Friday, March 28, 2014
My current world views: Sino-U.S. relationship
Unlike a lot of people that I know, I love to read foreign news of all sorts, not just those trivial stuff or, oddities, but also serious international issues. I started back in my teens’ days and I have always been fascinated by all the possibilities in the world, the vastly different cultures, and the complex cross-nations cultures and history. If I can choose my job again, I truly don’t mind to be involved in some kind of works that related to international relationship. Anyway, interest to read is one thing, but more important is that based on what I’ve read, I’ve formed my own view of world affairs, and this is what I wanna share here for some of my own views these days. Certainly, my views are just mine, I neither can provide proof or comprehensive support to back them up, and most importantly, they could change as time changes.
It is one of the most important and complicated bi-lateral relationship in this century. Unlike the US-USSR relationship during the Cold War, the U.S. and China has commingled in many dimensions that they have lived with each other regardless. Some people say that the Sino-U.S. relationship is like a married couple. I would not agree such naïve comparison. Instead, I think that U.S. is no doubt the dominant one that dictates this relationship. Yes, China is trying to catch up in many ways, its GDP is ranked second in the world, behind the U.S., that makes some or majority of Chinese to be so proud of themselves and think that it is gonna be Chinese century: China is gonna trump the U.S. down from the top soon (a decade?). China owns a lot of U.S. debts, so Chinese owns a big piece of the U.S., the Americans would rely on China and all that…. I just think, not so fast, those views are so superficial!
Yes, the U.S. has a lot of problems, but no matter what they are, the strengths of the U.S. have remained very solid and there is just no way China can match them anytime soon. Just to point out a few. The U.S. has the most advanced technology, I would guess that would be at least 40 years ahead of China. The superficial one or the disclosed technology gap is about 20 years, but America’s technology development is not all transparent, it doesn’t just have the best scientists and facilities, but it has the full ecosystem to turn those technologies into military and commercial use! In terms of innovation, because of the freedom that the U.S. has, the experience in turning them into practical use, and the inviting/inclusive culture to attract talents from all over the world, American technology will stay far ahead in decades to come. It claims that China is heavily invest in technology and growing number of patents have been filed. That’s positive for China. But the fact is that many Chinese scientists would like to relocate to the U.S. to work there and not the vice versa. Also, the respect of intellectual property, the tech-business culture in China just can’t match what the U.S. can offer.
The U.S. Military is the best in the world. Yes, the U.S. military did and does atrocities here and there all these years, but they are no worse than any other militaries in the world. In terms of equipment, power, and experience, no country on earth can match them. China has spent a lot on upgrading its military; just put aside the possible corruption there, it is understood that China must spend a lot on its defense based on the fact that it has such a long borders with so many countries and many of them are not friendly to China with military conflicts in the past. But, how capable Chinese military is? I seriously doubt that they are good enough to be proud by sensible Chinese. The last major military conflict that China PLA involved was with Vietnam back in 1979. It is 1979! 35 years ago! For a soldier of 25 years old then, he is already 60 years old today! Old enough to retire! That means most of Chinese armies have never been involved in actual fighting in their whole military career. How can they match the U.S. Army basically has continuously involved in all sorts of military conflicts all over the world in last decades? China PLA’s equipment is already no match to those of the U.S., the number of missiles, ICBM, aircraft, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, satellites, hi-tech weapons, drones, etc. More to the point, comparing to the actual combat experiences of top U.S. commanders, the foot soldiers, the intelligence, even the geeks back in Colorado that fly those drones, etc., Chinese military just has no match at any level.
Culturally, the U.S. is dominant all over the world, its powerful media and entertainment companies export its products all over the world and reap not only money from them, but more importantly transpose the American value to the people all over the world, including China. I don’t see the other way around. Not that the U.S. political system or culture is the best, but at least the civilized transfer and balance of political power in the U.S. create a stable political structure that support the development of the country. Its ‘proclaimed’ role of defending freedom and democracy at least fool most of the regular folks. In fact, the openness of the society, the so-called Land of Opportunity, and all that really appeal to most oppressed people in the world. China on the other hand, doesn’t have any of those appeals. Confucius teaching works for certain Eastern cultures but not all, and in reality PRC itself really doesn’t practice any of those Confucius values, thus that wouldn’t make it a sincere promoter of such values. Basically, money is the only appeal the PRC can use to ‘buy’ influence in the international community. That’s all! The U.S. can use its culture, its military strength, and a bit of money to make other countries to look up to the U.S., and China can only use some money to do that only if the U.S. chooses to look the other way temporarily. However, if the U.S. truly wants to compete with China on influence on any country, I would guarantee that the U.S. will win. It is because the U.S. owns the money machines (IMF, World Bank, BIS, Wall Street, rating agency, etc.) and holds the biggest stick (Pentagon, NATO, etc) in the world. And, China has NONE! China doesn’t have any true friends in the world. The African looks up to China because China opens its wallet and showers them with its hard-earned money. Most other countries look up to or pay lip services to China just to make their own money. If U.S. once turns to them and yell for obedience, they bow. Some countries like Thailand would try to go both ways to appeal China and the U.S. to reap the optimal benefits, but most others would simply bow Uncle Sam. Again, China has no real friends internationally. Russia is no friend, in spite of SCO. Even Burma is now going the U.S. way. Vietnam, so-called the communist bro, goes the U.S. way considering the territorial dispute in South China Sea. Even North Korea, the bad boy, would bow the U.S. if the U.S. would extend an olive branch to them, I would think. So, what’s left for China? Pakistan? Cambodia?
U.S. has the most sophisticated economy, U.S. dollar is the top dog in reserves all over the world. Yes, many Chinese thinks the financial tsunami in 2008 exposed the shortcoming of U.S. economic engine - it is a fuck-up, corrupted, evil money machine. China wasn’t burned by it back then, unlike Europe and Japan. So, the Chinese believed in their economic system, the China way. But, just think about it. PRC economy is protected by the RMB, a currency that PRC government can print as much as it wants. It is not freely convertible or traded in the world. Europe and Japan got fucked in the crisis, because that’s the ugly strength of the U.S. – its ability to pass it pain to the other countries, which is something that China can’t do. On the other hand, the U.S. economy has its strength of self-heal and problem correction. It doesn’t mean that the U.S. economy will not be fuck-up again, just it has a toughness to withstand impacts from the others and still can ‘pass or share’ the load of pain to its ‘allies’. Also, U.S. and other developed economies as well are exploiting the rest of the world (including China) to benefit their own people. For example, U.S. has so much oil and gas reserves of its own that it continues to squeeze the quick import from the Middle East. In 30, or 50 years of time, once the reserves in ME are used up, then it will start to explore its own and let the ME to go fuck themselves. China’s economic ‘miracle’ in the last 30 years is the result of self-exploitation and destruction of its own resources: land, water, air, people, etc. The powerful ones in China turn themselves rich in the process. Yes, many of the rest of the country have improved economic status, they move from dirt poor to low low middle class, from illiterate to be literate, but they achieve these by checking out the welfare of their future generations with destruction of the environment. The government officials of all levels are all corrupted. They make money, move their dirty money with the spouse and children abroad, those billionaires, multi-millionaires follow. No other country in the world would have their rich and powerful all have left or gonna leave their country, except China or perhaps Russia. Many of them have the destinations in the U.K., Canada, Australia, and the U.S.!
So, would there be conflict between China and the U.S. God-forbid? Sure! But I don’t think all-out war would be an outcome because of two reasons. First of all, Chinese military is just no match to the U.S., it is a no-win situation for PLA, unless committing suicide is its goal, but it is the Chinese military that we are talking about, not the Japanese, suicidal mission is not in the gene. Secondly, since Chinese’s rich and the powerful, particularly those in the top leadership have their money, spouse and children in the U.S. and its allies, as we all know how powerful the NSA is and how fierce the CIA could be, you think that China will dare to threaten the U.S. military for real? I would imagine that there would be men in black, black SUV and helicopters to grab the Chinese official’s spouse and children and put them in some kinds of ‘camp’ swiftly. The bank accounts of those Chinese leaders in Swiss or BVI will be frozen. Then, those in Beijing will have ‘facetime’ with their love ones in chat and do whatever they are told to do. Basically, the ‘balls’ of Chinese leaders are in American’s hand, there is no room for negotiation or showing ‘macho’, but wimping or begging for mercy. That’s how I see it.
In fact, I would imagine there would be deals behind the scene between the Chinese and U.S. leader that Chinese can show toughness superficially to provide a ‘feel good’ feeling to its own naïve population, but would in fact succumb to U.S. leadership. So, the difference between Japan and China to U.S. is that Japan will do publicly whatever the U.S. told, and China will do that respectively in private.
I don’t wanna burst the imagined bubble of most PRC citizen’s inflated self-confidence of their country, but that’s just the way I see it. China is no match to the U.S. if the current state of affairs for both countries remain.