Essays

In the US, it is the latest thing to say China will be the country’s undoing. But the countries’ fates are too intertwined

Like his predecessors over the last two decades, US president Barack Obama will meet with the dalai lama on Thursday. As usual, China expressed its “resolute” objections to the meeting. What seems like the routine reaction to a visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader to a head of state has become a symbol of the increasingly strained relations between the US and China.

What is going on?

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The West was fooling itself if it expected Beijing to do its bidding, analysts say

Reporting from Beijing — China and the United States have been referred to as global partners, strategic competitors, outright rivals and “frenemies” — friends who secretly hate each other’s guts.

In recent months, a pretense of cordiality has given way to unusually public squabbling. China is threatening to boycott U.S. defense contractors over arms sales to Taiwan and is loudly protesting President Obama’s meeting this week with the Dalai Lama. The United States and its European allies are angry about what they regard as China’s obstructionist behavior on issues such as global warming and Iran’s nuclear program.

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LONDON — The spats between the United States and China appear to be getting more numerous and more serious. The Chinese objected in strong terms to the U.S.’s latest arms deal with Taiwan and threatened to take sanctions against those firms involved. President Obama recently accused the Chinese of currency manipulation. At Davos, Larry Summers, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, made an oblique attack on China by referring to mercantilist policies.

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It’s become apparent from recent events that America’s political, business and scholarly elites have fundamentally misjudged China. Conflicts with China have multiplied. Consider: the undervalued renminbi and its effect on trade; the breakdown of global warming negotiations in Copenhagen; China’s weak support of efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; its similarly poor record in pushing North Korea to relinquish its tiny atomic arsenal; the sale of U.S. weapons to Taiwan; and Google’s threat to leave China rather than condone continued censorship.

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The middle kingdom is rewriting the rules on trade, technology, currency, climate — you name it

Back when President Obama lived in Indonesia, in the late 1960s, China loomed as a malign force to the north, where communist cadres plotted to export their revolution to the rest of Asia. The Jakarta he’ll visit later this month has an entirely different attitude toward the People’s Republic. Local companies are doing deals in yuan, the Chinese currency, rather than dollars. If Jakarta gets in financial trouble, as it did back in 1997, it will be able to call on a $120 billion regional reserve fund, an Asia-only version of the International Monetary Fund due to be launched this month, bankrolled in part by China’s massive foreign-exchange reserves. Asia’s key economic political issues are no longer being hashed out on trips like Obama’s — between individual nations and the United States — but at summits that include only China, Japan, South Korea, and the Southeast Asian countries. “China has been instrumental in this shift in focus from ‘Asia-Pacific,’ which was largely about the U.S. and Japan, to ‘East Asia,’ which has China at the center,” says Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World.

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The economic bogeyman in America’s competitive future is China, and for those old enough to remember, the fear of China eating America’s lunch as the No. 1 economic power in the world is reminiscent of the day we once feared Japan’s rise.

That fear, popularized in the ’80s, proved short-lived. Today, there is no shortage of experts saying China’s future dominance is certain. “When China Rules the World,” a new book written by Martin Jacques and praised by Goldman Sachs’ chief economist Jim O’Neill, predicts that by 2027 China will overtake the U.S. as the world’s No. 1 economy.

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Was the financial crisis of 2008 a global turning point? Did it mark the earliest stage in the decline of US power? Will historians view the financial crisis and the Great Recession as the beginning of a multi-polar world?

StrategyOne explored this issue further by using its proprietary Beltway Barometer survey to track elite Washington opinions on the subject.

The data we collected over two years and across three survey waves paints a picture of Washington’s elite attempting to contextualize the financial crisis and global recession.

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When will China lead the world? Don’t hold your breath.

During his trip to Asia in November, Barack Obama seemed strangely mute. Unlike Bill Clinton, who criticized China’s human rights record in front of then-president Jiang Zemin, Obama largely avoided the topic of rights. In Singapore, despite pressure from human rights activists, the president deferred to pressure to not release a statement calling for the freeing of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In Japan, the president worked valiantly to massage local sentiments, bowing deeply to Emperor Akihito – and drawing flak back in the United States from conservative critics for appearing weak.

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Updated and expanded new Chinese edition just released.

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Turkish edition just published!

When China Rules the World is the first book to fully conceive of and explain the upheaval that China’s ascendance will cause and the realigned global power structure it will create.

New edition available now from:

Amazon UK
and all good booksellers.

US second edition is available now via: 

Amazon US