In answer to a bit of skepticism voiced by a frequent and faithful commenter, I thought I’d write out more fully my thoughts about the US-China situation and Max Boot's comments on it. My argument (if indeed that's what it is) is not airtight, but it should give you a sense of where I'm coming from and why, to boot, I didn't give Boot the boot.
I fully own that some of the stuff Boot wrote about seems a bit iffy and smells strongly of what might be conspiracy theorism. But I think that Boot is right about the direction China isheaded. In fact, I think that eventually it's going to come to push and shove between China and the USA. We're talking about the general idea here.
It's not like we haven't seen this kind of conflict, even in recent history. The Soviet Union, anyone? Admittedly, China is a vastly different beast with vastly different intentions. But that doesn’t mean that it won't still be a threat of international proportions. Let me explain.
First, from what I’ve read and been told, China has never really had any designs on empire ...beyond it's own region, that is. Today as yesterday, China is at heart an introspective nation that basically wants to do it's own thing and be left alone. It's been like this for thousands of years and I can't imagine things changing. The problem is that while China hasn't changed, the world around it has. To simplify grossly, China used to have its own sandbox and could do pretty much as it wished without any greater power interfering (or being interfered with, for that matter). When Europe started to project it's power into the region in the 18th and 19th century, Chinese aspirations began to be limited by international actors, and the Middle Kingdom, which since time out of memory had generally been able to maintain it's own sphere of uncontested influence (Mongols, etc. notwithstanding), no longer held total sway its backyard.
Despite the change of international dynamics, China's ambitions today remain as they always have been: regional dominance/empire and a desire to not be bothered by outsiders. Now, couple this deep, traditional aspiration with its growing demand for resources and economic influence with which is can fuel it's recent industrial and economic growth and what you get is an empire hungry country that now must, somewhat paradoxically, look abroad in order to (and before it can) fulfill its domestic dreams.
Right now the United States happens to be, on balance, helpful to China as China seeks to realize its economic and industrial purposes. In fact, until last week, the Yuan was pegged to dollar, meaning that China's economic future was tied to US economic success. While the US is assisting China's growth today, however, it is also in many ways stifling it--especially with regard to empire building (or at least hegemony-retention). Hence, when the US completely outgrows its usefulness to China and China no longer relies on the US as it has in the past, it should be no surprise to anyone that China will desire to eliminate USinternational influence, which by that point will the biggest hurdle between China and it's dreams. When that tipping point comes in the China-US relationship, why should anyone be surprised if the way that China elects to get the US out of its way is to engage in warfare, conventional or otherwise, perhaps even in the way that Boot describes? I, for one, would not be surprised in the least. War has a long and illustrious history in the conflict resolution department.
By all accounts, that tipping point is fast approaching. One of the indications, I think, is the recent change in China’s monetary policy. No longer is the Yuan pegged to the US dollar. Instead, it’s pegged to a “basket” of international currencies. This is an indication that China’s starting to get it’s economic sea legs and feel a bit more independent from the US in terms of economic prosperity. And then there’s China’s major military buildup and increasingly bellicose stance toward the US over the past few years. The news in the past few weeks has been full of the new military threat that China is presenting to the world. Now China’s generals are rattling sabers and polishing the red button. Could it be that China’s getting ready to rumble once the time is right? To me the answer is clear.
I think it high time we face the music and begin to realize it's very, very possible that the dragon is getting ready to turn the tables and slay the knight. China doesn’t want US territory. China doesn’t really want anything beyond its historic sphere of influence, which is to say, East (and some Central) Asia. All it cares about is ending the limitations that the one remaining superpower in the world is creating for China’s Asian empire. Once the US is defeated and sent home licking its wounds, no one (let alone any superpower) would be left to stop China from doing whatever it has a mind to in Asia (goodbye, Taiwan). And the ancient dream of an undisturbed Chinese empire could be fulfilled.