Tag Archives: new cold war

Let’s Hop off the China Fear Express

Forbidden City

GlobalWonk Enters Forbidden City

President Obama’s trip to China has provided a platform from which the media has chosen to stir up domestic anxiety over China’s changing role in world affairs. If you believe what you hear in the mainstream media the United States may as well just pack it in. We stand no chance against the Chinese juggernaut. We are in a slow, painful process of slinking our way off the world stage with our tail between our legs. Fareed Zarkaria, author of The Post-American World, and host of CNN’s GPS news program had the audacity to make his question of the week; Do you believe China is now the world’s superpower? After you read my blog post, and do your own research, I suggest you respond to Mr. Zakaria’s question at gps@cnn.com

Well, as Mark Twain may have said; the news of our death is greatly exaggerated. It seems in the rush to stir the pot and keep people glued to the tube; they’ve chosen not to review the facts.

The United States has, by far, the largest economy in the world. According to World Bank figures, our gross domestic product in 2008 was over $14.2 trillion. China’s was $4.3 trillion. They were third, behind the U.S., and Japan. At number eleven on the list, Canada, our wonderful neighbor to the north, had a GDP in 2008 one-tenth the size of the United States. Our GDP was almost three times the size of #2 on the list, Japan.

When you look at the CIA Fact Book figures for 2008 per capita Gross Domestic Product, the rankings are even more interesting. The United States comes in tenth, at $47,500. China comes in one hundred thirty-third, at $6,000.

Not surprisingly, United Nations manufacturing output data has the United States and China ranked at numbers 1 & 2. The surprise however, is that the United States manufacturing output is nearly twice the size of China’s. Our annual manufacturing output has risen over $800 billion since 1990! This is more than the entire annual output of fourth-ranked global manufacturing powerhouse, Germany. (Time, May, 2009)

When it comes to military spending the United States has no peer. We spend more on our military than the next forty-five countries combined. We spend forty-eight percent of the world’s total amount spent on defense per year. We spend almost six times more than China does on their military, and ten times more than Russia. Our ability to project military power is not matched by any other power on earth.

If you look at strategic weapons, which are nuclear bombs deliverable atop intercontinental ballistic missiles, the United States maintains over seven thousand. China is estimated to have twenty strategic nuclear weapons. Total nukes, including tactical and spare puts the U.S. over ten thousand five-hundred, and China just over four hundred.

There are any number of statistics I could quote here to qualify my point that the United States is still an economic and military superpower. We in the United States have nothing to fear from China’s amazing rise from poverty. The global economy, and geopolitical affairs are not zero sum issues. We do not lose because China pulls hundreds of millions of their citizens out of poverty. The most dramatic eradication of poverty in the history of humankind.

Instead of fearing China’s rise we should welcome it. We should look forward to selling our products into their market of 1.2 billion people. We should welcome a partner to help share the burden of policing the unpolice-able. We should partner with them to develop the green technologies that will help all of us live in a world that has many more people living in urban centers, driving many more cars than anybody ever imagined.

As you know I am a realist. As China’s economy continues to grow, so will their influence. We have witnessed that, especially since the economic crash of September 2008. It used to be a given that our system, capitalism, was the way to run your economy. After the crash, and China’s relative stability during and after it, many in the world are not so sure it is the only way.

As China’s influence grows there is very likely going to be issues we do not agree with them on. There will be areas where our national interests collide. With a population four times the size of the United States, China’s GDP will eventually surpass that of ours. Many believe this could occur as soon as 2020. China may even surpass our per capita GDP at some point in the future.

So the same people who labeled the United States a hyperpower in 2001 are now saying the sky is falling. The ones who designated the post-Soviet era a uni-polar moment for the United States are now digging our geopolitical grave. My suggestion is to relax. Take a deep breath.

Do not let the media make up your mind on this issue. Do your own research. Book a trip to China and witness history there yourself. Don’t let ill-informed career politicians make decisions for us, the people, that put us on a path toward conflict with China. Do not allow those with a vested interest in those hundreds of billions of dollars in defense spending convince you that China is the next boogeyman. Do your research, make up your mind, and make your voice heard!

We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.

 

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GlobalWonk’s Video Introduction

globalwonk9

Jim Miller, GlobalWonk

Jim Miller has posted the GlobalWonk Introduction video at YouTube. Please click on the following link to view the video;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtCwQopjgxQ

Please comment on the content of the video here, or at YouTube. More video to come soon, hopefully hosted from this site.

Diplomacy. One Mind at a Time.

U.S. Pacific Commander Optimistic

Indispensible Presence

Indispensible Presence

 

GlobalWonk recently had the great fortune to meet Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Commander, United States Pacific Command. CINCPAC for us old timers. He gave a briefing on security in his area of responsibility for the President’s Council at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

First, he is a very engaging speaker. Being a naval aviator, and forty plus years in the service gives you quite a bit of experience to draw upon when public speaking. He is due to retire in October. He will do well on the speaking circuit. I hope to have him attend a future GlobalWonk event and participate in the discussion.

He made a comment that gave me, as a veteran of the Army, goosebumps. He said that since he entered the Naval Academy all those years ago, all he has worn during his professional life was this, and he gestures to the immaculate uniform he is wearing, “the cloth of our nation”.

Admiral Keating ran down the thirty-six countries in his area of responsibility. Providing a SITREP on each. Japan, China, North Korea. He stated that in all the official visits he has made to heads-of-state, ministers, and military chiefs in the region; he receives one consistent message. The United States is an “indispensable presence” in maintaining stability in the region.

On North Korea he is confident the U.S. military has the capacity to prevent missiles from reaching U.S. territories, or harming allies in the region. He said that there is no planning currently underway for a military option in the nuclear standoff with the DPRK. I communicated to him my belief, from my visit to North Korea in September 2008, that occupying North Korea would make Afghanistan, or Iraq, look like a picnic in comparison. The people of North Korea live a life Americans can hardly imagine, and are raised from childhood to revile us. As I had recently spent five days in-country, he was interested in my perspective. I think we both agreed that a military option in North Korea should be one of last resort.

He is impressed with the strength of the U.S./Japan alliance. He mentioned that it would have been unimaginable just ten years ago to think that a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. George Washington, would be stationed in Japanese waters.

His most interesting comments regarded China. He feels that the United States military does not see China as a threat. He says that they welcome, and encourage China to take a more active role in the security, and stability of the region. He made it clear that we do this at a pace they are comfortable with. He thought it would be many years before China would be capable of projecting military force beyond their immediate shores. He stated that he did not believe that was their intentions at this point.

I thought it was refreshing to hear these comments from a military commander of his stature. When I left the military in 1992 all I remember hearing was that the Soviets were gone, and China was the next near peer to worry about.

I hope for all of us, and our children, that this is true. As we know, the relationship between the United States and China, or Chimerica, as Niall Ferguson has dubbed it, can go either way.

Complex and Beautiful

Complex an Beautiful

Complex and Beautiful

 GlobalWonk came upon this tree in the Emperor’s Garden in the Forbidden City. It’s gnarled branches analogous to the complex relationship between the United States and China. There will be twists and turns. It will not always be pretty. But, if the roots are solid, and it is nurtured properly, it will live on for generations to come.

As China’s wealth and influence grow, our interests will collide. Now is the time to nurture, and strengthen the roots of our relationship. To accomplish this we must promote understanding and exchange between our people.

What will you do to make this happen in your community? Reach out to your local members of Congress. Tell them your thoughts on these issues. Get with the school board. Does a local university have a China program you can tap into for content, or volunteers, for developing a cultural awareness program in your primary schools?

In a decade it could be your child manning battle stations on a warship. Loading armaments onto fighter planes, or aligning the sites of their rifle center mass on the silhouette of a counterpart from China. If we choose to do nothing, ten years hence we will wonder what could have been.

Phenom Obama

America's New First Family

America's New First Family

When I first became aware of Barack Obama he reminded me of Bobby Kennedy. Young, energetic, very bright. More than that, they both seem to me to have been men supremely suited to their times. The assassination of RFK robbed us of the man with the best opportunity to bridge the racial divide in 1968. His impassioned speech to the crowd in Indianapolis on the night Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated cemented his singular ability to bring us together. He shared the pain of losing a brother to a white assassin’s bullet. He urged the crowd not to give in to revenge and hatred. In just two months, he himself would lie mortally wounded in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. His life’s blood flowing from a gun shot wound to the head.

President-Elect Barack Obama is a man suited for his time. He has always superbly handled opportunity. When given one he has consistently knocked it out of the park. He has done so at Harvard, in the race for the Senate, his 2004 convention speech, the presidential election, and as a father (his daughters are by all accounts little gems).

It would be a tragedy of incomprehensible proportions for the United States were something to happen to this man before he has the chance to apply his many talents to the troubles we face domestically and abroad. Knowing the training and professionalism of the United States Secret Service personnel charged with his safety; I rest easier, knowing how hard they will work to ensure he has the opportunity to do so.

I began to think about the 2008 election. How historic it was. Hillary, Barack, and Sarah. All firsts of one sort or another. How in the hell did a black man with the name Barack Hussein Obama not only obtain his party’s nomination, but actually get elected to the highest office in the land? Some say the most powerful office in the world.

Now, I don’t profess to have insider information. There will be books written for years on this election. On Obama’s campaign. I would like to point out my thoughts on why, in 2008, Barack Obama was deemed electable by a majority of American voters.

First some background. I was born on the South Side of Chicago. The “South Side Irish” from a neighborhood called Roseland. It lies more than one hundred city blocks south of The Loop, or downtown Chicago. In 1970, when black people began moving into Roseland, my parents, and their parents, moved from the city to the south suburbs of Chicago.

Blacks brought crime and drugs, we were told. Black kids beat up my brother and stole his bicycle, I was told. Blacks meant our home would sell for less if we waited too long, we were told.

The N-word was not something we thought about much. It was used all the time. From my earliest memories that is how people in my life described black people to me. That N-word at work. The N-word on the corner. Those N-words on welfare…. I truly believed all black people were on welfare when I was a child.

These migrations, or emigrations from the city to the suburbs became known as “White Flight”. When the first black family bought a home in the neighborhood the stampede began. You didn’t want to be the last person to sell your house. It was kind of like being the one left without a chair when the music stopped. My parents would take flight again just thirteen years later. Relocating from the South Suburbs to the Brighton Park neighborhood of Chicago.

This is the background in which I developed. When I went to high school black kids were bussed from other towns into our school. White kids from our school were sent out of town to their school. Neither wanted to be relocated. Being at the sharp end of a social experiment created friction. Friction led to fighting. These situations played out across many suburbs of America in the late seventies and early eighties.

I graduated High School and joined the United States Army. I was immediately thrown into a world where black and white blurred. You didn’t care what color the guy was that had your back, as long as he was Army green. I was led by black soldiers, and I was given the opportunity to lead. In short, I was freed from the ignorance of the environment I was brought up in.

I had children very young. I consciously brought them up not to see color. They lived in multi-cultural environments with military families of all types. They had white friends, black friends, and Hispanic friends. The N-word was not used in our home.

How did Barack become electable? He became electable because people in America changed their mindset. Over a period of a generation or so, Gen X’ers became educated and rejected the institutional racism of previous generations. They also raised their children, who became of voting age in the 2008 election, not to see color first. We did not indoctrinate our children into a culture of racial distrust or hatred.

So the question becomes; How in the hell does this apply to China? Well, I believe it does in a very big way. I believe we need to change the mindset of the American public on their views on China. I believe we need to do this quickly before the United States and China get themselves on a collision course with destiny.

So how do we change this mindset? We do it in the same way we did it on race. Expose your children to Chinese people and culture. Replace stereotypes with positive experiences. Teach your children not to distrust. GlobalWonk will be focusing on opportunities to educate Chinese and American people, particularly our youth, on the many positive aspects of our respective cultures.

You can start today with your own family. Read your child a book about China. Take them on a trip to Chinatown in a city near you. Introduce them to Chinese friends and associates. Get involved with their school and get culture on the curriculum. Talk to your local representatives of government and share your concerns with them.

The opportunity to prevent these same children, our children, from fighting a war with the Chinese twenty years from now, presents itself now. What are you going to do to make a difference?

Perspective

Is perception reality?

 

Each of us have a lense through which we view our world. We each have a filter that outside information must pass through as we process, and attempt to understand it. These lenses and filters are the product of our experience. I have become very interested in understanding the perspective of the “other guy” as it pertains to U.S. foreign policy.

One of the most cherished ideals of the collective American psyche is revering freedom. We champion it at every opportunity. It is a founding tenet of our representative democracy.

Do others, in different societies, with disparate experiences, crave our definition of freedom? Is it fair to project our perspective onto others?

How does the average Chinese person feel about democracy? Freedom? Do they crave stability over freedom? Even if that means an autocratic government? A prominent University of Chicago scholar, and a Dean at a major University, both Chinese, expressed this very notion to me. It is hard for someone that grew up in America to wrap our mind around that. Give me Liberty, or give me Death! Remember?

Do we really expect Russia not to be concerned when NATO is knocking on it’s doorstep? How about putting a missile shield in former satellite countries? Wouldn’t we be concerned if Russia were doing the same?

How are our actions perceived by others in the world? Extending a missile defense system into Eastern Europe makes sense to us. It keeps us safe by extending a protective shield further, and further out from our shores. Distance equals reaction time. Pretty simple stuff, right?

Well, what if you are Russian? Your empire imploded back in 1991. You are still licking your wounds from that one. The United States has not exactly been humble in it’s triumph over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Most of your former satellites aspire to membership in NATO, or are on friendly terms with the U.S. Some are even talking about allowing U.S. missile defense technology on their territory. How would you perceive these actions? Would you be concerned about U.S. unilateralism?

I plan to spend some time researching these issues in the coming months. Understanding each other’s perspective is key to developing win-win propositions. If we are going to prevent future conflict, we need to fully understand how other countries perceive themselves, and how they interpret our actions.

China’s Peaceful Rise?

Chinese Military

Peaceful rise. We hear that term a lot nowadays to describe China’s economic development ambitions. What does it mean? Is this possible? How will the world be different in thirty years? Twenty? Ten? Will it be more, or less peaceful? Will our children and grandchildren enjoy the freedoms many now take for granted. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. Free to live where you want. To pursue happiness.

Deng Xiaoping understood what the communists in the Soviet Union did not. He believed the best way to move his country forward was to encourage economic growth. He knew that continuing a state controlled economy would keep his people impoverished for many generations. In 1978 Deng gambled when he opened up the Chinese economy and allowed the provinces relative economic autonomy. His gamble has certainly paid off handsomely. Foreign direct investment combined with an indigenious economy that has been exposed to, and is competing with, the fiercest of global competition has built an economic juggernaut of historic proportions.

As China grows stronger economically, it is natural that it will want to protect its interests, as we do. To do this, the Chinese military will have to become larger, and increasingly forward deployed. It will require a blue water Navy to secure trade routes. It may garrison forces in places like Africa, the Middle East, perhaps even South America, to protect strategic relationships with suppliers of key energy resources and raw materials.

How will America respond to this? These are steps nations, such as ourselves, took in the early, rapidly developing stages of our development. Will we welcome a new near peer, and potentially (eventually?) peer power? Or will we be fearful and self-fulfill the doomsday prophecy of a New Cold War, or worse?

Here is what today’s thought leaders think about the topic;

  • In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Thomas Barnett’s 2004 book The Pentagon’s New Map became an extremely popular read. He divides the world’s countries into the Functioning Core, and The Non-Integrating Gap. Barnett tells the story of making the rounds at the Pentagon presenting what he began to call “The Brief'”, to ever more senior levels of military and political leadership. Barnett theorizes that nation states no longer need to wage war with one another. As members of the ‘functioning core’, they are too economically integrated to consider attacking one another. Everybody loses when the apple cart is upset. War is relegated to Functioning Corers cleaning up zealots in the Non-Integrating Gap. 
  •  Dr. John J. Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, on the other hand believes the U.S. and China are destined for conflict as an ever more powerful China attempts to establish regional hegemony and push the United States out of Asia.
  • Dr. Susan Shirk, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Professor, University of California, San Diego wrote a book in 2007 titled China; Fragile Superpower. In it she claims the U.S. has more to fear from a weak China.

Although China looks like a powerhouse from the outside, to its leaders it looks fragile, poor, and overwhelmed by internal problems. But China’s massive problems, instead of reassuring us, should worry us. It is China’s internal fragility, not its growing strength that presents the greatest danger. The weak legitimacy of the Communist Party and its leaders’ sense of vulnerability could cause China to behave rashly in a crisis involving Japan or Taiwan, and bring it into a military conflict with the United States.

If economic growth slows and problems multiply, there is a possibility that China’s leaders could be tempted to “Wag the Dog” – mobilize domestic support by creating an international crisis. More likely, however, is that when confronted with a crisis, the leaders make threats they can’t back away from because of their fear of appearing weak to the domestic audience. Only by understanding the dangers of China’s domestic tranquility and incorporating this understanding into their policies can Chinese and American decision makers avoid a catastrophic war

  • Dr. Suisheng “Sam” Zhao, Professor and Executive Director of the Center for China-US Cooperation at the University of Denver, is concerned that domestic chaos could cause China’s Communist Party (CCP) leadership to pursue an aggressive foreign policy to stir nationalistic enthusiasm and deflect attention from the CCP. Further, Dr. Zhao believes these domestic forces could begin to fester if economic growth slows below 6% – 7% per year. American’s can only dream of that pace of growth today. If China slows to this level, Dr. Zhao believes their economy will no longer be able to absorb the historic migration of population from farms to cities. This will cause large numbers of young, unemployed people, to begin to question the CCP’s decisions that brought their country to this point. Aggressive foreign policy could take the form of flexing their newly enhanced military muscle to further intimidate Taiwan, clash with the Japanese over oil drilling rights in the East China Sea, or challenge U.S. dominance in their backyard.

I highly respect each of the scholars I’ve mentioned above. With these, and many other disparate voices out there; what are we to believe? How do we prevent ourselves from being acted upon? What can we do to influence positive outcomes? I do not profess to have the answers to these big questions. I have many, many more questions than I do answers.

 GlobalWonk intends to convene a “No New Cold War” conference within the next eighteen months. We will bring together today’s thought leaders to discuss key issues in the U.S./China relationship. We’ll work together to develop meaningful steps that individuals and communities can take to have a positive impact on this most important of relationships.