Monday, January 05, 2009

The opposite is equally likely.

When there are "strong" conclusion arcs presented by journalists, politicians and (most of all) academics, I always make time to question assumptions, introduce counter-factual scenarios, and attempt to determine if an opposite conclusion can rest on the same premises.

A good example of this is contained in the below article. The history of China has several examples of periods characterized by rapid international engagement, followed by economic success, followed by a disillusionment, followed by a "re-boot" (typically achieved through violence) to more traditional political and economic structures. There is a non-zero probability that China will simply replay the early 1900s (or the late 1800s, the early 1600s, the late 1500...etc.).

Again, I believe the compass of the United States influence will point towards the antipodes. China will certainly be a power, but not to the extent the current meme suggests.

China key to U.S. foreign policy success

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, asked about his foreign policy priorities when named Person of the Year by Time magazine, listed nuclear proliferation, climate change and global poverty as well as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, the trans-Atlantic alliance, Russia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and then, almost as an afterthought, "managing our relationship with China and the entire Pacific Rim."

In a way, this is good since it reflects the relatively calm state of that relationship, with no crisis that needs immediate presidential attention.

But the next president must recognize that China is not just a relationship to be managed. It is perhaps the key relationship that the United States must sustain if Obama is to achieve success in virtually all his other foreign policy priority areas.

In the 21st century, there is no relationship more important to the U.S. This does not mean that Washington can give up its network of alliances in Europe and in Asia. Those alliances are important. But Washington must give greater recognition of China's role in the coming decades.

It also does not mean that the U.S. should no longer stand up for democracy and human rights. In fact, the inauguration of Obama and the shutting down of the Guantanamo detention center should help restore Washington's moral stature and put it in a stronger position to support human rights around the world since it should no longer be accused of hypocrisy.

No comments: