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October 28, 2008

A Win-Win Situation for China


by Sascha Matuszak

China currently stands alone in its ability to weather virtually any storm the banking crisis in the U.S. whips up. With almost $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves, China can afford to be unconcerned about an economic decline in the West that spreads throughout the world, hurting dependent and emerging economies from Pakistan to Panama.

China is not completely insulated from the economic crisis a slowdown in orders from abroad and a credit crunch at home will hurt the Chinese economy like it hasn't been hurt before but the difference is preparation. China is prepared, socially and economically, for a slowdown. The U.S. is not.

The calls are beginning for China to step forward as a responsible stakeholder and shore up the currencies and liquidity of the Asian economies and help ease the pressure on European banks as well. China, in turn, assures the world that it is "seriously" considering its options and the proposals of near-desperate bankers hoping that China's 20-year economic rise will help defuse the West's 20-year economic decline.

China is now in a position of power that it may have been enjoying for years, but it is now becoming even more apparent. The talk of China taking over the world has always been a "what if" scenario accompanied by calls for social and political reform and sidelong glances at the U.S., still considered by many to be the preeminent power in the world. The next few years will see more and more nations gathering under the umbrella of Chinese solvency and leaving the Coalition of the Willing(ly Misled) behind.

For now, China is taking care of its own through land reform that should give peasants in China the freedom to "lease their land use rights to other individuals or companies, such as big farm contractors, or to exchange them" and send hordes of country folk flocking toward the cities with their loot looking for fortune. This is the latest in a development, started after Deng Xiao Ping took over in 1979, that will bring the peasants of China into the social fold and eventually urbanize the nation.

China hopes to protect its domestic and international interests through increasing the sophistication of its military. In the final frontier, the U.S. is "apoplectic" over the success of a Chinese space program that has now "changed the game" with the recent Shenzhou manned space mission and the addition of a surveillance satellite that passed within 30 mi. of the International Space Station. According to the Richard Fisher in the Asia Times:

"By the middle of the next decade the PLA [People's Liberation Army] will have a robust surveillance satellite network that will allow a many-times daily target tasking on a global level. It will also have the ability to perform 'information operations' by being able to give a range of clients updates on global U.S. military activities multiple times a day."

China might be getting those rushes of adrenaline one gets when victory is nigh and your opponent lies struggling in your dust trail. America's irresponsible, immoral leadership in the White House, on Wall Street, and by extension throughout the world has finally come home to roost with this economic crisis. Now, with the giant of the 20th century down and in trouble, all of the nations in the world that have suffered under America's benevolent hegemony are looking for somewhere to hide.

This is exactly what the Chinese leadership has hoped and prayed for and most likely expected: the return of China to the center of the world.

Supposed allies of the U.S. are looking to China for help in these days of crisis, with Thailand's deputy prime minister, Olarn Chaipravat, who is attending the Asia-Europe Meeting, stating in the Sydney Morning Herald:

''The message of this initiative is for China to consider whether or not China would open up its banking system and allow the strongest currency in the world, which is the Chinese yuan, relative to anybody, to be the rightful and anointed convertible currency of the world."

Pakistan's President Ali Asif Zardari just finished a visit to China in which he declared that he would be ready to "visit every three months" and that Pakistan's economic and security crises are best solved through cooperation with China, not with the U.S.

The whole Asia-Europe Meeting is a sign of times to come. Nobody trusts U.S. leadership anymore, and despite China's list of thuggish buddies (Burma, Sudan, Iran, North Korea, etc.), protest-strangling Great Firewall, and tendency to sell counterfeit and/or tainted goods, world leaders are choosing China. What an incredible statement about the influence and reputation of the U.S.

The bailouts engineered by the central banks of Europe and the U.S. represent the desperation of thieves caught in the act together, not sympathy and goodwill between two staunch allies. The collapse of Wall Street is the last act in the tragedy of America's fall from leadership in the world.

So What?

What we will see is the decisive triumph of the merchants in the low-level battle over what to do with China. Many of the campaigns to halt human rights abuses in China will migrate to the fringe of U.S. policy, if they haven't already, and the tone will ease.

The U.S. will not be able to confront nations with the arrogance of a world leader and the righteous indignation of a moral compass. For many of us, this is a development that has been a long time coming, but for most of America, it will be something very new.

What Americans lack more than anything is a concept of history. It is absolutely natural and normal and desirable for a nation to go through hardship and struggle and eventual transformation. The era of the American Imperium, dependent on historical ignorance and determined action, is over.

What is needed now is a domestic revival and a more nuanced and intelligent approach to international relations. This means talking with people before we bomb them. This means an emphasis on cooperation, not obedience.

China's sound economy and pragmatic, if despotic, leadership make whatever happens in the coming American election into an opportunity to gain political capital or financial assets. It's a win-win either way.

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  • Sascha Matuszak is a freelance writer living in Chengdu.

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