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China as the winner of US v. Iraq

Joi Ito just wrote from Japan, and I recall that at last summer’s Fortune Brainstorm conference Joi was emphasizing the hidden power of the Chinese–and that the Chinese really aspire to superpower status, and a major form of global leadership.

I think that the Chinese are the real winners in the war on Iraq.  While the United States blows resources on a destructive cause, the Chinese are staying focused on strengthening their core economy.  The United States ties itself up in years of economically and morally-draining occupation of Iraq–while the Chinese stay free and focused.

I figure that the war on Iraq probably will hasten Chinese leadership over the US by several years.

By the way, this is another reason why we need a second, non-governmental superpower.  Whoever is the dominant nation, the world needs a balancer.  For those who are approving of a single superpower model with the US in the lead role–consider how you may feel when China holds the position.  Do you now see the need for another model–or at least another player?

Enough–I’m ranting.  But all this because it was good to hear from Joi!

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19 Responses to “China as the winner of US v. Iraq”

  1. Yes, hopefully by the time China achieve equal status with the US, there will be a sufficient coherent global politic that will render such power irrelevant. Certainly many people in China already feel that the government is irrelevant compared to just 10 years ago.

  2. http://www.fareedzakaria.com/articles/newsweek/123002.html

  3. The second superpower will have to speak more languages than just English, or it will be functionally equivalent to the first superpower.

  4. I posted this comment as well at Joi Ito’s site:

    While it’s obvious that this war is undeclared and illegal, I agree that it is probably against American interests as well.

    What does America get? They bought most of the Iraqi oil anyway before the war. That war costs them much more money than low oil prices are worth. Democracy in Iraq? Not completely impossible, even if difficult. We’ll have to wait and see.

    And the price? At least $ 100 billion paid by America alone this time, American and UK casualties, many more Iraqi citizens killed, American good will around the world damaged much more than Chinese good will 1989. There are not many lining up to thank the Americans for their selfless efforts to spread democracy by bombing Iraqi kids. I for one think that Iraqi freedom starts with freedom from illegal occupation.

    So yes, “blowing ressources on a destructive cause” seems to be a good description of what is happening now.

  5. Could you please delete my e-mail address in the post above? I am surprised to find it posted on the web without spam protection and would like to avoid having it collected by spammer robots, if possible. Thanks.

  6. Around most college campuses I see bumper stickers demanding “Free Tibet Now!” I wonder how they would like to have it accomplished? No doubt the sheer force of their moral suasion will dislodge the Chinese.

  7. Nuts. Whatever may be happening to its economy, China remains a one-party dictatorship.

    The substitution of Internet-enabled mob rule — professionally organized street demos populated by non-locals, sampling polls vice real elections and legislative debate, silly notions about SMS messaging, etc. — for the spread of legitimate democratic governments is an absurd and elitist confabulation.

    The right of people to live in a democratic society is absolute. Totalitarian states — any totalitarian state — thwart the exercise of that right and threaten existing democracies everywhere. Functioning and effective totalitarian states are not subject to destruction by internal rebellion. Rather than dancing in a forest of silly ideas, time might better be spent in creating legitimate ways for the world’s democractic nations (and that eliminates the UN, where gangster regimes are treated as peers of democracies) to eliminate totalitarian states and the threat they pose.

  8. enloop, I agree, the UN has been reduced to a charade because its charter is so broad [prevent war (note that’s first), `reaffirm’ fundamental human rights, establish `international law, promote `social progress’] that it’s actually possible for Norway and North Korea to share the same table though they may agree on few common values.

    Thankfully, no one can quite agree on what values a self-respecting member of the comity of nations is supposed to have. Is it to be like (to mention some very different societies) Germany? the US? Saudi Arabia? Singapore? Until the world agrees on that, multilateral organizations (UN, EU) will have no real political power, and neither will the trans-nationalist brigade who would much rather paper over their differences than realize that for all their ranting, there are a lot of heterogenous societies in this world.

  9. Alas, China’s current regime so systematically lies to its own people about its own recent history of aggressive war (in, e.g., Tibet and eastern Turkestan from the 1940s to date), its own economy (e.g., the huge percentage of nonperforming loans in its state-controlled banking system), its corrupt political system, and now the SARS epidemic, that I hardly think it is realistic to expect that communist empire to hold together better than the former Soviet Union. The advantage in world power that the United States has enjoyed for a long time and continues to enjoy is internal truth-telling, legal protection of basic human rights, and a free press, which attracts the best minds from around the world (including China, as any immigration lawyer knows) to live here and work here and innovate here. I wish the people of China well in transitioning into a regime with freedom and democratic representative government, but until that happens the people of China face the specter of Romanian-style revolution unless they can aim for the path of Taiwan-style liberalization and democratization.

  10. There are also reasons why US will gain economically because of the war and why China (and India) will gain strategically. US is dropping bombs worth $100 billion on Iraq, so the reconstruction will also be much higher than that. Maybe Bush hoped that the sudden surge of work at Iraq would boost the economy and set the stocks at a higher level.
    Ok, now china (Also India) will gain strategically because of the war as they can now argue that they can be more proactive in their actions towards Taiwan (Pakistan). What US has been saying to India till now was to solve the matter by mutual dialogue. India is in a position to push up the tensions with Pakistan and bomb all the militant camps in Pakistan.
    We have to wait and see to find out who actually gains more from this war.

  11. the PRC of China as a “balancing superpower” to the US? What wacky weed have some of you been SMOKING? That is the worst idea since promulgating Stalin as a balancing power to the US. After all the Chinese government has done recently to block websites, lie and obfuscate about SARS is there really anybody who thinks the world would actually be safer with a greater Chinese influence? If so, maybe you need to spend some time in a Chinese prison camp doing forced labor and then maybe you’ll get a grip. Sheesh, what a blatantly stupid idea…

  12. Oil war: 23 years in the making – consider this link when pondering whether China really benefits from the Iraq war. China is reported to be low on strategic oil reserves. The folks at newamericancentury.org haven’t forgotten about China as strategic competitor. With things settling down in Europe, and the pacification of the Middle East, more U.S. forces will be relocated to the SouthEast-Asia theater. The first Gulf War was said to have put a big fear into the Chinese military leadership, dismayed at the total failure of Soviet style weaponry and tactics before the U.S. military onslaught. After that first adventure in Iraq, two Chinese colonels wrote a white paper called “Unrestricted Warfare”, in which they advocate that “there are no rules, nothing is forbidden” when fighting against an overwhelmingly technologically advanced opponent (i.e., the U.S.) If the U.S. pulls victory out of the weakening jaws of the a very well executed Stalinist style defense by the Iraqi leadership, then perhaps there will be a revision to that Chinese strategy. (Not to over bash on the Chinese – my wife is from Xi’an, actually, but widely under reported is the amount of assistance that China has given to Iraq in constructing fiber optic communication systems that were designed to survive U.S. bombing. And we also saw the one successful missile attack on Kuwait city, thanks to a Chinese anti-shipping missile. I’m sure there has been some military advice available to Iraq from China as well, though I don’t know if the Iraqi leadership would listen to it.)

    Anyway, I understand from reading the “Rebuilding Americas Defenses” report that one of the hoped for outcomes of this daring grab to secure a “Pax Americana” for the next 100 years is to exert pressure on countries like China to opt more for continued democratic and economic reform to increase their standing in the world, rather than militaristic adventures. Leave those to the U.S. 😉

    I can’t say I’m entirely opposed to this arrogant and daring strategy, though it is definitey “fraught with peril”

  13. “consider how you may feel when China holds the position”

    maybe you would feel like an Iraqi feels now.

  14. Today China pointing out US human rights abuses. It’d laughable if not for the serious subject matter, but they are trying to act as a counterweight.


  15. Scof, what the world needs is not a counterweight to the U.S. That’s a wrongheaded notion. You might as well argue that we need to introduce cancer cells into our bodies as counterweights to healthy living cells.

    What the world needs is a recognition that all totalitarian regimes are illegitimate, have no right to exist, and need to be assertively brought to an end and replaced with democracies. It’s time to stop allowing the sovereignty of the countries these thugs rule to stand in the way of the spread of democracy.

  16. It doesn’t matter what we think of China. They are emerging as an economic super power. There was already more capital flowing into China than US in 2002.

    Bush is pushing the US deficit up and at the same time shutting down innovation through the support of re-monopolization of most industries, instilling fear where courage is needed and all round being a retro kind of leader. So we are going to have this huge deficit, a sluggish economy and a world who generally dislikes our government.

    Who will loan us the money to pay for our deficit. In the past our deficits were carried by loans (treasury bills and such) bought by foriegn countires. Why will they do that again? Why won’t they put more of their capital into China which has much more growth than the US?

    This will make the cost of the Bush Deficit even higher and slow the growth of the US economy even further. This could set up a cycle where the US will fall further behind and China further ahead. And this doesn’t even take into account the Bush Adminstration’s faith based anti-scientific attitude that is driving biotech researchs from the US and into China and India. (Biotech will probably be the next big technology growth area).

  17. I think some of you China drum-thumpers ought to have a closer look at the Chinese economy. Frontline, the PBS series, recently aired an episode entitled “China in the Red”. You may be able to find it on their web site, or a re-run.

    From the description of China’s economy from that episode, I would neither invest money in China, nor worry about a so-called “competing superpower”. The Chinese economy seems to be in such dire straits, corruption, pollution and human rights abuses being the rule, not the exception. Most American industrial areas (think Long Beach, if you’ve ever seen it) seem like National Parks compared to the environmental damage caused by industry in China.

    China will be lucky if the country doesn’t boil down into revolution and chaos. They have no money, they have no infrastructure they have no credit.

  18. “China will be lucky if the country doesn’t boil down into revolution and chaos. They have no money, they have no infrastructure they have no credit.”

    1- China will be lucky if it DOES boil down into revolution and chaos!
    2- America is not in much better standing. It’s money is virtual and dwindling, it’s infrastrucutre is corrupt and it’s about to have it’s credit rating severly marred.


  19. On democracy.
    I’m dubious it exists anywhere. It’s greatest patron defender, the US is an outright plutocracy, or rule of the elite – with a song and dance pop music democracy –
    On China –
    Hardly the winners – the US is playing a game of global economic conquest, systematically securing the world’s oil, through which they may soon be able to math-manage economic development just about anywhere –
    The China isn’t the ‘outright winner’ – unless they develop alternative power sources.
    They’ve already got power shortages.

    Re: War – seems the triumphant defenders of Truth Justice and the American Way prevail – look forward to giant war marches, and soaring Republican ratings.

    Keep an eye on Venezuela and Indonesia…