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Recommended Reading – China Special Edition


Top Billing! Steve ClemonsIf You Could See America Through China’s Eyes

Clemons sheds light on a hardheaded, quasi-official, Chinese analysis of the strategic direction of American power. A must read piece.

Several years ago, I met with the Deputy Director of the Policy Planning staff of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and I asked him what he was working on — and what China’s grand strategy was.

His reply: “We are trying to figure out how to keep you Americans distracted in small Middle Eastern countries.”

It’s pretty memorable when one can joke and be truthful at the same time. China has had opportunities throughout the world open up to it easily — mostly because of systemic American inattention to much else beyond its war slogs. The Obama administration, which in its first year in office, has managed high level presidential and cabinet level face time with leaders around Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East has done a lot to correct the impression from the G.W. Bush years that America has completely checked out from the rest of the world — but there still is a sense that American pretensions in the world are more veneer than real.

Now read in full (on the extended page) a short, brilliantly written report titled “Strategic Contraction Replaces Arrogance: Chinese Analysis of the Quadrennial Defense Review” by Li Shuisheng at China’s Academy of Military Science on the Pentagon’s recently released Quadrennial Defense Review.

This is a very sobering “offshore perspective” on American power.

openSecurity (Aziz Hakimi)Af-Pak: what strategic depth?

This is the sole exception to the topical focus on China today. A brutally frank examination of our core problem with Pakistan’s elite.

….General Kayani admitted that Pakistan’s objective of supporting the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan was to gain a ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, which he hoped that now ‘a peaceful and friend Afghanistan’ would provide it.   His comments indicate that Pakistan’s policy makers are still interested in the old policy of gaining strategic depth in Afghanistan, which may influence their approach to Afghanistan and related issues such as fighting the Taliban and participating in regional cooperation.

….Meanwhile, Serajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the network, in an interview with Aljazeera TV claimed the responsibility for the attacks on the heart of Kabul on 18 January.  Afghan Police investigations and arrests following the attack also confirm that the Haqqani network was behind the raid which left 5 killed and 17 injured.

It is also important to note that General Parvez Musharraf as well as General Ashfaq Kayani had described Haqqani network leaders as Pakistan’s “strategic assests”.

Thomas P.M. Barnett –  A Bad Time to Wreck Our Relationship with China 

Dr. Barnett puts the geoeconomics into the geopolitics and security of the Sino-American relationship….

…..But middle-class doubt and vulnerability have now coalesced into populist anger. And in responding to it, the Obama-Biden team seems dangerously intent on re-vectoring a foreign policy anchor of Bush-Cheney — namely, the bilateral relationship with China. Ironically, the Bush administration’s policy toward China was arguably its smartest and most sophisticated endeavor. A century from now, our nation’s interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan will be mere historical footnotes, whereas our decision to accommodate China’s rise to the rank of global superpower will undoubtedly rank as the single most important decision made in this era by any state.

….Such strategic patience, however, is hard for any president to maintain — especially in these days of profound economic angst. Critics predictably claim the White House has given up on human rights, surrendered to authoritarian capitalism, and accepted our nation’s inevitable decline. None of this is true, of course, and yet all these hyperbolic charges carry with them the air of deep-seated grievances: Americans increasingly feel that globalization — which we created, nurtured and defended — is no longer to be trusted. Despite the fact that our share of global GDP has held amazingly steady since 1975 (26.3 percent then, compared to 26.7 percent last year), many Americans continue to assume China’s rise comes at our expense.

HG’s world –  China On The Verge of 4708, But Still a Teen in the Real World

HistoryGuy99 is recently returned from China, which he has visited many times, and reflects judiciously on the contradictions of China’s status as an ancient country but a “young” great power

Minxin PeiThe Real Lessons from the Google-China Spat

….Although recent events might tempt many to tell Google ‘I told you so,’ the company has still garnered sympathy around the world for standing up to Beijing. And anyone who cherishes the wealth of information generated by unfettered Google searches and hates the idea that secret police might have access to the keys to their e-mail boxes should indeed wish Google luck.Yet, regardless of the outcome of this contest between a politically vengeful autocratic government and a technologically savvy US firm, the Google episode will likely remain a crucial moment in China’s relations with the West in general, and with Western companies doing business in China in particular.

Coming Anarchy (Ferguson)A Sobering Look at the Rise of China and Asia 

….The Chinese leadership appears to accept at least a nascent version of this wind of change, as it were and are flexing the new found confidence of an emerging power. China’s belligerence during the Copenhagen Climate Conference, staunch opposition to sanctions on Iran, loud protests of a US/Taiwan arms deal and the subsequent threat of sanctions on US firms selling those weapons suggest a state looking to call attention to its own considerable might. Indeed a recent poll suggested that a majority of Chinese foresee a “cold war” with the United States, suggesting the specter of another global bi-polar century

The Committee of Public Safety –  How to Bugger With the United States ( Hat tip T. Greer)

How China can manipulate America’s distorted political decision-making process for strategic benefit.

TDAXPReview of “Stilwell and the American Expeirence in China, 1911-1945,” by Barbara Tuchman and “The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China” by Jay Taylor

Great review by Dan of TDAXP. I too read the Tayor book and second Dan’s recommendation.

Foreign Policy.com (John Lee)Big Trouble With Big China

Trademark FP quickie taxonomic treatment of Sino-American relations.

Foreign Affairs (Yang Yao) – The End of the Beijing Consensus

An optimistic view of China on the path to middle-class political liberalization.

The Glittering EyeSinophobia and China’s time bombs

Two well-considered posts from 2009 and 2005 respectively by Dave Schuler who has been a China-watcher for decades.

SWJ BlogChina’s grand strategy – past, present and future

From 2009 – and with this post, Recommended Reading comes full circle.

That’s it!

8 Responses to “Recommended Reading – China Special Edition”

  1. T. Greer Says:

    Don’t know if you saw it Zen, but Joseph Fouche linked to an excellent piece addressed to the Chinese (and written by by Andy Xie) outlining the ways in which the Chinese should manipulate U.S. economic policies on the short term.  It was an insightful read that couples nicely with some of the peices you have linked to here.

  2. historyguy99 Says:


    You’ve put together an excellent collection of readings on China.

    I am humbled to be in such company.

  3. Seerov Says:

    "Despite the fact that our share of global GDP has held amazingly steady since 1975 (26.3 percent then, compared to 26.7 percent last year), many Americans continue to assume China’s rise comes at our expense." (Barrnet)
    I’m not exactly sure what he’s getting at here?  America’s percentage of global GDP could be 99 percent, but that doesn’t guarantee a higher standard of living.  A better figure to look at would be real wages since 1975.  We should compare real wages with increases in the cost of living, especially in housing and healthcare. 

  4. tdaxp Says:

    Thanks for the link!After reading Taylor’s biography of Chiang, I see much clearer what the Chinese call the difference between "First Generation" and "Second Generation" leaders. Even though the age difference was not always that great (and Zhou was actually a contemporary of Mao), Deng Xiaoping, Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi, and Chiang Chingkuo (in Taiwan) studied abroad. Mao and Chiang Chai-shek didn’t.  You had a generation change at the top, from a traditional Chinese perspective on defensive posturing to rational means-end analysis.I’m reading Taylor biography of Chingkuo now. Also very good. Very similar to Deng and that crew (even was a class-mate of Deng), though his rare ability to be born high and go even higher recalls the Kangxi Emperor.

  5. zen Says:

    Hi Seerov,
    Real wages stagnation, which I agree is a problem, has as much to do with internal political economy decisions as external competition. It isn’t just that we outsourced manufacturing, workers ( or even shareholders) have not shared in any of their productivity gains which have been increasingly skimmed off by hedge fund managers, Wall Street investors and CEO types.
    Thx T. Greer – missed that one.
    Anytime HG!

  6. zen Says:

    Hi Dan,

    Agree generally with your take on generations *but* Chiang did spend time in Japan – not sure if he was studying – but he networked and garnered support from the ultranationalist and anti-Communist circles around Toyama Mitsuru, founder of the Black Dragon Society. Ironically, because the secretive groups that Toyama sponsored as the godfather of the extreme Right -Yakuza nexus were in the lead in demanding Imperial Japanese expansionism in China decades later.
  7. Joseph Fouche Says:

    Chiang under went military training in Japan for two years and served in the Japanese army for a further two years. He also spent three months studying in Moscow.

  8. tdaxp Says:

    Indeed. Wang Jingwei (who would head the Pro-Japan Collaborationist Government) and him were classmates, I believe, at a Japanese military prep school.  By comparison, Deng, Chiang Chungkuo, and others went to Sun Yatsen University in Moscow, and before that Zhou, Deng, and others were in a study-abroad program in France.I do not know how Japan managed to lift itself up, but the gravitational pull of Chinese culture seems to have been too strong for any would-be leader who was educated in the Orient. This goes for Wang and Chiang, as well as Mao (who went to a teacher’s college in Hunan, but also worked as an assistant librarian at Peking University).@Joseph, Chiang K.’s time in Moscow was not as a student. Rather, he was actively involved in reestablishing the KMT along Leninist lines (that is, creating a Party-State with political commisars, etc.).

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