Thursday, May 19, 2005

Kagan on 'Managing' China

Robert Kagan, neoconservative and author of the text Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, has written an article on "The illusion of 'managing' China" for his monthly Washington Post column, which can be read online here (registration required).

It also appears in the May 17th issue of The Korea Herald, though I haven't managed to find the online article. For those of you with the offline copy of the Herald's reprint, take a look at page 7 and see how NOT to summarize the theme of an article:

"Commercial ties between China and the other powers will act as a buffer against aggressive impulses and ultimately ease China's 'integration' into the international system without war."

This "light bite" (well, it ain't a "sound bite"), which appears in larger font and presumably conveys the author's thinking, seems a bit odd, given the article's title. Our suspicions are confirmed if we take the trouble to read the 'bite' within the context of Kagan's entire column. These quoted words reflect the arguments of those whom Kagan is arguing against. Here is Kagan's own view:

"The history of rising powers, however, and their attempted 'management' by established powers provides little reason for confidence or comfort. Rarely have rising powers risen without sparking a major war that reshaped the international system to reflect new realities of power."

China, Kagan suspects, does not want to be 'managed' and will not be willing to be merely 'integrated' within the current international world order. Rather, it will desire to transform that order in its own image and for its own interests.

The article is well worth reading and should provide a dose of realism to those of us (both native and expatriate) living in Korea and hoping for a secure, peaceful future. History provides no comfort.

For those of you not familiar with Kagan, here's a profile provided by the IRC, which posts its information on Kagan under the ominous heading: "Right Web: Exposing the architecture of power that's changing our world." I think that they mean "the architecture of the power that's changing our world." Otherwise, the architecture seems to be the agent of change. Anyway, the profile provided is fair enough, and I don't want to go google-grubbing further. Besides, giving this link is a public service in expanding the horizons of my reader on both the left and the right. (You folks in the middle will just have to wait.)


At 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both Kagan and Kaplan presuppose the PRC will continue to cohere geographically and maintain it's current political leadership. The advantage of having millenia of documentation on China is, that it is easier to predict when this current political manifestation will implode. There is a duty to anticipate that implosion will occur earlier than not, too.

When one of more provinces weaken the present configuration, either foreign powers will be lured to take a piece or beijing will try to compensate by some foreign adventure.

The second scenario is more likely. Beijing has enough to do keeping the PRC intact and policing it's borders. It's already an empire. More territory would be overkill, and I think Beijing knows that.

The analogy should be, not Germany, but Austria-Hungary or Czarist Russia.


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