Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

America, in "managed decline", meets China, in "peaceful rise"

By Aussiegirl

A very important and sobering article that should be a must-read. Of course a lot can happen between now and 2045, when China's gross domestic product is predicted to overtake that of America, but now the idea of "managed decline" doesn't seem that farfetched. What will the world be like when China, not the US, is "in charge"?

Independent Online Edition > Americas

America meets the new superpower
The visit of President Hu to Washington underlines the inevitable loss of America's economic supremacy to China
By Clifford Coonan in Beijing

When President Hu Jintao of China shakes hands with President George Bush in Washington tomorrow and gives one of his fixed grins for photographers, it will not be just another meeting between the leader of a large developing country and the chief executive of the richest nation on earth.

China is rising fast and is expected to eclipse the United States economically in the future - its gross domestic product is tipped to overtake that of America by 2045. [...]

The rise of China is posing awkward questions for the US, along with the realisation that its days as the world's economic superpower are numbered.

Some analysts see America entering a period of "managed decline" not unlike that which Britain has experienced since the end of the Second World War and the end of empire. [...]

China has already overtaken Britain and France to become the world's fourth largest economy and Mr Hu's visit to Washington represents a culture clash on a global scale. China, the emerging Asian superpower, is ruled with an iron fist by the Communist Party, which has transformed a once centrally planned economy into a free market one, "socialist with Chinese characteristics".

What China repeatedly calls its "peaceful rise" represents a major challenge for the US economy, for its political position and for its role as global policeman. [...]

Japan remains the engine of the Asian economy but it is not registering anything like the double-digit growth rates that China is seeing every year. What makes the rise of China different from Japan's post-war emergence is that China can match its economic growth with a strong army. China is no defeated nation, struggling out of the ashes; instead it is a proud country which likes to remind others of its cultural achievements over thousands of years. [...]

But this opening has been undermined before Mr Hu even arrives. The Chinese leader is being given full military honours on arrival but Mr Hu's journey is not being labelled an official "state visit" as such, but something further down the chain.

Face matters in Asia, and some are reading this as a loss of face for Mr Hu. A dangerous move perhaps, given the shape of things to come. For the Bush administration, the key issue is a huge trade imbalance which is turning ever more political. Cheap Chinese exports are flooding the US market and costing American jobs.

And it is ideological too. China is not a democracy, its attitude on human rights leaves a lot to be desired and the Communist Party's treatment of organised religions angers the devoutly Christian Mr Bush. The feeling in Washington is that Beijing needs to do more to stave off the nuclear threat of North Korea and Iran, while China's courting of oil-rich, but politically suspect, countries in Africa and central Asia also rankles. A mixed bag of complaints, and the perceived absence of a clear line on China has angered some US lawmakers. The Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, said that Mr Bush "still has no coherent strategy for managing this nation's relationship with China". [...]

The war in Iraq or Iran's nuclear ambitions are side issues compared with the question about China's "peaceful rise" and what to do when it decides to flex its muscles. Keen to keep the spin positive, senior Chinese foreign affairs officials said Mr Hu's visit would "provide an opportunity for Americans to better understand China's policy of seeking sustainable development and peaceful growth".


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