THE NIXONIAN CENTURY = CAPITALISM WITH A CHINESE FACE!
President Carter, Fmr. President Nixon and Chinese General-Secretary Deng Xiaoping at a State reception for Deng at the White House.
“Barnett: Nixon and Deng: architects of our globalized world ” by Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett .
As someone who did extensive – verging on the tedious – research in grad school into the heart of darkness called the Nixon administration, I really enjoyed this piece; Tom wraps up some excellent historical analysis in the very limited (in terms of word count) format of a newspaper column. An excerpt:
“Nixon’s reaching out to both the Soviet Union and China in the early 1970s could not have been more surprising, given his pre-presidential history as a vicious anti-communist. But, by doing so, Nixon effectively ended the Cold War by the start of his second, deeply troubled term in 1973.
In forging a detente with the Soviets that included limitations on strategic arms, Nixon basically killed the worldwide socialist revolution. For once, Moscow – that movement’s leader – entered into such agreements with its capitalist archrival, it admitted to both itself and its empire of imprisoned satellite states that its model of socialist development suffered limited appeal.
…In short, Nixon revealed this emperor had no clothes
…By some definitions, China will possess the world’s largest national economy within a quarter-century’s time, and the man who set that all in motion was Deng.
Rarely in history has one dictator held in his hands such discretionary power to choose between further enslavement of his subjects and their rapid empowerment through economic liberation.
In disassembling Maoism, Deng chose the latter route, validating both Nixon’s previous strategy and discrediting Gorbachev’s later decision to pursue political glasnost before economic perestroika in the now-defunct Soviet Union.”
The story of Deng Xiapoing’s political career is far less well-known to Americans than is Richard Nixon’s, obscured as it is by partisan feelings stretching all the way back to the Hiss Case. Like Nixon, Deng was highly placed in politics for a half century ( more actually as Deng was a veteran of the Long March) and like Nixon, Deng suffered political disgrace and manuvered his way back to the apex of power. Unlike Nixon, the stakes for Deng were much higher; he could have easily met his death at the fickle hand of Mao as did numerous top leaders of the CCP. In the struggle to succeed Mao, the sinister Gang of Four certainly sought Deng’s death and Hua Goufeng his permanent retirement (or worse) from politics.
Another parallel with Nixon would be Deng’s pragmatic, if brutal, realism which expressed itself both in Deng’s relative indifference to Marxist dogma and a willingness to use force to preserve national “face” ( Nixon would have said ” credibility”). Deng’s punishment campaign against Vietnam in 1979 and his crushing of incipient Chinese democracy in 1989 flowed from the same line of reasoning. Moreover, unlike the Soviet Communist Party leadership where the Red Army was separate and subordinate to the Party, China’s Maoist guerilla legacy meant that for the first two generations of leaders that the Party was the Army and the Army the Party. Deng was a famous military leader and commanded the moral authority within the CCP to act as a “commander-in-chief” figure in a way only a few other aging seniors could match.
Naturally, the parallels are less significant than the differences between the two men. Richard Nixon was a master politician who loved power and had an enemies list but Nixon operated in a democratic system and an open society. Deng did not need to make any lists and his relatively benevolent treatment of fallen party rivals in his later years should not ( as with Nikita Khrushchev’s career under Stalin) be allowed to erase the bloody history of his service to the CCP under Mao ZeDong.
That being said, I believe Dr. Barnett has weighed both men on the scales of history with rough justice; Nixon and Deng had a global impact that was more to the good than to the bad.