The West has power, but often little self-insight

Summary:  The Economist is one of the great con-jobs of western journalism.  Mostly written by young college graduates, its subscribers imagine they read deep world wisdom.  Here we have a fine example of callowness, blind to the irony of an Englishman writing about Americans (two imperial powers) who criticize China for treating its neighbors poorly.  Perhaps the writers of their Latin American edition might write a different postscript.

They have returned“, The Economist, 12 August 2010 — “China should worry less about America’s ‘containment’ strategy and more about why the neighbours welcome it.”   Another chapter in the semi-conscious (almost visceral) attempt to ferment conflict between China and America. Excerpt:

As the American navy has roamed China’s neighbourhood, senior officials have fanned out over Asia. … It all amounts to what Douglas Paal of the Carnegie Endowment, a Washington think-tank, has called “the most comprehensive burst of diplomatic and military activity in Asia, particularly South-East Asia, in decades” from an American administration.

It is not surprising that many in China see all this as part of a new containment doctrine. Many in America do, too. By this analysis, Barack Obama took office committed to good relations with China, and ready to welcome it as a great power in return for China’s accepting the global responsibilities that go with that status. Then a series of setbacks convinced him to stand up to China with a more muscular strategy. The “sweet mouths” spout charm just the same; but containment is now the game.

… {The} implications are indeed worth pondering. China seems to have digested one already: that the swagger, bordering on arrogance, with which Chinese officials were throwing their weight around in the region and in the West in the depths of the financial crisis created unnecessary alarm. These days, courtesy is back in vogue.

… Another implication is that rather than simply rail against America, China could do more to prevent its neighbours providing such fertile ground for the “seeds of distrust” it sows. That would demand greater clarity over China’s real strategic aims, and a willingness to discuss them in multilateral forums. On the South China Sea, for example, it is hard to know exactly what its claim is based on. Yet its ships sometimes treat the sea as a Chinese lake; its maps show a great lolling tongue of Chinese sovereignty stuck insolently out at the South-East Asian littoral states. No wonder those countries welcome American aircraft-carriers. The trouble is, of course, that if China were clearer about its aims, they might welcome them even more.

Our neighbors bear witness to our gentle treatment of them.

Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.

Update:  email from a reader

“This brought to mind lines in the final stanza of a prophetic poem by American Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Vincent Benet, “Litany for Dictatorships“, penned in 1935, before the West’s last descent into madness and self-destruction (world-destruction). Here are the final lines:

And still, on the steel city of our years
The light falls and the terrible blood streams down.

We thought we were done with these things but we were wrong.
We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.
We thought the long train would run to the end of Time.
We thought the light would increase.
Now the long train stands derailed and the bandits loot it.
Now the boar and the asp have power in our time.
Now the night rolls back on the West and the night is solid.
Our fathers and ourselves sowed dragon’s teeth.

Our children know and suffer the armed men.

Posts about China

  1. Power shifts from West to East: the end of the post-WWII regime in the news, 20 December 2007
  2. What you probably do not know about China’s food crisis, 21 April 2008
  3. China becomes a super-power (geopolitical analysis need not be war-mongering), 9 July 2008
  4. Words to fear in the 21st century: Lǎo hǔ, lǎo hǔ, Lǎo hǔ, 14 July 2008
  5. A different perspective on the US and China, seen by an American living in Russia, 23 March 2009
  6. China – the mysterious other pole of the world economy, 22 July 2009
  7. Another big step for China on its road to becoming a great power, 27 July 2009
  8. Will China collapse?, 5 August 2009
  9. A revolution is not a dinner party. Thoughts about the future of China, 19 August 2009
  10. Today’s hot rumor: Fisk’s story about a conspiracy to wreck the US dollar, 6 October 2009
  11. Update about China: a new center of the world, 13 December 2009
  12. Fertilizer overuse destroying Chinese soil, 18 February 2010
  13. Rare earths – a hidden but strategic battleground between the US and China, 5 May 2010
  14. Today’s example of the inscrutable mystery of China’s economic statistics, 13 May 2010
  15. How China builds its commercial empire, 12 July 2010

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