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ICG Risk Blog - [ Hegemons come and go: a renewing Chinese hegemon eyes a mature US hegemon ]

Hegemons come and go: a renewing Chinese hegemon eyes a mature US hegemon

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In discussion of the trio of notes regarding the Chinese diplomatic initiative described first as "Peaceful Rise" and now as "Peaceful Development," colleagues questioned its implied relationship between economic and military action.

Returning to "The fall of Peaceful Rise" I noted that the Chinese perceive the moderate Peaceful Rise -- Peaceful Development as a ‘permanent’ approach so long as Washington demonstrates a "constructive U.S. response to the moderate Chinese approach." One must presume that a different US policy would occasion a different Chinese policy.

Translations of Chinese open source literature paint an intriguing view of the Sino American relationship:

  • The US is a hegemonic power that is "a major obstacle and competitor for influence in Asia"
  • The US is a superpower in decline, losing global economic, political, and military influence
  • China aspires to be a "major international power and the dominant power in Asia. To that end, China is actively pursuing a multipolar world where it could align with other rising powers such as Russia, Japan, and Europe in order to check or challenge U.S. power"
  • China can counter US power by its pursuit of a multipolar world "where it could align with other rising powers such as Russia, Japan, and Europe"
  • Maintain stable and good relations with the US as it is "an important market for Chinese goods and an important source of science and technology, financial capital, and foreign direct investment--all central components of China’s rising status and strength"
  • "Although technologically superior in almost every area of military power, [the US] can be defeated, most particularly, in a fight over Taiwan in which China controls the timing"
  • Al Qaeda's 11 September attack changed only China’s approach to the US but not the fundamentals of its vision

Other key findings, many driven by the US end of the relationship, are:

  • The US has "dedicated insufficient resources to collect, translate, and analyze Chinese writings and statements [and so] has a limited understanding of the perceptions of the United States held by Chinese leaders and the Chinese people"
  • China sought WTO membership as a means "to continue China’s rapid economic growth, which they consider essential to become a major power"
  • China aims to "deter the United States from effectively intervening in any Chinese use of force against Taiwan"
  • The Sino American bilateral relationship is uncoordinated on the US end and lacks the "necessary permanent institutions for managing and resolving conflicts. At worst, current U.S. practices have the effect of supporting Chinese efforts to enhance science, economic, financial and technology bases without adequate oversight within our government."
  • China consistently characterizes the US as a "hegemon" "connoting a powerful protagonist and overbearing bully that is China’s major competitor"
  • China employs a strategic view and military planning very different from our own, emphasizing "nontraditional and asymmetrical techniques designed to enable an inferior power to defeat a superior one."
  • The Sino American relationship lacks the confidence-building measures (CBMs) that China has put in place with "India, Russia and the ASEAN and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization"

Through all this, commercial firms on both sides of the Pacific must continue to do business from the present through the long term. For US firms, I submit that the key is doing that profitably, in spite the contested political atmosphere, while protecting their strategic position and the intellectual property assets that are the foundation of future profits.

CHINA’S PERCEPTIONS OF THE USA: The View from Open Sources
U.S.-China Commission
Dr. Michael Pillsbury
October 19, 2001

CHINA’S MILITARY STRATEGY TOWARD THE U.S. A View from Open Sources
U.S.-China Commission
Michael Pillsbury
November 2, 2001

The National Security Implications Of The Economic Relationship Between The United States And China
Report To Congress Of The U.S. - China Security Review Commission
July 2002

China’s Closing Window Of Opportunity
Justin Bernier and Stuart Gold
Naval War College Review, Summer, Vol. LVI, No. 3
Naval War College 2003

Gordon Housworth


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