James Moore
China as the winner of US v. Iraq

Joi Ito just wrote from Japan, and I recall that at last summer's Fortune Brainstorm conference Joi was emphasizing the hidden power of the Chinese--and that the Chinese really aspire to superpower status, and a major form of global leadership.

I think that the Chinese are the real winners in the war on Iraq. While the United States blows resources on a destructive cause, the Chinese are staying focused on strengthening their core economy. The United States ties itself up in years of economically and morally-draining occupation of Iraq--while the Chinese stay free and focused.

I figure that the war on Iraq probably will hasten Chinese leadership over the US

I was invited to the Forture conference last year and Japan had become so insignificant that as probably the only participant from Japan, I was stuck on the China Panel. (There was no panel or session on Japan.) ;-) Pretty good indication of what people are interested in these days. I didn't remember this conversation with Jim until he blogged it, but, yes. I think China is obviously shooting to be super-power and in my recent visits to China at least some of the people presented the situation to me as "so you should choose China instead of the US as your primary partner since we're (China) going to beat the US soon."

I think that if the US totally botches the Iraq thing and China ends up being the force that neutralizes the North Korea situation, China could potentially be catapulted into quite a strong geopolitical position. It's interesting to watch China's foreign policy right now.

13 Comments

While it's obvious that this war is undeclared and illegal, I agree that it is probably against American interests as well.

What does America get? They bought most of the Iraqi oil anyway before the war. That war costs them much more money than low oil prices are worth. Democracy in Iraq? Not completely impossible, even if difficult. We'll have to wait and see.

And the price? At least $ 100 billion paid by America alone this time, American and UK casualties, many more Iraqi citizens killed, American good will around the world damaged much more than Chinese good will 1989. There are not many lining up to thank the Americans for their selfless efforts to spread democracy by bombing Iraqi kids. I for one think that Iraqi freedom starts with freedom from illegal occupation.

So yes, "blowing ressources on a destructive cause" seems to be a good description of what is happening now.

It's hard to say, but I think the answer will depend on the worlds impression of Saddam Hussein after he is gone, and especially, how the US handles the need for a democratic, independent government in Iraq.

I for one, also think that China will have to show moral leadership as well as continued economic growth to be seen as more than a (large) regional player.

With the lack of due process, corruption, organ trade, laogai system and the repression in the west and northeast, of trade unions and in Tibet, China clearly still has a *long* way to go.

They are improving, but the human rights situation there, while not as bad as North Korea's, is still one of the worst in the world.

The people, though, wont tolerate this for long after China gets a free press. This is probably why China closes any media outlets that deviate even slightly from the official line.

And discussion of the 50-80 million people killed in Maos various experiments is still a taboo subject.


This is a yearly report the State Department produces on most countries in the world..

Press Release/Summary:

http://usinfo.state.gov/cgi-bin/washfile/display.pl?p=/products/washfile/latest&f=03040102.elt&t=/products/washfile/newsitem.shtml

"The complete report on China, which includes Hong Kong and Macau as
well as an extensive addendum on Tibet, can be found online at:"

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18239pf.htm

Also see this file for a discussion on the Mao years:

http://www.ncafe.com/northkorea/uncountedmillions.html


I am looking forward to China assuming her rightful place in the world. But to be considered an equal, she will have to start behaving like one. It will (someday) happen. But we have to keep the pressure up because she wont do it (improve her human rights situation) without it.

-Chris

SARS could counteract this 'opportunity'.

I wouldn't mind a free China as a check on American power and I do hope they begin to act to prevent N. Korea from developing nukes, even if it makes the US look bad.

Orson Scott card makes a persuasive case for the US letting China sort out North Korea.

>I think China is obviously shooting to be super-power…

Hardly a revelation given their population, political structure, history, and location. I’d be surprised if they were seeking to emulate Switzerland.

> in my recent visits to China at least some of the people
>presented the situation to me as "so you should choose
>China instead of the US as your primary partner since
>we're (China) going to beat the US soon."

If by "soon" they mean towards the end of the 21st century, they may have a point if, and only if, they have not been culturally assimilated or politically Balkanized by that point. If by ‘soon’ they mean within the next 20-30 years, I don’t think that would be a wise investment.

>I think that if the US totally botches the Iraq thing and
>China ends up being the force that neutralizes the North
>Korea situation, China could potentially be catapulted into
>quite a strong geopolitical position. It's interesting to
>watch China's foreign policy right now.

That last graph reads like it was taken right out of the I-Ching. "If"… "totally"… "neutralizes" … "could potentially"… "interesting" …

In general, it’s the kind of statement that only looks to be prognosticative in retrospect. A bit more on-the-line specificity please.

Light in the foreground furthers.
Shadow in the foreground obscures.

The United States "blowing resources" on a destructive cause?
Well, at least for the US, the resources invested in the war ($100B+ ?) might make
sound economic sense.
Some econometric estimates indicate that oil cheaper by $10 per barrel would add
about $80B per year to US GDP growth. The war's investment could thus be easily
recouped in a few years, if a pro-western regime in Iraq starts pumping large
volumes of oil and helps keep oil prices down/depressed and OPEC's influence
in check.

For production volume stability's sake, t would be preferable for the US to have at
least two large oil-producing US-friendly countries in the Middle East. That role had
been fulfilled by Iran (prior to the Islamic revolution) and Saudi Arabia up to now.
As Saudi Arabia's pro-US national sentiment is starting to look a bit iffy (lots of
Saudis in bin Laden's clique, by the way), hedging their bets by setting up a pro-
western regime in Iraq would be a shrewd move for the US.

The fact that low oil prices would have a very negative impact on Russia's
much-needed foreign currency oil export revenues might also be welcome
for some :-P
Anyway, if all this mess lowers the price I have to pay to fill up my car...

I think my point was that many Chinese that I met felt that they were competing fairly directly with the US which was sort of new to me. I thought that they were focused on "joining" not "beating" although in retrospect, I guess that makes sense.

Japan, being quite close to China should think about it's influence over Japan, especially militarily. China is in a great position to deal with the North Korea situation and this could put Japan more in alignment with China. A friend of mine noted the other day that Tokyo is about the same distance from Pyongyang as Shanghai is... hmm...

I personally think that it's quite possible that the US will lose a great deal of International clout over the Iraq thing.

So, as a Japanese, I'm not talking about divination. I'm talking about running through scenarios and thinking about my relationship to China seriously. I'm planning to travel to the US every other month. Should I make several more trips to China this year to make sure I begin to develop my network there? Should we be investing in China? Should I be learning Chinese?

As for our government... Is China friend or foe? Should we be working with India (a nuclear power) to "deal with China" together? Was it smart for Koizumi to "chime in" for the war on Iraq, or would it have been better to snuggle up to China, stay quiet, and focus on the North Korea issue instead?

One of my former employees is considering moving to Shanghai even though he doesn't have friends or family or even a job there... Having just announced to my board that we're focusing on Silicon Valley for now, the geopolitics of China vs. the US just makes me think a bit.

Having said that, I am still placing my bet on the US.

>I personally think that it's quite possible that the US will lose a great deal of International clout over the Iraq thing.

Bottom line: Lots of America's enemies within and without wish it ill and wish an ill outcome from this venture. But since nothing succeeds like success they are likely to be disappointed.

Humm.. that comment was mysteriously truncated...

What it actually said was:
==


>I personally think that it's quite possible that the US will lose a
great deal of International clout over the Iraq thing.

"I think that if the US totally botches the Iraq thing and China ends up being the force that neutralizes the North Korea situation, China could potentially be catapulted into quite a strong geopolitical position. It's interesting to watch China's foreign policy right now."

I disagree. China has promise. And Japan would do well to take note of the economic competition they pose. While it's logical to assume that China will be the next world power, my opinion is that she still has decades to go. This is oversimplification, but the country is too large and economically diverse to get ahead. At it's current rate, my guess is that China won't match the definition of a world power until 2050 or so. If the country does itself a favor by breaking up into smaller, separate states, then it can hasten that process. My 2 yuan.

The US was so desparate to show the nations who were coming out on their side that they were forced to hold up China as an example support. China will use this to great advantage no doubt.

Even Bush would have a hard time explaining why they are friends one minute and human-rights infringers the next.

Today China pointing out US human rights abuses. It'd laughable if not for the serious subject matter, but they are trying to act as a counterweight.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/east/04/03/china.rights.reut/index.html

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