They dominate it, more or less, not through arms, but because of economic ties and just sheer gravitational pull. So they have that in East Asia. Do we really think that China has the ambitions of then going and contesting U. Do you see that as something that they might do? Minxin : First, I think that American fear of China dominating Asia is severely overblown, because China has very powerful neighbors. Most of them have nuclear weapons, and Japan can develop nuclear weapons within 48 hours if it wants to because it has all the technology and the materials.
Even if the U. But I will say that, because the very presence of U. They want to be on economically friendly terms with China, but they also want to the U. So this, at the moment the U.
China as a Rising Power versus the US-led World Order - Rising Powers in Global Governance
Brad : So, let me give you again the hypothetical. Say the U. They like the U. At the same time, one of the historic reasons for us to be in both Europe and Asia has been to dampen the security competition there, which we found as dangerous. So, I guess the question being, if the U. Minxin : They would not be bandwagoning. If you ask the Vietnamese, who know very well their history, their very unpleasant history with the Chinese, bandwagoning with China is the last thing they want to do, and Japan is not going to bandwagon against China because China has shown in the last decade, when its power became much bigger than before, that it could be a very bad bully in the region.
Minxin : Oh, yes. So I think what we need to figure out is will that world is much more dangerous than the world in which the U. Brad : The other reason you gave earlier was the idea that the U. So it goes to the question, what does China want? They benefit from it immensely. And so to the idea that the U. Well, first let me say that the U. China is a threat to the liberal international order in several ways.
Right now, it cannot achieve that status because it sees the U. Second, whether China has other grand ambitions on the global stage really depends on the amount of power China has. Recent events show that China will use its power to pursue objectives when it has the power.
Today, it is official policy. You yourself have already mentioned today that you are too. So if we look 20 or 30 years into the future, where so many of us are frightened perhaps by what China could be, is it in some way an illusion? Minxin : Well, nobody knows how China will end up.
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There are really three scenarios. One scenario is that China somehow gets its act together, can move from middle income to high income. China today is about a quarter of U. If China reaches that point, then China will be truly a formidable adversary, strategic adversary, to the U. So this is a one. Because of the inherent inefficiencies of state capitalism, because of the corruption, the predatory instincts of authoritarian rulers, sustaining economic development from middle level to high income actually is much more difficult, than moving a country from low level to middle income.
Then it could go either way. It could implode, or it could just stay there, because there are many instances in which a dictatorship, stagnant dictatorship, lasts for a long, long time.
Just ask Mubarak, right? Ask Mugabe. Eventually, of course, they all had to go. There certainly is implosion. This is really a Soviet scenario. This takes both external pressure such as a U. S, and then bankrolling corrupt regimes, bankrupt regimes, all over the world. I would put my bet on the middle one, the stagnation scenario. Brad : Let me ask the question about what U. Maybe they have a fractious democracy like India, or a Singapore-style authoritarian democracy.
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Would the U. In other words, is this a matter where the Chinese Communist Party is the real problem, and a different government, you could see China becoming Japan to us? Minxin : Well, I would say that for China to get to that point, there had to be a crisis, the outcome of which is a downfall of the Communist Party. Eventually, you will have a different reconstituted country, but it will be much weaker. Now, I would still believe that a wealthy China not governed by the Chinese Communist Party will be viewed as much less of a threat to the U.
But the likelihood of that happening is fairly small. Brad : So what should the U. Is it like it could be in two different ways, and they are overlapping. One is to try to keep China from becoming as powerful as the arc it seems to be on will lead it to. The second is to try to undermine the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party in some way.
And if so, how do we go about that? Minxin : Yeah, regime change is really difficult. I think the U. So I think we have to modify our behavior and our objectives. That is, in dealing with a continental-sized power such as China, you have to be clear about what you want to achieve, and you can of course say a hierarchy of objectives.
That should be our objective. Even though the U. That is, as long as we reach some kind of modus vivendi with China.
The current administration does not have intellectual capacity to conduct this very serious intellectual debate, so we see a lot of ad-hocery. We see actually, at the moment, a degree swing. That is, you go from engagement to butting head, to confrontation, with no thought given to some kind of a middle ground.
Questioning the Presumption of a U.S.-China Power Transition
Brad : So, can you imagine a modus vivendi between the U. I mean, the South China Sea is a contested area now. Trying to seemingly seize that is in their vital national interest. Brad : People like David Kang say everyone does that. When a country like China does it, unless the U.
I think this is where I think America should make it clear that … moving back is behavioral modification, moving back from the South China Sea. So these two are very different things. What would you do? Minxin : I think there are plans in the works for the U. Brad : But Duterte seems to be fairly sanguine about it. I mean, I guess we seem to be more spun up about the problem than the Philippines are or that the Vietnamese are, and so I think that goes to the critics of U.
Minxin : Well, I think about the Philippines is the Philippines today, you have to look at countries and their leaders. When President Aquino was the president of the Philippines, the Philippines did care a lot. The Vietnamese care about this a great deal. They cannot wait for the U. Because right now, the U. All the ships it sends to the South China Sea for those freedom of navigation operations had to be dispatched from Japan or Guam. Too long. So if they can use Cam Ranh Bay as a base, then it will be a lot less costly for the U.
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Brad : I mean, can you imagine it happening? People like David Kang say the U. The Vietnamese are not interested in the U. They had lots of ships harbor at Cam Ranh Bay, the U. Brad : Let me ask you about corruption in China. And you, in that book, document how pervasive the corruption is, and you have public records that name various people who have taken bribes and things like that. This cycle, not eternal hegemony, is the reliable pattern of history. China is therefore not the only option—especially after the first phase of Belt and Road investments.
Some credit is due to China for catalyzing a worldwide recognition of the importance of infrastructure finance, particularly in a post-financial crisis world in which some Western leaders wrongly preached austerity rather than stimulus.