Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger seek to avoid cold war with China

One of the downsides of being US Secretary of State is having to listen to and, on occasion, having to seek Henry Kissinger’s blessing. It paid off for Hillary Clinton on the New START treaty with Russia.  On China, the two of them were offering advice to Americans last week on how to avoid an unnecessary cold war with China.
Hillary Clinton and the President have just had a couple of very good of months in their dealings with Asia and her speech on Friday showed it. The emergence of China as a great power, she argued, is not a threat to American supremacy. She insisted that the United States wants a positive and co-operative relationship with China. 
She talks as though she’s dealing from strength and, in many respects, she is. The United States’ trade, military and diplomatic relations with every one of China’s significant neighbors have improved. And the market democracies of Asia are either emerging or are mature powers in their own right.  She struck only one uneasy note:
“Some in the region and some here at home see China's growth as a threat that will lead either to Cold-War-style conflict or American decline,” Ms. Clinton said. “And some in China worry that the United States is bent on containing China's rise and constraining China's growth.”

But Ms. Clinton said: “we reject those views.  In the 21st century, it does not make sense to apply zero-sum 19th century theories of how major powers interact.”

Not to open a fresh wound, but. The 19th century was serene compared to the last one. Unnecessary war was the 20th Century’s hall mark and up-start resentment toward the policies of dominant powers was at the heart of its bloodiest conflict. China may see itself in a similar light. 

Kissinger addresses this danger by proposing yet another world order. Clinton rejects the idea of a G-2 running the world; Kissinger seems to embrace it:

“The proposition that China must prove its bona fides is grating to a country that regards itself as adjusting to membership in an international system designed in its absence on the basis of programs it did not participate in developing. . .

A concept of a Pacific community could become an organizing principle of the 21st century to avoid the formation of blocs. For this, they need a consultative mechanism that permits the elaboration of common long-term objectives and coordinates the positions of the two countries at international conferences.

The aim should be to create a tradition of respect and cooperation so that the successors of leaders meeting now continue to see it in their interest to build an emerging world order as a joint enterprise.”

Kissinger may know Beijing by now better than Clinton understands Washington. However, his inclination to clean the slate and crowd out old sentiments and old “programs” in order to do business with the other guy in the room with the most power is reflexive, not necessarily an expression of  America’s abiding interests.

The postwar international trade regime, the US consumer and US military supremacy hardly got in the way of the rise of Germany and Japan and, if anything, have facilitated the extraordinary rise of China.  In the first instance, American diplomacy ought to employ the generous principles of the present liberal order, including open and secure trade, and solidarity with friends who play by the rules.

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