Wednesday, November 10, 2004

How China Benefitted from the Iraq War

If there is any country that has benefited from America’s adventure in Iraq and the larger war on terrorism, it is China. Notwithstanding the brief detention of seven Chinese hostages, the War in Iraq was a Godsend for Beijing.Before the attack on America in September 11, 2001, China was moving into Washington’s gun sights. A head of steam was building behind the proposition that China was emerging as America’s new rival, the only country left in the world, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, that was big enough and potentially powerful enough to challenge the U.S. on near equal terms.

It is true that China was not viewed as an imminent threat in the same way as Iraq or other “rogue nations”. Rather it was seen as the new Germany, referring to the Germany of one hundred years ago, newly unified, newly prosperous, ready to take its place on the world stage, needing to be watched, tamed and contained. Much attention was devoted to China’s growing military budget and whether it signaled Beijing’s warlike intentions. Every purchase of modern weaponry, such as fighter-bombers or destroyers from Russia, was noted and commented on. Books with titles like The Coming Conflict with China rolled off the presses.

In many ways China does represent a theoretical threat in a way that Saddam Hussein never could. For one thing, China really does possess weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them against the US. Less than ten years ago a Chinese general actually threatened the U.S., during a time of tensions in the Taiwan Strait. He wondered out loud if Los Angeles was worth intervening in a dispute among Chinese. Yet, these days China has dropped almost totally off the radar screen. Very occasionally the editors at The Weekly Standard, a prominent opinion journal of the neo-conservatives movement in America, abandon their obsession with Iraq to complain about President George W. Bush’s policies toward Taiwan. But almost no other publication of any political persuasion pays China any attention at all.These days when China appears in the news at all it is on the business pages. China has in the past few years morphed into an economic story, not a strategic one. The points of conflict seem to revolve around such things as the strength of the renminbi against the U.S. dollar, the burgeoning trade deficit, and the awful question: what if the Chinese stopped underwriting the budget deficit by recycling its huge dollar reserves into U.S. Treasury bonds?

A big story today would be the U.S. filing its first case against China at the World Trade Organization, contending that Beijing imposes unfair taxes on imported semiconductors. Secretary of Commerce Donald L. Evans goes to Beijing to tell its leaders that America is “losing its patience” with its refusal to move more quickly on implementing WTO. For old Asia hands, it all sounds familiar. They could easily pull their old clippings of a decade or so ago and by simply substituting the word “China,” for “Japan,” republish them almost word for word. This development must be highly satisfying to China leaders. It means that China has moved from being perceived as the “new Germany” to being the “new Japan” -- the economic powerhouse of today, of course, not the expansive, militaristic Japan of the 1930s. That is a more comfortable place to be.

Of course, conflict is still conflict, and Beijing is right to worry about potential backlash and protectionism in its most important market. And Beijing’s leaders must be a little nervous about how the issue of “outsourcing,” shorthand for moving factories to China, could grow into a potent campaign issue in the presidential election this year. But this is all familiar ground, more easily manageable than if China were viewed as a strategic opponent. The longer America’s attention is riveted on the Middle East, the more the perception will take hold that China is an economic rival, not a strategic competitor. That is better for both countries.
This is not to argue that China should or would use this respite to build up its military beyond normal modernization or that it has been granted a freehand in Asia. It merely states that it is better not to conjure an unneeded confrontation. We’ve already learned from the Iraq adventure, the consequences of doing that.



Blogger Bill Adams said...

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I can even tell you where to get one for free! Visit right now and they'll send you a FREE American Flag. These flags were $19.99, but now they are FREE. You pay just for shipping/handling and they'll ship one to your door. (Actually - I've ordered more than 20 from them to give to my neighbors, as gifts, etc!)

Get your free flag now: **FREE AMERICAN FLAG**

Semper Fi!

Bill Adams

October 30, 2005 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger David Pakman said...

Hey, excellent website. A great Iraq resource is Deaths in Iraq. It breaks all of the casualties down by age, race, branch of the military, country, etc.

November 6, 2005 at 11:26 AM  
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