Obama in China: The Dragon Rules

Posted on November 16, 2009

chinese-dragon-redPresident Obama continued his Asian tour arriving in China 15 November – dwarfed by Air force One as he deplaned; dwarfed by the power of the Chinese dragon he will confront.

China is now a global power that outstrips the US daily. The Chinese have learned from US mistakes in foreign policy. They go into African and South American nations in search, primarily, of resources and do not get involved in local politics on any level.  They do not proceed with a policy that includes demanding change in local politics as does the US (e.g.with human rights).

China in turn styles itself as leader of the global South and champion of a progressive ‘new international political and economic order featuring justice, rationality, equality and mutual benefit’ and ‘safeguarding legitimate rights and interests of developing countries.

The Chinese are clever enough to gather the raw materials they need and to either use them for energy or for manufacture. They rarely let manufacture go to other countries.  So much of our own manufacturing – key manufacturing – is now done in China that, were we to go to war with the dragon, we would have to put in our order for supplies in advance – including for our military uniforms!

They also identify with former colonies under the British and American Empires. They have utilized their own colonial experience to convince African nations that they have commonality in this area. China’s role as a major player in African nations has grown since  the 1980s and the African countries votes at the UN have made it possible for China to effectively keep Taiwan out of that body.

Unhampered by the voices of the people at home or non-native populations within their borders that would object, their foreign policy has been an aggressive one.  They can take on just about any nation in the world without fear of riots in the streets since in the current global crisis, democracy is seen as having failed. And because of homegrown animosities over decades, China can block expansion of Japan and Taiwan in their African expansion.

So this is but part of the picture of a “southern” global strategy that has garnered China friends from South America to Iran – friends that can effectively block US interests.  What can the United States offer the dragon?  China is energy-starved and has made numerous deals in South America for oil.

The US has loaned Brazil billions to help develop off-shore oil fields. Brazil is a country eager to provide the dragon with its needed energy, but US expenditures to help promote this outcome comes at a time when this effort is needed at home to move toward energy independence. This was one of a number of really either bad or blatantly stupid moves Obama has made since coming to office.

There is one option we might push: When the trade imbalance with Japan was definitely in our favor, we were able to convince them that, ultimately, it could be beneficial to both countries if they brought some of their manufacture here – and they did.  Many major Japanese auto plants are now located here.

Benefits include reduced transportation and labor costs as both are rising for the Chinese at home.

For the immediate future, the US now has to overcome a rich, powerful nation whose people see the United States as an empire in decline much like their predecessor in this category, Britain.  Young people in China are not as taken with Obama as one would think.  With all the aforementioned plus now being a debtor nation to China, the US seemingly has few cards to play.

But on Fareed Zakaria’s Sunday afternoon program, GPS,  (November 15, 2009, http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/podcasts/fareedzakaria/site/2009/11/15/gps.podcast.11.15.cnn), Harvard professor, Roderick MacFarquhar,  pointed out that this situation can be improved if Obama makes his own demands. He must demonstrate that he is a forceful and strong leader.

To be successful has another component: Obama must demonstrate his respect for Chinese culture (no bows, please) and his willingness to work cooperatively with the great dragon. He should be cheered by the fact that after Hispanics, Chinese Americans are the fastest growing minority in the US.


Other references:


The New York Times

China Daily



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