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Saturday, January 03, 2004

China's Take on Security Rivalry With US

As I've said, in a couple of months I am slated to deliver a paper on the US foreign policy advice rendered by international relations realists.

So far, I've been reading a number of articles by or about John J. Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. Mearsheimer is one of the most prominent academic realists, has written a key book on the theory, and often provides foreign policy advice.

As I've noted before, Mearsheimer says that foreign policy elites talk like liberals (emphasizing democracy), but act like realists, worrying about power. That's an important part of the forthcoming conference paper, but I'm not going into that now.

Mearsheimer was a notable critic of the Iraq war because he believed in the continued success of containment and deterrence. But that's not Mearsheimer's only relevant foreign policy advice. He also urges the US to start preparing for a new rivalry with China. At minimum, this would mean reversing long-time trading practices so as not to make China stronger.

Last week, the Chinese People's Daily ran an article disputing Mearsheimer's claim that the US is soon to enter a major security rivalry with China:
John J. Mearsheimer, professor of political science of Chicago University said that as China is gaining rapid development in the economic field, whereas the United States cannot tolerate the existence of rival that maches it in force, the result will be fierce and dangerous competition for security which is similar to the confrontation between the United States and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War period.
The article is fairly long, but it is worth noting a few of the highlights. Primarily, the author, Zhou Yihuang, argues that economic interdependence and trade make such Sino-American rivalry unlikely. Rather, US-Chinese trade produces a "strongly mutual benefit":
The main shortcoming of this view is that it fails to notice the unprecedented changes that have taken place in today's world. It is these changes that have created the possibility and necessity for cooperation between the world's powers amid their confrontation. The key factors for these changes are economic globalization and the accompanying progress of science and technology. After World War II, science and technology have developed by leaps and bounds and productive forces have experienced unprecedented growth, thus giving rise to a series of changes in the world economic relations and international relationship, including ties between big powers.
Of course, the argument is framed in a weird mix of socialist rhetoric, dependent upon the logic of market economics
By relying on the enormous economic strength formed by scientific and technological progress, the big bourgeoisie in major capitalist countries reaped profits worldwide, they do not need to grab colonies or expand territory as colonialist and imperialist powers did in history, and so will not spark fierce conflicts or even leading to world war. China is a developing socialist country whose production aims to meet people's growing material and cultural needs, it does not seek hegemony or outward expansion, still less to engage in confrontation with the United States in this regard.
As Yihuang argues, the US doesn't need to engage in competition because it has adopted fiscal (it mentions tax cuts!) and social welfare measures to prevent economic crisis from triggering mass unrest.
The people in big capitalist countries universally oppose war and demand peace. China is a peace-loving country and the Chinese people long for a peaceful world environment for economic development. So there is no social basis for China-US confrontation.
The author also raises some important points about international politics:
compared with the United States, China lags far behind in strength whether in terms of science and technology, economy and military. China's present GDP is only one-ninth of the United States', and China's nuclear weaponry is only an odd of that of the United States.

He noted that at that time the United States and the Soviet Union were both superpowers, and both had military strength and overall national strength which were greater than other big countries' strengths added together. While China is still a developing country...
Watch this space for more stuff on realists and their foreign policy advice.

Probable coming attraction: Nuclear proliferation -- why more may be better? Specifically, realists have supported proliferation to Ukraine and Germany.

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