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A new Cold War with China?

WASHINGTON, DC   Autumn 1998  —There was a time, before the dawn of the 20th Century, when Europeans and Americans (in particular) admired and respected China. 

     For over a thousand years the Chinese diffused their remarkable technological innovations in agriculture (the plow), information (printing), finance (paper money), warfare (gunpowder) –without restrictions– throughout the world.

     Chinese philosophy, art, and culture were revered and widely imitated.

     The economy of China was huge and its exports were the most sought after products on the planet. Columbus and Magellan made their famous "discoveries" in order to capture this great trade.




It is an ideological assumption that the wholesale adoption of "democracy" will result in an efficient economy, "freedom," and the other "advancements" from which the citizens of such systems supposedly benefit.

       Between circa 1500 and 1800 A.D. the "West" (European countries and later the United States) grew rich on China trade and expanded the Chinese technological legacy in armaments until it secured independent sea routes to Chinese ports and protected markets in China.

      By mid 19th Century, Europe and the USA (to a lessor extent) dominated the world almost entirely through military force. Soon European ideologies arose that effectively rewrote history despite the reality of the recent past.

       In a line of progression from Adam Smith and Georg W. F. Hegel to Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx to Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and countless other philosophers, historians, and economists, the world was divided into arbitrary zones such as "capitalist" and "non-capitalist."

      The concepts of "Protestant ethic" and "industrial revolution" were invented and China, along with other ancient civilizations, was belittled and dismissed as anachronistic, backward, and still "feudal." 

      This complex ideology is continually enhanced and supported by new rounds of academics, journalists, and politicians for each successive generation. 

     After the Second World War, the French added the popular characterization of the "Third World" to the lexicon. In the Thirld World scenario the most technologically disadvantaged (poorest) countries on Earth lie outside the first (capitalist) and second (communist) worlds.

     At that time, the baton of world economic and political "leadership" was passed from an exhausted Europe (Britain mostly) to the United States, the only surviving superpower. The inherited ideology was redefined by Americans and justified what became known as the Cold War.

      The Euro/USA interpretation of economic and political development is, in fact, accepted without reservation by every country on the planet.  China itself is governed by a constitution that does not question the reality of such concepts as "capitalism," "class struggle," or "communism." 

      The irony is that China embraced one of the chief components of Euro/USA.-centered ideology when it accepted the notion of communism.  Of course, as we are witnessing today communism in China is an ideology that, like Confucianism before it, is forever  reinterpreted and redefined to changing needs.

     Communism as practiced by the Chinese is first and foremost an organizing principle for the administration of China and the starting point in the creation of a new as yet undetermined ideology.

      Viewed in this light, we see then that the world is still being divided arbitrarily based on belief systems that arose in Europe and the United States in the 19th Century.

     As the Cold War fades, we see how damaging its impact was on international relations and how it retarded the natural growth of economic and political systems outside Euro/USA definitions. 

      Yet the lessons of the Cold War are not learned.  Already there are attempts to create a new cold war with China based on the old 19th Century concept that it is the West's duty to "better" China by insisting that China become US. 

     As part of this ideology, age-old anti-China sentiments are rising in the United States.  The architects of anti-China policies continue to press China on "human rights" as part of a desire to see Western ideas and institutions adopted outright.  This is the same tactic used on Russia (and the USSR before it) to negative effect.

      It is an ideological assumption that the wholesale adoption of Euro/USA "democracy" will result in an efficient economy, "freedom," and the other "advancements" from which all the citizens of such systems supposedly benefit.

       Look at the example of Russia today. The end result of American insistence on complete economic and political revolution is a destroyed economy and a return to political repression. And the collapse of Russia's Asian borders has created the world's worst crises (Iran, Iraq, Osettia, Chechnya, North Korea, etc.).

     The Bush and Clinton administrations have not helped matters.  Nor has a Congress enticed by Taiwan money. United States policies on China are uninformed and cause unnecessary rifts between the two countries.

      Sinophobic politicians, journalists, academics, and right-wing ideologues in the USA dismiss those with alternate viewpoints on China as China "apologists" but this is not the case. There is no need to apologize for accepting China on equal terms.

     And accept China as it is we must. For China is the ascendant power in Asia. And by virtue of demographics alone the focus of world economic and therefore political power is shifting to Asia in the 21st Century.

     As a new world order unfolds in the decades after the approaching millenium it will become increasingly evident that not only is a new cold war with China unrealistic, it is counter-productive.

©Ben Calmes for Sinomania!, 1998. All rights reserved.