This Crosstalk was hosted by Dr. Sheng-Wei Wang, President, China-U.S. Friendship Exchange, Inc. (For this email interview report, please see www.chinausfriendship.com, 03/01/2009)
#1 Comments by Tze-chung Li, President, One China Committee, and Professor & Dean Emeritus, Dominican University
Dr. Barnett’s theory of “Bretton Woods II” may apply to Japan, but is inapplicable to China. His blaming of China’s consumption and his American narcissism seem to echo “In the Jaws of the Dragon” by Eamonn Fingleton.
The financial crisis in the U.S. is not due to the yuan and China’s exports to the U.S., but primarily the result of the housing collapse and the crippling financial system. For instance, last year’s mortgage foreclosures increased 80 percent. The World Economic Forum ranked America’s banking system 40th.
His views on China are untenable, such as China’s non-action in Afghanistan, China’s ignorance of globalization, Chinese domestic consumption, and Chinese military buildup. It appears that Dr. Barnett worries about the decline of U.S. hegemony which China has no intention to achieve. In “China shouldn’t be inscrutable" (Newsweek, August 11, 2008), Fareed Zakaria well points out that conservatives rail against a rising autocracy and exaggerate China’s military strength.
Regarding Answer to Question 15 on the Taiwan issue, I wish to mention the following:
Dr. Barnett considers that China doesn’t need a carrier and he says “you want one for the Taiwan straits, then I think the idea is both stupid and needlessly provocative.” Provocative in what respect? The total number of carriers in the world is 21, of which the U.S. has 12. India has two carriers. Also, the U.S. will move over 60 percent of her submarines to the Pacific. It is not inappropriate for China to build one or two carriers to defend herself against an unexpected preemptive attack. The Chinese have a proverb about "only to steal a horse, not to do anything" story, which means that the rulers themselves do all kinds of outrages, but does not allow people the freedom to have a little bit (只准州官放火, 不准百姓点燈). It reflects the mentality of some Americans towards China.
Dr. Barnett says: “America insists on a peaceful resolution.” The use of “resolution” implies that he does not support reunification. His view is further evidenced by a statement mentioned later.
He further says that “I support an Asian Union and an Asian NATO with China as its main anchor.” NATO was created as a force against the then Soviet Union and other communist nations. Against which nation will an Asian NATO be intended? The idea of an Asian NATO makes no sense.
He considers that reunification of Taiwan is “an insignificant obstacle.” The separate rule of Taiwan and China’s mainland is a result of civil war. Taiwan is a part of China, and as such reunification of Taiwan is of primary importance. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in her book Memo to the President Elect says that unification of Taiwan is China’s bottom line. China has been inflexible on the one-China principle.
#2 Comments by Edward MacLean
This Bloomberg piece (“China Won't Implement 'Buy China' Policy”, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601089&sid=as0mUphsMahs&refer=china) is an ironic article, in view of the Barnett interview. When our two policies, very different and, at the same time potentially, very similar, need "consumption" to sustain their economic existences, it is a sad state of affairs, in my opinion.
I wish I had been better prepared to address the significance of Barnett's interview. However...
1. Many of his responses to the questions posed seemed somewhat provocative or patronizing. If, as he suggested later, he wouldn't mind being Ambassador to China, well, so much for that. At the same time, he did admit that America's leadership as reflected in what he characterizes as Bretton Woods I and II has come to an end.
2. He projects, as is the habit of many Americans in and out of the national security establishment. It seems hard for him to accept that there may be other ways to "skin a cat" in terms of a nation's asserting itself on the global stage; by this I mean, China's modesty and humility may prove to be more effective for her in the end. The expressions "hiding behind diplomacy" and "spilling blood in defense of economic interests" are creepy; perhaps they reflect his background and his necessary attachment to DoD values and standards as he depends on them for his entrepreneurial activities.
3. Barnett makes a remark about "no one close to Obama having a clear understanding of China". I'll bet he has no idea about Obama's brother Mark, living 30km north of Hong Kong and fluent in Mandarin. This half brother may not be close to Obama but you can bet he will be contacted. Then the quick response by Obama to Geithner's currency "manipulation" remarks—was demonstrated by his call to the Chinese president.
4. He is a flatterer of Robert Gates. I look at this in two ways. Gates is no dummy, not much of an ideologue, and very bright. But he is nevertheless in sync with the fashion of American national security thinking that has brought us so many catastrophes as a nation. And, again, he needs Bob Gates' good graces to stay in business.
5. He talks about "pulling the plug" on Kim Jong-il; like that's an easy task. He talks about "rebranding" the PLA. Well, where does this stuff come from? I have not yet read his book Great Powers; I have a ton of stuff ahead of it, including World of Trouble, about the Middle East. This book could be seen on a shelf behind then President-elect Obama on January 10th when he gave an interview. I doubt Obama has time for Barnett's book.
6. In summary, Barnett seems to me to be another example of those American "exceptionalists" who have of late caused more problems than they have solved. In Obama, for the first time in the nation's history, we have a man of the world. I imagine he will have no difficulty recognizing that China, while poised to be a significant global operator, because of her humility and humanity, will pose no strategic threat to any other actor on the world stage.
#3 Comments by Peter Chung Chieh, Professor Emeritus, University of Waterloo and President, Central Ontario Chinese Culture Centre
A Chinese-Canadian Perspective on the Crosstalk with Dr. Barnett
A forum to discuss the U.S.-China relations with Dr. Barnett is a great idea. As a Chinese Canadian, let me give my perspective on his American views.
On Source Code for Globalization
Dr. Barnett told us that China’s rise was enabled by America’s financial practices. He credited the Bretton Wood Conference for bringing Europe to prosperity and Bretton Wood II for the rise of Japan and the Asian dragons. Both practices enabled China to develop quickly in the past 30 years. Americans proudly applauded his view. Decades ago, a few friends of mine in Europe and Japan were disenchanted with Americans in general. The Japanese economy had been in difficulties for a long time, and the four Asian dragons became history. “America plays a special role: we are modern globalization's source code” wrote Dr. Barnett (www.scrippsnews.com/node/40277). A layman in economics wonders if the unprecedented financial crisis started in 2008 is one of the results produced by this source code. If so, has the time come to open the source? In this crisis, most Americans suffer, but losers are not limited to Americans. The entire world needs to wake up to take a close look at the practice.
On Programmed Globalization
As industrialists and capital migrated from high-cost to low-cost zones, they industrialized and modernized other nations, resulting in a general sense of globalization. These do not follow a specific “source code”. This process led Barnett to think that a general sense of globalization is the same as Americanization, and vice versa. This view is strongly embedded in his answers to questions Q1 through Q5. Thus, Q6 was asked on my behalf by the interview host. However, he considered that the question misquoted him. Yet, his answer to Q6 said that America is the source code of globalization, since the American society is the furthest along in this common and universal experiment of states uniting and economies integrating. However, the greatness of America lies on the foresight of the founding fathers in writing the American Constitution based on freedom and equality long before globalization started. At that time, such a common and universal experiment did not exist. It was the talents and labor of immigrants and Americans that made the U.S. a major power in early 20th century and historians assigned the label of “isolationist” to the then American foreign policy. Later, due to favorable world conditions, America became the only superpower when the cold war ended. Now we have many rising world powers alongside the American power. Americans have to face a new reality.
Great powers rise and fall. “The river that flows on the east may flow on the west ten years later” said a Chinese proverb. That is the rhythm of history, driven by science, technology, wisdom, etc. Globalization is the result of cultural exchange and the popularization of knowledge. Educated citizens demand democracy from the emperor. So do developed, if not developing, nations.
Dr. Barnett pointed out that he used harsh language to stimulate our thoughts. But what will be its impact to the American readers? In the past, there were countless examples to show that harsh tones by influential figures and officials led to misunderstanding and disasters. People in Washington should realize that arrogance has no place in a globalized speech.
On U.S.-China Relations
On July 31, 2008, G. W. Bush told Asian reporters that the U.S.-China relations were good and important (news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-08/01/content_8885617.htm). In his op-ed (http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2008/nov/09/what-bush--cheney-got-right-with-china/), and in his answer to Q4, Dr. Barnett credited the handling of China’s rise by the Bush administration as an important achievement. Some Americans agree with Barnett’s assessment (http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2008/11/Is-the-US-China-relationship-Bush's-'greatest-legacy'.aspx). On the other side of the coin, one sees that China has helped the U.S. on many issues such as the nuclear program in North Korea. Hard-working Chinese kept the inflation rate of the world steady for decades with ample supplies. I take comfort to note Barnett’s reservation: We can always complain that Bush-Cheney didn't do more to solidify this most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century, but we cannot fault them for any lasting mistakes. We certainly hope the Obama administration will do better to benefit both the U.S. and China.
From a Chinese-Canadian viewpoint, I feel that China bent backward in order to make sure that the U.S. did the right things regarding Chen Shui-bian in Taiwan. People in Washington use the Taiwan and Tibet issues as bargaining chips. Chinese leaders yielded because they worried about Chen Shui-bian. They feared that world powers would exploit Chen’s ambition to cause permanent damage to the unification of China in the future.
On Chinese Military Actions
When the U.S. beat the drums in the UN to invade Iraq, I sent an e-mail to the U.S. ambassador to the UN saying that military force often, if not always, failed to achieve political goals. I anticipated my e-mail to be ignored, but I phrased it in such a way that I fought in battles as a child soldier and that my family led the fight and commanded large armies during WWII. Our victories were rewarded with disappointments. Science, technology and economics are more important than military actions.
Chinese suffered for a long period due to its lack of military power. They were the worse victim of WWII. The civil war caused misery in personal and family lives. Today, the economic and cultural ties on both sides of the Taiwan Strait made them mutually dependent. China has taken all steps to keep sovereignty over Taiwan, because it fears tinkering by foreign powers. Washington labeled Chinese anxiety as tension. Americans caused the Chinese more anxiety with words and diplomatic events. For example, they use Taiwan to scrutinize every military move in China. The American public has a false impression about China, because the media always give twisted reports. If China builds an aircraft carrier, it must sail through the Taiwan Strait from time to time. Americans will see those as provocative acts (Answer to Q15). China will have difficulty to avoid this because the Chinese have no control over what Americans think.
The U.S. sent troops to various parts of the world claiming police action with no regards of the moods, feelings, and opinions of other nationalities. These actions left no doubt that the U.S. acted out of self interest. Thus, the U.S. made many enemies by making other governments unable to toe the U.S. line. I think Canada was right by not sending troops to Iraq. Likewise, China had to act according to its own view and for the interest of Chinese. Justice and fairness are the principles for Chinese. China will have its influence only when it keeps these principles, and its government is only legitimate when it acts for the interest of Chinese. Anyone knows that, but the way Dr. Barnett’s talk is beyond my comprehension.
#4 Comments by Yi-Cheng Chang, a Chicago Based Insurance and Finance Agent and a Frequent Contributor of Articles on Insurance Subjects, Social Events and Community Matters and a Speaker in Industry Conferences
For simplicity, A1 to A18 are used to denote Answer to Q1 (question 1), to, Answer to Q18 (question 18).
Comments on A1:
1) Twisting, twisting and twisting. Full of pre-occupation and/or deception, distortion.
2) Over glorifies America’s purpose and role with the Marshall Plan, financing the rises of Japan and the Asian Tigers.
3) America’s overspending is twisted to “willing to take debt” to help others.
4) America’s military power spread out all over is portrayed as providing security for others.
5) Baselessly implies that China, India, Korea and other Asian countries might be at war, if America military power were absent in Asia.
6) “Hypocritical” —He is!!
7) He wants China to have a bigger military role—A typical American mentality, i.e., use military power to solve all problems (even though he considers China’s PLA should share some responsibility for global stability).
8) “American blood spilt in the Middle East” —Why does he not examine in the first place that it was American who caused this?! Instead of being shameful and regretful, he thinks it is noble for America to spill blood in the Middle East.
9) Ridiculous. He wants Chinese to spill blood in the Middle East or other areas where America causes problems in the first place.
10) Over 50 years ago China’s Premier Zhou Enlai proposed peaceful co-existence among Asian countries (and countries all over the world). It was America’s wrong policy and attitude toward China that created distrust and rivalry among Asian countries.
11) Refuses to answer the question about restoring world’s confidence and trust. Instead, he turns around to ask what China is going to do. He is a politician. He is not a scholar. He is not a person who wants to address problems and to find solutions.
Comments on A2:
1) “U.N. is dysfunctional” —Why does he not blame America!! Israel has not followed U.N. decisions, because it has America behind it!
2) In the good old days, America could influence and control a lot of small countries, so Americans would not say the U.N. is dysfunctional.
3) “Fighting and killing and dying in defense of your economic interest” —Typical American mentality: i) everything for economic interest, not for higher order or principle; and ii) use military to solve problems. Chinese, beware! Someone throws a high hat to you to make you feel good. But his intention is to drag you down to the deep water with him!
Comments on A7:
Stresses again his desire that Asia should take a more active military role: i) It is a reflection that America is tired and exhausted in playing the role of world cops; ii) He does currently understand that Asians are not aggressive (excluding the Japanese) and Asian (including the Chinese) military powers will not constitute a threat to America, in contrast to many American politicians’ yellow peril mentality or politicians’ trick using yellow peril for political gain; and iii) he still has the mentality of having military power to solve problems.
Comments on A11:
1) “Beijing must accelerate such cooperation” —Why not “Washington must accelerate such cooperation”??
2) If America keeps selling weapons to Taiwan and showing hostility (“China’s military not transparent,” “China’s military a threat to America,” etc.), keeps sending spy planes and submarines close to China, keeps breaking promises made to China, and keeps doing things in a selfish and unruly way, how can the Chinese cooperate with it?!
3) Still a mentality that America can command others and others must obey (Hey, the French do not buy the American superiority).
Comments on A12:
1) It is not because of Afghanistan and Pakistan that the world has to face terrorist attacks. It is because of American foreign policy, prejudice (against Muslims and other people), imbalance (in favor of Israel), arrogance and other questionable practices (such as supporting authoritarian regimes while denouncing some countries having no democracy) that induce the birth of terrorism and foster terrorists. If the Americans do not change their attitudes, policies and practices, terrorists will appear somewhere sometime, irrespective of Afghanistan or Pakistan. (In 1998, I was in Malaysia. Al Gore went there to attend an international conference. As soon as he stepped out of the plane, he criticized Malaysia’s internal affairs. Malaysians were very upset. If only one out of 10,000 Malaysians went to the extreme to give a lesson to the Americans, then there would be over 200 potential terrorists who could find their way to attack Americans!)
(After the 9/11 attack, many Christian radio stations in the U.S. had programs to degrade the Muslims. Originally I turned on the radio to listen to Christian music or preaching. I had to shut down the radio and rarely resumed to listen to them again.)
2) He thinks that economic connectivity is the key to the terrorist problem. He does not, however, look back to fellow Americans who have on the surface the most advanced and widest connectivity while being so ignorant of the world and so selfish that they think they do not need to understand others and work with others. It is not the lack of connectivity in Afghanistan and Pakistan that generates and hosts terrorists. It is the lack of spiritual and intellectual connectivity of the Americans who are manipulated by politicians and media such that they have allowed their government to act recklessly and to treat other people unfairly and maliciously. He only demands others to change, not the Americans to change. If he misidentifies the problem, how can he come up with a meaningful solution?
Comments on A13:
He has no solution for the Israel-Palestine problem. He even ignores the importance of this issue. Actually, the problems in the Middle East in the past several decades more or less, directly or indirectly, were related or influenced by the situation in Israel and Palestine. For example, since the Americans unfairly supported Israel and had no respect for and no trust by the Muslim, then they shouldn’t blame the Iranians for developing their nuclear technology. It seems that globalization is a panacea.
Comments on A14:
He wants China to follow “American experience” to engineer the downfall of a foreign government. This is still a typical American mentality, i.e., Americans can do everything at will.
Comments on A15:
1) “Taiwan is a mature democracy” —Nonsense!
Please see an article in Wenhuipao (a Hong Kong newspaper) of Feb. 10, 2009. It tells the pitfalls of the American-style democracy.
2) “Chinese unification—A thinking in such a small and backward fashion” —i) A typical American mentality, i.e., no respect for other’s history, culture, sovereignty, territorial integrity, national feeling and pride. For American, a principle can or should yield to economic interest. This exposes that Americans do not really want China’s reunification (even though he mentioned earlier that America would be glad to see peaceful reunification). “Make your neighbors nervous?” —His “behavior on this issue is puzzling” to me.
3) If China cannot (or does not) re-unite with Taiwan, then how can there be an Asian Union? What kind of logic has he? He is just twisting so that the Americans need not face the Taiwan issue. He wants to draw a pie in the sky (Asian Union, Asian NATO) to pacify China so that China can forget about Taiwan slipping away permanently.
4) “China needs to act like an adult” —But America needs to act like a well-mannered adult.
Comments to A16:
I hope he never becomes the U.S. Ambassador to China, even though he has a child adopted from China. I prefer an American Ambassador to China who can cook Chinese food, because he/she would have more understanding of Chinese culture and philosophy (Ha! Ha!)
Overall Summary of Comments:
A lot of twisting and distortion; has not addressed or admitted that America has done a lot of wrong things to cause problems all over the world; over glorifies the purpose and result of what America has done in the past 5 or 6 decades; has not examined what’s wrong with America and Americans, and thus it seems that America needs not do anything for improvement; still holds the mentality that America is in the commanding position and other nations need to follow America’s command; instead of finding out the root causes of problems and offer remedies, he tries to brush them off and sweep them under the rug and then asks everyone to forget them and move on; putting all issues aside, he wants to use globalization to move the world forward; still holds to the American supremacy of mentally commanding the world, but with a shift from using America’s absolute military might to inviting Asia to share the military burden (he uses a nice word—responsibility). I doubt he can do anything meaningful.
#5 Comments by Dr. George Koo, Special Advisor to the Chinese Services Group at Deloitte & Touche and Member of Committee of 100 and Pacific Council for International Policy
Dr. Barnett certainly lives up to his reputation as a prolific writer with his expansive and careful response to many questions. He provides opportunities for those so inclined to nitpick some of his views, but I am not among those tempted to do so. I am glad to see that we continue to have advisors to the military that do not simplistically believe that “shock and awe” takes care of all of our problems.
However, any mention of espionage and China tends to trigger a knee jerk reaction from me. Thus I would like to address his mention of industrial espionage. I am perhaps overly sensitive because I feel that there is a perception in this country that the U.S. is running amuck with spies from China.
This perception was greatly aggravated by the Cox Committee hearing in 1998. The hysteria from the hearings led directly to the Wen Ho Lee fiasco. More recently we learned that rather than China sending delegations to the U.S. to steal our secrets, they were trying to find a way to tell us their secrets. This remarkable turn about was told by none other than a former Secretary of Air Force.
Undoubtedly, industrial espionage happens. When caught, the individuals engaged in such activity face prosecution and jail. Charges of such activity are also leveled at key employees to keep them from defecting to a competitor or simply to keep a competing firm off balance. Whatever the situation, I would caution Dr. Barnett from making the presumption that acts by individuals motivated by personal greed are driven by the national policy by a foreign power—unless, of course, he knows a lot more about this matter than the rest of us.
#6 Comments by an Anonymous Reader
As far as his explaining away Geithner's quoting Obama during the Congressional hearing on his nomination for Treasury Secretary, both Robert Reich (Former President Clifton's Labor Secretary) and Barnett dismiss it as the usual made-for-domestic-consumption remarks, not meant for international use. Unfortunately a serious accusation like that can and will further inflame most Americans' current hostility toward China, let alone how it may be interpreted by China as the guy is quoting the President of a nation openly to the citizens. I am sure China may have done similar things in the past but there is no excuse for either the U.S. or China to commit such stupid acts that can only further tear the two countries apart as though there were not enough ill will and misunderstanding between them. Besides, if it were not true, why tell a lie? Do we have the license to lie about other countries domestically because we think they should not be listening or paying any attention when we bad-mouth them? This sounds highly hypocritical and senseless. I am sure that China's citizens did not dismiss the speech we want them to and they certainly will feel offended. In short, Geithner's speech may easily be dismissed by Americans but it can set off a detrimental chain reaction between the two countries in unforeseen ways.
(2) China: Ultimate Greatest Threat to U.S.
Another thing you may want to ask Barnett is what he thinks about the fact that many high-ranking U.S. civilian and military leaders have been saying that the U.S. needs to be prepared for facing China as its ultimate greatest threat in the future. If that is the U.S. long-term attitude and policy toward China, how can the two countries talk about cooperation? Since China will be beset with countless serious domestic problems for decades to come, how can it find the resources or manpower to go to war with the U.S.? Wouldn't it be a stupid suicidal act? We must guard against our own fantasy lest it may become reality against our better judgment.
(3) "Neither Friend nor Foe" China Policy
I wonder what Barnett thinks of Obama's "Neither Friend nor Foe" China policy, which is different from those of all previous administrations.
#7 Comments by Michael Levy, International Talk Show Host, Author of Eight Books and Professional Optimist, Website
My response is....We may not understand what the truth of the matter is, however, just as long as we do not depend on opinions all will be good.
#8 Comments by Two Anonymous Readers A and B (Discussions)
A: Barnett challenges China to take more police-actions, including sending the PLA to Afghanistan, which I think China will not do, since it is taking another approach by building roads and infrastructure there instead (“The Road to Kabul Runs Through Beijing (and Tehran)” by Parag Khanna, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4664). There are major differences in Chinese and U.S. foreign policies. The Chinese have fought wars for over 100 years in recent history, and they now prefer making friends to making enemies.
B: In my view, China will not send troops anywhere in the world, not even under the U.N. auspices, because they are reluctant to be perceived as an aggressive nation. I agree with you that the difference in foreign policy between China and the U.S. is fundamental and not just in degree.
A: I find it puzzling that Barnett would say that the U.S. fighting in Iraq is to protect Chinese economic interests, and that China, India, Japan and Korea never have been strong at the same time, on their own, in history. Have I read history differently from Barnett?
B: There is no justification whatsoever for the war in Iraq. China is merely one of many nations that did not support the U.S. venture there. My reading of history is as follows:
China was the continental power for centuries until the rise of the western powers. As a power, China never sought to dominate its neighbors via military conquest. The few times that it did, such as in Annam, Xinjiang and Tibet, China found that buying pacification with an asymmetrical tribute system (where the tributary state got more than they gave) to be far cheaper than maintaining a military might. In the case of the Mongols, since they couldn’t beat them, China built the Great Wall instead.
India was never one nation until the Brits cobbled many city states together into one. India was a historic seat of culture and religion and even martial arts but was never a unified entity that could claim to be a military power.
Japan was not a formidable power until it saw how China was overrun by the western powers and quickly modernized in response to the encroachment of the West. Their rise to power followed the western powers. For the longest time, the mightiest power was the British Empire and not the U.S.
Korea has the unfortunate geographical location of being the buffer state between China and Japan. Korea could never hope to become a great power but perhaps a regionally strong state.
But overall, Barnett is not the Bush type. Maybe, it is a good starting point for more dialogues and understanding.
A: I agree. More dialogues may not solve all the problems, but will definitely avoid mistakes due to misunderstanding.
#9 Comments by an Anonymous Reader
I wonder what enterprises the U.S. government holds other than its postal services to comprise 25%, as Barnett notes in his answer to Q9, of the total American businesses. In China, the figure he gives is about 30%. Using those numbers, the two nations are very close in terms of their capitalist practices.
#10 Comments by an Anonymous Reader
China has been the melting pot of 56 nationalities for thousands of years. China does not accept many immigrants like America, but Chinese people have emigrated to almost every country in the world. Currently over 50 million Chinese live abroad. They bring Chinese culture and traditions with them to their new home countries while at the same time respecting and mingling with the local culture and traditions. This quiet and peaceful human migration has become much more pronounced over the past two centuries and they can be rightfully called pioneers of modern globalization.