Friday, April 23, 2010

Things to come?

I just finished digesting an op-ed piece I read in the Business Times out of Singapore. It describes how lucky China is to be at the center of geopolitics now and going forward, as its development will fundamentally change the international landscape. While I could quibble with that, instead I'll turn to the author's (Robert Kaplan) projections on how the U.S. will be impacted.

Kaplan in his piece towards the bottom mentions Taiwan as follows:

"Beijing is also preparing to envelop Taiwan not just militarily, but also economically and socially. How this comes about will be pivotal for the future of great-power politics in the region. If the US simply abandons Taiwan to Beijing, then Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and other US allies in the Pacific Ocean will begin to doubt the strength of Washington's commitments."

While I don't disagree that Beijing is trying to isolate Taiwan, it's a far stretch to say that the U.S. will simply abandon Taiwan in the future. There is still substantial support for the island-bound democracy in Congress. Furthermore, China could be very different politically if and when Taiwan becomes part of the PRC. From my own perspective, China would only attack Taiwan when it felt that its economic development was complete and it could withstand any economic blowback from conflict in the Taiwan Strait. That won't happen for at least four decades. A lot can happen between now and 2050.

Kaplan then signs off with:

"Still, the very fact of China's rising economic and military power will exacerbate US-Chinese tensions in the years ahead. To paraphrase the political scientist John Mearsheimer, the US, the hegemon of the Western Hemisphere, will try to prevent China from becoming the hegemon of much of the Eastern Hemisphere. This could be the signal drama of the age."

If that were true, then shouldn't the U.S. just attack China now? You know, follow through with preventative war? Kaplan's basically saying that China's continued development is a zero-sum game for the U.S. I don't buy that at all given the economic relationship. Americans are able to consume inexpensive goods from China in a time of economic difficulty. I do not disagree with Kaplan that China's military modernization will cause angst in Washington, but it is very premature to even project armed conflict between the U.S. and China.

Admin note: Finals are fast approaching. As such, don't expect a lot of posts this coming week. Will be back to normal after May 3rd.

No comments:

Post a Comment