26 January 2008

An Expansive China: Good Witch or Bad Witch?

Image Credit: Bruce Hall
Blogger Bruce Hall has looked at the China phenomenon for some time, and has arrived at some parallel conclusions to my own. China clearly aims to become the single dominant political power on Earth by the end of the 21st century, if not before.

Which raises an interesting question: Is China a "good witch" or is she a "bad witch?"--to borrow a line from The Wizard of Oz. Is China a good hegemon, or a bad hegemon? It should be easy to tell the difference.

Consider a bipolar world, as it existed under the US and the USSR. Two hegemons, two hegemonies. Communist China formerly lay under the protection of the USSR hegemony, as did North Korea and East Germany. But Taiwan, West Germany, and South Korea lay under the US hegemony. Which nations prospered, and which nations languished?

One could easily conclude that the US was a good witch, and the USSR was a bad witch.

So, what kind of witch is China, under the CCP? Economic output is high among nations, and growing. Scientific and technological discovery and output are growing, with strong cooperation between western companies and nations and China. Military strength is growing extremely rapidly, with strong help from Russia, the EU, and Israel--even the US, at least through the 1990s.

China is growing in strength, economic power, and global reach.

What is China doing with this growing power and reach, to help us determine if she is a good witch or a bad witch? When Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc. suffered a catastrophic tsunami, was China's military the first to arrive and the last to leave, providing life-saving and normalizing help? In Sudan, where China operates large oil concessions, is China helping to resolve the massive human rights disaster in Darfur, and the equally massive crisis between north and south Sudan? When working with its partner Iran, does China attempt to influence its partner to reduce the dangers of nuclear proliferation or to influence Iran's state sponsored terror outreaches inside Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq?

Imagine an internet, where China controls the routers. How would it differ from the internet you know now? No need to imagine, simply look at the internet inside China. Is this the internet of the future that you desire? Where bloggers who attempt to cover protests are beaten to death by government enforcers?

Imagine a world system of justice, where China controls law enforcement, and the courts and the prisons. No need to imagine, just look at Chinese justice, and prisons--particularly the political prisons, suppliers of much needed human organs for high CCP officials.

Imagine a political system controlled by China. No need to imagine. Just look at the CCP, with power over the entire world. No messy and expensive campaigns or elections. Everything is stable, reliable. The proper connections will get you anywhere you need to go, accompanied by the proper bribe. What? You have no connections, no bribes? No worries. Go get a job--get out.

Imagine a world ecosystem under the command of China. No need to imagine. Just look at the rivers of China, at the air of China. Watch China's soil blow away for lack of proper care, watch unchecked development cover the land and pollute the water and air. Watch the soot and dust of China cover the ice and snow of the world, melting, melting, melting....

Imagine a world economic system under China. No need to imagine. No patents, no copyrights, no music or literature royalties. Everything is cheap--and counterfeit! Want to start a company? Bribe the right official--and don't worry about product or process licenses. Just make what you want how you want it, as long as you grease the official's palm. What's that? You are concerned that innovation and invention would drop? No problem. The party will take care of any intransigence on the part of scientists, engineers, inventors, etc. They will know their duty.

Imagine literature, the arts, music under China. No need to imagine. Only the best for party officials and those on good terms with the party. But original composition, art, literature--particularly that which pushes the limits of what is politically correct--sorry, no. Do you like your human organs? Well, then.

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Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

While China will have a growing influence on the world in many ways, good and bad, its role as even a major superpower (as opposed to a lesser superpower which it is and will remain for some time) is not likely anytime in the next three decades. Their impressive growth is due to the effect of making minor reforms to a massive system. When they run out of low-hanging fruit, they will need to actually do some major restructuring. Western nations and consumers are already asking questions about what they should put up with when dealing with China and making nice with dictators in one country can tarnish your image with their neighbors.

The US and the rest of the industrialized world is innovative and creative. China has cheap labour and a growing middle class domestic market, neither of which are inexhaustible.

The reasons you give for why a Chinese dominated world would not be desirable can also be looked at as reasons why it won't happen.

Great post.

Saturday, 26 January, 2008  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

I did not intend for that last line to look sarcastic, it was a thought provoking piece. :-)

Saturday, 26 January, 2008  
Blogger Audacious Epigone said...

Great post.


Re: aid efforts and the upholding of ecumenical rights, the question really isn't even suitable--China is decidedly self-interested. It has no underlying universal ethos that created Western ideas of the WM's Burden, Manifest Destiny, the spreading of messianic democracy, etc. The decision is the US' to make--China will be an uninterested witch. If the US is good on net, it wins. If it has a debit in that respect, it loses.

Saturday, 26 January, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks for your comments, Baron.

In my view, China's leaders are desperate for supremacy. Desperate men take desperate measures.

Still, the CCP is rusty and slow, with constant internal power struggles and intrigues. That could be both good and bad, since power struggles within an autocracy can take unexpected, and sometimes unfortunate turns.

Saturday, 26 January, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

A.E.: Agreed that it is difficult to compare a US hegemony with a Chinese hegemony. I merely wish for readers to create an image in their minds of what a Chinese world hegemony might be like.

I am watching Chinese forays into Africa and other parts of the third world with great interest.

Saturday, 26 January, 2008  
Blogger brian wang said...

I agree with Audacious Epigone, China is only trying to gain influence for self-interest (access to oil etc...) They are not actively trying to change local politics or human rights or democracy (like the US sometimes does). It is "you make your choices on human rights etc... I just want to buy oil or get something else" "not only do I not want to take you over, I don't care what you do"

Tsunami aid:
Australia became the single largest aid giver with about US $ 810 million in grants and loans to the Tsunami affected countries, followed by Germany at about US $ 700 million, Japan pledging grants of US $ 500 million, and the United States US $350 million.

China’s emergency aid a day after Tsunami struck was less than US $3 million but raised this to about US $60 million next week after an emergency meeting called and attended by the foreign, commerce and defence ministries. Taiwan, which is left out of the ASEAN special meeting on Tsunami, as with the World Health Organisation when it was affected by the SARS, contributed US $ 50 million and more than that amount from the private donors is expected

US aid pledge was initially $35 million and was up to $350 million. china started at $3 m and went up to $63 million.

the chinese economy on an exchange rated basis in 2004 was still only 20% of the USA. So the $63 million was proportional. By the aid test I guess we should want an Australian hegemony.

chinese gov't tax revenue in 2004

In 2003: The State Administration of Taxation (SAT) announced on Oct.20 that the tax revenue of China reached 1,524.3 billion yuan (184.3 billion US dollars) from January to September, 271.6 billion yuan more than in the same period of last year. (about $250 billion for the year)

In 2007China's tax revenue went up 30.8 percent to 3.72 trillion yuan (495.5 billion U.S. dollars) in the first three quarters. About $660-700 billion for the year.

the US federal budget
Was $2.2-2.3 trillion in 2003-2004 and is now $2.77-2.9 trillion.
So it was 9 times bigger than China's central gov't money in 2003 and 2004 and is still 4 times bigger.

I think China's level of aid will grow over this coming decade and beyond as its economy and tax revenues increase.

Saturday, 26 January, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks for the comment, Brian.

Such comparisons should take into account the cost of the military contribution to the aid effort.

Without that calculation, conclusions will be skewed.

I agree that China is largely indifferent to human rights and human suffering.

Saturday, 26 January, 2008  
Blogger Ugh said...

Al, this is one of your finest posts. It is obvious this is a subject you understand. China is as intriguing as it is frightening. Part of me is hoping for a major political upheaval that transforms China into a multi-party functional democracy and the other part of me says be careful what you wish for. As you have eluded to in previous posts the inevitable economic, social and environmental crash may actually force the upheaval anyway. It's going to be a wild ride...

Tuesday, 29 January, 2008  

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