In my Time Magazine reply to “Why do westerner’s fear the rise of China”, someone challenged me with:
You make the westerner seem as if he actually walks around Afghanistan and iraq folding hands and asking people to be quiet and china being the only country forcing power on others.
I don’t make that assertion at all. I (correctly) list the reasons why westerners fear a rise in China.
You make the error of treating geopolitical strategy as if we’re dividing up a loaf of bread for dinner. One can criticize individual actions of nations, or one can create an full accounting of the accomplishments and failures, and then to discern the motivations for those actions. Americans have had very simplistic objectives for the past century. 1) take over the collapsed british empires’ navy and trade routes. 2) take over the collapsed british pound 3) defeat communism and spread market democracy, 4) protect the oil fields in the old ottoman empire from being used as economic warfare against developing nations until those nations are ready to mature into market societies.
Sinic civilization, or rather the Chinese empire of north china, south china, the interior, Mongolia and Tibet, has a strong central state and a long standing bureaucratic tradition. After it’s devastating failure with communism, and the most expansive destruction of human life in history, Chinese intellectuals decided to give up on Communism and instead adopt authoritarian capitalism. Their efforts at doing so, despite being dependent entirely upon imported technology, has resulted in a vast movement of people from abject poverty to the consumer lifestyle. It is a difficult climb. But they are making progress.
Islamic civilization, which is more correctly viewed as the collapsed remnants of the Ottoman Empire, is still institutionally and culturally primitive, remains incapable of resolving the entho-tribal geographic conflicts, or even educating it’s people above sub-saharan african levels. Islamic civilization lacks a core state – a core state which holds other states in their civilization accountable in the international community – and therefore makes external intervention unnecessary.
I am quite sure it is humiliating for members of Islamic nations to hold to a personal religion and political doctrine of superiority, while faced with the daily evidence of the inferiority of the civilization and it’s people in the world arena. I am sure that it is frustrating that the west has maintained a policy of containment on the post-ottoman islamic nations, in the hope that they will skip the communist phase of evolution and directly join the modern market economy. I am sure that it is exasperating that the west has propped up dictators as a means of preventing yet another series of marxist states that will even further repress and regress their citizens. I am sure it is frustrating to have the west, yet again, for the fifth or sixth time in human history, hold the middle eastern people’s at bay in order to prevent the spread of ‘magical’ society, and it’s endemic pervasive ignorance. I am sure that it is frustrating that the west is split between those people who think islamic nations are insufficiently mature for democracy, and those who evangelically spread the idea of democracy without understanding that democracy is a government for a mercantile and commercial society – which is alien to islamic nations. I am sure all of these things are frustrating.
Do muslims actually think the average American wants to pay for maintaining the pattern of world commerce and trade? Do they think that American citizens like losing money and the lives of soldiers to contain Marxism, now Islam – Radical Islam is just another iteration of Marxism. Don’t they think we wouldn’t rather spend our lives and money on other things?
Most of us just wish muslims would just grow up and take care of their own house, so that we don’t have to act like their parents any longer. The question is then, what can they do so that it is unnecessary for others to interfere in their affairs.
Westerners fear the rise of China for the same reason they fear the Islamist movement: because they are both regressive social orders that are only rising out of ignorance and poverty due to western technology, western medicine, western ideas, western education, western institutions, and the emphasis on universal trade that the west exports.
And most of us look at China as either one of our great successes in transformation of a primitive society, despite their corrupt and kleptocratic political system and the fact that we Americans are paying for the transformation with our jobs, or we look at china as a systematically corrupt society that will simply disturb and destroy the system of world trade that we have developed over the past five hundred years, and return us to a world of physical rather than economic conflict.
The question is, which will it be?
The US would like to withdraw it’s military efforts around the world in order to account for our relative decrease in world economic dominance. It is simply too expensive to let other countries save military expenditures and force us to pay them. particularly the western europeans that treat us with distain on a daily basis all while they live entirely under our support and protection. The problem is that the average american is dependent upon the world system of trade, and in particular the market for oil. Americans do not want the rest of the Israelis to end up inside the USA, so they want a stable settlement of an israeli state, and for muslims to understand that israel does not breed enough people to hold that small nation for more than another century. Lastly, that rapid changes in military power create power vacuums that create expansive wars. And we cannot in good conscience allow that to happen when the world can no longer let people return to farm life. There are too many of us, and billions would starve if there were another series of world wars.
There is nothing more to American geopolitical strategy than that one paragraph.
So I’ll stick with my explanation of why Americans fear the rise of China. And radical islam. Primitive societies are a threat to the modern commercial order.