China’s increasing financial and economic assertiveness suggests its star is only set to rise on the world stage and that has prompted some major swagger on the part of its leaders. Swagger the nation’s long-term view doesn’t warrant. Commentary by John Robson.
China’s economic rise is built on dirty sand, writes John Robson in this commentary for the National Post. Subtract the environmental costs of its economic miracle from the GDP and China’s numbers go from spectacular to dismal, he says. Neither does it have the resources to cope with an aging population a “one child” policy cannot support. An excess of confidence in the short-term indicates Beijing leaders think time is on their side but their inability to get a precise handle on anything from pollution to corruption reveals their unease.
By John Robson, published by the National Post on July 23, 2015
There’s been a steady stream of worrying news out of China as of late: aggressive economic and military action in disputed waters, lies about its gold reserves, a crackdown on human rights lawyers* and now a university librarian caught stealing paintings and substituting crude fakes. It won’t end well.
Perhaps you do not regard all these developments as equally serious. Or even connected. But they are. Because they all point to a regime suffering an excess of self-confidence in the short run, while facing ominous problems in the long run. And as Edward Luttwak noted in his 1983 book, The Grand Strategy of the Soviet Union, this combination promotes reckless adventurism.
Years ago I was very struck by Luttwak’s comparison between the Brezhnev-era U.S.S.R. and Germany right before the First World War, both of which had a big military edge over rivals that were gaining on them economically. Hence, as the Kaiser fatefully put it in the summer of 1914, “It’s now or never.”
Now I fear China is in that situation. Why, though, should the Chinese leadership be pessimistic about the long run? Most Western pundits and politicians take the Saruman view that, “a new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us,” but “We may join with that power.”