Monday, January 03, 2005

Keeping and eye on the long game: Part VIII

The 21st Century the Chinese Century? Mmmmm, wellllll, notsomuchmethinks.

I’ll give the author of
the article, William Reese-Mogg (BTW, it that a Brit name or what!) an “A” for effort, but I don’t think he quite gets it.

I think his “the 19th was the British, the 20th was the American, therefore the 21st is the Chinese” linear theory of history is a bit off. You know the –2nd to almost the 6th century was the “Roman Century”, so not everything has to go by the British Empire timetable……. Ahhhh we have it.

Another case of “I miss my empire-I feel guilty about empire-If I can’t have an empire no one can” train of thought that comes out of the Mother Country now and then.

“THE 18TH and 19th centuries were the British centuries, in which industrial, political and imperial development in Britain shaped the world. The 20th century was the American century; the United States changed the world, providing a margin of victory in two world wars, and developing all the major new technologies: telephones, automobiles, television, jet aircraft, the internet and so on. We all assume, as Washington undoubtedly assumes, that we are still living in the era of American hegemony, though it is already clear that China may be an emerging superpower”

There is more to being the dominant power than size and desire. There is culture.

The highly underrated (and that is a compliment) John Derbyshire (Derb to you and me) beat me to the punch this AM. Instead of simply paraphraseing and claim that it is all original thought, I will quote in full his post at
“The Corner”:

“Britain... America... notice anything? The great successes of these two nations rest(ed) in the Anglo-Saxon political traditions of personal autonomy, freedom under law, representative legislatures, and limited government. China has no such traditions: has, in fact, all the OPPOSITE traditions. I see no sign that this is changing. Rather the contrary: as China becomes richer and more confident, the ancient norms are re-asserting themselves. Spend a couple of hours in a room full of Chinese decision-makers. Then read the Rees-Mogg piece again.

100 years ago there were excellent grounds for arguing that the 20th century would be Germany's, or Russia's, or Japan's -- or even China's! Things didn't work out that way. Why? Politics. Before we arrive in Mr. Rees-Mogg's economistical utopia, there is still plenty of old-fashioned politics to be traveled through.”

Before the mindless PC police come out of the woodwork, few folks know China better. His wife was born and raised in China, they spend a fair bit of time with the in-laws, he lived in Hong Kong, and he is the one that gave me the insight that Cantonese and Mandarin use the same pictographs: it would be like the written words of German and English were the same, though the spoken word was different (just an OBTW).

Also keep in mind that the great Chinese cities of Hong Kong (less great every year it suffers under the dead hand of Red China) and Singapore are HIGHLY influenced by Anglo-Saxon culture. It would be a stretch to call them Anglo-Saxon, but like Chile, compared to their neighbors, they sure have a lot of their business culture derived from Anglo-Saxon traditions.

China is a great country, but there are significant cultural barriers that exist that will stop them from reaching the highest state of Superpower being. Remember, the foundation of this culture is largly intact that launched a great era of discovery, only to destroy it out of fear. China can create great leaders like
Zeng He, but in the end they all usually end up singing at a higher octave and seeing their great potential go up in the flames brought by a fatally flawed culture.

A great overview of this stage of
Ming Dynasty is provided by Michael L. Bosworth's excellent essay "The Rise and Fall of 15th Century Chinese Seapower".

"While China is blessed with plenty of territory and a large population, her geographic position is to be largely surrounded by land, with sea trade routes not particularly convenient, with most of the people far from the sea (the exception being the south coastal Chinese), and with governments through the ages generally disinterested in the seapower or ocean commerce.36 In a few periods of history, Chinese governments have managed (Sung and Yuan dynasties) to fight these natural factors. However, when it comes down to either army or navy, or either agricultural or maritime trade, in China the army/agriculture side has always won. The navy/maritime trade aspect is a luxury to be discarded in China when the strategic situation is deteriorating and resources are limited."

"It was not a lack of nautical technology, but rather a combination of the above political and strategic factors that caused a Chinese rejection of sea trade and seapower in the mid-15th century. Ocean-going technology was subsequently lost in China due to official hostility and neglect."

Without the ability to project power over the oceans of the Earth, you will not be a Superpower. Once China takes care of Taiwan, if they ever take care of Taiwan, they will no longer have a need or want to develop a gobal, blue water navy.

My $.02. China the Britain of the 19th or the American of the 20th? Nawww. Try Imperial Germany of the 20th.

Chew on that.

Another thing about Derb. Buy this book.

Update: Interested in the "Imperial Germany" train of thought? Derb emailed a recommendation to read David Fromkin's latest Europe's Last Summer. Looks like another book to read!!

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