Sunday, May 01, 2005

Robert Kaplan on Competition with China

In the June 2005 Atlantic, Robert Kaplan turns his discriminating eye toward the coming U.S. competition with the People's Republic. Although "How We Would Fight China" focuses on deterring the PRC militarily in some new Cold War, he also deals with differences between China and the U.S.'s last peer competitor:

Our efforts will require particular care, because China, unlike the Soviet Union of old, ... boasts soft as well as hard power. Businesspeople love the idea of China; you don't have to beg them to invest there, as you do in Africa and so many other places. China's mixture of traditional authoritarianism and market economics has broad cultural appeal throughout Asia and other parts of the world. And because China is improving the material well-being of hundreds of millions of its citizens, the plight of its dissidents does not have quite the same market allure as did the plight of the Soviet Union's Sakharovs and Sharanskys. Democracy is attractive in places where tyranny has been obvious, odious, and unsuccessful, of course, as in Ukraine and Zimbabwe. But the world is full of gray areas—Jordan and Malaysia, for example—where elements of tyranny have ensured stability and growth.

Kaplan is a bit more hard-headed than some, but always a joy to read for his incisiveness and clarity. If you don't subscribe to The Atlantic, spend five bucks to pick up a copy.

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