than to engage in worst-case scenario planning itself.
And so the self-perpetuating cycle of strategic mistrust and military countermeasures continues. The problem with risk management of this order of magnitude, however, is that it runs an even greater risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Planning for the worst tomorrow often shapes the political behaviour of today.
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How this internal Chinese debate is resolved between liberal internationalists, political conservatives and the military is critical for all of us. And if so, how? The attitude and the actions of the rest of us can also have a profound effect, for good or ill.
'One Belt One Road' blessing or curse?
Policy elites on both sides of the Atlantic with the exception of some sections of the Obama administration are largely disengaged from this, most critical conversation of the century — the rise of China. However, that is not the case in Asia, where, because of proximity, the policy debate on China is more sophisticated, nuanced and acute. There is, nonetheless, a real danger that a new global and regional order begins to emerge by default, in the absence of significant diplomatic engagement from the west, and one that may turn out to be deeply inimical to western values and interests.
So, what then is to be done? I believe it is. But it will require collective intellectual effort, diplomatic co-ordination, sustained political will and, most critically, continued, open and candid engagement with the Chinese political elite. So, what might the core elements of such an engagement look like? First, the international community must accept that it is entirely legitimate for China to have a louder voice at the global negotiating table. Not only is China a great civilisation, it has become, once again, a great power.
The international system should not be seen to be exclusively the expression of western interests. The history of European colonisation has done much to diminish the moral authority of the colonisers in the eyes of those in the previously colonised world. Europeans in particular are often blind to this reality.
In February , I went to China to help several U. The trip seemed fruitful, but when I returned I came under severe criticism even from within the administration for not vigorously voicing U. Then, a few months later, President Clinton decided to divorce the issue of human rights from the issue of granting most-favored-nation trading status.
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The environment in Washington underwent a sea change, and in August I returned to China on a high-profile trade mission led by Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown that included some 20 chief executives. We considered the trip a success, having pushed forward corporate transactions worth billions of dollars. Many critics of earlier trips spoke approvingly of this "commercial diplomacy," suggesting that trade and finance would perhaps become major thrusts in our foreign policy toward China.
A year later, the pendulum swung again. Under enormous congressional pressure, and in the face of Beijing's protests, the administration granted the president of Taiwan a visa to visit the United States. Soon afterward, China was lobbing missiles close to that island, and the United States moved warships into the nearby straits. Concerned about incurring Beijing's wrath, U. The administration hesitated before reluctantly allowing our delegation to go to China.
Reflecting on those experiences and on numerous internal debates within the administration, I can now see that Washington's vacillation arose from the absence of a common framework for thinking about what China was becoming and what ties the United States really wanted with the world's biggest emerging market. It is true that some companies such as Levi Strauss have pulled out of China, citing human rights concerns.